Give Shark Sanctuaries a Chance
Letter to the Editor
February 15, 2013
Several developing nations have established shark sanctuaries, most commonly in the form of a moratorium on both commercial shark fishing and the export of shark products in Exclusive Economic Zones (1). In her Letter “Shark sanctuaries: Substance or spin?” (21 December 2012, p. 1538), L. N. K. Davidson raises concerns that this ambitious strategy might be doomed to exist only on paper and could discourage investments in other types of shark fisheries management. We agree that enforcement will determine whether these shark sanctuaries live up to their promise, as is true of any new management regime. We disagree, however, with the argument that shark sanctuaries are more challenging to enforce or are less likely to be successful than typical fisheries management strategies, especially considering that even basic information such as fishery catch is often unknown and underestimated in developing countries (2).
Shark fisheries management is notoriously difficult and resource intensive, owing to the extreme vulnerability of sharks to overexploitation (1). The countries that have successfully managed shark fisheries all possess substantial research, assessment, monitoring, and enforcement capacity devoted to fisheries management (1). Developing nations typically have much smaller fisheries management capacity; what they do have is national capacity to detect illicit trade of contraband items (i.e., police, maritime authority, port authority, and customs). By making all shark products illegal, national authorities can work with their fisheries agencies to enforce the moratorium. Enforcing catch or size limits on shark fisheries is more complicated and will generally fall almost entirely under the purview of the fisheries agency on its own.
There is cause for optimism about the conservation potential of well-enforced shark sanctuaries nested within broader international management efforts. Smaller-scale marine protected areas have been shown to benefit certain inshore shark species, while other species tend to return to certain areas on a regular basis (3–6). These studies suggest that large protected areas may benefit these populations and match biological and governance scales. Well-enforced shark sanctuaries clearly have great potential for shark conservation, and we suggest that the international community and funding agencies should help those developing nations that pursue this approach to ensure that this promise is realized.
DEMIAN D. CHAPMAN,1,2* MICHAEL J. FRISK,1
DEBRA L. ABERCROMBIE,2 CARL SAFINA,1,3
SAMUEL H. GRUBER,4 ELIZABETH A. BABCOCK,4
KEVIN A. FELDHEIM,5 ELLEN K. PIKITCH, 1,2
CHRISTINE WARD-PAIGE, 6 BRENDAL DAVIS,6
STEVEN KESSEL,7 MICHAEL HEITHAUS,8
1School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794, USA.
2Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794, USA.
3Center for Communicating Science, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794, USA.
4Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, FL 33149, USA.
5Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL 60605, USA.
6Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, B3H 4R2, Canada.
7University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, N9B 3P4, Canada.
8Florida International University, North Miami, FL 33181, USA.
1. C. A. Ward-Paige et al., J. Fish. Biol. 80, 5 (2012).
2. K. Kelleher, “Discards in the world’s marine fisheries: An update” (FAO Fisheries Technical Paper 470, Rome, 2005); www.fao.org/docrep/008/y5936e/y5936e00.htm.
3. M. E. Bond et al., PLoS One 7, 3 (2012).
4. W. D. Robbins et al., Curr. Biol. 16, 23(2006).
5. R. E. Hueter et al., J. Northw. Atl. Fish. Sci. 35, 239 (2005).
6. C. A. Ward-Paige et al., PLoS One 5, 8 (2010).