Shark take, driven by vast demand for meat and fins, is increasing.
We set out to gain insights into the impact of small-scale longline fisheries in Peru. Onboard observers were used to document catch from 145 longline fishing trips (1668 fishing days) originating from Ilo, southern Peru. Fishing effort is divided into two seasons: targeting dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus; December to February) and sharks (March to November).
A total of 16,610 sharks were observed caught, with 11,166 identified to species level. Of these, 70.6% were blue sharks (Prionace glauca), 28.4% short-fin mako sharks (Isurus oxyrinchus), and 1% were other species (including thresher (Alopias vulpinus), hammerhead (Sphyrna zygaena), porbeagle (Lamnus nasus), and other Carcharhinidae species (Carcharhinus brachyurus, Carcharhinus falciformis, Galeorhinus galeus). Mean ± SD catch per unit effort of 33.6 ± 10.9 sharks per 1000 hooks was calculated for the shark season and 1.9 ± 3.1 sharks per 1000 hooks were caught in the dolphinfish season.
An average of 83.7% of sharks caught (74.7% blue sharks; 93.3% mako sharks) were deemed sexually immature and under the legal minimum landing size, which for species exhibiting k-selected life history traits can result in susceptibility to over exploitation.
As these growing fisheries operate along the entire Peruvian coast and may catch millions of sharks per annum, we conclude that their continued expansion, along with ineffective legislative approaches resulting in removal of immature individuals, has the potential to threaten the sustainability of the fishery, its target species, and ecosystem. There is a need for additional monitoring and research to inform novel management strategies for sharks while maintaining fisher livelihoods