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Recreational Shark Fishing in Florida: How Research and Strategic Science Communication Helped to Change Policy

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Sharks are taxa of significant conservation concern, and while commercial overfishing is the leading cause of population declines, recreational angling poses an increasing threat to some coastal shark populations. Here, I present a detailed case study of my role in a multi-stakeholder process to improve policy surrounding recreational fishing for threatened sharks in Florida. While many other people including other scientists, concerned citizens, responsible conservation-minded anglers, and environmental activists played key roles throughout this process, my scientific research and public engagement contributed significantly, and is the focus of this case study. Over the course of several years, my research documented the scope of several unnecessary angler practices that were harmful to threatened shark species. As a result of my research and stakeholder interactions, I was able to propose science-based politically feasible policy solutions, and I strategically communicated the problem and possible solutions to policymakers, journalists, environmental activists, scientific professional societies, and the public. In July of 2019, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission enacted new rules for land-based shark fishing in Florida waters, incorporating several of my proposed solutions. This case study demonstrates that through careful planning, understanding policy, developing a strategic communication plan, and networking with key stakeholders, even early career researchers can successfully help to change policy and help protect threatened species. Supplementary materials (Data S1) contain detailed background information, a timeline of events, and a diverse set of examples of my science communication.
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Shiffman, DS. Recreational shark fishing in Florida: How research and strategic science communication helped to change policy. Conservation Science and Practice. 2020; 2:e174. DOI: 10.1111/csp2.174.
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Conservation Science and Practice
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Recreational Shark Fishing in Florida: How Research and Strategic Science Communication Helped to Change Policy
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