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Report of the


Tokyo, Japan, 23-27 April 1998

Rome, 1999


This is the final version of the report of the FAO Technical Working Group on the Conservation and Management of Sharks, Tokyo, Japan, 23-27 April 1998.


Participants at the meeting
Directors of Fisheries
FAO Fishery Regional Officers
FAO Fisheries Department

Report of the FAO Technical Working Group on the Conservation and Management of Sharks. Tokyo, Japan, 23-27 April 1998.
FAO Fisheries Report. No. 583. Rome, FAO. 1999. 28p.


The FAO Technical Group (TWG) on the Conservation and Management of Sharks reviewed available information pertinent to the subject, including draft documents on the status of sharks species, an overview of shark fisheries by region, case studies in management of elasmobranch fisheries, a shark species catalogue, on shark utilization, marketing and trade and a review of data needs for management of shark fisheries. It considered preliminary drafts of guidelines and a plan of action for the conservation and management of shark fisheries and discussed specific issues in two working groups on management and on data needs. On the basis of the discussion of the TWG Technical Guidelines for the Implementation of National Plans of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (FAO Fisheries Circular No. 939) were elaborated for the FAO Consultation held in October 1998.








Annex 1: List of Participants

Annex 2: Agenda of the Meeting

Annex 3: List of Documents

Annex 4: Review of Available Information

Annex 5: Report of "Management" Working Group

Annex 6: Report of "Data Needs" Working Group

Annex 7: Report by Plenary on Draft Plan of Action


1. Mr. I. Nomura, Director, Resource and Environment Research Division, Japanese Fisheries Agency welcomed the participants1 to Tokyo and to the Japanese Fisheries Agency stressing the importance of the meeting, its scientific nature and wishing the participants success.

2. Mr. Ulf Wijkstrom of FAO opened the meeting of the Technical Working Group (TWG) on the conservation and management of sharks on behalf of Mr. M. Hayashi, Assistant Director-General of FAO.

3. Dr. J. Suzuki, the Chair of the TWG emphasizied the importance of the contributions which the meeting would make to the development of Guidelines for conservation and management of sharks and well as to the Plan of Action. He invited Dr. E. Ruckes, a member of the Technical Secretariat of the TWG to describe in more detail how the meeting would be conducted. Dr. Ruckes commented on the origin and status of the documents which FAO was submitting to the meeting and then explained the agenda.2


4. Dr. Ruckes introduced the agenda item explaining that documents fell into four
categories3: (i) the discussion documents; (ii) the information documents prepared for the TWG; (iii) technical reports under preparation by FAO and of relevance to the meeting; and (iv) documents made available to the meeting by participants.

5. All this documentation was made available to facilitate the development of improved draft guidelines and plan of action. The TWG was not supposed to adopt or otherwise approve any of the documents. Participants were invited to provide comments in the course of the meeting or later on the FAO Technical Reports under preparation. A summary of the reviews and ensuing discussions are given in Annex 4.


6. Dr. Ruckes introduced the draft guidelines on the conservation and management of shark fisheries. They were divided in two: the first part dealing with directed fisheries for sharks and the second part dealing with fisheries in which shark constitute a by-catch.

7. The plenary then reviewed this format and concluded that it would be more appropriate to develop one guideline. The main arguments in favor of this view were that there were more similarities than differences between the two types of fisheries, and that in several fisheries sharks could constitute by-catch during one part of the season, or in a particular area, while it would be a target species at other times and locations.

8. The Chairman then, with the consent of the plenary, organized the detailed scrutiny of the draft text in two working groups. One would deal with "Data Needs" and the other with "Management". The groups worked during all of Friday, 24 April and the morning of Saturday, 25 April. Reports of the groups’ initial findings were reported to the plenary at the end of Friday, 24 April. The Data-needs group was chaired by Dr. R. Bonfil . Its report appears as Annex 5. The Management group was chaired by Dr. Gary Mattlock. Its report appears as Annex 6.


9. The TWG started its consideration of the Plan of Action on Conservation and Management of Shark fisheries after lunch Saturday, 25 April. Mr. U. Wijkstrom introduced the agenda item. Mr. T. Walker wrote the report in consultation with participants.

10. The contribution to the Plan of Action was discussed in general terms during the afternoon of Saturday, 25 April. The TWG decided to structure its contribution to the Plan of Action under the following categories: improvement of shark data base; capacity (training and provision of infrastructure); legal framework (national, regional bodies, international); mechanisms to provide management advice; and, funding. In the ensuing discussion several speakers stressed that the Plan of Action must be practical, clear and have a high chance of implementation. It was also suggested that the introduction to the Plan of Action should report on: (i) the principles which have guided the development of the Plan of Action; (ii) the main problems confronting the conservation and management of sharks, including a section (iii) clearly stating why managers need to treat sharks differently than bony fishes, and finally (iv) a statement of the objectives which should guide management of sharks.

11. During the afternoon of Monday, 27 April, the plenary reviewed a draft report containing the conclusions and recommendations of the earlier discussion. The draft was amended, rewritten and finalized. It appears as Annex 7.


