How sustainable are elasmobranch catches in Canadian pacific commercial fisheries?
Few elasmobranchs are subject to directed commercial fisheries in Canada, but some are incidentally caught in fisheries targeting teleosts (DFO, 2007). Here I estimate the interception of elasmobranchs within Canadian Pacific commercial fisheries over the last 30 years (1980-2013) through a critical review of fisheries management and analysis of DFO catch statistics. A total of 208,642 tonnes of elasmobranches was recorded, with 93% of weight comprised of the commercially valued elasmobranchs: Spotted Spiny Dogfish, Big Skate, and Longnose Skate. Catch retention changed little over the last 30 years, with an average of three-quarters of the catch being retained. 1,824,792 individual elasmobranchs were annually intercepted within the past decade (2003-2013). In this past decade there has been a steep decline in elasmobranch catch. This is unlikely to be due to unsustainable fishing of declining populations. Instead, declining market demand and improved management has contributed to the emergence of sustainable elasmobranch fisheries.