Shark Fisheries Management

  • Tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier
    Tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier   These occasional visitors to Virginia waters are usually found at least 10 miles offshore. They tend to come inshore at night and move into deeper waters during the day. They are opportunistic feeders on bony fishes, sharks, rays, sea turtles, sea snakes, sea birds, marine mammals, carrion, and garbage. Maximum length is 18 feet (females).   Photo courtesy Dennis Liberson.
  • Scalloped hammerhead, Sphyrna lewini
    Scalloped hammerhead, Sphyrna lewini   In the mid-Atlantic, these sharks migrate seasonally, over-wintering in warmer Gulf Stream waters south of Cape Hatteras. They arrive in Virginia coastal waters in June, and return south along the coast from August to October. They eat menhaden, mullet, flounder, and drums, crustaceans, stingrays, and small sharks. Maximum length is 14 ft.   Photo courtesy Dean Grubbs.
  • Sandbar shark, Carcharhinus plumbeus
    Sandbar shark, Carcharhinus plumbeus   These sharks are typically found over muddy or sandy bottoms to depths of more than 200 m (655 feet). They primarily eat small bottom fishes, mollusks, and crustaceans. The Chesapeake Bay is one of the most important sandbar shark nursery areas in the western Atlantic.   Photo courtesy Chris Magel.
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Sharks are key components of marine ecosystems and the target of both commercial and recreational fisheries. Most shark species are highly vulnerable to overfishing because they don’t reach sexual maturity until 5-20 years old, and produce only 8-10 pups every other year. Recovery of shark populations from severe depletion generally takes decades, which underscores the need for reliable scientific data, effective management, and conservation measures for these species.

The Virginia Shark Monitoring and Assessment Program (VASMAP) is a key source of data for better understanding and management of sharks in the mid-Atlantic and globally. The program is designed to provide detailed analyses of relative abundance, habitat use, age, growth, reproduction, trophic dynamics, and demographics of dominant species in Chesapeake Bay and coastal Virginia. Survey results are used directly by the

Relative Abundance

Data from the VIMS Shark Survey show that populations of large coastal sharks were severely depleted between the late 1970s and the early 1990s. These data informed the implementation of shark-management measures in Virginia in 1990, and by the federal government in 1993. These measures have led to a slow but steady recovery in most mid-Atlantic shark stocks.