12. The plenary approved the structure of the report and a first draft of the part which covers the deliberations in the plenary. The plenary was informed that FAO would finalize the report in consultation with members of the Technical Secretariat.

13. In closing the meeting on behalf of Mr. M. Hayashi, Assistant Director-General of the Fisheries Department, Mr. Wijkstrom thanked participants for their contributions and asked them to continue to assist the process to ensure improved conservation and management of sharks. Mr. Wijkstrom also thanked the hosts, the Government of Japan and the Government of the United States of America for their support.

Annex 1


1. Chair

Jiro Suzuki
National Research Institute of Far Sea Fisheries
Tel: +81 543 34 0715
Fax: +81 543 35 9642

2. Experts

David WAU
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
La Jolla, CA 92038
Tel: +1 619 546 7071
Fax: +1 619 546 5655

Fisheries Centre, UBC
2204 Main Mall
Vancouver, BC; V6E 1Z4, Canada
Tel: +604-8225751
Fax: +604-8225755 and 8228934

Instituto Nacional de la Pesca
Pitagoras 1320, 4o Piso Col.
Santa Cruz Atoyac
C.P. 03310 Mexico DF
Tel: +52-5-604-2352 ext 117
Fax: +52-5-604-4887

Division Ictiologia
Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales "B Rivadavia"
Av Angel Gallardo 470
1405 Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tel: +54-1-9829410
Fax: +54-1-9824494
E-mail: or

Geremy CLIFF
Private Bag 2
Umhlanga, South Africa 4320
Tel: +27-31-5661001
Fax: +27-31-5661232
E-mail: (if no attachments)
FILE@SHARK.CO.ZA (if there is an attachment)

South African Museum, PO Box 61
Cape Town, Western Cape
South Africa 8000
Tel: +27-21-243330
Fax: +27-21-246716

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd.
PO Box 14901, Kilbirnie
Wellington, New Zealand
Tel: +64-4-3860300
Fax: +64-4-3860574

Yuichiro HARADA
International Division, Federation of Japan
Tuna Fisheries Cooperative Associations
Tel: +81-3-3264-6167
Fax: +81-3-3234-7455

Kok Kuang HOOI
38, Chuangarden, Singapore 558556
Tel: +65-2817182
Fax: +65-2803730
E-mail: (if no attachment) or: (if there is an attachment)

National Marine Fisheries Service
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910
Tel: 1 301 713 2334
Fax: 1 301 713 0596

Instituto Espanol de Oceanografia
P.O. Box 130, 15080 A Coruna
Tel: +34-981 205362/205366
Fax: +34 981 229077

Seychelles Fisheries Authority
PO Box 449
Victoria, Mahe, Seychelles
Tel: +248 224 597
Fax: +248 224 508

National Research Institute of Far Sea Fisheries
Tel: +81 543 36 9617
Fax: +81 543 35 9642

Western Demersal Stock Assessment Team
CEFAS, Lowestoft, England
Fax: + 44 1502 524511/513865
Tel: + 44 1502 524436;

Traffic Oceania, GPO Box 528
Sydney, 2001, Australia
Fax: 61 2 9299 6557
Tel: 61 2 9299 6582

Bernard SERET
Museum national d'Histoire naturelle
Laboratoire d'Ichtyologie, Antenne ORSTOM
43, rue Cuvier
75231 Paris Cedex 05 France
Tel: 33 01 40 79 37 38
Fax: 33 01 40 79 37 71

CSIRO Marine Laboratories
P.O. Box 1538
Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia
Tel: + 61 3 6232 5353
Fax: + 61 3 6232 5000

Miwako TAKASE (Ms.)
Far Seas Fisheries Division Fisheries Agency of Japan
Tel: +813-3-3502-2443
Fax: +813-3-3591-5824

Carolus VOOREN
Departimento de Oceanografia
Universidade de Rio Grande
C P 474, Rio Grande
Brazil 96201-900
Tel: +55-532-336 514
Fax: +55-532-336 601

Terence WALKER
Marine and Freshwater Resources Institute
P.O. Box 114
Queenscliff, Victoria 3225, Australia
Tel: +61 3 525 80111
Fax: +61 3 525 80270

3. Observers

IOTC Secretariat
c/o Seychelles Fishing Authority
P.O. Box 449
Fishing Port, Victoria
Mahe, Seychelles
Tel: 248 225494
Fax: 248 224364

European Commission
Brussels, Belgium
Tel: 32 2 2953870
Fax: 32 2 22955621

Che-Tsung CHEN
National Taiwan Ocean University
2 Pei-Ning Rd, Keelung
Taiwan Province of China
Tel: 886 2 2462 2192 ext 5020
Fax: 886 2 2462 3986

Martin HALL
Tuna Dolphin Program
Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission
8604 La Jolla Shores Drive
La Jolla, CA 92037-1508
Tel: 1 619 546 7044
Fax: 1 619 546 7133

