Bycatch is one of the most significant issues in the management and conservation of global fisheries and has been identified as one of the leading causes of shark population declines. Sharks are susceptible to high fishing mortality rates because of their life history characteristics, which include slow growth, late ages at maturity, and the production of a limited number of young over a lifetime. In addition, research has shown that several species of sharks have very high rates of mortality associated with the fishing process. Over the past two decades, serious population declines have been reported for a number of shark species in several regions around the world and are attributed to both targeted and incidental capture.
Despite widespread recognition of shark bycatch issues, few mitigation actions have been established, and there are no clear guidelines for which mitigation actions would be most effective. In addition, there are very few management measures requiring actions to mitigate shark bycatch. However, it is clear that managers and fishermen must aim to reduce both bycatch rates and the harmful effects from bycatch.
Based on the best available information, this review provides a summary of the current knowledge and understanding of shark bycatch and discusses available management options and technical measures aimed at reducing both the rate at which sharks encounter fishing gear and the associated damaging effects.