The effects of a lanthanide metal alloy on shark catch rates
Bycatch of sharks in longline fisheries has contributed to declines in shark populations and prompted the need for exploring novel technologies to reduce the incidental capture of sharks. One potential strategy is to exploit the unique electrosensory system of sharks, used to detect weak electric fields. Metals from the lanthanide series, made up of neodymium (Nd) and praseodymium (Pr), produce strong electric fields in water. In this study, we tested the effects of an Nd/Pr alloy on shark catch rates. Using longline fishing gear, we compared the catch rates of baited hooks affixed with either a block of the metal alloy (experimental) or a lead weight (control). Four experiments were conducted in different regions of the Pacific Ocean. Two bottom longline experiments were conducted inside and offshore of Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. One of these experiments targeted young of the year scalloped hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini), while the other targeted sandbar (Carcharhinus plumbeus) and tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier). In the Southern California Bight (SCB), pelagic longlines were deployed to target mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) and blue sharks (Prionace glauca) and longlines targeting pelagic sharks were set in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP) off Ecuador. There was a significant reduction in juvenile hammerhead sharks caught on hooks with the lanthanide metal compared to the controls. In contrast, there was no difference in the catch rates for experiments targeting sandbar sharks in Hawaii or those conducted in the SCB and Ecuador. These results suggest that there are inter-specific differences regarding the effects of lanthanide metals on catch rates. This may reflect the diverse feeding strategies and sensory modalities used by shark species for detecting and attacking prey.