NOAA Fisheries Fact Sheet

Shark Management

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires overfished shark stocks to be rebuilt and requires healthy shark populations to be maintained.

Many shark stocks, particularly in the Atlantic, are overfished and must be rebuilt.

Nationally, the United States recently enacted a ban on shark finning that prohibits any person under U.S. jurisdiction from engaging in shark finning and 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.

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 is one of two 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 on participating in bilateral meetings regarding shark management with Japan, Spain, Taiwan, the European Union, Canada, China, and Mexico.

In the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea:

  • All Federal fisheries for sharks, except dogfish, are managed under the Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic tunas, swordfish, and sharks
  • Large Coastal Sharks (e.g., sandbar, blacktip, bull, tiger, hammerheads) are overfished
  • Small Coastal Sharks (e.g., Atlantic sharpnose, finetooth, bonnethead) are fully fished
  • Pelagic sharks (e.g., blue, shortfin mako, porbeagle, thresher) population status is unknown (an international assessment is needed to determine)
  • Commercial fishermen are restricted by quotas, trip limits, and limited access permits
  • 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
  • NOAA Fisheries has designated certain areas as essential fish habitat
  • NOAA Fisheries is conducting assessments for large and small coastal sharks in 2002

In the Pacific:

  • 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
  • There is a Pacific Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan under development (includes CA, OR, and WA). The draft plan proposes harvest guidelines for mako and common thresher sharks and coastwide protection for white, megamouth, and basking sharks
  • The Western Pacific Pelagic Fisheries Fishery Management Plan (includes HI, AS, GU) covers sharks including blue, mako, and thresher sharks
  • In the North Pacific (includes AK), sharks are covered under the Groundfish Fishery Management Plan. This includes salmon, sleeper, and dogfish sharks.

For Further Information Contact: (301) 713-2370