TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — Florida fisherman will soon be banned from killing tiger sharks and three kinds of hammerheads in Florida state waters.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Wednesday that recreational and commercial harvesting of tiger sharks and smooth, scalloped and great hammerhead sharks will be banned in state waters starting Jan. 1.

The ban also extends to the possession, sale and exchange of these sharks caught in state waters, which extend three miles off the Atlantic coast and nine miles off the Gulf coast. The new rule makes it a second-degree misdemeanor to catch and kill one of the sharks in state waters.

These species still can be caught and released in state waters, and they can be taken from federal waters.

The wildlife agency says the harvesting ban will help protect these top marine predators. Florida waters are considered essential habitat for these and other sharks. About two-dozen overfished, vulnerable or rare shark species are catch-and-release only in Florida waters. Shark experts, marine scientists and environmentalists all support the proposal, noting populations of all four species have declined by more than half in recent decades. They also hope Florida’s action, the first in the nation, will clear the way for extending protections in both federal and international waters.

Though some people see sharks as nothing more than dangerous monsters, scientists say they serve important roles at the top of the ocean food chain and help keep the ecosystem in balance. Reducing their numbers can create unexpected and unwanted ripple effects.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)




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