Shifting baselines and the decline of pelagic sharks in the Gulf of Mexico

Shifting baselines and the decline of pelagic sharks in the Gulf of Mexico Historical abundances of many large marine vertebrates were tremendously greater than today. However, while pelagic sharks are known to have declined rapidly in the northwest Atlantic in recent years, there, as elsewhere, little is known about the former natural abundances of these species. Here, we compare initial (1950s) and recent (late‐1990s) standardized catch rates of pelagic sharks in the Gulf of Mexico, the area where methods of exploitation between these two periods were most comparable. We estimate that oceanic whitetip and silky sharks, formerly the most commonly caught shark species, have declined by over 99 and 90%, respectively. That the former prevalence of oceanic whitetip sharks in this ecosystem is unrecognized today is clear evidence of shifting baselines. Our analysis provides the missing baseline for pelagic sharks in the Gulf of Mexico that is needed for the rational management and restoration of these species. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Ecology Letters Wiley

Shifting baselines and the decline of pelagic sharks in the Gulf of Mexico

Ecology Letters, Volume 7 (2) – Feb 1, 2004

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Publisher
Wiley
Copyright
Copyright © 2004 Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company
ISSN
1461-023X
eISSN
1461-0248
DOI
10.1111/j.1461-0248.2003.00564.x
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Historical abundances of many large marine vertebrates were tremendously greater than today. However, while pelagic sharks are known to have declined rapidly in the northwest Atlantic in recent years, there, as elsewhere, little is known about the former natural abundances of these species. Here, we compare initial (1950s) and recent (late‐1990s) standardized catch rates of pelagic sharks in the Gulf of Mexico, the area where methods of exploitation between these two periods were most comparable. We estimate that oceanic whitetip and silky sharks, formerly the most commonly caught shark species, have declined by over 99 and 90%, respectively. That the former prevalence of oceanic whitetip sharks in this ecosystem is unrecognized today is clear evidence of shifting baselines. Our analysis provides the missing baseline for pelagic sharks in the Gulf of Mexico that is needed for the rational management and restoration of these species.

Journal

Ecology LettersWiley

Published: Feb 1, 2004

References

  • Extinction vulnerability in marine populations
    Dulvy, Dulvy; Sadovy, Sadovy; Reynolds, Reynolds

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