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Welcome to the newsletter of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group
ICES: The International Initiative
for Conservation of White
lan K. Fergusson and Leonard J.
Bibliography: technical reports 6
The Fishery Status of -*
Holocephali), Summary Report
Shark organizations worldwide
Regional News Illustration o R Williams 1i93
Campaign for a Living Coast
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Welcome to the newsletter of the IUCN Shark Specialist
The aim of this publication is to provide a forum for exchange of information on all
aspects of chondrichthyan conservation matters, it will enable Shark Group members
to pass on information on developments in their regions and news of issues which may
require consideration by the Group (e.g. developments in fisheries, legislation, and
trade), and provide information on these subjects to other readers.
We intend to publish articles dealing with shark, skate, ray and chimaerid fisheries,
conservation and population status issues around the world; circulate information on
other relevant journals, publications, scientific papers and meetings; and alert readers
to current threats to the group.
Since this is our first issue, we would greatly appreciate your comments on its content,
suggestions for future issues and letters, articles, etc. for inclusion. We hope to
produce SHARK NEWS on a four-monthly or quarterly basis, dependent upon
receiving sufficient material for inclusion and obtaining funding for publication and
This first issue has generously been sponsored by English Nature, the statutory nature
conservation agency for the wildlife and natural features of the whole of the English
countryside and seas (see page 8).
1989 by Sid F. Cook. All rights reserved.
Shark Specialist Group News
The last meeting of the Shark Specialist Group was held during the Fourth Indo-Pacific
Fish Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, in November/ December 1993. The following
items were discussed.
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The Shark Group mission statement was agreed as follows: 'To ensure the healthy and
continued diversity of sharks and related species (the skates, rays and chimaeras)
through the promotion of sustainable use, wise management and conservation.'
Shark Specialist Group Strategy and Tactics
The Strategy was defined under the following headings:
i Making the case for conservation;
ii Identifying the problems and threats faced by chondrichthyans;
iii Identifying the actions needed to achieve the Shark Special ist Group's mission;
iv Following up these actions.
Tactics include compilation and implementation of the Action Plan, fund-raising,
education (particularly through the media), strengthening marine non-governmental
organizations and influencing decision-makers.
The Action Plan will be an importanttool for the SSG in achieving the first three
elements of the above strategy. It will summarise existing data on the need for the
conservation of chondrichthyans, identify gaps in knowledge and priorities for action,
and publish this information for the first time. It is being compiled and edited by Sarah
Fowler, with assistance from Merry Camhi and input from other members of the Shark
The agreed time table for production of the Action Plan was for the first draft to be
circulated to contributors by the end of April 1994, second draft by the end of July and
final draft by the end of September-dates are already slipping. Provided that agreement
on content of each draft can be achieved in time, the publication date should be at the
end of 1994. Many contributors have asked for copies of the Cetacean Action Plan to
be made available to them for reference when drafting their sections of the Shark
Action Plan. Unfortunately, the first version of the Cetacean Plan is now out of print anc
the updated version is now not due to be published until the end of 1994.
Trade in shark products
The establishment of a Trade Sub-Group has been agreed to, in order to enable more
data on international trade in shark products to be acquired for the Action Plan and
other SSG activities. This Group will be coordinated by Sonja Fordham (Center for
Marine Conservation CMC) and chaired by Roger McManus (CMC), with input from
Glen Sant (representing TRAFFIC International).
TRAFFIC will be undertaking a study in 1994 of trade in shark products, particularly
fins, to enable an assessment of the scale of shark fisheries and international trade to
be made. Results will be reported in SHARK NEWS, when available.
Customs data recently received from Hong Kong have demonstrated the large scale of
the international trade in shark fins to east Asia. In 1991, 4,105 metric tonnes o fdried/
salted fins and 167 tonnes of boiled fins were imported to Hong Kong. Depending on
the conversion figures used, this may represent in the region of 300,000 to 600,000
tonnes of whole shark, or very roughly about 10 million sharks' fin sets. This probably
accounts for more than half of the world fin trade.
The IUCN Red List
The latest issue of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals was published in early
1994. It comprises a list (inevitably incomplete) of some thousands of taxa considered
by IUCN to be threatened with extinction. The aim of the Red List is to act as an
international bulletin alerting people to the diminishment of biodiversity worldwide. New
editions are published on a regular basis, and the list is compiled and updated for
IUCN by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge, UK.
The three chondrichthyan fishes first listed in the 1990 issue also appear in the 1994
edition. These are the whale shark (listed as 'Indeterminate' known to be
'Endangered', 'Vulnerable' or 'Rare', but with not enough information to say which
category is appropriate), the great white shark and the basking shark (these two were
0 -II- -(
listed as Insufficiently known', which indicates that they are suspected as belonging to
one of the above three categories).
One of the tasks of the Shark Specialist Group will be to attempt to update listings for
elasmobranchs. New criteria for listing species on the IUCN Red List have been
presented in Species 19,16-22 (the Newletter of the Species Survival Commission),
December 1992, and these are now to be evaluated for their viability for listing
elasmobranchs, with suggestions to be sent to IUCN SSC by the end of 1994. The
SSC has requested assessments of the status of elasmobranchs by July 1996 for the
next Red List publication in November 1996.
