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ESR prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01121

Elasmobranch bycatch in US West Coast groundfish fisheries

Jason E. Jannot*, Rhema Bjorkland, Kayleigh A. Somers, Toby Mitchell, Vanessa J. Tuttle, Jon McVeigh

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Effective management of multispecies fisheries in large marine ecosystems is challenging. To deal with these challenges, fisheries managers are moving toward ecosystem-based fishery management (e.g. EBFM). Despite this shift, many species remain outside protective legislation or fishery management plans. How do species that fall outside of formal management structures respond to changes in fisheries management strategies? In 2011, the US West Coast Groundfish Fishery (WCGF) shifted management to an Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) program. We used data collected by fisheries observers to examine the impact of this shift on elasmobranch catch (sharks, skates, rays). Historically, not all elasmobranchs were included in the WCGF Management Plan, making them vulnerable to fishing mortality. We grouped elasmobranchs into 8 groups based on 14 ecomorphotypes to examine relative catch within groundfish fishing sectors during the period 2002–2014. Of the 22 sharks and 18 skates and rays that these fisheries capture, 9 are listed as near threatened or greater on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and 10 species are listed as data deficient by IUCN. The bycatch of 4 non-managed elasmobranch species was reduced under the IFQ program; IFQ management had no significant impact on the remaining 27 species caught by the IFQ fleet. Overall, catch of non-managed elasmobranchs was relatively low. We show that groups of ecomorphotypes co-occur within fisheries, suggesting natural management units for use in EBFM. This work helps identify gaps in monitoring and assessing the impact of management and policy on elasmobranch populations.