In October 2016, the Shark Trust hosted the annual European Elasmobranch Association conference in Bristol – marking the 20th anniversary since the first meeting.
Current President of the EEA, Ali Hood, opened the conference by welcoming all 156 delegates from 22 countries – many extending far beyond Europe to make it a truly international conference. This was followed by the opening address from IUCN Shark Specialist Group Co-Chair Colin Simpfendorfer, who gave a poignant reminder that the work presented at EEA is critical in addressing concerns about shark and ray populations and could help inform future status listings on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The first keynote speaker was Jim Ellis of Cefas who talked the audience through the evolution of elasmobranch stock assessments and management in the Northeast Atlantic, wrapping up with a reminder that improved knowledge of species could prevent biodiversity loss. The keynote address led into a session devoted to skates and rays.
In fact, this conference saw the rise of the underdogs (or is that dogfish?), with one session dedicated to deep-sea sharks – and the Velvet Belly Lanternshark Etmopterus spinax rapidly becoming the star of the show. Following this was a session focused on highly vulnerable ‘flat sharks’ (sawfishes, angel sharks and guitarfishes) and a session surrounding dentition and feeding habits, featuring some impressive CT scans of shark jaws.
Dean Grubbs from the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory provided the keynote presentation on day two. This talk recounted the highly publicised trophic cascade paper that led to Cownose Rays Rhinoptera bonasus becoming a scapegoat for the decline in commercial bivalves. Dean implored delegates to make their science matter and ensure the right facts are reported.
Elasmobranch conservation and management took centre stage on the final day, with the keynote address coming from Daniel Suddaby of WWF’s Smart Fishing Initiative. Daniel used tuna as an example to demonstrate how market levers can be used to transform high seas fisheries management, emphasising that no fishery should be considered sustainable without first having effective management in place.
68 oral presentations and 28 poster presentations, but the conference wouldn’t be complete without the traditional auction to raise funds for student bursaries. As usual it was a colourful affair with plenty of delegates willing to exchange their cash for an array of shark and ray items. A bonus award was given to Jaime Penadés-Suay for his fantastic poster presentation on the impalement of a Blue Shark by a swordfish rostrum.
As always, a huge thank you to everyone who made EEA a success, to SOSF for supporting the keynote speakers and additional student bursaries and of course, to everyone who attended!