SOS supports well-designed scientific research projects on sharks and rays that take advantage of non-lethal techniques and minimise, where possible, the use of lethal sampling. However, we believe that shark populations will benefit most when decisions about the use of lethal sampling in research are made on the basis of scientific evidence that is free from individual, political, public, and media pressures.
General consensus among scientists and the public regarding the status of shark populations is leading to an increasing need for the scientific community to provide information to help guide effective management and conservation actions. Experience from other marine vertebrate taxa suggests that public, political, and media pressures will play an increasingly important part in setting research, management, and conservation priorities.
Although lethal sampling comes at a cost to a population, especially for threatened species, the conservation benefits from well-designed studies provide essential data that cannot be obtained currently by any other way. Methods that enable non-lethal collection of life-history data on sharks are being developed (e.g. use of blood samples to detect maturity), but in the near future they will not provide widespread or significant benefits. Development of these techniques needs to continue, as does the way in which scientists coordinate use of material collected during lethal sampling. For almost half of the known shark species, there are insufficient data to determine their population status, and thus, there is an ongoing need for further collection of scientific data to ensure all shark populations have a future.
Nevertheless, changing the attitudes of the public, managers, and scientists may be a double-edged sword. If the push to conserve sharks becomes extreme, scientific research could be slowed as scientists are prevented from conducting the types of research that initially exposed the plight of some shark species and that underpin conservation measures.
Our view on this issue is based on the most current scientific literature, where available. However, we recognise that our knowledge of the natural world is ever changing and new discoveries are being made every day. If you believe our position on this issues may warrant a review, based on new scientific evidence, please send us your comments and any related literature and we will endeavour to investigate and amend our position where appropriate.