CITES Animals Committee
c/- Environment Australia
GPO Box 636
Canberra ACT 2601
Tel: +612-62500-392
Fax: +612-62500-243

Carlos MAZAL
Apartado Postal 10168
Lima 34, Peru
Tel: 51 14 427655
Fax: 51 14 429925

ICCAT, Corazon de Maria 8 (6*?)
28002 Madrid, Spain
Tel: 619 546 7100
Fax: 34 1 4152612

Netherlands Institute for Sea Research,
P.O. Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg
Texel, Netherlands
Tel: 31 222 369368
Fax: 31 222 319674

Oceanic Fisheries Programme
South Pacific Community
BPD5, 98848 Noumea Cedex
New Caledonia
Tel: 687 26 20 00
Fax: 687 26 38 18

CCSBT, 1-2-1 Kasumigaseki
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Tel: 813-3591-1086

4. Technical Secretariat


Masayuki KOMATSU
Fisheries Policy Dept. Fisheries Agency of Japan
1-2-1 Kasumigaseki
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 813-3591-1086

Toshiyuki KUBODERA
Office of Ecosystem Conservation,
Fisheries Agency of Japan
1-2-1 Kasumigaseki
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 813-3502-0736
Fax: 813-3502-1682


Prudence FOX
U.S.Department of Commerce
NOAA, 14th and Constitution Ave.
Tel: +1 202 482 2652
Fax: +1 202 482 4307

U.S.Department of Commerce
NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service
1315 East-West highway
Silver Spring,Maryland 20910
Tel: +1 301 713 2276
Fax: +1 301 713 2313
E-mail: Dean.Swanson@NOAA.GOV


Consultant N.M.F.S. Silver Springs
Tel: +1 202 778 9627
Fax: +1 202 887 5293


Fish Utilization and Marketing Service
Fishery Industries Division, Fisheries Department
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Roma
Tel: +39-6 57056460
Fax: +39-6 57055188

Fishery Development Planning Service
Fishery Policy and Planning Division
Fisheries Department
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Roma
Tel: +39-6 57053156
Fax: +39-6 57056500


Marine Resources Service
Fishery Resources Division
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Roma
Tel: +39-6 57056481
Fax: +39-6 57053020

Annex 2







Annex 3


Working papers for the TWG

Documents prepared in direct support of the work of the TWG

Documents in preparation and pertinent to the work of the TWG

Other documents available at the meeting

Annex 4


1. Status of shark species (Castro/Woodly).

The document was introduced by R. Bonfil. He stated that the document reflects the poor state of our knowledge of shark fisheries but does not contain all the latest information on the subject. He also reported that the criteria used to classify the status of stocks are qualitative, rather than quantitative, and therefore interpretation may vary from individual to individual. The subsequent discussion focused on: (i) the criteria and categories used in assessing the status of stocks; (ii) the procedure used to assess how stocks fall into different categories and (iii) the literature coverage.

Criteria and categories. It was pointed out that IUCN criteria may not be the most appropriate to use to classify stocks subject to fisheries. Some participants thought and that it may be worthwhile to try to harmonise the criteria used for the purpose of fisheries and those used by environmental protection organizations.

Procedures. The use of CPUE data was debated. It was recognized that aggregation of CPUE data was difficult and the spatial and temporal context of the data must be considered in evaluating the status of stocks. In addition data on capture and landings must be complemented with data on effort, which should include information on total effort as well as an explanation of the determinants of that level of effort. It was pointed out that in elasmobranch fisheries local extinction (of populations) could occur without the species as such being threatened. Some speakers drew the attention to the fact that the large number of species of sharks (over 1000) made it essential to concentrate future effort on assessing the status of stocks to those of interest from a conservation and fisheries point of view.

Literature coverage. It was pointed out that the literature covered by the authors is mostly that available in English. In conclusion it was felt that FAO should carefully review and edit the document before its publication. It might be worthwhile to point out the reason why batoids were not discussed in the document.

2. An overview of shark fisheries by region (A. Oliver)

Ms A. Oliver in introducing the document stated that it contains information by region on shark fisheries, management of these fisheries and on products obtained. The data has been drawn from a variety of sources. In preparing the document it became apparent that reports by individual countries on their shark fisheries to different international bodies are not consistent. As an example of this the author had come across reports by some countries to FAO which identified these countries as not landing any sharks but these same countries in other submissions to other organizations had indicated that they do land sharks. There are also considerable differences in the detail of the reporting. Some countries in their reporting to FAO provide more aggregated data than they have done in their reporting to other organizations.

The ensuing discussion considered how to go about obtaining information on conditions of shark stocks. It was recognized that it is essential for management purposes to obtain some information on the trends in the size of the populations of exploited shark species. FAO, it was recognized, did not, and probably would not, publish effort data. This data, some felt, is complex and therefore requires careful consideration. It would seem especially important to define in a scientific manner one or more objective and precise measurements of effort in shark fisheries.

