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Reef sharks doubled where MPA bans enforced  


Caribbean reef shark (Dennis Hipp)
Caribbean reef shark (Dennis Hipp)

A new study by more than 100 ocean scientists has concluded that Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that impose and fully enforce bans on fishing and other damaging human activities host nearly twice as may reef-dwelling sharks as those that allow fishing. 

Numbers of sharks in and around 66 fully protected reserves in 37 countries worldwide were counted, with the results indicating that species such as Caribbean reef, grey reef, whitetip reef and nurse sharks benefited most from conservation.

The study is said to support existing evidence that ocean conservation and fishing-industry profits can be mutually beneficial. Even more sharks were found in protected areas close to those where fisheries management measures were imposed, such as catch limits and restrictions on potentially damaging fishing gear such as gill-nets and longlines.

Bedrock of ecosystems

The study was timed for release in the lead-up to World Ocean Day (8 June) as part of the global effort to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030. “More sharks signal a healthier ocean,” commented Pristine Seas founder Enric Sala, one of the report’s authors. 

“The complex web of life that coral reefs support would go completely haywire if reef sharks were to disappear. They are the bedrock of ecosystems, under threat from the climate crisis, overfishing and more.    

The National Geographic Society’s Pristine Seas works to help protect vital places in the ocean through a combination of research, community engagement, policy work and strategic communications and media. It claims to have played a part in establishing 27 marine reserves spanning more than 6.6 million sq km of ocean since 2008.

“Fortunately, we have seen time and time again that when we fully protect coral reefs, they bounce back and eventually become more resilient to the impacts of global warming,” said Sala.  

“This study provides important evidence for countries considering which ocean areas to protect. It reinforces that carefully managing fishing outside protected areas is also important to ensuring that sharks and the wider ecosystem thrives.”  It is published today (20 May) in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Also read: Destructive Dynamite Fishing in West Papua Marine Protected Area, 300 Species of Sharks and Rays Threatened with Extinction

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Bari Gowan
Bari Gowan
20 days ago

Great stuff. Let’s hope it’s taken notice of!


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