CMFRI proposes 'shark hotspots' to protect endangered species

While shark catches show a declining trend, which is good news, over-exploitation is still a problem

Baby whale shark caught as by-catch in Gujarat being released (photo courtesy @WhaleSharkRocky/X)
Baby whale shark caught as by-catch in Gujarat being released (photo courtesy @WhaleSharkRocky/X)

NH Digital

The ICAR-Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) has proposed the demarcation of "shark hotspots" in Indian waters to implement spatio-temporal fishing regulations.

This move aims to safeguard endangered species, juveniles and breeding adults from targeted fishing.

Presenting the status of shark fishery in India at a consultative meeting on the conservation of sharks in Kochi, Dr Shoba Joe Kizhakudan, who is head of the Finfish Fisheries division of ICAR-CMFRI, said that sharks have not evolved to withstand over-exploitation.

"They cannot reproduce fast enough to make up for the increasing number of deaths every year as most sharks have a long lifespan and low reproductive output. The presence of juveniles in landings further intensifies the threat to their sustainable population," he said.

There has been a declining trend in shark catches—which are very often by-catches—is the good news. According to CMFRI, the landings of elasmobranches, a group that includes sharks, rays and guitarfish, have declined by approximately 55 per cent between 2012 and 2022.

However, much remains to be done as the populations are already overfished and declining too.

Highlighting CMFRI's research on sharks, director Dr A. Gopalakrishnan said the institute would focus in the next five years on understanding the complex interplay between fishing activities and other factors affecting shark populations.

"CMFRI has been recognised as a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Scientific Authority in India and is responsible for conducting non-detrimental finding (NDF) studies on CITES-listed marine species. Six NDF documents, covering 11 resources, have been brought by the institute so far," he added.

Gopalakrishnan also said that annual landing estimates for 121 species of elasmobranches from the Indian EEZ are being carried out by CMFRI.

Ironically, some of the highest numbers of shark by-catches are seen in Gujarat, a state with some of the lowest fish consumption statistics. Odisha sees a good number as well, though awareness and therefore release of by-catches has improved in recent years.

Edited IANS inputs

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