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Commercial Shark Fishery Observer Program

NMFS Shark Fishery Regulations

A Short Summary of the Commercial Shark Fishing Regulations
The following information is only a short summary of the commercial fishing regulations found in 50 CFR part 635 and does not cover all the regulations. This information is meant to provide a quick glimpse of some of the things you will need to know if you want to enter these commercial fisheries. For instance, this summary does not contain details on commercial quotas, season openings/closings, or possession limits.

For a comprehensive list of updated HMS regulations, please refer to the ELECTRONIC CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS ( ). If there is a discrepancy between this summary and the regulations in 50 CFR part 635, the regulations will take precedence.

For updates on quotas, season openings/closings and other information on sharks, you may call the HMS Information Line at (800) 894-5528 or the HMS Management Division located in Silver Spring, Maryland at (301) 713-2347.

Fishing Seasons and Quotas

January 1 through June 31
July 1 through December 31

Each has a quota determined prior to the start of each season. Yearly quota is split between two seasons and within each season, large coastals are split into ridgeback and non-ridgeback, each with its own quota. Currently, the trip limit is 4,000 metric tons dress weight (mtdw).

Finning Ban

Fins and carcass must be landed together. Total fin weight must be 5% or less of landed carcass weight. Removal of fins and discard of carcass at sea is prohibited. For more information see


Commercial fishermen are required to hold a permit for the vessel they are operating in order to fish for or take Atlantic shark. Permits in the commercial Atlantic shark fishery are issued under a limited access system. In order to enter the fishery, you must obtain a permit from a fisherman who is leaving the fishery. The permit types are:
  • Directed Permit: Allows fishermen to target shark using any authorized gear. Permits are subject to upgrading restrictions.

  • Incidental Permit: Allows fishermen to land sharks incidental to the catch from other fishing activities. Permits are not subject to upgrading restrictions. The incidental limits are 5 large coastal sharks per trip and 16 pelagic or small coastal sharks, combined, per trip.
A commercial permit for sharks is not required if the vessel is recreational fishing and retains no more sharks than the recreational retention limit.

Allowable Gear

Commercial fishermen may take sharks with the following gear types:
  • longline
  • handgear
  • gillnet: cannot be longer than 2.5 km, must be attached to the vessel at one end while fishing, and may be subject to additional restrictions to protect large whales.
Minimum Size

At this time, there is no commercial minimum size for Atlantic sharks.

Prohibited Species

The following sharks cannot be possessed or retained. If you catch a shark on this list, you must release it immediately into the water with minimal injury and in a manner that maximizes the survival of the shark.

Atlantic angel - Squatina dumerili
Basking - Cetorhinus maximus
Bigeye sand tiger - Odontaspis noronhai
Bigeye sixgill - Hexanchus vitulus
Bigeye thresher - Alopias superciliosus
Bignose - Carcharhinus altimus
Caribbean reef - Carcharhinus perezi
Caribbean sharpnose - Rhizoprionodon porosus
Dusky - Carcharhinus obscurus
Galapagos - Carcharhinus galapagensis
Longfin mako - Isurus paucus
Narrowtooth - Carcharhinus brachyurus
Night - Carcharhinus signatus
Sand tiger - Odontaspis taurus
Sevengill - Heptranchias perlo
Sixgill - Hexanchus griseus
Smalltail - Carcharhinus porosus
Whale - Rhincodon typus
White - Carcharodon carcharias