Photo provided by Meira Mizrahi

Photo provided by Meira Mizrahi

Maximising outcomes for shark and ray Marine Protected Areas

Spatial management efforts intended for shark and ray conservation range from small no-take reserves (e.g. Marine Protected Areas) to whole of exclusive economic zone “Shark Sanctuaries”. In 2015 almost one third of all MPAs were designated for the protection of sharks. Despite their popularity there is a dearth of knowledge about the extent to which these types of protections benefit shark and ray populations. Without this type of knowledge it is impossible to evaluate if they have been effective. Nor is it possible to identify places where spatial protections may provide benefits for conservation efforts in the future.

In addition to the range of possible goals for protected areas, there are a range of factors that are likely to affect the success of MPAs that must be considered in evaluating and planning future management and conservation efforts. These include the size and placement of reserves relative to movement patterns and lifecycle, the proportion of the population protected, and the likelihood that human communities will comply with the regulations governing the protection. MPAs are also used to achieve a range of biological and livelihood outcomes and it is important that there is a clear understanding of what these interconnected outcomes are in different contexts.   The aim of this project is to address these knowledge gaps by providing a set of objective products that conservation decision makers, policy makers, funders, advocates and scientists can use to make informed decisions about the use of MPAs to improve population outcomes for sharks and rays. The scale of products will range from national to global, with MPA sizes from sub-national to national, and representing coastal and open ocean areas depending on the species and areas of focus.

Principal Investigators: Colin Simpfendorfer and Amy Diedrich in collaboration with Michelle Heupel (Australian Institute of Marine Science) and Nick K Dulvy (Simon Fraser University, Canada).   

Co-investigators: Jessica Cramp (James Cook University), Stephanie Duce, Ross Dwyer (University of Queensland, Australia), Tracy MacKeracher, Meira Mizrahi, Chris Mull (Simon Fraser University, Canada), Cassie Rigby (James Cook University), Vinay Udawer (Australian Institute of Marine Science).

Funding: Shark Conservation Fund