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July 25, 2008

Regulatory changes for Atlantic shark fishery

Under a recently published amendment to the Federal Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan, both commercial and recreational fishermen who fish for sharks in either state or federal waters off S.C. and other Atlantic coastal states will face some regulatory changes within the shark fishery, effective July 24th.

Since S.C. marine fishery laws related to the recreational harvest of sharks already closely match federal shark regulations, changes affecting the S.C. marine recreational fishing sector will be minimal, primarily consisting of a prohibition of the retention of sandbar or silky sharks in addition to the 19 shark species already on the federal/state prohibited list.  Recreational anglers that harvest sharks must have all fins, head and tail naturally attached at the time of landing.  Commercial anglers landing sharks must have fins attached through offloading. This management measure is necessary to assist in the identification of harvested sharks and to prevent finning of sharks. All other current restrictions related to size and bag limits, possession, and handling of sharks in the S.C. recreational shark fishery remain in place.

S.C. commercial shark fishermen and local federally-permitted shark dealers will experience greater restrictions resulting from the new federal management measures. These include a reduction in the number of sharks from the Large Coastal Shark category that may be landed by fishermen who directly target sharks or those who may be catching sharks incidentally, as in the case of shrimp trawlers. Under the requirements of the amended management plan no sandbar sharks may be landed in the commercial fishery unless the vessels have been selected by the National Marine Fisheries Service to participate in a federally managed shark research fishery. This experimental fishery will allow the National Marine Fisheries Service to select a limited number of commercial shark vessels on an annual basis to collect life history data as well as data for future stock assessments. Atlantic sharks are managed by the Highly Migratory Species Division of the National Marine Fisheries Service. Additional changes in the commercial shark fishery will include adjusted shark quotas, reductions in retention limits, and revised reporting requirements for federally-permitted shark dealers.

When fishing in federal waters (greater than 3 nautical miles offshore), anglers who fish recreationally for sharks are required to have a Federal Highly Migratory Species angling permit, and a S.C. Saltwater Recreational Fishing License if the sharks are landed in S.C. When fishing only within state waters (up to 3 nautical miles offshore), recreational anglers are required to have a S.C. Saltwater Recreational Fishing License.  Owners of vessels used to fish commercially for Atlantic sharks or who intend to sell sharks are required to obtain a shark limited access commercial permit from the National Marine Fishery Service, and a South Carolina Commercial Shark Permit from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) if they intend to fish in state waters or land sharks in S.C.

For additional information, contact the Highly Migratory Species Division at (301) 713-2347. Find out more about DNR shark research.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina's natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state's natural resources and its people.

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