Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Lethal Sampling

There are about 5,000 Tigers left in the wild.
What would you say if some Tiger researcher published a paper claiming that it was OK for scientists to go kill a few in order to collect data that would be essential for their management and conservation. How about Giant Pandas, population 2,000 - OK to go shoot a couple?
No way? Thought so!

Or take a species with a reasonably robust population size.
Orcas, population approx. 50,000: would it be OK for scientists to go kill a few in order to collate better data?
Still not convinced?

And Great Whites, population 3,500?
Perfectly fine to go kill a few!, say Ozzie Shark researchers Heupel and Simpfendorfer - and please read the comments by WhySharksMatter here.


General consensus among scientists, commercial interests, and the public regarding the status of shark populations is leading to an increasing need for the scientific community to provide information to help guide effective management and conservation actions.
Experience from other marine vertebrate taxa suggests that public, political, and media pressures will play an increasingly important part in setting research, management, and conservation priorities.

We examined the potential implications of nonscientific influences on shark research.
In particular, we considered whether lethal research sampling of sharks is justified.
Although lethal sampling comes at a cost to a population, especially for threatened species, the conservation benefits from well-designed studies provide essential data that cannot be collected currently in any other way. Methods that enable nonlethal collection of life-history data on sharks are being developed (e.g., use of blood samples to detect maturity), but in the near future they will not provide widespread or significant benefits. Development of these techniques needs to continue, as does the way in which scientists coordinate their use of material collected during lethal sampling.

For almost half of the known shark species there are insufficient data to determine their population status; thus, there is an ongoing need for further collection of scientific data to ensure all shark populations have a future.

Shark populations will benefit most when decisions about the use of lethal sampling are made on the basis of scientific evidence that is free from individual, political, public, and media pressures.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not disputing the need for Shark autopsies, or whatever - though I sure am amazed at the apparent lack of data: what were those fisheries biologists doing during all those past decades of research and data collection, notabene paid for by public funds - huh???

People who lethally sample (a euphemism for going fishing with the intent of killing) Sharks are generally called fishermen.
There must be hundreds of millions of fishermen and last time I looked, 50-odd million Sharks were being lethally sampled each year: are Heupel and Simpfendorfer really suggesting that scientists must go and kill more Sharks on top of that?
That 50 Million dead Sharks are not providing for enough specimen for them to collate their oh-so-important data??? On top of the many Sharks that die by accident during non-lethal sampling by researchers?


How pathetic is that!
Two years ago, I blogged about some moron who was squandering scarce research funds by going ice fishing for Greenland Sharks instead of analyzing the thousands of Sharks caught by the fishermen. More recently, I've blogged about an arrogant research dude torturing Great Whites (read this - how true!) for a horrible fishing show - which just happens to be on air at this very moment!

They are but two examples of a particularly disturbing breed of researchers who display a fatal disconnect between the quest for scientific insights and the most basic sense of what is right and what is not.

I've since had countless conversations with scientists and especially, providers of research grants about the need to stop squandering resources and to apply stringent ethical imperatives when bankrolling any further scientific research.
Everybody seems to agree, and I'm being told that the the Shark killers tend to be the older researchers and that the majority of the newcomers oppose those methods - which is a good thing!

This shit must stop, period.
It just so happens that in a few days, the very same Heupel and Simpfendorfer will be hosting Sharks International in Cairns. Will somebody there finally speak up against those intolerable shenanigans and the according display of heartlessness and hubris?

Or is it me who just does not get it?

1 comment:

diving said...

So how many great whites are they going to lethally sampled in order to "save" the species? I thought the scientific community would have a different take on this matter :-/.

You raise a good point. What all do we currently know about sharks? How effective are the research methods being used?

I assume they defend the use of lethal sampling by citing specific examples in the work. Sure would like to give it a read...

Thanks for sharing