On April 4, 2017, NOAA Fisheries published in the Federal Register a “Final Rule” for Amendment 5b to the Highly Migratory Species (HMS) plan. The HMS plan manages a group of species that include tunas and sharks. Amendment 5b was developed in response to the 2016 stock assessment, which determined that dusky sharks are overfished and overfishing is occurring. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires action be taken to both prevent overfishing and rebuild stocks determined to be overfished.
So how does this effect the average recreational angler?
Effective January 1, 2018, all recreational permit holders who fish for sharks in federal waters (outside 3 miles) must obtain a HMS Permit with a shark endorsement. The process of obtaining the permit will require an online shark identification and fishing regulation training course.
Effective January 1, 2018, all recreational anglers with the HMS shark endorsement are required to use non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks when fishing for sharks south of 41’43’ N latitude (near Chatham, MA). This is the northern extent of the dusky shark’s US Atlantic range.
This alternative A6d is a reasonable compromise slightly different from Alternative A6a which was originally proposed to require the circle hooks in all Northeast federal waters. The reason for the change was significant public comment claiming that the circle hook requirement in waters north of 41’43’ N latitude (near Chatham, MA) would have little conservation benefit to dusky sharks while having significant impacts on anglers fishing for other species like haddock, pollock, bluefish and tunas. Anglers provided a well stated argument and NOAA Fisheries responded with compromise regulations.
To learn more about NOAA Fisheries HMS anything check out the NOAA Fisheries HMS home page.