The consensus seemed to be that while information on population/stock size is essential, effort data should be interpreted with caution and may be best addressed on a regional, or fishery by fishery, basis.

3. FAO Case studies in management of elasmobranch fisheries.

Dr. Ross Shotton introduced the case studies. The main purpose of the case studies are to document existing management of shark fisheries. The case studies will provide a global coverage. A rapid review of the case studies received so far show that most shark fisheries in effect are not managed, some are managed as part of a general fisheries management scheme, and a few are being managed following specifically designed management plans.

4. Shark Species Catalogue (Compagno).

The first version of the catalogue was developed in the late 1970’s to early 1980s. It covered 350 species. The present catalogue will cover some 500 species. It is the intention to place the catalogue on-line in order to ensure continued up-dating as new species are added. It is a systematic catalogue containing primarily biological information.

5. Shark utilization, marketing and trade (S. Vannuccini)

Mr. Hooi is one of three authors of the document. He reported on his task: the up-dating of information concerning trade in shark and shark products in Hong Kong which imported about 8000 tons of sharkfins in 1996. However, it is extremely difficult to break this estimate down by species as traders appear not to have an agreed system for the classification of shark fins. In the ensuing discussion the practice of finning sharks was discussed. One participant requested information on any scientific studies of the effect of shark cartilage as a cancer-cure.

6. Review of data needs for management of shark fisheries (Oliver).

Ms. Oliver introduced the document by stressing the importance of obtaining data which would mean the same thing within countries and amongst countries. The review had been structured following the outline of the FAO Guidelines on fisheries management, to which Ms Oliver had added the category of "habitat".

In the discussion it was clarified that the document was intended to address the data needs of most shark fisheries. Several participants thought it would be useful to identify categories of essential versus desirable data in view of the enormous amount of data that would be needed to adequately cover all the shark species, even if it was only a question of handling the highly migratory oceanic species. There appeared to be consensus that habitat is not more important for sharks than it is for other species, where protection of critical habitats is a standard management tool.

Annex 5


The proposal of the Working Group for the guidelines is to have a general introduction on fisheries management, and then to focus on those particular aspects of management that are unique to shark fisheries, using the draft guidelines provided by the FAO Secretariat as a starting point. Although it was realized that each management situation will be different according to area, species and type of fishery, a number of generalisations were made.

Reporting and recording of data

Collection and collation of data on sharks has a low priority in many cases. The biological characteristics of most sharks means that they cannot withstand consistently high rates of exploitation. Often fisheries lead to a local depletion of numbers and it is unknown if this is a local or a regional effect. In order to determine if the harvesting of sharks is sustainable the stocks must be monitored and the reporting and recording of data must be improved. Many shark species are caught in a multispecies fishery and landings data are often lumped under one heading. Due to the high variation in reproductive and life history parameters, some species are more in need of management than others. We should recognize that all fisheries management tools (e.g. TACs, effort control, closed areas, closed seasons, size-selective harvesting) can be used to reduce total fishing mortality (F) on sharks, taking their specific biology into account, although new methods may be necessary. Sharks are utilized for a wide range of products and trade data may only be noted as export, so improved tariff codes should be considered to improve recording of (species) data. Data on discards should also be improved, so captures (catch + discards) should be recorded. Fishermen should not be relied upon alone to provide detailed species data and observer programs and (fisheries independent) surveys should be initiated. Practical systems to facilitate accurate reporting of data by fishers should be developed.

Chairman’s summary

Guidelines for improved reporting and recording of captures, landings and trade. Sharks are worthy of attention, inter alia, due to lack of data as many are caught in multispecies fishery and data are lumped. The species show a wide range of productivity due to differences in biology. Generally shark species are not as productive as most teleosts. Sharks are utilized for a wide range of products. The following will aid in achieving the above objective:

Management measures and the precautionary approach

A discussion arose concerning two points, the first being what to do in the case of absence of information on stock status and the second being how to manage a multispecies fishery in which there is one or more relatively lesser productive species. Fishing mortality should be sustainable for all the species involved and we should strive for long-term ecosystem stability, within the concept of the precautionary approach. A conclusion was reached that management of a multispecies fishery should take into account the specific biological and ecological characteristics of all species. There should be provisions to allow for the management of the least productive species. Technological improvements, or management measures, such as area or seasonal closures or live release policies, could be used as management tools to mitigate the impacts on both the shark populations and the fishers themselves.

Following a discussion on the different meanings attached to the word ‘bycatch’, it was decided to adopt the terms target and non-target, with individuals being retained or discarded. If sharks can be returned to sea alive then their chances of survival may be quite high – this should be considered as a management measure and recorded as such. Research to estimate and increase survival should be carried out. This measure was considered a difficult one to persuade fishermen to carry out, but this brought up the topic of enforcement and compliance. The FAO Code of Conduct (Paragraph 8.5.1) indicates that ‘states should require that fishing gear, methods and practices, to the extent practicable, are sufficiently selective so as to minimize waste, discards and catch of non-target species’. Although regional management is essential for many shark species, there must be national bodies able to deal with management issues. The interaction and commitment of national and regional bodies is vital for the success of regional management. The WG suggested that there should be an Appendix of the various regional management initiatives taken.

