Shark Catch and Release
Welcome to Florida Sea Grant's new Shark Catch and Release section!
This section is an excellent resource for anglers interested in learning more about sharks and shark fishing in Florida.
Please explore these new pages and media to learn more about shark biology and ecology, local shark science, best handling practices and recommended guidelines for catch-and-release fishing.
The videos on this page were funded by Florida Sea Grant and produced by former Florida Sea Grant Scholar, Austin Gallagher, a research biologist and Ph.D. student at the University of Miami.
Why shark catch & release?
Today many species of sharks are threatened due to overfishing. Sharks are slow-growing, give birth to relatively few young, and take many years to reach maturity. These factors make sharks vulnerable to overfishing, with recovery being difficult for some species.
Large apex predators such as hammerheads and sandbar sharks have declined by up to 90 percent in recent decades. Other species have decreased, but are slowly showing signs of stabilization.
Due to their position at the top of many food chains, sharks are ecologically important. In addition, shark species are economically important as a resource, particularly to recreational fishermen. These creatures fascinate us, and experiencing sharks in their natural habitat can be an incredibly exciting and memorable experience.
How did sharks become threatened?
- Harvest for flesh and fins
- Commercial landings of sharks in Florida rose from 287,531 pounds in 1980 to 7.3 million pounds in 1990 due to the growing acceptance of shark meat as seafood and the increase in prices in the Asian shark fin markets. The dramatic increase in landings caused some sharks to become overfished or threatened.
- Recreational catch
- Sharks are predators and are therefore present in locations where people fish, causing them to be caught unintentionally. Some species of sharks experience high stress levels when fighting on the line and may die shortly after being released.
- Shark fishing in Florida has also become a recreational activity. Recreational fishing is a potential threat if the largest individuals from the population are removed and killed, as they have the greatest reproductive potential.
- Fishermen who are not versed on successful catch-and-release practices may fight the sharks for too long, exposing them to a greater risk of mortality after release.
- Biological challenges
- Many sharks venture inshore to Florida's waters to give birth, rendering them vulnerable to harvest during these times.
- Sharks also grow and mature very slowly, meaning certain species, particularly the longer-living ones, cannot reproduce until their teens or later. Many species will produce fewer than 10 pups per brood and do not reproduce every year.
- The combination of low reproductive rates, biological susceptibility to overfishing, and other specialized characteristics are what cause them to be threatened.
Conservation of a top predator
Sharks are one of the oldest groups of animals on our planet. There are more than 500 different species of these ancient fish. They come in various shapes and sizes. Sharks can be found in all types of ecosystems and water temperatures globally. Almost all sharks are predatory, meaning they hunt and consume other prey species. Many sharks are also top, or apex, predators in their respective habitats.
Today, sharks are a primary focus of conservation and research efforts worldwide, and Florida boasts a handful of groups dedicated to studying them. Florida is also recognized as a leader in shark fisheries management.
Catch-and-release fishing by recreational anglers plays a major part in conservation and allows these fishermen to still experience the thrill of catching a shark.
However, the sustainability of catch-and-release fishing relies upon the assumption that the released fishes will survive with minimal impacts to animal function or health. Research has shown that post-release survival rates in many species can be very high when the proper gear is used and fish are handled properly.
- Shark Information (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)
- Fish Handling Practices (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)
- Common Sharks of Florida (Florida Sea Grant)
- A Guide to Circle Hooks (Florida Sea Grant)
- Recreational Shark Fishing Healthy Catch-and-Release (NOAA Fisheries Service)
- Sustainable Sport Fishing for Thresher Sharks (NOAA Fisheries Service)
- Podcast: Hooked on Sharks (NOAA Fisheries Service)
- Best Practice Shark Handling Guide (The Shark Trust)
- A Guide to Sharks, Tunas & Billfishes in the U.S. Atlantic & Gulf of Mexico (Rhode Island Sea Grant)
- Shark Biology and Conservation (MOTE Marine Laboratory)
- Sharks: The Animal Answer Guide (Gene Helfman and George H. Burgess)
- Circle hooks and sharks (Bulletin of Marine Science)
- Guy Harvey Research Institute Shark Tracker