Atlantic Shortfin Mako Shark
Caption
Atlantic Shortfin Mako Shark

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is considering changes to the rules governing shark fishing.

Two deepwater species of sharks, the Ocean Whitetip and the Shortfin Mako, would receive greater protections under the proposal. Fishing for the Whitetip would be banned entirely while Makos that are harvested would need to be larger.

In 2018, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration listed the Ocean Whitetip as “threatened.” While they are typically not found in Georgia waters, their protections span the Atlantic coast.

The rule changes would bring the state into alignment with the federal Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s management plan for Atlantic Coastal Sharks. However, when it comes to the Shortfin Mako, Georgia’s rules would go a bit further making it illegal to catch any male or female under 83 inches. Federal rules allow males over 71 inches to be harvested.

The Mako and the Whitetip live in waters that are very deep and are primarily hunted by sport fishermen.

Chief of Marine Fisheries for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resources Division Carolyn Belcher said it’s important to protect so-called “Apex” predators to protect the entire ocean.

“If you have too many herbivores you eat down your plants,” Belcher said. “Your plants cause issues. It’s just that whole open cascade down the food chain. They just help keep that balance in the system.”

The DNR is taking comments on the proposed changes through Nov. 1, 2019. In December, the Georgia Board of Natural Resources will consider making the changes official. If they are approved the rules would go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.