Sleeper sharks are often caught on commercial sablefish long-line gear in Alaska with consistent catches in Prince William Sound and Southeast Alaska waters. Sleeper sharks are caught year round and tagged sharks are usually recaptured near where they were originally caught. Many commercial halibut fishermen, who have been fishing in Prince William Sound and Southeast, Alaska for years, report that sleeper sharks are more abundant and larger than in the past. Some fishermen report not catching sleeper sharks in the late 1980’s but sometime during the early 1990’s their encounters with the sharks began to increase. The sleeper sharks caught by these fishermen 8-10 years ago averaged around 4 feet (1.2m) in length, and now are averaging from 8-10 feet (2.4-3.1m) in length. Some fishermen report loses of 20-30% of her halibut catch to the sharks and often catch as many as 20-30 on one skate of gear in a 24-36 hour period.
In 1998 the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Homer, Alaska received reports of numerous catches of Pacific sleeper sharks in the central Cook Inlet halibut fishery. They had not heard much about Pacific sleeper sharks in Cook Inlet in past years. Most of the sharks were caught in the central gut of Cook Inlet, in 30-35 fathoms (180-210 feet), southwest of Anchor Point. Many of the reports indicated that the sleeper sharks were gobbling up their halibut while they were being brought to the surface, and the sharks were often caught and killed so the fishermen could land the halibut. International Pacific Halibut Commission biologists report high catches of Pacific sleeper sharks on halibut surveys in the central Gulf of Alaska. In one instance, they caught 67 sleeper sharks on one skate (one skate has 100 hooks). Close by, they lost 9 skates in 2 sets, presumably to sleeper sharks.
Above is a harbor seal and sea lion with open wounds that may have been caused by an attack from Pacific sleeper sharks.
Castro, Jose’. 1983. The Sharks of North American Waters. Texas A&M University Press, Texas A&M University.
Eschmeyer, W.N. and E.S. Herald 1983. A field guide to Pacific coast fishes of North America: from the Gulf of Alaska to Baja California. Boston, Mass: Houghton-Mifflin Co.
Hart, J.L. 1973. Pacific Fishes of Canada. Bull. Fish. Res. Bd. Canada 180:44-47.