Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Georgia
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Belcher, C.N. and C. A. Jennings. 2011. Identification and evaluation of sub-adult shark bycatch in Georgia’s commercial trawl fisheries. Fisheries Management and Ecology 18:104-112.


Overfishing has reduced many shark populations along the east coast of the United States. Many states have recreational and commercial fisheries that occur in nursery areas occupied by sub-adult sharks, which raises concerns about mortality rates for these life stages. Georgia is one of few states without a directed shark fishery; however, the State is home to a large trawl fishery for penaeid shrimp, and small sharks occur as bycatch in shrimp trawls. During fishery-dependent sampling events from 1995-1998, 34% of 127 trawls contained sharks. This bycatch totaled 217 individuals from six species, with Atlantic sharpnose shark, Rhizoprionodon terraenovae (Richardson), the most common, and finetooth, Carcharhinus isodon (Valenciennes), and spinner, Carcharhinus brevipinna (Müller and Henle), sharks the least common. The highest catch rates for sharks occurred during June and July and coincided with the peak months of the pupping season for many species. Fishing characteristics (i.e., tow speed and tow time) did not significantly influence catch rates for shark species. Gear configurations (net type, turtle excluder device, bycatch reduction device) did affect catch rates for shark species. Management strategies that may reduce shark bycatch in this fishery include possible gear restrictions, a delayed season opening or reduced bar spacing on turtle excluder devices.