EDFish

Selected tag(s): shark conservation

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 »

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Sharks need smarter management and better data to recover and thrive

By Amada44 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Dusky Shark  (Carcharhinus obscurus) are extremely rare. This one is swimming at Seaworld Aquarium in Queensland, Australia. Photo by: Amada44 via Wikimedia Commons

Shark advocates at Oceana recently sued the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), claiming that the way the agency controls fishing on dusky sharks violates the Magnuson-Stevens Act.  Duskies are overfished and have suffered overfishing for years, even though it is illegal to retain them if they are caught.  The duskies’ plight highlights the shortcomings of bans and similar efforts when it comes to protecting vulnerable species like sharks, especially when they are caught alongside other, healthier species.

Over the last several years, more and more people have learned about both the importance of sharks and the ongoing threats to their existence. This is great news because sharks are among the most important creatures in the ocean, playing a vital role in maintaining healthy marine ecosystems.  Plus, they’re really cool.  Formerly of interest exclusively to fish geeks like myself, Shark Week is now a widely celebrated summer ritual.  Shark finning, a deplorable practice where a shark’s fin is removed and the rest of its body is discarded at sea, has been banned in the United States since 2000, and more than 70 other countries have enacted similar bans.

Despite this progress, shark populations remain threatened and overfishing is common. The FAO reports that the market for sharks has actually increased, and many sharks die as bycatch as a side effect of fishing for other species at healthier population sizes, such as Atlantic swordfish (which has recovered after a focused conservation effort). Read More »

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