Phylogeny explains capture mortality of sharks and rays in pelagic longline fisheries: a global meta-analytic synthesis
Apex and mesopredators such as elasmobranchs are important for maintaining ocean health and are the focus of conservation efforts to mitigate exposure to fishing and other anthropogenic hazards. Quantifying fishing mortality components such as at-vessel mortality (AVM) is necessary for effective bycatch management. We assembled a database for 61 elasmobranch species and conducted a global meta-synthesis to estimate pelagic longline AVM rates. Evolutionary history was a significant predictor of AVM, accounting for up to 13% of variance in Bayesian phylogenetic meta-regression models for Lamniformes and Carcharhiniformes clades. Phylogenetically related species may have a high degree of shared traits that explain AVM. Model-estimated posterior mean AVM rates ranged from 5% (95% HDI 0.1%–16%) for pelagic stingrays and 76% (95% HDI 49%–90%) for salmon sharks. Measures that reduce catch, and hence AVM levels, such as input controls, bycatch quotas and gear technology to increase selectivity are appropriate for species with higher AVM rates. In addition to reducing catchability, handling-and-release practices and interventions such as retention bans in shark sanctuaries and bans on shark finning and trade hold promise for species with lower AVM rates. Robust, and where applicable, phylogenetically-adjusted elasmobranch AVM rates are essential for evidence-informed bycatch policy.