Characterization of the Shark Bottom Longline Fishery: 2017
Alyssa N. Mathers, Bethany M. Deacy, Heather E. Moncrief-Cox, John K. Carlson
Observations of the shark-directed bottom longline fishery in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico have been conducted since 1994 (Morgan et al. 2009, Mathers et al. 2017 and references therein). Currently about 219 U.S. fishers are permitted to target sharks in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, and an additional 264 fishers are permitted to land sharks incidentally. Amendments to the Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan implemented a shark research fishery, which allows NMFS to select a limited number of commercial shark vessels on an annual basis to collect life history data and catch data for future stock assessments (NMFS, 2007).
Specifically, only commercial shark fishers participating in the research fishery are allowed to land sandbar sharks, Carcharhinus plumbeus, and must carry an observer on 100% of all trips (compared to a target coverage level of 5-10% outside the research fishery). Outside the research fishery, fishers are permitted to land other large coastal sharks (e.g. blacktip shark, Carcharhinus limbatus, and bull shark, Carcharhinus leucas). Herein, we report on observed fishing activities in the shark bottom longline fishery for the 2017 fishing season, including coverage of the 2017 Shark Research Fishery.