SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 16, September 2016 - Page 37

previous era; he claims he hasn’t killed a shark in years, and that people who continue to do so have a “mental hang-up.” “I enjoy the fight, but I love the animal, I don’t want to kill it,” he says, noting he’s given most of his jaws away. Fudora now uses his club and tournament to advocate for sustainable fishing practices, emphasizing catch-and-release, and trains anglers in a “two minute drill” of measuring, photographing, tagging, and releasing a shark, all while keeping it in the water.

For Fudora, fishing isn’t just a hobby, but a part of his identity, and he demonstrates a fierce passion for protecting fishermen’s rights. He has seen increasing attempts by town governments in Florida to ban shark fishing from their beaches, often without the legal right to do so, a move he feels is motivated by negative publicity and unfounded fears of increased shark attacks. Instead, he wants to see more regulations aimed at commercial fishing vessels, which he says are the ones really decimating populations.

Recent studies have shown that Fudora is more of the rule than the exception when it comes to modern-day shark anglers. A 2016 paper published in Aquatic Conservation found a strong conservation ethic and understanding of threats to sharks amongst avid anglers in a nationwide survey of recreational fishermen. Most respondents practiced catch-and-release, with 89 percent agreeing with the importance of releasing sharks in good condition, and 80 percent saying they would be willing to use special gear and techniques to minimize damage to the animal. Additionally, an overwhelming majority of those surveyed agreed that having viable shark populations is important, though opinions were split on whether further regulations on fishing were necessary. While the study suggests that these attitudes could be used as a tool to promote conservation, it also alludes to areas of conflict.

According to the survey, few recreational anglers perceived their sport to be a threat to shark populations, with the vast majority pointing the finger at commercial vessels. While globally, commercial fishing certainly has a greater impact on shark populations, within the U.S., recreational anglers may be underestimating their own contribution. According to the 2013 Fisheries of the U.S. report, recreational anglers killed more large (non-dogfish) sharks by weight than commercial fishermen, about 4.5 million pounds versus 3.2 million pounds, a trend that repeated in 2014, though to a lesser extent. While these statistics do not account for unwanted species caught by commercial vessels and dumped at sea (though most are landed), it suggests that a many people with a single hook can in fact have an impact akin to one person with many hooks.