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Preferred conservation policies of shark researchers
- Shiffman, David S., Hammerschlag, Neil
- Conservation biology 2016 v.30 no.4 pp. 805-815
- advocacy, attitudes and opinions, conservation status, environmental policy, fins, fisheries, fisheries management, nongovernmental organizations, researchers, scientists, sharks, surveys
- There is increasing concern about the conservation status of sharks. However, the presence of numerous different (and potentially mutually exclusive) policies complicates management implementation and public understanding of the process. We distributed an online survey to members of the largest professional shark and ray research societies to assess member knowledge of and attitudes toward different conservation policies. Questions covered society member opinions on conservation and management policies, personal histories of involvement in advocacy and management, and perceptions of the approach of conservation nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to shark conservation. One hundred and two surveys were completed (overall response rate 21%). Respondents considered themselves knowledgeable about and actively involved in conservation and management policy; a majority believed scientists have a responsibility to advocate for conservation (75%), and majorities have sent formal public comments to policymakers (54%) and included policy suggestions in their papers (53%). They believe sustainable shark fisheries are possible, are currently happening today (in a few places), and should be the goal instead of banning fisheries. Respondents were generally less supportive of newer limit‐based (i.e., policies that ban exploitation entirely without a species‐specific focus) conservation policy tools, such as shark sanctuaries and bans on the sale of shark fins, than of target‐based fisheries management tools (i.e., policies that allow for sustainable harvest of species whose populations can withstand it), such as fishing quotas. Respondents were generally supportive of environmental NGO efforts to conserve sharks but raised concerns about some NGOs that they perceived as using incorrect information and focusing on the wrong problems. Our results show there is an ongoing debate in shark conservation and management circles relative to environmental policy on target‐based natural resources management tools versus limit‐based conservation tools. They also suggest that closer communication between the scientific and environmental NGO communities may be needed to recognize and reconcile differing values and objectives between these groups.