Indian Harbour Beach adopts new ordinance after man is accused of killing shark

The City of Indian Harbour Beach, Florida has passed a new law in response to a video of a man beating a protected lemon shark to death with a hammer

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) charged the man in the video, Brian Waddil, with possession of a prohibited species, and failure to release it without unnecessary harm. 

And Indian Harbour passed its new ordinance, which City Manager John Coffey says makes it easier for police to crack down on illegal fishing. 

"The ordinance adds a civil penalty that is a third option, so if this ever were to happen again, we can arrest the person on the misdemeanor, we can write a citation, or we can trespass the person from the beach."

Although the new ordinance was written in response to the incident with the near-threatened species of shark being killed, then cast back into the ocean, it wouldn’t actually make a difference if an identical situation does occur.  In Florida, police have to witness a crime or get a warrant in order to charge someone with a misdemeanor.

As a result, Indian Harbour Beach’s City Manager says, a lot of misdemeanors don’t get prosecuted. Coffey says because police only found out about the shark’s murder from video of the incident, rather than witnessing it themselves, the FWC had to handle the case. That wouldn’t change, but he says the ordinance does give police more tools in their toolbox.

"This is a very ecologically-minded community, so I think anybody who is possibly fishing for sharks, there are going to be people picking up the phone to call our police department going forward," said Coffey. "You can fish for sharks, and most people can accept that if you’re harvesting the animal for meat. This person brutally killed a large animal, and then tossed it back in the sea as trash."

The ordinance also allows fishing and surfing near Bicentennial and Millennium Parks, which has been outlawed in those areas since the 1970s, but that new right comes with a caveat: no chumming the water, and no hunting specifically for sharks.

That new ordinance, 2023-01, goes into effect immediately.