‘Best Practice’ Shark Handling Guide

This guide focuses on boat angling but can be applied to all commercial and recreational fishing activity.

  • When catch-and-release angling, the welfare of the shark* is the primary concern. Have all the necessary equipment to hand before you start fishing.
  • Use barbless or circle hooks for easier release of fish.
  • If possible, release the shark from the side of the boat – only inboard a fish when absolutely necessary. 
  • If a shark is deep-hooked, cut the line as close as possible to the hook and release it immediately. 
  • Bronze finished hooks will rust out, and there are various tools available to assist with deep hook removal. 
  • If removing the shark from the water, lift it horizontally while supporting as much of the abdomen as possible.  
  • As sharks have no ribcage, abdominal support to protect soft organs is vital.  
  • Never lift a shark, skate or ray only by its tail. Take care not to squeeze the gills as these delicate structures can easily be damaged.    
  • Never use a gaff. If the fish cannot be reached, a landing net can be used, and if this is not possible, try to lean out over the side of the boat and release the shark. 
  • A large cloth or wet towel soaked in seawater and placed over the head and eyes can often help keep a shark calm.
  • If sharks have had to be in-boarded, don’t put them on warm or dry surfaces.
  • If the fish is to be weighed, lay out the sling before landing. Restrict any unsupported movement while weighing.
  • If photographs are necessary, have cameras ready before landing and take the photos as quickly as possible.   
  • Take the time to resuscitate an obviously tired shark by running water across its gills. This can be done by experienced operators using salt water deck washes, but is best done when the shark is still in the water by moving the shark slowly forwards. Release the shark as soon as it shows strong signs of recovery.
Handling Sharks - Best Practice.
Handling Sharks -
Best Practice (pdf)

Skates & Rays Handling - Best Practice.
Handling Skates & Rays -
Best Practice (pdf)

Responsible Shark, Skate & Ray Angling.
Responsible Shark,
Skate & Ray Angling (pdf)