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Shark Management in Atlantic Canada

Worldwide, only a few countries have developed management plans for their shark fisheries. On the Atlantic coast, Canada developed its first Atlantic Pelagic Shark Integrated Fisheries Management Plan in 1995. Canada was praised for its efforts internationally, and this plan was implemented with intentions of limiting the growth of emerging shark fisheries (e.g. the porbeagle shark fishery) and collecting scientific information on commercially significant species. Under this plan, porbeagle and blue sharks fisheries are permitted, while shortfin mako may only be retained as a 'bycatch' species; however, the blue shark directed fishery is not active due to these sharks' low market value and, in recent years, nearly all landings consisted of bycatch from the commercial fishery. Since the plans inception, few changes have been made with the notable exception of a quota reduction for the directed porbeagle fishery, following more accurate stock assessments. Blue and shortfin mako sharks continue to be managed under non-restrictive catch limit based on historical average reported landings. Additional measures include a limited number of exploratory licenses issued for the directed fisheries and gear restrictions to longline, handline or rod and reel. On the Pacific coast, there is no direct exploitation of pelagic sharks. Instead, landings of sharks taken as bycatch in commercial fisheries are prohibited in all fisheries with the exception of trawl and hook and line fisheries.

On both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, directed fisheries for spiny dogfish are managed under their respective Groundfish Integrated Fisheries Management Plans. Similar to quotas for blue and mako sharks, spiny dogfish quotas also reflect past numerical catches rather than scientific evidence.

Table 1
Summary table taken from Godin and Worm (2010) depicting management measures, average landings and discards in Canadian waters, and population trends for shark species managed under Canadian integrated fisheries management plans.

The wasteful act of 'shark finning', the practice of removing only the fins from sharks and discarding the remainder of the shark while at sea, was prohibited in Canada in June of 1994 and extended this to all Canadian-licensed fishing vessels outside of Canadian waters. In addition, no shark, with or without fins, may be discarded at sea once it has been taken onboard a vessel. Fins from the commercial fishery may be sold, traded or bartered with a maximum of 5% by weight of the fins relative to the weight of landed carcasses.

With regards to recreational shark fishing management on the Atlantic coast, recreational shark fishing covers three activities: the hook and release angling, fishing on shark charters and shark derbies. Participants in any of these activities are required to have a recreational shark license. Currently, there is no limit on the number of licenses issued each year; however, most licenses that are issued per year are not active. The recreational fishery is based mainly on blue sharks, but shortfin mako and thresher sharks are occasionally reported. Blue sharks catches (and releases) have been estimated to be near 13 tonnes per year with a survival rates near 81%. Hook and release and derby participants are required to complete and submit scientific data logs on a catch-by-catch basis to DFO; however, less than 2% of the recreational licenses (excluding derbies) return fishing logs. This is something that apparently has not been closely enforced by DFO.