Sport fishing for sharks, including fishing with the intent to release, is becoming more prevalent within the recreational angling community. Common targets of recreational anglers are juvenile lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) that frequent shallow tropical nearshore habitats. In this study, we captured 32 juvenile lemon sharks (530-875 mm total length) with conventional angling gear (i.e. spinning rods, dead fish bait and 5/0 barbed circle hooks) from the coastal waters of Eleuthera, The Bahamas, to determine the consequences of capture for individual sharks. Each shark was examined for hooking injuries, blood sampled to quantify physiological disturbance, assessed for reflex impairment and then monitored to assess postrelease behaviour and mortality. Four sharks (12.5%) died following release during the 15 min tracking period. Principal components (PC) analysis revealed four axes describing 66.5% of the variance for blood physiology parameters, total length and water temperature. The PC1 and PC3 scores, characterized by positive factor loadings for indicators of exercise-induced stress and blood ion concentrations, respectively, were significantly related to fight time but were not associated with short-term mortality. Short-term mortality was significantly related to factor scores for PC4 that loaded heavily for water temperature and total length. Ten sharks (31%) exhibited impaired reflexes, with loss of bite reflex being most prevalent. Sharks that died had the following characteristics: (i) they had two or more impaired reflexes; (ii) they were hooked in the basihyal; (iii) they exhibited no movement after the initial bout of directional swimming; and (iv) they experienced high water temperatures (i.e. > 31°C). Collectively, these results indicate that for juvenile lemon sharks inhabiting tropical flats, fight time can influence the degree of physiological disturbance, while water temperature contributes to the likelihood of survival following release.

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Keywords Catch and release, Hooking injury, Juvenile lemon shark, Mortality, Physiological stress, Recreational angling
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Journal Conservation Physiology
Danylchuk, A.J. (Andy J.), Suski, C.D. (Cory D.), Mandelman, J.W. (John W.), Murchie, K.J. (Karen J.), Haak, C.R. (Christopher R.), Brooks, A.M.L. (Annabelle M.L.), & Cooke, S.J. (2014). Hooking injury, physiological status and short-term mortality of juvenile lemon sharks (Negaprion bevirostris) following catch-and-release recreational angling. Conservation Physiology, 2(1). doi:10.1093/conphys/cot036