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Commercial Shark Fishery Observer Program

Final Report Abstracts

2002 (Summer Season) - 2003 (Winter Season) Final Report Abstract
George Burgess and Alexia Morgan
University of Florida

The southeastern United States commercial shark fishery has been monitored by the Commercial Shark Fishery Observer Program (CSFOP) since 1994. This report covers the period from July 1, 2002, to May 31, 2003, in the area from New Jersey to the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Data gathered during this time period was compiled and entered into the CSFOP database and analyzed for fishery and biological life history trends. The large coastal shark catch (LC), which comprised almost three quarters (71.5%) of the total shark catch (TC), consisted primarily of sandbar (Carcharhinus plumbeus, 32.8% TC and 46.0% of LC), blacktip (Carcharhinus limbatus, 16.8% LC) and tiger (Galeocerdo cuvier, 11.6% LC) sharks. The overfished dusky shark (Carcharhinus obscurus), once a key component of the catch, represented only 1.6% of the TC and 2.2% of the LC. Small coastal sharks comprised one-quarter (24.9%) of the total shark catch. The Atlantic sharpnose shark (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae), traditionally the species most often encountered in the small coastal shark catch, represented nearly two-thirds (64.7%) of the small coastal catch (SC). Data is presented on species specific survivability as related to the stresses of longline capture. Nurse (Ginglymostoma cirratum), sandtiger (Carcharias taurus), smooth dogfish (Mustelus canis), mako (Isurus oxyrinchus), tiger, lemon (Negaprion brevirostris), and sandbar sharks are considered hardy to moderately hardy; scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini), spinner (Carcharhinus brevipinna), sharpnose, dusky, white (Carcharodon carcharias), blacknose (Carcharhinus acronotus), blacktip, silky (Carcharhinus falciformis), and great hammerhead sharks were less hardy. Notably, the protected dusky shark suffered more than 70% fishing mortality (total mortality). Time/area closures (as seen in the Final Amendment 1 to the Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish and Sharks), which protect juvenile dusky sharks, may be able to help rebuild the population and insure stock stability (NMFS, 2003). Measures to protect any of the latter group of sharks by prohibiting the landing of the species, will have only a limited positive affect because of high fishing mortality. Bycatch, mostly groupers, cobia, redfish, skates and rays, was generally low and most often occurred near reefs and hard bottom. Nine sea turtles were captured and released alive and one hooked dolphin escaped at the vessel. Observers continued to tag live release sharks using tags provided by the NMFS Apex Predator Program, Narragansett, RI, and biological samples were shared with research cooperators.

Reprinted from: FINAL REPORT- National Marine Fisheries Award- NA16FM0598- "Renewal of an observer program to monitor the directed commercial shark fishery in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic: 2002(2) and 2003(1) fishing seasons "December 7, 2003.