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Recovery Strategy for the Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus) in Canadian Pacific Waters [Final Version]

6. Broad Strategies and Approaches to Recovery

6.1 Actions Already Completed or Currently Underway

Comprehensive survey data does not exist for this population; however, since 2008 there have been intermittent aerial surveys focusing on Basking Sharks within Canadian Pacific waters. There are boat-based and aerial marine mammal surveys, surveillance flights and trained marine mammal observer vessels within historic Basking Shark habitat, none of which have reported Basking Sharks. Further, since 1996, the groundfish bottom trawl fishery has been monitored intensively (100% observer coverage on all trips), with four records of incidental capture of Basking Sharks identified. Since 2006, all commercial groundfish fisheries have 100% at-sea monitoring6. Historical records, including scientific sources, newspapers, and government records have been examined to develop an understanding of past abundance (COSEWIC 2007; Wallace and Gisborne 2006). Recovery Potential for this population was assessed in which a simulation model was used to evaluate scenarios that span the range of plausible human activities that cause mortality (McFarlane et al. 2009). Records of Basking Shark sightings were collated in 2007, including the four incidental catches noted above (see McFarlane et al. 2009) and a database is being developed in 2010. In 2008, the Basking Shark Sightings Network was launched, with a public awareness campaign ongoing. More details can be found at www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/SharkSightings.

6.2 Recovery Planning

Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Parks Canada Agency encourage other agencies and organizations to participate in the recovery of the Pacific population of Basking Shark where possible, through the implementation of this recovery strategy. Table 3 summarizes the activities that are recommended to support the recovery goal and population and distribution objectives. The activities implemented by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Parks Canada Agency will be subject to the availability of funding and other required resources.

Table 3 : Recovery Planning Table

PriorityThreats  addressedPopulation & Distribution Objectives targetedRecommended approaches to recovery
Broad Strategy: Communication & Outreach
High
  • Entanglement
  • Collision with vessels
  • Harassment
All
  • Create public education and awareness program to:
  • promote reporting of sightings to the Basking Shark Sightings Network; and
  • encourage responsible boating and fishing practices (e.g., education program for fishing and aquatic recreation communities, industry, and aquaculture, including a web site, posters, presentations, video, and press releases).
Broad Strategy: Scientific Research
High
  • Entanglement
  • Collision with vessels
  • Harassment
  • Prey Availability
All
  • Further improve understanding of population structure, abundance, and seasonal distribution within Canadian Pacific waters, for example:
  • characterize habitat used extensively by Basking Sharks that is essential for providing protection, and document how the areas are used (e.g., seasonal feeding, mating, pupping or rearing); and
  • examine Basking Shark feeding ecology and the impacts of fluctuating food-web dynamics.
High
  • Entanglement
  • Collision with vessels
  • Harassment
  • Prey Availability
2,4
  • Coordinate opportunistic research and tagging program (e.g., with reported sightings and/or mortalities), providing sex, distribution, migration and movement information, stomach contents, vertebrae, and tissue samples for genetics and toxicity work.
Broad Strategy: Management
High
  • Entanglement
  • Collision with vessels
1,2,4
  • Assess and, where practicable, revise fishing and aquaculture practices to reduce entanglement and incidental catch; where interactions occur, require mandatory reporting of collisions, entanglement and incidental catch.
Low7
  • Entanglement
  • Collision with vessels
  • Harassment
All
  • Implement a Code of Conduct (guidelines for marine users to minimize negative interactions and collisions, i.e., proper boating practices for commercial fisheries, recreational fisheries, and ecotourism). 
Low8
  • Entanglement
  • Collision with vessels
All
  • Implement spatial and/or temporal fisheries closures in the event of Basking Shark aggregations.
Broad Strategy: Monitoring & Inventory
HighN/AAll
  • Conduct aerial surveys for search and enumeration of Basking Sharks in historic areas of abundance, and where possible, identify plankton blooms in real time, for targeted over-flights (May-September).
High
  • Entanglement
  • Collision with vessels
1,2,4
  • Improve species identification and reporting in current observer programs, and expand monitoring programs (e.g., logbook observations) to all fisheries with the potential to entangle Basking Sharks; assess whether the calculated potential removal of 10-17 animals per annum is being exceeded.
High
  • N/A
All
  • Creation and maintenance of DFO managed Basking Shark sighting reporting network and database.
Broad Strategy: Coordination of Activities
HighCollision with vessels, entanglementAll
  • Collaborate on international efforts (i.e., with the U.S. and Mexico) to research, monitor (including high seas fisheries) and manage activities for the Pacific population of Basking Shark.
LowN/A1,2,4
  • Work with international community to discourage trade and sale of Basking Shark parts.


6.3 Narrative to support Recovery Planning Table

The approaches listed above (Table 3) are essential to the survival of the Pacific population of the Basking Shark. Some of the approaches in Table 3 address potential threats in Canadian Pacific waters that can be acted upon immediately, while others call for action following the identification and assessment of new threats. It is important to note that for a long-lived species such as the Basking Shark, it may take many decades before increases in population can be documented, and even longer before recovery is achieved. It is therefore imperative that the long-term nature of this strategy is recognized in the evaluation of the objectives and supporting strategies.

6 As a condition of licence, all commercial groundfish vessels must have 100% at-sea monitoring. For hook-and-line and trap vessels, this may include either video monitoring or a third-party at-sea observer. For trawl vessels, this includes a third-party at-sea observer.
7 This approach is deemed a low priority at present; however, should an increased population occur, this would be considered a high priority.
8 This approach is deemed a low priority at present; however, should an increased population occur, this would be considered a high priority.