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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - 28 Sharks SSR 2014

Marine Fisheries


Sharks - 2014

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. Stock status is assessed by species complex for most coastal shark species and by species group for species with enough data for an individual assessment. In 2013, SEDAR 34 reassessed Atlantic sharpnose and benchmark assessed bonnethead sharks, neither Atlantic sharpnose nor bonnethead are overfished or undergoing overfishing. In 2011, benchmark assessments of dusky, sandbar, and blacknose sharks indicated that both sandbar and dusky sharks continue to be overfished with overfishing occurring for dusky sharks. Blacknose sharks, part of the small coastal sharks (SCS) complex, are overfished with overfishing occurring. Porbeagle sharks were assessed in 2009 and are considered to be overfished with overfishing occurring. The 2007 SEDAR 13 assessed the SCS complex, finetooth, Atlantic sharpnose, and bonnethead sharks were considered to be not overfished and not experiencing overfishing. In 2006, SEDAR 11 assessed the large coastal sharks (LCS) complex and blacktip sharks. The assessment concluded that the LCS complex status could not be determined because of variations between species and the status was changed from overfished to unknown. The blacktip shark was assessed as two separate populations: Gulf of Mexico (GOM) not overfished and overfishing not occurring and Atlantic unknown. There is no assessment for smoothhound shark (smooth dogfish) on the Atlantic coast. The current status is concern because of the overfished status of sandbar, dusky, blacknose, and porbeagle sharks.

Average Commercial Landings and Value – 2004-2013 – 681,281 lbs./$349,386

2013 Commercial Landings and Value – 541,551 lbs./$277,998 (quota managed)

Large Coastal Average Recreational Landings 2004-2013
– 12,238 lbs., 2013 – 11,133 lbs.

Small Coastal Average Recreational Landings 2004-2013 – 21,455 lbs., 2013 – 10,120 lbs.

Smoothhound shark (smooth dogfish) Average Recreational Landings 2004-2013 – 14,131 lbs., 2013 – 4,002 lbs.

Pelagic Average Recreational Landings 2004-2013 – 23,833 lbs., 2013 – 2,229 lbs.

Average Number of Award Citations (150 lbs./80 in.) 2004-2013 – 34, 2013 – 72/69 released

Status of Fishery 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) to compliment federal management actions. The FMP regulates 40 different species of coastal sharks found on the Atlantic coast. Coastal sharks are managed under this plan as six different complexes: prohibited, research, small coastal, non-sandbar large coastal, pelagic and smoothhound shark (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 smoothhound shark (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 smoothhound shark (smooth dogfish) carcasses. Addendum I also removed smoothhound shark (smooth dogfish) recreational possession limits and removed gillnet check requirements for smoothhound shark (smooth dogfish) fishermen. Addendum II and Addendum III effective in 2013 addressed changes in the federal management of coastal sharks. Addendum II allocated state-shares of the smoothhound coastwide quota, modified the FMP to allow year round smoothhound shark (smooth dogfish) processing at sea and modified the maximum fin-to-carcass ratio from 5% to 12% of the total dressed weight of the smoothhound shark (smooth dogfish) carcasses, consistent with the Shark Conservation Act of 2010. Addendum III created two new species groups (‘Hammerhead’ and ‘Blacknose’) and increased the recreational size limit for hammerheads. Effective in 2012, NOAA Fisheries changed the name of smooth dogfish to smoothhound shark to minimize confusion with spiny dogfish regulations.

Research and Data Needs – Continue to acquire better species-specific landings information on number of species, including smoothhound shark (smooth dogfish), by weight, from dealers; conduct smoothhound shark (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.

2013 Regulations – Refer to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) shark proclamation for commercial and recreational details. Each recreational shore-angler is allowed a maximum harvest of one shark from the recreationally permitted species list, per calendar day. In addition, each recreational shore angler may harvest one additional bonnethead (no minimum size) and one additional Atlantic sharpnose (no minimum size) per calendar day. Recreational fishing vessels are allowed a maximum harvest of one shark from the recreationally permitted species list per trip, regardless of the number of people on board the vessel. In addition, each recreational angler fishing from a vessel may harvest one bonnethead (no minimum size) and one Atlantic sharpnose (no minimum size) per trip. 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. Smoothhound sharks (smooth dogfish) are exempt from harvest and size restrictions. All sharks, except Atlantic sharpnose, smoothhound shark (smooth dogfish), bonnethead, finetooth and blacknose, retained under the possession limit must be a minimum size of 54 inches fork length. Hammerheads (Great, smooth, and scalloped), retained in the possession limit must be a minimum size of 78 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, Caribbean reef, Caribbean sharpnose, dusky, Galapagos, longfin mako, narrowtooth, night, sand tiger, sevengill, sixgill, smalltail, whale, and white. All sharks not kept must be returned to the water in a manner to ensure the highest likelihood of survival.

It is unlawful for a commercial fishing operation 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 smoothhound shark (smooth dogfish). It is unlawful for a commercial fishing operation to use gears other than; rod & reel, handlines, gillnet, trawlnet, shortlines and poundnet/fish traps. Handlines can have no more than two gangions or hooks attached to the mainline and must be retrived by hand and attached to, or in contact with, a vessel. 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. Shortlines shall not exceed 500 yards or have more than 50 hooks. Hooks attached to a shortline 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) shortlines. Prohibited species are listed in NCDMF shark proclamations.

Harvest Season – Refer to NCDMF shark proclamations for details. Commercial open seasons in state waters are comparable to open seasons established by NOAA Fisheries and are dependent upon quotas.

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 2013, apart from spiny and smoothhound shark (smooth dogfish), Atlantic sharpnose, shortfin mako and blacktip sharks 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 than porbeagle or blue shark species group that is quota managed.

Blacktip sharks in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico range from New England to Mexico but are commonly found between North Carolina and Texas, especially in the spring and summer. They inhabit the shallow coastal waters, estuaries and offshore waters along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico. Blacktip sharks are a large coastal shark that is targeted in both commercial and recreational fisheries. Blacktip sharks are stout-bodied with a moderately long and pointed snout. They lack an interdorsal ridge; have black tipped pectoral and pelvic fins and an unmarked anal fin. The maximum age is thought to be 12 years. Age at maturity is 4-5 for males, and 6-7 for females. Average adult size is 4.9 feet weighing about 40 lbs. Blacktip sharks primarily feed on small schooling fishes and other boney fishes. They give birth in the late spring to live, free-swimming young. Brood size ranges from 1 to 10 pups. Females give birth in inshore estuarine nursery grounds where the young remain for the first years of their lives.

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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