Respiratory mode and gear type are important determinants of elasmobranch immediate and post-release mortality
Estimated declines in shark and ray populations worldwide have raised major, widespread concern about the impacts of global fisheries on elasmobranchs. The mechanisms causing elasmobranch mortality during fisheries’ capture are not fully understood, but we must gain greater clarity on this topic for fisheries managers to develop effective conservation plans to mitigate further population declines. To evaluate how two important factors, respiratory mode and fishing gear type, impact elasmobranch survival, we compiled publicly available data sources on the immediate mortality percentages of 83 species and post-release mortality percentages of 40 species. Using Bayesian models, we found that sharks and rays captured in longlines had significantly lower immediate mortality than those caught in trawls or gillnets. Our models also predicted the mean total discard mortality (combined immediate and post-release mortality) percentages of obligate ram-ventilating elasmobranchs caught in longline, gillnet and trawl gear types to be 49.8, 79.0 and 84.2%, respectively. In contrast, total discard mortality percentages of stationary-respiring species were significantly lower (longline capture mean = 7.2%, gillnet capture mean = 25.3%, trawl capture mean = 41.9%). Our global meta-analysis provides the first quantified demonstration of how mortality is affected by these two factors across a broad range of species. Our results and approach can be applied to data-deficient elasmobranchs and fisheries to identify species that are likely to experience high rates of mortality due to respiratory mode and/or fishing methods used, so that appropriate mitigation measures can be prioritized and investigated.