Today, Oceana published a new report showing the overlay of fishing activity with tagged blue sharks, demonstrating a cutting-edge approach to study the impacts of commercial fishing activities on marine wildlife and opening the door to inform future conservation and management efforts.
Oceana teamed with shark researchers Dr. Austin Gallagher (Beneath the Waves) and Dr. Neil Hammerschlag (University of Miami) to tag ten blue sharks off the East Coast of the United States in June 2016. Satellites collected and relayed the location information of the tagged sharks over the 110-day reporting period. The shark tracks were then added to a custom workspace in Global Fishing Watch, which provides the first global view of commercial fishing activity, to create an interactive map portraying the interactions between these sharks and nearby commercial fishing vessels. Oceana identified four occasions where a tagged blue shark was near a vessel while it was likely fishing.
“Now, thanks to technologies like Global Fishing Watch, we have an opportunity to see how marine wildlife are interacting with fishing vessels,” said Beth Lowell, senior campaign director at Oceana. “While this example highlights tagged sharks, we plan to expand the work to include other important marine wildlife like sea turtles and marine mammals. This added transparency can help inform fisheries managers and others on the best way to restore our oceans and protect vulnerable species.”
Every year, between 63 and 273 million sharks are caught and killed because of fishing. Blue sharks are commonly caught as bycatch, or the incidental catch of non-target fish and ocean wildlife. For example, blue sharks comprise between 50 and 90 percent of shark bycatch in longline fishing in many regions of the world. Blue sharks have little commercial value and therefore many that are caught are discarded without any record of ever being captured.
“The incidental capture of sharks is one of the greatest threats facing shark populations today,” said Lora Snyder, campaign director at Oceana. “Twenty-five percent of sharks and their relatives are threatened with extinction. Tools like Global Fishing Watch allow us to better understand the overlap between commercial fishing activities and sharks, which can help us save these critical species.”
Read the report on Oceana’s website here.
Access the custom platform in Global Fishing Watch here.