Country for PR: United States
Contributor: PR Newswire New York
Thursday, July 23 2020 - 01:00
First-of-its-kind Global Survey Reveals Sharks are Functionally Extinct from Many Reefs
SEATTLE, July 22, 2020 /PRNewswire-AsiaNet/--

-- Global FinPrint, a Paul G. Allen Family Foundation initiative, finds that 
hope remains if key conservation measures are employed

A new landmark study published today in Nature ( ) reveals sharks are absent 
on many of the world's coral reefs, indicating they are too rare to fulfill 
their normal role in the ecosystem, and have become "functionally extinct." Of 
the 371 reefs surveyed in 58 countries, sharks were not observed on nearly 20 
percent, indicating a widespread decline that has gone undocumented on this 
scale until now. The survey also identified conservation measures that could 
lead to recovery of these iconic predators.

Photo - 

Essentially no sharks were detected on any of the reefs of six nations: the 
Dominican Republic, the French West Indies, Kenya, Vietnam, the Windward Dutch 
Antilles and Qatar. Among these, a total of only three sharks were observed on 
more than 800 survey hours. 

"While Global FinPrint results exposed a tragic loss of sharks from many of the 
world's reefs, it also shows us signs of hope," said Jody Allen, co-founder and 
chair of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. "The data collected from the 
first-ever worldwide survey of sharks on coral reefs can guide meaningful, 
long-term conservation plans for protecting the reef sharks that remain."

This benchmark for the status of reef sharks around the world reveals an 
alarming global loss of these iconic species that are important food resources, 
tourism attractions, and top predators on coral reefs. Their loss is due in 
large part to overfishing of sharks, with the single largest contributor being 
destructive fishing practices, such as the use of longlines and gillnets. 

"Although our study shows substantial negative human impacts on reef shark 
populations, it's clear the central problem exists in the intersection between 
high human population densities, destructive fishing practices, and poor 
governance," said Dr. Demian Chapman, Global FinPrint co-lead and Associate 
Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and Institute of Environment 
at Florida International University. "We found that robust shark populations 
can exist alongside people when those people have the will, the means, and a 
plan to take conservation action."

The study revealed several countries where shark conservation is working and 
the specific actions that can work. The best performing nations compared to the 
average of their region included Australia, the Bahamas, the Federated States 
of Micronesia, French Polynesia, the Maldives, and the United States. These 
nations reflect key attributes that were found to be associated with higher 
populations of sharks: being generally well-governed, and either banning all 
shark fishing or having strong, science-based management limiting how many 
sharks can be caught. 

"These nations are seeing more sharks in their waters because they have 
demonstrated good governance on this issue," said Dr. Aaron MacNeil, lead 
author of the Global FinPrint study and Associate Professor at Dalhousie 
University. "From restricting certain gear types and setting catch limits, to 
national-scale bans on catches and trade, we now have a clear picture of what 
can be done to limit catches of reef sharks throughout the tropics."

The FinPrint team is wrestling with the fact that conservation action on sharks 
alone can only go so far. Researchers are now looking at whether recovery of 
shark populations requires management of the wider ecosystem to ensure there 
are enough reef fish to feed these predators. 

"Now that the survey is complete, we are also investigating how the loss of 
sharks can destabilize reef ecosystems," said Dr. Mike Heithaus, Global 
FinPrint co-lead and Dean of the College of Arts, Sciences & Education at 
Florida International University. "At a time when corals are struggling to 
survive in a changing climate, losing reef sharks could have dire long-term 
consequences for entire reef systems." 

Launched in the summer of 2015, Global FinPrint's data were generated from 
baited remote underwater video stations (BRUVS) that consist of a video camera 
placed in front of a standard amount of bait -- a "Chum Cam." Coral reef 
ecosystems were surveyed with BRUVS in four key geographic regions: The 
Indo-Pacific, Pacific, the Western Atlantic and the Western Indian Ocean. 

Over the course of four years, the team captured and analyzed more than 15,000 
hours of video from surveys of 371 reefs in 58 countries, states and 
territories around the world. The work was conducted by hundreds of scientists, 
researchers, and conservationists organized by a network of collaborators from 
Florida International University, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, 
Curtin University, Dalhousie University, and James Cook University.

For more information, visit: 

About Global FinPrint
Global FinPrint is an initiative of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and led 
by Florida International University, supported by a global coalition of partner 
organizations spanning researchers, funders and conservation groups. The 
project represents the single largest and most comprehensive data-collection 
and analysis program of the world's populations of reef-associated sharks and 
rays ever compiled. 

About the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation
For more than four decades the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation has focused on 
changing the trajectory of some of the world's toughest problems. Founded by 
philanthropists Jody Allen and the late Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, 
the foundation supports a global portfolio of frontline partners working to 
preserve ocean health, protect wildlife, combat climate change, and strengthen 
communities. The foundation invests in grantees to leverage technology, fill 
data and science gaps, and drive positive public policy to advance knowledge 
and enable lasting change.

About Florida International University
Florida International University is Miami's public research university, focused 
on student success. According to U.S. News and World Report, FIU has 42 top-50 
rankings in the nation among public universities. FIU is a top U.S. research 
university (R1), with more than $200 million in annual expenditures. FIU ranks 
15th in the nation among public universities for patent production, which 
drives innovation, and is one of the institutions that helps make Florida the 
top state for higher education.   


SOURCE: Paul G. Allen Family Foundation