Shark hammer-beating incident in Indian Harbour Beach prompts proposed fishing regulations

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After a fisherman beat a shark to death with a hammer at an Indian Harbour Beach park, city officials are proposing a new set of fishing regulations designed to protect swimmers and surfers.

On Dec. 20, the unidentified fisherman caught the roughly 5-foot shark, fatally clubbed it with a hammer, and dragged its carcass back into the surf at or immediately south of Bicentennial Park — though ocean fishing is prohibited at the city's beach parks.

Video of the shark incident was captured by the nearby Harbour House Oceanfront surf cam, and the images went viral on Facebook.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission continues investigating the incident, spokesperson Ashlee Brahier Sklute said Thursday.

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This video screenshot shows an unidentified fisherman dragging a bludgeoned shark into the ocean Dec. 20 at Bicentennial Beach Park in Indian Harbour Beach.
This video screenshot shows an unidentified fisherman dragging a bludgeoned shark into the ocean Dec. 20 at Bicentennial Beach Park in Indian Harbour Beach.

Tuesday, the Indian Harbour Beach City Council will give first reading to an ordinance that would beef up surf fishing regulations at the city's two beach parks, Bicentennial and Millennium.

Historically, fishing and surfing have been prohibited by city code at both beach parks. However, police enforcement is problematic because officers have only two recourses: arresting people for misdemeanor code violations or trespassing people from the parks, an agenda memo said.

If enacted, Indian Harbour Beach's draft ordinance would:

  • Expand the no-fishing zones at both parks to 150 additional feet of shoreline from their northern boundary and 150 additional feet to the south.

  • Outlaw the cleaning of fish across these zones, including "fileting, disemboweling, scaling or butchering of fish or other marine life."

  • Create civil penalties of $50 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense and $250 for third and subsequent offenses.

  • Delete the prohibition on surfing, which dates to January 1978.

Bicentennial Park in Indian Harbour Beach.
Bicentennial Park in Indian Harbour Beach.

“Obviously, there was a recent event that occurred that received quite a bit of notoriety and attention on the news," Mayor Scott Nickle said during the Jan. 10 City Council meeting.

“This person decided to bludgeon the shark to death with a hammer and did not even bother to take the shark away. Instead, he put the dead carcass back in the ocean," Nickle said.

"My concern with those types of activities, and that kind of thing in particular, is A. chumming the water, B. you’re putting a large fish carcass out in the ocean, which frankly is going to attract more large fish and sharks to the area — when people are out there surfing or there’s children out there swimming," he said.

"I certainly don’t want to see that mixture going on," he said.

Indian Harbour Beach does not have an animal cruelty ordinance. If approved Tuesday, the City Council would consider a second, final reading of the fishing regulation ordinance on Feb. 28.

In 2019, the FWC prohibited chumming from the beach while fishing for sharks or other fish species after a multi-year lobbying campaign led by former Melbourne Beach mayor Jim Simmons. Simmons was surfing in March 2014 in Melbourne Beach off Avenue B — one block north of popular Ocean Park — while a group of beachcasters used a kayak to dump "buckets of blood and guts and grouper heads" into the waves 30 feet of his surfboard.

The FWC defines chum as "fish, fish parts, other animal product, or synthetic products created or intended to chemically or otherwise resemble animal products placed in the water for the purpose of attracting a marine organism."

Rick Neale is the South Brevard Watchdog Reporter at FLORIDA TODAY (for more of his stories, click here.) Contact Neale at 321-242-3638 or Twitter: @RickNeale1

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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Shark hammer-beating in Indian Harbour Beach prompts fishing rules