Marine megafauna catch in southwestern Indian Ocean small-scale fisheries from landings data

Temple AJ, Wambiji N, Poonian CNS, et al (2019) Marine megafauna catch in southwestern Indian Ocean small-scale fisheries from landings data. Biological Conservation 230:113–121.

The measurable impacts of small-scale fisheries on coastal marine ecosystems and vulnerable megafauna species (elasmobranchs, marine mammals and sea turtles) within them are largely unknown, particularly in developing countries. This study assesses megafauna catch and composition in handline, longline, bottom-set and drift gillnet fisheries of the southwestern Indian Ocean. Observers monitored 21 landing sites across Kenya, Zanzibar and northern Madagascar for 12 months in 2016–17. Landings (n = 4666) identified 59 species, including three sea turtles, two small cetaceans and one sirenian (Dugong dugon). Primary gear threats to investigated taxa were identified as bottom-set gillnets (marine mammals, sea turtles and batoids), drift gillnets (marine mammals, batoids and sharks) and longlines (sharks). Overall, catch was dominated by small and moderately sized coastal requiem sharks (Carcharhiniformes) and whiprays (Dasyatidae). Larger coastal and oceanic elasmobranchs were also recorded in substantial numbers as were a number of deeper-water species. The diversity of catch demonstrates the potential for small-scale fisheries to have impacts across a number of ecosystems. From the observed catch rates we calculated annual regional elasmobranch landings to be 35,445 (95%CI 30,478–40,412) tonnes, 72.6% more than officially reported in 2016 and 129.2% more than the 10-year average (2006–16), constituting 2.48 (95%CI 2.20–2.66) million individuals. Productivity-Susceptibility Analyses indicate that small and moderately sized elasmobranchs are most vulnerable in the small-scale fisheries. The study demonstrates substantial underreporting of catches in small-scale fisheries and highlights the need to expand efforts globally to assess the extent and impact of small-scale fisheries on vulnerable marine species and their respective ecosystems.