Save the Sharks, and Catch Them, Too

   02.25.17

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Man has few fears greater than sharks. Real,or imagined, the big fish with big teeth get attention from people.

In recent years many nature-type folks have called for bans on fishing for sharks, arguing they are admirable creatures better suited to killing for making shark fin soup or hanging on a dock for fishermen.

While there’s no doubt some of the dozens of global shark species are overfished, many are in very good, sustainable shape.

In fact, a 2016 study found the majority of shark researchers surveyed believe sustainable shark fisheries are possible and preferable to widespread bans. Researchers reported they knew of real-world examples of shark fisheries that are harvested by man, yet are in no way in peril. And a global roundup of data exploring which species are being fished sustainably was lacking.

Nicholas Dulvy, a marine conservation biologist at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, and shark ecologist Colin Simpfendorfer of James Cook University in Australia recently examined global stock assessments of 65 shark populations of 47 species. They found 39 of the populations, representing 33 different species, are fished sustainably—that is, they are harvested at levels that allow them to remain stable in size and not edge toward extinction.

Although these 33 species account for only a small fraction of the world’s sharks, rays, and their kin the chimeras (collectively referred to as sharks), which in total number more than 1,000, they are proof that sustainable shark fishing is possible.

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