The fisheries for those species which are subject to finning should be managed with the aim to maintain a level of fishing mortality compatible with adequate recruitment and survival of the stocks. Priority should be given to the measurement of catch and effort and to identify the species in the landings of fins.

The exposure of elasmobranchs to fishing activities has increased significantly during the past 30 years throughout the world’s oceans. They are caught as the target of fishing that has developed specifically to increase their utilization and also caught during fishing directed at other species in which they are caught unintentionally. It was once acceptable to consider all sources of fishing mortality as insignificant because elasmobranchs were mostly taken as non-targets and there was virtually no targeted fishing. The increased demand for and harvest of elasmobranchs in directed fisheries has elevated the need to include the impacts of all sources of fishing mortality on each species. Even if the unintentional mortality remains very low, the additive effect it has on each species in today’s management of elasmobranch fisheries becomes extremely important. Our management efforts should include the recognition and regulation of all sources of fishing mortality, whether or not that mortality was intended to occur, if we are to prevent the depletion of these resources.

There is unanimity among fisheries biologists and managers assembled in Tokyo, Japan, during April 23-27, 1998, that at a minimum, it is unacceptable to allow the combined effects of target and non-target fishing mortality to reduce elasmobranch stocks below a level of sustainability. In addition, there is agreement among the world’s nations that long-term sustainable use of fisheries resources is the overriding objective of conservation and management. Article 7 of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries states that management measures be designed to maintain or restore stocks at levels capable of producing maximum sustainable yield (MSY), as qualified by relevant environmental and economic factors, including the special requirements of developing countries. It appears possible that short-term economic factors could conceivably be used to adjust management measures such that stocks could be maintained at levels far below that capable of producing MSY, even to levels that would lead to extirpation of a species or stock. It should be made clear that total fishing mortality of elasmobranchs, regardless of intent to capture, location of capture, gear used, species caught, use or disposition of capture, or any other factor, should be no greater than that which is sustainable. In other words, total fishing mortality must be kept sufficiently low to allow each elasmobranch species or stock to maintain itself through reproduction.

Chairman’s summary

Compliance with international guidelines

It is not the task of the TWG to recommend that anyone comply with the guidelines or voluntary international agreements. However it should be pointed out that the FAO Code of Conduct has a provision encouraging countries to implement the Code as law and that the FAO Conference, when it adopted the Code of conduct also noted that Code contains various provisions which could be made compulsory.

Socio-economic issues

The points in the draft guidelines (revenues, costs, fishing activities, employment, development of fisheries) cover this issue and were dealt with by the other WG. Moreover, the precautionary approach includes socio-economic issues and the issue has been well-documented in other international agreements (Kyoto Declaration, Declaration of Rome World Food Summit).

Ethical/moral issues

An extensive discussion took place on the ethical and moral issues of finning of sharks and discarding of carcasses. Although several issues were identified, the group could not reach a consensus as to how to word a guideline concerning finning and the ethical and moral issues involved and considered such a guideline to be outside the remit of the group.

Annex 6


1. Introduction

Management guidelines may be directed at one of three levels. At one level, policy and senior decision makers will be concerned with strategic implications of management, at another, biologists and economists will be concerned with the collection of fisheries-related data and its interpretation. Between these two levels will be the 'operational' managers, those with the mandate to implement plans aimed at achieving management objectives using the information supplied by the resource biologists and fisheries economists. It is at this middle level that these guidelines are directed. These guidelines are intended to supplement those described in the FAO "Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries" (FAO 1995), and elaborated in the FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries, Volume 4 (FAO 1997). In this document, an attempt is made to provide general guidelines that consider the particular characteristics of elasmobranch resources and their fisheries. Although some directed and bycatch fisheries for elasmobranchs might require fundamentally different management responses depending on the respective management objectives, an attempt is made to address these possible differences as required under each specific heading while presenting one single comprehensive document. This might be more appropriate given (a) the poor knowledge about elasmobranch resources and the limited experience for their fisheries management globally, and (b) the inter-changeable nature of elasmobranch fisheries that may rapidly move from one to the other depending on economic and resource considerations.

Fisheries for elasmobranchs (1) may be the object of a specific directed management plan, (2) their management may be implicit within a general national approach, or (3) the fisheries may be prosecuted outside any planning context at all. A common objective of management plans is to achieve a desirable level of fishing mortality in the fishery. This may be done by limiting fishery inputs (i.e., the amount of fishing gear or fishing effort that may be used) in relation to the fishing mortality it generates. The plan may aim to regulate the catch that can be taken from the fishery by setting total allowable catches (TACs), either for the fishery as a whole or broken down by the different gear sectors. Other plans aim to maintain a minimum level of biomass often expressed in relation to its spawning capability.

As apex predators, elasmobranchs have an important role in ocean ecosystems in maintaining the ecological balance. Further, they represent a valuable resource but little attention has been paid to their management.

