Using fisher‐contributed secondary fins to fill critical shark‐fisheries data gaps

Published on
04. February 2021

Using fisher‐contributed secondary fins to fill critical shark‐fisheries data gaps

Jessica R. Quinlan, Shannon J. O’Leary, Andrew T. Fields, Martin Benavides, Emily Stumpf, Ramon Carcamo, Joel Cruz, Derrick Lewis, Beverly Wade, George Amato, Sergios‐Orestis Kolokotronis, Gina M. Clementi, Demian D. Chapman


Developing‐world shark fisheries are typically not assessed or actively managed for sustainability; one fundamental obstacle is the lack of species and size‐composition catch data. We tested and implemented a new and potentially widely applicable approach for collecting these data: mandatory submission of low‐value secondary fins (anal fins) from landed sharks by fishers and use of the fins to reconstruct catch species and size. Visual and low‐cost genetic identification were used to determine species composition, and linear regression was applied to total length and anal fin base length for catch‐size reconstruction. We tested the feasibility of this approach in Belize, first in a local proof‐of‐concept study and then scaling it up to the national level for the 2017–2018 shark‐fishing season (1,786 fins analyzed). Sixteen species occurred in this fishery. The most common were the Caribbean reef (Carcharhinus perezi), blacktip (C. limbatus), sharpnose (Atlantic [Rhizoprionodon terraenovae] and Caribbean [R. porosus] considered as a group), and bonnethead (Sphyrnacf. tiburo). Sharpnose and bonnethead sharks were landed primarily above size at maturity, whereas Caribbean reef and blacktip sharks were primarily landed below size at maturity. Our approach proved effective in obtaining critical data for managing the shark fishery, and we suggest the tools developed as part of this program could be exported to other nations in this region and applied almost immediately if there were means to communicate with fishers and incentivize them to provide anal fins. Outside the tropical Western Atlantic, we recommend further investigation of the feasibility of sampling of secondary fins, including considerations of time, effort, and cost of species identification from these fins, what secondary fin type to use, and the means with which to communicate with fishers and incentivize participation. This program could be a model for collecting urgently needed data for developing‐world shark fisheries globally.

Conservation Biology, Early View, DOI: 10.1111/cobi.13688


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