WWF-Canada’s Atlantic Shark Forum was the first step in a collaborative process that brought together fishermen, scientists, managers and practitioners that either interact with shark species directly or are involved in the conservation and management of sharks in Atlantic Canadian waters. The goal of the forum was to identify top priorities that, if addressed, would significantly advance conservation and management of sharks and inspire collaboration between different interest groups. Representatives from several regions/departments of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, relevant gear sectors (pelagic longline, bottom longline, trawl/dragger, groundfish gillnet, recreational shark fishing and shark derbies), non-governmental organizations, tourism, and academia attended the forum.
To accomplish the above stated goal, participants were asked to develop, review and agree upon a broad range of priorities during two working group sessions over a period of a day and a half. During the first session, participants were organized, where possible, according to their expertise (on-the-water practice, science and policy/management) to discuss the top priorities that they felt to be most pressing. During the second session, working groups were rearranged at random, to achieve mixed-representation, and discussed which of the top priorities agreed upon in the previous category-specific session were cross-cutting or top priorities for all stakeholders.
The cross-cutting priorities that were identified by forum participants are provided in the table below. These priorities represent the key issues and/or actions that participants felt to be most pressing. Note that priorities are not listed in any particular order of importance.
Table 1: Top cross-cutting priorities for conservation, protection and understanding of Atlantic Canadian shark species
The Atlantic Shark Forum proved to be a successful collaborative first step in identifying conservation priorities for sharks in Atlantic Canada. The forum connected a variety of stakeholders and presented a tremendous opportunity to unveil the various perspectives and initiatives that exist on sharks in Atlantic Canada. Sharing information and knowledge from all walks of life allowed relationships, and potential partnerships, to be cultivated, opening the door for future collaborative projects which will identify solutions to conservation issues discussed throughout the forum; something that has never previously been done for sharks in Atlantic Canada. Participation by 42 participants from throughout Atlantic Canada revealed a high level of interest in advancing the protection and conservation of sharks, but as the results above show, there is still a great deal of work to be done in order to secure the future for sharks.