What do the world's leading shark researchers think of shark conservation policy?

February 16, 2016, University of Miami
A hammerhead shark caught on fishing gear as part of the University of Miami Abess Center's Shark Research and Conservation Program's field research. Credit: Neil Hammerschlag

University of Miami (UM) Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy researchers investigated the conservation policy preferences of shark scientists, as well as their personal histories of conservation advocacy and their opinions about the environmental non-profit community. This survey of over 100 scientists and natural resource managers from all over the world is the first to assess the collective expertise of the world's largest professional shark research societies. The survey results are published today in the journal Conservation Biology.

Many policymakers, scientists, environmental activists, and members of the public are concerned about shark conservation. People want to help, but there is an ongoing debate about the most effective conservation and management policies, including whether sustainable fisheries management or banning all fishing is the best course of action. Survey responses indicate that most shark scientists broadly support most available conservation policies. However, a large majority supports regulations that allow for sustainable fishing over attempts to eliminate all fishing if and when possible.

"Shark researchers support a wide range of policies, but generally believe that sustainable fisheries exploitation of is possible, is happening in a few (but not very many) places currently, and should be the goal of future conservation policymaking instead of trying to ban fishing if and when possible," said David Shiffman, UM Ph.D. candidate and lead author of the study.

Survey results also show that:

  • Shark researchers believe that advocating on behalf of ocean conservation is both appropriate and necessary. Scientists reported signing petitions, calling elected officials, and including specific policy recommendations in their publications. For shark scientists, conservation is a priority acted on both personally and professionally.
  • Shark researchers were more supportive of sustainable fishing practices versus those which ban all shark fishing. However, many respondents came from developed nations which have the resources to manage a sustainable fishery, unlike the small island states which have been the first to ban all shark fishing.
  • Shark researchers are generally pleased with the state of environmental non-profit shark conservation advocacy, and many reported having volunteered their time or expertise to help these organizations.
However, respondents shared concerns about some bad actors in the environmental community who use incorrect facts to focus on issues that are flashy but not the most pressing.

"Researchers believe that there is no single policy that will solve all shark conservation problems, and that the best policy choice is going to be situation specific, said Neil Hammerschlag, Ph.D. Director of UM's Shark Research & Conservation Program (SRC) and Research Assistant Professor at the Abess Center and Rosenstiel School. "Given increasing concern for many shark populations worldwide, we hope our research leads to more insight to aid in the continued understanding and implantation of effective strategies."

Explore further: New study suggests angler education can benefit sharks

More information: David Shiffman et al. Preferred conservation polices of shark researchers, Conservation Biology (2015). DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12668

Related Stories

New study suggests angler education can benefit sharks

November 25, 2015

A new study finds fisher education can help protect vulnerable shark populations. The research, led by University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science scientists, showed that recreational anglers ...

New global strategy to save sharks and rays

February 16, 2016

A group of international conservation organizations launched a new strategy today to combat the decline of sharks and closely related rays, while warning that the rays are even more threatened and less protected than the ...

Recommended for you

Genome of American cockroach sequenced for the first time

March 23, 2018

A team of researchers with South China Normal University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences has for the first time sequenced the genome of the American cockroach. In their paper published in the journal Nature Communications, ...

New innovations in cell-free biotechnology

March 23, 2018

A Northwestern University-led team has developed a new way to manufacture proteins outside of a cell that could have important implications in therapeutics and biomaterials.

Study tracks protein's role in stem cell function

March 23, 2018

MCL-1 is a member of the BCL-2 family of proteins important for blocking apoptosis, or programmed cell death. Many types of cancer cells escape the body's effort to kill them by overexpressing MCL-1.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.