Shark derbies

Scientific team measuring a shark.

Scientific team measuring a shark.

The Maritimes Recreational Shark Fishery has been active since 1994. Biological data collected from the recreational fishery is used to develop an assessment of stock status and the general health of the population, particularly that of blue sharks. For the purpose of scientific data collection, participants of the recreational shark fishery are required to provide information on length, weight, sex and location of every shark that is caught, whether or not it is landed or released. By monitoring trends in this data from year to year, and in conjunction with the more detailed information collected at the shark derbies, the scientists at the Shark Research Laboratory are able to detect population-level changes which are indicators of low stock abundance or overfishing. Biological indicators such as the size composition, size at sexual maturity and catch per fishing effort are particularly useful for detecting problems with the population. While there are social and economic benefits to a healthy shark fishery, the fishery must be sustainable over the long term. In other words, the populations of each of the shark species must be conserved at safe levels.

Shark fishing derbies are held each year in waters off Nova Scotia, usually during the months of July, August and September. These are commercial or community-sponsored events, and are not sponsored by DFO or the Shark Research Lab. However, the catches provide excellent samples for scientific examination, and thus all catches are closely monitored. The species most often caught is the blue shark. However the occasional thresher or porbeagle shark is also caught. Shortfin mako sharks, like the one in the photo (right), are not uncommon in Canadian waters, although this particular specimen is unusually large. Other species of shark do occur in Nova Scotian waters. However many of them prefer warmer waters that are associated with the Gulf Stream, or deeper waters which make them unlikely to be caught by recreational anglers.

2017 Summer Shark Derby Schedule

Riverport

Cancelled for 2017

Petit de Grat

Captains meeting Aug. 10
Shark Derby Aug. 11

Lockeport

Captains meeting Aug. 11
Shark Derby Aug. 12-13

Louisbourg

Captains meeting Aug. 18
Shark Derby Aug. 19 (weather date Aug. 20)

Yarmouth

Tentatively!
Captains meeting Aug. 11
Shark Derby Aug. 12-13

Figure 7 : A 3.3 metre (10'10") mako shark weighing 492 kg (1082 lbs) caught at the 2004 Yarmouth shark derby.

A 3.3 metre (10'10") mako shark weighing 492 kg (1082 lbs) caught at the 2004 Yarmouth shark derby.

Recreational Shark Fishery

If you are planning to fish recreationally for sharks, you will need to apply to DFO for a licence. Those who already have a licence can download the Recreational Shark Fishery Summary Document, Instructions for Completing the Recreational Shark Summary Document, or an example of a completed summary document. Additional information (including how to identify the species of your shark or determine its sex) is also available here ( Additional information).

Below is a map of the area just off Halifax along with the location of many of the blue sharks that have been caught during recent Halifax-Dartmouth shark derbies. Blue sharks are usually caught using squid, mackerel or herring as bait and in water depths of at least 100 feet (preferably deeper), although the bait is fished relatively near the surface. Some fishers chum the water first to attract any sharks that are nearby. Water temperatures above 18 degrees Celsius are usually associated with greater catches.

Figure 8 : Map of the area just off Halifax along with the location of many of the blue sharks that have been caught during recent Halifax-Dartmouth shark derbies

Map of the area just off Halifax along with the location of many of the blue sharks that have been caught during recent Halifax-Dartmouth shark derbies

The number of shark derbies and participants has been increasing ever since their inception, and biological data has been collected at each of them every year. Most of the sharks caught during the derbies are landed rather than released. It is from these animals that lengths, weights, sexual maturity and stomach contents can be recorded and analyzed. Vertebrae are sometimes collected for age determination. The data collected up until 2004 has now been analyzed and a first report on the impact of shark derbies on the health of the blue shark population has been published. The report Influence of Recreational and Commercial Fishing on the Blue Shark (Prionace Glauca) Population in Atlantic Canadian Waters found that blue sharks caught at shark derbies accounted for only 3% of the blue sharks killed annually in Canadian waters, and thus were having a negligible effect on the population. Accidental bycatch from commercial fisheries was the major source of fishing mortality on blue sharks, and was probably responsible for a recent modest decline in population numbers. Almost all of this mortality comes from foreign boats fishing outside of Canadian waters. Nevertheless, the Shark Research Laboratory will continue to monitor the population closely.

Beginning in the summer of 2006, the rules for all derbies were changed. Under the new rules, all blue sharks less than 240 cm (8 feet) are to be released alive, preferably after tagging. Tagging is voluntary, but is strongly encouraged by DFO Science, and a tagging kit is provided to all fishing captains before the start of the derby. Along with tag number, derby participants report information such as length, sex, location and water temperature on their tagging forms, which are turned in to DFO biologists at the end of each derby fishing day. Sharks larger than 240 cm (8 feet) can continue to be landed, as can sharks of any size other than blue sharks. Live release of porbeagle sharks, which have been listed as endangered by COSEWIC, is also encouraged. The large numbers of sharks tagged by derby participants will be of great scientific value to DFO Science, since the recapture rates will be used to provide better estimates of blue shark mortality rates. Click here for information on tag recaptures.

