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  1. FORT LAUDERDALE — The controversial fishing practice of catching large sharks from shore could be banned from many of Florida’s public beaches, restricted to nighttime hours or subjected to other limits, under options being considered to protect both swimmers and the sharks. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted last April to impose limits on shore-based shark fishing, an activity that produces dramatic Instagram photos and YouTube videos of anglers reeling in 12-foot hammerheads and tiger sharks. Nine workshops have been scheduled around the state, with specific proposals tentatively scheduled to go to the commission in December. Swimmers have expressed concern that the activity could endanger them by luring large sharks closer to shore, although a scientist from the wildlife commission has said there’s no evidence for this. But scientists and conservationists have also criticized the dragging ashore of sharks for photos and videos before releasing them. They say the practice — which is illegal in the case of protected species such as great hammerheads — could be difficult for many sharks to survive. “Physiologically, fragile species like hammerheads need to be left in the water where they can breathe, not dragged across rough sand or concrete while being unable to breathe,” said David Shiffman, a shark biologist who had been a critic of shore-based shark fishing while a graduate student at the University of Miami. “I’m thrilled to see FWC considering many of our expert suggestions,” he said. “As it’s currently practiced, land-based shark fishing in Florida results in the needless deaths of threatened, protected species. These regulatory changes will help reduce those deaths, and will do so without in any way infringing on the rights of conservation-minded, rule-following anglers.” During the April meeting, some commissioners said the activity showed a disrespect for wildlife, particularly when people hold open the mouth of the beached sharks and perch on their backs. “Some of those pictures that were shown on social media were disgraceful,” Commissioner Joshua Kellam said. “I think that just morally people should be ashamed of themselves to post stuff like that, to do that stuff to animals. People who do these things should be punished for their actions.” The commission, a seven-member board appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, told its staff to come up with proposals for limiting the activity. Among the options: Requiring a special permit for shore-based shark fishing, limiting chumming from shore, restricting the activity to nighttime and banning it from public beaches protected by lifeguards. To protect the sharks, the state put forward several options. It could prohibit tournaments from offering prizes for catching protected species. It could ban the use of gear more likely to injure the sharks. And to make sure sharks are released as quickly as possible, it could prohibit removing them from the water, measuring them or delaying their release for any reason.
  2. FERNANDINA BEACH — Of 88 unprovoked shark bites that the Florida Museum of Natural History documented around the globe last year, more than one third took place along the shores of Florida, the shark attack capital of the world. But the vast majority of those attacks were on southern beaches between Cape Canaveral and Miami. Shark encounters are relatively rare farther up Florida’s Atlantic coastline and are almost unheard of in northernmost Nassau County. Or so they were before Friday afternoon — when consecutive attacks sent two people to the hospital and shut down Fernandina Beach, just south of the Georgia border about 25 miles northeast of Jacksonville. “I was in two feet of water or less, laying on my stomach,” the first victim, Dustin Theobald, 30, told News 4 Jax from his hospital bed. Theobald said he had brought his 8-year-old to the beach and was watching the boy play in the surf when “when I felt something grab onto my foot and pull.” He felt no pain, yet. He reached back to feel what he now believes to a be a nurse shark or a blacktip shark, judging from the gouges it left in his foot. “He was probably four or five feet,” Theobald said. “When I did that, he shook twice, then released and left.” An onlooker told First Coast News that she watched Theobald stumble and hop to dry land on one foot, screaming: “I got bit! I got bit! Get out!” “He barely made it out of the water,” another witness, Mike Webb, told the outlet. “He laid down at the lifeguard stand and they just went to wrapping and gauzing. His left foot was — from what he said was, he could see the bone on the top and the bottom.” Theobald said he may have tendon damage along with four-inch lacerations on both sides of his foot. And no sooner had an ambulance arrived at the beach to collect him than a second swimmer was attacked less than two miles down the coast, the City of Fernandina Beach wrote in a statement. A 17-year-old boy was bitten no more than five minutes after Theobald, First Coast News reported. And though he, too, is expected to recover, the reports caused authorities to evacuate all swimmers out of the water along the beach. Before that afternoon, only four shark attacks had been recorded in Nassau County in the last 135 years, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History, compared to more than 800 across the state. The last encounter at Fernandina Beach took place three years ago, when a 12-year-old boy was dragged through waist-deep water by a shark nearly as large as himself. He had to punch the fish to break free. Even though shark populations are declining due to overfishing, the museum warns that attacks can increase as more humans wade into their feeding grounds. After the double attack at Fernandina Beach, officials flew red flags along the waterline to warn people away. Nevertheless, News 4 recorded a scattering of people wading late Friday afternoon even as a sheriff’s truck rolled along the shoreline, urging them out with a loudspeaker. “The shark has already bitten two people. Please exit the water,” the driver said. “There’s a shark in the water that has already bitten two people,” he repeated as he passed a small group waist-deep in the ocean. “I would move.”
  3. TAMPA — A Florida man is behind bars for failing to unlock his phones following a traffic stop. Fox 13 News reported William Montanez was pulled over in June for improper yielding in Tampa. He wouldn’t allow cops to search his car, so a drug-sniffing dog was brought in. A small amount of marijuana was allegedly found, and cops asked to search his cell phones. Again, Montanez said no, so detectives got a warrant. His attorney calls it a “fishing expedition.” Judge Gregory Holder ruled Thursday cops could go through the cell phones, but Montanez said the two phones are new and he couldn’t remember the passwords to unlock them. The judge found him in civil contempt and threw him in jail.
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