Tag Archives: sharks

Ernie Lyons’ St Lucie Places of Magic, by Bill Lyons

The creative seed for this blog post dates back to 2011. On November 1st in 2011, my mother forwarded Bill Lyons, son of famed Stuart News conservationist and newspaperman, Ernest Lyons, an email that had been sent to me by Mrs. Sheri Anker of the St Lucie County Conservation Alliance. Sheri had come up with an idea to erect a series of signs throughout the St Lucie River highlighting the favorite spots that “Ernie” so passionately and lovingly wrote about throughout his career.

The following essay is Ernie’s son Bill’s response to my mother’s inquiry for guidance on creating a historic Ernie Lyons’ St Lucie River tour, as Sheri envisioned: “Travels with Ernie on his Rio de Luz.”

Bill’s reply was insightful, poetic, and bittersweet. Bill updated the piece in 2014 -after reading about the St Lucie’s “Lost Summer” of 2013, the tipping point causing a tsunami river movement resurgence that even from the grave, through republished essays in the Stuart News, was inspired by the spirit of Ernie Lyons. Recently my mother rediscovered Bill’s essay in her files and now seems like a good time to rethink the sign idea.

It is my wish that after we read Bill’s tribute to his father, we follow through on Sheri’s idea for signage along the St Lucie River. Indeed, it is difficult to mark what is “favorite” when you love it all, but one thing is certain, we must ensure that our beloved river and the spirit of Mr. Ernest Lyons continues so that “progress” in the future won’t mean a bulldozer.

 

Favorite Places on the River, by Bill Lyons

Ernest Lyons, my father, first came to Stuart, Florida in 1913 and lived there for most of his life. He worked at the Stuart News for 40-some years, retiring as editor in 1975. Dad loved to fish and above all he loved the St. Lucie River, an affection evident in his writings. A few years ago an admirer of that writing suggested erecting signage at Dad’s favorite places on the River. This is my response.

Ernie Lyons as a boy

Dad’s favorite places changed with the moods of the River. For instance, I’m fairly sure North Fork Bay wasn’t his favorite place the day he couldn’t find shelter there from what he called a Blue Norther. He had gathered my mother, my sister and me in his boat and set off up the River to look at a piece of land. It rained and blew all the way up the River, abated for a while as he walked over the property, and then poured buckets all the way back to Stuart. Dad never owned a boat with a cabin or a cover, and I don’t recall that Mother ever got into one of his boats again.

Classic Ernie Lyons as a newspaperman, Stuart News

Dad really did love the North Fork, though. Willard Kiplinger commissioned Florida artist Beanie Backus to do a painting for Dad – “Just contact Beanie and tell him what you want” — so Dad requested a view from the shore where the narrow North Fork opens out into North Fork Bay. Beanie took a boat out there, sketched the scene, and the finished painting hangs in our home today. Many times in the nineteen forties and early fifties, Dad drove us to Burt Pruitt’s Fish Camp, rented a skiff, and motored down to where two branches of the North Fork converge. The River then was alive with fish and birds and alligators, but by the late fifties, it was gone. Drainage from the Rim Ditch Canal (C-24) did so much damage to that part of the River that it lost its sparkle. I don’t think Dad ever went back to the North Fork; after that, he just lived with the memories.

Bean Backus, “The narrow North Fork opening out into North Fork Bay.”

When Dad wrote about festoons of asters along the banks and sprays of orchids hanging from oaks over the River, he was thinking of the South Fork in summer. He took me there many times and we caught lots of fish, but the magical memories are of the flowers and of the tarpon and manatees that came rolling by while we sat quietly watching. During summer, sheet-flow from the Allapattah Flats converged in tiny rivulets into a deep pool with a sand bottom, the first of a series of pools connected by shallow streams of clear water that formed the headwaters of the South Fork. Dad loved that place, not just for its beauty but for its solitude. It could only be reached by Jeep during the wet season, so we hitched rides with the local game warden, who would drop us off and return for us later. Clyde Butcher’s photos of the upper Loxahatchee River are the nearest thing I’ve seen to what once was the upper South Fork. Then in the fifties, construction of the Florida Turnpike cut off the flow of freshwater to the River. Soon saltwater intrusion crept up the South Fork, impeding the spawning of its fish, and the River began to die. In 1962, a friend and I drove to the former site of the headwaters. The area had been bulldozed and the pool had become a cattle watering hole.

