Capstone Title

A Review of the Best Practices for the Live Release of Elasmobranchs in Commercial Fisheries

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

David Kerstetter

Second Advisor

Richard E. Spieler

Third Advisor

John Mandelman


Elasmobranch fishes are globally subject to direct and indirect fishing pressures. However, their relatively K-selected life history strategies make the taxon vulnerable to population declines as a result of overfishing. Direct fishing mortality is a major concern in the commercial fishing industry that targets sharks and rays for fins and other products. In addition to the directed fisheries, elasmobranchs are often caught as bycatch, where they frequently offer little commercial value (except in the case of shark finning) and are often discarded.

This capstone review aims to establish the practices that lead to the lowest at vessel and post-release mortality of elasmobranchs in commercial fisheries. A review and analysis of information from current literature and resources has resulted in the development of a list of the fishing practices that are most influential on the survival of captured elasmobranchs for three main commercial gear types: longline, trawl, and gillnet. The relative lack of studies focusing specifically on elasmobranch direct and indirect mortality rates in commercial fisheries presents a significant barrier when assessing the effects of bycatch on current populations. With a large gradient in stress tolerance to capture between species, future research should focus on management schemes for individual species rather than the taxonomic group as a whole.

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