NOAA Fisheries Announces March 13, 2018 Closure of the Commercial Blacktip Shark, Aggregated Large Coastal Sharks, and Hammerhead Shark Management Groups in the Western Gulf of Mexico

Commercial landings of aggregated large coastal sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region has exceeded 80 percent of the available quota.

Atlantic blacktip shark

Commercial shark dealer reports indicate that the commercial landings of aggregated large coastal sharks management group in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region has exceeded 80 percent of the available quota as of March 8, 2018 (see Table 1). Because landings have exceeded 80 percent (50 CFR § 635.28(b)(3)), and because the quotas for the aggregated large coastal shark and hammerhead shark management groups in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region are linked (50 CFR § 635.28(b)(4)(iii)) and must close together, the aggregated large coastal shark and hammerhead shark management groups in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region must close. 

The blacktip shark quota is not linked to the aggregated large coastal shark or hammerhead shark quota and landings have not reached 80 percent of the available quota as of March 8, 2018. However, regulations at 50 CFR 635.28(b)(5) authorize closure of the blacktip shark management group before landings have reached, or are projected to reach, 80 percent of the quota, after considering various criteria and other relevant factors. In this case, after considering applicable criteria and factors, NOAA Fisheries is closing the blacktip shark fishery in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region to help minimize regulatory discards of shark in the aggregated large coastal shark management group in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region, since large coastal sharks are often caught in conjunction with blacktip sharks in the commercial shark fisheries. 

Thus, consistent with the regulations, NOAA Fisheries is closing the commercial fisheries for blacktip sharks, the linked aggregated large coastal sharks, and the hammerhead shark management groups in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region as of 11:30 p.m. local time March 13, 2018. From the effective date and time of the closure until and if NOAA Fisheries announces via a notice in the Federal Register that additional quota is available and the season is reopened, the management groups for those specified quotas will remain closed, even across fishing years. 

Table 1.  2018 Quotas and Landings for Blacktip, Aggregated LCS, and Hammerhead Sharks in the Western Gulf of Mexico Sub-Region

Western Gulf of Mexico Management Group

2018 Quota

Landings reported as of March 8, 2017

Closure Date

Blacktip Sharks

347.2 mt dw

265.9 mt dw

(77% of quota)

March 13, 2018

Aggregated large coastal sharks*

72.0 mt dw

61.7 mt dw

(86% of quota)

March 13, 2018

Hammerhead Sharks*

11.9 mt dw

6.8 mt dw

(57% of quota)

March 13, 2018

* Management groups are linked and close at the same time

During the closure, retention of blacktip sharks, aggregated large coastal sharks, and/or hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region is prohibited for persons fishing aboard vessels issued an Atlantic shark limited access permit (LAP) under 50 CFR 635.4, unless the vessel is properly permitted to operate as a charter vessel or headboat for HMS, has a shark endorsement, and is engaged in a for-hire trip, in which case the recreational retention limits for sharks and “no sale” provisions apply (50 CFR 635.22(a) and (c)), or if the vessel possesses a valid shark research permit under 50 CFR 635.32 and a NOAA Fisheries-approved observer is onboard. 

During this closure, a shark dealer issued a permit pursuant to 50 CFR 635.4 may not purchase or receive of blacktip sharks, aggregated large coastal sharks, and/or hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region from a vessel issued an Atlantic Shark LAP, except that a permitted shark dealer or processor may possess blacktip sharks, aggregated large coastal sharks, and hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region that were harvested, off-loaded, and sold, traded, or bartered, prior to the effective date of the closure and were held in storage consistent with 50 CFR 635.28(b)(6).

Additionally, a permitted shark dealer or processor may possess blacktip sharks, aggregated LCS, and/or hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region that were harvested by a vessel issued a valid shark research fishery permit per 50 CFR 635.32 with a NOAA Fisheries-approved observer onboard during the trip the sharks were harvested as long as the large coastal shark research fishery quota remains open. 

Similarly, a shark dealer issued a permit pursuant to 50 CFR 635.4 may, in accordance with state regulations, purchase or receive blacktip sharks, aggregated large coastal sharks, and/or hammerhead sharks in the western Gulf of Mexico sub-region if the sharks were harvested, off-loaded, and sold, traded, or bartered from a vessel that fishes only in state waters and that has not been issued an Atlantic Shark LAP, HMS Angling permit, or HMS Charter/Headboat permit pursuant to 50 CFR 635.4.

This notice is a courtesy to the HMS fishery participants to help keep you informed about the fishery. For further information on this landings update or the closure, contact Lauren Latchford or Karyl Brewster-Geisz at (301) 427-8503. 

Last updated by Office of Sustainable Fisheries on June 18, 2018