A new standard for identifying important habitats

A baseline map for the area-based conservation of sharks. Credit: Hyde et al

To date, species of sharks, rays and chimeras have not been sufficiently taken into account in the planning of marine protected areas. However, there is a post in the language Frontiers in marine sciences By researchers from the IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group, the IUCN Ocean Team, and the IUCN Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force, they developed a new framework to fundamentally change the way sharks are considered in the design of protected areas, thus supporting much-needed protection in the face of extinction.

Kieran Hyde, IUCN Ocean team advisor, explained, “We still have a lot to learn about many species of sharks, rays, and chimeras, but unfortunately many studies indicate that many protected areas are failing to adequately meet their needs. However, it is important that areas of Sharks and Rays (ISRAs) are able to identify the territories of this species using criteria specifically designed to take into account their biological and ecological needs.”

As the apex of predators, Sharks It provides many vital functions to maintain a balanced ecosystem. Sharks form fish communities, ensure species diversity, and even help our oceans sequester more carbon by maintaining seagrass meadows.

“The loss of sharks, rays and chimaera will not only affect everyone’s health ocean ecosystembut also the effect food security in many countries.”

However, their position at the top makes them more vulnerable to human threats. Many of these species are affected by fishing, especially in tropical and coastal areas where large communities live along the coast and depend on fish as their main source of protein.

As explained by Dr. Reema Gabadu, President of the IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group. “Sharks are long-lived species: many take a long time to reach sexual maturity and then give birth to only a few young. This makes them particularly vulnerable to fishing pressure and with an estimated 37% of species at high risk of extinction, they are facing a biodiversity crisis The results of the ISRA project inform policy and ensure that areas critical to shark survival, raysand chimaeras considered in spatial planning”.

Developed by experts, security agencies and governments

Work on the ISRA Standards was developed through a collaborative process involving shark experts, conservation agencies and governments and includes four standards and seven sub-standards. It takes into account the complex biological and ecological needs of sharks, including areas important to threatened or range-restricted species, specific habitats that support life history characteristics and vital functions (eg reproduction, feeding, rest, movement), distinctive features, and species diversity within the area.

Dr Giuseppe Notarbartolo de Scara, Co-Chair of the IUCN Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force and Vice-Chair of the IUCN Group of Whale Specialists noted, “Every effort is made to ensure ISRA contains the best and most up-to-date place-based information. that science can present to marine decision makers, managers, and users. As the ISRA program progresses by gradually covering the full scale of the ocean surface (and related inland waters), a very broad participation by the shark expert community worldwide is expected.”

By gathering information from scientific publications, reports, databases, and the expertise of individual shark experts, ISRAs are a powerful tool for governing bodies for policy development and protected area design.

Study: Endangered sharks and rays hunted in protected Mediterranean areas

more information:
Putting sharks on the map: a global standard for improved conservation based on shark area, Frontiers in marine sciences (2022). DOI: 10.3389 / fmars.2022.968853

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