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Open Letter to the FWC on land based shark fishing proposal

Dear Commissioners,

I wanted to express concerns regarding the land-based shark fishing proposal.  While many important concerns

have already been addressed including the physiological response to catch and release, violations of existing laws, and mortality rates as a result of catch and release I would like to address the concern to the ecosystem.

Tertiary consumers play a vital role in trophic cascades.  Sharks have been demonstrated to play a key role in healthy ecosystems which have even been traced to benthic organisms (Bond et al 2018 and Barley et al 2017).  Morphological changes in prey have also been noted in regions with depleted shark populations (Hammerschlag et al 2018).  Reductions in biomass of sharks have also been observed as a result of anthropogenic activity ( Ruppert et al 2017).

Much of the research focuses on the health of reef systems.  Florida has invested an extensive amount of time, money, and research in to restoring reefs throughout our state.  In order for these reefs to remain successful we need to establish healthy biodiversity within them. This includes not only species richness but trophic level diversity as well.

I hope you will see the ecological value of protecting Florida’s shark species and how they contribute to the success of their ecosystems.  In addition to enforcement measures for existing rules I would also encourage the commission to implement rules that would designate reef systems, both natural and artificial, as non-fishing zones. This acts as a benefit to the shark populations as well as the health of the reef which is made vulnerable by snagged lines, fishing nets, and pollution.  Furthermore, increased fines during enforcement would help provided needed funding for conservation efforts. Thank you for your time and I look forward to your decision on this matter.

Aymee C. Laurain

Director

Imagine Our Florida, Inc.

References

Bond, M. E., Valentin-Albanese, J., Babcock, E. A., Hussey, N. E., Heithaus, M. R., & Chapman, D. D. (2018). The trophic ecology of Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezi) relative to other large teleost predators on an isolated coral atoll.Marine Biology,165(4). doi:10.1007/s00227-018-3322-2

Hammerschlag N, Barley SC, Irschick DJ, Meeuwig JJ, Nelson ER, Meekan MG (2018) Predator declines and morphological changes in prey: evidence from coral reefs depleted of sharks. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 586:127-139. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12426

Barley SC, Meekan MG, Meeuwig JJ (2017) Species diversity, abundance, biomass, size and trophic structure of fish on coral reefs in relation to shark abundance. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 565:163-179.https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11981

Ruppert, J. L., Vigliola, L., Kulbicki, M., Labrosse, P., Fortin, M., & Meekan, M. G. (2017). Human activities as a driver of spatial variation in the trophic structure of fish communities on Pacific coral reefs.Global Change Biology,24(1). doi:10.1111/gcb.13882

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