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

In recent years, this has been the extent of rodeo shark competition—crews film a captured shark before tossing it back into the water. The fishermen wanted a change.

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

This year, the rodeo is allowing contestants to bring in four species of shark with certain dimensions. This was after consulting with marine biologists to see what shark species were abundant enough in the gulf and to say that selected gulf shark species were already being fished commercially and recreationally.

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

Organizers say if these shark populations weren’t healthy enough, they wouldn’t be part of the competition at all.

“We will not accept 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,” Coleman Moore said.

A giant shark hangar was created for this year’s competition – and unlike in recent years, it gives a clear winner rather than debating what a video can or can’t show.

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

The sharks brought in next week will also be part of scientific samples collected by the hundreds to measure the health of the Gulf’s fish stocks.

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