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Title: Shark news
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00090496/00003
 Material Information
Title: Shark news
Series Title: Shark news
Physical Description: Serial
Language: English
Creator: Ichthology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida
Publisher: Ichthology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: March 1995
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Bibliographic ID: UF00090496
Volume ID: VID00003
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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Search Fis Selections...
List of Articles
CITES action for Sharks
Sonja Fordham
International trade in sharks
and shark products

Chairman's message to the
Shark Specialist Group .
Samuel H. Gruber
Whale sharks in Western 4 -.
John Stevens
Regional whale shark news r

Freshwater elasmobranchs: a
questionable future Illustation M R Williams 1993
Leonard J.V. Compagno and Sid F. Cook
Update from the Galapagos

ICES takes action on elasmobranchs

Bibliography: technical reports and publications

World Wildlife Fund


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Search Fis Selections...

CITES action for Sharks

Sonja Fordham, Centre for Marine Conservation *
Last year's meeting on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, proved to be a
pivotal event for sharks when a resolution to improve international shark data collection
received unanimous approval.

The resolution was prompted by the growing recognition of the plight of many shark
species. Once considered "under-utilised" resources, increasing numbers of shark
populations world-wide now face over-exploitation and severe depletion as markets for
shark meat, fins, and cartilage expand. Conservation and management efforts for
sharks have historically been hampered due to lack of data.

Initially, the resolution was introduced by the United States and, after some debate,
was sent to a working group made up of interested delegates and conservationists
from around the world. After spirited deliberation, the working group produced a
reworked resolution which presented a compromise between interests from several
countries, including the US, Japan and Panama. The revised document was then re-
introduced and passed without opposition.

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International trade controls could Decome as important tor tne conservation ot
some sharks as they are for the survival of reptiles. Photo: Carl Safina.

Entitled "The Status of International Trade in Shark Species", the resolution calls for
the Animals Committee of CITES to review all information concerning the biological
status of sharks and the effects of international trade, and submit a report to the next
Conference of the Parties to CITES in the spring of 1997. In addition, the resolution
requests that the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations and other
international fishery organizations improve their research programs and submit new
information on these topics to the 11th Conference of the Parties in the fall of 1999.
The Centre for Marine Conservation (CMC) will contribute to this endeavour by
teaming up with TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring arm of the World Wide Fund
For Nature, to produce a report on the international trade in sharks fins. Research for
the report will begin this year (see article on page 2).

Considering CITES' inaction for marine fish to date, passage of this resolution was
remarkable. Only five species of marine fish (three species of anadromous sturgeons,
the coelacanth and the totoaba) are currently included in the CITES Appendices, and
this was the first time that shark issues have earned consideration by the CITES

Advocacy and educational efforts by a number of conservation groups helped to
convince the delegates of the need for improved shark data collection on a global
scale. On the opening day of the meeting, the CMC distributed a four page fact sheet
on the need for international shark conservation to all the delegates. During specialist
group, delivered an eloquent and persuasive statement on behalf of imperilled shark
populations. The World Wide Fund For Nature, TRAFFIC, the National Audubon
Society and the CMC participated in the working group which drafted the compromise
resolution. The shark activities concluded with conservation groups joining members of
the US delegation in a press conference announcing the resolution.

Improved data collection on shark fisheries, trade and population status is the critical
first step toward implementing international shark conservation and management. This
important action also lays the groundwork for future efforts to use CITES to regulate
trade and conserve these vulnerable species.

S elections...
International trade in sharks and shark products

In November 1994, at the initiative of the United States, the Parties to the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) adopted a
resolution, "Trade of Sharks and Shark Products," calling on Parties and international
fisheries organizations to improve the collection of data on shark fisheries and trade for
further discussion at the next Conference of the Parties (COP10).

To assist these efforts, TRAFFIC, an international wildlife trade monitoring program
established by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the Worldwide Fund For
Nature (WWF), will undertake an in-depth investigation of the global trade of sharks
and shark products. The objective of the project is to compile information from field and
market research needed to develop a comprehensive understanding of the shark trade
its impacts on shark stocks, and actions needed at the national and international levels
to address the unsustainable exploitation of shark fisheries. The TRAFFIC Network
study will be conducted in cooperation with the CITES Secretariat and Animals
Committee, IUCN, and other agencies and organizations. The results of the 18-month
study are scheduled to be released prior to the discussion of shark trade at the Tenth
Conference of the Parties to CITES.

