Shark Group Page

Sharks have a sweet, mild flavor, and some species closely resemble the taste of swordfish. In U.S. waters, sharks are harvested for their meat, not their fins. In the United States, laws prohibit “shark finning,” a process where only the valuable shark fins are harvested and the rest of the shark is discarded at sea. However, many shark species are especially vulnerable to overfishing because they have a long lifespan, take many years to mature, and only have a few young at a time. Recovery from overharvest can take years or decades for sharks. NOAA Fisheries is conducting research, implementing restrictions and working with fishermen domestically, and pursuing conservation of shark species worldwide, to maintain healthy shark populations and recover those that are overfished.

Atlantic Blacktip Shark

Atlantic blacktip shark

The blacktip shark is a large, coastal species found around the world in warm-temperate, subtropical, and tropical waters. It primarily lives in shallow coastal waters and offshore surface waters of the continental shelves, making it vulnerable to human-induced impacts on habitat and fishing. In both the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, blacktip sharks are one of the primary shark species sought out by both commercial and recreational fishermen. Its meat is high quality and marketed fresh, frozen, or dried and salted.

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Atlantic Common Thresher Shark

Atlantic Common Thresher Shark

Common thresher sharks are caught by fishermen in temperate waters around the world. In the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, U.S. commercial fishermen harvest them incidentally in longline fisheries for swordfish and tuna. These fisheries are highly regulated, and longline fishermen follow a number of measures to prevent bycatch.

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Pacific Common Thresher Shark

Pacific Common Thresher Shark

In the Pacific, common thresher shark are caught as bycatch and in the West Coast drift gillnet off California, which supplies most of the U.S. harvest of this species. The West Coast drift gillnet fishery operates under a suite of state and federal management measures that ensure the common thresher shark resource is protected and the seafood provided by this fishery is harvested responsibly. Fresh thresher shark catch is mainly sold to domestic restaurants, seafood markets, and grocery stores.

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Atlantic Shortfin Mako Shark

Atlantic Shortfin Mako Shark

Due to insufficient stock assessment data, scientists are not certain about the status of Atlantic shortfin mako, but they believe abundance could be below target levels and the species may be overfished. Scientists are currently re-assessing the stock and are even asking that recreational anglers record the catch and release of these sharks. U.S. harvest of Atlantic shortfin mako shark is only around 5 percent of the overall harvest of this species in the North Atlantic, and management limits domestic harvests through annual quotas.

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Pacific Shortfin Mako Shark

Pacific Shortfin Mako Shark

Scientists have not assessed shortfin mako shark in the Pacific due to a lack of resources, data, and international coordination. Scientists do not believe shortfin mako has been depleted off the U.S. West Coast, based on catch and fishing effort data and due to the species’ wide range. A small drift gillnet fishery targets swordfish and thresher sharks off California, and occasionally catches shortfin mako sharks as well. However, sharks do not make up a large portion of U.S. commercial fish harvest.

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Atlantic Spiny Dogfish Shark

Atlantic Spiny Dogfish Shark

Spiny dogfish was once an “underutilized” species with relatively minor value to the domestic fisheries of the U.S. East Coast. This changed as traditional groundfish resources declined and international markets opened after a rapid decline in European dogfish stocks. Most fishermen targeted larger - primarily female - dogfish which led to a significant population decline. To rebuild the stock, managers set an annual catch limit and a limit on how much dogfish fishermen could harvest during a single fishing trip. In 2010, NOAA Fisheries announced that the spiny dogfish stock was rebuilt.

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Pacific Spiny Dogfish Shark

Pacific Spiny Dogfish Shark

Along the West Coast and Alaska, spiny dogfish are mostly caught as bycatch in fisheries for more commercially important species. Many fishermen throw them back because of their low value. Even though harvests are minimal, managers still limit the amount of spiny dogfish that can be harvested as a precaution against overfishing.

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