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Declining trends in annual catch rates of the tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) in Queensland, Australia

Holmes, Bonnie J., Sumpton, Wayne D., Mayer, David G., Tibbetts, Ian R., Neil, David T., Bennett, Mike B.
Fisheries research 2012 v.129-130 pp. 38-45
Galeocerdo cuvier, coasts, sharks, Queensland
Suitable long term species-specific catch rate and biological data are seldom available for large shark species, particularly where historical commercial logbook reporting has been poor. However, shark control programs can provide suitable data from gear that consistently fishes nearshore waters all year round. We present an analysis of the distribution of 4757 Galeocerdo cuvier caught in surface nets and on drumlines across 9 of the 10 locations of the Queensland Shark Control Program (QSCP) between 1993 and 2010. Standardised catch rates showed a significant decline (p<0.0001) in southern Queensland locations for both gear types, which contrasts with studies at other locations where increases in tiger shark catch per unit effort (CPUE) have been reported. Significant temporal declines in the average size of tiger sharks occurred at four of the nine locations analysed (p<0.05), which may be indicative of fishing reducing abundance in these areas. Given the long term nature of shark control programs along the Australian east coast, effects on local abundance should have been evident many years ago, which suggests that factors other than the effects of shark control programs have also contributed to the decline. While reductions in catch rate are consistent with a decline in tiger shark abundance, this interpretation should be made with caution, as the inter-annual CPUE varies considerably at most locations. Nevertheless, the overall downward trend, particularly in southern Queensland, indicates that current fishing pressures on the species may be unsustainable.