Call for information
TRAFFIC is currently calling for any available reports, news items, or other information
on international trade in sharks and shark products. Contact Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC
Oceania, P.O. Box R594, Royal Exchange, Sydney N.S.W. 2000 Australia. Tel.: (+61)
2-2478133. Fax: (+61) 2-2474579, or Andrea Gaski, TRAFFIC USA, 1250 Twenty-
fourth Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037 USA. Tel.: (+1) 202-775-8287.

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SSearch Fishes I G SO F A O

Chairman's message to the Shark Specialist Group

I first became seriously interested in shark conservation when, in 1988, I was forced to
abandon a six year study of juvenile lemon sharks after they slowly but relentlessly
disappeared from the Florida Keys. I wrote a few angry articles and appeared in some
media presentations railing against this senseless slaughter. Imagine my surprise
when, two years later George Rabb, Chairman of the IUCN Species Survival
Commission asked me to establish and chair a Shark Specialist Group (SSG). Never
mind that I had no special knowledge of conservation principles, George said the time
was right and that I could do it. -. a .

iA n

Dr S.H. Gruber, Shark Specialist Group Chairman, with friendly
tiger shark.
Photo: Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch

In hindsight, organising and running the SSG has been like an emotional roller coaster.
The initial optimism at the thought of our group changing the world gave way to mild
concern at the reality of the situation and finally to pessimism and even depression
Souh meic
Ceta* mrc

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when funding failed to materialise concurrent with the logarithmic increase in the killing
of sharks.

Yet the gloom was punctuated by feelings of elation at some hard won victories: The
passage of the US Atlantic Shark Management Plan, the protection of white sharks anc
the banning of long line gear and drifting gill nets in many places.

Today, because of interest in sharks and their conservation as exemplified by the many
television programs, newspaper articles, magazine stories and most importantly the
flurry of resolutions at the recent CITES convention, we are in a period of intense
optimism up on a high!!

Looking back over the work of our group, I am proud of our many VOLUNTEER
accomplishments: three international meetings punctuated with scholarly reports,
obtaining meagre funds by helping produce a CD-ROM on sharks with conservation
overtones, producing and distributing a slide set for use in public lectures on shark
conservation, making good progress on the Action Plan, including a full blown proposal
for its funding, and forming a coalition to ban the use of long line fishing in the
Bahamas ... and getting long line gear banned. Possibly most important, we have
raised consciousness for shark conservation on a world-wide basis,

The founding and funding of this newsletter, SHARK NEWS, is testament to our deputy
chairwoman, Sarah Fowler, who among all our diligent members makes the greatest
effort and has enjoyed the highest productivity. She has earned my deep respect and

But there have been failures as well. On a personal level, I had hoped that the SSG
would take the leading role in global shark conservation. That did not happen. We have
not even been able to attract sufficient vice chairpersons to cover every part of the
world's oceans. And of course my funding record has been dismal. I must take full
responsibility for these problems because I failed to exercise the leadership to get the
job done.

Nevertheless, our future is bright; but we must seize the opportunity! I am certain
funding the work of the SSG is far more likely in today's climate, and we have several
grant applications in the pipeline.

I believe our first priority is to complete the Action Plan. Simultaneously, we must
identify priorities as regards research and conservation goals. And finally we must
vigorously pursue our CITES petition for 1997, In the end we just might really make
difference after all.

Samuel H. Gruber
Chairman, Shark Specialist Group

|SSG unding


i Se F s a S I. *r

Search Fis Selections...

Whale sharks in Western Australia

John Stevens, CSIRO Australia
Over the last few years a significant ecotourist industry based on snorkelling with whale
sharks has developed at Ningaloo reef in north Western Australia. Each year during
March and April, aggregations of these sharks appear close to the reef which is only a
kilometre or so offshore. During the whale shark season the normally quiet town at
Exmouth comes alive with international tourists and television crews wanting to swim
with and film the whale sharks. Spotter planes are used to locate the sharks and direct.
the dive-boats into contact. Management regulations control the number of vessels in
the area and in contact with a particular shark, the number of snorkellers in the water
and contact time and minimum approach distances in an attempt to minimise
disturbance to the animals. Other than that the whale sharks presence in the area is
most probably in response to increased productivity in the food chain associated with
the mass spawning of corals, little is known of their local population structure,
behaviour and movement patterns.

Whale shark. Photo Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch.

