The Pelagic Ecosystem Research Consortium (PERC) is dedicated to improving stock assessment, management and sustainability of highly migratory species, such as tuna, swordfish and sharks, in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.

PERC is led by the University of Maine, with partners from Mote Marine Laboratory, Nova Southeastern University and Auburn University.

PERC focuses on five research areas including bycatch reduction, increased understanding of life history, post-release mortality and other objectives for multiple, highly migratory fish species. Comprehensive information on the life history of highly migratory species is lacking, including data on age, growth, indices of abundance, reproduction, post-release and natural mortality, infectious disease, anthropogenic disturbance, habitat utilization/migratory behavior and stock structure.

Research by the consortium is expected to fill gaps in information that will reduce uncertainty in stock assessment models and population status, and inform appropriate quotas to promote sustainability.

In particular, PERC will gather data on:

  • Stock structure and life history of five tuna species (albacore, bigeye, bluefin, skipjack, yellowfin), swordfish, and at least 12 shark species (Atlantic sharpnose, blacknose, blacktip, bull, great and scalloped hammerheads, lemon, nurse, sandbar, spinner, tiger, and white sharks) in the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.
  • Fishes vulnerable as bycatch in Northwest Atlantic commercial pelagic longline fisheries, and shark bycatch in Gulf of Mexico bottom longline fisheries using electronic monitoring.
  • Commercial and recreational post-release mortality of swordfish in the Northwest Atlantic and great hammerhead sharks in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Life stage distribution and habitat use of five tuna species (albacore, bigeye, bluefin, skipjack, yellowfin) and other pelagic teleosts, including mahi mahi, blue and white marlins, sailfish, swordfish and wahoo; pelagic sharks. including blue, shortfin mako and white sharks; and up to 11 coastal shark species. 
  • Offshore oil platform impacts to health and movements of yellowfin tuna, comparing biological information on yellowfin tuna in the northern Gulf of Mexico, and those captured in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and Northwest Atlantic.

PERC launched with the support of a competitive, $1.6 million grant awarded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 2019 Sea Grant Highly Migratory Species Research Initiative.

Mote Marine Laboratory’s Center for Shark Research is leading the shark component of PERC’s objectives, with a $600,000 project in its first year supported by $400,000 of the Sea Grant support and a $200,000 match from Mote and its partner organization OCEARCH, which is providing $75,000 in ship time aboard its state-of-the-art shark research vessel.

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