FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Susan Buchanan
News Releases 2003
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Fishing regulations aimed at rebuilding large coastal shark populations, preventing overfishing of all sharks, protecting essential fish habitat for sharks and reducing bycatch of depleted species will soon take effect for commercial and recreational shark fisheries in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. The regulations were announced by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Amendment 1 to the Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish and Sharks concludes seven years of litigation with industry stakeholders and environmental organizations that impacted the development and implementation of long-term shark management programs. The new regulations are based on updated and peer-reviewed scientific shark assessments and fulfill requirements of a settlement agreement reached between the agency and litigants on shark management.
“Favorable peer reviews of our 2002 stock assessment have allowed us to move shark management out of the courts and back into the hands of scientists, fishery managers, and the American public,” said Bill Hogarth, director of NOAA Fisheries. “Now we can get these much-needed regulations in place to strengthen our rebuilding plan for large coastal sharks and to manage all Atlantic sharks for the long-term benefit of the species and the nation.”
The 2002 stock assessments for large and small coastal sharks included some good news about these species. In the large coastal complex, blacktip sharks have been rebuilt and sandbar sharks are no longer overfished. However, the assessment showed this complex as a whole was overfished and overfishing was still occurring. Therefore, Amendment 1 regulations will decrease annual catch levels for large coastal sharks by 45 percent to prevent overfishing and rebuild the stocks, with further catch reductions from a fishery closure January through July off North Carolina to protect habitat and nursery grounds. The small coastal complex is not overfished, and Atlantic sharpnose, bonnethead and blacknose sharks are healthy. The assessment showed that finetooth sharks were not overfished but fishing rates were too high for this species.
Certain measures in Amendment 1 will become effective on Dec. 30, 2003, while others take effect on Feb. 1, 2004. Changes are outlined in the attached fact sheet. Highlights include a revised rebuilding timeframe for the large coastal complex of 26 years, elimination of the commercial minimum size limit, establishment of regional commercial quotas, increase of recreational catch and size limits, and establishment of gear restrictions and a time and area closure.
Amendment 1 includes measures to prevent bycatch of prohibited and juvenile sharks and to protect one of the only shark habitat areas of particular concern that extend into federal waters.
Nineteen shark species are fully protected and may not be landed by fishermen. All 19 species have been identified for protection since 1997. Amendment 1 sets up criteria for determining which species belong on the protected list. These criteria include: the species biology makes it vulnerable for depletion, it is rarely encountered or observed in directed fisheries or as bycatch, or it is not easily identified by fishermen.
Copies of Amendment 1 and the regulations are available online at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/fa/hms or by calling 301-713-2347. Updated shark regulation brochures will also be available.
NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation’s living marine resources and their habitat through scientific research, management and enforcement. NOAA Fisheries provides effective stewardship of these resources for the benefit of the nation, supporting coastal communities that depend upon them, and helping to provide safe and healthy seafood to consumers and recreational opportunities for the American public. To learn more about NOAA Fisheries, please visit http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov.
The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources. To learn more about NOAA, please visit http://www.noaa.gov.
Regulatory Changes in Amendment 1 to the Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, and Sharks
Atlantic Shark Species
General Changes to Atlantic Shark Management
Commercial Fishery Changes
Three fishing regions are established, and each region gets a percentage allocation of the annual quota (effective Dec. 30, 2003):
In addition, after the federal quota is reached and the federal shark fishery is closed, landings of sharks caught in state waters will be counted against the federal quota.
Recreational Fishery Changes