Canada's National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks

Canada's National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (NPOA-Sharks) outlines the status of shark populations in Canada's fisheries waters and current measures to monitor, assess, and manage these populations and their related fisheries. It also proposes remedial steps that are being implemented to fill the existing gaps in today's knowledge, conservation, and management of sharks.

Shark species can be found in the fisheries waters off Canada's Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic coasts. Some of these populations are considered to be local or residential populations; others may frequent our waters through their migrations along vast areas of Atlantic and Pacific Ocean waters. The NPOA-Sharks focuses on the shark species most commonly found in Canadian waters: 27 sharks, 29 skates, and four chimaeras.

Only a few shark species are directly targeted by commercial fisheries in Canada. For example, porbeagle sharks and thorny skate in the Atlantic, spiny dogfish sharks in both the Atlantic and the Pacific, and big skates in the Pacific. Other fisheries may catch shark species incidentally as bycatch, such as blue shark and shortfin mako shark in the Atlantic, and longnose skate in the Pacific. Domestically, Canada manages these directed and bycatch fisheries through integrated fisheries management plans, together with surveillance and enforcement programs. Such efforts are guided by the principles of the precautionary approach.

Internationally, Canada plays its part in the management and conservation of shark species through regional fisheries management organizations protection measures, including those within the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization. These measures, include, for example, complete reporting of all shark catches, full use of shark carcasses and restrictions on shark finning, and the reduction and release of shark bycatch. Canada's international initiatives also include working with other countries to exchange scientific information and practical expertise.

The NPOA-Sharks identifies six main areas where action is being taken to improve the way shark species are managed in Canada:

  • Enhance data collection and scientific research;
  • Adopt ecosystem and precautionary approaches in fisheries management renewal;
  • Standardize reporting and management plan processes;
  • Reduce bycatch and increase reporting of discard mortality;
  • Extend conservation and management measures to the Arctic; and
  • Enhance outreach and education efforts both in Canada and internationally.

At the regional and international level, Canada will also seek to improve conservation and enforcement measures for sharks in regional fisheries management organizations of which Canada is a member.

Canada's NPOA-Sharks was developed in accordance with the principles and provisions of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.

The full text of the NPOA-Sharks can be downloaded at