Sharks are causing problems for visitors to Palm Beach in Florida, but not for the reasons one would typically expect.
Several groups camped out on the beach as part of the Blacktip Shark Challenge, an annual fishing tournament focused on catching, tagging and releasing these sharks. The event, which was held from Jan. 27 to Feb. 1, drew ire from local residents in North End, which is near the public beaches.
Although the challenge is aimed at researching the sharks, this isn’t all the campers were up to. Local residents complained to the Town Council of drinking, public urination and littering by campers, and some had even killed the sharks.
Local resident Allison Reed, who lives near the beach, said that it was impossible to go to the beach due to the congregation of campers.
“You could not walk, swim, surf, anything from Arabian (Road) north to the jetty because they had dozens of rods stuck into the sand above the escarpment with the lines going 500 feet out,” Reed said.
She also witnessed some of the fishers catch a hammerhead shark, a protected species, and butcher it on the beach.
Although officials didn’t find the 12-foot hammerhead that Reed saw killed, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission did find a 9-foot hammerhead shark buried in the sand near the Juno Beach Pier on Wednesday, Jan. 28.
However, the fishers responsible for the shark’s death did not receive a violation because the state ruled that the group had tried to release it.
Other problems have affected the beach’s accessibility for other residents. Because the fishers show up with tents, fishing rods and other adventure gear, they take up much of the space along the coastline.
“Many Florida counties and municipalities have ordinances regarding camping and fishing on the beach,” says Rich Kenda, Camping Specialist at Bill Jacksons. “Aside from counties and cities, other beach areas are managed by the state parks system or the Department of Environmental Protection. The rules can vary from beach to beach, so prospective campers and anglers should contact the local authority that manages the area in question and pay attention to any posted regulations.”
The tournament also resulted in beach closures for adults and children looking to swim in the ocean. Because the fishers were luring sharks so close to the beach, the predators posed a serious risk for swimmers, and lifeguards had to send beachgoers away.
As a result of the campers’ misconduct, Town Attorney John Randolph has drafted an ordinance that would prohibit sleeping or camping on public beaches, dunes, sidewalks, parking lots and other public areas between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The Town Council will discuss the ordinance during a day-long meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 10.