Hooking mortality of scalloped hammerhead Sphyrna lewini and great hammerhead Sphyrna mokarran sharks caught on bottom longlines
The scalloped hammerhead Sphyrna lewini and the great hammerhead S. mokarran are typically caught as bycatch in a variety of fisheries and are listed as globally Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Due to very high at-vessel mortality for these species, research is needed on fishing methods to reduce mortality for longline-captured sharks. A series of fishing experiments were conducted employing hook timers and temperature–depth recorders on contracted commercial vessels fishing with bottom-longline gear to assess factors related to mortality. A total of 273 sets were deployed with 54 485 hook timers. Scalloped and great hammerheads had at-vessel mortality rates of 62.9% and 56.0%, respectively. Median hooking times for scalloped and great hammerheads were 3.5 h and 3.4 h, respectively, and 50% mortality was predicted at 3.5 h and 3.8 h. When these data are considered for potential management strategies to reduce the mortality of hammerhead sharks, a limitation on gear soak time would probably improve hammerhead shark survivorship. However, it may prove to be difficult for a fishery to remain economically viable if the soak time is limited to less than the median hooking time for the target species. Additional management options, such as time/area closures, may need to be explored to reduce bycatch mortality of scalloped and great hammerheads.