This report focuses on resource and fishery management issues relevant to preparation of a shark fishery management plan. This part of the recommended guidelines is not concerned with issues of monitoring, control and enforcement (MCS) though obviously without enforcement the success of any management plan is endangered. The report does not deal in detail with issues such as means of ensuring effective stakeholder consultation, despite the importance of such activity to successful implementation of management plans.

In many elasmobranch fisheries, achieving a specific singular elasmobranch management goal is, if not difficult, impossible, because of the multispecies nature of the fisheries. An example is demersal trawl fisheries that catch batoids. Successful conservation of batoid populations in these cases may require restrictions on the activities of the trawl fishery, and consequential under-utilisation of more important target fish resources of the trawl fishery that it is impossible to gain agreement for their implementation.

2. The Information Base

2.1 Introduction

The aim of this section is to provide general guidelines for the data needs for elasmobranchs fisheries management, whether these fisheries are industrial, artisanal or recreational in nature, and whether they target elasmobranchs or take them incidentally. Necessarily, most of the data requirements outlined here are no different for those needed for managing fisheries for almost any other type of marine group. However, knowing the lack of experience in the implementation of management programmes for elasmobranchs and associated data gathering systems in the large majority of fishing countries we feel it would be useful to provide guidelines that were as comprehensive as possible. The layout of this section tries to prioritise by differentiating the types of data that are essential and those that, although important for better fisheries management, might be very difficult to obtain. Undoubtedly, in an ideal situation all the types of information listed here should be available if good management is to be achieved, but considering the different economic, cultural and social realities of each fishing nation, we should be realistic and hope that where ideal conditions do not exist, the available resources are used in gathering the most relevant data. If funding and human resources become more available, managers can tackle lower priority data collection activities. In all cases, a thorough understanding by fishermen of the conservation needs and management system envisioned is recommended for successful gathering of accurate data. This can be achieved by using social scientists together with the biologists for design and implementation of the overall sampling programme.

The proper design of fishery data collection schemes first requires a good understanding and thorough description of the fishery or fisheries acting upon the resource concerned. This includes (i) determination of the structure of each fleet by vessel size and power, gear characteristics, knowledge of their operations and landing sites, and (ii) collation of the information on the distribution and composition of the stocks.

Trends in catch, fishing effort and CPUE are usually critical elements in fishery management decisions. These data can be used for simple stock assessment of shark species by the application of biomass dynamics models. Life history information on reproduction, longevity and growth enable the use of methods such as life tables. More sophisticated methods such as length or age-structured simulation models require, in addition to the above, additional information such as mortality, length and/or age composition, and fishing gear selectivity parameters. These models can be improved by making use of additional information such as time series data on mean size of fish in the catch, and tag release-recapture data. For highly mobile species, uncertainty can be further reduced by using spatially-structured models. In all cases, time series of fishery independent abundance indices can greatly reduce uncertainty in the estimations of any fishery model.

2.2 Estimation of Catches and Effort

Data requirements

These data are the most fundamental and thus their collection should be the first objective of information gathering programmes. Various levels of data collection may be attempted depending on the availability of resources and the management demands.


Accurate estimation of fishery statistics requires sampling programmes based on rigorous probabilistic survey designs for the selection of vessels and fish to be sampled. Methods of design of such sampling programmes have been described in many reports, e.g., Beverton and Holt (1956), Caddy and Bazigos (1985) and Lagler (1968).

Methods that are appropriate for collection of data at-sea are (Note that more than one approach should ideally be used to corroborate and improve the quality of the data):

Shore-based methods are:

Supporting activities

The following approaches - as needed - are recommended to successfully obtain this information:

2.3 Stock Structure and Migration

Given the mobility of many shark species and the large distribution ranges occupied by some. This additional information will permit improved management advice.

This information is essential in the case of migratory or transboundary stocks, and is usually obtained through carefully designed tag and release programmes and by studies of population genetics. Additional techniques are analyses of: catch distribution and timing, morphometrics, life history parameters, and parasitic fauna. Tagging can be done in conjunction with the research surveys and will depend strongly on good reporting rates of recovered tags from the fishermen. A careful analysis of available biochemical techniques should be performed before choosing one for the population genetics studies in order to assure as far as possible the level of resolution needed to differentiate a particular stock (see Carvalho and Hauser 1995).

2.4 Fishery independent abundance indices

Catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) may not reflect the abundance of the stocks as the dynamics of fishermen's behaviour and the movements of the fish stocks may bias or invalidate estimates of CPUE (e.g., see Hilborn and Walters 1992). Research surveys based on statistically sound designs may provide accurate measures of stock abundance. If the CPUE of the fishery does measure resource abundance accurately, survey-based abundance indices can still be important in reducing uncertainty during fitting of stock assessment models to fishery data. Chartering of fishing vessels may provide a cost-effective means of undertaking resource surveys if research vessels are unavailable.

