Florida’s Gulf Coast—the Panama City Beach area in particular—is fast becoming famous as a shore-based fishing destination for catching large sharks.
Last week the rare catch (and release) of a great white shark generated headlines, and only days later the controversial catch and kill of a 600-pound mako shark began to make the news and circulate via social media.
“10-foot mako shark tonight! We will be eating good for awhile!” reads a March 6 Facebook photo post by a group called Off the Beach Shark Fishing Trips.
The rare beach catch, involving an incredibly powerful pelagic shark species, was made after a 90-minute battle involving seven men who took turns at the rod and reel.
“It was pretty impressive. I couldn’t believe it,” Douglas Harlan, a client vacationing from Indiana, told WMBB. “It just blew my mind to land something that big—I never expected anything like that.”
Matt Pemberton of Off the Beach Shark Fishing explained that fishing is done at night and added, “We try to stay on the east end where there aren’t any swimmers.”
But it’s not so much the idea of luring large predators close to shore with the scent of bait that’s inspiring criticism, it’s the killing of large sharks in an era when so many people believe that all large shark species have been overfished and should be protected.
Wrote Drew Scerbo on the White Shark Advocacy members-only Facebook page, “Such a beautiful shark now gone forever. Sad there’s no respect among these specific fishermen. These guys are not catch and release. They kill anything they get.”
Though great white sharks are protected and must be released, mako sharks are not.
Said Pemberton, “Just the thought of a shark and you catching the biggest thing in the ocean is a really good appeal. I mean there are bigger things in the ocean than a shark, but you’re not going to land it.”
Mako sharks are found in tropical and temperate waters around the world, can reach about 14 feet, and weigh more than 1,000 pounds. Because they’re typically found far offshore, they’re not regarded as a serious threat to swimmers and surfers.
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