Fork of the St Lucie, Sandra Thurlow

Dad loved many places on the River. Some nights he would drive over to Lighthouse Point (the one with the restaurant on US 1, not the development). He took a lantern, a single-tined spear, and a croaker sack and went wading for flounders. He knew just where they would be, hanging at the edge of the bar waiting for unwary fish and shrimp to wash by. A few hours later he would come home, dump a bag of flounders into the kitchen sink, and start cleaning them. Then the mud from Lake Okeechobee washed down the River and the flounders went away.

https://www.savebromeliads.com/floridas-bromeliads

Dad loved the widest part of the River, where vast schools of mullet gathered along the north shore. Tarpon and snook, seatrout and jack crevalle would attack the mullet and drive them grey-hounding in waves across the River, often all the way to the shores of Stuart. Interactions between Plains wolves and bison were no more dramatic. Much of the action happened at night as we lay in our beds, listening to the mullet thundering across the River. When hurricane season approached, immense schools of fingerling mullet moved down the River, sometimes taking several days to pass Stuart. They too ran the gauntlet of snook and jacks, and residents flocked to the shore to fish. Who then could not love the River, unless he were a mullet?

Burt Pruitt’s Fish Camp, North Fork. St Lucie River

In my early years, Dad loved the lower St. Lucie around Hell Gate, that part of the River that separates lower Sewall’s Point from Port Sewall. Again, it was the fishing that brought him there. When winter storms blew, he could find shelter in the lee of Sewall’s Point, and that’s where he would be, trolling for bluefish or bottom-fishing for weakfish. After the months-long runoff from the ’47 and ’49 hurricanes, though, the fish did not return.

Where the River rounds Sewall’s Point it meets the Indian River Lagoon and together their waters flow over large seagrass beds on their way to St. Lucie Inlet. Dad loved casting for large seatrout on the grass flats, and it was there that he and I were fishing in Dale Hipson’s iconic photo that graces one of Dad’s books.

And of course he loved the inlet, where the River meets the sea. Dad was enchanted by the place he called the Sun Parlor, the channel that hooked north around Sailfish Point and spread out to feed the adjacent grass-beds. Ancient black and red mangroves hung in the water along the channel, and sheepshead and snappers could be seen swimming among the snags in the gin-clear waters on flood tides. Sharks were not uncommon in the channel, and queen conchs and large horse conchs lived in the grass-beds. If you wanted to see a roseate spoonbill in Martin County in the fifties, that’s where it would be. Dad spent countless hours in the Sun Parlor. Then the developers came in the late fifties, and it was lost.

“Ernie with son Bill and Pudge pop-corking at the Crossroads off Sewall’s Point, 1950s” Photo courtesy of Dr. Dale Hipson. Cover of The Last Cracker Barrel by Ernest Lyons

Dad loved Bessey Creek, a tributary of the lower North Fork, and once in the early fifties he accompanied me and two other boys on a camping trip to the upper reaches of the creek. Around the campfire at night, Dad told us of a remote pond connected to the main creek by a hidden stream that he found in his youth. We boys searched until we found it, and we took Dad back there to fish. Judging from the abundance of hungry bass in that pond, I don’t think anyone had been there for decades. There were no houses on Bessey Creek then, and we could spend days without seeing another human being. But around 1960 the county built a new road to extend Murphy Road across C-23 Canal. The road cut across upper Bessey Creek virtually on top of our old campsite and passed within 100 yards of the hidden pond. When I returned from the Army in 1962, I walked across a sand lot from the road to the bank of the pond and gazed at the empty bait cups and beer cans on its shore. Humpty Dumpty was off the wall.

