One Jersey Shore town tries to ban shark fishing after beach catches go viral
Some Sea Isle City residents have complained about the shark fishing on the beach, fearful that it could lure in larger, more dangerous sharks. Experts say the sharks being caught are docile.
The sand tiger shark, a fish that could use a makeover or a name change, has been a social media star in recent months.
These big, beady-eyed, snaggle-toothed sharks have also appeared on television and in newspapers recently as fishermen up and down the Jersey Shore have hooked and caught them right off the state’s beaches.
“This is the ocean. This is where sharks live,” fisherman P.J. Braun told Fox & Friends last month after reeling in a 7-foot sand tiger in Sea Isle City.
On Tuesday, however, Sea Isle City Mayor Len Desiderio announced that the city intends to amend the rules and regulations for beach fishing and to “prohibit shark fishing in, on, or near the beaches and within 600 feet of the beaches of Sea Isle City.”
According to an article Tuesday on SeaIsleNews.com, some residents have complained about shark fishing on the beach, fearful that it could lure in larger, more dangerous sharks.
“I just want to be clear that surf fishing is not a problem. The problem is the shark fishermen trying to lure sharks close to shore,” a resident told city council, according to the article.
It’s illegal in New Jersey to try to target certain species of sharks while fishing, but using bait — live or dead — is ubiquitous across the hobby and bound to attract sharks. Many fishermen do target them too, simply for the allure of catching such a large predator.
The ban, according to SeaIsleNews.com, took effect Monday and violators could be fined up to $1,250. The city said chumming, the use of unmanned drones to drop bait, or having the assistance of any water vessel would be prohibited.
When told of the ban, some fishermen said people would simply move to another municipality.
“The sharks are everywhere up and down the coast,” said Joey Bittipaglia, of Monmouth County.
Bittipaglia, 20, has caught sand tigers from New Jersey beaches.
It’s unclear how the shark fishing ban would be enforced. Desiderio could not immediately be reached for comment.
Sand tiger is the common name for Carcharias taurus, and if biologists had any say, scientific names would be the norm, to avoid confusion. First, the sand tiger doesn’t share many of the traits associated with tigers. No one has ever been killed by a sand tiger shark.
“Sand tiger sharks don’t usually come into contact with humans,” said Kevin Becker, assistant curator of fish and invertebrates at Adventure Aquarium.
According to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File, which has tracked unprovoked attacks across the globe since the early 1960s, sand tiger sharks are responsible for 36 unprovoked, nonfatal shark attacks over that period. The great white shark, also known to pass through New Jersey, is responsible for 297 nonfatal, unprovoked attacks and 57 fatal attacks around the world.
In Australia, the sand tiger is known as the ragged-tooth shark, which is a more apt description. Becker said those intimidating teeth actually reveal the sand tiger is only interested in eating fish.
“Their teeth are long and narrow and not meant for chewing or taking bites out of large animals,” he said. “They swim through a school of fish, grab one, and gulp it down. “
Sand tigers can swim close to shore looking for fish, and are common along most of the popular, sandy beaches up and down the Atlantic Coast. On Long Island, the sand tiger has been blamed for a series of recent attacks — experts say those sharks are juveniles chasing bait fish and mistakenly biting feet. None of the injuries were life-threatening.
Becker said swimmers concerned about sharks of all stripes should avoid the water at dawn and dusk and also leave if they’re seeing schools of bait fish pushing toward them.
“Again, you will rarely, if ever, come into contact with one,” he said.
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John Valdez, a fisherman from Camden County, has caught sand tigers off the beaches in Sea Isle City. He said most of them are caught in deeper water, sometimes 100 yards from the surf.
“It’s rare to catch them during the day,” he said.
Valdez said he was surprised by the sudden ban in Sea Isle but also thought it would be difficult to enforce.
“People will just say they’re fishing for bluefish,” he said.
Beach-goers he’s encountered while fishing are more interested in the sharks than scared, Valdez said. Some applaud, he said, when they release them back to the surf. None have ever complained to him.