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W.N. Joyce
Joyce Marine Research Limited
8 Shannon Rd. Brookside
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3T 1T9


1.1 The resource

1.1.1 Species composition of fishery

The fishery for sharks in Atlantic Canada consists of three separate commercial fisheries and a recreational fishery. The main directed fishery is for the porbeagle, (Lamna nasus) which is the only pelagic shark in Atlantic Canada that supports a profitable, though small, market. Only small fisheries exist for the blue shark, Prionace glauca, and spiny dogfish, Squalus acanthias. The blue shark is abundant in Canadian waters and is caught primarily as a bycatch to other fisheries (O'Boyle et al. 1996) although small landings do occur. Attempts to develop profitable markets for this species have proven unsuccessful. Sharks in Atlantic Canada are considered as large pelagic species whereas spiny dogfish are considered part of the groundfish fishery. They have long been considered a nuisance to inshore fishermen and this species has interfered with fishing operations more than any other species. Their predation of other important fish species may also be a significant source of mortality, both commercially and recreationally (McRuer and Hurlbut 1996). Recent development of markets for dogfish from North America has resulted in a small directed fishery and landings have increased since 1990. The shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrinchus, is common but is caught only as a bycatch.

The main species supporting the recreational fishery is the blue shark. Small numbers of porbeagle and shortfin mako are taken rarely in this fishery. This fishery is now a “hook and release” fishery and sharks are only kept for tournaments or “derbies”.

Twenty species of shark occur in Canadian waters (Table 1). Some of these species are caught occasionally in either directed fisheries, or as bycatch in other fisheries, but generally they are not specified in landing records due to the small quantities involved. Species which are occasionally encountered include the basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus), Greenland (Somniosus microcephalus), common thresher (Alopias vulpinas), white (Carcharodon carcharias), dusky (Carcharhinus obscurus), smooth hammerhead (Sphryna zygaena), and oceanic whitetip sharks (Carcharhinus longimanus) (Table 2).

1.1.2 Distribution of fishery

The porbeagle shark is a cold-temperate, epipelagic shark found in coastal waters of the North Atlantic, South Atlantic and South Pacific areas (DFO 1996b). The species extends from Newfoundland to New Jersey and possibly to South Carolina in the West Atlantic and from Iceland and the Western Barents Sea to Madeira and Morocco and into the Mediterranean Sea in the East Atlantic (Compagno 1984). The porbeagle prefers water temperatures less than 16°C (Scott and Scott 1988). Although the movements and migrations of this species are not fully understood, the porbeagle appears to have a seasonal migration. An analysis of fisheries observer data (Joyce 1997) indicates that they are present on the edge of the Scotian Shelf and offshore basins in early spring. Parturition is believed to occur in late May/June after which mature animals begin to migrate northward (Figures 1 to 3) to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Mature animals make their way northward in July and August to these areas and remain there until September-October when mating is thought to occur. The embryos grow in the uterus and litters generally consist of 3 to 4 pups. There is some doubt as to the length of the gestation period. Aasen (1963) believed that the porbeagle reproduced every year and that gestation lasts about 8 months. Holden (1974), felt that this period was too short and proposed a 18–20 month gestation period with 3–4 pups produced every two years. Juveniles are believed to remain on the Scotian Shelf separate from the adult population (Joyce 1997) and observations from commercial fisheries suggest segregation by sex in mature animals.

Table 1

Shark species reported from Canadian Atlantic waters (from Hurley in press)
Shark species supporting directed fisheries:
bluePrionace glauca
porbeagleLamna nasus
spiny dogfishSqualus acanthias
Shark species taken as bycatch:
shortfin makoIsurus oxyrinchus
GreenlandSomniosus microcephalus
baskingCetorhinus maximus
common thresherAlopias vulpinus
portugueseCentroscymus coelolepis
deepsea catsharkApristurus profundorum
black dogfishCentroscyllium fabricii
rough sagreEtmopterus princeps
smooth hammerheadSphryna zygaena
sandtigerOdontaspis taurus
whiteCarcharodon carcharias
oceanic whitetipCarcharhinus longimanus
Atlantic sharpnoseRhizoprinodon terraenovae
smooth dogfishMustelus canis
bluntnose sixgill*Hexanchus grisius
false catshark*Pseudotriakis microdon

* These species have been reported only once.

Although recoveries have been made from porbeagle sharks tagged through tagging programmes, the number of recoveries are few. Therefore, it is not possible to state if there is one or more stocks in the North Atlantic. In lieu of this, a management unit which includes NAFO areas 3 to 6 (Figure 4) has been adopted by Canada for pragmatic reasons.

The shortfin mako is a warm water species that only occasionally occurs off Atlantic Canada. Unlike the blue shark, the shortfin mako appears to have a narrow tolerance range between 17–22° C (Casey and Kohler 1992) and prefer water temperatures near 18° C (Castro 1983). A hypothesis thought to describe the stock movements of the shortfin mako (Figure 5) was described by Casey and Kohler (1992). In January, the shortfin mako is common along the western margin of the Gulf Stream. As the inshore waters warm in the spring, mako sharks begin moving northward onto the continental shelf. They remain there from June to October, then move to offshore wintering grounds in the Gulf Stream and the Sargasso Sea. If the 18° C water of the Sargasso Sea is preferred by the mako, then the heart of their distribution in the western North Atlantic ranges from 20 to 40° N. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge and edge of the Gulf Stream appear to act as boundaries to their distribution. Makos can occur outside these boundaries and are capable of transatlantic crossings (Casey and Kohler 1992). They do not appear to be common in Canadian waters at any time, possibly because of the limited occasions when 18°C water is on the Canadian continental shelf (O"Boyle et al. 1996c). Most of the shortfin mako shark landings occur from June to October when Scotian Shelf and southern Grand Banks waters are warm enough for shortfin makos to venture inshore. They are seldom caught far from the Gulf Stream and are rarely taken from northerly portions of the Grand Banks or from the Gulf of St. Lawrence (O'Boyle et al. 1996c).

Table 2

Bycatch of sharks in fisheries in Atlantic Canada
SpeciesTarget non-target or discardCatch reportedSurface longlineSurface gillnetDemersal longlineDemersal gillnetDemersal trawlDeepwater trawlPrawn trawlRecreational
Lamna nasustargetyes***      *
non-targetyes* **    
Squalus acanthiastargetyes  ******    
discardno  ********  *
Prionace glaucatargetyes**      ***
discardno*** **    
Isurus oxyrinchusnon-targetyes**      *
Cetorhinus maximusdiscardno*****   
Somniosus microcephalusdiscardno    * ** 
Centroscymus coelolepisdiscardno     **  
Apristurus sp.discardno     *  
Centroscyllium fabriciidiscardno     ***  
Etmopterus princepsdiscardno     *  
Alopias vulpinusnon-targetno*       
Carcharhinus obscurusdiscardno*       
Carcharhinus longimanusdiscardno*       
Sphryna zygaenanon-targetno*       

* Indicates low incidence of capture.
** Indicates medium incidence of capture.
*** Indicates high incidence of capture.

The spiny dogfish is common in the North Atlantic and has a range from Greenland (where they occur only as rare stray) to Florida where they are found during the winter (Castro 1983). Dogfish prefer temperatures ranging from 7 to 13°C (DFO 1996d; McRuer and Hurlbut 1996) and depths less than 360m. Distribution of spiny dogfish in Canadian groundfish research vessel surveys has been extremely variable with few consistent patterns. They migrate seasonally from wintering grounds in southern offshore waters (Sub-Area 6) in the late spring. In the summer, they move northward in Canadian waters and have been reported to venture into bays and estuaries where they remain until waters cool in the fall (McRuer and Hurlbut 1996). There is also evidence of some limited over-wintering in deeper waters off Nova Scotia and southern Newfoundland. Younger dogfish tend to aggregate by size while larger, mature dogfish aggregate by size and sex (McRuer and Hurlbut 1996; DFO 1996d).

