Conservation and sustainable fishing of sharks and rays

Sharks and rays are one of the world’s most threatened species groups, primarily due to overfishing in both targeted and bycatch fisheries. Over one-third of shark and ray species are currently at risk of extinction. Practical fisheries management action is required to significantly reduce shark fishing mortality. However, creating systems and incentives for implementing shark conservation is complicated by the high economic value of global commercial fisheries (with high levels of shark bycatch) and the socio-economic vulnerability of small-scale fishers (many of which depend on sharks for food security, income and employment).

Our applied research aims to first understand the underlying socio-economic drivers of shark fishing and potential trade-offs between shark conservation and fisheries objectives. We then use this understanding to design practical management options for maximizing conservation and well-being outcomes, in case study sites and at scale. Moreover, we work with local communities, decision makers and NGOs to test interventions, develop institutions, and create meaningful long-term change for sharks and people.

Current projects include case studies from both small-scale and commercial fishing sectors, particularly in Indonesia and India, where we are trialling incentive-based schemes for bycatch reduction, blending local ecological knowledge with scientific understanding of shark and ray ecology, and exploring supply chains for threatened species.

To complement this grounded research we are also developing novel methods for estimating the footprints of small-scale and commercial fisheries based on third-party satellite data, and translating these footprints into risk assessments for endangered sharks and rays.