Recreational fishing impacts on threatened river sharks: A potential conservation issue

The Adelaide River in Australia's Northern Territory is a popular recreational fishing area, as well as habitat for threatened and protected river sharks (Glyphis species). Both the Critically Endangered Speartooth Shark (Glyphis glyphis) and Endangered Northern River Shark (Glyphis garricki) are identified here in illegal catches from recreational angling. The identification of a decayed shark specimen using a DNA barcoding-like approach is the first such application to the identification of protected sharks in a recreational fishery. While the extent of catches by recreational anglers is unknown, the threatened status of these sharks, their suspected low population sizes, restricted distributions and importance of the Adelaide River as a nursery area call for the consideration of this as a potential conservation issue. As such, appropriate measures should be taken to reduce interactions with recreational anglers. The primary target species in the river is the iconic sportfish, Barramundi, which is predominantly caught by unbaited lure. Sharks are rarely caught on lure, allowing an opportunity for mitigation to focus on a fishing activity (baited hooks) which would limit any regulatory impact on popular lure fishing. Potential mitigation measures range from increased angler education and compliance checks, to the implementation of a spatial closure to baited hook fishing (a lure-only zone). Such measures may assist in meeting a stated objective of the Australian Government's river shark Recovery Plan to ‘reduce and, where possible, eliminate adverse impacts of recreational fishing'.

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