In June of 2014, almost 400 of the world’s top shark researchers gathered in Durban, South Africa for the 2nd Sharks International conference. The four keynote presentations have just been put online.
Beyond Jaws: Rediscovering the “lost sharks” of South Africa
Dave Ebert, Moss Landing Marine Laboratory
Biography:Dave Ebert earned his Masters Degree at Moss Landing Marine Labs and his Ph.D. at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. He is currently the Program Director for the Pacific Shark Research Center, a research faculty member at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, and an honorary research associate for the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity and the California Academy of Sciences Department of Ichthyology. He has been researching chondrichthyans around the world for nearly three decades, focusing his research on the biology, ecology and systematics of this enigmatic fish group. He has authored 13 books, including a popular field guide to the sharks of the world and most recently he revised the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Catalogue of Sharks of the World. He has published over 300 scientific papers and book chapters, and contributed approximately 100 IUCN Shark Specialist Group Red List species assessments. Dave is regional co-Chair of the IUCN Northeast Pacific Regional Shark Specialist Group, Vice Chair for taxonomy, and a member of the American Elasmobranch Society and Oceania Chondrichthyan Society. He has supervised more than 30 graduate students, and enjoys mentoring and helping develop aspiring marine biologists.
I’ve just returned from the second Sharks International, a scientific conference for shark and ray researchers, which was held in South Africa. With nearly 300 researchers and conservationists from more than 38 countries in attendance, the conference was a fantastic learning and networking experience, and a huge success.
In addition to countless talks focusing on cool discoveries about amazing animals and important conservation issues from all over the world, I don’t think I ate one meal at a table with fewer than 4 countries represented. Our lab, the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program at the University of Miami, gave 3 scientific presentations, including my own, which was well-received and resulted in some fascinating discussions. The “social media for scientific outreach” workshop I gave had more than 50 people attend, resulting in a couple of dozen scientists newly joining twitter.
Speaking of twitter, more than 7,000 tweets (including re-tweets) were shared using the conference hashtag #Sharks14 ! Below are links to 8 Storify stories I made: 4 plenary sessions and 4 days of scientific presentations. * Scientists, if any of the tweets about your talk are incorrect, please alert me in the comments and I’ll edit or delete them immediately. *
Caribbean reef shark, Bimini. Photo credit: David Shiffman
2011 was a relatively good year for sharks and rays. Presented below, in no particular order, are ten important shark conservation stories from the past year.
1. Shark sanctuaries. The world gained several new shark sanctuaries, areas where shark fishing is banned, in 2011. Nations creating new shark sanctuaries include Honduras (~92,000 square miles), the Bahamas (~240,000 square miles), Marshall Islands/Guam/Palau (a regional partnership protecting almost 2 million square miles). Numerous concerns about enforcing rules in these huge areas, as well as concerns about potential loopholes in the policies, exist among conservation scientists.
2. Fin bans. These laws ban the possession, trade, or sale of shark fins within the boundaries of a city, state/territory, or country. In 2011, Hawaii’s first-in-the-US fin ban took effect, and a few other US states (California, Washington, and Oregon) passed similar laws. There is an ongoing debate in the shark conservation community about whether blanket bans on finning are better than promoting best practices (i.e. more sustainable shark fishing techniques). Additionally, some are concerned that we aren’t focusing enough on other threats to sharks like bycatch and habitat destruction.
The last talk of Sharks International just concluded. Day 3 focused on genetic and molecular techniques, which have been used to answer all sorts of interesting questions about sharks. I presented my research for the first time, and it was very well received (which is part of the reason why I haven’t posted in a couple of days- I’ve been very busy answering questions and celebrating being done with my talk).
The second day of Sharks International just concluded. This morning’s keynote address focused on how shark behavior research has changed in the last few decades, and how improved technology has made that possible. Scientists used to have to build their own acoustic tags and follow the tagged sharks around in a boat. Nowadays, tags can be on a shark for months at a time before they upload their information to a satellite, and thanks to pH, depth, and temperature sensors, they record a lot more than just location. This makes answering all sorts of questions about shark behavior possible.
Talks today focused on conservation. We heard from international legal experts about CITES and other treaties designed to protect wildlife. We learned about how shark feeding dives affect the behavior of sharks and associated reef fish, and we learned how much living sharks can be worth for ecotourism. We also learned about a recently rediscovered species of shark that had been thought extinct for a century (sadly, it’s probably going extinct soon). I actually used up all the ink in a hotel pen taking notes.
Tomorrow there are no talks, and I’m going SCUBA diving on the Great Barrier Reef with some conference delegates. My presentation is Thursday morning.
The first day of talks is over here at Sharks International. In this morning’s keynote, we were treated to a summary of the last 20 years of great white shark research in Australia. Talks so far have mostly focused on tracking studies, and people have made some fascinating discoveries.
Later this week, I’m headed to the land down under to attend Sharks International, a once-a-decade shark science conference. Scientists from six continents and dozens of countries will be presenting their research on sharks, rays, skates, and chimeras. This will be the first time I’ve presented my own research at any scientific conference. I’ll try my best to blog about the conference as it occurs, but with all the science going on (and the availability of Australian beer) I may not have a lot of time. If you don’t hear from me for a while, you can rest assured that I’ll be returning with some great material for future Southern Fried Science posts. Also, Charlie is coming with me as part of the ongoing “Charlie and the Adventure” series.
If any of our readers will be attending the conference, I’m presenting on Thursday, June 10th at 11:00 a.m. in the Crystal Twig room. We always love meeting our readers in person.