A Global Overview of Commercial Fisheries for Open Ocean Sharks

Merry D. Camhi, Elizabeth Lauck, Ellen K. Pikitch, Elizabeth A. Babcock

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

19 Scopus citations


Pelagic sharks are caught throughout the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, and total elasmobranch catches reported to the Food and Agriculture Organization averaged around 261,000 metric tons (t) per ocean basin per year from 1988 to 2002. Reported chondrichthyan catches increased during the 1980s and 1990s, particularly in the Indian Ocean, although the increase may be partially explained by improved data collection. In 2002, only 26% of the chondrichthyan catches in the Atlantic, 11% in the Pacific, and 7% in the Indian Ocean were identified to species. Of the identified catches, 28% in the Atlantic, 23% in the Pacific, and 55% in the Indian Ocean were of pelagic sharks. Few fishing nations report the species composition of their shark catches or landings, obscuring which countries are engaged in pelagic shark fishing and, thus, where management efforts are needed. However, on the basis of total reported elasmobranch landings, the size of tuna and billfish fisheries, and importance in the Hong Kong shark fin trade, as well as other factors, the following countries are believed to be responsible for the majority of the world's pelagic elasmobranch landings: Brazil, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and the United States. This chapter summarizes what is known about pelagic shark fisheries by ocean basin and for the 22 major shark-fishing nations, which together accounted for 82% of the global elasmobranch landings (843,413 t) in 2002, and highlights gaps, problems, and inconsistencies in the shark catch data that make it difficult to evaluate the impact of fisheries on open ocean sharks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSharks of the Open Ocean
Subtitle of host publicationBiology, Fisheries and Conservation
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9781444302516
ISBN (Print)0632059958, 9780632059959
StatePublished - Jan 30 2009


  • Alopias
  • Bycatch
  • Carcharhinus
  • Carcharodon
  • Commercial fisheries
  • Data collection
  • Elasmobranchs
  • Isurus
  • Lamna
  • Pelagic sharks
  • Prionace
  • Shark fins
  • Trade

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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