Number of catches per year

The number of sharks caught per year at each derby can be found in the table below. Note that the rules for landing sharks at derbies were changed in 2006, which resulted in fewer sharks being landed.

Sharks Caught per Year per Shark Derby

Year Derby Number of Sharks Caught Number of Participants
1993 Halifax 94 94+
1994 Halifax 65 65+
1994 Lockeport 15 15+
1994 Split Crow 37 37+
1995 Halifax 80 62+
1995 Split Crow 10 18+
1995 Dartmouth 32 32+
1996 Lockeport 17 61+
1996 Split Crow 17 17+
1996 Dartmouth 29 34+
1996 Eastern Passage 52 26+
1997 Halifax 95 91+
1997 Lockeport 15 14+
1997 Split Crow 51 77+
1997 Eastern Passage 112 134+
1998 Lockeport 53 160
1998 Split Crow 9 108
1998 Dartmouth 68 181
1998 Eastern Passage 123 210
1998 Yarmouth 16 74
1999 Lockeport 74 100
1999 Split Crow 31 117
1999 Dartmouth 89 180
1999 Yarmouth 106 180
2000 Lockeport 100 84+
2000 Halifax 29 120
2000 Dartmouth 32 140
2000 Yarmouth 77 312
2001 Eastern Passage 25 176
2001 Lockeport 13 140
2001 Yarmouth 76 349
2001 Brooklyn 37 185
2001 Halifax 13 71
2002 Eastern Passage 37 188
2002 Riverport 17 35
2002 Lockeport 123 108+
2002 Yarmouth 103 318
2002 Brooklyn 43 330
2002 Halifax 9 91
2003 Eastern Passage 53 199
2003 Riverport 32 76
2003 Lockeport 64 221
2003 Yarmouth 84 348
2003 Brooklyn 111 307
2003 Halifax 2 50
2004 Eastern Passage 49 143
2004 Riverport 14 49
2004 Lockeport 55 119
2004 Yarmouth 77 260
2004 Brooklyn 68 298
2005 Riverport 13 36
2005 Lockeport 32 127
2005 Yarmouth 17 225
2005 Brooklyn 72 216
2006 Riverport 4 33
2006 Lockeport 6 102
2006 Yarmouth 61 188
2006 Brooklyn 35 201
2006 Eastern Passage 5 158
2007 Riverport 1 40
2007 Lockeport 9 98
2007 Yarmouth 72 156
2007 Brooklyn 10 162
2008 Riverport 4 33
2008 Lockeport 14 86
2008 Yarmouth 118 147
2008 Brooklyn 10 129
2009 Riverport 5 28
2009 Lockeport 38 91
2009 Yarmouth 48 167
2009 Brooklyn 15 76
2010 Riverport 5 34
2010 Lockeport 47 168
2010 Yarmouth 44 110
2010 Brooklyn 28
2010 Jeddore 0 11
2011 Riverport 1 38
2011 Lockeport 37 50
2011 Yarmouth 41 122
2011 Brooklyn 7
2011 Jeddore 0 28
2011 Petit De Grat 13 76
2012 Riverport 10 46
2012 Lockeport 46 114
2012 Yarmouth 46 137
2012 Brooklyn 15 85
2012 Jeddore 26 49
2012 Petit De Grat 20 112
2012 Louisbourg 4 7 boats
2013 Riverport 4 42
2013 Lockeport 21 NK
2013 Yarmouth 56 NK
2013 Brooklyn 4 123
2013 Petit De Grat 30 76
2013 Louisbourg 1 NK
2014 Riverport 12 78
2014 Lockport 22 77
2014 Yarmouth 31 111
2014 Petit De Grat 35 113
2014 Louisbourg 9 132
2015 Riverport 7 80
2015 Lockport 14 65
2015 Petit De Grat 15 173
2015 Louisbourg 13 142
2016 Riverport 8 63
2016 Lockeport 11 87
2016 Petit de Grat 9 135
2016 Louisbourg 22 153

Total weight landed per year

The total weight landed per year at the blue shark derbies can be found in the table below. Note that the rules for landing sharks at derbies were changed in 2006, which resulted in fewer sharks being landed.

Weights landed per year
Year Total Round Weight Landed (kg)
1993 3642
1994 5048
1995 6464
1996 5013
1997 10315
1998 10406
1999 14598
2000 15977
2001 7735
2002 20026
2003 12548
2004 11278
2005 7159
2006 10190
2007 8753
2008 13484
2009 10949
2010 12667
2011 9406
2012 13417
2013 10077
2014 8283
2015 3118
2016 3447

Interesting shark derby statistics

  • Heaviest shark: A 492 kg (round weight) mako at Yarmouth 2004
  • Heaviest blue shark: 211 kg (round weight) at Riverport 2008
  • Longest shark: 366 cm (total length) at Split Crow 1996
  • Average size of blue shark caught: 50 kg (round weight), 193 cm forklength
  • Overall sex ratio: 50% male, 50% female
  • Other species landed: 186 kg (round weight) thresher at Brooklyn 2008 and 132 kg (round weight) porbeagle at Yarmouth 2003

Useful data and mapped data