New ASU study identifies endangered shark research priorities

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January 31, 2022

Sharks are among the most endangered animals on Earth, and while many scientists want to dedicate their research to helping save sharks, many say they don’t know how to do it effectively.

A new paper in the journal Conservation Science and Practice, led by Arizona State University Faculty Research Associate David Schiffmanidentified 35 research priorities that scientists can use to shape their research on endangered shark species in the United States.

The Atlantic shortfin mako shark has been identified by experts as the endangered shark species of particular concern.
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“Research priority lists help scientists, especially early career scientists, choose a research project that can have real impact,” Shiffman said. “Instead of having to figure out the intricacies of policymaking and management on your own to know what information managers need, research priority lists give scientists a one-stop shop to easily find everything. . These scientists know that a question they hope to answer with their work is a research priority because it has already been identified as such.

To generate this list of research priorities, the ASU team New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences interviewed 86 experts in scientific research, environmental advocacy, natural resource management and fisheries, endangered species conservation, and industry from across the United States. These experts were asked to reflect on what information we currently don’t know about endangered sharks that we need to know, and to propose research priorities as well as policy priorities.

Similar priorities were combined, resulting in 205 submissions being reformulated and grouped into 35 research priorities. These include a wide range of data needs needed to conserve and manage threatened shark species, from monitoring population trends to the influence of climate change on shark migration patterns, from studying types of fishing gear that allow unintentionally caught sharks to survive, studies on more effective solutions for public awareness.

The political priorities identified focused on strengthening fisheries management rules, protecting more habitats and protecting them more effectively, and more effective pressure on other nations to improve their practices. fisheries management.

Additionally, these experts were asked to suggest endangered shark species of particular concern. Atlantic shortfin mako sharks, which have been the subject of much political discussion in international fisheries management circles in recent years, topped this list, followed by sawfishes and sharks. dark. Concerns about the ecological impacts of recovering great white shark populations were also mentioned, as well as concerns about sandbar shark research fishing, a unique collaboration between industry and science that allows anglers to kill a otherwise protected species if they collect data for scientists.

Other key results:

  • 71% of experts surveyed said they supported the sustainable management of shark fisheries rather than attempting to ban all shark fishing and trade in shark products.
  • 76% of experts surveyed said the United States manages our shark fisheries slightly or much better than the rest of the world.
  • 79% of experts surveyed said the United States protects our endangered shark species better than the rest of the world.

“By compiling the first-ever list of research priorities for endangered sharks in U.S. waters, we hope to help scientists focus their research on questions that will help protect these animals,” Shiffman said. “With increasingly dire news about shark conservation, these animals can use all the help they can get.”

“The reason this kind of work is so important and so needed is that there are many, many scientists motivated to make a difference at this time in history, but they don’t necessarily know where to apply their efforts to maximize their impact.” mentioned Lara ferry, lead author and ASU President’s Professor. “Sometimes there’s a big gap between academic scientists and those on the front lines seeing and trying to manage the impacts of various factors on species and populations. Either well-intentioned research doesn’t reach those ‘early “green” stakeholders, or it just isn’t the data they need to help them make the decisions they need to make.”

ASU coauthors include Ferry and Associate Professor of Environmental Chemistry and Aquatic Conservation Beth Polidoro.

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