Clashing conservation values: The social complexities of shark depredation

Published on
06 July 2022

Clashing conservation values: The social complexities of shark depredation

Kristin Hoel, Andrew Chin, Jacqueline Laub


Human-wildlife conflicts (HWC) are increasingly prominent worldwide, which can complicate conservation efforts for wildlife. Shark depredation, when a shark preys on a fishers’ catch, is a growing HWC in global fisheries and is particularly contentious in Queensland, Australia, causing fisher frustrations and monetary losses. However, social research on depredation remains nascent and has yet to incorporate insights emerging from terrestrial HWC research. To address this gap, this study draws on the Levels of Conflict framework to investigate how fishers experience and perceive shark depredation. Through fisher interviews, we explored beyond surface level aspects of depredation into deeper-rooted clashes in values among key stakeholders. At the surface level, fishers expressed varied perceptions about what drives depredation and, contrary to a focus of previous research, did not emphasize economic costs. On a deeper level, we found a clash of perceived stakeholder conservation values, specifically between shark conservation efforts versus maintaining fish stocks and ecosystem balance. This conservation conflict was further complicated by historically driven fisher distrust of management and science. These findings support the need for a pragmatic approach to managing shark depredation in Queensland fisheries that extends beyond immediate costs. Our findings also suggest the need to reexamine the nature of depredation conflicts globally considerate of local fisher values. This may assist in rebuilding fisher trust and enhance collaboration to develop mitigation strategies. More broadly, incorporating human use of marine ecosystems in conservation narratives may be a promising means to address the conservation conflict between fisher values and shark conservation initiatives.

Biological Conservation, Volume 272, August 2022, 109658, DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2022.109658


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