What happens to shark and ray species when decision makers don’t follow scientific advice? How can science support sustainable shark and ray management? These were some of the questions addressed during this year’s European Elasmobranch Association’s (EEA) annual conference held in Plymouth UK from 1st to 3rd November where shark scientists and advocates from all corners of the globe came to discuss the latest in shark science and conservation.
Project AWARE, represented by NiKi Koltai, joined the conversation together with many other NGO’s representatives and shark enthusiasts who responded to the Shark Trust’s call to attend this annual event at Plymouth University in Devon.
“Plymouth is a centre of marine excellence and home to the Shark Trust, so to host #EEA2013 here was an obvious choice,” said Ali Hood, Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust.
The main theme of the EEA conference was:
“From science to policy: how applied studies of elasmobranch biology can provide the evidence to support stock assessments, advice and management decisions”.
#EEA2013 Conference Highlights
Highlights include the overview of the current state and the management challenges associated with shark fisheries presented by keynote speaker Fiona Harrison, Deputy Chief Scientific Advisor for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) during the opening session.
Keynote presentations were also delivered on Saturday and Sunday by Sarah Fowler, founder of both the EEA and the Shark Trust and Senior Scientist at Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF), and Clinton Duffy, marine scientist at the Department of Conservation, New Zealand. Emphasis was put on the changing landscape and challenges of shark conservation and management from the 1980s to this day. Sarah stressed that while there are many achievements to celebrate, failure to implement Shark Plans and to deliver sustainable trade management under CITES threatens not only the survival of many shark populations, but possibly also the continued engagement and support of governments, biodiversity conventions and even the public.
The main sessions covered scientific presentations on current state of marine research and future opportunities, policy related discussions identifying needs and gaps in fisheries management, as well as the importance of stakeholder engagement in raising awareness and public involvement in marine conservation. The direct economic impact of manta ray dive tourism and the important role divers can play in providing vital data for example was highlighted in a presentation “Wanted dead of alive! How tourism could save manta” by Katie Lee-Brooks, Manta Trust UK.
“Papers and reports do not save species - people do” wrote Marine Biologist Michelle Wcisel on twitter in a message to Dr. Nicholas Dulvy, Co-chair of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group, during the conference.
Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International, also explained how the work of Project AWARE and Shark Alliance partner groups to close loopholes in EU shark finning policy is paying off as the EU is now placing its considerable influence behind the growing effort to make fins-attached the rule around the globe. Her overview of the converging and diverging policies in EU – US shark and ray policies shows that there are significant deficiencies but also opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic.
The 18th EEA Conference will be hosted in the Netherlands in November 2014 but for now we thank the Shark Trust for hosting the 17th EEA conference and providing us with the opportunity to learn from and connect with so many passionate advocates for sharks.