Strategies To Reduce Shark Bycatch In Fisheries

12 min read

Sharks play a crucial role in marine ecosystems as top predators, but they also face significant threats due to fishing activities. One major concern is shark bycatch, which refers to the unintentional capture of sharks during fishing operations targeting other species. These incidental catches not only result in the loss of shark populations but also raise concerns about the sustainability of fisheries. As a result, finding effective strategies to reduce shark bycatch in fisheries has become a pressing conservation issue.

Addressing the issue of shark bycatch requires a multi-faceted approach involving a combination of technical innovations, improved fishing practices, and policy interventions. Various strategies have been suggested and implemented to mitigate shark bycatch in fisheries. These include the use of specialized fishing gear, such as circle hooks and shark-specific escape panels, which can help reduce the likelihood of sharks getting caught while still allowing the targeted species to be captured. Additionally, implementing time-area closures or seasonal fishing restrictions in areas with high shark abundance can also help reduce the interactions between sharks and fishing activities. Finally, promoting education and awareness among fishermen about the importance of sharks and the potential impact of their bycatch can contribute to more responsible fishing practices and the adoption of alternative gear or methods that minimize shark interactions.

Fishing Gear Modifications

Fishing gear modifications are a crucial aspect of reducing shark bycatch in fisheries. Several effective strategies can be implemented to achieve this goal. One such strategy is the use of circle hooks, which have proven to be effective in reducing bycatch by promoting selective targeting of fish species. Circle hooks are designed in a way that reduces the likelihood of catching sharks by their mouths, thus minimizing their bycatch.

Another gear modification strategy is the use of larger mesh size in fishing nets. This modification allows smaller sharks to escape through the holes in the nets, reducing the number of unintentionally caught sharks. By using larger mesh sizes, fisheries can target larger fish while giving smaller sharks the opportunity to swim out of the net.

Limiting or eliminating the use of certain fishing gear that is known to have high shark bycatch rates is another effective measure. For instance, the use of longlines, which consist of baited hooks attached to a line, can result in significant shark bycatch. Implementing regulations to restrict or ban the use of longlines in areas with a high presence of sharks can be an impactful step towards reducing bycatch.

Gear modifications can also include the use of acoustic devices, such as pingers, that emit sounds to deter sharks from approaching fishing gear. These devices are effective in reducing bycatch as sharks are alerted to the presence of fishing gear and are more likely to avoid it, lowering their chances of being caught unintentionally.

Overall, fishing gear modifications play a crucial role in reducing shark bycatch in fisheries. Strategies such as using circle hooks, increasing mesh size, limiting the use of high-risk gear, and incorporating acoustic devices can significantly contribute to minimizing the unintentional capture of sharks in fishing operations.

Spatial And Temporal Management

Spatial and temporal management refers to the strategies and approaches used to regulate the location and timing of fishing activities in order to reduce the bycatch of sharks in fisheries. Bycatch, the unintended capture of non-target species, including sharks, poses a significant threat to shark populations worldwide. Therefore, implementing effective spatial and temporal management techniques is essential for mitigating this issue and promoting sustainable fishing practices.

Spatial management involves the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) and the designation of specific fishing zones to protect vulnerable shark habitats. MPAs serve as havens for sharks and other marine species, allowing them to grow, reproduce, and recover from fishing pressures. By creating no-take zones within MPAs, where fishing is completely prohibited, the likelihood of shark bycatch is greatly reduced. Similarly, identifying and designating specific fishing zones that avoid known shark hotspots can minimize interactions between fishing gear and these vulnerable species.


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Temporal management involves regulating the timing of fishing activities to reduce shark bycatch. This can be achieved through measures such as seasonal closures or area-specific fishing restrictions during peak shark migration periods. By aligning fishing activities with periods when shark populations are less concentrated or vulnerable, the risk of bycatch can be significantly decreased. Additionally, limiting fishing operations during nighttime, when many shark species are more active, can also contribute to reducing interactions between sharks and fishing gear.

