Shark numbers lower than expected - study

2016-03-22 14:25


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Cape Town – A genetic study into the management of three shark species has revealed that their numbers are surprisingly lower than expected.

The study by Dr Daphne Bitalo, a Stellenbosch University student from Uganda, aimed to shed light on how sharks could be fished sustainably, in an effort to help manage their populations.

Bitalo received her PhD in genetics from the university last Wednesday. Her study included the soupfin, bronze whaler, and sand shark. The study was performed in collaboration with the agriculture, forestry and fisheries department and the South African Shark Conservancy.

Research supervisor Dr Aletta Bester-Van der Merwe told News24 the study began with the soupfin shark.

"We were not initially aware that there was any form of commercial purposes for the sharks. When we found out, we ended up expanding our study."

Bester-Van der Merwe said they hoped the study would raise awareness about shark species and their role in the ecosystem as top predators.

According to the study, the fisheries industry would have to consider which species they caught.

"If you look at trawling for example, they will pick up a lot of different species of different types of fish. In this study it is hoped that we could integrate our results with fisheries. Of course we know this cannot be changed overnight.

"But we are saying, perhaps we could put a warning out there that shark resources are not as ample as we thought. This could impact how recreational fishers think about fishing."

Bester-Van der Merwe said some species of shark showed smaller growth rates.

"Many shark species also reach maturity at a late age. Others tend to only produce one or two offspring, reducing the chance of its species’ survival."

Read more on:    stellenbosch university  |  conservation  |  animals

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