400 experts meet in Valencia

Four hundred experts from five continents will gather at Sharks International – International Congress of sharks– which, for the first time in its history, will take place in Europe

O sharksrays and chimaeras are the most threatened vertebrates on the planet, after amphibians: a third of the more than 1,500 species that make up this group could become extinct in the coming years, according to the latest estimates by the International Union for Conservation of Nature • Nature (IUCN) .

The disappearance of these key predators means the loss of commercial fisheries and the decline of ecosystems such as coral reefs, warns the organization Océana. To talk about its urgent conservation, hundreds of experts from five continents will meet at Sharks International – International Congress of sharks– which, for the first time in its history, will take place in Europe. Oceanogràfic de València, a leading agent in the development of knowledge about these species, co-organizes and hosts the event, which will take place between the 19th and 22nd of October

The magnitude of this worldwide event calls for the participation of other organizations and associations that also act as co-organizers of the event, such as LAMNA, Submon and Shark Trust.

“Of the sharks everything is used”, explains one of the organizers of the meeting, Pablo García-Salinas, a researcher at Fundación Oceanogràfic, LAMNA and the Universitat Politècnica de València. His meat is cheap; with its skin, leather is made; collagen is extracted from its cartilage for dietary supplements; its bones are ornaments for jewelry; and, finally, it is the basis of livestock and pet food. Not to mention the frequent accidental captures. “The biggest enemy of the so-called elasmobranchs is overfishing, and in Europe, Spain is at the forefront of catches,” he says.

In addition to declining fisheries, these fish suffer from habitat loss caused by coastal pressure and climate change. “All this will be the subject of debate among about 400 participants who will approach conservation not only from science, but also from political pressure and communication”, he highlights. Researchers are aware that all proposals must face the fact that sharks they had a bad reputation, something that goes against their preservation.

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“The speakers are the most cited elasmobranch specialists in the world,” says García-Salinas. Among them, the English Sarah Fowler, who, with 30 years of experience in biodiversity conservation, is one of the authors of Sharks of The World, the most relevant book on these animals, could not be missing. His compatriot Ali Hood, an expert who lobbies the EU’s fisheries votes to, among other things, set quotas, will also be present.

Researcher Britt Finucci and her colleague Andrew Chin will share their views on the effect of fishing on these marine species, both at depth and in coastal fisheries, in New Zealand and Australia, respectively. In turn, David Jiménez will tell of his experience leading a project to protect sharks in the Canary Islands. And to give the vision of how to arrive sharks and stripes for the general public, American writer and popularizer David Shiffman will intervene.

This is the fourth edition of a congress that takes place every four years around the world. Previous editions took place in Australia, South Africa and Brazil. On this occasion, they will take advantage of the fact that it takes place at Oceanogràfic’s facilities to teach the techniques developed by their team of researchers for the correct handling of sharks in laboratory. “We are knowledge generators, essential for planning effective conservation actions; In addition, we have created many awareness-raising and awareness-raising campaigns for the population”, concludes Pablo García.

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