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Keywords:

  • catch and release;
  • circle hook;
  • drumline;
  • elasmobranch;
  • longline;
  • shark meshing

Abstract

Shark attacks on humans have prompted the implementation of shark control programs aiming at reducing local populations of potentially aggressive species using mostly gillnets. However, shark meshing produces ecological disturbances by inflicting severe mortality not only to sharks but also to several harmless, frequently endangered taxa, including cetaceans, sirenians and chelonids. A different methodological approach to mitigate shark peril off Recife combines bottom longlining and drumlines with comparably better results. This region has been experiencing an abnormally high shark attack rate since 1992, but the protective fishing strategy was developed in 2004 only. Unlike traditional shark control programs, the Shark Monitoring Program of Recife (SMPR) aims at removing dangerous sharks not from their populations but from the hazardous area instead, which is achieved by capturing, transporting and releasing sharks offshore. During 8 years, the SMPR caught fish and turtles only and showed high selectivity for sharks compared with shark meshing. Target species comprised carcharhinids and sphyrnids and accounted for 7% of total catch. The fishing mortality of abundant taxa was generally low except for Carcharhinus acronotus and Gymnothorax spp., and protected species had ∼100% survival. The shark attack rate diminished about 97% while fishing operations were being conducted (W = 1108.5, P < 0.001), whereas no-fishing periods and the period prior to the implementation of the SMPR had similar shark attack rates. Overall, the SMPR seems to be less detrimental than shark meshing strategies while clearly contributing for enhancing bather safety; thus, it may provide an effective, ecologically balanced tool for assisting in shark attack mitigation.