FWC acts to protect lemon sharks
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Media contact: Lee Schlesinger, 850-487-0554
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) approved a rule Thursday to prohibit all
recreational and commercial harvest of lemon sharks from Florida
waters. The FWC took this action to protect lemon sharks, because
they have a high potential to be overharvested.
Lemon sharks are often found near shore in shallow
water, especially in Southeast Florida, where they aggregate in
large numbers each year. This makes them easy to locate and raises
the potential for large numbers of lemon sharks to be removed from
the population with minimal effort by fishermen.
Lemon sharks also are susceptible to overharvest
because of their life history characteristics. They are
slow-growing, reaching sexual maturity at 12-15 years of age, and
have a low reproductive potential, producing 6 to 18 pups per
litter every second or third year. Juvenile lemon sharks
experience a mortality of 40-60 percent.
Recently, some preliminary data from an ongoing
tagging study found that at least 7.5 percent of tagged adult lemon
sharks from a Southeast Florida aggregation succumbed to fishing
mortality in one season. At that rate, the entire lemon shark
aggregation could be harvested in a few years.
In addition, recent regulatory actions for other
shark species might put more fishing pressure on lemon sharks in
Florida waters, where 90 percent of known lemon shark aggregations
occur. The harvest of lemon sharks will still be allowed in
offshore federal waters adjacent to state waters.
Healthy lemon shark populations are especially
important to Florida's dive charter industry which provides
ecotourism trips to see lemon shark aggregations in the winter
The FWC's lemon shark rule takes effect on March
23. More information about recent shark-management actions is
available online at MyFWC.com/Rules, click on "Fishing -