Leopard SharkA Canadian researcher is asking divers to contribute to a global shark census.

Christine Ward-Paige, PhD student at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, says…”We believe that scuba divers/snorkellers possess valuable information about the critters they see in the ocean – especially about conspicuous species like sharks. Reports about the places where you don’t see sharks (either today or 50 years ago) are just as important as places where you do see sharks.”

The study will not only provide valuable information about where sharks are surviving, but it will also show that scuba divers can provide valuable information. To date, most of the data on global shark populations is gained from fishermen and tracking of individual sharks. Scuba divers are a vital, untapped resource and key to filling information gaps.

With overwhelming evidence that shark populations have declined dramatically over the last 50 years, there are still places where some shark species are persisting and even thought to be thriving. Identification of these species and areas is an important step in determining the best method for recovery. In a time when the number of no-take zones and fishing restrictions are increasing, there is a need for acquiring data through alternative, non-extractive methods. All scuba divers and snorkellers that have been in the ocean can help with this effort.

Sharks are an essential component of marine ecosystems; yet, human pressure has put many species at dangerously low abundance levels. Determining what tools (e.g. Marine Protected Areas, coastal development, undisturbed nurseries, fishing regulations, etc.) are best for their survival will be essential for restoring, at least in part, these systems to their former resilience.

To take part in the survey go to http://www.globalshark.ca/shark_survey.php?lang=en&sub=3
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