Aerial maps suggest that Mile Lake and a few adjacent lakes in southern St. Lucie County may be ox-bows, formed as part of the North Fork but pinched off as the River meandered away. In his boyhood Dad camped and fished around Mile Lake, and he took me there many times. I don’t know if Dad knew Mile Lake had once been part of the River, but it may explain his affection for the place. He loved the River in all of its many parts, but I don’t know how he’d have felt about Mile Lake surrounded by homes and golf courses as it is now.

Ernie Lyons with Bass, possibly Mile Lake

Dad had a love/hate relationship with the St. Lucie Canal. Its discharges damaged the River downstream, and he campaigned tirelessly but futilely for the Army Corps of Engineers to manage it responsibly. Still, when many of his favorite places were gone, fishing remained good in the canal, and Dad could drive out and fish along its banks. Then, testing found some of the nation’s highest readings for pesticides and heavy metals in fish from the canal. That’s when Dad gave up fishing.

If anyone were to put up signage at Dad’s favorite places on the River, they would need lots of signs. And the signs should say “This was one of Ernest Lyons’ favorite places, a place of magic, until progress did it in. Sit quietly, look closely and try to imagine the sparkle that once was here.” If you can’t see the sparkle, it just looks like water. Or, more recently, like guacamole.

~Bill Lyons, son of Ernest Lyons

A mullet jumps at sunset, St Lucie River off of North River Shores, photo Todd Thurlow.

Biography of Bill’s father, Ernest Lyons

Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame, Ernest Lyons, 1994

Lyons began working as a reporter for The Stuart News in 1931. He also worked as an advertising salesman, printing salesman, then as advertising director for the paper. He became editor in 1945, serving until his retirement on March 1, 1975. He died April 6, 1990, at age 85.

Under Lyons the paper grew from a tiny independent weekly to a lively Scripps Howard daily. As editor, Lyons practiced community journalism at its best. He had a keen sense of what local people wanted to read and a zeal to guard their interests. Fearing that rapid population growth and urbanization might ruin coastal Florida, Lyons fought for  protection of endangered water resources and wildlife habitats.

In 1965, his newspaper columns won the nationwide Edward J. Meeman Award for conservation writing. His writings, some composed 30 or more years ago, still are quoted by conservationists because they ring with enduring concepts and timeless values.

Blood in the Water, Senate Bill 10, SLR/IRL

bloodinthewater
Shark feeding frenzy,  public image.

http://animals.howstuffworks.com/fish/sharks/shark-feeding-frenzy.htm
https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/0010

The time is now to fight for President Joe Negron’s Senate Bill 10 to purchase land in the EAA for a reservoir to offset the sometimes toxic, and always damaging, discharges from Lake Okeechobee. The powers that be know the bill is taking some hard hits. They smell blood in the water. Like sharks going in for the kill they are coming from every direction. Just remember, in many instances during a feeding frenzy, sharks turn on each other. So not being a shark myself, I say, “let the games begin…”

Some Major Groups Working Against Negron’s Senate Bill 10.

1. Stand Up For North Florida

http://www.politico.com/states/florida/story/2016/10/front-group-new-entity-pushes-north-florida-cities-counties-to-oppose-negrons-everglades-reservoir-plan-106035

http://floridapolitics.com/archives/tag/steve-southerland

http://standupnorthflorida.com/read-our-resolution/

2. Sugar Labor Management Committee
(US Sugar, Fanjul Corp.) (see letter at end of article)

http://saintpetersblog.com/tag/steve-southerland/

2. Martin County Economic Council “Finish the Projects”
Website: https://www.mceconomy.org

Resignation of long time member and co-founder, Bud Jordan, citing USSC influence: http://www.tcpalm.com/story/opinion/columnists/eve-samples/2017/02/24/eve-samples-economic-council-co-founder-resigns-citing-us-sugar/98270284/

3. Pro development, Martin County Commissioner, Doug Smith, only commissioner to vote against SB 10.

http://www.bullsugar.org/one_angry_man

16 County Summit represents agricultural interests and will be hosted by MCBOCC:
http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/indian-river-lagoon/health/2017/02/21/martin-county-commissioners-propose-16-county-sfwmd-water-summit/98211938/

4. Lake Okeechobee Regional Compact division of Florida Regional Compact:
http://www.floridaleagueofcities.com/resources/florida-regional-compact
http://www.flcities.com/docs/default-source/default-document-library/lake-okeechobee-regional-compact.pdf?sfvrsn=0

5. Glades Lives Matter advocacy group of United States Sugar Corporation

http://www.ussugar.com/news/icymi-glades-lives-matter/

6. Senator Simmons Senate Bill 816 proposing to Raise the Level in Lake Okeechobee. (Destroying the ecosystem around Lake O is not the answer)
http://gladescountydemocrat.com/lake-okeechobee/sb-816-let-lake-okeechobee-rise-19-ft/

7. South Florida Water Management District

https://www.sfwmd.gov/news/statement-re-florida-senate-appropriations-subcommittee-hearing

http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/stateroundup/opponents-line-up-against-joe-negrons-everglades-restoration-plan/2310901

8. “Save Our Farms/Stop the Lies”
http://save-our-farms.com

9. “Florida Sugarcane Farmers,” a consortium of U.S. Sugar Corp., Florida Crystals and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, ran ad arguing against Senate President Joe Negron’s proposal to buy 60,000 acres in the EAA, by Tyler Treadway
http://www.news-press.com/story/news/local/indian-river-lagoon/health/2017/01/13/analysis-sugar-growers-ad-blasts-lake-okeechobee-reservoir-plan/96342032/

shark-01.jpg
Great White Shark, public image.
fullsizerender-4
Cartoon Andy Marlette, News Journal published in TCPalm.

The History of A Once “Endless Resource,” Shark Fishing, Port Salerno, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Shark catch at the commercial plant in Port Salerno, ca 1930s/1940s. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Tiger shark at the commercial plant in Port Salerno, ca 1930s/1940s. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Port Salerno fishing village's shark factory ca. 1930s and 40s. (Photo courtesy of Stuart Heritage Collection and Alice Luckhardt.)
Port Salerno fishing village’s shark factory ca. 1930s and 40s. (Photo courtesy of Stuart Heritage Collection and Alice Luckhardt.)

Sharks seem to be feared more than they are respected….but that perception is changing as their endangered status becomes more critical and well-known. As most things that have to do with natural resources and the environment, there were few concerns regarding the “overfishing of sharks” in Florida the 1930s and 40s. Their supply seemed endless, and their value to the oceans and ecosystem was not widely understood.

This photo of a shark from my mother’s historic archives, represents one of the 25,000 sharks that were caught and processed in Port Salerno each year on average off our St Lucie Inlet during the 1930s and 40s. Port Salerno was a tiny fishing village. Today it is one of the hippest up and coming areas of Martin County. The shark plant is no longer there. A museum created in memory of such would be a great addition to the area…

During the 1930s, sharks provided important resources to society and gave fishing families a stable income. During World War II vitamin A was a hot item, especially for pilots pursuing accurate night vision during their dangerous missions.

Another interesting forgotten historical fact?….believe it or not, “by mistake” the first “shark repellent” was tested and created right here by local fishermen—yes–right off the St Lucie Inlet off our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. It was “top-secret” and it worked!

Today I will feature a vignette of family friend, historian, and Miami native, Alice Luckhardt. Her very informative and comprehensive text is about Port Salerno’s shark fishing history. Alice and her husband, Greg, have written hundreds of  historical accounts that are shared in the Stuart News and are also part of the public archives of  Martin County’s Stuart Heritage. Thank you Alice for these important historical resources!

