Commercial longline fishing around the world is having a significant impact onmigrating shark populations, according to an international study featuring aUniversity of Queensland researcher.
Dr Bonnie Holmes from UQ’s School of Biological Sciences wanted to find outwhy shark numbers have been declining significantly over the past 20 years.
“We’re losing these incredible creatures, and we know so little about sharkmovements and what drives them,” Dr Holmes said.
“I joined an international research effort using new technologies – likesatellite tracking and big data analysis – to help answer some criticalquestions.”
The team, which comprised of more than 150 scientists from 25 countries,collated the migratory tracks of more than 1600 sharks from a range ofspecies, and examined their movements at a global level.
“This allowed us to see for the first time how different species overlap inhabitats – both in time and space – and understand how these species areinteracting with global fishing fleets,” Dr Holmes said.
“The results indicate that sharks are exposed to fishing pressure fromlongline fisheries around 25 per cent of the time.
“This doesn’t even include localised pressures from near-shore operations likegame fishing, shark control or subsistence fishing.
“These sharks are amazing animals that can travel vast distances but it’sclear that they have limited refuge from both high-seas and coastal fishingoperations.”
Researchers are concerned that tiger sharks in the Oceania region are at amoderate-to-high risk from longline fleets for at least six months of theyear.
Despite the harrowing data, Dr Holmes is hopeful that the internationalcommunity will be able to protect and foster shark species.
“This research project demonstrates the power of collaboration at aninternational scale,” she said.
“Our international team now has more projects in mind for our collective data,which will hopefully result in some significant action, and help prioritisemanagement improvements across jurisdictions.
“This could help protect many of these migratory species, particularly thosethat are currently threatened.
“It’s important that as scientists we continue to work outside of our own‘silos’ and understand that collaboration is key to achieving greater success.
“This is how we’ll create real action on issues like sustainable fishing, andfurther understand how contemporary, complex issues like climate change areimpacting the wildlife around us.
“It will take time, but governments around the world need to work together tosave our most vulnerable shark species.”
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