WASHINGTON (CN) – The small size of the blacknose shark – only 4 feet when fully grown – makes it easy for it to become entangled in gillnets set to catch other fish, and as a result the species is in trouble, according to a draft plan released by the National Marine Fisheries Service to rebuild stocks of the little shark.
An average of 86,381 blacknose sharks were killed each year between 1999 and 2005. An estimated 45 percent of the sharks are killed as bycatch in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic shrimp trawl fisheries, and 28,000 are taken by commercial shark fisheries. Fishery Service population models estimate that the maximum biologically sustainable catch would be about 19,000 blacknose sharks a year, or 78 percent reduction in deaths.
The Fisheries Service proposes to reduce catch by banning gillnet gear from the northern border of South Carolina to the Caribbean, and east to include the Gulf of Mexico. While this would be good for the blacknose shark, it would reduce the value of other fisheries such as the smooth dogfish fishery which relies on gillnet gear for harvesting. To resolve the potential conflict between fisheries protection and the economic and social impact of protective measures, the Fisheries Service will hold nine meetings to hear public comment on the service’s preferred plan and possible alternatives.