It is no secret that more fishermen have been targeting sharks on the San Francisco Bay. Several articles and blogs have reported and Party boat's from Pier 39 and Fishermen's Wharf have shifted focus from the vanishing stocks to the last big, (and poorly managed) fish in the Bay. Sharks.
A recent article in the East Bay Express starts with sharks and goes on to analyze the problem at large, and is pretty well done. However, the author focuses on the overfishing of local stocks and the impacts on our local fleet, but doesn't discuss the history of overfishing sharks, the lack of population data for most species or the absence of a management plan.
What do we think will happen to the sharks as more pier fishermen and party boats like the one mentioned in the article shift their focus to sharks? The article discusses impacts on commercial or commercial party boats- but does not analyze the impacts from the recreational fishery.
Sharks are more vulnerable to overfishing than bony fish. The large sharks like sevengill sharks are poorly managed with no size limit and a year round season.
As a biologist tagging and studying these local sharks, it is possible that the increased pressure will once again fish out our sevengill shark and soupfin sharks before we understand them, or even know their population size.
Sharks are slow growing, late to reproduce (nearly a decade for sevengills), have relatively very few young and can only pup every other year. We know that San Francisco Bay is an important shark nursery. Sharks are essential for a balanced Bay ecosystem, one as the article implies is increasingly out of whack. Moreover, large sharks are loaded with mercury and there are advisories against eating large sharks.
The proper management of sharks must be considered before the last domino falls.
Unless we follow Fish's Kenny Belov's lead and limit our consumption, and fish sustainably both recreationally and commercially we will lose our entire fish resources including sharks. As local party boat captain Anfinson says "Some people are starting to fish for sharks, but who knows how long that fishery will last."
Will the next article we read be titled San Francisco Bay's Sharks Fished out?
It is the mission of Sea Stewards and other organizations that include fishermen to avoid that. David McGuire, Seastewards.org