OCEAN CITY -- The public will have a chance next week to weigh in on a drastic rule change proposed last fall by a federal fisheries management agency aimed at protecting one type of shark with a blanket size limit increase for all species.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in November published a rather dubious “Amendment 5” to the Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan that would, if adopted, create a new 96-inch, or eight-foot, minimum keeper size limit for all sharks caught off the coast of the resort including the popular makos, threshers, hammerheads and blue sharks that are staples of the resort’s sportfishing industry. The proposed rule change is aimed at affording greater protections to dusky sharks, which have been on NMFS’ prohibited species list since 2002 but have still allegedly seen their population figures dip to critical levels.
Amendment 5 would nearly double the minimum size limit for as many as 12 legal shark species from the current 54 inches to 96 inches. According to Captain Mark Sampson, a charter captain and local expert on all things related to sharks, the rule change could effectively shut down a major staple of the early offshore fishing season in Ocean City and up and down the east coast.