Rapid Assessment Toolkit for Sharks and Rays

Rigby C, Appleyard S, Chin A, et al (2019) Rapid Assessment Toolkit for Sharks and Rays. WWF International and CSTFA, James Cook University

The world needs sharks and rays. These predators are an essential part of healthy marine ecosystems; and they provide food security and income to millions of people, particularly in the developing world.

But sharks and rays are in crisis and their future is in doubt. They grow slowly, take many years to mature and produce relatively few young, making them particularly vulnerable to over-exploitation. After centuries of coexistence with humans, in recent years many populations have significantly declined through overfishing, and a quarter of all species are threatened with extinction.

Action is essential to restore the balance. We need to manage the fisheries that interact with sharks and rays, reduce unsustainable mortality and prevent further overfishing.

To do that, though, we need a clear picture of what´s going on. Currently we lack data on almost half of all shark and ray species, and there´s an absence of information on many coastal fisheries in developing countries.

That´s why this Rapid Assessment Toolkit has been created. It offers a suite of simple tools for collecting the sound scientific data needed for the conservation and sustainable management of shark and ray populations. The kit has been designed for use in regions with limited capacity and resources, and it contains practical step-by-step guidelines for collecting data by a range of methods. Appropriate tools can be selected depending on the particular data gaps relevant to local waters.

The data collected will give a baseline for studying future trends in shark and ray populations, so fisheries authorities can address areas of particular concern and determine the effectiveness of their management efforts.