Progress against the 2021-2025 Shark Research Plan (SC18)

SPC-OFP (2022) Progress against the 2021-2025 Shark Research Plan (SC18). In: WCPFC Scientific Committee 18th Regular Session. WCPFC-SC18-2022/EB-IP-04, Electronic Meeting

The report of Project 97 (Shark Research Plan 2021-2025) was adopted by SC16 and endorsed by WCPFC17 in December 2020. The final report (SC16-EB-IP-01rev1) is posted on SC16 website. The 2021-2025 Shark Research Plan (SRP) is the 3rd phase of the WCPFC’s SRP that builds on the previous two plans. The 2021 – 2025 SRP is a living document that can evolve based on the information needs and priorities of the WCPFC. The purpose of this document is to review progress against the SRP tasks to facilitate future planning of WCPFC shark research. The updates on the 2021 - 2025 SRP are included in Table 1. In addition, Table 2 is provided which captures the Scientific Committee’s assessment schedule. For the (relatively) data rich “key” shark assessments undertaken by the Scientific Services Provider (SSP), the complex and disparate nature of the data implies an extended period of detailed preparatory analysis, including catch reconstructions, is required. Under the current arrangement, where a shark assessment may be funded as an SC ‘project’ separate to the priority stock assessment work assigned to the SSP, those projects are approved for funding at December Commission meetings. This means that the specific funding agreement between the WCPFC Secretariat and the SSP is typically not completed until February, and work might begin in late February/March, with the assessment due in July. Given that other key assessments are also occurring at the same time and the challenges in developing the best information, there is insufficient time to do these shark assessments justice. It is therefore proposed that the schedule for a “key” shark assessment undertaken by the SSP is extended over two calendar years (see Table 2). This does not have cost implications for a specific assessment but does have initial implications for the ‘cash flow’ of the SC budget and would require SC funding to be confirmed across two calendar years. Under this approach, in 'year 1’ for example, the data compilation, fishery characterization and catch reconstructions can be undertaken. The assessment is then completed by the SC meeting in the middle of ‘year 2’. We have made adjustments to table 2 that would be consistent with this rescheduling for assessments conducted by the SSP. We have not made adjustment to those assessments expected to be conducted by the ISC but they may also be interested a similar approach. There is only one project scheduled in the SRP for 2022, the Pacific bigeye thresher shark assessment, that is not being reported on at SC18. The assessment was an ABNJ project that was not undertaken. The following projects are listed to report to SC19/SC20 (and will need project descriptions and terms of reference developed for SC18 to consider: 1d) WCPO silky shark assessment; 1e) Pacific silky shark assessment; 1g) Pacific whale shark assessment (appendix 1). However, we seek clarity from SC18 on the need for a WCPO silky shark assessment versus a Pacific wide silky shark assessment. It seems that there is need to decide between these two options. Given the previous issues with data from the EPO, focusing the assessment on the WCPO may be preferred. There may be additional cost implications for Pacific wide assessment.