Last March myself and John Gunn, also from CSIRO, spent ten days at Ningaloo doing
some tracking and tagging work to try and find out more about the whale sharks
movement patterns. We looked at short term movements using standard acoustic
telemetry techniques and long term movements using recently developed archival tags

('smart' tags or data loggers). John Gunn is heading up a CSIRO project which has
developed and pioneered the use of these tags on southern bluefin tuna. The tags
were designed by CSIRO in conjunction with a local electronics company and they
measure and store information on the date, time, swimming depth, light levels and
temperature of the surrounding water. Data are collected at predetermined intervals
and logged for 8-9 years and can be stored for up to 20 years. On retrieval of the tag
the data are downloaded and the light intensity data used to calculate geographical
locations of the fish providing a record of where it has been overthat period accurate to
about one degree of latitude and longitude. The tags measure 90 x 24 x 18 mm, weigh
60 g in air and have 256 kilobytes of RAM memory, enough space for some 60,000
sets of data on depth, water temperature, light levels and time. The tags are expensive
and consequently only cost effective where high recapture rates can be expected. In
the case of whale sharks at Ningaloo it is known from individuals with distinctive
markings and fin damage that many of the same sharks return each year.

Both the acoustic transmitters and the archival tags were attached to the sharks' first
dorsal fin using a small detachable stainless steel head mounted on a spear which was
propelled using a Hawaiian sling. Tagging was carried out underwater by a snorkeller
with the shark usually showing little or no reaction to being tagged. During our visit we
saw some 35 whale sharks. Two individuals were tracked, one for a period of 26 hours,
providing interesting data on horizontal movements along the reef, diving behaviour,
the time spent at different positions in the water column during the day and night, and
on swimming speed. Six archival tags were attached (one was retrieved after 24 hours
providing further data on swimming depth and diving behaviour) and we are hopeful of
getting at least one back this year which would provide fascinating information on
where the sharks have been after leaving Ningaloo.

This year we hope to go back and do some more tracking work, deploy more archival
tags and also try some satellite tracking.

SSG ing

SS Puliaton


i Se F s a S I. *r

Search Fis Selections...

Regional whale shark news

Whale sharks protected in Maldives
Fishing for whale sharks was banned in Maldivian waters from the end of 1993. This
was in recognition of their rare status in the Maldives, the low monetary value of the
seasonal fishery (which took between 20 and 30 fish a year, worth less than US
$1,500), and the possible benefits of the species to the tuna fishery (fishermen report
an association between whale shark and tuna schools) and the tourism industry. The
protection of the species in the Maldives is to be welcomed, since fishermen have
reported a decline in catches there over the past ten years. -.

Charles Anderson

Whale shark aggregations on the Kenya coast -.
An IUCN/Kenya Wildlife Service air survey took place in November 1994, primarily to
determine the occurrence and distribution of dugongs, turtles and cetaceans on the
Kenya coast. Between 60 and 80 whale sharks were also sighted, clustered along the
coast rather than evenly distributed, with some right over coral reefs and others a
considerable distance offshore (the data are being entered into Arclnfo and are not yet
ready for analysis). There were also interesting observations of large hammerheads
and aggressive encounters between Zambesi River/bull sharks Carcharhinus leucas
and spotted dolphins Stenella attenuata.

Maps showing the numbers and distribution of the whale shark sightings relative to the
position of coral reefs and bathymetry, and a survey report will be available from the
Kenya Wildlife Service by the end of February. The IUCN Eastern Africa Regional
Office and Shark Specialist Group experts are evaluating the importance of these
records and will be making recommendations forfurther research and conservation

Rod Salm
Marine & Coastal Conservation Programme Coordinator
IUCN Eastern Africa Regional Office
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Search Fishs Selections...

Freshwater elasmobranchs; a questionable future -

Leonard V.Compagno, Shark Research Center, South African
and Sid F. Cook, Argus-Mariner Consulting Scientists
Living cartilaginous fishes include approximately 923-1117 species in 171 genera and
55 families (estimate from 22 January 1995). Of these about 43 species of
elasmobranchs (mostly rays but with a few sharks) in four families and ten genera are
found in freshwater far beyond tidal influences. Some chimaeras occur inshore in
enclosed marine bays but do not tolerate fresh water.

Freshwater elasmobranchs (excluding marginal species)

Whiptail stingrays, Family Dasyatidae: Himantura (1 species).

