Case Studies in Fisheries Conservation and Management: Applied Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Case 15: The Debate Over Shark Abundance

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874189.ch15

There is a knock at your office door, and your colleague John pops his head in. His face is flushed, and he is clearly frustrated about something. “You got a minute?” he asks. You invite him in and prepare for his in-depth critique of last night’s football game, but he is all business today and jumps right in to the purpose of his visit.

“I don’t know which one to believe,” John groans. “How is the management board supposed to make a decision about this?”

Your blank stare encourages him to explain the problem further. He tosses two articles on your desk and begins. “It’s sharks. As a member of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT), I help advise decision makers on how to regulate and monitor shark harvest. We try to base our management decisions on scientific evidence, but what happens when the scientists disagree?”

You ask why ICCAT, a tuna commission, is managing sharks. John explains, “About 350,000 tons of sharks are landed each year, which is about 0.5% of the world’s fishery products (Walker 1998).” (You try not to laugh at his quirky habit of citing papers during conversations.) “Many of these species are pelagic and highly migratory, like tunas, placing their management beyond the responsibility of individual countries (Stevens et al. 2000). A substantial portion of shark landings occurs as bycatch in pelagic longline fisheries, such as the tuna fishery. Since ICCAT was already collecting data and managing tuna globally, it made sense for them to monitor and manage sharks in the same way.”