Endangered Sharks of Peru and the Ban to Save Them

When Biology student Julia Grace Mason requested a DOI from the SDR team for her recent dataset deposit, I was pleased to see continued uptake of our DOI service launched earlier this year with Stanford Libraries' new membership to DataCite. This service is of growing importance to Stanford’s publishing researchers! While preparing the metadata for the DOI, I had the opportunity to check out what her research is all about. If you are interested in sharks, Peru, ecology, and qualitative-quantitative hybrid research methods, you will agree this work is impressive!

I asked Julia for more background on her research and here is what she said:

"This is part of my dissertation work (I'm defending in two weeks!). I work with a Lima-based non-profit, ProDelphinus, which has been working with small-scale fishermen in Peru for almost 20 years. They have an extensive dataset of onboard observer records of where fishermen set their nets and what they caught, which is quite rare for small-scale fisheries, and awesome for building the spatial habitat models I was hoping to learn during my PhD."

"They suggested I focus on hammerhead sharks, because they were salient from a policy perspective: several species of hammerhead were listed under the international endangered species trade agreement in 2013, so Peru had to demonstrate that they're managing their shark fisheries and implemented a seasonal hammerhead ban in 2016. The especially crazy thing is that 98% of hammerhead catch is of juveniles, which we generally think of as being an unsustainable fishing practice. There are interesting ecological and biological questions for me here. Hardly anything is known about these sharks' habitat and where they're being caught, as well as social/policy questions: sharks are targeted primarily as food in Peru, not just for fins, so these sharks are a potentially important source of food and livelihoods, and gillnets are notoriously unselective. For this reason, a ban that prohibits fishing a single species seemed like an odd choice."

"So, I built a statistical model characterizing where juvenile hammerheads are caught by looking at the environmental profile (temperature, chlorophyll, currents, etc.) of all the gillnet fishing sets that did or didn't catch juvenile hammerheads in ProDelphinus's database. But that didn't tell me why they're catching baby sharks specifically. Are they more delicious? Have all the adults been fished out? How effective will the ban be? To explore that, I interviewed 88 gillnet fishermen in the ports that land the most hammerheads, asking them about the general context of the fishery and their perceptions of and reactions to the ban. I also asked them about what environmental cues they use to fish for hammerheads, and paired their local knowledge with my statistical model. All of that interview data is now in the SDR!"

Amanda Whitmire, Head of the Miller Library at Hopkins Marine Station, introduced Julia to the SDR services. She commented, "We have a modest but growing collection of items in the Hopkins Marine Station Collection, and Julia's dataset from her interviews in Peru is a fantastic addition." This Data Story was writt

This Data Story was written by Hannah Frost.

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