Administrative Code

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Virginia Administrative Code
Title 4. Conservation And Natural Resources
Agency 20. Marine Resources Commission
Chapter 490. Pertaining to Sharks

4VAC20-490-41. Commercial harvest limitations.

A. Beginning January 1 of any given year it shall be unlawful for any person to possess on board a vessel or to land in Virginia more than a combined total of 36 commercially permitted aggregated large coastal sharks and commercially permitted hammerhead sharks in one 24-hour period, unless the Marine Resources Commission has posted notice of any change to possession limits on its website at The person who owns or operates the vessel is responsible for compliance with the provisions of this subsection.

B. It shall be unlawful for any person to fillet a shark until that shark is offloaded at the dock or on shore, except smooth dogfish as provided in subsection C of this section. A licensed commercial fisherman may eviscerate and remove the head of any shark, but the tail and all fins of any shark, except smooth dogfish as provided in subsection C of this section, shall remain naturally attached to the carcass through landing. The fins of any shark, except smooth dogfish, may be partially cut but some portion of the fin shall remain attached, until the shark is landed.

C. Virginia licensed commercial fishermen may completely process smooth dogfish at sea prior to landing when the harvest of smooth dogfish comprises at least 25% by weight of the total retained harvest, except that it shall be unlawful for anyone to land or possess on board any vessel any amount of processed smooth dogfish whereby the total weight of fins exceeds 12% of the total dressed weight of any smooth dogfish.

D. It shall be unlawful to possess, on board a vessel, or to land in Virginia any species of shark, after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries has closed the fishery for that species in federal waters.

E. There are no commercial trip limits or possession limits for smooth dogfish or sharks on the lists of commercially permitted pelagic species or commercially permitted nonblacknose species.

F. Except as described in this section, it shall be unlawful for any person to take, harvest, land, or possess in Virginia any blacktip, bull, great hammerhead, lemon, nurse, scalloped hammerhead, silky, smooth hammerhead, spinner, or tiger shark from May 15 through July 15. These sharks may be transported by vessel, in Virginia waters, during the closed season provided the sharks were caught in a legal manner consistent with federal regulations outside Virginia waters and:

1. The vessel does not engage in fishing in Virginia waters while possessing the species listed in this subsection; and

2. All fishing gear aboard the vessel is stowed and not available for immediate use.

G. It shall be unlawful for any person to retain, possess, or purchase any commercially prohibited shark or any research only shark, except as provided in subsection I of this section.

H. All sharks harvested from state waters or federal waters, for commercial purposes, shall only be sold to a federally permitted shark dealer.

I. The commissioner may grant exemptions from the seasonal closure, quota, possession limit, size limit, gear restrictions, and prohibited species restrictions. Exemptions shall be granted only for display or research purposes. Any person granted an exemption for the harvest of any shark for research or display shall report the species, weight, location caught, and gear used for each shark collected within 30 days. Any person granted a permit to possess any shark for research or display shall provide the commissioner on an annual basis information on the location and status of the shark throughout the life of the shark.

Statutory Authority

§ 28.2-201 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 22, Issue 8, eff. December 1, 2005; amended, Virginia Register Volume 25, Issue 14, eff. March 1, 2009; Volume 26, Issue 6, eff. November 1, 2009; Volume 26, Issue 14, eff. March 1, 2010; Errata, 26:16 VA.R. April 12, 2010; amended, Virginia Register Volume 27, Issue 23, eff. July 1, 2011; Volume 30, Issue 10, eff. January 1, 2014; Volume 30, Issue 15, eff. March 1, 2014; Volume 32, Issue 15, eff. March 1, 2016; Volume 33, Issue 6, eff. November 2, 2016; Volume 34, Issue 19, eff. May 1, 2018.

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