Sharks and rays conservation: Stellaris Project
As apex predators, sharks play an important role in the ecosystem by maintaining the species below them in the food chain and serving as an indicator for ocean health. They help remove the weak and the sick as well as keeping the balance with competitors helping to ensure species diversity.
Sharks help maintain the health of ocean ecosystems, including seagrass beds and coral reefs. Healthy oceans undoubtedly depend on sharks.
Oceana released a report in July 2008, “Predators as Prey: Why Healthy Oceans Need Sharks”, illustrating our need to protect sharks.
The Stellaris Project
There is no doubt that shark populations are in decline the world over. One of the key life history traits that compromises the ability of sharks to meet this challenge is due to their relatively slow growth and maturation rates, and their low reproduction rates. These characteristics mean that sharks are particularly vulnerable to over-exploitation.
The Stellaris Project aims to breed Scyliorhinus stellaris in captivity. The Nursehound shark is a large catshark that can reach up to 1.6 m in length. It is generally found among rocks or algae at a depth of 20–60 m. The embryonic development to hatching takes 9 months, and the size at hatching is around 16cm.
Some fisheries don’t directly target sharks, but many are killed as unnecessary by-catch as a result of inefficient and unsustainable fishing methods.
To improve the trajectory of shark populations and the outlook for the species, it is important that more sustainable fishing methods are employed, demand for shark fin soup and related shark products is reduced and the practice of shark finning needs to be outlawed altogether.