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Shark bycatch and depredation in the U.S. Atlantic pelagic longline fishery


The non-target bycatch of sharks in pelagic longline (PLL) fisheries represents a potential source of compromise to shark populations worldwide. Moreover, shark bycatch and depredation (damage inflicted on gear, bait, and catch) complicates management of sharks and other species, and can undermine the operations and financial interests of the pelagic longline industry. Thus, deducing means to reduce shark interactions is in the best interest of multiple stakeholder groups. Prior to doing so, however, the extent, cause and effect of these interactions must be better understood. In this review we address or conduct the following in relation to the U.S. Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean PLL fishery: (1) U.S. management governing shark interactions in the Atlantic; (2) the primary species encountered and historical shark catch data associated with PLL fishing in the Atlantic; (3) a historical comparison of area-specific shark species catch records between the two primary sources of shark catch data in this fishery; (4) the conditions and dynamics that dictate shark interactions in this fishery, and potential means to reduce these interactions, and; (5) a synthesis of the estimated impacts of this fishery on shark populations relative to other fisheries in the Atlantic. As has been found in other PLL fisheries, the blue shark (Prionace glauca) is clearly the shark species most commonly encountered in this fishery in the Atlantic, and receives the majority of attention in this review. U.S. management areas with high relative shark species diversities had a greater divergence in historical shark species percent-compositions between data sources (Pelagic Observer Program versus mandatory pelagic Logbook databases); this complicates the ability to conclude which species are most impacted by PLL fishing in those areas. The current fishing effort by the U.S. PLL fleet is small compared to that of PLL fishing targeting sharks in the Atlantic by non-U.S. fleets, and therefore poses a comparatively lower threat to the stability of Atlantic shark populations. However, incidental shark encounters are inevitable in U.S. Atlantic PLL fishing operations. Thus, it is in the best interest of all stakeholders in the Atlantic to better understand the extent and conditions governing these interactions, and to explore methods to reduce both their occurrence and those aspects leading to higher rates of incidental shark mortality.

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For detailed worldwide perspectives regarding topics covered herein, we refer readers to the multinational report by Gilman et al. (2007b): Shark Depredation and Unwanted Bycatch in Pelagic Longline Fisheries ( as of December 17, 2007); and the truncated version of that report published by Gilman et al. (2007a). We acknowledge our co-authors (and respective funding sources) on both publications, most notably lead-author E Gilman for initiating this effort, fostering our involvement, and consolidating the case studies from around the world. We thank L. Beerkircher and D. Kerstetter for providing constructive comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. Funding for this work was provided by NOAA (via the Consortium for Wildlife Bycatch Reduction), and the New England Aquarium.

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Correspondence to John W. Mandelman.

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Mandelman, J.W., Cooper, P.W., Werner, T.B. et al. Shark bycatch and depredation in the U.S. Atlantic pelagic longline fishery. Rev Fish Biol Fisheries 18, 427–442 (2008).

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  • Bycatch
  • Depredation
  • Shark
  • Pelagic longline fishing
  • Mitigation