Oceana uses Global Fishing Watch to track interactions between sharks and commercial fishing

Using tracking research courtesy of Global Fishing Watch, environmental nonprofit Oceana is now tracing interactions between sharks and commercial fishing.

Oceana recently published a report revealing the overlay between sharks and commercial fishing activity on the East Coast of the United States.

The research is notable for its efforts to better identify how sharks are caught as bycatch in commercial fishing efforts. Every year, between 63 and 273 million sharks are caught and killed because of fishing, with many discarded without any record of capture, as they have little commercial value, according to Oceana.

Lora Snyder, campaign director at Oceana, said the report demonstrates a “cutting-edge approach” toward studying the impacts of commercial fishing activities on marine wildlife. 

“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.” 

For the study, Oceana worked with shark researchers Neil Hammerschlag from the University of Miami and Austin Gallagher of Beneath the Waves to tag 10 blue sharks off the East Coast of the United States in June 2016. For 110 days, the sharks’ locations were tracked and then overlayed over tracks of commercial fishing vessels. The research, which can be seen in a custom-created workspace in Global Fishing Watch, revealed four occasions where a tagged blue shark was near a vessel while it was likely fishing.

Oceana senior campaign director Beth Lowell said the report could open the door to using satellite and other technology to better assist future conservation and management efforts. 

“Now, thanks to technologies like Global Fishing Watch, we have an opportunity to see how marine wildlife are interacting with fishing vessels. While this example highlights tagged sharks, we plan to expand the work to include other important marine wildlife like sea turtles and marine mammals,” Lowell said. “This added transparency can help inform fisheries managers and others on the best way to restore our oceans and protect vulnerable species.”


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