Understanding and managing trade-offs for practical and ethical shark conservation

Researcher name: Hollie Booth

Period: (start and end dates) Jan 2019-Jan 2022

Funder: Oxford NaturalMotion scholarship

DPhil Overview and Outline of research: 

My DPhil research focuses on understanding and balancing trade-offs for practical and ethical shark conservation in the coral triangle.

Sharks and their relatives (Class Chondrichthyes) are one of the world’s most threatened species groups. This elevated extinction risk is a product of high levels of fishing mortality in both target and by-catch fisheries, and conservative life-history traits which make most shark species particularly vulnerable to overfishing. Practical fisheries management action is required at national and local levels to significantly reduce shark fishing mortality. In particular, actions that influence fisher behaviour at ‘the point of kill’. At present, shark fisheries management is largely non-existent outside of a few hyper-developed nations (e.g. Australia, New Zealand, USA), while lower-income countries make up the majority of global shark fisheries.

hollie and finsCreating systems and incentives for implementing shark conservation at the local level is challenging, particularly in lower-income countries. This is in part because commercial exploitation and trade of sharks generates considerable economic value and employment opportunities in major shark fishing nations. What is more, high volumes of sharks are caught as by-catch - in the commercial sector, as well as in small-scale, mixed-species fisheries, where sharks can serve as an important source of animal protein and food security in marginalised coastal communities. Concurrently, instruments and incentives to drive adoption of sustainable fishing practises and by-catch mitigation strategies are lacking. There is a need to drive change in the fishing industry, across small-scale and commercial sectors, and targeted and by-catch shark fisheries, to achieve conservation outcomes for sharks whilst maintaining well-being of vulnerable coastal communities and the economic value of Indonesia’s fisheries resources. The Coral Triangle region is a global priority for shark conservation, as it’s both a hotspot of shark species diversity and a hotspot of shark fishing pressure and trade. What is more, people in the region are highly dependent on marine and fisheries resources for food security and livelihoods.

Acknowledging these needs and challenges, this research aims to better understand some of the trade-offs between human well-being and shark conservation, and design practical management options for optimizing these trade-offs in case study communities and shark fisheries. The research approach will be inter-disciplinary, drawing on methods from fisheries science, behavioural economics, anthropology and public administration, in order to answer the following overarching questions:

  1. What are some of the key trade-offs between human well-being and shark conservation/fisheries management, at different scopes and scales? Answering this question involves an overarching review/empirical analysis of the links between shark resource use and human well being
  2. What are some practical management options for optimizing trade-offs between shark conservation and human needs in different fisheries and socioeconomic contexts? Answering this question involves a case study approach, taking a detailed look at several fishery types in the coral triangle region to understand practical fisheries management options for reducing shark fishing mortality in the different fisheries, and different instruments/incentives that can be used to improve compliance and mitigate potential negative impacts on the well-being of fishing communities


Visit Hollie's profile page here