Physiological stress response, reflex impairment, and survival of five sympatric shark species

paper3Published online on 27. January 2014

Physiological stress response, reflex impairment, and survival of five sympatric shark species following experimental capture and release

A. J. Gallagher, J. E. Serafy, S. J. Cooke, N. Hammerschlag


In many fisheries, some component of the catch is usually released. Quantifying the effects of capture and release on fish survival is critical for determining which practices are sustainable, particularly for threatened species. Using a standardized fishing technique, we studied sublethal (blood physiology and reflex impairment assessment) and lethal (post-release mortality with satellite tags) outcomes of fishing stress on 5 species of coastal sharks (great hammerhead, bull, blacktip, lemon, and tiger). Species-specific differences were detected in whole blood lactate, partial pressure of carbon dioxide, and pH values, with lactate emerging as the sole parameter to be significantly affected by increasing hooking duration and shark size. Species-specific differences in reflex impairment were also found; however, we did not detect any significant relationships between reflex impairment and hooking duration. Taken together, we ranked each species according to degree of stress response, from most to least disturbed, as follows: hammerhead shark > blacktip shark > bull shark > lemon shark > tiger shark. Satellite tagging data revealed that nearly 100% of all tracked tiger sharks reported for at least 4 wk after release, which was significantly higher than bull (74.1%) and great hammerhead (53.6%) sharks. We discuss which mechanisms may lead to species-specific differences in sensitivity to fishing and suggest that observed variation in responses may be influenced by ecological and evolutionary phenomena. Moreover, our results show that certain species (i.e. hammerhead sharks in this study) are inherently vulnerable to capture stress and mortality resulting from fisheries interactions and should receive additional attention in future conservation strategies.

Mar Ecol Prog Ser 496:207-218



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