Rules for commercial and recreational harvest of sharks set for 2023
Published 8:53 am Sunday, January 1, 2023
North Carolina Marine Fisheries Proclamation FF 3-23 sets the opening date and harvest restrictions for the 2023 Atlantic coastal shark fishery in North Carolina coastal fishing waters.
NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service published its 2023 commercial rule Nov. 11, 2022 in the Federal Register.
In both federal and state waters, the 2023 commercial and recreational shark season opens at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023.
The final federal rule states that quota levels for various shark stocks has been adjusted due to under-harvest in 2022. Under certain conditions, some unharvested quotas can be carried forward to the next fishing year. If established quotas are reached before end of the season, the fishery will be closed by proclamation.
Open seasons in North Carolina waters are the same as open seasons established by NOAA Fisheries for federal waters and followed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in state waters. These open seasons are dependent on adherence to established quotas.
In the North Carolina Proclamation FF 3-23, four shark groups have an open season from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2023, for commercial harvest. The groups are:
Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks, including blacktip, silky, spinner, bull, tiger, lemon, nurse, scalloped hammerhead, great hammerhead, smooth hammerhead and sandbar. Sandbar sharks can only be retained by vessels selected to participate in the shark research fishery, subject to the retention limits established by NOAA Fisheries and only when a NOAA Fisheries-approved observer is onboard.
Catch limit is 55 large coastal sharks other than sandbar sharks per vessel per trip. No minimum size limit on large coastal sharks taken for commercial purposes.
Small Coastal Sharks:
North of Kure Beach: Allowable Species: Atlantic sharpnose, bonnethead, and finetooth
South of Kure Beach: Allowable Species: Atlantic sharpnose, bonnethead, finetooth, and blacknose. Group is exempt from harvest and size restrictions except for blacknose sharks. North of Kure Beach, possession of blacknose sharks prohibited. South of Kure Beach, commercial catch limit is eight blacknose sharks.
Pelagic, including Blue Sharks, Porbeagle Sharks, Oceanic whitetip, and common thresher sharks. This group is exempt from harvest and size restrictions.
Smooth Dogfish (Smoothhound shark)
Additional restrictions: It is unlawful to possess silky, scalloped hammerhead, great hammerhead, smooth hammerhead and/or oceanic whitetip sharks from a vessel with pelagic longline gear onboard or on vessels issued both a HMS charter/headboat permit and a commercial shark permit when tuna, swordfish or billfish are on board the vessel or being offloaded from the vessel.
It is unlawful for a vessel to retain sandbar sharks unless the vessel is selected to participate in the shark research fishery, subject to retention limits established by NOAA Fisheries and only when a NOAA Fisheries-approved observer is onboard.
It is unlawful to possess shortfin mako sharks for commercial purposes.
It is unlawful to use gears other than rod and reel, handlines, large and small mesh gill nets, shortlines, pound nets/fish traps and trawl nets.
For purposes of North Carolina proclamation FF 3-23, shortlines shall only be used in state waters to capture sharks if a shortline does not exceed 500 yards in length nor 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 shortlines.
It is unlawful to sell sharks to anyone who is not a federally permitted shark dealer.
It is unlawful to take sharks by using more than 2,734 yards of large mesh gill net (stretched mesh size greater than or equal to 5 inches).
Recreational season, size and possession limits, gear restrictions: Species authorized for recreational harvest are:
Large Coastal Sharks: blacktip, bull, lemon, nurse, spinner and tiger. Great, scalloped and smooth hammerhead can be recreationally harvested when not possessing tunas, billfish or swordfish.
Small Coastal Sharks: Atlantic sharpnose, blacknose, bonnethead, finetooth
Pelagic Sharks: blue, porbeagle and thresher. Ocean whitetip can be recreationally harvested when not possessing tunas, billfish or swordfish.
Other: Smooth dogfish (smoothhound shark), spiny dogfish
Recreational size and bag limits:
Atlantic sharpnose and bonnethead: no size restriction; one per person of each species
Hammerheads: 78 inches fork length; one per vessel or one per person for shore anglers
Non-hammerheads large coastal sharks, pelagic sharks, blacknose and finetooth small coastal sharks: 54 inches fork length; one per vessel or one per person for shore anglers.
Possession of silky sharks and sandbar illegal for recreational purposes.
Smooth dogfish (smoothhound shark) are exempt from harvest and size restrictions.
Spiny dogfish are exempt from harvest and size restrictions.
Recreational Shore-Angler Possession Limits: It is unlawful for each angler to possess more than one (1) shark from the recreationally permitted species list per person per calendar day. One (1) Atlantic sharpnose and one (1) bonnethead may be possessed per person per calendar day, in addition to the one (1) shark from the recreationally permitted species list.
Recreational Vessel-Fishing Possession Limits: It is unlawful for each angler fishing from a vessel to possess more than one (1) Atlantic sharpnose and one (1) bonnethead per person per calendar day. It is unlawful to possess more than one (1) additional shark from the recreationally permitted species list aboard a vessel, per calendar day, regardless of the number of people on board the vessel.
Under the North Carolina proclamation, “it is unlawful to fish for or possess sharks (except spiny dogfish) from Coastal Waters for recreational purposes using hook and line gear with natural bait unless using a non-stainless steel, non-offset circle hook, regardless of tackle or lure configuration. Natural bait is defined as any living or dead organism (animal or plant) or parts thereof. Non-offset circle hook is defined as a hook with the point pointed perpendicularly back towards the shank and the point and barb are in the same plane as the shank.”
Additionally, 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 provided the tail is not removed. Filleting any shark is prohibited, until that shark is offloaded at the dock or on shore.
It is unlawful to fail to return all sharks to the water in a manner that ensures the highest likelihood of survival, except when sharks will be legally possessed.
It is unlawful for recreational fishermen to catch sharks by any gear other than rod and reel or handlines. Handlines are defined as a mainline with no more than two gangions or hooks attached that are retrieved by hand only.
It is unlawful to possess shortfin mako sharks for recreational purposes.
Prohibited Species: “It is unlawful to possess any of the following shark species, regardless of whether fishing recreationally or commercially:” Atlantic angel, basking, bigeye sandtiger, bigeye sixgill, bigeye thresher, bignose, Caribbean reef, Caribbean sharpnose, dusky, galapagos, longfin mako, narrowtooth, night, sandtiger, sevengill, shortfin mako, sixgill, smalltail, whale and white.
The North Carolina Proclamation states: the intent of this proclamation is to implement the ASMFC Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Coastal Sharks. The ASMFC Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Coastal Sharks was adopted in 2008 to complement federal management actions to rebuild depleted stocks and protect healthy stocks from overfishing.