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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - 28 Sharks SSR 2013

Marine Fisheries


Sharks - 2013

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 assessed in 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., shortfin mako, blue) 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. There is no assessment for the smooth dogfish (smoothhound shark) on the Atlantic coast. Atlantic sharpnose and bonnethead sharks will be assessed in 2013 by SEDAR. Smooth dogfish and finetooth sharks will undergo assessments in 2014.

Average Commercial Landings and Value – 2003– 2012 – 754,539 lbs/$388,237

2012 Commercial Landings and Value – 701,832 lbs/$376,136 (quota managed)
Large Coastal Average Recreational Landings 2003– 2012 – 11,476 lbs, 2012 – 22,630 lbs

Small Coastal Average Recreational Landings 2003– 2012 – 21,846 lbs, 2012 – 9,836 lbs

Pelagic Average Recreational Landings 2003– 2012 – 12,971 lbs, 2012 – 22,630 lbs

Average Number of Award Citations (150 lbs. /80 in.) 2003– 2012 – 27, 2012 – 42/40 released    

Status of Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) – In North Carolina, coastal sharks are included in an Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Coastal Sharks (FMP) implemented in August 2008 by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). Coastal sharks are managed under this plan as six different complexes: prohibited, research, small coastal, non-sandbar large coastal, pelagic and smooth dogfish . The spiny dogfish and coastal shark management board (Board) does not set quotas and follows NOAA fisheries openings and closures for small coastal sharks, non-sandbar large coastal shark and pelagic sharks. Addendum I to the FMP was approved in 2009 allowing limited smooth dogfish processing at sea (removal of fins from the carcass) from March through June as long as the total wet weight of fins found on board the vessel does not exceed 5% of the total dressed weight of the smooth dogfish carcasses. Addendum I also removed smooth dogfish recreational possession limits and removed gillnet check requirements for smooth dogfish fishermen. Addendum II to the FMP was approved in May 2013. The Addendum was developed in anticipation of NOAA Fisheries upcoming federal smooth dogfish quota, establishing state shares to prevent one region from harvesting the quota and excluding other regions. The shares were established based on historical landings from 1998 to 2010. Addendum II also increases the maximum fin-to-carcass ratio to 12% and allows year round processing at sea for smooth dogfish (s), measures which were approved by Congress in the Shark Conservation Act of 2010.

Research and Data Needs – Continue to acquire better species-specific landings information on number of species, including smooth dogfish, by weight, from dealers; conduct smooth dogfish assessment; better identify and quantify the use of essential fish habitat and nursery areas for shark species found along the Atlantic Coast of the U.S.; continue to expand long term shark monitoring programs to assess population status, and trends in demographic parameters; identify and evaluate the effects of shark bycatch in other fisheries; initiate or expand species identification of bycatch in shrimp trawls to allow for better bycatch estimates particularly of blacknose sharks and other shark species.

2012 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 36 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 – Sharks belong to the class Chondrichtyes (cartilaginous fish) that also includes rays, skates, and deepwater chimaeras (ratfishes). Relative to other marine fish, sharks have a very low reproductive potential. The low reproductive rate is due to sharks slow growth, late sexual maturity, one to two year reproductive cycles, a small number of young per brood, and specific requirements for nursery areas.

In 2012, apart from spiny and smooth dogfish, shortfin mako and Atlantic sharpnose were the primary commercially harvested shark species.

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.

For more information, contact Holly White at or 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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