Requiem sharks, Family Carcharhinidae: Carcharhinus (1 species), Glyphis {2
Sawfishes, Family Pristidae: Anoxypristis (1 species?), Pristis (5 species).
Whiptailed stingrays, Family Dasyatidae: Dasyatis (2 species), Himantura (2
species?), Hypolophus (= Pastinachus, 1 species).

Requiem sharks, Family Carcharhinidae?: Glyphis (1 species?).
South American river stingrays, Family Potamotrygonidae: Paratrygon (1 species),
Plesiotrygon (1 species), Potamotrygon (18 species).
Whiptailed stingrays, Family Dasyatidae: Dasyatis (4 species), Himantura (4

Geographic distribution
Freshwater elasmobranchs are found in tropical and warm-temperate rivers and lakes
and inshore marine waters (euryhaline species) or are confined to brackish waters
(brackish-marginal species) or fresh waters (obligate freshwater species). At least 25
additional species of sharks and rays (marginal species) penetrate fresh water in
estuaries or river mouths but are not found far from the sea. Some freshwater
elasmobranchs occur or occurred in warm-temperate rivers such as the Mississippi
River in the USA or the rivers of Natal in South Africa, but most occur in the tropics of
both hemispheres.

The greatest diversity and endemism of freshwater elasmobranchs occurs in the
Atlantic drainages of South America with its radiation of river stingrays (Family

Potamotrygonidae), but pockets of endemism and diversity also occur in West Africa
and in Asia (the Indian subcontinent eastward through Southeast Asia, southern China,
Indonesia, New Guinea, the Philippines, and Australia. Freshwater elasmobranchs alsc
occur in the Tigris River system of southern Iraq, from several other rivers in Africa,
North America, and from southern Europe (Portugal) and rivers draining into the
Mediterranean Sea.

The tropical rivers and lakes where most freshwater elasmobranchs occur are mostly
in developing countries with enormous, expanding human populations. Increasing
levels of direct exploitation and modification or destruction of riverine and lacustrine
ecosystems, especially where uncontrolled human population growth isoccurring,
threaten many freshwater elasmobranch stocks and obligate freshwater soecies with

The plight of freshwater elasmobranchs
Unfortunately freshwater elasmobranchs are not well-know biologically, and have been
little studied in terms of fishery management or conservation. Although freshwater
elasmobranchs were known for the past few centuries, their dire plight has only been
recognized in the past three decades. Only a handful of researchers (most notably
Prof. T. Thorson), have paid much attention to their problems.

Freshwater elasmobranchs have all the biological constraints of marine
elasmobranchs, including low fecundity, late sexual maturation, long life, and
intermittent breeding. In addition, they are limited by habitat limitations that usually do
not affect marine elasmobranch populations. They inhabit physically restricted
environments (rivers, streams, bayous, estuaries, and lakes) which greatly limit escape
from pollutants, habitat modification and destruction, or directed and incidental capture
in fisheries.

Due to habitat constraints, freshwater elasmobranchs are probably less capable of
withstanding sustained human impact than more fecund freshwater bony fishes or
marine elasmobranchs. Also, human impact may be more severe because of the
protected nature of freshwater ecosystems, which allow use of simple forms of fishing
gear, vessels and impoundments of little use in marine waters. Lakeside and riverside
sites have been favoured habitats of Homo sapiens for millennia, because they provide
easy access to supplies of water, food, and avenues of transport for commerce.

Restricted habitats
Rivers and lakes are more limited in volume, and very probably in range of habitats
that are exploitable by elasmobranchs, than the sea. Freshwater habitats tend to be far
less stable than marine equivalents. Shortand long-term fluctuations in temperature,
oxygen level, mineral content, turbidity, water flow, rainfall, and major changes in river
and lake beds can readily exceed the tolerance of elasmobranchs. Added to natural
problems are escalating human-induced problems such as dam-building and other
modifications of water courses, fisheries, use of water for irrigation, and an ever-
increasing variety and volume of pollutants.

Fresh water may be a marginal habitat for elasmobranchs, as suggested by their low
taxonomic, ecological, and morphological diversity compared to freshwater bony fishes
and marine cartilaginous fishes. Freshwater elasmobranchs are collectively large
animals compared to most freshwater bony fishes, which correlates with their low
diversity and habitat specialisation. Elasmobranchs apparently are not competitive in
microniches open to small-sized (less than 150 mm total length) fish-like vertebrates at
present, and teleosts utterly dominate these niches in fresh water.

Freshwater elasmobranchs are apparently restricted to mostly permanent and
relatively large, placid lakes, rivers and large streams with egress to the sea, and are
notably absent from more extreme freshwater habitats successfully colonised by bony
fishes and by many other aquatic vertebrates. Freshwater elasmobranchs are obligate-
aquatic gill-breathing animals that are restricted to well- aerated permanent water and
have no ability to breath air directly, to transport themselves out of water, to penetrate
major rapids and waterfalls, to aestivate in burrows, orto survive as fertilised eggs


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when bodies of water become anoxic or dry up. Sea access is vital to certain
euryhaline elasmobranchs that range widely in fresh water but cannot reproduce there.

No euryhaline elasmobranchs that reproduce in fresh water and no obligate freshwater
elasmobranchs are confined to naturally landlocked bodies of water so far as is known.
Perhaps conditions in landlocked rivers and lakes can become more extreme than
unmodified sea-run rivers and lakes. These conditions could exceed the tolerance of
freshwater elasmobranchs that are trapped in land-locked waters by geological or
human-induced events, and cause their extirpation.

Fisheries and other impacts
Although freshwater elasmobranchs were recorded from catches since the early 19th
century, very little is known to date of the nature of these fisheries. From the 17th to the
19th century the human impact on freshwater elasmobranchs was probably very low,
due to a much smaller world population and small and scattered human populations in
most of the tropics, as well as slow spread of the Industrial Revolution from its
birthplace in Europe to the rest of the world. The impact of humans upon freshwater
elasmobranchs 300 years ago was probably small, limited almost exclusively to small
artisanal fisheries for food and other minor products. This changed substantially during
the twentieth century with human population tripling, the development of very high
human population growth rates in the tropics, and a massive push for resource
exploitation and industrialisation in tropical countries.

Now the impact is massive, multifaceted, and includes overfishing of elasmobranchs,
marked increases in habitat modification, degradation or destruction, introduction of
exceptionally toxic substances from industrial and agricultural activities as well as large
volumes of raw sewage and other human wastes into rivers and lakes.

Deforestation proceeds on a massive scale in tropical countries, increasing
microclimate modification, damage to soil, destruction of forest ecosystems, lowering oi
water tables, land erosion, water siltation, and massive flooding. Dams are thrown up
helter-skelter for hydroelectric power and water impoundment on the great tropical
rivers of the world, with dire implications for those freshwater elasmobranchs that need
sea access or which cannot survive extreme conditions in reservoirs and stretches of
rivers landlocked above dams.

Mining operations require water for refining, and dump water loaded with toxic heavy
metals such as lead, copper and mercury into the rivers. Additionally uranium mining
can add a variety of radioactive isotopes to the watershed. Heavy metals and
radioactive isotopes are readily passed and concentrated along the food web in
freshwater ecosystems, and if not immediately deleterious may later reach damaging
concentrations especially in large aquatic predators such as elasmobranchs. Even
illegal drug manufacturing contributes toxic organic chemicals to the watershed in
South America.

Wars in Central and South America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia have caused
difficulties by increasing wanton exploitation of freshwater elasmobranchs and by
creating massive pollution and other environmental damage through destruction of
petrochemical complexes and other industrial sites, through extensive use of toxic
herbicides to deny cover to guerrillas, and by blasting and mining the countryside with

Habitat degradation and exploitation can affect freshwater elasmobranchs directly, but
also indirectly by affecting their prey. Freshwater sharks are broad-spectrum predators,
but could be affected by overfishing or destruction of teleost populations. Freshwater
stingrays feed on bottom invertebrates, which can be adversely affected by habitat
modification and by pollutants.


Elasmobranchs d .

rays _

Figure 1. Representative examples from the four major elasmobranch families
found in fresh waters.
Carcharhinidae: a) the euryhaline bull shark Carcharhinus leucas and b)
possibly obligate freshwater Ganges shark Glyphis gangeticus.
Pristidae: c) euryhaline largetooth sawfish Pristis perotetti.
Potamotrygonidae: d) obligate freshwater South American stingray
Potamotrygon magdalenae.
Dasyatidae: e) marginal or possibly euryhaline whiptail stingray Dasyatis

Shark graphics courtesy Compagno (1984). Batoid pen-and-inks by S.F. Cook.
From L.J.V. Compagno & S.F. Cook. In press. The exploitation and
conservation of freshwater elasmobranchs: status of taxa and prospects for the
future. Journal of Aquaculture and Aquatic Science.

