HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

National Plan of Action for Sharks
The Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) is revising its National Plan of Action for Sharks (NPOA-Sharks). This is the key policy document for shark conservation and management in the Cook Islands and compliance with the NPOA is a requirement of the MMR fishing licenses.
Some of the key measures being suggested for the draft shark NPOA are:
(1) Strict protection of sharks for which there are science-based concerns about their threatened population status requiring prompt release without ill-treatment. The species requiring protection are the Basking, Great White, Whale shark, OceanicWhitetip and Silky sharks.
(2) Strict protection of sharks for which applying the precautionary approach would indicate concern about their population status. This would apply to all ray species (such as Mantas) and all Hammerhead sharks.
(3) To discourage finning, fins would be required to remain attached to shark carcasses up until the point of landing.
(4) For those species which can handle some fishing pressure, catch limits can be set to restrict the catch to low levels that make it impossible to target sharks.
(5) Clarification on whether wire trace should be banned is needed as it is currently used in other sustainable fisheries such as the big-eye tuna fishery in Hawaii.
(6) Prohibit purse-seine sets around Whale sharks.
(7) Consider eco-tourism guidelines.
(8) Consider reporting of recreational and artisanal fisheries.
(9) Establish a Shark Advisory Board.
This report describes analysis of confidential datasets from catch logsheets and observers provided by MMR to Dr Shelly Clarke – an eminent shark scientist – in order to provide scientific advice for the NPOA-Shark.
What are the locations of observed sets?
Observer data sets were plotted using R graphics.
What is the pattern of fishing effort flag?
In the northern EEZ all 54 observed sets (100,366 hooks) were American Samoa-flagged vessels. These were observed in 2002. In the southern EEZ at 75 sets (209,934 hooks) were observed, all flagged to the Cook Islands and all in 2008-2010.
How does shark catch vary by flag?
The total number of sharks caught by Cook Islands vessels in the south (n=183) was about double those caught by American Samoa vessels in the north (n=78), but the effort in the south was about double too.Blue shark catches were much higher in the south but makos were about the same in both areas. Oceanic whitetip and thresher catch rates were higher in the north (as expected) but silky sharks were about the same in both areas.
Table 1.Species-specific catch rates for the northern and southern EEZs, based on SPC Longline Observer dataset.

How does the species composition vary between the northern and southern EEZ?
Oceanic whitetip and silky sharks are the most common species encountered in the northern EEZ (Region 1) and blue sharks are the most common species encountered in the southern EEZ (Region 2). These findings conform to what is known about the distribution of these sharks.
What is the fate of sharks caught in the Longline Fishery?
The only sharks recorded as finned in this database were in 2002. In that year 29 sharks of 86 encountered were finned (34%). This included six blue sharks (32%), one silky (9%), two longfin makos (17%), 13 oceanic whitetips (62%), six pelagic threshers (60%) and one unidentified shark (6%).
The MMR allows a 5% fin to carcass ratio onboard the vessels, which is consistent with the conservation and management measure of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (Tuna Commission).
What is the origin of the captain and the crew in the longline fleet in recent years?
Of the 32 observed trips in this database, 28 were on vessels flagged to the Cook Islands, two were on Vanuatu-flagged vessels and two on Taiwanese-flagged vessels. The two Taiwanese-flagged vessels and the two Vanuatu-flagged vessels had Taiwanese captains. The Cook Islands-flagged vessels had either Fijian captains (n=19), Korean captains (n=7), or New Zealand captains (n=2). Most of the Fijian-captained vessels had Fijian crew, whereas most of the Korean-captained vessels had Southeast Asian crew. Taiwanese- and New Zealand-captained vessels had mixed crew composition.
Does the shark CPUE vary depending on the captain/crew nationality?
Yes. The CPUE (catch of sharks per 1000 hooks) was 0.77 for the Fijian-captained vessels, but only 0.32 for the Korean-captained, 0.34 for the New Zealand-captained, and 0.25 for the Taiwanese-captained vessels.
What was the fate of sharks in this dataset?
The vast majority of sharks caught in the longline fishery were discarded without being finned (99%). Only four sharks were reported finned of the total of 371 sharks encountered. All finned sharks were finned by a Vanuatu-flagged vessel with a Taiwanese captain and Southeast Asian crew in 2011.
What other information can be gleaned from this dataset?
From examination of records it appears that:
• Although the use of wire trace was captured in the dataset with a yes/no field, no use of wire trace was reported.
• Many of the shark catches were made on circle hooks.
• All of the sets were deep sets with hooks between floats of 15 or more
• There was no shark targeting reported by the observer (a subjective judgment).
What sharks are recorded in the exploratory fishing dataset?
The most common shark species encountered is the blue shark (75%), followed by the oceanic whitetip shark (15%) and the silky shark (6%). The average size of these sharks is quite large except for the oceanic whitetips. Note that retention of the oceanic whitetip shark should now be prohibited under a new conservation and management measure adopted by the Tuna commission in 2011.
The following are the key points arising from this review of the three datasets:
• Due to data gaps from 2004-2007 and lack of contrast in the SPC dataset longline observer datasetit is difficult to draw conclusions.
• Most finning (34% of sharks) occurred in 2002 before it was prohibited by the WCPFC (Tuna Commission) or under any other regulation.
• Although it was more up-to-date and contained some additional, useful data fields, analysis of the MMR dataset was limited by the absence of zero-catch records and spatial data.
• The MMR database indicated that Cook Islands-flagged vessels captained by Fijians had shark catch rates more than double those of other vessels in the domestic longline fleet.
• A few (n=4) sharks were finned by a Vanuatu-flagged vessel participating in the Cook Islands longline fleet in 2011.
• The MMR database indicates that the longline fishery generally does not use wire leaders (trace), fishes deep sets (>15 hooks between floats), often fishes circle hooks, and does not target sharks.
• Despite mainly fishing in the northern EEZ, the exploratory longline fleet is mainly catch blue sharks (75%).
• There is no evidence of shark targeting in the reported logsheet data from the exploratory fishery.

Herald Issue 608 21 March
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- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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