DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. (WKRG) — The annual Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo gets underway in less than a week. For the first time in years, the competition will allow anglers to bring in sharks.

In recent years, this was the extent of the shark competition in the rodeo–crews shoot video of a shark catch before tossing it back in the water. Fishermen wanted a change.

“The anglers want to do it, we were excited about doing it. The patrons have been seeing them for years and years down here, we took precautions, did it the right way and this is the year to bring it back,” said Coleman Moore with the Fishing Rodeo.

This year, the rodeo allows competitors to bring in four shark species of certain sizes. This was after consulting with marine biologists to see what kinds of sharks were plentiful enough in the gulf and say the species of gulf shark selected are already being fished commercially and recreationally.

“I love sharks more than most people, but I also understand sharks are a resource, there are commercial and recreational fishermen that harvest sharks the same way I love a red snapper, I understand it’s fine to have a harvest,” said Assistant Extension Professor at Mississippi State University Marcus Drymon.

Organizers say if these shark populations weren’t healthy enough they wouldn’t be part of the competition in the first place.

“We will not accept a fish on our dock, we will turn you away if you bring in a fish that is endangered or protected or not on our species list,” said Coleman Moore.

A giant shark hangar was set up for this year’s competition–and unlike recent years, it gives a clear winner instead of debating over what a video may or may not show.

“It’s a much more objective way to do it, there’s no more arguing over whose shark is the heaviest, it also provides us the opportunity to sample the sharks scientifically,” said Dr. Sean Powers with the University of Alabama.

Sharks brought in next week will also be part of the scientific samples gathered by the hundreds to measure the health of gulf fish stocks..

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