The application of the ecosystem approach and future directions for the international management of migratory sharks in the Northwest Atlantic [graduate project].
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Sharks have existed on Earth for over 400 million years. However, many shark populations have declined and show only slow to no signs of recovery. Many sharks are apex predators and therefore play crucial roles in maintaining ecosystem stability and resilience. The decline in shark populations is especially true for the large, pelagic, and migratory sharks of the Northwest Atlantic (Porbeagle, Shortfin Mako & Blue Shark). Anthropogenic factors such as finning, overfishing and bycatch are the top causes pushing these shark populations into decline. Recently, sharks have rapidly gained more attention within the international realm. New frameworks such as the International Plan of Action-Sharks, Memorandum of Understanding-Sharks and United Nations General Assembly Resolutions have or are attempting to improve shark management on the high seas by incorporating the ecosystem approach. Sharks within the high seas are the responsibility of regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs). Two RFMOs in the Northwest Atlantic, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) and International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) have attempted to properly manage and conserve shark populations from an ecosystem approach. However, populations are still in decline. Therefore, this project has attempted to answer whether or not ICCAT and NAFO truly have been applying the ecosystem approach towards international shark management in the Northwest Atlantic. To understand whether or not NAFO and ICCAT are applying the approach this project conducted a policy analysis of all relevant international frameworks that govern the high seas and RFMOs, created indicators for the ecosystem approach and determined whether or not shark measures within NAFO and ICCAT abide by the indicators, completed a comparative analysis of how other RFMOs manage sharks to determine if NAFO and ICCAT are on par with the other RFMOs, and provided recommendations and future directions for international shark management in the Northwest Atlantic. Pathways to successful shark management are possible and perhaps even simple within the Northwest Atlantic. The evidence suggests that NAFO and ICCAT have only partially been applying the ecosystem approach, even though international frameworks have been calling and continue to call for the application of the approach towards sharks. Furthermore, NAFO and ICCAT are not leaders compared to other RFMOs when it comes to managing migratory sharks. International shark management has to make great strides in the near future if shark populations are persist at viable levels.
- international shark management
- regional fisheries management organizations
- ecosystem approach
- Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization
- International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas
- Marine resources conservation--International cooperation
- Wildlife conservation--International cooperation
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