Shark Science Monday: the Known Unknowns of Shark Conservation

“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns, that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” – Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

As nature documentary viewers often hear, there is a lot about sharks and rays that scientists don’t know… but what are the most important things that we need to know? A new paper written by Colin Simpfendorfer, Will White, and former Shark Science Monday interview subjects Michelle Heupel and Nick Dulvy attempts to identify these “known unknowns” of shark and ray conservation. “The importance of research and public opinion to conservation management of sharks and rays: a synthesis”, which arose out of the 2010 Sharks International conference, is the most complete record ever created of the research questions that we need to answer in order to better conserve and manage these animals. For young shark researchers eager to work on projects with practical conservation importance, this paper is a great place to start looking for ideas. Additionally, future published work that claims to be important for conservation and management would do well to cite it, and anyone interested in this subject should read it.

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Shark Science Monday: WhySharksMatter discusses social media and shark conservation

For this week’s edition of Shark Science Monday, check out this video of a presentation I gave at the 2nd International Marine Conservation Congress last May. My talk focused on how social media technology can benefit (and has already benefited) the shark conservation movement. It was part of a symposium organized by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group.

I’m happy to answer any questions about it.

Shark Science Monday: The Sharks and Shark Fisheries of India

Divya Karnad is a wildlife biologist in India focusing on marine issues. She began her career working with olive ridley sea turtles, studying hatchling responses to beach lighting and temperature-dependent sex determination. Lately, she has been focusing on marine fisheries issues on both coasts of India, including shark fishing and the fin trade. She met WhySharksMatter at the International Marine Conservation Congress, and agreed to write a guest post for Southern Fried Science.

A soupy end to Indian Sharks

Thomas and Arulsingh, fishermen who hail from Kanyakumari, hauled up their nets and fishing lines on a beach in southern India. The catch was special and I was privileged, as an outsider, to be invited to watch as this enormous fish was sliced, its fin, the most valuable part, handled with extreme care. The shark fin, I was told, would fetch a lot of money, despite the fact that it was not a hammerhead, which fetches the best price. Nevertheless, the fishermen revealed, there were several more where this one came from, and they could be caught easily using specialized hooks and lines. Altogether estimated to host about 70 species of shark, 18, including two species of hammerheads, spadenose, requiem and milk sharks, are often landed for fins or meat from Indian waters. Different parts of the Indian coast have different species compositions of sharks, with the northwest reporting large proportions of spadenose sharks, hammerheads along the south west coast, and requiem, hammerheads and milk sharks along the east coast. Sharks are usually brought to shore before finning and the flesh is consumed locally while the fins are exported to South-east Asian markets.

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Shark Science Monday: How you can help WhySharksMatter tag sharks!


Those of you who follow me on twitter know that in addition to being a grad student, I work with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources coastal shark survey. This summer, we will be catching and tagging sharks, and we need your help!  From mid-May through August, we’ll take the boat out 2-4 times a week for single-day surveys. We leave around 6 or 7 in the morning and return mid to late afternoon. There is often room for a volunteer or two, and the help is always appreciated.

Since I started advertising this opportunity last week, I’ve received over 150 e-mails inquiring about it. Many of you are asking the same questions, and while I”m always happy to answer questions about sharks, I’m instead going to answer the most common questions in this post.

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