St Joseph Shark

(Callorhinchus capensis)

Cape elephant fish, Elephant fish, St Joseph's shark

Species is currently under revision

1. What is it?

St Joseph sharks (Callorhinchus capensis) are endemic, fast growing, high fertility fish that are naturally predated on by cape fur seals and larger species of true sharks. They migrate inshore, resulting in high concentrations of fish in the nursery areas, which lie in shallow sheltered bays, which could make them vulnerable to overexploitation. The species biology and life history characteristics make this species moderately vulnerable to fishing pressure. However, current fishing pressure of this species is unknown.

2. How was it caught or farmed?

St Joseph sharks are caught as bycatch in inshore trawl fishery for hake (MSC certified) and sole using trawl nets. In the inshore zone, trawl nets are dragged along the sea bed at depths in the area from the coast to the 110 m isobath or to 20 nautical miles from the coast, whichever is the greater distance. Demersal trawling is known to damage the seabed; the extent and impact of this damage remains unknown. This methodology is not selective, however, and a number of other benthic species are often caught in the nets as well. Seabird bycatch was highlighted as an issue and the subsequent introduction of tori lines (lines covered in coloured streamers making attachment lines more visible to birds) has led to a decrease in bird mortalities.

3. Where is it from?

St Joseph sharks are caught between Cape Agulhas and the Great Kei River at depth shallower that 110 m. Management is considered to be partly effective. Management is mainly directed at the target species hake (MSC certified) and sole in the form of Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and permit limitations. Some ecosystem-based management measures have been implemented, such as the use of tori lines to minimize seabird interactions and limited fishing areas. There is a fishery conservation project (FCP) presently underway seeking to test a co-management approach that would bring under management 10 non-target species in the sector. Additional ecological concerns are little information on impacts to sensitive shark, skates and ray populations as well as impacts to the seabed. Efforts are underway to improve the scientific observer coverage at sea for this sector to better understand ecosystem impacts.

NOTE: The directed gill net fishery for St Joseph sharks has not be assessed.