On January 1st, 2012, new Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regulations came into effect, making it illegal for fishermen to land great, smooth, or scalloped hammerhead sharks in Florida waters. The legal term “land” is clearly defined in the Florida Code:
“Land,” when used in connection with the harvest of marine organisms, means the physical act of bringing the harvested organism ashore”
“Harvest” means the catching or taking of a marine organism by any means whatsoever, followed by a reduction of such organism to possession. Marine organisms that are caught but immediately returned to the water free, alive, and unharmed are not harvested”
Florida code section 68B-44 (emphasis mine)
In other words, if a fish is brought out of the water, it is “landed”. If anglers stop the act of releasing a fish to measure it or take a photo, it is not “immediately released.” If a fish isn’t “immediately returned alive and unharmed” (and if the extremely physiologically stressful act of bringing a hammerhead out of the water results in it dying after release, it was not released “unharmed,”) it is harvested. If you drag the shark out of the water and leave it there until it stops moving long enough that you feel safe to approach it, that is not an “immediately released” animal, and it isn’t an animal that is “released unharmed.” Landing and/or harvesting hammerhead sharks is illegal. This is clear under the law, and has been confirmed by numerous consultations with an FWC Law Enforcement official.