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Fisherman gets ticket for possessing undersized shark

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Posted at 9:57 PM, Jul 10, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-11 19:58:25-04

A fisherman's catch Saturday in the water off Ocean View ended up catching the attention of Virginia Marine police.

“There was something going on here fishing-wise, that wasn't right,” says John Bull.

John Bull, with the Marine Resources Commission, says they sent an officer to the beach after getting a concerned call.

Previous: Baby sharks killed in Bay

When he got there, the officer found a group of men with six sharks, one of them had been gutted.

Lisa Lockhart was at the beach at the time; she snapped pictures and told NewsChannel 3 she was horrified after watching the men beat the sharks to death.

Bull says their officer didn't see that by the time he got there and even if he had, there's nothing they could do about it legally.

“There aren't any statutes on the books that say how you should treat fish,” says Bull.

But there was something about the sharks that did catch the officer's attention.

“They were small. The top one was 27 inches, but most of them were in the 8 to 9 inch range,” says Bull.

For most shark species, Bull says the minimum size fishermen can keep is 54 inches.

These particular sharks were just juveniles; they can get up to six or seven feet long.

The officer also determined that the sharks were a type of coastal shark, not uncommon in the Bay but not legal to catch at this time of year.

That's why Bull says one man, the one the officer saw holding a knife, was given two tickets; one for possessing an undersized shark and the other for catching the shark out of season. Both are misdemeanors.

According to Bull, the man was on vacation from Fairfax County in Northern Virginia. He told the officer he didn't know he couldn't keep them.

“People out fishing for fun need to know what they can keep and what they can't keep,” says Bull.

“Take too many of them, the species can be wiped out or severely depleted and they do serve a very valuable ecological function. Sharks are beneficial; the absence of sharks is not good

We don't know exactly what type of coastal shark this was.  According to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, sandbar sharks are one of the most common shark species in Virginia waters.

The lower Chesapeake Bay is their principal nursery grounds.

Though they can grow to be six or seven feet, they don't pose much threat to humans.

Data kept by the Florida Museum of Natural History show that around the world for the past 300 years, there have been only 8 recorded attacks involving sandbar sharks.