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News Article
Site: http://www.reuters.com

Specialist Raidel Borroto addresses the audience in front of a slide on the subject of sharks in Havana, Cuba October 21, 2015. The action plan, reached through two years of collaborative research with the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), will impose size and capture limits on fishermen, set aside protected areas and create closed seasons for shark-fishing, officials said. The Cuban government has recognized its special place in the world of sharks as scientists believe nearly 100 of the world's 500 shark species swim in Cuban waters, sustained by a relatively healthy coral reefs, the EDF says. Protecting shark populations also makes business sense for the fishing and tourism industries. Scuba divers travel from around the world to swim with Cuba's sharks. "Cuba is considered the crown jewel of the Caribbean, principally because of its incredible coral reef ecosystems, its mangroves, its sea grasses," said Daniel Whittle, EDF's Cuba program director. "Healthy sharks mean healthy corals. Healthy corals mean healthy sharks." Cubans fish sharks for their meat, and more aggressive overfishing and environmental degradation elsewhere in the Caribbean have taken their toll, which is why conservation needs to be international, Whittle said. The EDF last year put an electronic tag on one longfin mako shark off Cuba that swam some 6,000 miles (10,000 km) over five months, reaching the coast of New Jersey, Whittle said. Cuba already has protective measures such as banning "finning," the harvesting of sharks only for their fins. The new action plan "will empower scientists in Cuba ... who will work directly with fishermen. That information will be used by managers to develop new closed areas that sharks need for nurseries, management measures to protect juveniles, rebuild populations and help sustain them," Whittle said. The plan builds on research developed by Cuban scientists who have been working with fishermen for the past five years to understand which species are most vulnerable. "Getting fishermen involved in collecting data has been critical," Jorge Angulo, senior scientist with Cuba's Center for Marine Research, said in an EDF statement.

News Article
Site: http://www.nature.com/nature/current_issue/

Cuba is surrounded by sharks. Fishermen catch them, residents eat them and, increasingly, tourists are coming to see them. Now the island nation is gearing up to manage them, and its efforts are bolstering a nascent environmental partnership with the United States. “It’s a big step forward for Cuba and the region,” says Jorge Angulo-Valdés, head of the Marine Conservation Group at the University of Havana’s Center for Marine Research and a visiting professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville. “It’s time for us to get together, identify common goals in resource management and make them work.” On 21 October, Cuba plans to release a management plan that will lay the groundwork for research and, eventually, regulations to protect extensive but largely undocumented shark and ray populations. Roughly half of the 100 species of shark resident in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico have been seen in Cuban waters, including some — such as the whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus) and longfin mako (Isurus paucus) — that have experienced sharp declines elsewhere. The Cuban government has consulted with environmentalists and academics from the United States and other countries in developing the plan. “Cuba is a kind of biodiversity epicentre for sharks,” says Robert Hueter, director of the Center for Shark Research at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, Florida, who is one of those working with the Cuban scientists. “The science is not at a level yet to do rigorous stock estimates, but we are moving in that direction with this plan.” Most of what is known about Cuba’s shark populations has come from the fishing industry, which often captures sharks as by-products of its regular operations. The Cuban government has already established marine protected areas along 20% of its coastline and is planning to expand that network within the 70,000 square kilometres of its coastal fishery. It has also begun to regulate the equipment used in fishing, and is looking to establish catch limits for various fish species, including sharks. Both US and Cuban scientists say that the collaboration is helping to pave the way for more formal cooperation now that the two cold-war foes have re-established political relations. In April, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sent a research vessel on a cruise around the island with Cuban scientists. And on 5 October, US secretary of state John Kerry and Cuban officials announced at an oceans conference in Chile that the two nations were finalizing plans to cooperate on research, education and management in marine protected areas. The agreement could be finalized as early as next month, says Billy Causey, regional director for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries in Key West, Florida. US environmentalists began pushing the idea of cooperation with Cuba on marine conservation after the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, who pledged during the campaign to engage with Cuba. The first signs of real progress came in September 2009, says Daniel Whittle, who heads the Cuba programme for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), an environmental group based in New York City. Then, the United States allowed four Cuban scientists, three of whom were marine and coastal researchers, to attend a series of meetings in the country. And in November last year, Angulo-Valdés was part of a cadre of Cuban scientists that visited the state department and several members of Congress. A month later, Obama ordered the restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba. “It’s slowly beginning to change,” says Whittle, referring to links between the nations. “That’s why the announcement in Chile was so significant: finally the two governments publicly acknowledged that they are in fact working directly together on environmental issues.” The EDF and other conservation groups have been trying to build cooperation between Cuba, Mexico and the United States within the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA’s April cruise, which focused on tallying the larvae of bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) in Cuban and Mexican waters, marked the first formal government engagement on that front since Obama’s December announcement, Causey says. The main question facing the shark-management plan is whether the Cuban government will be able to mobilize enough money to implement it. The EDF and other groups have been raising funds to pay for some of the initial work on the plan, including training fishing crews to identify and report the sharks that they catch. But scientists need to conduct population surveys that are independent of those done by commercial fisheries, and Cuban research institutions are already stretched thin. The country has only two operational research vessels, and scarce resources to equip and operate them. The kind of tags needed to track shark movements through satellites can cost US$2,500 each. So far, Cuba has tagged just four sharks with such devices. “We have to see how the government implements the plan, and how they get around the funding problem,” Angulo-Valdés says. “It’s going to be a challenge.”

