Safe handling & release

What does safe handling and release mean?
Safe handling and release (SHR) refers to using best practice methods for dealing with bycatch species, to maximise their chances of survival after interacting with fishing gear. It can also include vessel manoeuvring to avoid taking bycatch species, for example, avoiding setting purse seines on whale sharks.
In purse seine operations, bycatch can be released from the net whilst in the water or released once brought on deck and free from the brailer. For example, dolphins can be released from purse seine nets using a 'backdown procedure and Medina panel'. For whale sharks, if they can be brought close to the hull, crew may be able to 'stand' the animal on the net and roll it outside the bunt. Very large fish, like large sharks or manta rays, can be returned to the sea using a range of deck release devices including brailer hopperssorting gridsbycatch release ramps and conveyor belts, and velcro harnesses.
With line fishing operations (longline, troll; there is little bycatch in pole and line operations) bycatch may either be released from the side of the vessel or after being brought on board, depending on size. For example, a dip net can be used to bring smaller turtles onboard, after which a piece of wood can be placed in the turtle's mouth so it cannot bite, then the hook or line can be cut. For sharks, recent research indicates it is best to avoid bringing them onboard. Instead they should be brought close to the vessel and the length of trailing gear minimised by cutting line as close to the hook as possible [1].
Where to find safe handling and release guides in the BMIS
Safe handling and release guides can be found by searching 'Collection' in the References database and sorted using filters such as 'Species Group'. Guides and more general literature about safe handling and release can be found by clicking the 'Related References' button on this page.


  1. Francis MP, Lyon WS, Clarke SC, et al (2023) Post-release survival of shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) and silky (Carcharhinus falciformis) sharks released from pelagic tuna longlines in the Pacific Ocean. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems early view: