Sharks in the RSGA Region
Threats and Issues:
UNREGULATED SHARK FISHERIES. As top predators, sharks are critical to the health of the Region’s marine ecosystems. Sharks are slow growing, begin reproduction relatively late in life, and produce only a small number of offspring. Because of this, they are very vulnerable to stock collapse from overfishing, and recovery takes several decades.
The traditional artisanal fishery in the Region catches only small numbers of sharks and the whole animal is utilized. However, there is a large–scale illegal fishery for the East Asian shark fin market involving fishermen working outside their normal territorial boundaries. Consequently, a considerable increase in landings has been observed since the mid-1970s.
Because sharks are caught by lines and nets, much damage can be caused to coral reefs. The fins are removed, often while the shark is still alive, and the body is thrown back into the sea or deposited on offshore islands. Fins are dried and sold to foreign vessels waiting in international waters, thus escaping control. Large amounts of bycatch from net fishing, including turtles, dolphins and finfish, are discarded, almost invariably dead.
PERSGA has facilitated extensive regional capacity-building in elasmobranch species identification and fisheries stock assessment for shark populations in PERSGA Member States. The Organisation has promoted sustainable shark fisheries throughout the Region by seeking international expertise to address the following needs: production of formats for data collection, preparation of a curriculum for formal training in stock assessment, evaluation of the main problems in the shark fisheries of the region, and the provision of expert advice for the conservation of elasmobranch r esources. PERSGA also orchestrated the preparation of a specialized field identification guide to the sharks and batoids of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
As a result of these activities, two training courses were delivered to a total of 75 staff from 7 member countries, and two training manuals documenting and complementing these courses were prepared. Additionally, a Field Identification Guide to Elasmobranch Species found in the RSGA waters has been prepared.
In order to develop monitoring programmes of elasmobranches in the Region, PERSGA has made possible an assessment of threats to regional shark species, which resulted in the development of a way-forward for the region in terms of shark conservation and management. PERSGA has facilitated extensive fieldwork by international experts joined by local specialists and trainees to gather necessary baseline data on shark species occurring in the Red Sea . The results and analysis of this survey-work form the foundation upon which comparison with future surveys can be made. Because of the assessment training activities, local actors now have the necessary skills to continue the monitoring of shark fisheries and shark stocks in the RSGA region.
The Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden