DNREC to hold public hearings on amendments to shark, fishing gear regulations on March 25

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DOVER (March 18, 2011) – The DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife will hold back-to-back public hearings beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, March 25 in the DNREC auditorium, Richardson & Robbins Building, 89 Kings Highway, Dover, regarding proposed amendments to Atlantic shark regulations and Tidal Finfish Regulations on equipment and fishing gear.

The first hearing will deal with issues related to fishing equipment and gear used over artificial reef sites in the Delaware Bay. Complaints and comments have surfaced between recreational hook-and-line fishermen and commercial pot fisherman regarding the abundance of fish pots and their marking lines and floats which have in some instances prevented or interfered with normal recreational fishing opportunities.

The proposed amendment is intended to eliminate these conflicts between hook and line gear and other types of fishing gear currently in use on artificial reefs within Delaware waters. It also will address concerns of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that some fishing gear presently being fished on Delaware reef sites is incompatible with the intent of the funding agency in providing support to the Delaware Reef Program.

The second hearing, immediately following, will concern a proposed amendment to the Atlantic sharks regulation to improve enforceability of Delaware’s shark regulations and to better define measures that will ensure a shark’s maximum probability of survival when caught and released.

The proposal is designed to help shark species that are prohibited from harvest under Delaware law, including sandbar sharks and tiger sharks. These sharks are extremely vulnerable to fishing pressure, and Delaware’s near shore waters serve as important pupping, nursery and feeding grounds. Studies indicate that these sharks suffer significant injury or death when caught and need to be treated with the utmost care when hooked and released. A growing segment of the recreational fishery is evidently targeting these species illegally, and many such anglers are not immediately releasing the sharks in a manner that ensures the greatest chance of survival.

Email comments for either of the public hearings may be sent to Lisa Vest, Hearing Officer, at lisa [dot] vest [at] state [dot] de [dot] us. The record will remain open for written or emailed comments until 4:30 p.m., Thursday, March 31.

Questions and comments also may be addressed to the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife, 89 Kings Highway, Dover, DE 19901, or call Fisheries at 302-739-9914.