Sharks of Virginia

scientists have succeeded in finding Sandbar Sharks when they search at historical fixed stations in the Longline Survey
scientists have succeeded in finding Sandbar Sharks when they search at historical fixed stations in the Longline Survey
Source: Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), VIMS Longline Catch, June 2020

The Sandbar Shark is the most common large shark found off Virginia in the Atlantic Ocean and in Chesapeake Bay. Juveniles use the Chesapeake Bay as a nursery, while adolescents and adults feed in both state and Federal waters near the coastline during the summer. They graze along the bottom in waters up to 655 feet (200 meters) deep, capturing fish, mollusks, and crustaceans.

The species migrates south for the winter, after a summer and fall of feeding. Commercial fishermen harvest Sandbar Sharks for their large fins, used by restaurants to make shark-fin soup. Overfishing depressed the population until the state began to manage the species in 1990, and the Federal government began conservation efforts in 1993.1

Six other shark species are common in Virginia waters, and in Federal waters outside the three-mile limit. They are the Smooth Dogfish, Atlantic Sharpnose Shark, Dusky Shark, Blacktip Shark, Spinner Shark, and Scalloped Hammerhead. Three other species are occasional visitors - Smooth Hammerhead Shark, Bull Shark, and Tiger Shark.2


Source: Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Tagging Sharks with the Smithsonian Movement of Life Initiative

Harvesting the Dusky Shark was encouraged in the 1970's and 1980's, when fishery managers thought that would help reduce predation on commercial fish species whose populations had plummeted. After recognizing that the Dusky Shark was at risk of disappearing, a protected zone was created off the coast of North Carolina. Use of bottom longline gear was banned from January through July, when the sharks were thought to congregate the.

By 2020, inventories have revealed that the numbers of Dusky Shark first grow in the protected zone starting in November, and they migrate north from it in May. Warmer waters from a changing climate may explain the different pattern. Biologists realized that the dates for the ban on bottom longline gear would need to be revised, to protect the population.3

Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Stream

Virginia and the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)

Whale Disposal

Links

References

1. "Sandbar Shark," Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), https://www.vims.edu/research/departments/fisheries/programs/sharks/species/sandbar.php (last checked November 19, 2020)
2. "Sharks of Virginia," Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), https://www.vims.edu/research/departments/fisheries/programs/sharks/species/index.php (last checked November 19, 2020)
3. "Sharks Tags Reveal Endangered Species Returning To Natural Refuge," Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, November 18, 2020, https://www.vims.edu/research/departments/fisheries/programs/sharks/species/index.php (last checked November 19, 2020)


Habitats and Species
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