Figure 1

Spring distribution of porbeagle shark catch rates in Atlantic Canada based on fisheries observer data (from Joyce 1997)

Figure 1

Figure 2

Summer distribution of porbeagle shark catch rates in Atlantic Canada based on fisheries observer data (from Joyce 1997)

Figure 2

Figure 3

Autumn distribution of porbeagle shark catch rates in Atlantic Canada based on fisheries observer data (from Joyce 1997)

Figure 3

Figure 4

Canada's East coast showing the divisions used by the North Atlantic fisheries rganizations (NAFO)

Figure 4

Figure 5

Movements of shortfin mako shark based on recoveries from the NMFS cooperative tagging project (after Casey and Kohler 1992)

Figure 5

1.1.3 Associated bycatch and discarded species

Bycatch of a number of shark species occur in domestic fisheries such as handlines, gillnets, longlines, and trap nets set for groundfish (Table 2). Most of this bycatch is discarded as there is no demand for the species. Some landings of porbeagle and shortfin mako are reported as these two species are highly marketable (Hurley 1996, in press). Shark bycatch exists in the foreign and domestic tuna longline fisheries as well. Bycatches are primarily of blue shark with smaller numbers of porbeagle and shortfin mako as well as basking, Greenland, common thresher, white, dusky, and oceanic whitetip sharks (Table 2). Blue shark catches in the Canadian fishery are under-reported, and the portion of the catch that does get reported is rarely associated with effort data.

Porbeagle sharks are taken as a bycatch in the Canadian swordfish longline fishery (DFO 1996b) as well as other fisheries (Table 2). Observer reports suggest that the number of porbeagle taken as bycatch is low (i.e. 1.2% of the total directed catch for 1995). Porbeagle sharks are also taken as a bycatch in the Japanese tuna longline fishery. Small numbers of porbeagle and shortfin mako have been caught as well in both swordfish longline and harpoon fisheries and were often landed together as mackerel shark.

Blue sharks have been taken as bycatch in a number of Canadian fisheries and are usually discarded (DFO 1996c). The most significant bycatch of blue shark occurs in the pelagic longline fisheries, particularly in the Atlantic swordfish longline fishery where the catch of blue shark often exceeds the catch of swordfish. As mentioned above, blue shark bycatches are often discarded and are rarely reported. They also represent an undocumented source of mortality as a result of “finning” (removal and retention of the fins and discarding the carcass). Mortality levels due to finning are probably very high. This practice was banned in the Canadian zone by the 1994 Management Plan but was not fully implemented until the 1997-99 Management Plan. There is no restriction of finning in international waters (DFO 1996c).

Shortfin mako is another shark primarily taken as bycatch in the Atlantic swordfish longline fishery (DFO 1996a) and are also taken in foreign and domestic tuna longline fisheries. Because of their close similarity to the porbeagle, they are often mis-identified and have also been recorded as unspecified shark species. As a result, there has been uncertainty as to the total catch of shortfin mako in the past.

The spiny dogfish are usually taken as bycatch in groundfish fisheries (Table 2). Their discard rates in the groundfish fishery have been significant, ranging from 3 to 30% of the total landings (DFO 1996d). Estimates of mortality from discarding are 50% for otter trawls and 75% for gillnets and longlines. This constitutes a loss of stock equal to two thirds of the total landings with the majority being immature animals (McRuer and Hurlbut 1996). These estimates of discards of spiny dogfish are likely to be low.

1.1.4 Discussion

Of the 20 species of shark present in Atlantic Canada there appears to be only one species (porbeagle) with economic potential to support a fishery at this time, with some possibilities for blue and spiny dogfish. All three of these species are apparently abundant in the Canadian Atlantic zone (i.e. within the 200 mile limit) and are easily accessed by both the inshore and offshore fishermen. Many of these species are caught as bycatch in other fisheries, sometimes at high levels (i.e. blue shark in Atlantic swordfish fishery). The mortality levels associated with certain stocks (blue and dogfish) may affect the population levels. Because of the amount of discards of these species that are not reported, the status of the stocks are unknown.

1.2 Development and current status of fishing methods

1.2.1 The harvesting process

The number of vessels participating in the offshore fishery has varied from 1 to 3 and ranged from 32 to 49m in length. They are steel-hulled longliners equipped blast freezers and freeze holds for storing the sharks, usually at -20 to -30° C. The preferred method used by commercial vessels, both offshore and inshore, is longline gear. Inshore fishermen have also used handlines and harpoons occasionally. The longline gear used today has remained virtually unchanged since the Norwegians first began fishing for porbeagle. Drift longlines are similar to those used in the tuna and swordfish fishery with only slight differences. The longlines are shorter with fewer and larger sized hooks to restrict bycatch of smaller fish. Configuration of the gear in the water depends mainly on the captains' fishing experience and on weather conditions when the gear is set (Joyce 1997). For example, only a few sections of gear may be set in rough weather as opposed to setting the entire line in calm weather. The gear used in the dogfish fishery consist mainly of ottertrawls, gillnets and longlines.

The gear used for porbeagle and blue shark consists of a number of sections of mainline which can be added or removed. A vessel generally carries between 15 and 55km of line and sets an average of 45km. Gear sections are set with vertical float lines which drop to a horizontal mainline to which several gangions are attached. Lines used generally consist of polyfiber rope or monofilament line to which gangions are spliced directly or attached with clip-on gear. Steel leaders and hooks are then attached to the gangions. For an example of gear configuration, each section of gear would be marked with four float buoys with 24 hooks between buoys and a radio or highflyer buoy at one end of the gear, thus each section of gear has approximately 96 hooks. Vessels generally set around 900 hooks and have a range from 350 to 1600 hooks (Joyce 1997). Longlines are generally set from either the side or stern of the vessel, usually around 0100 and 0200 Atlantic Standard Time at a speed of 8 knots into the wind, usually taking about 3 to 4 hours to complete. The line is then allowed to soak for 5 to 6 hours. Haul-back takes place the following morning after sunrise at a speed of 2.5 knots. The reason for this time set is that the sharks are thought to feed more aggressively during the early morning hours as the sun rises (pers. comm., vessel captain). Times of gear setting and haul-back vary between vessels. Other vessels set their gear in the morning and haul-back in the evening. Herring, mackerel, and squid are used as bait but the bait varies with season and with the captain's preferences. The type of bait can affect catch rate. Herring is generally thought to work best but its supply may be limited, squid is more expensive and mackerel is used as an alternative (Joyce 1997).

Processing at sea consists of a number of procedures to ensure that the shark carcass is not spoiled. Once caught, sharks have to be bled quickly to prevent urea from the blood permeating the flesh and spoiling the product. The tail is usually removed at this point to ensure that the carcass is thoroughly bled. The carcass is then stored on deck while the fins and head are removed (claspers, pelvic, second dorsal, and anal fins are left on the carcass). The animal is then gutted and the entrails and head are dumped. The carcasses are then washed with cold sea water and put in blast freezers at - 30°C (on offshore vessels). After freezing, the “shark logs” are put in freezer holds at -20 to -25°C. Inshore vessels use a similar process but may be limited to the amount of storage capability. As a result, many inshore fishermen make daily trips. Many fishermen use slush ice to quickly chill the shark log to 0°C. Slush ice is quicker than loose ice and will remove remaining blood and ammonia compounds. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has published a small manual (Anon 1995) detailing the handling and processing of blue shark which is available to fishermen.

1.2.2 Evolution of catch, fleet characteristics and fishing effort

There is little information available on the blue and shortfin mako shark because they are typically caught as a bycatch and have seldom been recorded. The directed fishery for porbeagle has a history extending back to 1961 when Norwegian fishing vessels began exploratory fishing in the Northwest Atlantic. Difficulties were encountered in trying to rationalize reported landings from different sources. While there has been success in sorting out many discrepancies, especially with regards to Canadian commercial landings, serious problems remain with the foreign landings. This has raised uncertainty as to whether the historical information reflects the landings of porbeagle and not those of other species.

The Norwegian exploratory fishing began in 1961 using pelagic longline gear in the waters off New England and Newfoundland. They were joined by vessels from the Faeroe Islands during the next few years. Reported landings in the Northwest Atlantic rose from 1924t in 1961 to 9360t in 1964, and then fell to less than 1000t in 1967 as the stock was fished down to unprofitable levels during this period (Myklevoll 1989). Subsequent effort levels remained low and reported landings were less than 600t until 1991 (Figure 6). In 1991, reported landings of porbeagle in the Northwest Atlantic rose to a total of 1484t (foreign and Canadian participation) due to increased effort by Faroese vessels and the entry of one Canadian vessel into the fishery. The Canadian vessel landed 346t of the total in 1991 (Table 3). The increase in landings in 1991 can be attributed to the expansion of the fishing season into the autumn in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland (NAFO areas 3PO, 4RSTV). Previously, the fishery had been a spring fishery concentrated in NAFO areas 4WX. By 1992, with the introduction of a second Canadian vessel, landings reached a post-60's peak of 1790t (Figure 6). Participation by Faroese vessels in the fishery within the Canadian 200 mile fishing zone was restricted in 1993 and total landings dropped to 1369 t (919t from the Canadian fishery, 450t from the Faroese). Foreign participation was eliminated from the directed fishery in 1994. Landings by three Canadian offshore pelagic vessels and a number of inshore vessels took about 1549t (Table 3). There was a reduction in effort in 1995 with only two offshore vessels still active after June, and landings dropped to 1305t. There has been a decrease in porbeagle landings in 1996 (1014t) and 1997 (1211t) with the introduction of a 1000t TAC in 1997.