The sharks? Good luck to the  remaining; “may you be fruitful and multiply….”

A SAVE OUR SHARKS drawing by a JD Parker Elementary student, 2015 as part of the River Kidz in our schools program. (Photo JTL)
A Save Our Sharks Protect and Respect drawing by a JD Parker Elementary student, 2015 as part of the River Kidz in our schools program. (Photo JTL)
Historian Alcie Luckhardt. (Facebook photo 2015)
Historian Alcie Luckhardt. (Facebook photo 2015)
“Old Stuart,” The big city!  Salerno would have been much less developed and smaller than this south by about 10 miles.
Shark Industry, Port Salerno. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Shark Industry, Port Salerno. The livers were used for vitamin A production. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow)

Historical Vignettes of Martin County: Salerno Shark Industries and Vitamin A by historian ALICE LUCKHARDT

STUART – Vitamin A, essential for good human health was once derived from oil extracted from the liver of sharks and a leading supplier of this valuable substance was the tiny fishing village of Salerno.

Shark liver oil was believed to promote wound healing, stimulate growth, increase resistance to infection, aid in combating fever and colds, improve eyesight, prevent excessive dryness of the skin as well as an overall general remedy for conditions of the respiratory tract and the digestive system.

Generally, the livers, chopped into fist-sized chunks, were rendered down in big vats. The oil could be skimmed off, cooled and canned, ready for shipment.

In the 1930s, assisted by brother George, Captain Charles L. Mooney’s Salerno Shark Industries-Fisheries, Inc., supplied not only the needed shark liver oil and novelty shark teeth for jewelry, but also the outer skin hide of the sharks. In 1938, an order was placed by a Chicago firm for 200,000 shark teeth. The Ocean Leather Corporation processed the skins into leather goods, primarily luggage. Fins, considered a delicacy by some, were shipped to China.

From its meager beginning, Mooney had continued to make improvements in the business, increasing boats, buildings and processing methods.

By 1941, a shark meal plant, measuring 36 x 65 feet and equipped with hammer mills, drying machines and conveyors, enabled the profitable use of all of the shark’s carcass, accommodating about 200 pounds an hour.

An aroma filled the air as the cooker, steam boiler, hammer mill, flaker dehydrator and sacker completely finished the process, ready for shipment, the ‘meal’ eventually to become food for dogs, cats and poultry. To supply these industries, thousands of sharks were caught in the Gulf Stream and elsewhere, sometimes as many as 600 in a single week.

Scientific analysis and studies were conducted to determine the best use for shark products.

In the 1940s, Robert M. French, Sr., who had founded the Shark Fisheries of Hialeah, Florida, headed the Salerno site, joined later by his sons Robert Jr. and Price, Mooney having previously relinquished his interest due to ill health.

In 1944, the Shark Fishery was purchased by the Borden Co., one of the largest users of Vitamin A in the US, retaining R. M. French Sr. as chief executive. Borden’s primary interest was to increase vitamin production, from shark liver oil, to fortify and enrich its milk products.

The liver, being a main source of Vitamin A, was considered of utmost importance in the war effort, with supplies from world markets having been cut off. The vitamin was important not only for the health of the soldiers, but especially for night fliers who took the vitamin before take-off to see better in the dark.

Actually, during those years, a very secretive study was also being made which involved the Salerno fishery, the details of which were known by only about three or four people in the area.

Although sharks will sometimes attack and eat other living or freshly killed sharks, it was noticed by the fishermen that hooks which had been baited with cut-up pieces of the flesh from sharks caught the day before, were virtually left untouched and that, furthermore, the sharks actually avoided the area, not returning for days.