The Group has discussed the possible role of the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species (CITES) in conserving endangered chondrichthyan species by
controlling their international trade. (Appendix I of CITES lists those species for which
international trade is generally not permitted, while trade in Appendix II species is
monitored by countries which are signatories of the Convention, thus enabling the
scale of this trade, and countries of origin and destination to be recorded. The lists are
reviewed at CITES meetings every few years.)
Past efforts by the National Audubon Society (USA) to obtain CITES listings for certain
large sharks have been unsuccessful. There are particular problems with listing
commercially-fished species, since fishing nations tend to resist vigorously such
proposals. It is also important to be able to justify the 'endangered' status of species
proposed for listing, which is likely to be very difficult for many elasmobranchs
because, of lack of population data, and it must be demonstrated that international
trade is one of the problems causing the listed species to be endangered. For a CITES
listing to have a practical effect, it must be possible for customs officers to be able
positively to identify the products of the listed species in transit between countries.
The Shark Group considers that an Appendix II CITES listing could be very valuable in
improving the availability of trade data for shark products, and Appendix I listings for
species such as the great white shark (whose jaws are a very valuable trophy for
sports fishermen) could help to conserve them. Listing of large species of shark (which
provide the most valuable fins) would be feasible since they could be identified by
customs officers on the basis of fin size alone.
There is, however, insufficient background information currently available to enable a
successful CITES application for any shark to be made at the forthcoming meeting in
1994. Rather, the SSG aims to be prepared to make a well-researched application to
the following meeting in 1996. The Action Plan will address this issue.
Shark Specialist Group membership
The IUCN Species Survival Commission was reconstituted at the beginning of its latest
triennium which began in 1994. All Specialist Groups have had to be re-established,
with the appointment of their Chairmen by the SSC. Dr Sonny Gruber has been re-
appointed as Chairman of the Shark Group and is now in the process of formally
appointing all his Regional Vice-Chairs and other members. Carl Safina (with Merry
Camhi a de facto co-deputychair) is Deputy Chairman for the Americas, Australia and
Oceania and Sarah Fowler is Deputy Chairman for Eurasia and Africa. These two are
the first point of contact for most communications to/from the Vice-Chairmen or others
in their respective areas.
Regional Vice-Chairmen and other members will be listed in a later issue of this
Newsletter. Some positions are currently empty due to resignations and individuals are
still needed to fill these. There are also gaps in membership for areas of some other
regions, particularly Northern Africa and South and Central America.
Chairman: Dr Samuel H. Gruber, Bimini Biological Field Station, University of Miami,
RSMAS, 9300 SW99 Street, Miami, Florida 33176- 2050, USA. Fax: (+1) 305 274
Deputy Chair (Eurasia and Africa): Sarah Fowler, The Nature Conservation Bureau, 36
Kingfisher Court, Hambridge Road, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 5SJ, UK. Email:
email@example.com. Fax: (+44)635 550230.
Deputy Chair (Americas and Oceania): Dr Carl Safina and Dr Merry Camhi, National
Audubon Society, Scully Science Center, 550 South Bay Avenue, Islip, NY 11751,
USA. Fax: (+1) 516 5815268. Email: internet:firstname.lastname@example.org
Alarming news is beginning to come in on the status of inshore sawfish populations
around the world. Julio Moron reports that there have apparently been no records
along the west coast of Sri Lanka for about 40 years, although sawfishes were
relatively common some 50-60 years ago. It seems that all four of the species formerly
recorded in the area have virtually disappeared. Compagno and Cook (J. Aquaricult.
Aquatic Sci. in press) note that it is difficult to obtain information on the status of the
freshwater population of sawfishes in Lake Nicaragua, but indications are that the
fishery here has also collapsed.
Largetooth sawfish. Artist: Sid F. Cook. 1991 by M.I. Oetinger. All rights
We would very much like to receive more information from readers on this group of
elasmobranchs. Do you know of any directed or indirect fisheries for sawfishes? Are
they used just for food or also for their 'saws', and do the latter get into the international
curio trade to any significant extent? Please send any information to Merry Camhi
(address on back page).
If there is a significant international trade in sawfish 'noses' and directed fisheries for
this purpose, the Shark Specialist Group will consider proposing a CITES listing for the
group as a conservation measure. Unfortunately,the deadline for proposals for the
forthcoming 1994 CITES meeting was 10 June, and we have been unable to put
together a case in time for this. We will therefore aim to submit a proposal to the 1996
i S I S S- I. S* r
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ICES: The International Initiative for Conservation of
lan K. Fergusson(1) and Leonard J. V. Compagno(2)
1. European Shark Research Bureau, 46 Lincoln Close, Welwyn Garden City, Herts.
AL7 2NN, England. Fax (+44) 707 335259
2. Shark Research Center, Dept. Marine Biology, South African Museum, PO Box 61,
Cape Town 8000, South Africa. Fax: (+27) 21-24-6716
Since ancient times, the great white shark Carcharodon carcharias (Lamnidae:
Lamniformes) has provided a focus for popular imagery of the neoselachians, an .
image that has been typically one of a bloodthirsty, essentially unconscious kilter of
unwary humans who dare to invade its domain. Public opinion towards this spectacular *
predator has, in no small part, been influenced in contemporary times by the Jaws films
of the mid and late 1970s, coupled with a commensurate media image of this species
that has been almost exclusively negative. This unfortunate formula has all too often
indicted the white shark as a living definition of the vociferous man-eater, almost to the
exclusion of any other large and potentially-dangerous shark species such as the bull
shark, tiger shark or oceanic whitetip. Consequently, white sharks have been regularly
and unscrupulously hunted by big-game anglers, entrepreneurs and self- styled
vigilantes off many national coastlines, with varying motives: either for sheer bravado, *
or for expensive jaw-trophies, or as some misguided act of revenge for occasional
1989 by Sid F. Cook. All rights reserved.