As mentioned previously, blue sharks have been taken as bycatch in a number of fisheries in the past, specifically the Canadian swordfish, porbeagle and tuna fisheries, the Faroese porbeagle fishery (up to and including 1993, when it terminated), and the Japanese tuna fishery (O'Boyle et al. 1996b). The majority of this bycatch is discarded. Blue shark landings are monitored at dockside and Canadian landings have fluctuated from a low of 8t in 1990 to a high of 133t in 1994 and 123t in 1995 (Table 3).

Figure 6

Reported landings (tonnes) by country of porbeagle in Atlantic Canada (from O'Boyle et al. 1996)

Figure 6
Table 3

Landings (tonnes) by year for porbeagle, blue, shortfin mako, and spiny dogfish in Atlantic Canada
Shortfin Mako74781241191521571076099
Spiny Dogfish167124016475012701684808430-

* May contain porbeagle, blue, and mako sharks.
** Preliminary values.

The recreational fishery in Atlantic Canada has seen an increased interest in angling for sharks over the last few years. Blue shark is the predominant catch while shortfin mako and porbeagle are occasionally reported. Catches and fishing effort in the recreational fishery have not been documented in the past. It has only been a “hook and release” fishery since 1995 and was unregulated until that time. Removal data by this developing fishery exist but have not yet been processed.

There is no directed fishing for shortfin mako sharks in the Northwest Atlantic but the species has been reported as bycatch in a number of fisheries. Up to and including 1991, any Canadian landings of shortfin mako sharks were recorded together with porbeagle as makerel sharks. During 1992 and 1993, those involved in the fishery began to distinguish sharks by species and shortfin mako and porbeagle sharks were recorded separately. There is concern, however, that a substantial proportion of the 1994-95 landings are mis-identified porbeagle sharks. For these reasons, more detail on the landings are not given here.

Spiny dogfish landings within NAFO Sub-Areas 2-6 grew rapidly and peaked at about 24 650t in 1974, after which they declined rapidly until 1978 (McRuer and Hurlbut 1996). Most of the landings made at this time were by foreign fleets. From 1979-89 landings were stable around 5250t/yr and increased to over 16 500t in 1990 and approximately 21 800t in 1993. Canadian landings in NAFO Sub-Areas 2-6 were insignificant prior to 1979 when about 1300t were landed. Since then, landings have been sporadic, reaching approximately 800t in 1992, 1200t in 1993, and 1700t in 1994 (Table 3). Landings have decreased in subsequent years.

1.3 Markets

1.3.1 Introduction

The majority of the shark fishery focuses on the porbeagle as it is the most profitable species in terms of marketing potential. This species is valuable because its flesh can be sold as food and the fins are used for sharkfin soup (Castro 1985; Compagno 1984). Most of the meat is sent to Italy while the fins are sent to Asian countries. Meat is frozen immediately after processing and is kept between -25 and -30°C to prevent spoilage. A small portion of the catch is kept for domestic sale and restaurants. Plans to develop markets for other species such as blue shark and spiny dogfish have been introduced. The majority of sharks caught in Atlantic Canada are exported to foreign markets.

Blue shark meat is sold on a very small scale to local grocery and seafood stores, however, blue shark fins are in high demands in the Orient. Cartilage is also sold from blue sharks for various health products. Interest in developing markets for blue sharks has increased in the last few years though attempts to market their meat, as well as other products (i.e. skin for leather goods), have had limited success.

Spiny dogfish markets are supplied with portions of the fish (i.e. belly flaps, backs, fins tails) and exist in various countries. British markets prefer the backs of the spiny dogfish where they are sold as “rock salmon” and are used in the “fish and chips” trade. Other markets for backs include Belgium, France, and Italy. Spiny dogfish belly flaps are generally exported to Germany where they are smoked and considered a delicacy. Dogfish fins and tails are mainly exported to the Orient where they are in high demand (Salsbury 1986). Dogfish meat is also processed locally into pet food on a small scale.

1.3.2 Revenues from the fishery1

Table 3 provides information on the total weight landed for each year for porbeagle, blue, shortfin mako, and spiny dogfish. Current ex-vessel prices (gutted, head off, fins off) for porbeagle vary from $Can1.75 to 2.20/kg for inshore vessels (fresh product) and between $Can3.30 and $Can3.85/kg for offshore vessels (frozen product). Porbeagle fins generally sell for $Can18 to 20/kg, depending on the fins (i.e. caudal, pectoral, dorsal). Blue shark sells for $Can0.80/kg (dressed, fins-on) while fins alone may sell for $Can12 to 13/kg. Dogfish meat sells for $Can0.20/kg.

1.4 Economics of the fishery

It is difficult to determine if the fishery is profitable at this time since little information is available on the economics of the fishery. Table 4 provides landed values for the porbeagle, blue, mako, and spiny dogfish landed in Atlantic Canada.

l $Can1.00 ≈ $0.71.

The porbeagle fishery is described as an exploratory fishery. Of the 22 licences issued in 1997 for the Scotia-Fundy sector, about 16 fishermen were active that year and of those only 11 landed catches >10t (pers. comm., Chris Jones, Department of Fisheries and Oceans [DFO], Halifax, Nova Scotia). With declining ground fish stocks, some fishermen have, or are trying to adapt to other unexploited species, such as sharks. As mentioned above, several programmes have been attempted over the past few years to develop markets for both blue shark and spiny dogfish. Both species are plentiful in Atlantic Canada and both are considered a nuisance by fishermen.

Table 4

Landed values ('000$Can) by year for porbeagle, blue, shortfin mako, and spiny dogfish in Atlantic Canada

* Estimated landed values based on ex-vessel prices.

The spiny dogfish, believed to have little value in the fisheries, is considered one of the largest underutilized finfish resources in the Northwest Atlantic (Salsbury 1986). Dogfish were viewed as a constant nuisance as they damaged fishing gear and catches. The demand for dogfish by other countries for food offered a possible fishery which could supplement the dwindling groundfish fishery. Attempts to market dogfish were made a number of times in the past ten years. In 1989, processing of dogfish into a marketable product proved that there was potential for a market destined for European countries. This was beneficial to the Canadian Atlantic fishery since dogfish numbers were increasing to the point where fishermen had to cease their regular fishing activities. Also, with decreasing dogfish landings in Europe buyers sought new suppliers for dogfish products. The one problem with the market is that prices have continually fluctuated so that at times it was unprofitable to process dogfish. The small dogfish market has allowed some fishermen to continue their livelihood and a few processing plants to remain in business as other groundfish stocks are depleted. Because of the potential, dogfish fisheries were supported by the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and a number of projects were initiated (Anon 1991).

The main problem for the fishermen in this new market was the urea content of the dogfish. As with all sharks, they must be processed quickly or the quality of the finished product greatly decreases. When processed, dogfish are not filleted but have the fins removed, the belly flap cut off, and the skin removed leaving the “back”. These products are then shipped to various countries for sale. Also, the oil found in the liver can be used for high grade machine oil (Anon 1991). Other projects have been conducted to help improve the dogfish industry such as methods to freeze and sustain dogfish fillets (Woyewoda et al. 1986).

A study was also conducted to determine if blue shark skin could be marketed for leather goods. Possible markets exist for male blue shark skin as it is thinner than the females. This study showed that much of the skin was damaged during the skinning process by the skinning machines (Anon 1992) therefore this has not been pursued.

1.5 The fisheries workforce

Although the shark fishery is small compared to other fisheries in Atlantic Canada it does provide a number of employment opportunities. Since the shark fishery is susceptible to over exploitation, only a limited number of vessels are able to participate in the fishery.

