Horizontal and vertical movements of immature dusky sharks

Published on
21. August 2021

Horizontal and vertical movements of immature dusky sharks Carcharhinus obscurus in relation to commercial longline fisheries in the western North Atlantic Ocean

Kroetz, A.M., Gulak, S.J.B. & Carlson, J.K.


Many species of sharks, including the dusky shark Carcharhinus obscurus, are often incidentally captured in commercial pelagic and bottom longline fisheries. Incidental capture can lead to at-vessel or post-release mortality and can be detrimental to populations of threatened, endangered, or prohibited species. The estimated at-vessel mortality for dusky sharks can be high in longline fisheries and, to minimize mortality, time–area closures have been designated in the western North Atlantic Ocean to mitigate interactions with longline fisheries, yet incidental capture of dusky sharks is still common. We compared the vertical and horizontal movements of dusky sharks to the overall fishing effort and depth fished of commercial pelagic and bottom longline fisheries to determine when and where overlap is present that could lead to incidental capture.
Twenty-one (n = 21) dusky sharks were tagged with pop-up archival transmitting satellite tags and all were immature animals (123–200 cm FL) apart from two individuals (230 and 300 cm FL). Sharks were tagged off the coasts of North Carolina (71%) and Florida (29%). Twenty tags (95%) reported and provided tracks between 1 and 107 days (median 15 days) and 10 tags (50%) remained on sharks for > 4 days. Most individuals remained within the bottom longline closed area off the coast of North Carolina during their time at liberty. Dusky sharks primarily occupied the 20–40 m depth range 26% of the time, and overlapped with bottom and pelagic longline gears 41% and 59% of the time, respectively. Overlap was highest in the winter and spring for both commercial fisheries.
The use of archival satellite telemetry in this study has provided valuable preliminary information on vertical and horizontal movements of immature dusky sharks in western North Atlantic Ocean. Dusky sharks may be more vulnerable to incidental capture in the pelagic longline fishery due to the high fishing effort, larger areas of horizontal overlap, and greater percentage of vertical overlap. This information will inform mitigation measures of commercial longline fisheries, which can work toward population rebuilding of the species.

Anim Biotelemetry 9, 36 (2021). DOI: 10.1186/s40317-021-00258-8


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