Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Challenges and Priorities in Shark and Ray Conservation - Paper!

Well done, and I cite,
Over-Simplification Can Hinder Effective Shark Fisheries Management 

The general tendency for sharks to grow more slowly, mature later, and produce fewer young than most fished species is fundamental to the appropriate elevation of their conservation priority and the prevention of population depletion. The fact remains, however, that life history characteristics vary widely across shark species, with many capable of supporting a significant level of fishing if such extraction (in all forms) is limited to science-based levels.

After more than two decades of expanding efforts to publicize sharks’ inherent vulnerability, people appear to increasingly believe that sharks cannot withstand any fishing at all.
Similarly, there appears to be a trend toward blanket bans on fishing and trading, with a focus on shark fins. While complete bans are appropriate, and even long overdue with respect to species that are exceptionally threatened (like sawfishes) and exceptionally vulnerable (such as devil rays), in other cases the unequivocal messages and ‘one size fits all’ remedies may serve to hinder policies needed to curb fishing and ensure sustainability.

Under a general perception that sustainable shark fishing is impossible, there is reduced support for the work necessary to formulate comprehensive fishery management policies that allow for sustainable take while addressing unintentional bycatch, and the need for population assessment. Governments convinced that managing shark fishing is a losing proposition and/or publically unacceptable may opt for full protection, but may also shy away from attempting to set any limits at all. Those opting for blanket bans may be reluctant to admit and address significant incidental shark mortality and/or enforcement inadequacies.
Sharks Contribute to Food Security in Poor and Developing Nations

While shark meat, in some cases, provides a high value product (e.g. gummy shark in southern Australia, porbeagle in Europe, and skates in Korea), it is more often a cheap source of animal protein. The low value stems from the relatively low quality of the product (due to high levels of urea) and the fact that it is often dried for non-perishable storage and transport. While domestic catch and consumption is common, some countries rely heavily on imports and exports, e.g. Sri Lanka, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, Indonesia, and India. According to FAO statistics, more than 90% of the world’s reported shark catch is taken by 26 fishing nations (Figure 2), one-quarter of which (7/26) are among the least developed nations (with low or medium Human Development Index scores; Figure 2). Moreover, 40% of the reported global shark catch comes from seven of the major shark fishing nations with the lowest Human Development Indices, most of which border the Indian Ocean (Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Yemen, and Tanzania) and Eastern Atlantic Ocean (Nigeria and Senegal; 
Generally, it is costly to replace fishery losses in countries where seafood provides a high proportion of animal protein. It is understandably difficult for governments in nations facing extreme poverty and food security crises to prioritize shark conservation, particularly when scientific advice for sustainable catch levels is lacking. Similarly, conservationists as well as governments of developed countries are understandably reluctant to press struggling governments for such actions.
Yes in theory, some (but most certainly not all!) Elasmobranchs can be managed and fished sustainably - but in practice, this is currently not possible in many impoverished Shark fishing nations.

Like I never cease to repeat, we are quickly running out of time.
With that in mind, I strongly advocate cheaper and simpler bans now, and costlier and more complicated management at a later stage once it becomes practically feasible. AND, let's not forget that in order to succeed, species protection alone is not gonna be good enough!

Anyway, awesome paper.
Once again, required reading (and understanding!) if you want to be taken seriously when talking about Shark conservation.

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