Most of the Canadian commercial fishery for porbeagle is a year round business. Company vessels begin fishing in March and continue until mid July/August when the sharks appear to migrate into the bays. The vessels then begin fishing again in the fall (September) when the fishery continues until late November. This pattern has been set by years of experience gathered from past Norwegian fishermen and seems to follow migration patterns of the sharks. Offshore vessels, of which two currently operate, carry 11 person crews. The offshore companies generally have few shore support staff as all processing is done at sea (pers. comm. Jay Lugar, Karlsen Shipping Co. Limited, Halifax, Nova Scotia and Mike Pittman, Deep Sea Trawlers, Lunenberg, Nova Scotia). Therefore, the offshore sector employs about 30–40 people overall year round.

The inshore vessels follow similar patterns only on a much smaller scale. Since they are restricted by their size and the amount of gear they can use, in some cases, they find difficulties in locating sharks at certain times of the year. Inshore vessels range in length from 9.1m to 13.7m and have from one to six crews, three crew members is most common. There are two crews of 6 people each working dockside to help process the sharks once landed, as the inshore fishermen cater to a different market than the offshore (pers. comm. D. Hart, Sambro Fisheries Limited, Sambro, Nova Scotia). Therefore, the inshore fishery employs around 60-70 individuals year round.

The recreational fishery provides a number of part-time and seasonal jobs. It is difficult to estimate the total number of individuals the recreational fishery employs because of the involvement of the shark tournaments and the spin-off benefits generated. There are currently five annual shark tournaments or “derbies” held each year over weekends which provide employment and income for local restaurants, bait and tackle shops, charter companies, derby officials, rental businesses (i.e. tents, chairs and tables), people to process the catch, and a number of other spin-off benefits. There may be up to 400 shark anglers participating in the derbies each year. Shark tournaments and derbies help to raise money for local charities and they allow both competitive anglers and others to experience shark fishing. The derbies are generally 1 to 2 day events and prizes are awarded for the largest shark caught.


2.1 The fisheries within the context of national fisheries policy

National objectives for Canadian fisheries promote conservation for a sustainable resource, this applies to the shark fisheries as well. Sharks, unlike other fish, are slow growing, mature late in life, and produce few young. These life history characteristics make them highly susceptible to over-exploitation and thus any fishery for sharks must be carefully controlled. The need for scientific information on the stock status of sharks is of great importance as existing information is limited and more information concerning their ecology and reproduction is needed to further understand the stocks' biology. The pelagic shark fisheries were thus initiated as a Scientific Monitoring Fishery enabling a limited number of Canadian exploratory shark fishing licences to fish certain shark species while collecting and providing detailed scientific data on stock abundance and distribution. The information collected from this Scientific Monitoring fishery will be used to determine whether or not a commercial shark fishery is sustainable in Atlantic Canada (DFO 1997).

2.2 Objectives for the management of the shark fisheries

The pelagic sharks of the Canadian Atlantic have been exploited since the 1960's and due to a decrease in traditional groundfish stocks, interest in these resources has increased recently. Procedures for a management plan were first undertaken in 1994, which included necessary changes to the Fisheries Act. An intern plan was developed for 1995 (Anon 1995) which was continued in 1996. The plan was modified in 1997 to allow for a more comprehensive management designed to regulate the exploitation of sharks from 1997 to 1999 (DFO 1997). The new plan also provided DFO with the ability to regulate fishing areas and seasons during the year if necessary. Species of shark covered under this plan include porbeagel, blue, mako and other sharks (excluding spiny dogfish as they are included in the groundfish fishery).

The objective of this management plan is the maintenance of a biologically sustainable resource supporting a self-reliant fishery. Decision making has taken a precautionary approach towards this fishery and conservation will not be compromised. The specific objectives are:

2.3 The objective setting process

Since the majority of large pelagic sharks are landed in the Scotia-Fundy Sector (NAFO Sub-Areas 4VWX and 5), the Scotia-Fundy Sector Large Pelagics Advisory Committee (SFSLPAC) provides the principle regional forum for dialogue on the Canadian Atlantic Pelagic Shark Management Plan 1997–99 (SMP). Once a consensus plan is agreed upon by SFSLPAC and an advisory forum known as the Atlantic Large Pelagics Advisory Committee (ALPAC), the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) formally approves the plan (DFO 1997). Amendments to the SMP are considered on an annual basis by SFSLPAC. Any technical analyses required is conducted by the Maritimes Regional Advisory Process (RAP). Amendments are presented to SFSLPAC and ALPAC for consultation.

The parties involved in this process are both the management and scientific community (DFO) as well as the inshore and offshore fishermen. Representatives from these groups are directly involved in the objective setting process and are free to voice their opinions and suggestions concerning the fishery.

2.4 Discussion

The current management objectives for the Atlantic shark fishery provide a clear direction for the setting of management polices. Both the scientific community and the industry, directly involved in the fishery are able to present their concerns, opinions, and information to improve the fishery as a whole. The objective setting process is accepted by both sides and has so far worked well. Offshore and inshore representatives for industry appear satisfied with the specific objectives of the fishery and the management processes and are eager to help scientists with their information needs for resource management. Offshore and inshore fishermen serve different markets and have different interests in the fishery. Offshore fishermen rely on the shark fishery as their primary source of income and for them the fishery is a year-round business. As mentioned, they cater directly to foreign markets; inshore fishermen mostly use the shark fishery as a supplement to others (i.e. swordfish fishery) and cater to local and North American markets on a small scale. Because of this, some decisions adopted concerning the fishery are not fully consensual (i.e. closing of times of the fishing season and TAC levels) and recreational fishermen are unsatisfied with some management objectives. The Management Plan does not allow for trophy fishing as the recreational fishery is hook and release. The termination of trophy fishing has affected the charter boat industry as most anglers generally prefer to keep catches for trophies or consumption. As a result, those involved in the recreational fishery believe trophy fishing would increase angler participation.

Effective management for the Canadian shark fishery will require both international and national co-operation in order to conserve the resource. The stock area of porbeagle, blue, shortfin mako, and spiny dogfish sharks extends beyond the Canadian zone. International co-operation will be necessary for the blue, shortfin mako and spiny dogfish because of their migration distances and shared exploitation. Despite this, benefits to Canadian fisheries could be realized through unilateral management action in the porbeagle fishery.


3.1 Identification and evaluation of policies

The present status of the shark fishery in the Canadian Atlantic is a Scientific Monitoring Fishery with exploratory licences. In this case, the objective is to determine if the resource can sustain a commercially viable operation as well as to collect scientific data to form a preliminary database for stock assessment. All licences remain exploratory for the duration of this period, 1997–1999.

3.2 Policies adopted

3.2.1 Resource access

Prior to 1995 no management policy existed to regulate shark fishing - anyone could participate. As interest in the shark fishery grew in the early 1990's measures were investigated to control rising interest. A shark management plan was introduced for 1995 which stated eligibility for a commercial shark licence; applicants need to prove that they had landed 1500kg of shark during any of the years 1990, 1991 and 1992, as well as landing 1500kg in 1994. This plan also allowed extra licences for areas where the shark fishery was limited. Species-specific licences were introduced in 1996 which became porbeagle/blue shark licences. Blue shark licences were issued in 1996 provided that the applicant could provide documented proof that they had landed 2500kg of shark during 1994 and 1995. These criteria resulted in the authorization of 22 porbeagle/blue licences and 2 blue shark licences in the Scotia-Fundy sector, about 20 porbeagle/blue licences in the Gulf sector, 9 porbeagle/blue licences in the Newfoundland region and 3 porbeagle/blue licences in the Quebec region (DFO 1997). In keeping with the DFO policy on First Nations, 4 commercial porbeagle/blue shark licences are available to the Scotia-Fundy sector.

Apart from the commercial fishery, there are a number of charter boats, derbies and anglers which fall into a recreational category. A single licence type is used to manage entry to this fishery and 421 recreational licences were issued (hook and release) in the Scotia-Fundy sector for 1996. Numbers of licences authorized in other areas are not available, however, licences in the Gulf sector and Newfoundland region also allowed landings of recreationally caught shark.

Commercial licences were issued as exploratory licences for the fishery, one licence per fisher/company, and are renewable annually. Receipt of authorization to participate in the shark fishery in any given year does not constitute a guarantee of future authorization. Current licence holders must re-apply for their licences on an annual basis and renewal of these licences is contingent upon adherence to all conditions of the licence. The renewal of a shark licence to a fisher is dependent upon documented proof of landings during the calendar year (a minimum of 2000kg whole weight) via purchase slips and log records through the Dockside Monitoring Programme (DMP), or proof of effort (minimum of at least three fishing trips or a total of ten fishing days) via log records associated with statutory declarations verified by Fishery Officers, or DMP (via hail out and/or hail in). The licences must be carried on board vessels at all times and issuance of replacement licences is not permitted (DFO 1997). As of March 31, 1997, there was no increase in the number of commercial porbeagle/blue licences and commercial blue shark licences issued. Cost of licences depend on the size of the vessel and if it is for commercial or recreational purposes. For a vessel less than 19.8m the cost is $Can1100, greater than 19.8m but less than 30.5m, $Can2800, and greater than 30.5m, $Can16 400. Recreational licences cost $Can10 and are issued to anglers individually. There is no limit to the number of recreational licences issued.

