Recreational fishers catching more sharks and rays

January 27, 2020

Recreational fishers are increasingly targeting sharks and rays, a situation that is causing concern among researchers.

A new study by an international team of scientists reveals that recreational catches of these fishes have gradually increased over the last six decades around the world, now accounting for 5-6 per cent of the total catches taken for leisure or pleasure.

In their paper published in Frontiers in Marine Science, the experts explain that almost 1 million tonnes of fish are being extracted from marine waters by recreational fishers every year. Overall, these recreational fish catches have grown from 280,000 tonnes per year in the 1950s to around 900,000 tonnes in the mid-2010s. Of this total amount, some 54,000 tonnes are comprised of sharks and rays.

"The rise in shark and ray catches started in the 1990s and has been particularly sharp in Oceania and South America," said Kátia Freire, lead author of the study and a professor at the Universidade Federal de Sergipe in Brazil. "However, we may actually be underestimating the real amounts, as accessing recreational fisheries data is particularly difficult. Most countries do not compile these data or those that do, do not incorporate them into their national fisheries statistics that are reported to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations."

The rise in shark and ray catches for recreational purposes is particularly troubling because many species are already threatened by the commercial fishing industry and by illegal fishers.

"The problem with sharks and rays is that even if they are thrown back into the ocean, a practice that is not uncommon as many recreational fishers now practice 'catch-and-release,' not all individuals survive," said Daniel Pauly, co-author of the study and principal investigator of the Sea Around Us initiative at the University of British Columbia's Institute for the Ocean and Fisheries. "For example, 98 per cent of scalloped hammerheads die."

The biology of sharks makes them slow when it comes to growing and maturing, which means that they produce only a small number of young in their lifetimes. If many individuals are caught before they have been able to reproduce sufficiently, then their population numbers start to dwindle.

Slow growth and late maturation also make increasingly popular recreational practices such as beach-based shark fishing problematic.

"In Australia, a group of recreational fishers lands large tiger sharks and hammerheads from the beach. These large animals are essential to population health and are unlikely to survive the experience of a lengthy fight and subsequently being dragged up the beach," said Jessica Meeuwig, co-author of the study and director of the Marine Futures Lab at the University of Western Australia. "Given the threatened status of these species globally, such practices are inappropriate."

Even though information is scarce and disparate, the research team was able to learn about what is being caught and has been caught in 125 countries over the past 60+ years.

"Thus, we have assembled the first comprehensive global estimate of marine recreational catches, which is a major accomplishment," said Dirk Zeller, co-author of the study and director of the Sea Around Us - Indian Ocean at the University of Western Australia. "Even approximate estimates are better than saying 'we have no data,' which translates into 'there are zero recreational catches,' a statement that is not true for most countries and that leads to an under-valuation of recreational fisheries and their impact on fish populations."
The study "Estimating global catches of marine recreational fisheries" was published on January 27, 2020, in Frontiers in Marine Science.


University of British Columbia

Related Fisheries Articles from Brightsurf:

Assessing El Niño's impact on fisheries and aquaculture around the world
New report presents the main regional consequences caused by the five types of the climate pattern.

Dissolved oxygen and pH policy leave fisheries at risk
In a Policy Forum, ''Dissolved oxygen and pH criteria leave fisheries at risk'' published in the April 24 issue of the journal Science, Stony Brook University's Dr.

Fisheries management is actually working, global analysis shows
Nearly half of the fish caught worldwide are from stocks that are scientifically monitored and, on average, are increasing in abundance.

Meeting the challenges facing fisheries climate risk insurance
Insurance schemes with the potential to improve the resilience of global fisheries face a host of future challenges, researchers say.

Healthy mangroves help coral reef fisheries under climate stress
Healthy mangroves can help fight the consequences of climate change on coral reef fisheries, according to a University of Queensland-led study.

Study champions inland fisheries as rural nutrition hero
Researchers from MSU and the FAO synthesize new data and assessment methods to show how freshwater fish feed poor rural populations in many areas of the world.

For global fisheries, it's a small world after all
Even though many nations manage their fish stocks as if they were local resources, marine fisheries and fish populations are a single, highly interconnected and globally shared resource, a new study emphasizes.

New study maps how ocean currents connect the world's fisheries
It's a small world after all -- especially when it comes to marine fisheries, with a new study revealing they form a single network, with over $10 billion worth of fish each year being caught in a country other than the one in which it spawned.

Federal subsidies for US commercial fisheries should be rejected
A pending rule change proposed by the US National Marine Fisheries Service would allow the use of public funds to underwrite low-interest loans for the construction of new commercial fishing vessels.

Sustainable fisheries and conservation policy
There are roughly five times as many recreational fishers as commercial fishers throughout the world.

Read More: Fisheries News and Fisheries Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to