With that information, the US Federal Government under the Office of Strategic Services, employed Stewart Springer, from Homestead, Florida, a chemist, to work with the Salerno plant to further investigate and conduct experiments, the end results being the development of a shark repellant.

Known as ‘Shark Chaser,’ it proved to be invaluable in saving the lives of sailors or aviators forced down at sea in shark-infested waters. According to Robert and Price French, interviewed later, it was difficult to have to pretend “nothing unusual was going on” as the experiments involved the cooking of thousands of pounds of shark meat in barrels of an alcohol solution, the aroma definitely attracting some attention.

By 1946, the shark fishery plant, one of only three of its kind in the U.S. was considered essential to public welfare and continued to supply shark liver oil and other products. Borden expanded and improved the facility which at its height employed as many as 50 people and used 12 boats to haul in the ‘tigers of the sea’ some 25,000 or more per year, with an annual gross of about $500,000.

However, by 1947, due to scientific research, Vitamin A could be synthesized and was therefore much less expensive. In time, the man-made vitamin supplanted the natural one obtained from the shark and by July 1950, the Borden Corp. business in Salerno was closed.

In June 1962, the Shark Industries factory was burned to the ground by the Port Salerno Volunteer Fire Department as a fire practice drill. The remains of an industry which had gained national attention, recognition and perhaps gratitude, was gone. With some imagination, those in Salerno may sense that distinct aroma still lingering in the air.

Alice L. Luckhardt is a freelance historical researcher and writer and member of the Board of Directors for the Stuart Heritage Museum and researcher for the Elliott and House of Refuge.

___________________________________________

Stuart Heritage: (http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com)
FWC Sharks: (http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/sharks/)
Sharks and Conservation: (https://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/sharks.htm)

.....
…..River Kidz…

Kids Making Friends With Sharks, “Stewards of the Florida Straits,” SLR/IRL

A group of kids at Parker Elementary School wants to learn about sharks and how to protect them. (Public photo, clip art)
A group of kids at Parker Elementary School in Stuart, want to learn about sharks and how to protect them. (Public photo, clip art)

In first grade, I attended  Parker Elementary School in Stuart. In 1970 it was called “Parker Annex.” I remember those days well and can still recall many of the names of the kids in my class; my teacher’s name was Mrs Jerdeman. Tomorrow, I will be returning to the school, 45 years later, as a guest speaker on the subject of “River Kidz and the protection of sharks”—a subject chosen at the requests of students in Mrs Maya Gebus-Mockabee’s  first grade class.

"My school photo, Parker Annex, Stuart, Florida 1970.
“My school photo, Parker Annex, Stuart, Florida 1970.
My first grade class at my home for an Easter party on Edgewood Drive, Stuart, 1970. (Photo Sandra Thurlow)
My first grade class at my home for an Easter party on Edgewood Drive, Stuart, 1970. (Photo Sandra Thurlow)

Am I a shark expert? No. But I can give a good lesson as a former teacher and someone interested in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon as well as our Atlantic near shore reef habitat that is connected to our rivers. I have been a guest in many schools, mostly elementary.  It’s a riot. A blast. I taught middle and high school, but elementary kids seem smartest of all. So creative! So enthusiastic! So wanting to help!  Visiting these young students gives me hope for our rivers  and “puts gas in my tank.”

Interestingly, if one takes a look at the River Kidz workbooks, both first and second edition, one will see that it is the bull shark who recites the River Kidz mission statement: “Our mission is to speak out, get involved, and raise awareness because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers.

Hey, did you know that the Indian River Lagoon is considered the second most important bull shark nursery in North America? Mother bull sharks come here (mostly central IRL) to have their live young and these juveniles may stay here for up to nine or ten years? Did you know that bull sharks swim way up into estuaries, can endure fresh water, and have even been reported to live in Lake Okeechobee?!

Cool! Yikes! Wow!

The River Kidz’ mission of course applies to ocean reefs as these waters and the creatures of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon are all connected!