3.2.2 Gear restrictions

The restrictions for the use of gear in the commercial and recreational shark fisheries (DFO 1997) are as follows:

  1. Directed commercial fishing for shark is limited to the use of handline, longline or rod and reel.

  2. Recreational fishing is limited to the use of rod and reel only.

3.2.3 Vessel regulations

At present, the regulations applying to vessels are few and are mainly area restrictions. Fishermen with vessels of >19.8m LOA have access to the shark fisheries on an Atlantic-wide basis. Commercial and recreational vessels <19.8m must apply to the DFO's. Sector Management Policy. Shark fishing is permitted throughout Atlantic Canada and the season lasts from January 1 to December 31 (DFO 1997).

If conservation becomes an issue (i.e. bycatches of other large pelagic species) and areas become closed to directed shark fishing, the Department would consult immediately with shark industry representatives to establish operational details and procedures to conduct a test fishery, in accordance with protocols for the Canadian Atlantic large pelagic fishery (DFO 1997). Some examples of closures include:

3.2.4 Biological regulations

No bycatch of tuna or swordfish are allowed in the shark fishery. If any are caught, they must be released immediately using methods which will minimize injury to the fish. There is no directed fishery for shortfin mako or any other shark species other than porbeagle, blue, and spiny dogfish. Landings of shortfin mako and other shark species can only occur as bycatch. This must constitute less than 50% of the total weight of directed shark species on board. As for other large pelagic fisheries, bycatch of shark is not restricted. In the groundfish fishery, bycatch of sharks is limited to the lessor of 10% or 500kg by weight on board the vessel, providing the vessel has a condition of licence authorizing bycatch of shark (DFO 1997). At present, there is no size regulation concerning sharks in the Canadian fishery. Fishermen release and tag small fish (<120cm) that are caught and, on their own accord, try to avoid fishing when females are carrying pups.

Porbeagle and shortfin mako sharks are similar in appearance and are at times mis-identified. Dressing the sharks at sea involves removal of the internal organs, head, and fins which eliminate characteristic features of these species. To assist in correct identification of each species, vessels must land all shark catch with a portion of the tail, including the lateral ridge, and pelvic fins attached to the carcass. This regulation does not apply to vessels operating under the Quality Monitoring Programme (QMP) (DFO 1997).

Finning (the practice of removing only the fins and discarding the remainder of the shark while at sea) is strictly prohibited. Fins from the commercial fishery may be sold, traded or bartered (as a condition of licence) only in proper proportion to carcasses sold, traded or bartered with a maximum of 5% by weight of fins per dressed carcass weight. Fins may not be stored aboard vessels after associated carcasses are sold, traded or bartered and must be weighed and monitored at the time of landing. This does not apply to vessels operating under the QMP (DFO 1997).

3.2.5 Catch/quota allocation

Total allowable catch (TAC) levels in terms of annual quota allocations are set by DFO for the fishery and announced publicly at the beginning of each year (Table 5). The fishery is competitive without property rights or sector allocations. The dogfish fishery is not under any management control (i.e. no quotas or TACs) in Canada (McRuer and Hurlbut 1996). There is no allocation for the recreational fishery at this time.

Table 5

Yearly quotas (tonnes) for the shark fishery in Atlantic Canada
YearPorbeagleBlueMakoSpiny dogfish
19971000*250bycatch only-

* The TAC of 1000t implemented, all other quotas are precautionary catch levels that are lessrestrictive than a TAC.

3.2.6 Discussion

In Atlantic Canada, only a simple set of regulations govern the shark fishery. With the new Shark Management Plan for 1997–99 new policies have been included which previous plans lacked. This has enabled the control of participants, fishing seasons, fishing areas, gear, and catch in the shark fishery. The size of the present shark fishery is manageable but may have been easier to regulate if it had remained solely an offshore fishery.

Many of the policies have improved the fishery to an extent. Gear restrictions have virtually eliminated the bycatch of a number of other teleost species and there is a zero bycatch for tunas and swordfish. TACs and precautionary catch levels appear to be working as a reasonable basis for fishery management. One problem is an undetermined size limit. It is not a major issue for the time being since the size of the hooks probably restrict catch of most small sharks and fishermen have been releasing sharks less than 120cm.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans have designed the Management Plan to allow for the closure of certain areas, and if necessary, seasonal periods. This allows the freedom to regulate the fishery further if bycatch of other large pelagics in the shark fishery become too high or if fishing activity threatens the shark population in some way (e.g. catching pregnant females).

In conclusion, the policies of DFO manage the present fishery well though further information and analysis of the stocks are needed to determine if any problems exist in the policies used in the Management Plan. Changes in the management plan will have to be delayed until scientists can determine if shark stocks can sustain a directed fishery by the end of 1999.


4.1 Provision of resource management advice

It is not possible to provide estimates of biomass and exploitation rates due to a lack of scientific data and with the limited information available it is not possible, at this time, to provide a TAC, target, or limit reference points, for a sustainable fishery. Therefore, TAC's are set so that catch and effort will not exceed the 1995 level (1500t for porbeagle, 250t for blue shark). In lieu of this, and based on the available scientific evidence, the following will be used to guide management during 1997–99:

4.2 Fishery statistics

4.2.1 Methods used for collection of catch and effort data

Collection of catch and effort data are attained through fisher's log records and the Dockside Monitoring Programme (DMP) for which coverage is 100% and paid for by industry. A problem which occurs with the collection of the data is mis-identifying the species observed. Most of the data has not been analysed and all the data collected to date is commercial, i.e. there have been no research surveys.

All shark landings must adhere to the requirements of a DFO authorized Dockside Monitoring Programme (DMP) which includes completion of the Large Pelagic Receiving Tally (Appendix 1) by the dockside monitor. All costs associated with the provision of this data are the responsibility of the licence holder. Licence holders may be required to carry industry funded fishery observers at the request of the Department. In the case of the commercial fishery, Atlantic Swordfish/Shark Longline Monitoring Documents (Appendix 2) must be completed on a set by set basis by the vessel operator and be submitted to the dockside monitor at the time of dockside monitoring. Anyone participating in the recreational fishery must complete a Recreational Shark Fishing Log (Appendix 3) on a catch bycatch basis and submit it to DFO within two weeks of the end of the trip or derby (DFO 1997).

Conversion factors presently used are: (1) Round (whole) fresh or frozen = 1.0; (2) Dressed, head off, tail off = 1.5; (3) Dressed, head off, tail on = 1.2.

4.2.2 Evaluation of the data collection process

As the DMP covers 100% of landings they are accurate. However, species identification problems may persist. Data collection is evolving with the introduction of size measurement of sharks in the porbeagle fishery in 1997. More coverage is expected for the inshore vessels, less so for offshore vessels (although it was good in 1994–95) with a plan to resolve existing problems in 1998.

4.2.3 Data processing and storage and accessibility

Data is stored using Oracle software and is readily available to researchers and scientists. Confidentiality of the data is determined by DFO and information on individual vessels is not released to the public. At present, only the Scotia-Fundy sector data is kept on file but it will soon include the Gulf Sector, Newfoundland Region, and Quebec Region data as well.

4.3 Stock assessment

4.3.1 Measures of stock abundance

Much of the data necessary for proper stock assessment is still being compiled in the fishery. No resource surveys exist at the present, though sampling of catch and effort has just been established, and a detailed analysis of porbeagle catch rates and size composition will be conducted in March of 1998.

Uncertainties concerning the stock structure of porbeagle sharks and gaps in the knowledge of the biology of this species will need to be addressed before a conventional assessment of this resource can be conducted. For the present, a preliminary analysis of catch rates for the directed Canadian and Faroese porbeagle fisheries, was conducted using Analysis of Variance, the data being derived from the Scotia-Fundy Region component of the Fisheries Observer Programme. It is planned to obtain the full Atlantic zone Fisheries Observer Programme data set for porbeagle sharks, as well as effort data to go with the Canadian Commercial Landings data.

