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Commercial Shark Fishery Observer Program

Final Report Abstracts

1999 Final Report Abstract
George Burgess and Alexia Morgan

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 1 January 1999 to 31 December 1999 and serves, in tandem with Burgess and Morgan (2002), as final report for grant NA97FF0041. Data gathered during this time period was compiled and entered into the CSFOP database and analyzed for fishery and biological life history trends. During 1999 the CSFOP encountered great difficulty in placing observers aboard cooperating vessels, thus we were forced to make repeated trips on a limited number of participating vessels, resulting in a low yearly number of observed vessels. As a result, federal confidentiality regulations preclude presentation of the seasonal and regional analyses we traditionally include in our final reports. All raw regional data generated for 1999, however, has been transferred to the NMFS. Total on-vessel fishing mortality of sharks was 90.3%, including a cryptic mortality of 40.8% largely incurred by small coastal sharks retained for at-sea use as bait. The large coastal shark catch (LC), which comprised 59.0% of the total shark catch (TC), consisted primarily of sandbar (Carcharhinus plumbeus, 24.9% TC and 42.2% of LC), tiger (Galeocerdo cuvier, 12.1% LC) and blacktip (Carcharhinus limbatus, 10.0% LC) sharks. The overfished dusky shark (Carcharhinus obscurus) represented only 5.5% of the TC and 9.4% of the LC. Small coastal sharks comprised 40.4% of the total shark catch. The Atlantic sharpnose shark (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae), the species most often encountered in the small coastal shark catch (94.1% of SC), also was the single most frequently captured shark (38.0% TC) in the fishery. Data is presented on species specific survivability as related to the stresses of longline capture. Of the species caught, 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. 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, redfish, cobia, skates and rays, was generally low and most often occurred near reefs and hard bottom. Two 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.

Reprinted from: FINAL REPORT- NA97FF0041- Renewal of an observer program to monitor the directed commercial shark fishery in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic," July 2003.