Targeted Catch-and-Release of Prohibited Sharks: Sand Tigers in Coastal Delaware Waters

By James P. Kilfoil, Bradley M. Wetherbee, John K. Carlson, Dewayne A. Fox

The popularity of recreational shark fishing appears to be on the rise in recent years, with current policies often failing to address the direct targeting of protected species in this sector. Examination of catch trends from the past decade revealed that more than 66 million sharks were caught by recreational anglers along the U.S. eastern coast alone, including more than 1.2 million prohib- ited species.

In the U.S. Atlantic Ocean, the popularity of recreational shark fishing has been variable over the past few decades, al- though it is generally believed to have peaked in the early 1990s (Babcock 2008).

Using Sand Tigers Carcharias taurus captured by volunteer anglers as a case study to evaluate post-release mortality, 33 individuals were fitted with external acoustic tags and passively tracked using an array of acoustic receivers. Although rates of internal hooking and gear retention were high (57% and 60%), short-term post-release mortality was relatively low (6%) and was heavily influenced by hook location and retention. Given the dramatic increase in the range and extent of recreational fishing targeting prohibited species, even relatively low mortality rates may still pose a significant threat to recovery.

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