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Pacific Tuna Fisheries Managers to Consider Bycatch Reduction for Oceanic Sharks

Last week between May 20 and May 23 Shark Stewards Hawai’i team attended the CIAT-IATTC tuna management meeting to discuss bycatch and the science behind tuna migrations. This meeting started with a film night including our film Kahu Manō on Hawaii sharks, culture and traditional conservation.

With it we screened Brittany Bigg’s moving animation Manō, featuring a Hawaiian tiger shark and Polymesian cultural connections to the shark.  Also screened was National Geographic World’s Most Dangerous Shark with Dr. Yanis Papimastou and our team-member Deron Verbeck on oceanic whitetip sharks.

Following the film Shark Stewards Director David McGuire addressed the forum on the plight of oceanic whitetip sharks and posed the solution offered by the Hawai’i Longline Association and Western and Central Pacific Fishing Commission’s move to swap out wire leaders for monofilament so that captured sharks can bite free, while the target species of swordfish and tuna are still retained.  This measure adopted by the HLA and WCPFC will significantly reduce bycatch of OWT, Silky and other sharks. 

The meeting included several commercial tuna fishing industry representatives, NOAA- National Marine Fisheries, students and scientists. New data on tuna and elasmobranch biology, migrations and population distribution were presented. Several talks were given on fisheries interactions and overlap of swordfish and tuna with incidental catch species such as silky sharks, the most common shark caught as bycatch in tune seines. Solutions to reduce bycatch including adding Electronic Monitoring systems, streaming cameras, shifting fishing away from areas where areas of high bycatch exists and other management suggestions. 

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Dr. Melanie Hutchinson, the Chair of the Tuna Conference and member of the IATTC (and Hawai’i Shark Taggers) hosted the conference and presented her work to prevent bycatch of oceanic whitetip sharks. Scientific posters were also presented, including Shark Steward’s Saving the Encangered Oceanic Whitetip Shark, and Dr Hutschinson’s Investigating Non-Lethal Deterrents To Reduce Interactions And Mortality of Oceanic Whitetip Sharks and Other Protected Species Around Hawaii.

Several members of the Commission expressed support for the measure and the next step is to take it to a sub-committtee who will present the proposal to the full commission. 

We will be pursuing this and other solutions to protect these endangered sharks- including zero retention and a complete ban on the sale and trade of the fins of OWT and Silky sharks. Your voice and support matters and with more momentum we will save these sharks from extinction. Please share this petition and post, and follow Shark Stewards on social media.