The IUCN/SSC Shark Specialist Group
SSG Achievements in 2003
Another very positive year, packed with hard work and significant steps forward. This is also a nudge for you to update me on any recent shark news you would like to share. This overview is from my perspective coordinating the core work of the group. Of course, I'd love to hear more details on what our many members are doing, or would like to see SSG addressing, around the world.
Once again, thanks very much to the whole network for everything this year.
We are now into our second year of the Packard Foundation grant. These funds will last until mid-2004 and we are on the lookout for other funding avenues to help us keep up this rate of work in future years. The Packard funds have enables us to make leaps and bounds ahead as detailed in this report and last year's. This year we also received further funds from the US State Department. The UK Department of the Environment (DEFRA) has extended their initial three-year commitment to pay for me to work as your Programme Officer, so you are stuck with me until at least March 2005. DEFRA also partially funded the deepsea chondrichthyan meeting in New Zealand (see below). In addition we received significant financial assistance (either directly or indirectly through use of facilities, etc) from the following organisations for our regional Red List workshops: the University of Queensland (Centre for Marine Sciences; School of Biomedical Sciences; Faculty of Biological and Chemical Sciences), Sea World, Gold Coast, Queensland, Environment Australia, Universidade do Estado do Amazonas, Associação dos Criadores e Exporatdores de Peixes Ornamentais do Estado do Amazonas (ACEPOAM), International Federation for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Natal Sharks Board and the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation.
This has been the focus for SSG core activities this year, and for those who attended one or more workshops, you are probably still exhausted! (Having coordinated all of them, I'm feeling tired, but have no doubt that it was worth it!). Comprehensive status assessment of the entire taxonomic group for the IUCN Red List is one of our most important tasks: to establish a baseline against which to monitor future changes in the global and regional status of chondrichthyan fishes and improvements in our scientific knowledge of this group.
It is worthy of note that the significance of the Red List work has gone far beyond the listing of species, through the workshops the wider application has included regional capacity building and improved the network, the facilitation of detailed discussions on the status of species by local and international participants, the sharing of knowledge and expertise, identifying species and regions of conservation concern and documenting the information available (in many cases for the first time), and helping to develop regional and global priorities for future research and management.
Assessments to date and preliminary results
To date, globally we have finalised assessments of the threatened status of 185 chondrichthyans for the IUCN Red List, and of these 57 are threatened (Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable). These numbers increase to 214 and 76 respectively, when taking to account separate regional subpopulation assessments. The total number of chondrichthyan taxa evaluated is 288, if you include the Least Concern taxa. In addition, detailed review is currently underway for an additional 200+ assessments.
A common theme arising from the preliminary results highlight particular groups of concern, these include many of the coastal endemic species (although some are assessed as Least Concern if their range is protected from fishing activity), and several deepwater species many of which are considered to be threatened with extinction before they have even been described. Without exception, sawfishes (Pristidae), have been assessed as Critically Endangered at each workshop.
The SSG is undertaking these Red List Assessments through a series of regional and thematic workshops, the results of which are reviewed and agreed by the entire SSG (IUCN's Red List Authority for the taxa). Four workshops have been held to date (see below).
Australia and Oceania
The chondrichthyan fauna of this area is particularly diverse, with ~350 (approximately one third) of all known species occurring in this region together with a high degree of endemism. 175 species were assessed and most of these have been included in the 2003 Red List. Critically Endangered species include deepwater sharks, e.g. Harrissons dogfish Centrophorus harrissoni, the river sharks Glyphis sp. A and Glyphis sp. C. The grey nurse shark Carcharias taurus, whilst a globally Vulnerable species, is Critically Endangered on the east coast of Australia. The workshop report containing detailed assessments is available as a pdf from the SSG website (see below). Hard copies are available for those working in the Australia and Oceania region.
This region is an important centre of chondrichthyan biodiversity, with >300 species, including many endemics. The results of this workshop are not yet available; considerable consultation remains to be undertaken on the ~90 Red List assessments. Preliminary indications are species of serious concern include the endemic daggernose shark Isogomphodon oxyrhynchus, striped smoothhound Mustelus fasciatus, Brazilian guitarfish Rhinobatos horkelii and several other batoids. This workshop was particularly interesting as it was conducted in at least 3 different languages!
