The social oceanography of top oceanic predators and the decline of sharks: A call for a new field
Abbreviated Journal Title
MARINE ECOSYSTEMS; LONGLINE FISHERY; CONSERVATION; MARKET; TRADE; CATCH; MANAGEMENT; DYNAMICS; COLLAPSE; ATLANTIC; Oceanography
The decline of top oceanic predators (TOPs), such as great sharks, and worldwide erosion of the marine food web is among the most important functional changes in marine systems. Yet, even though human pressures on sharks are one of the most important factors in the collapse of TOPs, the social science of shark fishing has not kept pace with the biophysical science. Such a gap highlights the need for a marine social science, and this paper uses the case of sharks to illustrate some advances that a coherent marine social science community could bring to science and sustainability, and calls for the development of this new field. Social oceanography is proposed as a "discursive space" that will allow multiple social science and humanities disciplines to holistically study and bring insight to a diverse but essential community. Such a community will not provide answers for the physical sciences, but it will add a new understanding of the contingencies that riddle social behavior that ultimately interact with marine systems. Such a field should reflect the broad and diverse approaches, epistemologies, philosophies of science and foci that are in the human disciplines themselves. Social oceanography would complete the triumvirate of biological and physical oceanography where human systems profoundly impact these other areas. This paper tests the theory that institutional rules are contingent on social priorities and paradigms. I used content analysis of all available (1995-2006) State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) reports from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to measure the symbolic behavior i.e., what they say as an indication of the value of sharks in world fisheries. Similar tests were also performed for marine journals and the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals to corroborate these findings. Then, I present an institutional analysis of all international capacity building and regulatory institutions as they pertain to sharks. We find that sharks are not a high priority compared to other fisheries; and, amongst issue areas, ecological concerns are overshadowed by a paradigm of economism (economic values are demonstrated above all others). Further, sharks have no global binding institutions for conservation, and only new and problematic rules at regional levels. Consequently, human pressures on sharks are partially explained through social marginalization that legitimizes permissive international rules that: (1) have limited scope of authority, (2) provide little-to-no active management of sharks, (3) have important enforcement problems, and (4) are generally not reinforced with National Plans of Action demonstrating a lack of commitment at both national and international scales. Thus, active management of shark populations is nearly non-existent meanwhile pressures on sharks, such as through finning, have increased in the last 20 years and there is strong evidence that many shark species are in decline and may not be able to recover. This paper concludes by arguing that biological oceanography of sharks is fundamentally linked to human dimensions, and, therefore, theories and systematic study of human dimensions in oceanography are crucial to provide more comprehensive understanding of complete social-marine systems. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Progress in Oceanography
Article; Proceedings Paper
"The social oceanography of top oceanic predators and the decline of sharks: A call for a new field" (2010). Faculty Bibliography 2010s. 295.