2.5 Biological Information

Resource management advice may be improved if the following biological information is obtained:

Monitoring of Catch Composition

Life History Information

Ecological information

Most of the biological information can be obtained by fishing port and market sampling. Research surveys can be used to gather additional information. If on-board observers are available, they are also a means of data gathering. Well designed tagging studies can be used to provide information on rates of mortality and growth.

2.6 Economics of the Fishery

Management of elasmobranch fisheries may involve economic considerations both at the level of the firm or the vessel, and at the level of the industry, or higher macro-economic level. In this case, consideration such as those of opportunity costs of capital will be of concern. For analysis of vessel or sector profitability, knowledge of costs and revenues of fishing can be determined through appropriate sample surveys. Respondents should be selected on a probabilistic basis according to an appropriate survey design.

(i) Fishing costs

(ii) Revenues

(iii) Subsidies and related interventions

2.7 Social Aspects of the Fishery

Fisheries for elasmobranchs take place within a wide range of social and economic circumstances from industrial fisheries with formal access rights, through open access situations to artisanal fisheries or primarily subsistence fisheries. To successfully take this into consideration, it will be necessary for appropriate social and economic analysis to be carried out. Accurate socio-economic information helps managers determine optimum resource allocation, economic benefit and economic evaluation of various management alternatives. Where appropriate, as central stakeholders, fishermen should be involved in data collection programmes and decisions relating to data collection programmes, using, e.g., log book programmes. Further, usually fishermen's support is essential for the success of management initiatives.

Decisions relating to socio-economic objectives may require information on:

2.8 Trade and Market Data

Trade in shark products has been an important factor in accentuating problems of conservation. Thus, trade data can be important in assisting to characterise management problems. The following data are relevant and should be collected:

3. Literature Cited

Beverton, R.J.H. & S. J. Holt, 1956. A Review of Methods for Estimating Mortality Rates in Exploited Fish Populations with Special Reference to Sources of Bias in Catch Sampling. J. Rapp. Cons. explor. Mer. 140(1):67-83.

Caddy, J.F. and G.P. Bazigos 1985. Practical Guidelines for Statistical Monitoring of Fisheries in Manpower Limited Situations. FAO Tech. Report No. 257. 86pp.

Carvalho, G., and L. Hauser. 1995. Fish population genetics. Rev. Fish Biol. Fish. (5?): xxpp

FAO 1995. Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Rome. 41pp.

FAO 1996. Precautionary Approach to Capture Fisheries and Species Introductions. FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries. No.2. 54pp.

FAO 1997. Fisheries Management. FAO Technical Guildlines for Resonsible Fisheries. No. 4. Rome. 82pp.

Hilborn, R, and C. J. Walters. 1992. Fisheries Stock Assessment: objectives and uncertainty. Chapman and Hall. London, xxx pp

Lagler, K.F., 1968. Capture, Sampling an Biological Sampling Methods and Procedures. In Fish Production in Freshwater. Ed. W.E. Ricker

Annex 7



1. Introduction

For the purpose of the Plan of Action, the term ‘shark’ is taken to include all species of sharks, skates, rays and chimaeras (Class Chondrichthyes). The Technical Working Group considered it was important to expand its terms of reference to add the chimaeras which are closely related to the Elasmobranchs and have the same basic biological characteristics. Shark fishing is taken to include directed, bycatch, commercial, recreational and other forms of fishing taking sharks.

The Plan of Action Recommendations are itemised under five categories. The category designated ‘Data and Research Information’ refers to fishery monitoring data, biological data and published and unpublished material relevant to management and conservation of sharks. ‘Human Resources Capacity Building’ includes training and development of institutional infrastructure. ‘Legal Frameworks’ encompass existing State and National jurisdictions; bilateral, multilateral and regional agreements; and international protocols, conventions, and agreements. ‘Mechanisms for Providing Management’ cover inter-state or trans-national organisations, committees, bodies or working groups established to facilitate fishery manager-scientist-fisherman consultation; sharing, analysis and interpretation of data; stock assessment; and provision of fishery management advice. ‘Funding’ refers to existing and new sources of funds required to implement the Plan of Action.

2. General Action

3. Specific Action

3.1 Data and Research Information

3.1.1 Encourage nations and/or regional management bodies to (i) initiate and enhance ongoing monitoring programs to collect fisheries data as outlined in the Guidelines, and, (ii) to make best estimates of past fisheries data.

3.1.2 Initiate an international collaborative effort in collecting and compiling data and in establishing a common data base for transboundary species

3.1.3 Initiate and enhance international programs of research for transboundary species.

3.1.4 Determine stock structures and trends in abundance, and determine the status and sustainability of stocks.

3.1.5 Update the 1984 FAO Shark Catalogue and develop catalogues for skates and rays (batoids) and chimaeras. From these catalogues, prepare and distribute a range of regional waterproof field guides.

3.1.6 Develop a Procedures Manual for collecting shark fishery monitoring data, for undertaking shark population biology studies and fishery independent surveys, and for describing methods for management and analysis of data, and methods for shark fishery assessment.

