Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2014

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Alexander Cruz

Second Advisor

Dale Miller

Third Advisor

Heidi Souder

Abstract

Sharks have not historically been considered a valuable resource but, with the increase in demand for their fins, shark catch numbers have risen dramatically and many shark populations are suffering. It is difficult to know the extent of the problem because there is a lack of information about sharks and shark catch is vastly under-reported. The smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zygaena) is valuable in the shark fin market for its eight, large fins and is frequently landed at the Puerto López fish market in Ecuador. EquililbrioAzul is a marine conservation organization that has been keeping track of shark catch in the Puerto López market for the last seven years. Analyses of these data show that juvenile and male smooth hammerheads are being overfished and that total catch and average total length have remained relatively static since 2007. It is important to use this data to drive future regulation and fishing methods in the area in order to protect the local populations of sharks. Based on this data I recommend that conservation efforts focus on changing fishing locations to prevent landing juvenile sharks, improving data collection, community education on the importance of shark conservation, and continuing research on smooth hammerhead behavior and ecology worldwide.

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