Economic and political issues
The problem of excessive exploitation and habitat degradation in environments
inhabited by freshwater elasmobranchs is compounded by the widespread incidence of
poverty and political instability in developing countries that contain them. There is little
emphasis on management of aquatic resources, and often civil strife, regional or civil
wars, hunger, disease, poverty, corruption, ineffective government, inadequate
education, and many economic problems. Emphasis in such countries is on short-term
fixes for problems, or on no fixes whatever, without regard to the ultimate destruction oi
ecosystems or the animals which inhabit them. In extreme cases the public mentality
may be largely directed to human survival and little else.

World fisheries agencies, alarmed at stagnation of marine fisheries world-wide,
suggest exploitation of new and under-utilised stocks and species to sustain human
population growth rate. This bears ominous implications for freshwater elasmobranchs;
it also fails to address the ultimate problem of human population growth and
development, which tends to readily defeat such short-sighted half- measures.

Developing countries are increasingly subject to promotion of high-income tourist
facilities for First World vacationers, which can introduce unrestricted sport angling for
sharks and rays and anti- shark measures to remove elasmobranchs that may
occasionally attack tourists. Such practices could be devastating to freshwater
elasmobranchs in restricted bodies of water such as Lake Nicaragua or Jamoer Lake ir
New Guinea.

Vulnerable species
We expect obligate freshwater elasmobranchs with limited geographical distributions
(such as many dasyatid and potamotrygonid stingrays and possibly the Ganges shark)
or euryhaline species that are trapped by man-made barriers that prevent free transit to
estuaries and the ocean to stand at greatest risk from human impact. Euryhaline
elasmobranchs may be relatively less vulnerable than obligate freshwater species, but
such species are generally confined to warm inshore marine environments that are
exploited by low-technology, increasingly intensive artisanal and small-scale
commercial fisheries as well as tourist sports fisheries, and coastal development/
degradation. Certain euryhaline species may need to reproduce in fresh water, and are
affected by problems in freshwater breeding areas.

Priorities for research and management
Although the problems of high-technology, highly visible exploitation of marine sharks
by offshore commercial fisheries have been increasingly addressed by conservationists
in recent years, very little has been mentioned about the conservation and
management of their more vulnerable freshwater counterparts. Small-scale, low-
technology fisheries, and those in the tropics and in freshwater, receive far less
attention than big oceanic fisheries, such as pelagic gillnetting and longlining.
Elasmobranch conservationists are largely concentrated in more temperate countries
in Europe, North America and Australia, and have given most of their attention to local
exploitation and to high-seas fisheries. Sharks also get far more attention than rays or
chimaeras. While much work has been done on selected aspects of freshwater
elasmobranch biology, they still remain poorly known biologically, and important
aspects of their biology including behavioral ecology and human impact (Including
fisheries) on them urgently need to be investigated through dedicated, intensive field

In view of the rapidly accelerating effects of human population growth and habitat
destruction in the tropics, it is possible that several stocks and possibly whole species
of freshwater elasmobranchs may become extinct in the next century. Particularly
worrisome are some South American and Asian river stingrays, euryhaline sawfish,
and the rare river sharks (genus Glyphis). Biological data is urgently needed for
freshwater elasmobranchs to make it possible to attempt management and
conservation. At present there is a vacuum of information, and elasmobranchs can eas
ly drop to extinction without notice.

Development of a protocol for rational management and conservation of freshwater
sharks and rays is critical, based in part on previous marine guidelines but taking into
account the special and unique problems facing freshwater elasmobranchs.


Search Fis Selections...

Update from the Galapagos
Sharks of the Galapagos Islands have received a reprieve from wide- scale, legal
exploitation. Although a memorandum prohibiting shark fishing in the Galapagos
Marine Resources Reserve was signed by Ecuador's President Sixto Duran-Ballen in
September 1994, there remained concern that the fishery would open on January 15,
1995 because the memorandum was never formally signed into law. However, fishing
effort has been temporarily diverted from sharks to a so-called "experimental" sea
cucumber fishery.

For the moment, Galapagos fishers are not interested in legalizing a shark fishery. Sea
cucumbers are much more lucrative than shark fins and easier to collect. But sea
cucumbers are going fast and it won't be long before the highly overcapitalised fishery
shifts its effort to sharks and other species in demand by the Asian marketplace.

