Integrating reflexes with physiological measures to evaluate coastal shark stress response to capture

J. M. Jerome, A. J. Gallagher, S. J. Cooke, N. Hammerschlag

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


In both commercial and recreational fisheries, sharks are captured and released alive to comply with regulations or due to low economic value or voluntary conservation ethic. As a result, understanding the physiological and behavioural responses of sharks to capture stress is important for determining subsequent effects of fisheries interactions on a species-specific basis, as well as for identifying factors that influence mortality. Here, we employed a suite of conventional blood physiology endpoints (glucose, lactate, and haematocrit) integrated with assessments of reflex impairment on blacktip (Carcharhinus limbatus), great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran), nurse (Ginglymostoma cirratum) and sandbar sharks (Carcharhinus plumbeus) captured via experimental drumline gear. We documented a wide range of species-specific differences in all parameters assessed, with nurse sharks consistently having the lowest relative levels of physiological disturbance and reflex impairment; and with great hammerheads exhibiting the highest level of physiological disturbance and reflex impairment, suggesting higher vulnerability to fishing. In general, increases in lactate were positively associated with hook time and correlated with reflex impairment assessment. Moreover, reflex indices showed significant impairment with hook time, with the "jaw" reflex emerging as the most potential predictor of disturbance. Our study results connect previously reported species-specific at-vessel and post-release mortality rates to their physiological disturbance and reflex impairment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)796-804
Number of pages9
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • catch and release
  • conservation
  • fishing
  • physiology
  • reflex impairment
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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