Global Shark Bycatch: Assessment and Solutions

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

Second Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

Keith Ronald

Second Advisor

Richard E. Spieler


Sharks are the essential keystone predators of global marine habitats and have helped maintain the health of marine ecosystems for hundreds of millions of years. However, due to recent human activities such as overfishing and wasteful fishing practices, global shark stocks are in decline. The most significant cause for this decline is the incidental catch, or bycatch, of sharks in both chondrichthyan (target) and non-chondrichthyan (non-target) fisheries. Shark bycatch occurs in most fishing operations, including gill netting, long lining, trawling, and purse-seining and, by the end of the 1980s, accounted for the loss of approximately 11-13 million sharks. This level of bycatch, when coupled with factors such as shark life-history pattern, destruction of essential shark habitat, and negative human perceptions of sharks, represents a significant reduction in global shark stocks. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, as a result of declining stocks, has classified twenty (out of >350) shark species as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered.

The depletion of global shark stocks has also prompted the need for effective management regimes to prevent further declines. However, due to the paucity of available information on shark biology and ecology, lack of accurate fisheries statistics, and resource allocation problems, the implementation of global shark bycatch legislation has yet to be realized. Fortunately, possible solutions for reducing and/or eliminating global shark bycatch are available. These solutions include, but are not limited to, modifications to fishing gear, regulation of fishing effort, and management organization. The combination, and refinement of, these management solutions will reduce bycatch impacts on global shark stocks.

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