Conservation of sharks key to ocean health

Conservation of sharks key to ocean health

The 4th International Shark Congress brought together close to a thousand experts on sharks, stingrays and chimeras from 69 countries to contribute to saving them from the mass extinction that threatens them by using science, political pressure and dissemination as tools. This was the first time in Europe and had a mixed format, with 350 congress attendees in person at Valencia Oceanography and more than 600 attending online.

The meeting made it possible to connect researchers from all over the world who will continue to connect, through a digital platform created for this congress. “The important thing is to maintain newly formed connections and foster online interaction for the remaining four years until the next meeting in Sri Lanka in 2026,” says Michelle Heupel, organizer and founder of Sharks International conventions. In this edition, LAMNA, Submon and Shark Trust have joined as co-editors in addition to Fundación Oceanogràfic.

“About a thousand people, including world leaders in science, political pressure and relevant communication, have been brought together just to talk about conservation, and they will also continue to be in regular contact. It’s as if the Congress isn’t over today,” explains Pablo García-Salinas, a researcher at the Fundación Oceanogràfic, LAMNA, and the Universitat Politècnica de València.

“It was very meaningful to discover at this meeting that, despite the wide variety of viewpoints and approaches that the researchers presented in their presentations, there was a consensus that solutions should be realistic and the result of close and complicity between them. “Science is a scientific community where data and experience are shared,” says Paul Cox, CEO of Shark Trust.

On the last day of today’s meeting, the communication issue was discussed. García-Salinas emphasizes, “It is vital that the community admire this predator and understand its key role in the stability of marine ecosystems that directly impacts human well-being.”

The importance of involving fishermen in the conservation of so-called chondrichthyans, which includes sharks, stingrays and chimeras, was also stressed. This is especially important given the latest estimates from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), given that overfishing and bycatch are the main reasons why they are the most endangered vertebrates on the planet after amphibians.

«Shark fishing represents a significant part of the fishing fleets of some countries such as Spain; Our proposal is to work on more efficient fisheries management based on science, to strike a balance between conservation and the economic activity on which many people depend. “We want to pressure politicians to make the right decisions,” says Submon representative Àlex Bartolí.

“A sea with sharks and stingrays is a healthy sea because they are predators that control the populations they feed on. If the former disappears, they have a demographic explosion that wipes out other species and puts the ecosystem at risk of extinction,” explains Bartoli. would be a sea without sharks,” he concludes.

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