Only in more recent years has diligent field-study of white sharks begun to support an
image far divorced from those of the Spielberg film. As reported by many participants
at the Biology of the White Shark Symposium (Bodega Marine Labs, California, March
1993), Carcharodon is evidently a complex vertebrate, both in its social interactions
with peers and in its more easily perceived role as an apex predator of supreme
adaptability. Scant information exists about many facets of its biology, however; a
reflection on both the relative rarity of the species and its essentially unapproachable
nature other than by the safety of boats and protective cages. In particular, our
knowledge of the reproductive biology of white sharks has only been enlightened
during the last decade, by means of fortuitous examinations of a handful of pregnant
females captured from Japanese, Okinawan and New Zealand waters. Nevertheless,
essentially no data exist on fecundity, population size, rate of recruitment or mortality,
nor describing courtship, mating and pupping behaviour. Based on capture records of
neonate white sharks, pupping occurs in a number of temperate areas worldwide,
including off the northeastern USA, southwestern USA, South Africa, South Australia
New Zealand, Japan and the central Mediterranean Sea.
There is widespread concern that white sharks are particularly vulnerable to over-
exploitation in directed and semi-directed fisheries, a major reason being the paucity of
much of the baseline biologic data (as outlined above), normally required to make
assessment of fisheries stocks, which negates the creation of reliable catch-quotas
(even in those areas where the species is rather regularly encountered, such as
southern Australia). In recognition of these facts, and acting on concerns over the
vulnerability of this species to dedicated fisheries, the South African government
enacted legislation that has protected white sharks from directed fishery attentions
since April 1991. Similarly, the State of California passed an Assembly Bill (AB 522)
that protects these animals off the region's coast since January 1994. In both cases,
the Precautionary Principle was argued as the basis for conservation measures. These
actions were notable in the strength of public support that favoured protecting the very
species playing the archetypal villainous role in the annals of shark-eats-man hype.
In mid-1993, the writers discussed a more global approach to the preservation of white
shark populations, through the creation of a network of scientists and other individuals
with legitimate interest in the species. We aspire towards the creation of a centralised
database, through which direct or incidental captures of Carcharodon may be recorded
annually on the basis of information relayed back by contributing parties. Our intention
is to collate sufficient data to complement, on a wider scale, the more unilateral efforts
of others and thereby formulate an action plan to present to CITES in favour of
outlawing worldwide existing or future directed fisheries for this species. South
Australia remains a problematic region in this respect, and we believe that multi-state
action on that continent is imperative. Response from our colleagues there has been
most encouraging. We would urge any interested individuals or institutes, whatever
their nationality, to participate in the Initiative and return any early comments or ideas
Correspondence may be forwarded to either author.
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IUCN newsletter readers interested in a broad-based coverage of sharks, skates, rays,
sawfishes and chimaeras may wish to subscribe to Chondros, an international
publication focusing on general and captive biology, ecology, fisheries, management,
conservation issues and human interactions through technical articles, reviews,
commentaries, editorials, book and conference reviews, field research progress reports
and news. The current volume year, Vol. 5 (1994), will include articles on food habits of
rays at Pohnpei (Ponape) Island in the central Pacific, captive biology of chimaeras, a -
review of white shark activity in the US Pacific Northwest, telemetry of whale sharks in
Western Australia, an overview of elasmobranch field work by the editors and
colleagues in Thailand in 1993 and the first in a two-part review of the batoid fishes of
In 1994 Chondros became a quarterly publication (it was formerly seven slim issues
per year), in response to subscriber interest in a broader article base. New additions in
Vol. 5 will include a twice-yearly bibliography of recent chondrichthyan articles, books
and proceedings; a coastal and insular report section covering topics related to
nearshore, bay and estuarine environments; and expanded notations of new
publications available with ordering sources and price quotes.
Editorial staff assignments for Vol. 5 (1994) are: Managing Editor: Madeline Oetinger ^ *
(Kentucky Wesleyan College); Senior Editors: Sid Cook (Argus-Mariner Consulting ^
Scientists), Leonard Compagno (South African Museum), John Stevens (CSIRO
Marine Labs, Australia), and Dominique Didier (The Academy of Natural Sciences,
Subscription rates in US$: $22 domestic (US, Canada and Mexico); $26 in all other
countries. Student Rates: $17 domestic (US, Canada, and Mexico); $21 all other
countries. Terms and quotes for college and research institution technical library rates
are available on request. To subscribe and for sample issues from back volumes,
contact: Madeline Oetinger, Chondros, 1003 Hermitage Drive, Owensboro, KY (USA)
42301-6004. Phone: (+1)502 683-7681: Fax: (+1) 502 926-3196.
