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Shark pelagic longline fishery in the Gulf of Gabes: Inter-decadal inspection reveals management needs

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BÉCHIR SAIDI, SAMIRA ENAJJAR, SAMI KARAA, KHALED ECHWIKHI, IMED JRIBI, MOHAMED NEJMEDDINE BRADAI
BÉCHIR SAIDI, SAMIRA ENAJJAR, SAMI KARAA, KHALED ECHWIKHI, IMED JRIBI, MOHAMED NEJMEDDINE BRADAI

Abstract


This study explores the status of exploited shark populations in the Gulf of Gabes in relation to fishing pressure, based on data pertaining to shark longline fishery, collected during two periods. Catch data from 48 and 96 pelagic longline sets collected, respectively, during 2007/2008 and 2016/2017, were used to compare species composition and catch rates between periods. Four species were recorded during 2007/2008, while 11 additional species of pelagic and demersal elasmobranchs along with teleosts were fished during 2016/2017. Elasmobranch species dominated the catches with 94% and 99.3% in terms of specimens number, respectively, during 2016/2017 and 2007/2008. The sandbar shark, Carcharhinus plumbeus, was the predominant species in catch (>84% of all fishes) during both periods. Two other species of sharks, Carcharhinus brevipinna and Isurus oxyrinchus, were relatively common, while the other species were a minor component. Despite the increase in terms of diversity pertaining to species captured during 2016/2017, the nominal catch rates of elasmobranch and C. plumbeus decreased by 39.17% and 42.21%, respectively, suggesting populations’ declines. In addition, size distribution analyses revealed that this fishery may opportunistically operate on breeding and nursery areas, which affect main species over most of their life stages. The mortality and hooking location proportions were species-specific, with some species having significant percentages of live specimens at the time of haulback, providing an opportunity to release the sensitive life stages. Given the described state of shark exploitations in the Gulf of Gabes, urgent and efficient fishery regulation measures and conservation strategies, together with further investigations, are required to allow changing the unregulated shark longline fishery to a sustainable one.


Keywords


Pelagic longline; Sharks; Gulf of Gabès; overfishing.

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