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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - 28 Sharks SSR 2012

Marine Fisheries


Sharks - 2012

Stock Status – Concern – Federal harvest restrictions have been in place since 1993, and a closure to commercial harvest in state waters occurred from 1997 to 2006. The 2002 large coastal shark stock assessment indicated that the two primary shark species in the North Carolina shark fishery (blacktip and sandbar) are not overfished and that the large coastal complex as a whole has improved. However, assessments conducted in 2005 and 2006 indicated that the sandbar and dusky shark are overfished and that overfishing is occurring, porbeagle sharks are overfished but overfishing is not occurring, while results from the blacktip shark models for the Atlantic population were insufficient to make a conclusion. Assessment of the overall large coastal complex did a poor job representing the status of the stock and the peer review said it should not be used for management of the complex. Small coastal sharks were recently assessed (May 2008), and sharpnose, finetooth and bonnethead sharks were not overfished, but blacknose were overfished with overfishing occurring. The status of most pelagic sharks (e.g., mako) is currently unknown, but they are assumed not to be overfished, except for the scalloped hammerhead which was declared overfished with overfishing occurring in April 2011 by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). NMFS released the stock assessments for dusky, sandbar and blacknose sharks in October 2011. Dusky and blacknose sharks were considered overfished with overfishing occurring. Sandbar sharks were considered overfished but overfishing was not occurring.

Average Commercial Landings and Value – 2002– 2011 – 843,077 lbs/$434,541

2011 Commercial Landings and Value – 542,070 lbs/$319,846 (quota managed)
Large Coastal Average Recreational Landings 2002– 2011 – 7,249 lbs, 2011 – 471 lbs

Small Coastal Average Recreational Landings 2002– 2011 – 21,604 lbs, 2011 – 15,414 lbs

Pelagic Average Recreational Landings 2002– 2011 – 27,980 lbs, 2011 – 5,356 lbs

Average Number of Award Citations (150 lbs.*) 2002– 2011 – 24, 2011 – 38/34 released    

Status of Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) – In North Carolina, sharks are currently included in the Interjurisdictional FMP. A NMFS Highly Migratory Species (HMS) plan has been in place since 1993. NMFS completed Amendment 3 to the consolidated HMS FMP in June 2010. Regulations to the Atlantic shark fisheries have changed and an individual quota for blacknose sharks and a separate quota for non– blacknose small coastal sharks has been implemented. Both fisheries will close when either quota is met or projected to reach 80%. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) has developed a coastal shark FMP that was implemented in 2009.

Research and Data Needs – Nursery ground delineation, accurate landings data (number of species, by weight) from dealers, additional species specific life history, species specific recreational data

Current Regulations – Refer to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) shark proclamation for details. The recreational possession limit of any shark species is limited to one shark per vessel per day, including charter and head boat vessels for hire. One additional Atlantic sharpnose (no minimum size) and one bonnethead (no minimum size) per person per day may be landed in addition to allowable bag limits for other sharks. The sale of a charter or head boat vessel possession limit is prohibited. The catch cannot be transferred from individual anglers to the captain or crew. If no vessel is involved, the possession limit is one shark per person per day. All sharks, except Atlantic sharpnose, smooth dogfish, bonnethead, finetooth and blacknose, retained under the possession limit must be a minimum size of 54 inches fork length. It is unlawful for recreational fishermen to possess any shark without head, tail, and fins intact with the carcass through the point of landing. Anglers may still gut and bleed the carcass as long as the tail is not removed. Filleting sharks at sea is prohibited. Possession of the following sharks is prohibited: Atlantic angel, basking, bigeye sand tiger, bigeye sixgill, bigeye thresher, bignose, bluntnose sixgill, reef, Caribbean sharpnose, dusky, Galapagos, longfin mako, narrowtooth, night, sand tiger, sandbar, sharpnose sevengill, smalltail, whale, and white. All sharks not kept must be returned to the water in a manner to ensure the highest likelihood of survival.

Harvest Season – Refer to DMF shark proclamations for details. Open seasons in state waters are comparable to open seasons established by NMFS and are dependent upon quotas. It is unlawful to possess more than 33 large coastal sharks per trip. No commercial harvest or size restrictions are set on small coastal or pelagic sharks. A corresponding carcass must be landed with all fins fully attached, with the exception of smooth dogfish. Longlines in state waters can only be used to capture coastal sharks if they meet the following requirements: they shall not exceed 500 yards or have more than 50 hooks. Hooks attached to a longline shall not be corrosion resistant and must be designated by the manufacturer as circle hooks. A vessel shall be limited to a maximum of two (2) longlines. It is unlawful to use a large– mesh (stretched mesh size greater than, or equal to 5 inches) gill net more than 2,734 yards in length to capture sharks. Prohibited species are listed in DMF shark proclamations.

Size and Age at Maturity – Variable, depending upon species

Historical and Current Maximum Age – Variable, depending upon species

Juvenile Abundance Index – Not Available, except for a few species in certain areas of the western Atlantic.

Habits and Habitats – The two most abundant sharks in North Carolina waters are the sandbar and Atlantic sharpnose. In 2011, the shortfin mako and Atlantic sharpnose were the primary commercially harvested shark species. The sandbar shark is found in all warm temperate waters of the world. This is the most numerous of the large sharks of the mid– Atlantic bight. Sandbars are known to seasonally migrate along the eastern seaboard, moving north with the warming temperatures in the summer and southward again in the fall. They are most abundant in North Carolina during the spring and fall months. Males and females remain in sexually segregated schools outside the mating season, with males usually occurring in deeper water. As juveniles, sandbars feed heavily on blue crabs in addition to numerous small fishes. Later, as sub– adults and adults, they feed on larger fish, skates, and crustaceans.

The Atlantic sharpnose shark inhabits nearly the entire northeastern coast of North America. It is a year– round resident in the South Atlantic. In North Carolina, the Atlantic sharpnose shark is found year round in continental shelf waters and near the beaches from May to October. It aggregates in large schools uniformly grouped by size and sex. Usually, four to seven pups are born in the estuaries during early June and are 9 to 14 inches in length. It feeds on shrimp, mollusks, and small fishes.

The shortfin mako shark is found offshore in tropical and temperate waters throughout the world. It is an entirely pelagic, solitary species, averaging 10 feet in length and 135 to 300 pounds. Shortfin makos are usually bycatch in tuna and billfish commercial longline fisheries and also an important species in the recreational hook and line fishery. The reproductive cycle of the shortfin mako is mostly unknown but it is estimated that there is a 15 to 18 month gestation period, litter size from 4 to 5 pups, 3 year reproductive cycle and a 20 year life span. The diet of the shortfin mako consists of mackerels, bonitos, bluefish, swordfish and other fishes. Commercially caught shortfin mako sharks are managed under the pelagic other that porbeagle or blue shark species group that is quota managed.

*Citation requirement changes effective 2008

For more information, email Holly White at or call 252-473-5734.

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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