0 ,* '
This volume is published by the American Littoral Society and edited by S.H. Gruber
(1991). It contains more than 20 papers on the life history characteristics, origins,
anatomy, reproduction, feeding biology, movement, behaviour and management of
sharks and is an extremely good read and useful source of information. Published by
the American Littoral Society, Sandy Hook, Highlands, New Jersey 07732, USA. *
Elasmoscope Elasmoscope, a newsletter for shark and ray enthusiasts based in
Europe, is being compiled and distributed by the Sea Life Centres. Contact Rod
Haynes, Sea LifeCentre, Strandweg 13,2586 JK, Den Haas, Netherlands.
Sharks: Biology and Fisheries
The papers from the International Sharks Down Under Conference, originally published
in the Australian J. Marine and Freshwater Reseach, Volume 43(1) have been
compiled into the above hardback volume. $A60 in Australia and $US70 elsewhere. It
is available from CSIRO Publications, P.O. Box ff9, EastMelbourne, Victoria 3002,
Australia. Fax: +61 3 419 0459
The volume of the Proceedings of the International Workshop on the Conservation of
Elasmobranchs (edited by J. Pepperell, J. West and P. Woon) held on February 24
1991 in Sydney, Australia, is now available. It includes papers from sessions on
conservation and fisheries, and protective beach meshing in Australia and South
Africa. Soft-back. $A35 in Australia and New Zealand and $US30 (all other countries);
credit cards accepted. Contact John West, Taronga Zoo, P.O. Box 20, Mossman, NSV
2088, Australia. Fax: +61 2 969 7515.
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Bibliography: technical reports p
This section is intended to present brief notes on specialist publications which may not
otherwise come to the notice of many. Readers are invited to send details of such
reports to the Editors for inclusion in future issues. Please include information on how
the publication may be obtained.
Several of the following are summaries of unpublished reports produced by regional o
sub-groups of the Shark Specialist Group. Copies of these are available from Merry
Camhi at the address on page 8.. .
Conservation Biology ofElasmobranchs
S. Branstetter, Editor, 1993. NOAA Technical Report NMFS 115. 99 pp.
This volume features the proceedings of the 1991 AES symposium "Conservation *
Biology of Elasmobranchs". It contains nine articles covering & variety of topics
concerning biology, fisheries and public education, including the following: r e
Applegate, S.P., F. Soltelo-Macias, and L. Espinosa-Arrubarrena. 1993. An overview of
Mexican shark fisheries, with suggestions for shark conservation in Mexico. *
Martin, L. 1993. Shark conservation-educating the public.
Music, Branstetter and Colvocoresses. Trends in shark abundance, 1974-1990, for
the Chesapeake Bight region of the US mid-Atlantic coast.
Shark fisheries in the Maldives
A review by R.C. Anderson and Hudha Ahmed. Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture,
Male, Republic of Maldives, and Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United
Nations, 76pp. 1993.
This review was carried out to assess and resolve a number of problems affecting the
Maldivian shark fisheries, including suggestions of overfishing of the valuable deep-
water gulper shark (or spiny dogfish) resource; conflict between fishermen catching
shark and those targeting other resources; and complaints from the tourism industry *
about the reduction of shark numbers at particular 'shark diving' sites. that *t
The report describes the three main shark fisheries in the Maldives: a deep-water
longline fishery for gulper shark (which yields oil for export), an offshore longline fishery
for oceanic shark, and an inshore gillnet, handline and longline fishery for reef and
other atoll-associated sharks (both yielding fins and meat for export). The first appears
to be heavily fished and would benefit from some control, the second is small and *
could beexpanded, and the last would probably run the risk of overfishing if expanded
very much more.
Reef shark fisheries are a source of conflict with the important tourism industry. 'Shark *
watching' is a major activity among tourist divers. It is roughly estimated that this
generates US$2.3 million per year in direct diving revenue, and that a grey reef shark
may be worth at least one hundred times more alive at a dive site than dead on a
fishing boat. Various recommendations are made for the management and
development of commercial shark fisheries in the Maldives and for resolving conflicts
between the tourism industry and shark fishermen. These include a complete ban on
fishing at the most important dive site in the islands and the protection of the whale
shark. These recommendations are currently being considered by the Ministry.
The Status of the Elasmobranch Fisheries in Europe
Report of the Northeast Atlantic Subgroup of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group. Ramon
Munoz-Chapuli, Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, Bernard Seret & Matthias Stehmann.
June 1993. (Unpublished report.) 23 pp.
This report is based on a questionnaire sent to countries around the Atlantic and
Mediterranean. The most significant result is perhaps the discovery of the extreme
shortage of knowledge concerning these fisheries. Of the 13 countries declaring a
targeted elasmobranch fishery, and six declaring shark by-catches, only eight collect
shark fishery data, and only one collects data which distinguishes between species.
The paucity of data makes stock assessment virtually impossible, a situation which is
of particular concern considering the special reproductive biology of elasmobranchs.
Most species are slow to reach maturity (up to 15 years for larger species), have long
periods of gestation (or development for oviparous species) and produce only small
numbers of offspring. Evidence of decline in populations of rays throughout the region,
decline in Mustelus catches in the Mediterranean, and concern over the expected
increase in spiny dogfish catches all highlight the need for further investigation and
control of this little-understood fishery.
The report concludes that while the elasmobranch fishery in the region has not yet
collapsed, a number of important measures are required to prevent this from occurring.
