Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No Reason to Have Great White Fears

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No Reason to Have Great White Fears

Article excerpt

For the first time in months, commercial fisherman

Randall Dyal headed out from Mayport last week in search of

sharks.

Shark season began at 12:01 Wednesday morning. Dyal expected to

haul in some sandbar sharks, some black tips, perhaps some

hammerheads. But he knows the elusive great white, the predator

at the apex of the food chain, is extremely rare off the Florida

coast.

Nevertheless, his long-awaited trip came on the heels of a

reminder from George Burgess, a University of Florida marine

biologist and shark expert, that great whites migrate to the

area off the coasts of Florida and Georgia from December through

March, when the water temperatures drop.

"The last great white in this area that I know of was caught

last year off St. Augustine," Dyal, 48, said via cellular phone

as he steered his craft eastward.

"They're here at this time of year, but they're definitely no

threat to swimmers," said Dyal, who works for Miss Becky's

Seafood. "They're usually at least 10 miles offshore; there's no

abundant food source close to the beach to justify them being

there."

And 1997 will probably bring new rules for Dyal and other

fishermen. The National Marine Fisheries Service has determined

that most of the 30 shark species have been overfished, and

stricter quotas will most likely begin this month.

The service intends to halve the current 2,570-ton limit for

the East Coast for larger species and set a quota on smaller

species -- 1,760 tons -- for the first time, officials said. The

West Coast has no quotas.

Dyal and other fishermen can bring in up to 4,000 pounds of

sharks per trip, under fisheries service rules. Dyal said last

week he would undoubtedly be out at least four or five days.

Burgess, director of the Florida Museum of Natural History's

International Shark Attack File, said he issued his recent

statement on the presence of great whites, made famous in the

movie Jaws , not to caution swimmers but simply to inform. …

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