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Sharks Attack; Fishermen and Scientists Battle

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Segrich's shark attack is one of just a handful so far this year in Florida; none has been fatal. Last year, there were 13 attacks; the only deadly one was the incident involving the kiteboarder killed off Stuart Beach. But like many shark fishermen, Segrich says he has seen more sharks this year than ever before.

"The seasonal closures give them a chance to rebound and breed more," he says. "The season is shorter and shorter, and you're allowed to take fewer and fewer sharks. Their population is definitely rebounding. I'd like to see more shark fishing. There's definitely more of them, and they're definitely more aggressive. When those alpha males don't get taken out, they get more aggressive."

John Miller, the Jupiter fisherman who's been hunting sharks for nearly a decade, agrees. Because of restrictions that took effect this year, he's allowed to fish them only beginning July 17, when the Atlantic shark season opens. Last year, the date was January 1. Catch limits are strict. Miller blames scientists for the shorter season. "We're the ones who really see what's going on," he insists. "There ain't no shortage, I can tell you that much."

Not nearly as much shark meat is sold today as in the past, but the fins have become more popular. They routinely fetch $50 a pound — more than 50 times the value of shark meat. Rarer kinds can command $500 for the same amount. Although most of the fins make their way to Hong Kong, a half-dozen restaurants in Miami still serve shark fin soup. A few states, including Hawaii, California, Washington, and Oregon, have moved to ban shark fins altogether.

Segrich believes the restrictions on shark fishing need to be lifted. "I'm not sure the scientists know what's a healthy shark population," he contends. He also insists he won't stop spearfishing. And although he won't go Shark World XXX on the ocean creatures, he will be quicker to pull the trigger when he spots a shark.

"If I see one swimming around with a bit of wet suit in its mouth," he warns, "that one's got a bull's-eye on its back."

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Michael E. Miller

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