3.1.7 Establish an Internet Web Page for dissemination and continual update of information on chondrichthyan taxonomy and population biology of individual species. The Web Page will have bibliographies of relevant literature and directories of available data sets, and facility for questions and answers to assist researchers and fishery managers.

This would complement Internet Bulletin Boards such as ELASMO_L and SHARK_L currently available for international exchange of information and ideas.

3.2 Legal Frameworks

3.2.1 Encourage national governments, entities and/or regional management bodies to implement the Plan of Action under legislation applicable in the regions of their jurisdictions and, where appropriate, under existing bilateral, multilateral and international protocols, conventions and agreements.

3.3 Mechanisms for Implementing Management

3.3.1 Extend the responsibilities of existing bilateral, multilateral and international bodies which have responsibility for provision for fisheries management advice to include, or give higher priority to, shark fisheries. Where necessary, establish new regional agreements.

3.3.2 Establish an international mechanism to co-ordinate and review the implementation of the Plan of Action.

3.3.3 Provide for management of total fishing mortality for sustainability, study methods for obtaining compliance, provide adequate enforcement. Countries that contribute to fishing mortality on a species should participate in its management.

3.3.4 Establish an ad-hoc group of regional management bodies, possibly under FAO, to coordinate worldwide the collection, research and stock assessments on transboundary stocks

3.4 Human Resources Capacity Building

3.4.1 Ask FAO to hold a global series of regional training workshops on methods for shark research including (a) shark identification, (b) data gathering methods, and (c) biological studies along the lines outlined in the proposed Procedures Manual.

3.4.2 Facilitate development of shark research, monitoring and management.

3.4.3 Encourage the collaboration between countries in terms of consultation for training, establishment of fisheries statistics systems and stock assessment.

3.5 Funding

As only limited funds are currently available to support shark research, monitoring and management, and without major increases in levels of funding implementation of the Plan of Action will be impeded:

3.5.1 Seek additional funds from governments, international organizations and where feasible industry to implement the Plan of Action.

3.5.2 Rapid initiation of the Plan of Action and promotion of sharks, provides an opportunity to take advantage of potential funding that might be offered by national governments to promote ‘The Year of the Ocean’.

3.6 Resource Utilization

3.6.1 In support of global food security, nations engaging in fisheries taking sharks shall take steps to promote greater utilization of sharks caught. However, animals which are harvested live and which are members of threatened populations should be released live when possible.


1. Introduction

1.1 Terminology

For the purpose of the Plan of Action, the term ‘shark’ is taken to include all species of sharks, skates, rays and chimaeras (Class Chondrichthyes).

1.2 Background

Shark landings continue to increase globally and, as the population biology, fisheries and threatening processes on this group of fishes are increasingly better understood, it is clear that many species have low productivity. Therefore it is critically important to manage sharks and other chondrichthyans.

The lack of public awareness for the conservation needs of chondrichthyans in some countries together with the historic low value of their products have made the management of shark fisheries a low priority in most countries. Some countries have little or no directed research on sharks.

2. Guiding Principles

3. Problems

1. Taxonomic problems need to be resolved, particularly with batoids, before effective research and management can be achieved.

2. Available catch and effort data for sharks and other shark-like fishes are inadequate in most fisheries.

3. Biological parameters of growth and reproduction have been determined for some species, but other fundamental data, such as monitoring fishing effort and species, sex, length and age composition of the catch required for stock assessment, are not available for most species.

4. Widespread multispecies fisheries take a variety of species all with different potential for sustainable use.

5. Heading, gutting and finning sharks at sea creates difficulties identifying species after landing.

6. There is a general lack of knowledge about critical habitat areas for chondrichthyan species.

7. There is little facility to co-ordinate collection of information on trans-boundary species due to lack of responsibility for these stocks, particularly in international waters.

8. There is a lack of funds for sharks and shark-like fishes.

4. Why sharks need to be treated differently

While not unique to chondrichthyans, this group of fishes generally have:

Priority chondrichthyan issues are common across major geographical regions relating to (1) pelagic sharks (primarily bycatch in tuna longline and purse seine fisheries), (2) demersal trawl fisheries, (3) coastal directed shark fisheries, (4) deepwater sharks, and (5) freshwater sharks.

5. Objectives for conservation of sharks

1. Protect biodiversity and ecosystem structure and function.

2. Control threats to shark populations by implementation of harvesting strategies consistent with the principles of biological sustainability and rational long-term economic use, and by protection of shark habitats.

3. Improve and develop frameworks for establishing and coordinating effective consultation involving all stake-holders in research, management and educational initiatives within and between nations.

4. Identify and pay special attention to particularly vulnerable or threatened species.

1 A list of participants is given in Annex 1.
2 See Annex 2.
3 A list of documents is given in Annex 3.
4 Chair: Gary Matlock.
5 Chair: Ramon Bonfil.
6 Following the guidance given in Article 6 of the Agreement for the implementation of the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to he conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks.