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Monday, May 29, 2017

Sustainable Shark Fishing

Nine Out of Ten Shark Scientists Agree: Sustainable Shark Fishing Is Fine | Hakai Magazine
Researchers worry extreme voices in the conservation community may be overshadowing an evidence-based approach.

A new survey of shark and ray researchers takes a bite out of the popular belief that shark fishing and the shark fin trade should be banned. As it turns out, a large majority of shark experts believe that sustainable fisheries are not only possible, they are actually preferable to protecting sharks with sanctuaries or outright bans on fishing.

The result may seem counterintuitive, acknowledges lead author David Shiffman, but the finding points to the fact that wildlife conservation is more nuanced than the general public tends to appreciate. While people may believe that all shark species are endangered, and that any form of shark fishing threatens to push populations to collapse, Shiffman says the best available science evidence does not support those ideas.

The survey also reflects a concern among scientists that more extreme voices in the conservation community may be overshadowing a more evidence-based approach to protection.

“One of our conclusions from this is that those in the research community and those in the advocacy community should talk to one another more,” Shiffman says.

Shiffman, a PhD candidate at the University of Miami studying shark ecology and conservation, got the idea for the survey after realizing that while conservationists have spent time learning about the attitudes and opinions of many stakeholders in the shark fishing debate—such as fishermen, conservationists, and people in the shark tourism industry—there was no real record of what shark experts think about the issue.

Shiffman distributed a voluntary online survey to members of the three largest professional shark and ray research societies. Of the 102 researchers who responded, 84 percent said sustainable shark fisheries are possible, and 90 percent felt that making fisheries sustainable—rather than pushing for fishing bans—should be the goal of conservation policies. Interestingly, the more scientific papers a scientist had published on shark fisheries, the more likely he or she was to say that sustainable shark fishing was possible.

In general, the scientists favor policies that protect specific species, rather than those that set regional limits on shark fishing. Out of 12 conservation policies considered, shark sanctuaries and bans on shark finning received the least support from the researchers.

Sonja Fordham, the president of Shark Advocates International, a nonprofit dedicated to advocating for science-based shark conservation policies, wasn’t surprised by the results. She says that most scientists are data-driven, and agrees that evidence shows managing fisheries is the best way to protect sharks. “There aren’t a whole lot of success stories out there,” she says, “but the ones that we have, the recovery was due to quotas, or species-specific prohibition.”

But, Fordham stresses that a range of factors, not just data, go into shaping fishing policy. Developing countries might lack the resources for intensive fisheries management, and find that an outright ban is a better alternative. And conservation groups focused on animal welfare may oppose shark finning because they believe that it is cruel, even if the data say it can be done sustainably.

“Scientists are not the only experts,” she says. “Just because you’re an expert in shark science, you’re not automatically an expert in policy.”


Harvesting sharks could be key to saving them : Nature News & Comment

"Many activists argue a total ban on shark fishing is the only solution to slow or halt the decline. But a 2016 study found the majority of shark researchers surveyed believe sustainable shark fisheries are possible and preferable to widespread bans. Many reported they knew of real-world examples of sustainable shark fisheries. But a global roundup of empirical data exploring which species are being fished sustainably was lacking.

New research, appearing in the February 6 issue of Current Biology, is filling that gap, and the findings bolster the idea that around the world, some sharks are being fished sustainably. Nicholas Dulvy, a marine conservation biologist at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, and shark ecologist Colin Simpfendorfer of James Cook University in Australia recently examined global stock assessments of 65 shark populations of 47 species. They found 39 of the populations, representing 33 different species, are fished sustainably—that is, they are harvested at levels that allow them to remain stable in size and not edge toward extinction. Although these 33 species account for only a small fraction of the world’s sharks, rays and their kin the chimeras (collectively referred to as sharks), which in total number more than 1,000, they are proof of concept that sustainable shark fishing is possible.

