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Commercial Shark Fishery Observer Program

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The Commercial Shark Fishery Observer Program (CSFOP) places fishery observers on commercial shark fishing vessels to observe the composition and disposition of the catch and by-catch. This program began as a cooperative cooperative effort of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History and the fishers of the United States Atlantic commercial shark fishery. Historically supported by grants from two U.S. Department of Commerce funding programs, Marine Fisheries Initiative (MARFIN) and Saltonstall-Kennedy (SK), and by the Highly Migratory Species division of the National Marine Fisheries Service. Monitoring of the southeastern United States shark fishery began in January 1994 and funding is in place through May 2003.

Data gathered in this program is utilized in developing management strategies for the fishery. Since the shark catch is headed, gutted and finned at sea, port sampling is not a viable means of quantifying the catch because the marketed carcasses are difficult, if not impossible, to identify to species. In addition, by-catch in the fishery is discarded at sea or used as bait and thus cannot be quantified at the dock. The CSFOP's "ground-truthing" of the at-sea catch provides an invaluable source of information for both fishers and regulators alike. This accurate data, gathered by an unbiased team of academic observers, serves as a common starting point for management discussions during the regulatory process.

Scientific leader of the project is George H. Burgess and Alexia Morgan serves as Observer Coordinator. The current at-sea observers are Peter Cooper, Taylor Chapple, Mario Travaline, Nate Goddard, and Ryan Brown.

Through the end of calendar year 2003, the CSFOP program monitored 1140 bottom longline sets, collecting biological data on 34 species and 55,138 individual sharks. The majority of the catch has been sandbar sharks, Carcharhinus plumbeus (36% of the total catch).

Important Documents

Biological Profiles of Sharks in the Catch


¹ commonly caught, ² occasionally caught, ³ rarely caught