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Keywords:

  • elasmobranch conservation;
  • Great Barrier Reef;
  • recreational fishing;
  • shark;
  • ray

Abstract

  • 1.
    309 Great Barrier Reef Marine Park recreational fishers were surveyed to examine recreational catch and harvest of elasmobranchs and to explore recreational fishers' handling behaviour and attitudes.
  • 2.
    Elasmobranchs represented 6% of fishers' total catch of all fish (including released individuals), and 0.8% of fishers' total harvest (i.e. retained individuals) across all survey days. The majority of elasmobranchs caught by fishers were released, primarily because they were perceived as being inedible.
  • 3.
    Recreational fishers' self-reported handling and release behaviour for elasmobranchs is largely consistent with ‘best practice’ guidelines except that fishers had low use of circle hooks and barbless hooks, and a significant proportion (33%) reported using stainless steel hooks.
  • 4.
    Most fishers had positive attitudes towards elasmobranchs, placing high importance on releasing sharks and rays in good condition (86%), high value on their existence (84%), and low value on catching them (63%).
  • 5.
    Results indicate that post-release mortality is probably the largest source of recreational fishing mortality of elasmobranchs in the Great Barrier Reef. Future research should be targeted at obtaining better estimates of species-specific post-release mortality levels, understanding how post-release survival can be increased by changing fishing techniques or fisher behaviour, and developing more effective methods of engaging fishers in elasmobranch conservation. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.