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Stakeholders Back Wittman Bill to Curb Shark Depredation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01) announced the support of 15 organizations for his Supporting the Health of Aquatic systems through Research, Knowledge, and Enhanced Dialogue (SHARKED) Act. The SHARKED Act will establish a task force to collaborate with fisheries management groups to address the problems of and find solutions to increased sharked depredation across United States waters.

“The growing support for the SHARKED Act emphasizes how widespread increased shark depredation has become in the United States,” said Congressman Wittman. “Not only are anglers losing their catch to sharks at alarming rates, but they are also losing their tackle when sharks bite onto their lines. I’m grateful for the support of these organizations who are leaders in protecting our anglers, fish, sharks, and marine ecosystems. I look forward to continue leading this important effort with my colleagues Reps. Graves, Soto, and Veasey.”

“Sharks are a vital part of our ocean ecosystems, but in many parts of the country, shark depredation is becoming an increasing problem that is not just an inconvenience, but rather is completely disrupting fishing,” said American Sportfishing Association Vice President of Government Affairs Mike Leonard. “These conflicts are bad for fish, fishermen and sharks. This is a complex and multifaceted challenge that requires a dedicated task force to bring overdue attention to the issue.”

“As someone who frequently fishes for reef fish species in the Gulf of Mexico, I can attest to the fact that we have a growing problem. Whether it’s a result of rapidly increasing shark species abundance, conditioned responses of sharks to numerous fishing boats in a small area, or a combination of both, we need a coordinated effort to explore solutions to the shark depredation issue,” said Chris Horton, senior director of Fisheries Policy for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. “We very much appreciate Representatives Wittman, Soto, Graves and Veasey for their leadership on legislation to do just that.”

“Shark depredation is becoming a more frequent issue for recreational anglers, especially along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts,” said Curt Melcher, president of the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies. “The SHARKED Act brings visibility to this issue and proposes a sensible, collaborative approach for developing science-based management strategies that benefit both anglers and sharks.”

“We thank Representative Wittman for his thoughtful approach to dealing with the increased negative interactions between recreational anglers and sharks,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “Sharks play a critical role in the marine ecosystem, and we need more information on population sizes and their habits to properly manage these predators. Besides the obvious danger in human and shark interactions, we are concerned about the potential impacts on important recreational fisheries as sharks seize the opportunity for easy meals in hooked or just-released fish.”

“With angler-shark interactions on the rise, BTT strongly supports the SHARKED Act, which will take a comprehensive look at the issue and at opportunities to minimize shark depredation. This coordinated approach will help us maintain healthy shark and fisheries populations into the future,” said Jim McDuffie, president and CEO for Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. “BTT greatly appreciates the leadership of Representatives Wittman, Soto, Graves, and Veasey to introduce this measured bill to seek sustainable and reasonable solutions.”

“For as long as people have been fishing the oceans, fishermen have had to deal with sharks taking their catch,” said Guy Harvey, Ph.D., artist, conservationist and chairman emeritus of the Guy Harvey Foundation. “As the U.S. has done a relatively good job of managing local shark populations, recreational anglers are reporting increased rates of shark depredation. However, fisheries managers lack the information needed to determine the best course of action. The SHARKED Act will bring experts together to help properly address the shark depredation issue.”

Supporting organizations: American Sportfishing Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Center for Sportfishing Policy, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, Guy Harvey Foundation, American Fisheries Society, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, BoatUS, Coastal Conservation Association, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, International Game and Fish Association, Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, National Marine Manufacturers Association, National Professional Anglers Association, and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.