Cross-referencing stock assessments sourced from the scientific literature, government agencies, known experts and internet searches with other data sets including United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization catch statistics and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) threat categories, along with trade records, Dulvy and Simpfendorfer calculated the take of biologically sustainable sharks comprised 7 to 9 percent of global totals. But there are two components to sustainable fishing: the biological capability of the fish to withstand harvesting and the careful management of that harvesting by humans. The researchers found only 4 percent of global trade in sharks was directly sustainably managed...

Relatively low-productivity species could be sustainably fished. One example is the Pacific spiny dogfish (Squalus suckleyi), a type of small shark. In 2011 a fishing industry group in British Columbia obtained Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for this species, a process that validates for consumers the product was fished sustainably. It was the first such certification in the world awarded for a shark, explains Michael Renwick, executive director of the British Columbia Dogfish Hook and Line Industry Association who spearheaded this certification process...

Perhaps the most controversial finding from the new study is that shark fins, too, can be harvested sustainably. Shark fin is a delicacy in some Asian cultures. But the traditional way of harvesting the fins—in which the fins are hacked off of the live animal, which is then tossed back into the sea to suffocate or die from bleeding—has prompted public outcry. The uproar over this practice, called “finning,” has been a major driver for shark conservation. Against that backdrop, sustainable shark fin is an “unthinkable notion for many,” Dulvy and Simpfendorfer acknowledge. But their study suggests it is indeed possible. In fact, they found nearly 9 percent of fins on the market originate from sharks whose populations are being fished sustainably.

Obtaining shark fins need not involve finning at all, however. “There are absolutely ways to get fins into the fin trade without finning,” says David Shiffman of the University of Miami, who led the 2016 study that surveyed shark scientists’ attitudes toward shark fishing. He notes great strides in legislation that have reduced the number of sharks finned at sea in at least 17 countries.

Indeed, by definition, exploiting a resource sustainably requires whole animal use, Simpfendorfer explains. In the case of MSC-certified Atlantic dogfish, the heads become lobster and crab bait; back meat becomes British fish and chips; belly flaps are a German delicacy; liver supplies nutraceuticals; fins and tails headline east Asian soup; and leftovers become agricultural fertilizer, says Massachusetts-based attorney John Whiteside, Jr., who helped east coast U.S. dogfish fisheries achieve MSC status...

Another concern: legal shark fishing could hide illegal trade. But “illegal unsustainable shark fishing is happening regardless,” Shiffman notes. In his view it is better to have at least some sustainable, scientifically well-managed products in the marketplace. Without them, he says, “whatever fills the gap that we leave is going to be worse.”"


'Nearly all shark's fin sold here from sustainable source'

"Almost all shark's fin sold here is from sustainable sources, said the Marine and Land Products Association yesterday, following the release of a study on Thursday that found Singapore to be a top trader of the controversial delicacy.

The group represents companies in the fishing and marine industry, including about 10 involved in the shark's fin trade. This makes up about 70 per cent of the shark's fin industry here, said Mr Yio Jin Xian, a representative of the association.

He wrote in an e-mail to The Straits Times yesterday: "We constantly strive to provide sustainable products from countries with well-documented federal regulations on shark fishing... We are continuously seeking sustainable solutions in the seafood industry"...

Mr Yio said the association "strictly follows Cites regulations and international laws on endangered species". All shark's fin sold by members - which he estimates at about 90 per cent of what is sold here - is from sustainable sources, he added. The fins are from sharks processed in First World countries with fisheries that are regulated and have restrictions on the amount fished each year, he said.

"Those countries require the sharks to be fully used, so typically, the fins are shipped to Asian markets, and the rest is used in Western countries for dishes like fish and chips. Those fins are not processed on boats by fishermen who cut them off and throw the dead sharks back in the sea. It is the whole shark that's used, not the fins alone.""

The WWF claims that "There are no shark fisheries that have been independently certified sustainable", which is curious because in 2012 they found that "Marine Stewardship Council wild seafood sustainability certification remains best in class"

And as you will recall, the Marine Stewardship Council certifies sustainable shark's fin...
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