River Kidz' mission statement. (Artwork by Julia Kelly, 2012.)
River Kidz’ mission statement. (Artwork by Julia Kelly, 2012.)

Sharks……so misunderstood.

We all know they are often needlessly exterminated  for “fun,””sport” or wasteful “shark-fin soup.”

Kids with their creativity and sensitivity are able “see” that the fear and hatred directed towards sharks is sometimes extreme. And all kids know, hating just to hate, is not good.

Yes, we humans need to be careful and stay out of their way….but we need not hate sharks; it is better to respect them for the role they play in our oceans keeping disease at bay and populations in check.

From what I’m told, the kids at Parker Elementary are interested in promoting a theme such as “Shark Stewards of the Florida Straits” creating a  recognized area off the St Lucie Inlet promoting “education and conservation of sharks.” The students will study the subject of sharks for two weeks, learn, and draw pictures to share with the River Ocean Institute. (http://www.oceanriver.org) (http://www.oceanriver.org/blog/protecting-americas-sharks-on-anastasia-and-oculina-reefs-in-the-straits-of-florida/)

For fun, just what kind of sharks live in our area waters, their length, life span,  when do  they have “pups?”

There are many kinds, various sizes, and many live 25-35 plus years, and don’t have pups until they are 10 or older!

Here are some area sharks as listed by the Florida Wildlife Commission: (http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/sharks-rays/shark-species/) :

1. Tiger-18 feet

2. Black-tip- 10 feet

3. Bull- 10 feet (The IRL is a bull shark nursery)

4. Hammer Head- 20 feet

5. Nurse- 14 feet

6. Bonnet 5 feet

7 Lemon-10 feet

8. Spinner-10 feet

9 Sand bar-10 feet

10. Great White- 21-26 feet (sometimes off our shores as they migrate through)

Legions of sharks migrate through our waters, and in winter especially, can be seen by plane sometimes by the hundreds. My husband Ed and I have seen this. And although I like and respect sharks, I have had visions of the plane crashing into the water and having a really bad day!

Yesterday, Terry Gibson, of the Pew Charitable Trust, and I spoke. What I got out of that conversation was that sharks are “really not protected;” this has to do with the politics and structure of federal and state agencies, and a “conflict of interest.” (Kind of like the Department of Agriculture oversees the Department of Environmental Protection for the state of Florida—now that’s something to be afraid of! )

Personally, I have seen boats right at our St Lucie Inlet, over the nearshore reefs, catching sharks and leaving them on deck longer than they could possibly survive– holding them up hooked to take pictures and then throwing them back hours later to sink to the bottom. I witnessed this from afar when I was a volunteer on Nancy Beaver’s Sunshine Wildlife boat from 2011-2012.

There is a long history of shark fishing in our area and acting like “sharks will last forever.” It is well documented that Port Salerno was an active and “productive” shark fishery in the Martin County’s early days—–until the resource was exhausted of course.

Shark fishermen, Port Salerno, Florida, Martin County, ca 1940s/1950s. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow, Thurlow archives.)
Shark fishermen, Port Salerno, Florida, Martin County, ca 1920s/1940s. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow, Thurlow archives.)

We must admit, that over recent generations, many of us have not been good stewards to our waters, or to sharks. Many of us we were not educated to be….I remember the movie JAWS in eighth grade. Do you? I never thought that sharks could become as they are today, a threatened species.

Hopefully the upcoming generations will be better than we were, than our parents and grandparents were. Considering these Parker students asked to study and protect sharks all on their own, a brighter future just may be coming.

Bull Shark. (Public photo)
Bull Shark. (Public photo)

_______________________________

Florida Straights: (http://www.nova.edu/ocean/messing/strait-of-florida/)

florida straightsBull Sharks/IRL nursery JTL: (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/07/18/the-indian-river-lagoonthe-most-significant-bull-shark-nursury-on-the-u-s-atlantic-coast/)

River Kidz
River Kidz