The elasmobranch fisheries of the Azores
In the Northeast Atlantic, elasmobranchs are a common bycatch in many fisheries, including demersal trawls, longlines, or gillnets and many countries do not have regulations or any control over the amount taken. In the Mid Atlantic, the Azores EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), small-scale fishing operations, artisanal and hook-and-line fishing methods are responsible for part of local total landed elasmobranch biomass, although some species are specifically focused and severely harvested by international large-scale fleets. This work provides a review and analysis of the commercial elasmobranch fisheries in the Azores EEZ, and its evolution over the last two decades, highlighting management priorities, taking into account the Northeast Atlantic elasmobranch fisheries status. In the Mid-Atlantic, elasmobranch fisheries mainly target 4 species, that are usually landed as bycatch: the tope shark (Galeorhinus galeus) and the thornback ray (Raja clavata), captured mainly by local demersal artisanal fisheries, the blue shark (Prionace glauca) and the shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) captured by a more industrialised fleet, including those from foreign nations. Considering elasmobranchs life history traits and fishery history, caution is advised in the development of a management strategy focusing on these species, considering the Northeast Atlantic context and regional, local and national interests.