Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE (Open Access)

Evaluating catch and mitigating risk in a multispecies, tropical, inshore shark fishery within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area

Alastair V. Harry A E , Andrew J. Tobin A , Colin A. Simpfendorfer A , David J. Welch A B , Amos Mapleston A , Jimmy White A , Ashley J. Williams A C and Jason Stapley D

A Fishing & Fisheries Research Centre, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia.

B Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, PO Box 1085, Oonoonba, Qld 4811, Australia.

C Oceanic Fisheries Program, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, BP D5, 98848, Noumea, New Caledonia.

D Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, Northern Fisheries Centre, Cairns, Qld 4870, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: alastair.harry@gmail.com

Marine and Freshwater Research 62(6) 710-721 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF10155
Submitted: 18 June 2010  Accepted: 30 January 2011   Published: 24 June 2011

Abstract

Small-scale and artisanal fisheries for sharks exist in most inshore, tropical regions of the world. Although often important in terms of food security, their low value and inherent complexity provides an imposing hurdle to sustainable management. An observer survey of a small-scale commercial gill-net fishery operating within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area revealed at least 38 species of elasmobranch were present in the catch. Of the total elasmobranch catch, 95% was 25 species of Carcharhiniformes from the families Carcharhinidae, Hemigaleidae and Sphyrnidae. Individual species were captured in a variety of ways by the fishery, often with strongly biased sex ratios and in a variety of life stages (e.g. neonates, juveniles, adult). Despite this, the main carcharhiniform taxa captured could be qualitatively categorised into four groups based on similar catch characteristics, body size and similarities in life history: small coastal (<1000 mm); medium coastal (1000–2000 mm); large coastal/semi-pelagic (>2000 mm); and hammerheads. Such groupings can potentially be useful for simplifying management of complex multispecies fisheries. The idiosyncrasies of elasmobranch populations and how fisheries interact with them provide a challenge for management but, if properly understood, potentially offer underutilised options for designing management strategies.

Additional keywords: Carcharhiniformes, coastal shark fishery, elasmobranch.


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