The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires overfished shark stocks to be rebuilt and requires healthy shark populations to be maintained. Several shark stocks are overfished and must be rebuilt.
In 2002, the United States banned shark finning. Any person, under U.S. jurisdiction, is prohibited from shark finning or possessing shark fins, harvested on board a U.S. fishing vessel, without the corresponding carcasses. Finning is defined as the practice of removing the fin(s) from a shark and discarding the remainder of the shark at sea.
In the Atlantic, NOAA fisheries’ Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Management Division manages seventy-two species of sharks (excluding dogfish) under the Consolidated HMS Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The Consolidated FMP also includes swordfish, billfish, and tuna. The management of these sharks is divided into four species groups: large coastal sharks (LCS), small coastal sharks (SCS), pelagic sharks, and prohibited sharks. The LCS complex is comprised of 11 species including sandbar, silky, tiger, blacktip, spinner, bull, lemon, nurse, scalloped hammerhead, great hammerhead, and smooth hammerhead sharks. SCS consist of finetooth, Atlantic sharpnose, blacknose, and bonnethead sharks. Pelagic sharks consist of blue, oceanic whitetip, porbeagle, shortfin mako, and thresher sharks. Prohibited sharks consist of sand tiger, bigeye sand tiger, whale, basking, white, dusky, bignose, Galapagos, night, Caribbean reef, smalltail, Caribbean sharpnose, narrowtooth, Atlantic angel, longfin mako, bigeye thresher, sevengill, sixgill, and bigeye sixgill sharks. Sandbar sharks and dusky sharks are overfished and overfishing is occurring. Porbeagle sharks are overfished; however, overfishing is not occurring. Pelagic sharks (e.g., blue, shortfin mako, thresher) population status is unknown, however an international assessment for some pelagic species is planned for 2008. NOAA Fisheries is conducting a stock assessment for small coastal sharks, which will be finalized during early fall 2007.
Under the Consolidated FMP, commercial fishermen targeting sharks in the Atlantic are restricted by quotas, trip limits, and limited access permits. Additionally, recreational fishermen are restricted by bag limits and a minimum size. All fishermen are prohibited from keeping 19 species of sharks including white, whale, and basking sharks. Finally, NOAA Fisheries has designated certain areas as essential fish habitat.
In the Pacific, NOAA fisheries works with three fishery management councils to manage sharks. The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) manages the common thresher, shortfin mako, blue, bigeye thresher, and pelagic thresher sharks under the West Coast Highly Migratory Species FMP. The PFMC lists the great white, megamouth, and basking shark as prohibited species under this FMP. In addition, the PFMC manages leopard, soupfin, and spiny dogfish sharks under the Pacific Coast Groundfish FMP. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) manages sharks under the “other species” category in the Gulf of Alaska Groundfish FMP and the Bering Sea/Aleutian Island Groundfish FMP. These FMPs manage the Pacific sleeper, salmon, spiny dogfish, brown cat, basking, sixgill, and blue sharks. The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (WPFMC) manages the blue, shortfin mako, longfin mako, oceanic white tip, common thresher, pelagic thresher, bigeye thresher, silky, and salmon sharks under the Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific Region FMP. The WPFMC also manages the grey reef shark, silvertip, galapagos, blacktip reef, and whitetip reef sharks under the Western Pacific Coral Reef Ecosystems FMP. The status of most shark species in the Pacific Ocean is unknown. Recent assessments found that the blue shark population is healthy and the common thresher and Pacific angel shark populations are in recovery.
The United States is a conservation leader internationally and was a key player in developing the Food and Agriculture Organization’s International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks. The United States, Australia, United Kingdom, Mexico, Ecuador, Taiwan, Canada, Malaysia, and Japan are the only nations (out of 87 shark fishing nations) to develop a National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks. The United States has participated or plans to participate in bilateral meetings regarding shark management with Japan, Spain, Taiwan, the European Union, Canada, China, and Mexico.
For Further Information on Atlantic sharks, contact HMS: (301) 713-2347.
For Further Information on Pacific sharks, contact the PFMC: (503) 820-2280; or contact the NPFMC: (907) 271-2809; or contact the
WPFMC: (808) 522-8220.