Muehlbauer F.,University of Rostock | Fraser D.,Marine Scotland - Marine Laboratory | Brenner M.,Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research | Van Nieuwenhove K.,Belgium Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research | And 10 more authors.
Ocean and Coastal Management | Year: 2014

Intentional transfers of numerous bivalve species have had a long tradition and are commonly conducted along the European Atlantic coast. However numerous studies have concluded that intentional transfer of species for aquaculture purposes is one of the most principal vectors for the introduction of exotic species around the world. Threats due to the transfer and introduction of species have been identified and a range of global and regional agreements, guidelines, standards and statutes to minimize effects have been established. Yet whether such regulations can protect and conserve the marine environment and address economic considerations remains unanswered. This study provides the first overview of bivalve transfer activities for aquaculture purposes along the European Atlantic coast. Existing international and EU legislation is described, and potential weaknesses in the existing legislative frameworks are discussed. Recommendations for the development of integrated risk assessment methods are given. These may help to minimize the intrinsic threats of transfer activities in marine environments. The resulting impacts and effects of transfer activities of bivalves for aquaculture purpose are addressed in detail in a companion paper. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. Source

Stelzenmuller V.,VTI Institute of Sea Fisheries | Breen P.,CEFAS | Stamford T.,CEFAS | Thomsen F.,CEFAS | And 31 more authors.
Marine Policy | Year: 2013

This study introduces a framework for the monitoring and evaluation of spatially managed areas (SMAs), which is currently being tested by nine European case studies. The framework provides guidance on the selection, mapping, and assessment of ecosystem components and human pressures, the evaluation of management effectiveness and potential adaptations to management. Moreover, it provides a structured approach with advice on spatially explicit tools for practical tasks like the assessment of cumulative impacts of human pressures or pressure-state relationships. The case studies revealed emerging challenges, such as the lack of operational objectives within SMAs, particularly for transnational cases, data access, and stakeholder involvement. Furthermore, the emerging challenges of integrating the framework assessment using scientific information with a structured governance research analysis based mainly on qualitative information are addressed. The lessons learned will provide a better insight into the full range of methods and approaches required to support the implementation of the ecosystem approach to marine spatial management in Europe and elsewhere. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. Source

Brenner M.,Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research | Fraser D.,Marine Scotland - Marine Laboratory | Van Nieuwenhove K.,Belgium Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research | O'Beirn F.,Marine Institute of Ireland | And 10 more authors.
Ocean and Coastal Management | Year: 2014

For centuries human populations have moved live shellfish around the world for consumption or aquaculture purposes; being relayed from their area of origin for growout or sale. This is in contrast to the inadvertent anthropogenic spreading of species via e.g. ballast waters. There are inherent risks associated with transfer of shellfish including introducing of alien species, diseases, pests, bacteria and viruses associated with the translocated species in addition to the potential impact on genetic integrity and biodiversity of local stocks. Many examples of severe ecological impacts have been documented worldwide owing to the intentional or unintentional translocation of animals. It is therefore important to develop risk reduction methods which have not yet been documented to be incorporated into current fish health or environmental legislation. This part of the study describes the impacts of transfer activities of cultured bivalve shellfish along the European Atlantic coast; identifies hitch hiker species, fouling organisms or infectious agents which can be translocated with a target species. Further, the study highlights the need for thorough, standard risk reduction measures designed to minimise the impact on ecosystems worldwide. In a companion paper details of actual transfer activities in Atlantic Europe are presented and all levels of legislation dealing with transfer activities on a global, regional and national scale are carefully reviewed. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. Source

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