Assessment and Conservation of a Nursery Ground for Threatened Sharks in Argentina
Globally, sharks and rays (elasmobranches) are impacted by a wide range of human activities, resulting in many populations being depleted, with some species considered threatened with extinction. In Argentina, despite many species showing strong evidences of decline they are heavily fished (e.g. tope, sand-tiger, copper and angel sharks, and some skates species). No management actions have been adopted to prevent these declines. Given that most of the local commercial shark species were assessed as “threatened” in the 2003 IUCN South America Shark Assessment, studies on the conservation of Argentine elasmobranches are urgently needed, as are efforts to protect important breeding areas.
Argentinian shark expert, Gustavo Chiaramonte is Head of the Ichthyological Division and Curator of the Ichthyology National Collection. Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences. Since the early 1990s, he has led a research team in the study of Argentina’s sharks. The team aims to survey shark and ray nurseries in Buenos Aires to assess population structure and the migratory and demographic patterns of several shark species, particularly the critically endangered tope shark. Data collection is vital to the project, but so too is the need to engage local fishermen about the importance of marine protected areas to wildlife and their livelihoods.
The project aims to unite scientific work with conservation action by involving stakeholders, local communities and the media. The shark tagging work will provide baseline scientific data for the governmental agencies responsible for marine management, and local NGOs to improve the management plan for a Natural Protected Area.
Recently, the National Fisheries Authority proposed to modify the Natural Protected Areas Law to incorporate shark nursery areas under their management jurisdiction and to ban entry to the sensitive El Rincón area (part of the project area) for large coastal fishing vessels. This news has been promising as these nursery areas are vital for the sustainability of shark populations. However, no monitoring plan has been developed making it impossible to determine the effects of the ban on the status of shark populations. Within this context, Gustavo and his team aim to assess the status of the main nursery areas for most of the coastal elasmobranches, to guide future conservation efforts and underline the importance of shark protection.