Best Practices to Safely Release Unintentionally Hooked Sharks

Effective January 1, 2022, no person shall intentionally or knowingly capture or entangle any shark, whether alive or dead, or kill any shark, within state marine waters [§188-40.8]. Any person violating this section, or any rule adopted pursuant to this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine of up to $10,000 for each shark captured or entangled, whether alive or dead, or killed in violation of this section.

Fishers should avoid areas where sharks are present or are known to frequent, especially where shark species feed, breed or give birth. Fishers who accidentally capture a shark are asked to follow the below best practices, for the safety of the fisher and the shark.

— Only use non-stainless circle hooks to encourage quick release if a shark is accidentally hooked. If a fisher is unable to safety remove the hook, non-stainless steel circle hooks corrode quicker and increase the survival of a hooked shark.

— There are commercially available dehookers that allow removal of the hook, but sometimes just cutting the leader is the quickest, safest choice, as long as the hook is non-stainless.

— Shore-based fishers should not remove the shark from the water. Always leave the shark in enough water so that it can continue to breathe through its mouth and gills.

— Never drag a live shark onto the beach, over rocks or sand. Sharks do not have a rigid skeleton. When removed from the water they lose buoyancy, and their organs can be crushed by their own body weight while out of water.

— PREVENT LINE ENTANGLEMENT: Keep your trace tight to avoid the shark getting entangled in your fishing line.

— HANDLING: Never pull a shark by the tail or pick it up by the gill slits or spiracles.

— If a shark swims away after release, its survival is not guaranteed. Many sharks die within one to 12 hours after being hooked. Releasing the shark quickly after hooking is the best way to ensure its survival.

Sharks are important apex predator species in our oceans. Unlike many fish that lay thousands of eggs, the reproduction rate of sharks and rays are very low, with only a few births at a time. Thus, while not only is it illegal to intentionally capture a shark, removing sharks from our ocean has negative impacts on other fish species, local culture and our entire marine ecosystem.