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Bio-logging Blues | Oceanographic 16

In partnership with Oceanographic, we've been sharing some of the best stories from the magazine on The Broadcast; bringing different perspectives from around the world to our community of sea lovers.
In the feature article of Issue 16, Nuno Vasco Rodrigues dives into the story of a team of researchers in the Azores are using a non-invasive tagging technique to better understand and protect the local blue shark population. This is an excerpt from that story, exclusive to the Broadcast.

 

A blue shark cruising gracefully through the crystal clear waters of the Azores

Blue sharks are the most fished species of shark. This is one of the main conclusions of a recently published report by TRAFFIC, a non-governmental organisation working globally on the trade in wild animals and plants in the context of both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. It is an assertion supported by numerous other studies. The blue's status as the most fished in the world translates, of course, to a dramatic decrease in population numbers globally. The species is now listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as ‘Critically Endangered’ in the Mediterranean and ‘Near Threatened’ worldwide.

The blue shark is a wide-ranging species. It can be found in both tropical and temperate regions and is predominantly fished as bycatch (non-targeted) by longline and driftnet fisheries, which target tuna and swordfish, species that attain a much higher market value than blue sharks. The sharks are discarded immediately after being fished, often while still alive, but not before being finned – blue shark fins are amongst the most abundant in international trade – which prevents them from swimming, leading them to sink to the seafloor and die of suffocation or blood loss.

 

View from above as two blue sharks pass by one another

Slow growth rate, delayed maturation and small number of descendants are some of the inherent conditions of blue sharks’ biology (along with many other species of sharks), that make them extremely vulnerable to human exploitation. 

“The sharks are discarded after being fished, often while still alive, but not before being finned – blue shark fins are amongst the most abundant in international trade – which prevents them from swimming, leading them to sink to the seafloor and die.” 

As apex predators, sitting at the top of the food chain, these animals play a critical role in ecosystem balance. As such, there is an urgency in the need to implement efficient conservation strategies that promote the species’ protection and population recovery. The starting point for those strategies is a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the shark’s functional ecology...

  

Close up of a blue sharks nose with a research diver seen in the background 

Words and Images by Nuno Vasco Rodrigues


Read the full story in Oceanographic Issue 16

 

Oceanographic, Issue 16 Oceanographic, Issue 16

Oceanographic, Issue 16

In Issue 16, discover how a team of researchers in the Azores are using a non-invasive tagging technique to better understand and protect t


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