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Why Have Global Shark and Ray Landings Declined: Improved Management or Overfishing?

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Global chondrichthyan (shark, ray, skate, and chimaera) landings, reported to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), peaked in 2003 and in the decade since have declined by almost 20%. In the FAO’s 2012 “State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture” report, the authors “hoped” the reductions in landings were partially due to management implementation rather than population decline. Here, we tested their hypothesis. Post-peak chondrichthyan landings trajectories from 126 countries were modelled against seven indirect and direct fishing pressure measures and eleven measures of fisheries management performance, while accounting for ecosystem attributes. We found the recent improvement in international or national fisheries management was not yet strong enough to account for the recent decline in chondrichthyan landings. Instead, the landings declines were more closely related to fishing pressure and ecosystem attribute measures. Countries with the greatest declines had high human coastal population sizes or high shark and ray meat exports such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. While important progress has been made, country-level fisheries management measures do not yet have the strength or coverage to halt overfishing and avert population declines of chondrichthyans. Increased implementation of legally binding operational fisheries management and species-specific reporting is urgently required to avoid declines and ensure fisheries sustainability and food security.
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Davidson, LNK., Krawchuk, MA., Dulvy, NK. (2016) Why have global shark and ray landings declined: improved management or overfishing? Fish and Fisheries. 17:438-458. doi:10.1111/faf.12119
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Fish & Fisheries
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Why Have Global Shark and Ray Landings Declined: Improved Management or Overfishing?
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