Status of Shark Stocks

There are about 406 recognized species of extant sharks and as one might expect (based on the fact that they comprise 8 orders), these fishes are a diverse group regarding their biological characteristics. As a renewable natural resource important to a wide user group, the sustainability of shark populations is an important socioeconomic and environmental issue. Over the past several decades there has been an appreciable debate (not always scientific) regarding this issue, and during said time many species of sharks have been placed on a variety of conservation lists that raise notice of species imperilment. Both sides of the aforementioned debate are represented by strong lobbies that attempt to influence political decisions that in turn determine how governmental resources are allocated. And, based on a realization that misallocated funding jeopardizes other important initiatives that compete for funding, it is critical that political decisions be based at least in part on sound science.

In this assignment you will play the role of a Congressional Science Aid whose duty it is to research scientific topics and provide summary information and advice to the Congressperson you are assigned to. Although he is an idiot who can’t think his way out of a paper bag, your Congressman (Congressman Jingles) is smart enough to know that in the future he may have to cast another vote directly or indirectly related to shark conservation. And although rigorous science doesn’t always rule the day regarding such votes, Congressman Jingles likes to appear as if he knows what he’s talking about.

With the above in mind, your assignment is to research the aforementioned scientific “debate” regarding the imperilment of shark populations and species and provide Congressman Jingles a technical overview (with citations) of each side of the issue (i.e., sharks are imperiled vs. sharks are not imperiled). This overview should be concise, well-written, informative, and “balanced” regarding both sides of the issue. Then, under the heading, “Informed Opinion,” you should state which side of this debate seems to be most strongly supported by sound science and in doing so you should discuss the scientific strengths and weaknesses of each position. Lastly, the Congressman likes to know where his constituency falls regarding issues he confronts. And so, under the heading, “Probable Lobbies,” you are to list various groups (the more the better), institutions, and industries that will likely support each side of this issue.

To get you started, the “good” Congressman has given you some papers which he has been alerted to (see list provided at the end of this document). However, being the professional that you are, you realize that a literature search is in order to gather what is needed to carry out the assignment.