Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gill Netting for Shark under Fire

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gill Netting for Shark under Fire

Article excerpt

BRUNSWICK -- A state legislative committee will take up a bill today that proponents hope will end gill netting for shark off the Georgia coast.

The bill, to be considered by the House Game, Fish and Parks Committee, would ban the landing of sharks at Georgia docks, said Duane Harris, director of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Coastal Resources Division. Committee Chairman Bob Lane, D-Statesboro, is one of the bill's sponsors along with Buddy DeLoach, R-Hinesville, Greg Morris, D-Vidalia, and Terry E. Bernard, R-Glennville.

Because shark meat must be transported to processors quickly to prevent spoilage, the ban would effectively end the use of gill nets off all but the extreme southern end of the coast, Harris said.

Gill nets catch not only shark but also other species including endangered sea turtles, mackerel, drum, tarpon and other fish, Harris said. Fish and sharks swim into the nets and are then trapped by their gills when they try to back out, Harris said. Turtles and, in rare cases, bottlenose dolphins can become entangled in the nets and drown, he said.

"It's been a problem for us since 1992 when these boats first came up to Camden County," Harris said. Since then, the boats have tied up at docks in Darien and worked off the McIntosh County coast, he said.

When the boats have worked off Georgia's coast, there has been a corresponding increase in sea turtle deaths, Harris said.

"The only thing that changed were these gill netters out there," Harris said of the turtle deaths.

Alarmed by the deaths, the National Marine Fisheries Service placed observers aboard the gill net boats but they detected no dead turtles in the nets when they were retrieved, Harris said.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has jurisdiction over gill netting of highly migratory species, including shark, swordfish, billfish and tuna, said Susan Shipman, head of fisheries for the Coastal Resources Division. The agency allows gill nets only for shark, she said.

The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, of which Shipman is a member, has jurisdiction over all other species in the waters off North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. …

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