The get-rich-quick exploitation is encouraging immigration of fishers from the
Ecuadorian mainland, and the expanding fishery is increasingly difficult to monitor and
control. When the sea cucumber fishery was finally closed in December (after the catch
had exceeded the quota by about 12 times), angry fishers seized the Charles Darwin
Research Station and Galapagos National Park headquarters for three days in violent
protest. If the Galapagos are to remain a priceless ecological jewel and a long-term
source of income for Ecuador, conservationists urge that management of the Marine
Reserve be based on sound science and ecological sustainability rather than the
current drive toward resource "mining."

The SSG is still being asked to provide information on shark exploitation and
management as requested in the Action Alert that accompanied the last issue of Shark
News. A more detailed update and additional suggestions for action are available from
the author, Merry Camhi (by mail or e:mail: mcamhi@audubon.org), who recently
returned from a meeting with conservationists and Ecuadorian officials in the
Galapagos Islands as a representative of the SSG.
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ICES takes action on elasmobranchs
The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has noted a more than
25% drop in elasmobranch landings between the early 1960s and the mid 1980s (with
the exception of spurdogs, which are generally sustaining yields, despite fluctuations).
Levels of by-catch of non-targeted species discarded and their mortality rates are
unknown, under-utilisation of elasmobranchs (i.e. finning and liver extraction) has
resulted in misleading or non-existent landing statistics, andmany species are not
properly identified in the statistics.
The ICES Demersal Fish Committee therefore recommended, in September 1994, that
a Study Group on Elasmobranch Fishes should be established. It will meet from 15-18
August 1995 to:

a) review the status of elasmobranch stocks within the Northeast and Northwest
Atlantic and, where possible, identify trends in biomass and recruitment; b) identify the
extent of the commercial and sport fisheries in which elasmobranchs are targeted or
are caught as by- catch and to estimate the amount (biomass/numbers per size class)
of elasmobranchs taken as catches and lost as discards; c) describe/ review the
ecological role of elasmobranch species, their reproductive dynamics and predation of
elasmobranchs taken as catches and lost as discards; d) co-ordinate techniques of age
determination and age verification of elasmobranchs; e) co-ordinate methods on
modelling and assessment of elasmobranch stocks; f) identify the development of
compensatory mechanisms as a response to exploitation; g) outline an action plan for
attaining the goals set above; h) report to the Demersal Fish Committee in 1995.

Findings from a, b and c above will be made available to the ICES Working Group on
Ecosystem Effects of Fishing Activities.

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S | S S I S S S I .* *

ISBN 92-5-103566-0.
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Bibliography: technical reports and publications

Overview of world elasmobranch fisheries

Ramon Bonfil. 1994. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper No. 341. FAO, Rome. 119pp. 0 *
ISBN 92-5-103566-0.

This report is an extremely valuable source of information on the major world
elasmobranch fisheries: their importance, recent trends, problems for assessment and
management, conservation and the prospect for their sustainability. Patterns of
exploitation in FAO statistical areas are considered through an index of relative
production, as well as trends and outlooks. Accounts of fisheries by the major
elasmobranch fishing nations and the high-seas fisheries with significant elasmobranch
by- catches are provided. Estimates for by-catch in former high seas driftnet fisheries
are 3.28 to 4.31 million sharks and rays per annum, (1989-91) and longline fisheries
8.3 million per annum: a total of about 300,000 tonnes. The world elasmobranch catch
was 704,000 tonnes in 1991; if present trends continue it could reach 755,000 to
827,000 tonnes by the year 2000. However, the total annual catch inclusive of discards
and unreported catches is estimated at around 1.35 million tonnes.

According to reported catches from the last 15 years, sharks account for almost 60% of
the world elasmobranch catch, and skates and rays for almost 40%. Major fisheries
(annual catches of sharks and rays >10,000t) occur in 26 countries. Information on *
species, gear, patterns of exploitation, research and management of elasmobranchs is
summarized for each of these countries. Elasmobranchs are especially important for
the fisheries of Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Australia. However, of these 26 nations, only
three countries have specific management programmes for shark and ray fisheries.
The general problems in appraising and managing elasmobranch fisheries sustainably
and the need for conservation are discussed, and possible solutions for some of these
problems proposed.

Cetaceans. An Action Plan for the Conservation of Whales, Dolphins and
Porpoises, 1994-1994

Compiled by Randall R. Reeves and Stephen Leatherwood. 1994.
ISBN 2-8317-0189-9.

