Sharks and other highly migratory marine species are some of the most threatened species on our planet, due to decades of overfishing happening at the global scale. It has been estimated that up to 100 million sharks are killed every year for their fins. This is the eradication of our planet’s oldest and most important marine species, and has been cited by many as one of the greatest environmental issues of our time. Sharks hold important roles as top predators in many marine ecosystems. Without sharks, ecosystems can become unstable and risk collapse.
Science is needed to create the evidence for new shark protections worldwide. Yet, despite our fascination with these charismatic species, our understanding of the scale of their movements, how they use the ocean, and how they overlap with fishing activity remains a critical knowledge gap that is precluding conservation action. This is especially evident in the open ocean and high seas, which comprise 60% of our ocean and are not governed by any one country.
Beneath the Waves is using technology to better understand the survival risks facing highly migratory species like sharks, with a focus on open-ocean species commonly encountered by commercial fishing. Satellite telemetry is used to map shark movements both horizontally and vertically, as well as to examine linkages between national jurisdictions. This information is integrated with data from fishing boats to quantify overlap.
Given the importance of sharks to certain nations as an economic resource, information on national shark biodiversity and connectivity of populations can be used to inform national plans of action for conservation. Follow-on studies and collaborations are also commonly commissioned to improve scientific resolution around issues related to fisheries, ecology, and ecological restoration.
This project will drive impact in the following ways: