WWF and the Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries & Aquaculture (CSTFA) at James Cook University have developed the first Rapid Assessment Toolkit focused on sharks and rays. The Toolkit consists of practical and simple step-by-step guidelines for collecting basic information using six complimentary tools.
Nearly twenty years after the International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks was launched, many shark-fishing nations still do not have National Plans of Action, while the conservation status of many species cannot be determined. In many cases, a lack of basic information continues to hinder better management.
The Rapid Assessment Toolkit for Sharks and Rays (the Toolkit) is aimed primarily at countries with insufficient species-specific data to allow science-based management. Such nations may have limited capacity and resources to gather data that could help them accurately determine the true states of their coastal environments, a situation common among marine-based communities. The Toolkit is designed to help remedy the dearth of basic information on movements, biodiversity and catch trends in many countries in Africa, Asia Pacific and Latin America.
Taxonomy is used to identify shark and ray species accurately. A clear understanding of the species of sharks and rays present in a country’s waters and captured in its fisheries provides important baseline and monitoring data for conservation and fisheries management.
Genetic analysis provides accurate species identification from only a small tissue sample. It can be used when an individual animal is difficult to identify through visual examination or if the whole animal is no longer accessible. Genetics is also used to confirm that a visual identification is correct.
Creel and market surveys collect information on the sharks and rays being fished in a country, and monitor catches over time to detect any changes in the stocks.
BRUVS surveys are a valuable tool for determining which species are present in an area and estimating relative abundance between areas. They’re a non-destructive sampling method that’s simple to repeat, reliable and cost-effective.
Tagging and tracking provide valuable data on population size, stock structure and habitat use of sharks and rays. These are all important considerations in fisheries management, which aims to ensure that fishing is sustainable.
Depending on the scope of a project, large numbers of citizen scientists can collect shark and ray data across large areas and time scales. As well as offering significant cost savings, the approach can be particularly effective for sampling sharks and rays since they’re generally highly mobile and patchily distributed, mostly in low numbers.
Responsible Shark and Ray Tourism
– A Guide to Best Practice