Blue shark catches are under-reported, and the portion of the catch that does get reported is rarely associated with effort data (number of hooks fished per set for a longliner). An attempt to estimate stock abundance will require at least 3–5 years of valid catch/effort information as analyses of catch rates in Canadian fisheries were hindered by problems in the data. Geographic or seasonal shifts in effort at this time cannot be resolved without considering the Newfoundland component of the Fisheries Observer Programme. Vessel tonnage class confounded attempts to resolve blue shark bycatch trends due to the significant role of ‘unknown’ tonnage classes in any of the models attempted. There were also concerns that the recent rise in bycatch rates may reflect improving market conditions for blue shark, and not be related to population growth. Given these problems, calculation of a standardized catch series from these data is not considered appropriate.

There are uncertainties concerning the stock range of the shortfin mako, and its biology is poorly understood. Landings data are incomplete, and proper identification of shark species remains a problem. Until we resolve these issues, estimation of stock abundance and trends is not possible.

There has been less work done on spiny dogfish than on any of the traditional groundfish or pelagic species that are assessed by DFO on the east coast. Research vessel surveys have been conducted in NAFO divisions 4TVWX since 1970 and are held during the spring, summer, and autumn. These surveys provide information for a variety of demersal fishes, including spiny dogfish. There is an assessment of dogfish but not of other shark species. Canada has not conducted any analyses concerning stock size, F or biological reference points at this time, however, evaluations have been made of the stock status with the aid of US spring research surveys as well as the most recent US assessment.

4.3.2 Biological advice review process

The Maritimes Regional Advisory Process (RAP) provides the scientific and technical basis for management. This forum brings together scientists, managers and fishermen to develop the resource outlooks. RAP will conduct its next review of porbeagle shark in the spring of 1998. For the present, unless contrary scientific evidence is provided, no further reviews are planned for shortfin mako or other shark species, excluding blue and spiny dogfish (DFO 1997).

4.3.3 Biological management reference points

At present there are no biological reference points on which to base management decisions. The purpose of the 1997–99 Management Plan is to provide information on stock abundance and distribution which will be used to determine whether or not a commercial shark fishery is sustainable. Prior to 1997, catches of sharks were controlled with Precautionary Catch levels, which are not as restrictive as a Total Allowable Catch (TAC). These values acted as limits for amounts of landed fish. Also, the ceiling, as recommended by RAP, was the 1995 catch level, which was 1500t (Table 5). A TAC was first used in 1997 and was set at 1000t (O'Boyle et al. 1996) (Table 5). The performance indicators listed in Section 4.1 are used as reference points for management at present.

4.3.4 Sustainability of the resource

Sharks in general are slow growing, long-lived, and have delayed sexual maturity. They bear live young and produce low numbers of offspring. This combination of life history characteristics makes sharks highly susceptible to over-exploitation. Some shark fisheries have collapsed after a relatively brief period of exploitation.

There is very limited information for porbeagle, blue, and mako sharks on which to base harvest advice. Sequential Population Analysis (SPA) and Yield Per Recruit (YPR) models, as applied in the groundfish stock assessments, cannot be used owing to the lack of a time series of age-based information on the commercial catch and population.

The porbeagle shark is long-lived, bears live young and produces comparatively few offspring. Thus it is highly susceptible to over-exploitation. The porbeagle shark fishery appeared sustainable during the 1970s and 1980s when landings averaged 250t/yr. The levels experienced in the early 1960s did not appear sustainable (Figure 6). The precautionary catch level of 1500t in the 1994 Management Plan is not based upon estimates of stock abundance and may not be sustainable. Given the lack of knowledge of this resource and its sensitivity to over-exploitation, the 1995 level of fishing effort should not be exceeded for several years. As well, the 1995 catch level should be used as a harvest ceiling.

Relative to other species of sharks, the blue shark is faster growing with higher fecundity, offering more potential as a sustainable fishery if properly managed. Exploitation rates may already be high due to the bycatch in other pelagic, longline fisheries. Therefore, caution needs to be exercised in the development of a directed fishery for this species. It is not possible to make recommendations concerning blue shark harvest levels with the information available. The precautionary catch level of 250t in the 1995 Shark Management Plan is not based on an estimate of stock abundance. Any directed fishery should be considered exploratory until such time as the status of the resource is determined. The fishery must have a comprehensive scientific programme to collect the information necessary for management. Specific efforts are required to collect catch and effort data, including the species, size and sex composition of all shark catches, on a set-by-set basis. Research into the basic biology and stock structure of this species is also required. However, as substantial bycatches of blue sharks occur in tuna and swordfish longline fisheries, bycatch and incidental mortality rates in these fisheries also need to be determined. Similarly, the mortality associated with a hook and release recreational fishery should be determined.

The shortfin mako in Canada is at the northern limit of its range, and is associated with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. Therefore, it is unlikely that a directed fishery for shortfin mako shark in Canadian Atlantic waters is feasible. Also, this shark is part of a large pelagic species complex that includes other large sharks, tunas, swordfish and billfishes. It has been shown that the shortfin mako is closely associated with swordfish. A directed fishery for shortfin mako would likely result in high bycatch levels of swordfish and possibly bluefin tuna.

The biomass of spiny dogfish in the NW Atlantic is presently high and has increased in Canadian waters, especially in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. If the market expands and handling methods improve, there could be pressure to expand the Canadian fishery. Substantial gains could be realized through better use of fish discarded under current havesting practices. Not only would there be a greater yield from the present level of fishing mortality, but there would also be more accurate data to determine true exploitation rates, leading to more accurate assessments. Also, while the Canadian fishery is not yet causing significant mortality, the low fecundity, slow growth, high proportion of larger females taken by the US fishery, high discards and current level of exploitation all emphasize the need for management. Joint assessment and continuous management of this stock by Canada and the US should be considered.

4.4 The managers' perspective

The present view of management is that the fishery is proceeding well for an exploratory fishery. It is small (i.e. 22 licence holders in the Scotia-Fundy sector) with stringent controls ensure provision of information for both scientists and industry while providing economic benefit to industry as well. Meetings are held frequently between science and industry and information flow is better now that an understanding between science and industry has been established and proper monitoring programmes are in place.

4.5 Users perspective

The users' perspectives vary for the inshore and offshore fishermen. Inshore fishermen feel that management is doing a reasonable job with this fishery in that they do not pick sides on issues, hear out both inshore and offshore concerns, and believe science provides good evidence on matters and does not attempt to lead them astray. Offshore fishermen feel the fishery could be better managed if it was left with just the offshore fleet, i.e. without an inshore component. Their view is that the shark fishery has historically been an offshore fishery and that the inshore mainly takes shark catches as bycatch. Both sides agree that there is concern for the decreasing TAC levels in the past few years. They feel that evidence has not been obtained to justify this decrease when both groups record increases in their catches over the past year.

4.6 Evaluation of the management process

Based on the recent introduction of shark fishing in Atlantic Canada and the amount of information available, the management process appears to be adequate at this time. There has been a cautious management approach taking into consideration the susceptibility of sharks to fishing pressure. Previous shark fisheries have collapsed, or have been unable to maintain sizable landings, which would indicate an unsustainable fishery. By keeping prudent TAC levels and restricting the number of participants in the fishery, the possibility of a sustainable fishery may exist for the porbeagle as well as blue shark and spiny dogfish if demand by markets continues. An assessment of historical catch rate data is being conducted in March 1998 in support of setting the 1998 TAC.

It is clear that more biological information is needed on all species of shark occurring in Atlantic Canada to enable better decisions on their management and regulations must necessarily be based on incomplete information until the sharks'ecology, biology and behaviour are better understood.


5.1 The regulations

The regulations which apply to the shark fishery are summarized in Section 3.

5.2 Regulations and the communications process

Regulations are implemented through Ministerial discretion by the Minister for the Department of Fisheries and Ocean with enforcement to ensure regulations are followed. It is too early to determine if the regulations are effective as the shark fishery has only developed recently. No cost-benefit implications of enforcement have been conducted to date. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans handles any communications necessary. Information is made available to any parties involved through press releases, radio communications, internet access, and through meetings involving both the industry and science (pers. comm., C. Annand, DFO, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia).


6.1 Legal status

The Atlantic Shark Fishery, as stated previously, is a Scientific Monitoring Fishery, currently in an exploratory stage. As a result there are few licence holders and no intent to increase the present numbers at this time. The fishery is common property managed by the federal government under the Fisheries Act (Internet url: The federal government has total legal responsibility of the fishery (pers. comm., C. Jones, DFO, Halifax, Nova Scotia).