The IUCN has recently published the 1994-1998 Action Plan for the Conservation of
Cetaceans, an updated version of the 1988 Action Plan. The publication outlines 51
projects aimed at species that are already endangered or not presently otherwise
protected. It also covers the major threats to species and populations and discusses
technical and socio-economic changes necessary for species survival.

The order Cetacea has at least 79 representatives in all oceans and some major river
systems. Over-fishing of the great whales, the ongoing exploitation of the dolphins and -

porpoises and their capture as a commercial fishery by-catch has depleted their
populations. The many similarities between the conservation issues faced by
cetaceans and sharks and rays make this a particularly useful reference document.

Copies are available from the following addresses:

IUCN Publications Services Unit, 219c Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 ODL, UK.
(fax. +441223 277894). 15.53 including postage and packing in UK, 16.20 overseas
surface mail, 17.55 airmail to Europe or 18.90 airmail rest of world. Payment by
cheque/ international money order made payable to IUCN, or American Express/Visa.

Island Press, Box 7, Covelo, California 95428, USA. (fax +(1 ) 707 983 6414) for US
and Canadian customers only. US shipments are US$20.00 plus US$4.75 postage for
the first book and US$1 extra for each additional book. Californian residents please
add 7.25% tax, and Washington DC residents please add 5.75% tax. For Canadian
shipments include US$5 for the first and US$3 for each additional book for
International Book Rate or UK$10 & US$3 for UPS shipment.

SSG ing

SS Puliaton


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World Wildlife Fund
The booming shark trade, which may claim as many as 100 million sharks each year,
has at last attracted international scrutiny.
When the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna
and Flora (CITES) met in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, last November it decided for the
first time to review this huge but little-known trade.


CITES Parties agreed to help the CITES Animals Committee gather information on
shark trade and biological status before the next CITES meeting in 1997. TRAFFIC,
the international wildlife trade monitoring programme of WWF and IUCN has started a
major investigation into the global shark trade which will contribute to this review.
"The results of our investigation will help assess the impact of the international shark
trade and determine necessary controls and conservation measures," said Jorgen
Thomsen, Director of TRAFFIC International.
WWF lobbied for CITES intervention, reflecting the fact that sharks are not covered by
international fisheries agreements. Trade however is brisk, thanks largely to rising
prices for shark fins from the burgeoning Asian food market. Other markets exist for
shark cartilage, meat, liveroil and skin. Significant numbers of sharks are also killed as
a by-catch of other fisheries.
At present there is virtually no monitoring or regulation of global shark fisheries and
their impact on populations is unclear. However, from the relatively little that is known
about shark biology, exploited species appear poorly-equipped to adapt to current
fishing techniques.
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WWF UK is funing this issue of Shark News because we believe that this newsletter
provides an excellent medium for information exchange on shark issues. We consider
this important for raising awareness of these special species and their conservation.

0 -II-



Any information on forthcoming meetings and notes/comments on relevant meetings
attended by readers would be most gratefully received by the editor. Please send them
in for the next issue!

FAO Committee on Fisheries biennial meeting
Rome, Italy. 20-24 March 1995.
Reviewed draft text of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries will be submitted
to the meeting. The Code has six thematic areas: Fishery management practices,
Fishing operations, Aquaculture development, Integration of fisheries into coastal area
management, Fair trade practices (including post-harvest practices), and Fisheries

Eleventh Annual Meeting of the American Elasmobranch Society
University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. 15-19 June 1995
This will take place during the 75th Annual Meeting of the American Society of
Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. Contact the organizers by e-mail: ASlH95@biology.
ualberta.ca. Tor regular mail:ASH95 Local Committee, Department of Biological
Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E9, Canada.

UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks
Second and third meetings: New York City, USA.
27 March-12 April and 17-28 July 1995.

ICES Study Group on Elasmobranch Fishes
First meeting: International Council for the Exploration of the Sea headquarters. 15-18
August 1995. Chairman Dr Holder da Silva.
Review of elasmobranch stocks, fisheries, ecology and research (see page 6 for more

IUCN World Conservation Congress
Montreal Conference Centre, Canada. 14-23 October 1996.
Details from IUCN, 28 rue Mauverney, 1196 Gland, Switzerland.

European Elasmobranch Society (EES) meetings
London, UK. December 1994 and February 1995.
A steering group working towards setting up a European Elasmobranch Society has
met twice. For more information contact Jim Ellis, University College Swansea, Marine
Biology, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK. Email internet:bdellis@swansea.ac.
^Huk ^^^^^^^H

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