Shark and Ray Populations Declining Rapidly, Scientists Call for Urgent Fishing Limits
An alarming new study reports that the global population of sharks and rays has declined 71 percent since 1970. The crash, due to overfishing, underscores the need for international policymakers to reverse the species' impending collapse.
Published in Nature, the study is one of the first global assessments of its kind, The New York Times reported. But the results may not capture the full extent of the loss, scientists warn. Due to incomplete data and growth in the fishing industry, before the study began, shark and ray numbers are most likely lower than reported.
"The decline isn't stopping, which is a problem," Nathan Pacoureau, a researcher at Simon Fraser University in Canada and the lead author of the study told The Guardian. "Everything in our oceans is so depleted now."
While oil and gas drilling and the increasing impacts of the climate crisis are threatening the species, increased overfishing is the main cause for the drastic population reduction, The Guardian reported.
Often depleting stocks faster than a species can restock itself, fishing has increased drastically since 1970, pushing more than half of the 31 oceanic shark species onto the endangered or critically endangered list by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, The Guardian reported.
Sharks and rays, which are often killed for their meat, fins and oil, are often caught accidentally by fishermen, The New York Times noted. But catching sharks and rays doesn't have to be an "inevitable" part of commercial fishing.
"We have volumes of scientific studies now about how you might avoid catching sharks to begin with, and certainly a lot about the best practices for releasing the shark safely and making sure it survives," Sonja Fordham, an author of the study and the president of Shark Advocates International told The New York Times. "It matters, for example, how long a shark struggles on the line, so fishermen should monitor their lines regularly. They should avoid shark hot spots and use shark-friendly gear that allows the creatures to break free while keeping tuna and swordfish on the line."
The study also exposes how lax international fishing rules directly impact the species. "We have this problematic disconnect between fisheries and environment agencies, I would say in just about every country in the world," Fordham added.
Many sharks are migratory, meaning they often are swimming in unprotected waters. While some countries have measures to prevent overfishing, this study, evidently, stresses the need to fix the "patchwork" of international oceanic rules, The Guardian reported.
"Strict prohibitions and precautionary science-based catch limits are urgently needed to avert population collapse," the authors of the study wrote. To reverse the rapid decline in ray and shark populations, international cooperation is necessary.
As the global food demand increases and economic livelihoods increasingly rely on the oceans, future international fishing rules will have a lot to account for. United Nations goals, like Sustainable Development Goal 14, are a step towards reaching such global agreements to conserve and sustainably use the oceans.
There is good news. Fishing regulation works, Science reported.
For example, attempts to protect the white shark in the U.S. has caused the species abundance to increase on both the U.S. east and west coasts, according to Science.
"The U.S. is one of the only countries that's been really successful in reversing sharp population declines through management," Fordham told Science.
Although the "findings of this paper are horrifying," Mariah Pfleger, a marine scientist at Oceana, told The Guardian, they also validate what scientists have long known about the pressures of commercial fishing.
"We need proactive measures to prevent total collapse – this should be a wake up call for policy makers," Pacoureau added.
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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