There is a need for improved statistical data, and more intensive research on the role
of shark ecology particularly reproductive biology and population dynamics, and on
Size restrictions and total allowable catches should be established for more sensitive
species such as the spiny dogfish (or spurdog) Squalus acanthias, Mustelus species,
and skates and rays.
Finally, there needs to be effective control of the use of large-scale pelagic driftnets
which indiscriminately capture all species of elasmobranchs, including small
The Status of the Chondrichthyan Resources in the South West Pacific
Report of the South West Pacific Subgroup of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group. John
Stevens (compiler). 1993. (Unpublished report.) 50 pp.
The report notes that data on chondrichthyan fishery landings and distributions within
the south west Pacific region were most readily available, and more reliable, from
Australia and New Zealand. Both countries have relatively well regulated fisheries with
co-ordinated logbook and catch and effort data recording systems, particularly for more
recent years. However, even for these countries effort data in particular are not always
readily accessible. The report is based on preliminary information obtained from IUCN
members in Australia, New Zealand and the Solomons. Data for some countries,
particularly Indonesia, are very difficult to obtain.
The status of chondrichthyans in the region are dealt with on a country by country
basis under five general headings: targeted commercial fisheries, by-catch in other
commercial fisheries, beach protection meshing programmes, recreational fisheries,
and other concerns, In Australia, five main chondrichthyan species are targeted by
commercial fishing (school Galeorhinus galeus, gummy Mustelus antarcticus, whiskery
Furgaleus macki, dusky whaler Carcharhinus obscurus and blacktip sharks mainly
Carcharhinus tilstoni and C. sorrah). These targeted fisheries are all currently subject
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to management controls aimed at reducing or holding catches at sustainable levels.
Chondrichthyans taken in large quantities as by-catch in othor fisheries (or targeted on
a relatively small scale) are sawsharks (Pristiophorus spp.), elephant fish
(Callorhynchus milii), angel shark (Squatina australis), dogfish (Squalus, Centrophorus,
Centroscymnus and Deania spp.), blue shark (Prionace glauca), wobbegongs
(Orectolobus spp.), and skates and rays. Virtually nothing is known of stock structure,
stock size or population dynamics of any of these species.
Currently, the species most at risk would appear to be deep-water dogfish and blue
shark. Some species of Squalus and Centrophorus are now being targeted and large
quantities of several deep-water species are taken by vessels fishing for orange
roughy. Although some are landed for squalene oil extraction much of the catch is
discarded and not reported. The productivity of these deep-water squalid resources is
almost certainly low in view of what is known of their biology from other areas.
Blue sharks are taken in large numbers as by-catch in Australian waters. The current
very limited markets for the flesh in Australia and regulations effectively prevent the fins
from being retained. Almost all the sharks come up alive on the longlines and while
many are released a large proportion are killed. Outside the AFZ the majority of blue
sharks caught by longliners are finned and the carcasses discarded. While blue shark
stocks are likely to be relatively productive they are undoubtedly being caught on a
massive scale throughout the south west Pacific region.
The annual catch of skates and rays is largely unknown. Estimates suggest that some
2,000 tonnes were taken annually in the late 1980's as by-catch of the northern prawn
fishery alone. In most cases, data are not even available on the species composition of
Other species whose status requires careful monitoring are whale sharks Rhincodon
typus, freshwater sawfish Pristis microdon, white shark Carcharodon carcharias, and
grey nurse Carcharias taurus.
In New Zealand, school, gummy Mustelus lenticulatus, elephant fish and white-spotted
spurdog S. acanthias are targeted commercial species and are managed under a
system of Individual Transferable Quotas aimed at holding catches at suslainable
levels. As in Australia, blue shark, deep-water dogfish and skates and rays are taken in
large numbers as by- catch and the status of their stocks must be considered
Data from other south western Pacific countries are poor. Anecdotal evidence suggests
that the status of some shark stocks in Indonesia should be viewed with concern, as
should the by-catch of pelagic sharks from foreign fleets fishing elsewhere in the south
west Pacific region.
Status of shark populations in the western North Atlantic
Abstract of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group Northwest Atlantic Working Group, Report
1993, chaired by George H. Burgess, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of
Florida, Gainesville, Florida USA 32611. 22 pp.
The IUCN/SSG Northwest Atlantic Region extends from western Greenland southward
to the Brazilian border. Major shark fisheries are found in waters of Mexico, Trinidad
and Tobago, and the United States. Since 1976 an average of 9,249 metric tonnes (t)
per year of sharks has been harvested in Mexican waters, with declines in catches
reported since a peak of 16,236t in 1985. It is thought that Mexican waters may support
a sustainable yield of 10-12,000t/year. In Trinidad and Tobago catches have averaged
1,016t/yr since 1972 with a peak of 1,995t in 1977. Stock assessments are not
available for either Mexico or Trinidad and Tobago shark populations, and no
management regimes are in effect. Shark catches in US North Atlantic waters have
averaged 8,850t since 1979. Marine fisheries management in United States waters is
exclusively vested to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The NMFS
estimates maximum sustainable yields (MSY) of 3,800 dressed t for large coastal
sharks (LCS), 2,590t for small coastal sharks (SCS) and 1,560t for pelagic sharks (PS)
of this region. Of these, the NMFS considers only the LCS group overfished. On April
26, 1993 a NMFS Fishery Management Plan (FMP) was enacted for 39 species of
sharks in the Atlantic waters of the United States. Key features of the recovery plan
include annual capture quotas of 2,900t of LCS and 1,560t of PS, and a recreational
bag limit of four LCS/PS per boat per trip. By May 15 1993 the commercial fishery for
LCS was closed, the half-year quota of 1,218t having been reached. The second half-
year began on July 1, and the commercial fishery was again closed on July 31 after
filling the quota. Recreational bag limits are expected to have little effect on
recreational anglers. The FMP is considered overly optimistic because it considers
maximum annual production estimates used in modelling as sustainable, fails to utilise
pre-1986 data (that indicate overfishing as early as 1980) and available fishery-
independent studies in developing its assessment, assumes unrealistically high annual
survival rates from birth (0.97), and probably underestimates the catch of SCS. While
the implementation of the FMP is a welcome first step, NMFS's projection of rebuilding
and recovery to MSY levels in two years is absurd when compared to historical stock
recoveries measured in decades.
