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Pelagic shark bycatch in the New Zealand tuna longline fishery

Pelagic shark bycatch in the New Zealand tuna longline fishery

ine and Freshwater Research 52(2): 165-178

Tuna longline effort declined from 23-26 million hooks per year in 1979-82 to 2-4 million hooks per year in 1995-98. Scientific observer coverage averaged 7.5% since 1988-89, but increased in 1992-93 (mean 23%). Observed catch per unit effort (CPUE) and the numbers of hooks set were used to estimate shark catches. Between 1988-89 and 1997-98, about 450 000 blue sharks (Prionace glauca), 65 000 porbeagles (Lamna nasus) and 25 000 shortfin makos (Isurus oxyrinchus) were caught. In 1997-98, about 45 000 blue sharks, 4000 porbeagles and 3000 makos were caught. Corresponding weight estimates were 1400 t, 150 t and 200 t. CPUE varied between foreign and domestic vessels, between north and south regions and among years, but there were no consistent temporal trends. Most males and females were immature, and most sharks were alive when recovered. Most sharks were processed, but usually only the fins were retained. The New Zealand tuna longline fishery is probably not seriously affecting pelagic shark stocks, but adequate assessment is not currently feasible. Accurate monitoring of Pacific Ocean catches is an important first step towards ensuring sustainability of their populations.

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