New Shark Landing Restrictions, More Sharks in the Water

As of January 3, 2024, NOAA announced a ruling to prohibit the commercial and recreational retention of Oceanic whitetip sharks in U.S. Atlantic waters and Hammerhead sharks in the U.S. Caribbean.

The ruling for Oceanic whitetip sharks would apply to all U.S. waters, including the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea, while the ruling on hammerhead sharks in the U.S. Caribbean would apply to three species of hammerhead: great, scalloped, and smooth.

This ruling action was specifically implemented for two species (oceanic whitetip sharks and scalloped hammerhead sharks) as a result of two Biological Opinions which urged the prohibition on fishing for these Endangered Species. All highly migratory species (HMS) permitted fisherman, as well as the dealers purchasing the sharks would be affected by this ruling.

The final ruling, which is set to be implemented on February 2, 2024, will officially add oceanic whitetip sharks to the prohibited species list, meaning all permitted HMS fishermen (commercial and recreational) would be unable to retain or possess them. The sharks must not only be released, but remain in the water in a manner that would ensure the highest probability of survival. The same ruling would apply for all HMS permitted fishers operating in the U.S. Caribbean for hammerhead sharks, meaning these sharks would be prohibited from being retained, possessed, landed, or sold. This ruling would not apply to fishers operating outside the U.S. Caribbean.

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