Sharks show us Marine Protected Areas are working

  • Sharks may be an indicator of the success of marine protected areas according to research from the Stony Brook University Institute for Ocean Conservation Science using baited remote underwater cameras placed both inside and outside of marine reserve areas on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef in the Caribbean.
  • Observations from the cameras took place over five years. Caribbean reef sharks were attracted to the cameras by the smell of the bait, allowing researchers to observe and count shark populations at each location – two reefs where fishing is allowed and two reserves where fishing for sharks and their prey is prohibited. Sharks were caught on film almost four times as often in protected areas.
  • This research may prove particularly poignant as across the Atlantic, scientists from the UK and Portugal have tracked sharks to busy fishing grounds where it is thought they are being targeted by long line fishermen, driven by the surge in demand for shark-fin soup in Asia.
  • Long lines can have up to 1000 hooks and reach depths of between 100 and 300m, and are intended to catch tuna and swordfish. Scientists found that sharks have to cross a “wall of death” of these lines as they cross the continental shelf edge off the UKs south west coast.

Both studies highlight the need for marine spatial planning to reduce the conflicts and ecosystem services trade-offs between diverse human benefits including increasing demand for food, renewable energy development and the need to protect species.

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About Julia Chatterton

Systems modeller with a particular expertise in food, farming and agricultural systems. Working with life cycle assessment methods for over 4 years to assess and analyse the environmental burdens associated with food and other production systems.
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