Retention Prohibition of Oceanic Whitetip Sharks in U.S. Atlantic Waters and Hammerhead Sharks in the U.S. Caribbean
As of January 3, 2024, NOAA Fisheries announces a final rule to prohibit commercial and recreational retention of:
- Oceanic whitetip sharks in all U.S. waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea (by adding this species to the highly migratory species prohibited shark species group)
- Hammerhead sharks (great, smooth, and scalloped hammerhead sharks) in the U.S. Caribbean
This action is responsive to two Biological Opinions for highly migratory species fisheries that strongly encouraged a prohibition on fishing for oceanic whitetip sharks and scalloped hammerhead sharks (a specific subpopulation). These sharks are both listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Who is affected?
All highly migratory species permitted fishermen and shark dealers who may purchase these sharks.
What does this final rule do?
On February 2, 2024, this final rule:
1. Adds oceanic whitetip sharks to the prohibited species list.
This means that all commercial and recreational fishermen with highly migratory species permits cannot retain or possess and must release any oceanic whitetip sharks. Fishermen must keep all oceanic whitetip sharks in the water and release them in a manner that will ensure maximum probability of survival of the fish. Shark dealers are prohibited from retaining, purchasing, or selling oceanic whitetip sharks or any parts of oceanic whitetip sharks.
2. Prohibits the retention of great, smooth, and scalloped hammerhead sharks in the U.S. Caribbean (see map below).
This means that all commercial and recreational fishermen with highly migratory species permits that are operating in the U.S. Caribbean must release all great, smooth, and scalloped hammerhead sharks. Fishermen must keep these sharks in the water and release them in a manner that will ensure maximum probability of survival of the fish. Shark dealers in the U.S. Caribbean and fishermen who hold a Highly Migratory Species Commercial Caribbean Small Boat permit are prohibited from retaining, possessing, landing, or selling great, smooth, and scalloped hammerhead sharks or any parts of these sharks. Fishermen and shark dealers not operating in the U.S. Caribbean can continue to retain, possess, land, or sell these sharks.
This rule will be effective on February 2, 2024.
This bulletin serves as a Small Entity Compliance Guide, complying with section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996.