Main content area

Science or Slaughter: Need for Lethal Sampling of Sharks

Conservation biology 2010 v.24 no.5 pp. 1212-1218
blood, life history, politics, scientists, sharks, slaughter, threatened species
General consensus among scientists, commercial interests, and the public regarding the status of shark populations is leading to an increasing need for the scientific community to provide information to help guide effective management and conservation actions. Experience from other marine vertebrate taxa suggests that public, political, and media pressures will play an increasingly important part in setting research, management, and conservation priorities. We examined the potential implications of nonscientific influences on shark research. In particular, we considered whether lethal research sampling of sharks is justified. Although lethal sampling comes at a cost to a population, especially for threatened species, the conservation benefits from well-designed studies provide essential data that cannot be collected currently in any other way. Methods that enable nonlethal collection of life-history data on sharks are being developed (e.g., use of blood samples to detect maturity), but in the near future they will not provide widespread or significant benefits. Development of these techniques needs to continue, as does the way in which scientists coordinate their use of material collected during lethal sampling. For almost half of the known shark species there are insufficient data to determine their population status; thus, there is an ongoing need for further collection of scientific data to ensure all shark populations have a future. Shark populations will benefit most when decisions about the use of lethal sampling are made on the basis of scientific evidence that is free from individual, political, public, and media pressures.