Author Archives: Katie Westfall

Protecting imperiled ocean travelers

Photo: Noel Lopez-Fernandez

Photo: Noel Lopez-Fernandez

By: Katie Westfall & Melissa Mahoney

Across the globe, populations of many highly migratory species of fish, turtles and marine mammals have hit dangerously low levels. For example, Western Pacific leatherbacks have declined more than 80 percent, and their Eastern Pacific counterparts have declined by more than 97 percent. Many of these species play vital roles in maintaining balanced ocean ecosystems full of diversity and life. As we work to reverse these declines, environmentalists have to ensure that everything we do has the greatest positive impact. This means that we’ll need smart management at home and solutions that protect highly migratory species wherever they roam.

New research suggests that well-intentioned U.S. regulations designed to help species like sharks and sea turtles may actually create a net harm to imperiled sea life.

This unintentional negative dynamic can occur when a country, like the United States, unilaterally adopts a regulation to protect an imperiled species such as sea turtles or sharks caught as bycatch. If the regulation leads to decreased fishing domestically and shifts fishing internationally to countries where bycatch rates are higher, the net result can be a higher number of bycatch deaths for the very species the regulation intended to protect. This phenomenon has been called the “transfer effect.” Read More »

Posted in Global Fisheries, International, Science/Research| Tagged , , , , , | Comments are closed

Saving Sharks by Reducing Bycatch

Caribbean Reef Sharks. Photo: Noel Lopez-Fernandez

Caribbean Reef Sharks. Photo: Noel Lopez-Fernandez

This week, sharks make their annual summer migration to the Discovery Channel for Shark Week. It’s a great time to learn about some of the advances in shark research happening every day. In just the time since Shark Week 2015, we learned new things about where we can find the world’s largest concentration of sharks, how great white sharks migrate, how sharks use their photon conductive noses to hunt fish, and how catsharks grow brighter the deeper they swim. We’re also discovering new species to add to the growing list of hundreds of different sharks every couple of weeks.

Yet, with all these new findings, we still have a lot to learn about these keystones to our ocean ecosystems. Off the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, a large number of shark species swim in and out of U.S. waters. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) manages these species of sharks—including many known to be highly susceptible to overexploitation such as great whites, whale sharks, and bigeye threshers. Read More »

Posted in Domestic| Tagged , , , , | Comments are closed
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