Quantifying the unreported and unaccounted domestic and foreign commercial catch of sharks and rays in Western Australia

Abstract

Reliable catch information is scarce for most sharks and rays worldwide, with almost half of the stocks considered to be Data Deficient due to limited species-specific catch statistics. Western Australia (WA) hosts a diverse number of shark and ray species, some of which are considered to be threatened with extinction at a global level. Commercial catch statistics only account for shark and ray landings. The present study used the best available information to reconstruct unaccounted and unreported catches for 47 shark and ray taxa to better understand the impact of fishing. For some species, there was good agreement between reconstructed catches and reported landings, but overall reconstructed catches were 57% higher than those derived from official statistics alone, underestimating the actual extraction level for many species. The reconstructed catch time series provide the basis for the assessment of all species of sharks and rays captured in WA, including protected species that interact with commercial and recreational fisheries.

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Acknowledgements

Logistical support for this study was provided by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Government of Western Australia. We extend our gratitude to all the fishers that have provided catch returns over time, and for their assistance with surveys to resolve catch histories. We also thank Stuart Blight, Keith Sainsbury and John Stevens for their insightful comments on the history of foreign fishing in WA and three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. VJ was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

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Correspondence to Matias Braccini.

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Braccini, M., Kangas, M., Jaiteh, V. et al. Quantifying the unreported and unaccounted domestic and foreign commercial catch of sharks and rays in Western Australia. Ambio (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-020-01495-6

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Keywords

  • Catch reconstruction
  • Discards
  • Eastern Indian ocean
  • Elasmobranchs
  • Fisheries management
  • Unreported catch