Shark research plan 2021-2025 mid-term review

Brouwer, Stephen, Hamer P (2023) Shark research plan 2021-2025 mid-term review. In: WCPFC Scientific Committee 19th Regular Session. WCPFC-SC19-2023/EB-WP-06, Koror, Palau

This document represents a mid-term review of the WCPFC’s third Shark Research Plan (SRP) covering the years 2021-2025. The this review will be augmented by input from an Informal Working Group (SRP-IWG) at the SC19. This document includes commentary on progress against the plan and on existing and new project proposals within the plan. New projects have emerged from stock assessment and other recommendations as well as feedback from an online Informal Working Group that reviewed an earlier draft of this review. The following recommendations are proposed for the SC19 to consider:

1. Recommend reinstating the Informal Small Group on sharks (ISG-sharks) at SC19 for annual ongoing review and amendment of the SRP. This can replace the need for a mid-term review. When the ISG develops its terms of reference we suggest that it considers including the following: (a) The ISG-sharks rank the projects listed within Table 5 and Table 6 for prioritisation within the shark research plan[1]. (b) The ISG-sharks consider streamlining the projects and merge or remove projects where necessary. (c) The ISG-sharks develop a schedule for and allocate a start date for the projects listed in Table 5 and Table 6. (d) The ISG-sharks develop terms of reference for all projects including stock assessments intended to begin in 2024.

2. Extend the current shark research plan to 2030 to encompass two assessment cycles.

3. As there are now many sharks being released and cut free, and a number of EEZs have non-retention policies for all sharks, data on sharks is becoming more uncertain rather than improving overtime. This is introducing further challenges to assessing status of key shark stocks. For less common species such as threshers (all species), whale shark and manta and mobulid rays, integrated stock assessment is unlikely to be possible. For these these stock we suggested attempting simpler fishery characterisations that may provide some indications of trends. Given the data challenges for estimation of stock status of most sharks, other methods should be explored, in particular, close-kin mark recapture (CKMR). It is recommended that the Regional Observer Program sampling protocols should include training of observers to include methods for non-lethal biological sampling and contamination free genetic sampling. Sampling of tissues should begin, under a ’shark sampling plan’, to build a sample database for future studies.

4. SC19 should note Table 5 and consider any proposed changes.

5. The data gaps and proposed work identified in Table 6 and Table 7 should be considered by the ISG-sharks who should also propose timelines for the agreed work. The ISG should put forward its priority projects to the SC19 to be considered for funding along side other projects using the SC project scoring criteria (SC17 Summary report Table WP-01).