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Overfishing great sharks wiped out North Carolina bay scallop fishery

CHAPEL HILL -- Fewer big sharks in the oceans led to the destruction of North Carolinas bay scallop fishery and inhibits the recovery of depressed scallop, oyster and clam populations along the U.S. Atlantic Coast, according to an article in the March 30 issue of the journal Science.

A team of Canadian and American ecologists, led by world-renowned fisheries biologist Ransom Myers of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has found that overfishing in the Atlantic of the largest predatory sharks, such as the bull, great white, dusky and hammerhead sharks, has led to an explosion of their ray, skate and small shark prey species.

"With fewer sharks around, the species they prey upon like cownose rays have increased in numbers, and in turn, hordes of cownose rays dining on bay scallops have wiped the scallops out," said co-author Julia Baum of Dalhousie.

"This ecological event is having a large impact on local communities that depend so much on healthy fisheries," said Charles Peterson, a professor of marine sciences biology and ecology at the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and co-leader of the study.

In 2003, Myers and Baum published a study in Science that showed rapid declines in the great sharks of the northwest Atlantic since the mid-1980s. In the new study, funded by the Pew Institute for Ocean Science, the research team examined a dozen different research surveys from 1970-2005 along the eastern U.S. coast and found that their original study underestimated the declines: scalloped hammerhead and tiger sharks may have declined by more than 97 percent; bull, dusky and smooth hammerhead sharks by more than 99 percent.

"The extent of the declines shouldnt be a surprise considering how heavily large sharks have been fished in recent decades to meet the growing worldwide demand for shark fins and meat," Baum said.

Sharks are targeted in numerous fi
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Contact: Clinton Colmenares
clinton_colmenares@unc.edu
919-843-1991
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
29-Mar-2007


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