Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Great white shark confiscated by federal agents at Star Island Shark Tournament

Great white shark confiscated by federal agents at Star Island Shark Tournament

A great white shark weighing between 300 and 400 pounds was confiscated by the National Marine Fisheries Service on Friday morning after a competitor at the Star Island Yacht Club Shark Tournament landed it during the contest, according to an official from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the NMFS.

The angler who turned in the shark was not arrested or fined at the scene, said Lesli Bales-Sherrod, communications specialist for the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, but could be charged with a civil violation at the close of NOAA’s investigation, which is ongoing.

Ms. Bales-Sherrod said the great white is a prohibited species under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management and Conservation Act. Therefore not releasing one, if caught, is illegal.

Rich Janis, a Star Island tournament manager, said the angler mistook the shark for another species.

“It was misidentified by the anglers and it was confiscated by NOAA,” he said. “It was just an honest mistake, there was no benefit to bringing it in.”

Ms. Bales-Sherrod said if investigators found reason to charge the angler who caught the shark, the case would be turned over to prosecutors from NOAA. She did not know the penalties that could result from the charge.

Mr. Janis said the NFMS agents were on-hand at the tournament, which is commonplace, to conduct research on the fish that are brought in. He said they dissected the shark for research and took it away.

The overall heaviest shark caught during the two-day tournament this weekend was a 335-pound thresher, which brought with it a $25,000 prize. A $2,500 prize was awarded for a 330-pound thresher, which was the heaviest shark caught on Friday, the first day of the tournament and the same day the great white was landed.

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