Abstract: Oceanic shark populations have declined 77% over the past 60 years as a result of overexploitation in fisheries. However, sustainable shark management is limited to a few developed nations that have the capacity to implement sophisticated fisheries management. Developing nations are limited by a lack of data, funding, and capacity. These recognized limitations have resulted in the widespread use of spatial management due to ease of implementation, including marine protected areas (MPAs) and closures to commercial retention of sharks across exclusive economic zones, defined as shark sanctuaries. Global shark sanctuaries cover 19 million square kilometers of ocean, covering 5% of the world’s oceans, with 88% of sanctuary area in the waters of Pacific island nations. Despite their widespread coverage, no study has evaluated the effectiveness of sanctuaries on the wide-ranging species they are meant to protect. This thesis explored the effectiveness of shark sanctuaries on wide-ranging sharks through a multidisciplinary approach, using a case study in the Cook Islands (1.997 million km2). This seminar will focus on my investigations by: (1) identifying gaps and inconsistencies in global shark policies that may preclude mortality reduction in wide-ranging sharks; (2) identifying habitat linkages between pelagic and reef sharks, and identifying the drivers of abundance in areas that are fished by local vessels; (3) understanding whether implementation of the sanctuary lead to changes in industrial fishing behavior, and (4) examining movement ecology of wide-ranging sharks associated with industrial fisheries to determine benefits derived from an individual shark sanctuary.
Biography: Jess Cramp is originally from the landlocked Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, USA, but now happily resides on a tiny Pacific island surrounded by water. Jess co-championed a grassroots campaign that resulted in the Cook Islands Shark Sanctuary in 2012, during which she realized there were research gaps, including a lack of effectiveness evaluations on many marine conservation and fisheries policies. Before embarking on a PhD, she transitioned from a drug discovery biologist to a marine biologist, fulfilling a lifelong dream. She’s led marine research expeditions through small Pacific islands and improved her surfing and freediving abilities while working with governments, fishers and community members on marine conservation throughout the region. She is currently a PhD candidate at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence (ARC CoE) for Coral Reef Studies and the Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture at James Cook University under the supervision of Professor Bob Pressey, Professor Colin Simpfendorfer and Dr. Michelle Heupel. Jess’ thesis evaluates the effectiveness of large-scale marine reserves on wide-ranging sharks through a case study of the Cook Islands Shark Sanctuary. She is the founder and executive director of Sharks Pacific, a non-profit organization that conducts research, outreach and advocacy throughout the Pacific Islands region. Her work focuses on the development of effective conservation policies through improving fisheries management, human-wildlife conflict prevention, community empowerment, and the consideration of people and the environment in equal measure. Jess was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2015 and an AAAS If/Then Ambassador in 2019.