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Atlantic Shark Populations Healthy—Fishing Season Opens January 1, 2016

Tiger shark swimming at the surface. Credit: Apex Predators Program, NEFSC/NOAA

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NOAA Fisheries held a public call on Friday, December 11, at 2pm EST with our highly migratory species experts. Listen to a recording of the public call. Read the call transcript (PDF).

Shark Stock Assessment Data

Shark assessments are conducted either domestically or internationally, depending on the species range. 

Domestic shark stock assessmentsIn addition to sharks, this webpage provides the stock assessments conducted using the Southeast, Data, Assessment and Review (SEDAR) process, which is used for all fish stocks managed by South Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Fishery Management Councils.

An exception for domestic stock assessments is the assessment for scalloped hammerhead sharks.  This assessment was published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal and was determined to be the best scientific information available. 

International shark stock assessments  


New research shows shark population trends increasing (PDF)

Relative abundance and size of coastal sharks derived from commercial shark longline catch and effort data

Seasonal Distribution and Historic Trends in Abundance of White Sharks in the Western North Atlantic Ocean (PDF)

Long-term trends of bull shark in estuarine waters of Texas, USA (PDF)

Is the collapse of shark populations in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean and
Gulf of Mexico real?

Public Comments Key to Science-Based Management Process 

NOAA Fisheries strives to achieve balance between the long-term survival of fish stocks with the long-term survival of fisheries, which includes commercial and recreational fishermen­—the shark fishery is no exception to this.

Last week, NOAA Fisheries published a final rule announcing January 1 as the start date for the 2016 Atlantic commercial shark fisheries.  The agency has published a similar rule every year since NOAA Fisheries began managing the Atlantic shark fisheries more than 20 years ago. Except for a few years, including 2014 and 2015, shark fisheries have opened on January 1st since 1994. NOAA Fisheries’ decision to open the season on January 1 this year instead of July 15 was based on comments from the industry and states.

After the annual final rule published, an online petition began requesting that NOAA Fisheries end commercial shark fishing.  While NOAA agrees that sharks are a valuable and incredible resource and need conservation, the regulations currently in place are carefully designed on the best scientific information available to prevent overfishing of sharks and rebuild depleted shark stocks. 

In the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, there are strict requirements for both commercial and recreational fishermen, including:

Additionally, all fishermen must land shark carcasses with their fins naturally attached—the U.S. was the one of the first in the world to implement fins attached regulations. 

It’s also important to note that the status of shark populations in the Atlantic is very different from the global status of sharks, in part because of intensive U.S. management of shark fisheries for 20 years.  U.S. shark populations are either healthy or, if stocks are lower than they should be, our management measures allow the stock to rebuild while still supporting commercial and recreational fishing.

Finally, NOAA Fisheries welcomes everyone to comment on our regulations. The annual Atlantic commercial shark fishing rulemaking process was open for 30 days of public comment and announced via the Federal Register; the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species e-mail list, which is open to anyone who signs up online; and phone calls to interested constituents including fishermen and environmental groups. Anyone with an interest in this topic is encouraged to sign up for Atlantic HMS News for e-mail updates on Atlantic shark fisheries management.

Get more facts from our highly migratory species experts as they share the details and answer questions during a press call