The repulsive and feeding-deterrent effects of electropositive metals on juvenile sandbar sharks (Carcharhinus plumbeus) | Consortium for Wildlife Bycatch Reduction
Reducing shark bycatch and depredation (i.e., damage caused by sharks to gear, bait, and desired fish species) in pelagic longline fisheries targeting tunas and swordfish is a priority. Electropositive metals (i.e., a mixture of the lanthanide elements lanthanum, cerium, neodymium, and praseodymium) have been shown to deter spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias, primarily a coastal species) from attacking bait, presumably because of interactions with the electroreceptive system of this shark. We undertook to determine the possible effectiveness of electropositive metals for reducing the interactions of pelagic sharks with longline gear, using sandbar sharks (Carcharhinus plumbeus, family Carcharhinidae) as a model species. The presence of electropositive metal deterred feeding in groups of juvenile sandbar sharks and altered the swimming patterns of individuals in the absence of food motivation (these individuals generally avoided approaching electropositive metal closer than about 100 cm). The former effect was relatively short-lived however; primarily (we assume) because competition with other individuals increased feeding motivation. In field trials with bottom longline gear, electropositive metal placed within about 10 cm of the hooks reduced the catch of sandbar sharks by approximately two thirds, compared to the catch on hooks in the proximity of plastic pieces of similar dimensions. Electropositive metals therefore appear to have the potential to reduce shark interactions in pelagic longline fisheries, although the optimal mass, shape, composition, and distance to baited hooks remain to be determined.