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New Proposed Amendments to Current Laws Around White Sharks

Currently, white sharks (commonly known as great white sharks) are protected under federal and state regulations and must be immediately released if caught; proposed amendments will hinder anglers from any illegal attempts at capturing the animal.

CALIFORNIA— On Feb. 14, Assemblymembers Steve Bennett and Richard Bloom introduced Ab-2109 to amend section 5517 of the Fish and Game Code relating to sharks. The proposed amendments of AB 2109 would prohibit catching white sharks with the use of attractants such as chum, bait, lures when a white shark is known to be present or visible.


“Under current California law, it is illegal to fish for or catch white sharks, as they have been protected in the state since Jan. 1, 1994,” said Arwen Chenery, Chief of Staff for Asssemblymember Steve Bennett, in an email from Feb. 22. “White sharks in California are also protected by federal regulations and must be immediately released if caught accidentally. Under these protections, it is illegal to catch, pursue, hunt, capture or kill a white shark, which includes intentionally attracting white sharks with bait or other methods.”


Under current laws, you cannot catch a white shark for recreational or commercial fishing purposes unless granted a permit issued by the Department of Fish and Wildlife for scientific or educational purposes, or if the shark is taken incidentally by commercial fishing operations using specific styles of nets. 


“The word “take” is defined as “hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill, or attempting to hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill,” said Chenery. “Attracting white sharks with bait or decoys has been defined as an attempt to pursue the animal. However, when excursion companies use attractants (bait) or decoys to lure sharks, they are technically not “taking” the shark. Therefore, they are not violating the law, but are putting the shark, and/or the person in the water, in danger.”


The bill, which was introduced last week, clarifies that the use of bait and/ or decoys to attract white sharks is prohibited for the safety of marine wildlife and people. Chenery said she anticipates that it will be referred to the policy committee and heard in the late spring (late March, early April). 


According to John Ugoretz, CDFW’s Pelagic Fisheries and Ecosystem Program Manager, in specific commercial gillnet and purse seine fisheries, it is legal to catch white sharks incidentally; they cannot be targeted. If the angler catches a shark and it’s dead, they are allowed to keep it. Although white sharks can be caught live for scientific purposes, anglers who have caught sharks incidentally have been known to sell the sharks for scientific purposes.


“When they’re [sharks] accidentally caught, that would be the most common way [gillnets], but it’s very uncommon, said Ugoretz. “We’re talking maybe five or so every few years. So, it’s not like it’s something that is happening all the time. Most researchers these days are actually tagging white sharks, so there doing it on their own without the assistance of a fisherman. Really, the last time anybody targeted a live white shark was Monterey Bay Aquarium many years ago. They were permitted to and did catch a couple and kept them in the aquarium for a short amount of time.”


Because any violation of these prohibitions would be a crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program, a code phrase that imposes new or increased requirements on local agencies. The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. For local government to be paid by the state for complying with a mandate, it must be found to be a reimbursable mandate. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement. This bill would provide that this act requires no reimbursement for a specified reason.

Amendments to Section 5517 are as follows:



 Section 5517 of the Fish and Game Code is amended to read:


 It (a) Except as authorized by a permit issued pursuant to Section 1002, it is unlawful to take do any of the following:

(1) Take any white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), except under permits issued pursuant to Section 1002 for scientific or educational purposes. carcharias).

(2) Use any bait, lure, or chum to attract any white shark.

(3) Place any bait, lure, or chum into the water when a white shark is either visible or known to be present.

(b) For purposes of this section, “bait, lure, or chum” means any natural or manufactured product or device used to attract sharks by the sense of taste, smell, or sight, including, but not limited to, blood, fish, or other material upon which sharks may feed, and surface or underwater decoys.

SEC. 2.

 No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.”


For more information, the bill can be tracked on the California Legislative Information website. However, the bill cannot be acted on until March 17. 

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