NOAA Fisheries would like to correct several inaccuracies in the recent media coverage involving Elliot Sudal and his handling and tagging of sharks and sawfish.
Mr. Sudal is not and has never been an employee of NOAA Fisheries nor is he formally affiliated with any of the agency’s programs. He practices citizen science as a volunteer and provides the agency with some of his data.
The agency remains concerned with Mr. Sudal’s shark and sawfish handling practices. Best practices and guidelines for volunteers call for the immediate release of sharks. Physical handling should be minimized, all species should be kept in the water while tagging and then released quickly. During tagging, sharks should not be dragged onto dry sand or boat decks for any reason.
Mr. Sudal’s tagging of an endangered smalltooth sawfish caught in Florida in April 2017 was investigated by NOAA and resulted in a compliance assistance letter from NOAA’s Office of General Counsel informing him of the Endangered Species Act issues and the safe handling protocol for sawfish. Smalltooth sawfish are related to sharks and were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2003.
Shark and smalltooth sawfish handling guidelines are designed to provide fishermen with best practices to reduce the likelihood of injury or death of such important species in our magnificent ecosystem.
NOAA Fisheries works with fishing communities, other government agencies and non-government partners to provide information to anglers about best practices for catch and release of sharks and other highly migratory species: