Conservation starts at home- and although there are probably greater risks to shark populations outside our border, we are targeting sharks and consuming shark fins here in the San Francisco Bay.
The San Francisco Bay is a significant nursery for sharks like the Sevengill Sharks Sea Stewards is currently tagging in the Bay. As the largest shark in the Bay, this species has also been hard hit historically in a commercial fishery and impacted by recreational shark fishing tournaments. After 30 years the population might just have recovered to a healthy level, but until we are able to get results from the population genetics work, we just don't know how big the population is.
Recently, there have been increased pressure from shark fishing on the Bay lead by party boats Soleman and the California Dawn, among others. In the absence of salmon, halibut, sturgeon and other large fish, shark fishing has been increasing on the Bay. A recent article features a real lack of sportsmanship and disrespect for sharks. Even the fisherman below is quoted at "feeling kind of bad" at killing a mature seven gill. At 150 pounds thats far too much fish for one person to consume. As apex predators, these sharks are loaded with mercury and it is inadvisable to consume them.
We should encourage anglers to let all sharks go.
We know from past fisheries that a targeted fishery will quickly impact this population. Part of the Sanctuary program is to assess the shark fishery. While we are attempting to obtain catch records from Cal Fish and Game, the kind of catch and behavior detailed in the IJ article sets a bad example and a potentially damaging trend.
Although we would like to have better data, this kind of targeted shark fishing has to end in San Francisco. The shark population just cant sustain a focused effort. After thirty years of recovery, its possible that this focused shark fishery could be having a negative impact on our shark population. The fact is, we don't yet have an estimate of the population or what level of fishing it can sustain. What we do know is we shouldn't be taking mature females- yet the large sharks are the most coveted by sportsmen. Until we have gained a real grasp of the shark fishery and evaluated the population size it is likely we should not be catching any mature female sharks and should be monitoring the catch on juveniles.
To we counter this we are initiating a new program.
Shark Sanctuary Marina Program
Lead by local fishermen and advocates marinas are being asked to advise their tenants and visitors not to land any sharks. Not to deter recreational fishermen, the program encourages catch and release. As part of this the fishermen of Team Fish Finder are providing guidelines on proper gear and the best way to catcch and release sharks. selection
The concept is to reward participating marinas with a Shark Sanctuary approval. We are now developing a list of the marinas who will not allow the landing of sharks and then we will target the marinas who have boats that focus on shark fishing. Through our partners we will be promoting best practices for sports fishing including the use of barbless circle hooks, and asking fishermen to be part of the solution for shark conservation.