Identifying population connectivity of shark bycatch species in NT waters
Trawl fisheries are often criticised for their indiscriminate nature, catching a broad range of target and by-catch species. Increasing community scrutiny has made it imperative for many trawl fisheries to address by-catch issues to maintain a social licence. Reducing by-catch using mitigation measures, like square mesh windows and by-catch reduction grids (BRD’s) is well documented. A complementary approach to reducing by-catch is to retain and utilise species that were previously discarded. This is the case for two small shark species, Whitecheek Shark and Milk Shark, caught in about 10% of the trawl component of the Northern Territory’s Offshore Snapper Fishery (OSF). A current impediment to the development of commercial fisheries for Whitecheek and Milk sharks is the increasing body of evidence suggesting that such species are susceptible to overfishing. Yet there are also examples where shark fisheries have proven to be sustainable. Despite being common by-catch, there is relatively little known about the biology of Whitecheek and Milk Sharks, particularly in a regional context. This void of knowledge has made it difficult for NT Fisheries to develop management strategies that would underpin sustainable harvest of these species. This investment will undertake genetic analysis to examine detailed aspects of population connectivity and structure to support the transition of these species from bycatch to a harvested by-product species, including an evaluation of leading-edge genetic techniques in fisheries assessment and monitoring.
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