Catches of pelagic sharks from the western north atlantic ocean, including the gulf of mexico and caribbean sea

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SCRS/2007/072 Collect. Vol. Sci. Pap. ICCAT, 62(5): 1434-1446 (2008)

Enric Cortés1


U.S. commercial landings, recreational catches, and commercial dead discard estimates of pelagic sharks were compiled from several sources. Commercial landings were obtained from southeast regional general canvass data, northeast regional canvass data (dealer weighout sheets), and quota monitoring data of permitted shark dealer reports in the US southeastern region. Recreational harvest estimates were obtained from three recreational surveys. Dead discards of pelagic sharks in the US longline fleet targeting tunas and tuna-like species, which have been reported to ICCAT previously, were estimated based on mandatory logbook and observer records from this fishery.


Les estimations des débarquements commerciaux, des prises récréatives et des rejets morts commerciaux des Etats-Unis en ce qui concerne les requins pélagiques ont été compilées à partir de plusieurs sources. Les débarquements commerciaux ont été obtenus des données de prospection générale de la zone du Sud-Est, des données de prospection de la zone du Nord-Est (relevé du poids au débarquement des mareyeurs), ainsi que des données de suivi des quotas des rapports des mareyeurs de requins autorisés dans la région du Sud-Est des Etats-Unis. Les estimations des captures récréatives ont été obtenues à partir de trois prospections récréatives. Les rejets morts de requins pélagiques dans la flottille palangrière nord-américaine ciblant les thonidés et les espèces apparentées, qui ont auparavant été déclarés à l’ICCAT, ont été estimés sur la base des carnets de pêche et des registres d’observateurs obligatoires de cette pêcherie.


Se han reunido las estimaciones estadounidenses de desembarques comerciales, de capturas recreativas y de descartes comerciales de peces muertos de los tiburones pelágicos a partir de diversas fuentes. Los desembarques comerciales se obtuvieron de los datos generales de los sondeos regionales del sudeste, de datos de los sondeos regionales del noreste (hojas de desembarque de los comerciantes), y de los datos de seguimiento de la cuota de los informes de los comerciantes con permiso para tiburones en la región sudeste de Estados Unidos. Las estimaciones de la captura recreativa se obtuvieron a partir de tres encuestas recreativas. Los descartes de ejemplares muertos de tiburones pelágicos de la flota palangrera estadounidense que se dirige a los túnidos y especies afines, que ya habían sido comunicados a ICCAT, se estimaron basándose en los cuadernos de pesca obligatorios y en los registros de observadores de esta pesquería.
Catch/effort, commercial fishing, long lining, pelagic fisheries,

shark fisheries sport fishing, by-catch, catch statistics, logbooks

1. Introduction

1.1 U.S. management history

The pelagic shark complex initially identified in the 1993 US Federal Fisheries Management Plan (NMFS 1993) included ten species: shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus), longfin mako (Isurus paucus), porbeagle (Lamna nasus), thresher (Alopias vulpinus), bigeye thresher (Alopias superciliosus), blue (Prionace glauca), oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus), sevengill (Heptranchias perlo), sixgill (Hexanchus griseus), and bigeye sixgill (Hexanchus vitulus). The 1993 FMP classified the status of pelagic sharks as unknown because no stock assessment had been conducted for this complex. The Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) for pelagic sharks was set at 1,560 mt dressed weight (dw), which was the 1986-1991 commercial landings average for this group. In 1997, as a result of indications that the abundance of Atlantic sharks had declined, commercial quotas for large coastal, small coastal and pelagic sharks were reduced. The quota for pelagic sharks was set at 580 mt. The 1999 U.S. FMP for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, and Sharks (NMFS 1999) proposed the following measures affecting pelagic sharks: 1) a reduction in the recreational bag limit to 1 Atlantic shark per vessel per trip, with a minimum size of 137 cm fork length for all sharks, 2) an increase in the annual commercial quota for pelagic sharks to 853 mt dw, apportioned between porbeagle (92 mt), blue sharks (273 mt dw), and other pelagic sharks (488 mt dw), with the pelagic shark quota being reduced by any overharvest in the blue shark quota, and 3) making the bigeye sixgill, sixgill, sevengill, bigeye thresher, and longfin mako sharks prohibited species that cannot be retained. Regulations on prohibited species went into effect in 2000, whereas those on pelagic shark quotas were enacted in 2001.

Sharks included in the US pelagic shark management unit are generally trans-oceanic species that are harvested or caught as bycatch in the North Atlantic Ocean by fishers from several nations. Although it has long been recognized that assessment of these pelagic shark resources requires a multinational approach, the first assessment of two pelagic shark species (shortfin mako and blue shark) did not take place until 2004 and was conducted under the auspices of ICCAT. That assessment (ICCAT 2005) included a review of the biology of these two species, a description of the fisheries that catch them, analyses of the state of the stocks and outlook as well as of the effect of current regulations, and recommendations for statistics and research. Although the

assessment was considered very preliminary owing to the limitations both on quantity and quality of information available, the main conclusions were that both North and South Atlantic blue shark stock biomass was likely to be above MSY, whereas the North Atlantic stock of shortfin mako could be below biomass at MSY, with the magnitude of decline for the South Atlantic shortfin mako stock estimated to be less than in the North Atlantic.
Estimates of U.S. catches are required in preparation for an updated re-assessment of the status of blue and shortfin mako sharks as well as future stock assessments of other pelagic sharks. In this document, estimates of U.S. commercial landings, recreational catches, and bycatch of pelagic sharks were compiled from a variety of sources for the period 1981-2006, updating the information presented in Cortés (2006). Catch data are presented for pelagic sharks as a group and for blue shark, shortfin mako, thresher shark, longfin mako, oceanic whitetip shark, porbeagle, and bigeye thresher separately.

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