First Toolkit and Comprehensive Guide to Fill Data Gaps on Sharks and Rays
Kuala Lumpur – WWF and the Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries & Aquaculture (CSTFA) at James Cook University have developed the first toolkit that provides a variety of ways to collect scientific data on sharks and rays to help conserve and manage these species, many of which are threatened.
Sharks and rays are in a deepening crisis, with a quarter of all species threatened with extinction and many in significant decline, mostly due to overfishing. Exacerbating the situation is that nearly half of the species lack sufficient data to assess their conservation status.
The Rapid Assessment Toolkit for Sharks and Rays (the Toolkit) is aimed primarily at countries with insufficient species-specific data to allow science-based management. Such nations may have limited capacity and resources to gather data that could help them accurately determine the true state of their coastal environment, a situation common among marine-based communities. This includes Malaysia, where the Government recognises there is insufficient species-specific data to generate comprehensive information on aspects of biology, taxonomy, population status, habitat, trade, and socio-economy.
Dr Henry Chan, Conservation Director of WWF-Malaysia said, “We encourage the various institutions in Malaysia to utilise this toolkit to contribute and help improve data deficient areas on sharks and rays. This is in line with the priorities identified in the Malaysia National Plan of Action for sharks (NPOA-Shark 1, 2 and 3).”
Dr. Andy Cornish, Leader of the WWF’s Sharks: Restoring the Balance initiative, noted that the deterioration of ocean health around the world has enormous implications for coastal communities in particular. “Sharks and rays perform a wide array of essential ecosystem functions, which means their conservation is even more urgent. The more we know about the status of shark and ray populations, the more we can focus conservation efforts where they are most needed,” he said.
The Toolkit consists of practical and simple step-by-step guidelines for collecting data by using six tools or methods contained in a 70-page manual. Appropriate tools can be selected depending on the knowledge gap of the particular waters where it may be used. They consist of how-to guidance in the areas of: taxonomy, genetics, creel and market surveys, baited remote underwater video systems (commonly known as BRUVS), tagging and tracking, and citizen science.
Dr. Amy Then Yee Hui, a senior lecturer at the University Malaya, is piloting the use of FTA Elute sampling cards in the genetic section of this toolkit for species identification. “I am especially fascinated with the innovative use of a simple card for tissue sampling. This approach, with testing and validation, can revolutionize science to identify sharks and rays in the field such that even an untrained person can assist with tissue collection.”
“The six tools are each broken into sections that explain why one would use a particular tool, what is the tool and detailed steps on how to use the tool,” said Dr. Cassandra Rigby, a CSTFA Research Fellow and chief author of the Toolkit. “Divers, for instance, can find useful ways to contribute information in the section on Citizen Science, or field operators can learn how to take a photo of a shark so it is useful for accurate species identification.”
WWF would like to thank Disney Conservation Fund and The Shark Conservation Fund for their financial and other support to the development and outreach of this Toolkit.
To access the Toolkit, please click here: https://sharks.panda.org/tools-publications/rapid-assessment-toolkit
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Notes for editors:
The ultimate goal of the Toolkit initiative is to gather data that will provide a baseline for studying future shark and ray population trends. This way, fisheries authorities can address areas of concern and ultimately determine the effectiveness of their management efforts.
The data collected through the various tools can be used to produce Shark Assessment Reports and National Plans of Action under the United Nations FAO International Plan of Action for Sharks, and Non-Detriment Findings for sharks and rays listed on CITES Appendix II. These are still lacking in some major shark fishing nations.
WWF’s Dr Cornish has written a blog on why the data that the Toolkit can provide is so urgently needed. You can read it here:
Sharks: Restoring the Balance is a partnership between WWF and wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, which supports teams working across 11 countries. Its plans for conserving sharks and rays are mapped out under a global strategy with its Global Sharks and Rays Initiative partners. The strategy document can be accessed here: https://sharks.panda.org/about-us/global-sharks-and-rays-initiative
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Kimberly Chung, Interim Communications Manager
Marine Programme, WWF-Malaysia
Tel: +60 88 262 420
WWF-Malaysia (World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia) was established in Malaysia in 1972. It currently runs more than 90 projects covering a diverse range of environmental conservation and protection work, from saving endangered species such as tigers and turtles, to protecting our highland forests, rivers and seas. The national conservation organisation also undertakes environmental education and advocacy work to achieve its conservation goals. Its mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the nation’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. For latest news and media resources, visit http://www.wwf.org.my/media_and_information/media_centre/