Commercial Shark Fishery Observer Program
NOAA Fisheries Announcement
NOAA Fisheries Implements New Fishing Regulations for Atlantic Sharks
NMFS release, Dec. 24, 2003
Fishing regulations aimed at rebuilding large coastal shark
populations, preventing overfishing of all sharks, protecting essential
fish habitat for sharks and reducing bycatch of depleted species will
soon take effect for commercial and recreational shark fisheries in the
Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. The regulations were announced
by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries). The National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is an agency of the U.S.
Department of Commerce.
Amendment 1 to the Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Tunas,
Swordfish and Sharks concludes seven years of litigation with industry
stakeholders and environmental organizations that impacted the
development and implementation of long-term shark management programs.
The new regulations are based on updated and peer-reviewed scientific
shark assessments and fulfill requirements of a settlement agreement
reached between the agency and litigants on shark management.
"Favorable peer reviews of our 2002 stock assessment have allowed us to
move shark management out of the courts and back into the hands of
scientists, fishery managers, and the American public," said Bill
Hogarth, director of NOAA Fisheries. "Now we can get these much-needed
regulations in place to strengthen our rebuilding plan for large coastal
sharks and to manage all Atlantic sharks for the long-term benefit of
the species and the nation."
The 2002 stock assessments for large and small coastal sharks included
some good news about these species. In the large coastal complex,
blacktip sharks have been rebuilt and sandbar sharks are no longer
overfished. However, the assessment showed this complex as a whole was
overfished and overfishing was still occurring. Therefore, Amendment 1
regulations will decrease annual catch levels for large coastal sharks
by 45% to prevent overfishing and rebuild the stocks, with further catch
reductions from a fishery closure January through July off North
Carolina to protect habitat and nursery grounds. The small coastal
complex is not overfished, and Atlantic sharpnose, bonnethead and
blacknose sharks are healthy. The assessment showed that finetooth
sharks were not overfished but fishing rates were too high for this
Certain measures in Amendment 1 will become effective on Dec. 30, 2003,
while others take effect on Feb. 1, 2004. Changes are outlined in the
attached fact sheet. Highlights include a revised rebuilding timeframe
for the large coastal complex of 26 years, elimination of the commercial
minimum size limit, establishment of regional commercial quotas,
increase of recreational catch and size limits, and establishment of
gear restrictions and a time and area closure.
Amendment 1 includes measures to prevent bycatch of prohibited and
juvenile sharks and to protect one of the only shark habitat areas of
particular concern that extend into federal waters.
Nineteen shark species are fully protected and may not be landed by
fishermen. All 19 species have been identified for protection since
1997. Amendment 1 sets up criteria for determining which species belong
on the protected list. These criteria include: the species biology
makes it vulnerable for depletion, it is rarely encountered or observed
in directed fisheries or as bycatch, or it is not easily identified by
Copies of Amendment 1 and the regulations are available online at:
www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/hmsdocument_files/FMPs.htm or by calling 301-713-2347. Updated shark
regulation brochures will also be available.
NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) is dedicated
to protecting and preserving our nation's living marine resources and
their habitat through scientific research, management and enforcement.
NOAA Fisheries provides effective stewardship of these resources for the
benefit of the nation, supporting coastal communities that depend upon
them, and helping to provide safe and healthy seafood to consumers and
recreational opportunities for the American public. To learn more about
NOAA Fisheries, please visit www.nmfs.noaa.gov.
The Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) is dedicated to enhancing economic security and
national safety through the prediction and research of weather and
climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our
nation's coastal and marine resources. To learn more about NOAA, please
Fact Sheet: Regulatory Changes in Amendment 1 to the Fishery
Management Plan for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, and Sharks
Atlantic Shark Species
- Small Coastal Shark Complex (four species)
- Atlantic sharpnose, blacknose, finetooth, bonnethead
- Large Coastal Shark Complex (eleven species)
- sandbar, silky, tiger, blacktip, bull, spinner, lemon, nurse, smooth
hammerhead, scalloped hammerhead, great hammerhead
- Pelagic Sharks (five species)
- shortfin mako, thresher, oceanic whitetip, porbeagle, and blue
General Changes to Atlantic Shark Management
Elimination of ridgeback and non-ridgeback categories. New rebuilding
timeframe of 26 years for all large coastal sharks (old was 39 years for
ridgeback, 30 years for non-ridgeback).
- Prohibited Species (no catches allowed, 19 species)
- Whale, basking, sand tiger, bigeye sand tiger, white, dusky, night,
bignose, Galapagos, Caribbean reef, narrowtooth, longfin make, bigeye
thresher, sevengill, sixgill, bigeye sixgill, Caribbean shapnose,
smalltail, and Atlantic angel sharks
Commercial Fishery Changes
Removal of the minimum size limit, since the time/area closure will
provide sufficient protection of young, small sharks. This change will
reduce the amount of regulatory discards.
Time and Area Closure for commercial vessels with bottom longline gear
on board from January through July off North Carolina to protect shark
essential fish habitat and nursery/pupping areas for sandbar and dusky
sharks, effective January 1, 2005.
Vessels with bottom longline gear on board must use non-stainless
steel corrodible hooks, linecutters, and a dipnet on board, and move one
nautical mile after an interaction with a protected species. Vessels
will also be required to have a dehooking device onboard once the
dehooker type has been approved for use.
- Small Coastal Complex
- New annual quota of 454 metric tons (formerly the quota was 1,760
metric tons), effective Dec. 30, 2003.
Three fishing regions are established, and each region gets a
percentage allocation of the annual quota (effective Dec. 30, 2003):
- Large Coastal Complex
- New annual quota of 1,017 metric tons (formerly the quota was 1,285
metric tons), effective Dec. 30, 2003.
In addition, after the federal quota is reached and the federal shark
fishery is closed, landings of sharks caught in state waters will be
counted against the federal quota.
- North Atlantic (Maine through Virginia) 13% small coastal quota,
4% large coastal quota;
- South Atlantic (North Carolina through east Florida and the
Caribbean) 83% small coastal quota, 54% large coastal quota;
- Gulf of Mexico (west Florida through Texas) 4% small coastal
quota, 42% large coastal quota.
Recreational Fishery Changes
Effective Dec. 30, 2003, Recreational fisherman may possess only one
shark per vessel per trip, with a minimum size limit of four and a half
feet. In addition to this limit, sportfishermen may take one bonnethead
per person per trip with no minimum size limit and one Atlantic
sharpnose per person per trip, with no minimum size limit.
- Gear Changes
- The only allowable gear is rod and reel and handline gear.
Sportfishermen are reminded that a federal angling permit is required
to fish for sharks, and that all landings must be reported to NOAA
Fisheries within 24 hours. For more information, go to