Sharks are important top predators that preserve equilibrium in the seas. Due to overfishing, Argentina’s shark populations have dramatically decreased resulting in several species being categorized as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Sport fishing is one important cause of shark mortality in Argentina. Our 2013 CLP funded team has been working to address this threat with great success thus far.
The aim of this project was to involve angler communities as key stakeholders in a shark conservation programme. By informing anglers of the importance of shark conservation and training them to tag sharks, the goal was to promote catch and release and decrease shark killing for sport.
Through our team’s efforts, 62 anglers were trained during six tagging workshops and seven individual meetings between October and December 2013. Work was concentrated in four Marine Protected Areas (MPA, 5,615 km2), integrating 13 coastal fishing sites along the coastline of Buenos Aires and Río Negro provinces (> 1,000 km), as well as two sites in southern Patagonia, Santa Cruz.
Workshops were divided into two parts: theoretical and practical. The theoretical side focused on the biology and ecology of sharks and the current conservation status of local populations. The practical component was related to tag-recapture methodology. Participants were given a tagging kit: dart tags, an applicator, and a procedure manual.
Following these workshops, 50 fishing groups now have a trained angler, 20% of which are actually tagging sharks. Thus far, a total of 1,151 tags were delivered to anglers and 196 sharks (seven species) were tagged and released.
Today, anglers no longer kill sharks during tournaments in three MPAs; in two MPAs, participation in a tournament requires tagging of all competitive sized sharks using our tags. The most recent victory was in March 2014 when shark tournaments in Ría Deseado Natural Reserve (Santa Cruz) stopped a 46 year old practice of killing sharks and now catch and release. This project demonstrates that anglers can be involved in shark conservation programmes as key stakeholders, with conservation messages tailored to match their motivation. The team works to keep involvement active, involve new anglers, and tag more sharks. We are thinking about the next steps of the project and are eager to continue.
For more information please visit the group’s Facebook page: Conservar Tiburones en Argentina or contact Martín at: email@example.com