Harbor Branch to study sharks taking catches from fishermen
Anglers on Florida’s Atlantic coast have experienced an uphill battle for their catch over the past 10 years. Far too many snappers, groupers, jacks, cobias and sailfish were swallowed up by hungry sharks before the fish could be brought back into the boat.
Shark depredation has become such a problem, scientists launch study to find solutions.
Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch Institute of Oceanography at Fort Pierce and Mississippi State University will investigate the issue through a $ 195,306 grant from the The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
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They will use a citizen science approach and work with charter fishermen and private recreational fishermen, said Matt Ajemian, senior researcher, assistant research professor and director of the Harbor Branh Fisheries Ecology and Conservation Laboratory.
“Integrating fishermen’s knowledge into a scientific process gives them more confidence in scientific results, fosters confidence and, more importantly, increases the quantity and quality of data,” Ajemian said.
What is shark depredation?
There have been few studies on the issue, Ajemian said.
“We have heard a lot about this problem from fishermen, but scientifically it has not yet been well characterized,” he said.
Questions Ajemian and his team hope to better understand include:
- What species of fish are affected?
- What species of sharks are affected?
- Is there a seasonality to the depredation?
- Is there a regionality?
- How often or how often does it take place?
The Harbor Branch portion of the one-year study will focus primarily along the east coast of Florida and involve recreational fishermen and several well-known Treasure Coast-based charter captains including:
Ajemian’s colleague at Mississippi State University Marcus Drymon has already started a similar study in the northern Gulf of Mexico and has developed a way to collect shark DNA from the tag bite left in a fisherman’s half-eaten catch. Ajemian plans to use this technique to identify shark species involved in depredation events in the Atlantic.
Saltwater fishermen’s survey of sharks
The study will use social media and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to investigate saltwater anglers about their experiences of lost catch to sharks. The survey will ask fishermen about their:
- Methods (such as spear, trade, and hook and line)
- Target species
- Seasonal behavior
- Frequency of shark depredation
- Opinions on depredation, conservation and management of sharks.
Social media has already played an important role in research. Last year, Ajemian’s team worked with the Sportsmen Fighting for Marine Balance Facebook Group, started by the late Jensen Beach Capt. Patrick Price of DayMaker charters. The 5,900 group members shared photographs and videos of shark depredation events.
From these submissions, the researchers identified the types of fish that sharks eat.
“The data we collected from the Facebook group shows the potential benefits of a social media-based approach to involving fishermen in reporting, which revealed the potential scale and complexity of the problem and the different groups involved. fisheries management that will need to interact, ”Ajemian said. “We will continue to partner with these Facebook members. “
The Legacy of Captain DayMaker Patrick Price
Ajemian attributed the genesis of the research project to Price, who died from COVID-19 complications on September 6.
“I’m sorry we couldn’t work with Price on this. We had already discussed how we were going to execute some parts of this study,” Ajemian said. “He had been very efficient by putting together a grassroots effort to highlight this problem, but now that will be part of his legacy. ”
Ajemian hopes to provide quantitative data that will help guide management strategies and solutions for fisheries managers, fishers and conservationists.
“We already know that the perception of fishermen can influence their position on management,” he said.
Ed Killer is the outside writer for TCPalm. Subscribe to its newsletter and other weekly newsletters on profile.tcpalm.com/newsletters/manage. Friend Ed on Facebook at Ed killer, follow him on Twitter @tcpalmekiller or send him an e-mail at[email protected].