Unique programme to count Indo-Pacific’s sharks and rays

Media Release

James Cook University, Australia

31. October 2017

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A new research programme is underway to count species of sharks and rays across the Indo-Pacific region.

Dr Andrew Chin is the Programme Director of SharkSearch Indo-Pacific. He said SharkSearch will systematically gather information on shark and ray populations, especially in places with limited scientific information and infrastructure.

He is the co-author of the first paper produced by the organisation. It details the types and significance of sharks and rays in the Solomon Islands.

“As well as being a survey of the Solomon Islands’ sharks and rays, the new paper is also a blueprint on how to assemble species checklists and reviews in data-poor contexts,” he said.

Dr Chin said SharkSearch, which was launched in French Polynesia in October this year, has plans to develop in three stages.

“The first stage is to take stock of what is out there in terms of sharks and rays. This has only been done in a haphazard way in the past.”

Dr Chin said SharkSearch will take the unique approach of partnering with local people such as fishermen, dive operators, NGOs and fisheries officers, and gathering and collating data from their sightings of sharks and rays from over 25 countries in the Indo-Pacific region.

“We’ll be doing it in a systematic, scientific way, so we will have a reliable picture of what there is out there,” he said.

He said once scientists and in-country partners know the state of the resource they can move onto the planning stage.

“This second stage will involve asking the local partners how they want to develop their stocks of sharks and rays. They may want to protect them or they may want to fish them sustainably or they may want to do nothing. It’s up to them. Using the data we’ve collected, we’ll advise them on how to get the best results in terms of what they want and what the outcome of each decision will be.”

Dr Chin said the third stage will be implementing the strategies the local communities and authorities decide on.

“The aim is to deliver transformative local projects on coastal sharks and rays across the Indo-Pacific Region by 2030,” he said.

Details of the SharkSearch Indo-Pacific project here.
Link to paper here.
Link to video of shark and ray action in French Polynesia here.

Source: James Cook University


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