African waters support ~ 25% of the world's chondrichthyan species, also with high endemicity. This, coupled with virtually no fisheries regulation, accelerating fisheries and other marine activities by humans, and localized marine habitat degradation, called for considerable urgency in addressing the status of chondrichthyans of this region. Results from this workshop (~120 species) are currently under review. Huge gaps in the knowledge of trends in shark stocks were highlighted with many Data Deficient species. This region is one of the least known areas in terms of biodiversity and conservation status of sharks and rays. Many of the workshop participants were new to the SSG, indeed new to shark conservation and management in some cases. It was fantastic to see the enthusiasm generated for future work in this region, a series of recommendations was drafted and several funding proposals have already been written with a view to biodiversity research, training and management projects.
Preliminary results from this workshop indicate that almost half of the species assessed in the Mediterranean are Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable and 30% are Data Deficient. Highly threatened species include the common skate Dipturus batis. Carcharias taurus and Odontaspis ferox are also extremely rare. Other species of concern include the three species of angel sharks from this region, Squatina aculeate, S. oculata and S. squatina, the sawfishes Pristis pectinata and P. pristis, guitarfish Rhinobatos cemiculus and R. rhinobatos, the blue stingray Dasyatis chrysonota together with several other batoids. During the workshop, the new Mediterranean regional SSG group was officially formed, and the Vice-Chair elected as Fabrizio Serena from Italy.
Nearly 35% of chondrichthyan species are confined to the deepsea environment and are generally more vulnerable to exploitation than coastal and epipelagic oceanic species. This short workshop took place in New Zealand at the end of the Fao/SSG Conservation and Management of Deepsea Chondrichthyan Fishes: Pre-Conference Meeting held in conjunction with DeepSea 2003. The results have not been compiled (we only just returned from this one!).
Planning is underway for a workshop on batoids of the world. A workshop is planned for mid-2004, to focus on Central and North America. The major regions for which funds have not yet been identified and for which workshop planning is, therefore, not yet underway are West Africa, Northern Indian Ocean, East Asia and Northwest Pacific. For further information and for frequent updates as currently pending results become available, please consult the SSG website at http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/organizations/ssg/ssg.htm and the Red List website at http://www.redlist.org
Call for assistance
We need assistance with searching for funds and for willing assistants for the Central and North America workshop (perhaps you know of keen students who would like to get involved?). In addition, we would like to start making plans for West Africa, Indian Ocean and Asia as soon as possible, so offers of assistance, venues, compilation of species lists, etc, are most welcome. Please contact me as soon as possible if you can help contribute to any species assessments. I can provide guidance and much of the work can be done via email. We need all the help we can get!
RELEASE OF THE 2003 IUCN RED LIST OF THREATENED SPECIES
The 2003 update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species was released on 18 November amid widespread global media interest. See the Red List website at: http://www.redlist.org.
Following last year's Appendix II listings of the basking and whale sharks, and the Resolution (Res 12.6) on the Conservation of Sharks, (refer to our website or http://www.cites.org for more details), the Animals Committee met earlier this year in Geneva (AC19) with the SSG represented on the IUCN delegation as well as on government delegations. Res. 12.6 ensures the continued involvement of CITES in shark conservation and management issues and ensures that it will, through the AC, continue to maintain a 'watching brief' on international progress towards sustainable shark fisheries management at least until CoP13 in 2004. Following from this, various tasks regarding sharks were agreed by the AC. These include a Notification which was sent out to Parties by the CITES Secretariat comprising a questionnaire requesting information on progress with National Plans of Action (under the IPOA-Sharks) and Shark Assessment Reports. The SSG will analyse and report on responses to the questionnaire thus enabling an update on the progress regarding the IPOA-Sharks that we began tracking last year. The AC's Shark Working Group paper and other relevant documents can be found via http://www.cites.org (follow links to AC19). The next AC meeting will be held at the end of March in South Africa, where shark issues will again be discussed, including recommendations for any listing proposals for the Conference of Parties (CoP13). The latter will be in October in Bangkok. Keep an eye on the websites for updates, documents and deadlines.
As noted above under 3), the SSG is continuing to track the progress on the IPOA-Sharks, so please keep me updated with regional and national developments regarding NPOA's and other management developments. Our members are regularly called upon to contribute to FAO technical consultations and workshops, and to provide advice to States and regional management bodies developing Shark Plans. We still plan to hold shark management training workshops in the near future in certain key regions, to assist with implementation of the IPOA-Sharks. More news on that in due course. Funding is the key issue here, but discussions have been underway with FAO on moving this forward. Please send ideas, suggestions and requests to me for consideration by the group.
