An ecological risk assessment (ERA; also known as productivity and susceptibility analysis, PSA) was conducted on eleven species of pelagic elasmobranchs (10 sharks and 1 ray) to assess their vulnerability to pelagic longline fisheries in the Atlantic Ocean. This was a level-3 quantitative assessment consisting of a risk analysis to evaluate the biological productivity of these species and a susceptibility analysis to assess their propensity to capture and mortality in pelagic longline fisheries. The risk analysis estimated productivity (intrinsic rate of increase, r) using a stochastic Leslie matrix approach that incorporated uncertainty in age at maturity, lifespan, age-specific natural mortality and fecundity. Susceptibility to the fishery was calculated as the product of four components, which were also calculated quantitatively: availability of the
species to the fleet, encounterability of the gear given the species vertical distribution, gear selectivity and post-capture mortality. Information from observer programs by several ICCAT nations was used to derive fleet-specific susceptibility values. Results indicated that most species of pelagic sharks have low productivities and varying levels of susceptibility to pelagic longline gear. A number of species were grouped near the high-risk area of the productivity-susceptibility plot, particularly the silky (Carcharhinus falciformis), shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus), and bigeye thresher (Alopias superciliosus) sharks. Other species, such as the oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus) and longfin mako (Isurus paucus) sharks, are also highly vulnerable. The blue shark (Prionace glauca) has intermediate vulnerability, whereas the smooth hammerhead (Sphyrna zygaena), scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini), and porbeagle (Lamna nasus) sharks are less vulnerable, and the pelagic stingray (Pteroplatytrygon violacea) and common thresher (Alopias vulpinus) sharks have the lowest vulnerabilities. As a group, pelagic sharks are particularly
vulnerable to pelagic longline fisheries mostly as a result of their limited productivity.