Shark depredation impacts support for shark conservation

Conflicts between shark populations and fishing communities are reported to be on the rise at one of the world’s premier shark sanctuaries.

Fishermen say increased shark populations have reduced catches and income, Newcastle University study finds.

Shark populations worldwide are rapidly declining, with 24% of all shark species threatened with extinction. While efforts to protect sharks vary, 17 countries have declared their waters as “shark sanctuaries”, generally prohibiting commercial shark fishing. In some areas, this has led to increasing reports of negative interactions between anglers and sharks, particularly depredation – when a shark preys on an angler’s catch.

New research from Newcastle University presents an exclusive insight into the interactions between anglers and sharks, focusing on the views of anglers in the Maldives Shark Sanctuary. Their results show that most fishers reported an increase in shark depredation, with substantial catch and revenue losses (>21%) reported by reef fishers. . They also found that those who suffered greater losses due to depredation showed reduced support for the Maldives Shark Sanctuary.

Mapping exercises with fishermen and Underwater Camera Stations (BRUVS) were used to identify areas of high shark abundance and “conflict hotspots” where sharks and fishing activities overlapped. This provided valuable insight into why fishermen believe depredation is increasing despite stable populations in the area.

Published in the journal Conservation Letters, the findings suggest that management of shark depredation must be approached sensitively to avoid negative implications for the welfare of anglers and the recovery of the shark population.

Lead author of the study, Dr Danielle Robinson, from Newcastle University’s School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, said: “The study highlights the importance of more inclusive approaches to help us understand and manage predatory conflicts. Research and conservation frameworks tend to focus on commercial fisheries because of their economic value, but our findings highlight the urgent need to consider and address negative perceptions of small-scale fisheries when planning. developing policy answers.”

“Fishermen and sharks compete for the same thing – fish – and I think a really exciting aspect of this study is that we were able to collect spatial data from interviews with fishermen and underwater cameras (BRUVS) at the same spatial scale to map areas with high potential for conflict.”

The study is one of the few in the field to shed light on the socio-economic costs of shark sanctuaries and on the importance of taking into account differing perceptions among fishing groups.

The results raise important questions. questions concerning the trade-offs between policies for the defense of biodiversity and those related to human well-being.

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