Established in 1973, the Longline Survey at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science is the world's longest running fishery independent monitoring program for sharks, skates, and rays. Each month from June to September, survey scientists visit 8 fixed longline stations in Chesapeake Bay and coastal Virginia waters to monitor the distribution, abundance, and biology of adult sharks, which use these waters during seasonal migrations along the U.S. eastern seaboard. VIMS scientists monitor the population of juvenile sharks in the related COASTSPAN survey.
The results of the VIMS Longline Survey provide the standardized, fishery-independent data needed to effectively manage these long-lived species. Standardized longline methods allow scientists to detect population trends by comparing survey results from year-to-year and decade-to-decade, while fishery-independence precludes the biases inherent in catch data from shark fisheries, which are influenced by market conditions, advances in fishing gear, regulatory changes, and other factors.