6.2 Enforcement problems

As the fishery for porbeagle and blue shark is year round and consists of only a small number of vessels, enforcement can be difficult. At present, most enforcement concerning the shark fishery is done incidentally to enforcement activities for other fisheries. Boardings occur occasionally on vessels at sea (i.e. two boardings in 1996, zero in 1997). Most of the monitoring of the fishery is done on shore by the Dockside Monitoring Programme. If concerns arise in this fishery, they would be investigated according to the degree of the problem.

6.3 Surveillance

Surveillance in Canadian waters is conducted in a hierarchical manner with the availability of resources restricted to the fishery with the highest priority. The groundfish fishery is considered to have the highest priority and therefore is a ‘platform’ for the rest of the fishery. Large pelagics (i.e. tuna, swordfish) receive about 5 to 8% surveillance effort compared to the other fisheries (i.e. lobster 20–25%, shellfish 30-50%, groundfish 20-25%). Sharks are included with the large pelagics but receive only a small percentage of surveillance since the shark fishery is incidental at this time to the other fisheries present (pers. comm., B. Wood, DFO, Halifax, Nova Scotia).

Surveillance is typically conducted by three methods: (1) surveillance vessels; (2) aerial observations; and (3), fisheries observers. At least one surveillance vessel is typically at sea at all times at a cost of $Can10 000/day. Ideally, two vessels should patrol the fisheries but this has not been possible because of the retirement of one of the surveillance ships. Plans to use Coast Guard vessels are currently being explored. Aerial observations are typically conducted 2 to 3 times a week at a cost of $Can2000/hr. Observers are the least costly method of surveillance at about $Can200/day but due to limited resources, many observers on vessels are industry funded unless there is an enforcement action on a particular vessel (pers. comm., B. Wood, DFO, Halifax, Nova Scotia).

6.4 The legal process

The legal processes concerning the shark fishery fall under the Fisheries Act as well as the Atlantic Fishery Regulations. Fishery observers have limited powers in what they are able to do when boarding or investigating a vessel. If investigations become necessary these can be carried out more easily on shore as warrants required for searches are easier to obtain. When at sea, observers try to reason with fishermen into their violated licences. Penalties are listed in Section 79 of the Fisheries Act (Internet url:

Licence holders are responsible for observing the conditions granted under the licence. In the case of an exploratory fishery, the conditions may change from year to year. The DFO determines if any regulations have been violated. If the violation is not directly obvious, the case is referred to the Justice department. In a limited entry fishery, the case would proceed to court where the degree of the penalty and fine can be determined. A departmental sanction may be evoked which would limit or prevent the accused from fishing for a certain period or in a certain area. These restricctions usually last one year.

Since the shark fishery is at present an exploratory fishery there is no need of a ministerial sanction if a violation occurs. The department has the power to revoke any licences if the licence holder violates their licence conditions. Fines can range from $Can200 to 200 000. If the violation is serious, the entire vessel and catch may be seized, the catch sold with proceeds directed to the Receiver General of Canada. The vessel is eventually returned to the owner so the department is not liable for any damage while in its possession (Pers. Comm. C. Jones, DFO, Halifax, Nova Scotia).


At this time, information on the costs and earnings of the Canadian Atlantic Shark Fishery is unavailable. Economic evaluations and distribution of the wealth acquired are impossible to determine as the fishery is small and supplies a limited market. With increased management procedures and statistical analysis, an economic basis may be possible for this fishery.


Current management costs of the shark fishery are uncertain, or, in most cases, unknown. With the fishery being a Scientific Monitoring Fishery the main focus is conservation and gathering information. Since no specific assessments of management costs are available at this time, only a rough outline can be formed. Management costs have been determined and broken down for other Atlantic fisheries (Table 6) and it is possible to apply similar methods to the shark fishery. Estimates of management costs can be allocated to strategic and annual planning, business and resource analysis, administration (service delivery), catch/effort monitoring, and enforcement (Table 7). These factors are elements of Burke's (1995) model of a fisheries management organization (Figure 7). Enforcement would typically have a high cost in other fisheries (i.e. lobster fishery) but as stated in Section 6, the shark fishery is not considered a priority due to limited DFO resources.

Table 6

Distribution of groundfish and herring management costs in Atlantic Canada by element of the Burke (1995) model (from O'Boyle and Zwanenburg 1997)
ElementGroundfish %Herring %
Strategic planning3.371.37
Annual planning1.920.90
Service delivery12.9912.24
Business analysis3.566.24
Resource analysis30.9656.45
Fishing entitlements0.110.16
Catch/effort monitoring2.522.81
Table 7

Distribution of shark management costs by module in Atlantic Canada (estimated values in $Can)
ElementOperation and managementSalaryTotal
Planning (strategic and annual)5 00020 00025 000
Analysis (business and resource)1000020 00030 000
Administration5 0005 00010 000
Catch/Effort Monitoring5 0005 00010 000
Enforcement5 0005 00010 000
Total ($Can)30 00055 00085 000

It appears that the costs to manage the shark fishery are minimal when compared to other fisheries. For example, if we use the ex-vessel price for porbeagle of $Can3.30/kg and the landed value of 1997 (1211t, Table 3) we are dealing with a fishery worth 2 to 3 million Canadian dollars with current management costs of approximately one hundred thousand dollars. In comparison, landed value of groundfish and lobster fisheries in Atlantic Canada for 1994 was $Can93 million and $Can136–163 million respectively. Management costs for these two fisheries were 20% and 5–6% of the landed values, respectively (O'Boyle and Zwanenburg 1997).

Figure 7

Elements of the Burke (1995) model of a fisheries management organization

Figure 7

If the estimates from Table 7 are compared to those values in Table 6, it appears that relatively more costs are allocated to planning and analysis in the shark fishery than in either the groundfish or herring fisheries. Administration, catch/effort monitoring and enforcement appear to be close to values found in the herring fishery, another pelagic fishery. Clearly, the above factors have to be investigated further to determine which elements need improving. Perhaps after the information is compiled from the 1997–99 Management Plan areas such as management costs for the shark fishery will be further analysed.


In writing this paper I have benefited from the work of many people dedicated to the fisheries, from both management and industry, who have provided invaluable time and information necessary for this project. Special thanks go to Bob O'Boyle and Peter Hurley for their thoughtful discussions, critical insights and conscientious reviews. I would like to thank Chris Jones for taking time to discuss various sections of this project in which information was limited and to extend my gratitude to Christine Annand, Leo Brander, Lee Burke, Linda Hunt, Tom Hurlbut, Jim McMillian, Jim Nelson, Ken Rodman, Anne O'Sullivan and Brian Wood for their time, information and interest.

I would also like to thank the members of industry with whom I discussed their views and concerns of the fishery - Donny Hart, Jay Lugar, Mike Pittman, Eric Roe and Betty Seto.


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Hurley, P. C. F. (1996, in press). A Review of the Fishery for Pelagic Sharks in Atlantic Canada. Fish. Res.

Joyce, W. N. 1997. Migration and Population Structure of the Porbeagle Shark, Lamna nasus, in the Northwest Atlantic. BSc honours thesis Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. 54pp.

McRuer, J. and T. Hurlbut 1996. The Status of Spiny Dogfish (Squalus acanthias, Linnaeus) in the Bay of Fundy, Scotian Shelf and Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence (NAFO Divisions 4TVWX) in 1995. DFO Atlantic Fisheries Research Document 75:27pp.

Myklevoll, S. 1989. Norway's Porbeagle Fishery. Working paper presented at the ICES Study Group on Elasmobranch Fisheries, Dublin, Ireland, 26–28 April 1989.

O'Boyle, R. N., G.M. Fowler, P. C. F. Hurley, M. A. Showell, and W. T. Stobo 1996a. Observations on the Porbeagle Shark (Lamna nasus) in the North Atlantic. DFO Atlantic Fisheries Research Document 24:27pp.

O'Boyle, R. N., G.M. Fowler, P. C. F. Hurley, M. A. Showell, W. T. Stobo, and C. Jones 1996b. Observations on Blue Shark (Prionace glauca) in the North Atlantic. DFO Atlantic Fisheries Research Document 25: 22pp.

O'Boyle, R. N., G.M. Fowler, P. C. F. Hurley, M. A. Showell, W. T. Stobo, and C. Jones 1996c. Observations on the Shortfin Mako Shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) in the North Atlantic. DFO Atlantic Fisheries Research Document 26: 16pp.

