Thousands of sharks illegally caught in Indian Ocean marine protected area
Thousands of sharks have been illegally caught in a marine protected area (MPA) in the Indian Ocean, new research shows.
The AMP was created in 2010 around the Chagos Archipelago, also known as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), prohibiting all fishing there.
The new study examined information on illegal fishing in the MPA – a large area (640,000 km² / 250,000 mi2) containing pristine and remote reefs.
Application data suggests that more than 14,000 sharks were caught in the MPA between 2010 and 20, but discussions with fishermen in the region suggest the actual number was “considerably higher”.
The study was carried out by the University of Exeter and the ZSL (Zoological Society of London), Oceanswell and MRAG Ltd.
“Enforcing the AMP rules in a large, remote area like this is extremely difficult,” said lead author Claire Collins of the University of Exeter.
“Our results highlight the threat of illegal shark fishing in the BIOT MPA, which is home to critically endangered species such as the oceanic shark and the scalloped hammerhead shark.
“Fishermen often target reef areas, where many sharks are juveniles, and catching sharks at this stage of life could be particularly damaging to the number of species.
“However, it is important to note that, despite the evidence from shark fishing, MPAs are still a vital refuge in the Indian Ocean, and the number of sharks there is still much higher than in most others. places.
“Many species of sharks in this region are under intense fishing pressure.
“Following the recent announcement that the Maldives are considering lifting their shark fishing ban, the importance of large areas of the Indian Ocean where shark fishing is banned has been brought to everyone’s attention.
“This study highlights the need to ensure that sharks in these important areas are fully protected. “
As part of the study, Oceanswell researchers conducted interviews and organized focus groups with fishermen from two Sri Lankan communities previously associated with illegal fishing in the BIOT MPA.
Fishermen told researchers that vessels often fished in the MPA undetected, providing “clear evidence that the total extraction was considerably higher” than the estimate of 14,340 based on the vessels detected, according to the ‘study.
“It is crucial to work with fishing communities to understand where, when and why people fish illegally – and how we can improve deterrence,” said final author Tom B Letessier.
“For example, we found that fishermen had very different ideas about the fines they might face, and some felt that they were very unlikely to be caught. Therefore, better knowledge of sanctions, in addition to increasing the likelihood of being caught, could be beneficial. “
Efforts are underway to improve enforcement in the MPA, including making greater use of satellite vessel tracking and ensuring the enforcement responds to the threat of illegal fishing.
This study highlights the value of interacting with the fishermen themselves to obtain information on the pressures they face and what motivates their behavior.
Of the 188 vessels investigated by the BIOT MPA patroller between 2010 and 20, 126 were suspected of illegal fishing – and 97% of those sharks were targeting.
More than three-quarters of the suspected vessels came from Sri Lanka, but a growing minority came from India – and these tended to be larger and therefore could take many more sharks.
“Threats to a large MPA like this are constantly changing, so MPA management must also adapt,” Collins said.
The study was funded by Grant ID is BPMS 2017-12 of the Bertarelli Foundation, as part of the Bertarelli Program of Marine Science.
Reference: “Understanding Persistent Non-Compliance in a Remote and Large-Scale Marine Protected Area” by Claire Collins, Ana Nuno, Annette Broderick, David J. Curnick, Asha de Vos, Thomas Franklin, David MP Jacoby, Chris Mees, James Moir -Clark, John Pearce and Tom B. Letessier, May 10, 2021, Frontiers in marine sciences.
DOI: 10.3389 / fmars.2021.650276