FKCC Shark Research Highlighted in Report to Congress
Florida Keys Community College (FKCC)
20. October 2014
KEY WEST, FL, October 20, 2014—Ongoing research at Florida Keys Community College was highlighted in a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report on fisheries bycatch reduction presented to Congress in Washington, D. C. on October 9. The NOAA-funded study, entitled “The performance of long lasting shark repellent bait for elasmobranch bycatch reduction during commercial pelagic longline fishing,” was conducted by Dr. Patrick Rice, FKCC’s dean of career, technical and workforce education. In layman’s terms, the study gauged the effects of shark-repelling bait on the number of sharks accidentally caught by fishermen who are targeting species that live in the oceanic pelagic zone such as tuna and swordfish.
“The research demonstrated as much as a 35 percent reduction in shark bycatch during commercial pelagic longline fishing,” reported Rice, who has developed several variations of shark repellents in the interest of both sharks and humans. “With an estimate of more than 23.5 million sharks captured annually as bycatch during commercial longline fishing, if mandated and applied, the research has the potential to save four to eight million sharks per year globally.”
The ongoing research is being conducted on a U.S. commercial pelagic longline fishing vessel operating in the Straits of Florida about 25 miles south of Key West. Dr. Rice and his research assistant, Brian DeSanti, prepare shark repellent capsules that are inserted into squid bait and deployed during commercial fishing operations, which usually set about 400 hooks per night. Every other squid bait deployed contains an experimental shark repellent insert. The bycatch rate is compared to squid baits without the shark repellent inserts. Results suggest the use of shark repellent-infused squid bait can reduce the number of sharks unintentionally caught by 35 percent without any apparent impact on the number of target species caught.
The College has secured approximately $350,000 in grants from NOAA to conduct such research since 2009.