Earlier this year the SSG produced a statement about shark finning, as did IUCN. These can be found on our website, as can a recent statement made by IUCN to the United Nations General Assembly regarding Sustainable Ocean Development, which, amongst other issues, draws attention to practise of shark finning. This year, several nations have implemented, or plan to implement finning bans in their waters and SSG members have been called upon to provide technical advice in many cases. Please refer to our website for further information.
Issue 15 has been delayed because of all the Red List workshops and my absence from the office for so many months this year. It is now ready to print (at last!) and will be posted out in January. Issue 16 is in preparation (due second-half of 2004), there is still some space in this issue so keep the ideas and articles coming. I would love to have 'guest' editors so if you are interested please do let me know. In addition, if any of you work for organisations that may like to fund future issues please let me know - we don't yet have any sponsors for Issue 16 onwards. Also, if any of you have any contacts who you think would benefit from receiving Shark News, let me know and I will add them to our list.
Again, this year we have considerably expanded many of the SSG regional groups, continuing to broaden our geographical representation. Countries for which we have SSG representatives for the first time include (amongst others): Greece, Norway, Peru, San Marino and Tunisia and we are in the process of recruiting members from Albania, Angola, Colombia, Fiji, Lebanon, Malta, Mozambique and Vietnam. We would still like to recruit more members from areas where we have little or no coverage, particularly from Central America, North and East Africa and Asia. If you have contacts in countries with no SSG representation, please let me know.
Under the direction of SSG Co-Chair, Jack Musick, SSG members have prepared a "Technical Manual for the Conservation and Management of Elasmobranchs" with support from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). The manual is being co-edited by Jack and Ramón Bonfil and is comprised of 14 chapters which cover a wide array of basic management subjects including Tagging, Age and Growth, Reproduction, Mortality, Stock Assessment and measures to avoid waste. The manual will soon be available in electronic format, and will be published in hardcopy soon thereafter.
SSG members have been all over the world as usual! There are too many meetings to report on here (many will be reported in more detail in Issue 15 of Shark News). However, here is a selection of meetings attended by SSG members this year:
I know there are many others! Any meeting summary reports you would like to send me for Shark News would be gratefully received.
- 25th Session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI), Rome, February 2003 http://www.fao.org/fi/meetings/cofi/cofi25/cofi25e.asp
- CITES Animals Committee 19, Geneva, April 2003, (SSG on IGO & NGO delegations)
- FAO General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean Scientific Advisory Committee (GFCM-SAC): Report on the Sub-Committee on Environment and Marine Ecosystems, Tunisia, March 2003
- AES, Brazil, June 2003 Abstracts are available from http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Organizations/aes/abst2003.htm (oral) and http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Organizations/aes/abst2003p.htm (poster)
- Vth IUCN World Parks Congress, Durban, South Africa, September 2003. Documents and press releases can be viewed via http://www.iucn.org/themes/wcpa/wpc2003/
- 7th European Elasmobranch Association Meeting 2003, San Marino Republic, September 2003
- Conservation and Management of Deepsea Chondrichthyan Fishes: Pre-Conference Meeting to be held in conjunction with DeepSea 2003, New Zealand, November 2003.
Hopefully you have noticed that our website has been revamped, and updated on a very regular basis a facelift. Please send me any news, updates, announcements etc that you would like to see on our website and I will make sure George Burgess (SSG webmaster) receives them. For example, we would like to see more news for our regional sections.
Please write and tell me!
These are only some of the things the SSG has been doing for shark conservation and management during 2003. Future plans? For 2004 we are aiming to complete the Red Listing as far as possible in time for the major launch at the World Conservation Congress in November 2004. There is much work to do in preparation for the CITES CoP, and we need to secure more core funding for the SSG, not least so we can begin to organise training workshops and further the progress of the IPOA-Sharks. From our Red List work to date it is clear we are facing huge problems given the lack of information on many species in terms of biodiversity, population status, threats, etc. There is an urgent need for coordinated regionally-based programmes to address some of these issues. The obvious limitations are funds and lack of expertise in many regions. We need a concerted effort to begin to face these problems. I would like to receive ideas for SSG's future plans - we are a group with very diverse membership and everyone is welcome to suggest their ideas.
Shark Specialist Group website: