Shark and ray populations in Northwestern Atlantic are recovering

Shark and ray populations in Northwestern Atlantic are recovering

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The sharks and rays in the Northwestern Atlantic are experiencing an increase in population numbers.

Tiger shark
Tiger shark

The shark and ray population in the north Atlantic are in recovery, according to a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal.

Lead author Nathan Pacoureau, postdoctoral research fellow at Simon Fraser University (SFU), and his team came to this conclusion after analyzing trends in fishing pressure, fisheries management and population status for wide-ranging coastal sharks and rays in the western Atlantic Ocean. 

The study also found that three species no longer experience declines and six species of eleven are recovering. It was found that although the extinction risk increased with fishing pressure, this was offset by an action plan implemented in 1993.

The plan—the 1993 Fisheries Management Plan for Sharks—focused on regulation, enforcement and monitoring. Although the results showed improvement in population numbers, Pacoureau acknowledged that they were a "microcosm of the wider problem faced by sharks and rays.”

Elaborating, he said, “many shark and ray species range widely and successful conservation in one country can be undone by less regulated fishing areas outside those borders.”

Using the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List Index, the team showed that unrestrained fishing caused populations of the same species to collapse in the southwest Atlantic. In fact, the number of wide-ranging coastal species threatened with extinction was nearly four times lower in the northwest than it was in the southwest.

In conclusion, the study showed that well-enforced, science-based management of carefully monitored fisheries could lead to conservation success, even for slow-growing species.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences