Fishery Independent Surveys
In addition to improved access to shark specimens, conducting fishery independent surveys in the geographic region traditionally monitored by the well-established Commercial Shark Fishery Observer Program (CSFOP), provides year-round monitoring of shark populations in the region. This is accomplished by sampling during the closed-to-fishing seasons using vessels, gear, and methodologies consistent with those employed by the CSFOP program. Based on logistic, economic, fishery, and biotic considerations, sampling efforts are currently confined to areas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and off the Atlantic coast of Florida, regions that historically have supported the greatest commercial fishing efforts and host sharks year round.
Each year FPSR staff spend about 40 sea days sampling in the late spring-early summer (mid April-June) and fall-early winter (mid September-December) when commercial shark fishing is closed. Data from fishery independent sampling can provide vastly improved information on species composition, seasonal movements, and life history parameters of sharks in the region. Filling in the seasonal gaps in biotic observation currently dictated by open fishing season-only CSFOP data gathering provides a temporal continuum for studying such critical biological processes as the reproductive cycle and age and growth. These data contribute importantly to demographic analyses, stock assessments and management decisions. In addition, this project provides specimens, tissues, blood serum, and other materials to be used by FPSR researchers and collaborating NSRC members in biological research of inadequately studied species.