SEATTLE– The news last week that two Seattle area fishers caught sixgill sharks in Elliott Bay has prompted the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to close the fishery.
The Department took action today to reduce the sixgill shark bag limit to zero in Puget Sound. Catch and release fishing is still allowed under the new rule.
Although sport shark fishing traditionally has been legal in Washington waters, state fisheries managers believed there was minimal sport fishing effort for sixgill sharks.
However, recent news reports that sport fishers took at least two sixgill sharks from Puget Sound raised new concerns about the sharks.
Sharks are typically slow growing and late to mature, and have relatively low reproductive rates. Because of these factors there is special concern for their survival under a targeted fishery.
Sharks in general have been over-exploited in most areas of the world and special concern is warranted when species in low numbers become sought out in a specific fishery.
The sixgill sharks, believed to be uncommon in Puget Sound, are deepwater dwellers which move into shallow waters to feed. Their diet includes other sharks, hake and seals. They are sluggish swimmers and are not aggressive toward humans.
Most of the 2,021 pounds of sixgill shark harvested since 1970 has been incidental take resulting from commercial fishing for other species
Sixgill sharks are among 11 shark species found in Washington waters. Other shark species include sevengill, thresher, white, basking, salmon, brown cat, soupfin, blue, Pacific sleeper and dogfish.
Sixgill sharks are grey, brown or black in color and have six gill slits on either side of the head. They can exceed 26 feet in length.