In summary, the conclusion is that shark populations in the western North Atlantic
appear to be declining primarily as a result of overfishing. More aggressive reductions
of catches are needed under the US FMP. In certain other areas shark populations are
probably fully fished or have become overfished, but no management is occurring.
(Editor's note: on May 13, NOAA/NMFS announced that the semiannual commercial
fishery quota for large coastal sharks for the period January 1, 1994, through June 30
will be reached by 17 May, and the fishery was closed on that date. It will reopen on
Preliminary Report for the Subequatorial African
Region, Atlantic, Indian and Antarctic Oceans
Abstract of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group Subequatorial African Region Report. L.J.
V. Compagno, with input from M. J. Smale, S.F.J. Dudley and S.F. Cook. November
1993. (Unpublished report.)
The Subequatorial African Region is somewhat arbitrarily defined as that part of Africa
below the equator, which is bordered on the west by the southeastern Atlantic, and on
the east by the southwestern Indian Ocean, and to the south by the Antarctic Ocean
and Continent. Its longitudinal limits are 10Wto 700E. The Region includes the coasts
of Gabon, Congo Republic, Zaire, Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique,
Tanzania, and most of Kenya on the African Continent, plus Madagascar, a section of
Antarctica from Maudheim to the Mawson Coast, and several islands in the South
Atlantic, Southern Indian, and Antarctic Oceans.
The Region forms a major faunal province and a centre of diversity for marine
cartilaginous fishes, with approximately 260 species of sharks, rays and chimaeras of
which approximately 79 (30%) are endemics. The high endemicity of the fauna,
coupled with virtually no fisheries regulation, accelerating fisheries and other marine
activities by humans, and localized marine habitat degradation make for considerable
urgency in addressing the rational exploitation and conservation of regional
The diversity and conservation status of regional cartilaginous fishes are discussed,
including present fisheries, conservation problems, and conservation strategies. A
checklist of regional species, a data matrix with localities, distributional pattern, habitat,
and ecomorphotype, and a bibliography of the area are included in the report.
Other recent papers
Hanan, D.A., D.B. Holts, and A.L. Coan, Jr. 1993. The California drift gill net fishery for
sharks and swordfish, 1981-82 through 1990-91. California Department of Fish and
Game, Fish Bulletin 175. 95 pp. Marine Technical Information Center, CA Dept. Fish
and Game, 33C Golden Shore, Suite 50, Long Beach, CA 90802, USA.
Ishihara, H., H.Homma, Y.Takeda, and J.E. Randall. 1993. Redescription distribution,
and food habits of the Indo-Pacific dasyatid stingray Himantura granulata. Japanese
journal of Ichthyology. 40(1): 23-28.
Parsons, G.R. 1993. Geographic variation in reproduction between two populations of
the bonnethead shark, Sphyrna tiburo. Environmental Biology of Fishes 38: 25-35. G.
R. Parsons, Dept. Biol., Univ. Miss., University, MS 38677, USA.
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The Fishery Status of Chimaeroids (Chondrichthyes,
Holocephali), Summary Report
The Academy of Natural Sciences,
Of the 34 known species of chimaeroids, only the three species of callorhynchid fishes
(Family Callorhynchidae) are part of a commercial fishery. These species occur only in
the Southern Hemisphere and are fished off thecoast of New Zealand, south-eastern
Australia and Tasmania, western and southern Africa, and in South America off the
coasts of Chile, Peru, and Argentina. In these regions callorhynchids comprise a small,
but not insignificant, portion of the coastal fishery where they are important as food
fishes and sometimes frozen for export. Other species of chimaeroids, of the Families
Chimaeridae and Rhinochimaeridae, are taken as by-catch and used forfish meal. In
addition, the oil rendered from the livers of these fishes is known to be a fine lubricant;
however, further data are unavailable regarding this aspect of their utilization.
Pacific Ratfish Hydrolagus colliei
In New Zealand the fishery for elephant fishes Callorhinchus milii occurs primarily off
the eastern and southern coasts of the South Island, with the major landings occurring
in the Canterbury Bight region. This is an inshore fishery (up to 150m depths) in which
fishes are caught by either bottom trawl or gill net and is comprised of two-person
operated 12-20m vessels. Elephant fishes are seasonally abundant, coincident with
spawning migrations, and the majority are fished from the months of October to
February. Recently the Maximum Constant Yield (MCY) for C. milii was estimated to be
400t; however, data from 1983-1992 show that the fishery has consistently exceeded
this level (Duffy, 1992). Unfortunately, very little is known about the biology of these
fishes which seem to be relatively late-maturing, slow-growing fishes with males
maturing at three years and females at 4.5 year: (Sullivan, 1978). In particular, the ^
reproduction and spawning behavior of all chimaeroid fishes is poorly understood and
fecundity estimates are currently unavailable. Without further data it is difficult to
determine whether or not the fishery can maintain current catch levels; however, it is
likely that this species is over-fished in New Zealand waters (Duffy 1992).
A major threat to all chimaeroid fishes is overfishing in the absence of adequate
information on population movements and fluctuations abundance, fecundity, and life
span. The only chimaeroids for which there is a regulated fishery are the callorhynchid
fishes. Other chimaeroids are caught as a by-catch, but there are few, if any, records ol
the numbers landed and/or their utilization, for example, the targeting of a non-quota
species, Hydrolagus novaezealandiae, in Cloudy Bay, New Zealand (Duffy, 1990), and
the large numbers of longnose chimaeras, Neoharriotta pinnata and Rhinochimaera
atlantica, which are caught and not used by hake trawlers off the African coast
(Campagno et al., 1989). There is a real danger in overfishing these species without an
adequate assessment, of their population structure and the potential consequences of
such fishery practices.
A second threat to chimaeroid fishes is the potential destruction of spawning habitats,
especially habitats that are as yet undetermined to be critical spawning areas, because
very few chimaeroid spawning sites have been positively identified. As an example,
egg cases of the New Zealand elephant fish, that were once quite abundant in trawls
along the southeastern coast of New Zealand, are currently only known from the
Mariborough sounds. This apparent shift in spawning areas may be due to bottom
trawling, but appropriate baseline data are not available to verify this hypothesis.
However, it is now apparent that the spawning sites for C. milii may be very limited, yet
pressure continues to be exerted to utilize these critical spawning areas for commercial
enterprises. The results of such activities are unknown and one can only guess at the
potential disruption to populations of C. milii.
Compagno, L.J.V., D.A. Ebert, and M.J. Smale (1989) Guide to the sharks and rays of
Southern Africa. New Holland Press, 158 pp.
Di Giacomo, E., and M. R. Perier (1991) Evaluacion de la biomasa y explotacion
commercial del pez gallo Callorhynchus callorhynchus en el Golfo San Matias,
Argentina. Frente Maritimo 9: 7-13.
Duffy, C. (1990) Comment on marine conservation issues in the Mariborough Sounds
relevant to the proposed Central/Chalanger region fisheries management plan.
Duffy, C. (1992) Inshore 2 fishery assessment working group report. McCregor, G.A.
(1988) in Baird, G.G., and McKoy, J.L. (eds) Papers from the workshop to review fish
stock assessments for the 1987-88 New Zealand fishing year, pp.74-77.
Sullivan, K.J. (1978) Age and growth of the elephant fish Callorhinchus milii
(Elasmobranchii: Callorhynchidae). N.Z.J. Mar. Fw. Res. 11:745-753.
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Shark Organisations Worldwide
American Elasmobranch Society *
The American Elasmobranch Society (AES) was founded in 1983 as a nonprofit
organization to advance the study and understanding of living and fossil
elasmobranchs the sharks, skates and rays, as well as the closely related chimaeras.
The Society was born of the need for a common forum and international clearinghouse
for researchers working on elasmobranchs.
The AES publishes its Newsletter four times a year, produces a membership directory
and occasionally a bibliography of elasmobranch research. It also runs an email
Elasmolink, which mainly has items of American interest, and a bulletin board. The
email address for this is: email@example.com.(your email
name and address).
There are two categories of membership: 'standard' for active researchers, and non-
voting 'affiliate' status for those not currently professionally involved in research.
For membership or additional information, contact either Dr Jeffrey C. Carrier, AES
Secretary & Editor, Department of Biology, Albion College, Albion, MI 49224, USA. Tel.
(+1) 517-629-0389. Fax. (+1) 517- 629-0509, or Dr Robert E. Hueter, AES President,
Director, Center for Shark Research, Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Thompson
Parkway Sarasota, FL 34236, USA. Tel. (+1) 813-388-4441. Fax. (+1) 813-388-4312.
Japanese Society for Elasmobranch Studies
The Society was set up in 1977, and now has 133 Japanese and 37 foreign members.
An annual report is produced. Contact the Secretary, Dr Taniuchi, for further
Information at University of Tokyo, Department of Fisheries, Yavoi, Bunkvo-ku, Tokyo
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Alberto Amorim has reported a shark attack at a beach near his home in Santos during
February. A boy's foot was bitten and, as usual, the press took up the story with great
excitement; it was still the subject of media attention two weeks later. There were some
calls for all sharks to be killed near beaches to protect swimmers, despite the fact that
attacks are very unusual in the area.
Dr Amorim points out that no fewer than 24 people were drowned while swimming from
the beaches of four towns close to Santos during the carnival a few days after the
shark attack. Unsurprisingly, little attention was paid to these statistics and the much
greater likelihood of swimmers losing their lives in this way, or indeed in traffic
accidents, than through shark attack.
