you're reading...


Should all shark fishing be banned?

Paper: Simpfendorfer, CA, Dulvy, NK (2017).  Bright spots of sustainable shark fishing.  Current Biology. 27:R83-R102.  doi: dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2016.12.017

Trivia challenge: try naming as many shark species as you can.  Though we tend to think of Great Whites, hammerheads and bull sharks, there are over 1,000 species of sharks and their cousins.  Not surprisingly, cartilaginous fishes such as sharks, rays and ratfish (from this point forward: sharks) are not created equally; every species has a diverse life history and ecological role.  This means some sharks are long-lived and reproduce every few years, while others have shorter life spans and reproduce much faster.  Likewise, some are apex predators and others are preyed on.

You’ve probably heard the shocking statistic that tens of million of sharks are caught and traded every year and a quarter of shark species are at risk of extinction.  So why do some scientists suggest that fishing for sharks should continue?

Sharks, tuna and barracuda at a fish market in Oman (Image credit: piknik via flickr, CC BY-NC-ND).

Sharks, tuna and barracuda at a fish market in Oman (Image credit: piknic via flickr, CC BY-NC-ND).

At first pass, it may seem like a no-brainer to ban the fishing, sale and trade of sharks; however, this blanket policy would not actually address the underlying circumstances.  For example, most sharks are caught incidentally in other fisheries (such as tuna).  Furthermore, shark fisheries provide food for many communities, so an outright ban may not be an effective solution.

Currently, around 7-9% (or 204,945 – 212,691 tonnes live weight) of global shark catch is biologically sustainable meaning that fishing rates do not exceed levels that would impact the natural state of the population (taking into account reproductive rate, growth rate and natural mortality rate).  In other words, shark fishing is already being done sustainably.

How can we get the other 91-93% of global shark catch on the path to sustainability?  Simpfendorfer & Dulvy put forth 5 management recommendations:

  1. Protect species with low reproductive rates such as deep water species (e.g. gulper sharks) or species with small litter sizes (e.g. bigeye thresher sharks, cowrose rays).
  2. Coordinate with international management bodies to set conservative catch limits for sharks with high biological productivity such as sharks in the high seas (e.g. populations of blue shark and shortfin mako).
  3. List commercially important sharks under international treaties.  For example, CITES (or The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) requires that internationally traded products do not endanger the survival of listed species in the wild.
  4. Nations with strong science-based fisheries management (e.g. USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) should share lessons and help other nations develop comprehensive management plans.
  5. Set up a traceability or labeling program for shark fisheries to allow consumers to identify and purchase sustainable products.  Sustainable shark fisheries can yield sustainable shark products–including shark fins.  In fact, 8.7% (or 4,406 tonnes) of dried shark fins are already sustainable, but they are not traceable or labeled.  If they were, consumers could choose to purchase these at a premium which could encourage more suppliers to follow suit.

Overall, this research shows that a simplified solution like a blanket ban on shark fishing is not a panacea.  Rather, species and location-specific management plans need to be developed to take into account the unique context of the shark population and fishermen.  If done properly, both biodiversity conservation and human food security can be strengthened, keeping both conservationists and fishermen happy.  


4 Responses to “Should all shark fishing be banned?”

  1. Very informative article for ocean marine life conservation. Great work, Ms. Chen!

    Posted by Dr. Forest Redding, Jr., Ph.D. | March 4, 2017, 4:15 am
  2. This is a very good article, with just one error. Sustainability does not just depend on reproduction, but equally also on growth and the natural mortality rate. Sidney Holt

    Posted by sidneyholt | March 1, 2017, 9:43 am
    • Hi Sidney,

      Great point–growth rate & natural mortality rates certainly affects sustainability. The supplemental information reads:
      “To meet the criteria for biologically sustainable the stock assessment had to demonstrate that the current biomass was greater than that required to achieve Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) (Bcurrent > BMSY).” I took some ‘liberties’ on that since I didn’t want to unpack that in this article. However, the way you phrased it is perfect–simple and comprehensive. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, I will make some changes!

      Posted by Megan Chen | March 4, 2017, 9:54 am

Post a Comment


  • by oceanbites 2 days ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 1 week ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 2 weeks ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 1 month ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 1 month ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Feeling a bit flattened by the week? So are these summer flounder larvae. Fun fact: flounder larvae start out with their eyes set like normal fish, but as they grow one of their eyes migrates to meet the other and
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Have you seen a remote working setup like this? This is a photo from one of our Oceanbites team members Anne Hartwell. “A view from inside the control can of an underwater robot we used to explore the deep parts
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Today is the day of  #shutdownacademia  and  #shutdownstem  and many of us at the Oceanbites team are taking the day to plan solid actions for how we can make our organization and the institutions we work at a better place
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Black lives matter. The recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have once again brought to light the racism in our country. All of us at Oceanbites stand with our Black colleagues, friends, readers, and family. The
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com