The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission decided this week to move forward with considering new rules surrounding shore-based shark fishing.
It’s still unclear exactly what rules staff might come up with, but Port St. Lucie mother, Jessica Veatch, is grateful they’ve decided to take action.
“This is just a small step toward the future.”
Veatch’s now 4-year-old daughter, Violet, was bitten by a shark at bathtub beach last summer.
“I had seen people on the reef area with Hawaiian sling spears,” Veatch said. “And then they were walking through the swimming area. I didn’t think anything of it.”
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In hindsight, she says she thinks that attracted a shark toward the shallow area where her daughter was swimming.
Her daughter has made a remarkable recovery, but even she has a message for the FWC. “Make the beach safe for kids like me,” Violet said.
Some of the ideas FWC staff might consider could be a permit process for shore-based shark fishing. They might also discuss restrictions on certain fishing gear and regional, if not statewide, rules on how far away people can fish from the shore from swimming areas.
“They’re truly concerned about making the beaches safer and making it safer for the sharks, too,” Veatch said.
Fisherman John Kane says he already does his best to fish far from swimming areas. He does not fish for sharks.
“I'm always conscious, I don’t want to be fishing around surfers,” Kane said.
But he might not support all the possible rules.
“I don’t think permits are necessary. The guys that are doing it are pretty rare."
Veatch knows more rules might be met with backlash.
“There’s going to be a lot of people that don’t agree,” Veatch said.
She hopes FWC can help strike a balance between everyone enjoying the waterways, but also helping swimmers feel safe.
Any action by the commission would still be months away.
Board members will also be hosting public meetings and reaching out to stakeholders, like shark fishing groups, to get input before drafting rules.