Melanie Hutchinson 1

Briefly can you describe the focus of your research and the species you work on?

I work on shark bycatch problems in commercial fisheries. I am working on finding different ways to reduce the impact that commercial fisheries targeting tuna and billfish have on pelagic shark populations. I am involved in the development and testing of several deterrent devices in both the longline and purse seine fisheries, I am also working on some satellite and acoustic telemetry studies to identify movement behavior and habitat use requirements that may help managers with conservation tactics and I am looking at post release survival in shark bycatch that is discarded in high seas fisheries.

 

In your opinion, how can people help save sharks?

By demanding sustainable seafoods and educating themselves about the products they buy. The dollar wields a lot of power, and there is great responsibility in the use of that power. I always tell people to download the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch App on their phones and to use it at restaurants and at the market. Essentially consumers are the ones driving fisheries so we just need to steer them in the right direction.

Melanie Hutchinson 2

How did you get involved in shark research and what advice would you give those interested in studying them?

My first real science job after college was working as a fisheries observer for NMFS in the Hawaii tuna and swordfish longline fisheries. Prior to that I was really interested in parasite-host relationships on coral reefs. But as soon as I became aware of the shark bycatch issues my personal mission was forever changed. I started looking in to labs that worked on fisheries and sharks and there was one at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. So I started in the masters program and did a project testing the effects of different electropositive repellents on shark catch rates using longlines and then I got into the PhD program and began working on silky shark bycatch in the tropical tuna purse seine fishery. Now I work for the International Fisheries Program at the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center for NOAA developing and testing bycatch mitigation technologies. For people interested in studying sharks I would say just follow your passions. You will encounter a lot of brick walls and its easy to get deterred and discouraged by nay sayers but if you want to break in to this field tenacity and hard work will get you everywhere. Learn how to program (write computer code), drive a boat, fish and to dive and you will have a skill set that few people have.

Melanie Hutchinson 3

Please provide links to any of your research you would like to showcase.

Shark Telemetry Lab’s Tiger Shark Tracking Website

International Seafood Sustainability Foundation

Atlantic White Shark Conservancy

Maui Brewing Company: Lorenzini Double IPA

Research Gate: Melanie Hutchinson