The Shark Group needs to make sure that these sort of comparative mortality figures
are made more widely available to the media to counteract the sensationalism elicted
by shark attacks on swimmers and surfers.
Several accounts of illegal shark fishing around the Galapagos Marine Reserve have
recently been received from diving tourists and tour operators in the area. They include
divers finding dozens of dead hammerheads in fishing nets set in only 10m of water
less than 100m offshore. This area was zoned for scientific and educational use only:
the highest protection category there. Additionally, shark fishing is illegal within 80
miles of shore in the Galapagos and commercial fishing anywhere within two miles of
shore. Boats have also been filmed by tourists trolling for shark about 50-100m
It is to be hoped that these incidents receive sufficient publicity to help the Ecuadorean
government find the support they need to enforce controls within the Reserve. This is
one of only a very few areas where divers may still see schools of hammerheads, and
ecotourism should be a huge source of foreign currency for the country.
On 1st January 1994 it became illegal to take white sharks in Californian waters for at
least the next five years except with a scientific or educational permit from the
Department of Fish and Game, or as incidental catch in selected net fisheries. (Press
release from the Center for Marine Conservation, San Francisco, California.)
Assembly Bill 522 prevents white sharks from becoming a target species for sport or
commercial fishing in Califomian waters. An adult white shark caught in southern
California in September 1993 had sold for $10,000 and large sets of shark jaws have
also been fetching thousands of dollars, so the protection of the species was obviously
timely. In contrast, it must be noted that the history of white shark attacks in California,
Oregon and Washington shows only four fatal attacks out of 38 documented incidents
in the 18 years since 1975, illustrating the much greater threat posed to sharks by man
than vice versa.
What was particularly interesting about the campaign to support the protection
proposals was the diverse nature of the coalition of interest groups involved. They
included major commercial and sports fishing groups, scientific organizations, surfing
groups, sport diving associations, marine mammal conservation groups and
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Campaign for a Living Coast
English Nature is pleased to sponsor the first edition of Shark News. We wish it every
success and hope that it will provide a focus for the exchange of information within the
Shark Specialist Group and with other interested parties.
A LIVING COAST
In 1992 English Nature set out a long-term conservation programme to achieve
effective solutions to the over-exploitation and lack of proper care which now threatens
our coasts and estuaries, and many of the species living in the seas around them. As
the 'Campaign for a Living Coast' continues, issues such as coastal protection and
development, sustainable management of estuaries and the promotion of sensitive
marine areas as a form of conserving important areas for marine wildlife are being
Within our work, commercial and recreational fisheries have been recognized as an
area where both like-minded and opposing views exist in relation to the conservation of
marine wildlife. In order to develop better understanding of fisheries and their potential
impacts, English Nature has developed policies on particular areas of concern. One of
these policies advocates a review of priorities for research, stock assessment and
management protocols for sharks, skates and rays. These non-quota species are
subject to particular pressure as a result of their slow growth, time taken to reach
maturity and the production of small numbers of young which are vulnerable to fishing
from birth. Despite these facts, fisheries for such species lack any form of conservation
regulation in Britain.
With the decommissioning of the last British licensed basking shark fishing vessel,
further consideration will also be given to protecting this species using the provisions of
the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
deelpmnt susaiabl mnagmet o etuaie an te pomtio o sesiiv
If you are able to provide any information that would help in our work, please contact
Paul Knapman, Marine Fisheries Officer, English Nature, Northminster House,
Peterborough, Cambridgeshire PE1 1UA, UK. Tel. (44) (0) 733 318298.
European Shark and Ray Workshop
The second Shark and Ray workshop, organised by Dr Bob Earll, was held at the
Natural History Museum in London on 15 and 16 February 1994 with the generous
help of several sponsors.
Over 60 participants from several European countries and Jack Casey, US National
Marine Fisheries Service, attended. The first day was devoted to presentations and
discussions of European and the US tag and release programmes, and the second to
consideration of management plans. Recommendations of the meeting included the
need for the establishment of a European Elasmobranch Working Group and a shark
conservation implementation programme, possibly analogous to the International
Whaling Commission or North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation.
A report of the workshop will shortly be available from Dr Clare Eno, Marine
Conservation Branch, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Monkstone House, City
Road, Peterborough PE1 1JY (UK). Fax. (44) (0)733 893971.
American Elasmobranch Society AGM
The American Elasmobranch Society Annual Meeting 1994 is about to take place in
Los Angeles, from 4 to 6 June, as this newsletter goes to print. A meeting of the Shark
Specialist Group will take place during the weekend to review progress on the
production of the Action Plan and discuss specific conservation projects and actions to -
be recommended in the plan. A report will appear in our next issue.
Sharks in Danger Slide set
The IUCN Shark Specialist Group slide set features 40 colour transparencies, including
many by professional shark photographers Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch and Jack Jackson
and contributions from Specialist Group members. It is accompanied by a leaflet with
speaker's text which covers shark biology, ecology and threats to chondrichthyans
from man's activities. Copies are available from Dr Gruber (price US$38, cheque
payable to Center for Marine Conservation) or Sarah Fowler (21 in Europe, 23
elsewhere, including postage and packing, cheque or credit card payable to the Nature
speaker texti whic coer shark bioog, coog ad hrat tconrihtyas
from mas ctviie.Coie ae vilbl fomD Gubr prc U$3,heu