In a world-first study led by the Global Shark Movement Project coordinated by the MegaMove Steering Committee member Prof David Sims, and involving a large number of co-authors, satellite tracking technologies have revealed the extensive pressure that industrialised fishing fleets impose on pelagic shark populations around the world. Together, the team combined tracks from 1,681 large pelagic sharks of 23 species and examined the level of overlap that they displayed with fishing vessels that were monitored via a safety and anti-collision system.
In an average month, 24% of the space use by sharks fell under the footprint of pelagic longline fisheries. Monthly overlap was even greater for commercially targeted species, such as North Atlantic blue (76%) and shortfin mako sharks (62%), and for protected species, such as great white sharks and porbeagle sharks (~64%).
These findings, published in Nature, highlight the lack of spatial refuges available to pelagic sharks in the high seas, and emphasise the urgent need to develop scientifically-informed management strategies, such as Marine Protected Areas, to conserve their populations.