O'Boyle, R. N., and K. C. T. Zwanenburg 1997. A Comparison of the Benefits and Costs of Quota verses Effort-Based Fisheries Management. In Developing and Sustaining World Fisheries Resources: The State of Science and Management: 2nd World Fisheries Congress Proceedings:283–290.

Salsbury, J. 1986. Spiny Dogfish in Canada. Canadian Industry Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 169: 57pp.

Scott, W. B. and M. G. Scott 1988. Atlantic Fishes of Canada. Canadian Bulletin of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 239:pp. 20–22,.

Woyewoda, A. D., K. E. Spencer, and E. G. Bligh 1986. Frozen Storage Stability of Dogfish Fillets. DFO Fisheries Development Branch Rep. No. 117. July 1991: 28pp.

Appendix 1
(from 1997–99 Shark Management Plan, DFO, 1997)

Large Pelagic Receiving Tally Plus Instructions

Complete one like for each fish landed. If additional space is required, please use another sheet.
#Spicies Dressed Weight Dressed Length*SexDressed Condition
Gutted (head off)=3,
Gutted (head & tail off)=4
Specie NameSpecie Code

*See back of Sheet for Instructions on species measurements.

Large Pelagic Receiving Tally Instructions

Tally sheets are filled out by the dockside monitor at the time of weighout. A tally is completed for each weighout. A completed Large Pelagic Receiving Tally must be submitted with the Swordfish/Shark Longline Monitoring Document before authorization for another trip is issued.

The top part of the tally is to identify the vessel and the trip making the landing. The bottom part is used to record the observations on each fish. There are 40 rows per sheet, one row per fish. If more than 40 fish need to be recorded, use another sheet, fill in only the confirmation number on the following sheets, and indicate on the top right hand corner of each sheet that the sheets are 1 of 2 and 2 of 2 respectively. Add additional sheets as required. At the end of the weighout, staple all the tally sheets for one weighout together.

A. Header Information

The Vessel CFV, Vessel Name, License No., Trip No., Confirmation No., Time (24 hour clock), Date, and Port Landed are to be transcribed from the trip's Swordfish/Shark Longline Monitoring Document which the captain is required to present to you at weighout. Pay particular attention to transcribing the confirmation no. correctly. Fill in the Gear Type as per the appropriate code given. Fill in the NAFO Division that the captain that he says he spent the majority of his trip in.

B. Individual Fish Observations

Each fish is to be identified by species, by name and code. The latter are available at the top of the column. For ease, you may want to put one name and code at the top of the column and then put an arrow down for the measurements of a run of the same species. Record the dressed weight in pounds for each fish. The dressed length, in cm, will differ for swordfish, all tunas, and sharks. See the back of the form for the correct measurement to take. If needed, have one of the plant hands assist you in obtaining this measurement. For swordfish and tuna weighouts, it will not be possible to record sex. In these cases, enter code 9. In the case of sharks, the claspers should be evident and thus record the sex as appropriate. However, don't guess and if necessary, enter 9. Finally, enter the appropriate condition code as indicated at the top of the column. If the fish are landed in a condition for which there is not a code, right down the condition i.e. gutted - head on in the Dressed Condition column.

Appendix 2
(from 1997-99 Shark Management Plan, DFO, 1997)


One log should be submitted for each fishing trip whether or not fish are landed. Logs must be submitted before the authorization number to fish for another trip is issued.

A. General information

Please ensure that all the information on the top-left-hand portion of the log document is filled in. The authorization number to fish must be obtained from a DFO approved operations centre before you are allowed to go longline fishing for swordfish or sharks. A new authorization number is required for each fishing trip.

B. Longline gear

Fill in specifics on the gear including: ganging lengthin fathoms, hook size, hook type (e.g., circle or ‘j’) and distance between hooks in fathoms.

C. Hail and landing information

Fill in date sailed and landed, port sailed and landed, the time landed (in the 24-hour clock), and the wharf landed. All of this information in addition to estimated weights of fish caught by species, must be hailed to the operations centre before landing in order to obtain the confirmation number. This confirmation number must be recorded in this section of the log document.

D. Log information

On the log portion of the document, each line should contain individual set information. There is space enough for 14 sets, which should cover an entire trip. If the trip is longer than this, another sheet should be used to complete the trip. It is essential that all of the log information is filled out clearly and completely. For the type of bait, indicate the species (mackerel, herring, squid, etc.). The swordfish estimated catch are recorded in 3 categories: swordfish kept (number and estimated weight in pounds round), the number of swordfish discarded alive, and the number of swordfish discarded dead. The tuna and shark estimated catches include all fish caught (kept plus discarded), and must include the number of fish and total weight of fish (pounds round) by species for each set. Please indicate the particular species of tuna or shark caught using the codes as follows: bluefin = bft; yellowfin = yft; bigeye = bet; albacore = alb; blue shark = bls; shortfin mako = sms; porbeagle = pbs. Other species not listed (e.g., other species of shark, marlin, etc.) Can be written in and the catch for each set recorded. Please note the weather conditions (wind speed and direction, rain, etc.) For each set.

E. Weighout slip and signatures

Fill in the name of the company buying the fish and the main NAFO area fished. At the bottom of the weighout slip, the captain's name must be filled in with a signature from him/her to indicate the log information is correct. The buyer will fill out the remainder of the weighout slip. The buyer must fill in the weighed out amounts of fish for each species indicating the condition of the fish (e.g. dressed head off, tail off; dressed head off, tail on; dressed head on, tail off; dressed head on, tail on; round), the number of fish and the total weight in pounds. The buyer must also indicate a price per pound for each species. When the buyer has completed the weighout slip, an agent for the buyer must fill in his/her name and sign in the space provided.

A completed large pelagic receiving tally must be submitted with the swordfish/shark longline monitoring document before authorization for another trip is issued.




One log is to be completed by each licence holder for each trip. On each trip's log, one line is to be filled out every time that you catch a shark, whether or not you release it. The log should be filled out while you are still on the water. This reduces the chance that it will be put off to another day or details being forgotten.

The entries on the log are as follows:


The captain of the boat enters his/her name here.

Licence #

Place the number from your recreational shark fishing licence here.

Vessel Name

This is the vessel name, or registration number, if available, of the boat fished from.

Date (dd/mm/yy)

Date of fishing trip (e.g., 7/7/96).


Port sailed from (and returned to if different).

Hours Fished

Time, to nearest hour, that you actually fished, i.e., the length of time your fishing gear was in the water. If chumming occurred prior to putting the fishing lines in the water, include the time between the start of chumming and the placing of lines in the water.


Enter the name of the shark (blue, mako, porbeagle, etc.) caught. Refer to the Species Identification Sheets in this package.

Latitude/Longitude (deg min sec)

If using GPS or LORAN, please include point location (latitude and longitude in degrees, minutes and seconds) of where the shark was caught. If this is not available, include as specific a location description as possible.

Length (ft in)

Enter the estimated total length (tip of snout to longest tip of the tail) to nearest foot and inches. If you choose to give measurements in centimetres, please indicate the units of measure used.

Weight (lbs)

This only applies to sharks that are landed. If so, the requirements of Dockside Monitoring must be followed. In this case, when the Dockside Monitor records the shark's weight on the Large Pelagics Receiving Tally, obtain this information and enter it on your log, to the nearest pound. This will allow cross-checking of the information at a later date.


This field is to indicate whether you released the shark or kept the shark to be landed. Place an “R” in the field if you released the shark or a “K” in the shark was kept.

Sex (M/F/U)

Indicate whether the shark is a male (M), a female (F), or sex is undetermined (U). Refer to the Shark Identification Sheets provided here for help.

Licence Holder's Signature

You sign the log.

Dockside Observer Name, ID# and Signature

Have the Dockside Monitor print his name, put on his ID# and then sign the log.

Return to:

Now the log is complete. If you are participating in a derby, there will be someone designated to collect all these logs. You are to ensure that these logs will be sent to the address below within two weeks of the end of the derby.

Recreational Shark Monitoring Program Fisheries and Oceans Canada P.O. Box 550 Halifax, NS B3J 2S7

Fax: (902) 426-3479



Vessel NameDate (dd/mm/yy)Port(s)Hours FishedSpeciesLocation (Lat/Long deg min sec)Length(ft in)Weight (ibs)Rel/KeptSex (M/F/U)
Licence Holder's Signature Dockside Observer Name and ID# 
 Dockside Observer Signature 

Return to : Recreational Shark Monitoring Program
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
P.O.Box 550
Halifax, NS B3J 2S7
Fax: (902) 426-3479

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