Overall, effective spatial and temporal management strategies are crucial for minimizing shark bycatch in fisheries. By establishing MPAs, designating fishing zones, and implementing seasonal or area-specific restrictions, we can help ensure the conservation of shark populations while promoting sustainable fishing practices. Such measures not only protect these important apex predators but also contribute to the overall health and balance of marine ecosystems.

Acoustic Deterrent Devices

Acoustic deterrent devices are a potential strategy for reducing shark bycatch in fisheries. These devices are designed to emit specific sounds or acoustic signals that can deter sharks from approaching fishing gear, thereby reducing the likelihood of accidental capture. The concept behind acoustic deterrent devices is based on the sensitivity of sharks to certain frequencies or patterns of sound.

Several types of acoustic deterrent devices have been developed and tested. Some devices emit low-frequency sounds that mimic those produced by natural predator or prey interactions, while others generate high-frequency sounds that are more irritating or aversive to sharks. The goal is to create a soundscape that is unappealing or confusing to sharks, encouraging them to vacate the area and avoid interaction with fishing gear.

Research has shown mixed results regarding the effectiveness of acoustic deterrent devices. While some studies have demonstrated a decrease in shark bycatch when these devices are used, other studies have found no significant impact. Factors such as the species of shark, the specific fishing methods employed, and the environmental conditions can all influence the effectiveness of these devices.

Despite the uncertainties, acoustic deterrent devices remain a promising tool for reducing shark bycatch in fisheries. Further research is needed to optimize their design and deployment strategies, as well as to assess their long-term effects on shark populations and other marine organisms. By exploring and refining the use of acoustic deterrent devices, fisheries management may find a valuable resource in their mission to mitigate the impacts of fishing on shark populations.

Fisheries Observer Programs

Fisheries observer programs are an effective strategy for reducing shark bycatch in fisheries. These programs involve deploying trained observers on fishing vessels to collect data on catch composition, fishing activities, and compliance with fishing regulations. By having a better understanding of the interactions between sharks and the fishing gear, these observer programs can play a crucial role in identifying and implementing measures to mitigate unintended shark bycatch.

Through fisheries observer programs, data on shark bycatch rates, species composition, and size distribution can be collected in real-time. This information provides valuable insights into the areas and fleets where shark bycatch is particularly problematic, allowing for the implementation of targeted management measures. For example, fishing gear modifications, such as the use of shark bycatch reduction devices or changes in the timing or location of fishing activities, can be recommended based on the information gathered by observers.


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Observer programs also contribute to enhancing compliance with fishing regulations. Observers independently verify reports on catch and document any potential cases of non-compliance or illegal fishing practices. The presence of observers on board fishing vessels acts as a deterrent, promoting a culture of accountability and discouraging activities that can lead to unsustainable shark bycatch.

Moreover, fisheries observer programs can foster a collaborative approach to addressing shark bycatch by involving fishers in the data collection process. By engaging with fishers and establishing open lines of communication, observer programs can create opportunities for knowledge exchange and cooperation. This collaboration can result in the development of more effective strategies to reduce shark bycatch, as fishers can provide valuable insights into their fishing practices and potentially help design and test new mitigation methods.

Exclusion And Escape Devices

Exclusion and escape devices are effective strategies for reducing shark bycatch in fisheries. These devices are designed to allow non-targeted species, such as sharks, to escape from fishing gear unharmed.

One commonly used exclusion device is the turtle excluder device (TED). TEDs are installed in trawl nets and help prevent accidental capture and mortality of sea turtles. These devices feature an opening or a grid that allows turtles to escape while retaining the target catch. This approach has been successful in reducing turtle bycatch in fisheries and can be adapted for sharks as well.


Image from Pexels, photographed by Daniel Torobekov.

Another effective exclusion device is the pop-up device, also known as an enforced bycatch reduction device (BRD). These devices are installed in fishing nets and are designed to open or release when a certain pressure or force is applied. This mechanism allows smaller sharks or non-target species to escape while retaining the desired catch. Pop-up devices have been shown to significantly reduce shark bycatch in various types of fishing gears, including longlines and gillnets.

By implementing exclusion and escape devices, fisheries can minimize the incidental capture of sharks and other non-target species. These devices offer a practical solution to reduce shark bycatch without compromising the economic viability of the fisheries. Continued research and innovation in the development of these devices will be crucial to further enhance their effectiveness and adoption in fisheries management.

Electronic Monitoring Systems

Electronic monitoring systems are innovative technological tools that have emerged as effective strategies for reducing shark bycatch in fisheries. These systems involve the use of various electronic devices to monitor fishing activities and the interactions between fishing gear and sharks. By incorporating electronic monitoring systems into fisheries, fishermen and researchers can collect valuable data on shark bycatch, which can be used to develop targeted conservation measures.

One key component of electronic monitoring systems is the use of video camera technology onboard fishing vessels. These cameras are strategically placed to capture and record fishing activities, allowing for the documentation of interactions between fishing gear and sharks. The footage obtained from these cameras can then be reviewed and analyzed to determine the occurrence of shark bycatch and identify potential areas for improvement in fishing techniques.

In addition to video cameras, electronic monitoring systems may also include the use of sensors and tagging technology. Sensors can be used to detect and record specific environmental conditions or the presence of sharks in the vicinity of fishing gear. This information can be crucial in understanding the effectiveness of certain fishing practices in avoiding shark bycatch. Tagging technology, on the other hand, enables the tracking and monitoring of individual sharks, providing insights into their movement patterns and behavior.

Overall, electronic monitoring systems have proven to be valuable tools in reducing shark bycatch in fisheries. Through the use of video cameras, sensors, and tagging technology, these systems allow for the collection of detailed and accurate data, which can inform targeted conservation efforts and help develop more sustainable fishing practices. By embracing such innovative technological solutions, fisheries can better protect shark populations while ensuring the viability of their operations.

Educational And Awareness Campaigns

Educational and awareness campaigns play a crucial role in reducing shark bycatch in fisheries. These campaigns aim to inform and educate fishermen, as well as the general public, about the importance of shark conservation and the negative impacts of bycatch. By raising awareness about the issue, these campaigns seek to change attitudes and behaviors towards sharks and their conservation.


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Educational campaigns often include a variety of activities and materials such as workshops, training programs, and informational materials that provide fishermen with knowledge on the identification and proper handling of sharks. By equipping fishermen with the skills and understanding necessary to distinguish between target species and sharks, they can reduce accidental captures and increase their ability to release sharks unharmed.

Moreover, awareness campaigns target a wider audience, aiming to change social norms and perceptions surrounding sharks. Public service announcements, social media campaigns, and educational events can help dispel common misconceptions and highlight the ecological importance of sharks. By fostering empathy and understanding, these campaigns encourage individuals to support sustainable fishing practices and advocate for stronger conservation measures.

Overall, educational and awareness campaigns are effective strategies for reducing shark bycatch in fisheries. By providing fishermen with the necessary knowledge and skills and promoting a broader understanding and appreciation for sharks, these campaigns contribute to the conservation of these threatened species and the long-term sustainability of fisheries.

Final Remarks

In conclusion, there are several effective strategies for reducing shark bycatch in fisheries. One strategy is the implementation of bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) such as specially designed nets or grids that allow smaller sharks and non-target species to escape while retaining the target catch. These devices have shown promising results in reducing shark bycatch, particularly in trawl and longline fisheries. Additionally, the use of circle hooks in longline fishing operations can also minimize shark bycatch by increasing hook ingestion rates and reducing injury.

Another crucial strategy is the adoption of fisheries management measures that protect shark populations and their habitats. This includes setting catch limits, implementing protected areas, and enforcing fishing regulations to reduce the overall fishing pressure on shark populations. Collaborating with local communities, fishers, and stakeholders is essential for the effective implementation of these management measures and ensuring their long-term success.

By combining the use of bycatch reduction devices, modifying fishing gear, and implementing comprehensive management measures, we can significantly reduce shark bycatch in fisheries and contribute to the conservation of these apex predators. However, ongoing research and monitoring are vital to continually improve these strategies, ensure their effectiveness, and maintain the sustainability of both shark populations and fisheries.

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