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Clarifications on the Use of Shark as Bait in Gulf of Mexico Fisheries

October 21, 2021

FB21-074: Gulf of Mexico Fishery Bulletin; For more information, contact: Atlantic HMS Management Division, 301-427-8503

Key Message:

 

The use of shark as bait in federal waters of the United States is highly regulated.  Shark parts or trim may not be used as bait in federal waters, commercially or recreationally, no matter what species is targeted. 

  • No fishermen, commercial or recreational, may:
    • Remove any shark fin or tail prior to landing and offloading,
    • Remove a shark’s backbone,
    • Fillet or cut up the shark or
    • Use shark parts as bait.

 

The following questions and answers serve to clarify regulations involving shark fishing, landing, and use as bait.

Frequently Asked Questions:

 

  1. Can trim or pieces of shark be brought on board a federally-permitted commercial fishing vessel to be used as bait in federal waters?
  • No.  Shark trim or pieces may not be used as bait.  After sharks are landed and offloaded, no part of a shark may be brought back onboard a commercial vessel that has been issued (or should have been issued) a federal Atlantic commercial shark permit.  This includes sharks that have been halved, quartered, filleted, cut up, or reduced in any manner. Vessels that “should have been issued” shark permits refers to vessels that are required by law to have shark permits but do not have them (see Question #4 for clarification).

 

  1. Why can’t sharks be used as bait?
  • There are specific regulations that pertain to possession of sharks in or from federal waters by vessels that have (or should have) been issued federal Atlantic commercial shark permits.  These regulations were put in place to ensure proper identification of the shark to aid in stock assessments and to ensure compliance with the Shark Conservation Act, which prohibits the removal of shark fins from the shark carcass.
  • Commercial fishermen aboard a fishing vessel that has been issued a Federal Atlantic commercial shark permit may only:
    • Eviscerate the shark, and
    • Remove the head of the shark.
  • All sharks must have their fins naturally attached through offloading, although there is a limited regulatory exception for smooth dogfish caught along the Atlantic coast between Maine and the east coast of Florida.

 

  1. Can trim or pieces of shark be brought on board a recreational fishing vessel to be used as bait in federal waters?
  • No.  Shark trim or pieces may not be used as bait.  After a shark is landed and offloaded, no part of a shark may be brought back onboard a recreational vessel fishing in federal waters.  This includes sharks that have been halved, quartered, filleted, cut up, or reduced in any manner.
  • Recreational fishermen also must keep sharks intact through landing.
    • They may eviscerate the shark on board a fishing vessel, but
    • They must keep the shark’s head attached to the carcass through landing and offloading.

 

  1. Which commercial vessels need a federal shark permit?
  • No person may possess a shark in federal waters without an Atlantic HMS permit.
    • An applicable federal Atlantic commercial shark permit must be obtained by:
      • the owner of each vessel on which Atlantic sharks are targeted, retained, or possessed with an intention to sell, or be sold.
    • A commercial shark permit is NOT required if the vessel is:
      • recreationally fishing for sharks in federal waters under an Atlantic HMS Angling or HMS Charter/Headboat permit with a shark endorsement;
      • participating in an HMS tournament with an Atlantic Tunas General category or a Swordfish General commercial permit;
      • operating pursuant to the conditions of a shark display or a highly migratory species exempted fishing permit; or
      • fishing exclusively within State waters.
  • The type of commercial shark permit required to fish for, take, retain, or possess a shark on board a vessel depends on the species of shark.
    • If the vessel fishes for or handles smoothhound sharks (i.e., smooth dogfish, Florida smoothhound, or Gulf smoothhound), the vessel needs an open access federal smoothhound shark permit. 
    • If the vessel fishes for or handles any other species of shark, the vessel needs either a federal shark directed or incidental limited access permit. 
    • A vessel that fishes for or handles both smoothhound sharks and other species of shark will require more than one applicable permit.

 

  1. Do these provisions apply to all commercial fisheries?
  • The regulatory provisions regarding the use of shark parts or trim as bait apply to ALL fisheries (commercial and recreational) in federal waters of the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean.
  • Fishermen that wish to use shark trim as bait for a state water fishery should check with state fishery management agencies to confirm whether it is legal to do so.
  • Regardless of state regulations, federal permittees must adhere to the federal permit conditions in state waters.

 

  1. What if I have proof I purchased shark parts for bait from a dealer?
  • Proof of purchase of shark parts for bait does not exempt a vessel from the prohibition of using shark parts for bait in federal waters.  Shark parts or trim may not be used as bait in federal waters, no matter the sector (commercial or recreational) or species targeted.
  • Fishermen that wish to use shark trim as bait for a state water fishery should check with state fishery management agencies to confirm whether it is legal to do so.

 

  1. Where do I get more information about Atlantic HMS regulations?

Sign Up For Text Message Alerts - Find Out About Immediate Openings and Closures

NOAA's Text Message Alert Program allows you to receive important fishery related alerts via text message (SMS).  Standard message & data rates may apply. You may opt-out at any time.

 

Text alerts you may receive include:

  • Immediate fishery openings and closures
  • Any significant changes to fishing regulations that happen quickly

 

Sign up for one or more of the following groups:

  • Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text GULFRECFISH to 888777
  • Gulf of Mexico Commercial Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text GULFCOMMFISH to 888777
  • South Atlantic Recreational Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text SATLRECFISH to 888777
  • South Atlantic Commercial Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text SATLCOMMFISH to 888777
  • Caribbean Fisheries Related Alerts
    • Text CARIBFISH to 888777

 

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Other contacts:

Media: Kim Amendola, 727-551-5707

            Allison Garrett, 727-551-5750

Last updated by Southeast Regional Office on October 21, 2021