Lydia Koehler


The work presented in this thesis introduces a conceptual framework for shark policy making against which national progress of Mediterranean coastal States in shark governance was assessed. A detailed assessment strategy was developed based on three distinct constructs, namely political commitment, research, and implementation effort. Based on multiple data sources (national reports under relevant conventions; policy documents; national legislation; online databases; scientific literature; and survey questionnaires to relevant government bodies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and national experts, designed as part of this assessment), individual differences between countries were determined and evaluated within the context of legal requirements under international and regional law. Although political commitment significantly differed between Member States of the European Union (EU) and non-EU countries, with the former displaying significantly higher values, overarching legal obligations are similar between countries, with the exception of Palestine. Such obligations concern the management of fisheries and the responsibility to protect and preserve the marine environment and species therein, including sharks. A comprehensive review of available research literature was conducted to determine the status of existing knowledge on sharks regionally and evaluate national contributions. A total of 1,212 publications were assessed in detail on their focus, species concerned in the research, institutes involved, and funding received. Much knowledge is available on ecology and biology of species, as well as fisheries’ impact and catch compositions, while little research has been conducted on management measures, policy evaluation, and legal aspects- a gap partly filled through this work, although more research on these topics is needed. Scientific research on sharks has been driven by countries like Italy and Tunisia, which have been contributing to knowledge on these species for many decades, while other countries have only been involved in shark research in recent years. The assessment of implemented efforts identified 208 different measures of which some apply to multiple countries. However, the majority of these measures were projects and programmes (56.3%) that focus on data collection. The application of stringent regulations applies mainly for the fisheries sector through Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) and the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and concerns a few spatial and gear restrictions that benefit shark conservation. Only two marine protected areas (MPAs) relevant to shark conservation were identified, one in Turkey and one in Lebanon, demonstrating that this conservation tool remains to be under-utilised for sharks. The insights retrieved from experts showed that problems, such as mislabelling, the impact from unregulated recreational fishing, the marketing of protected species, and an overall increase in shark meat marketing were observed in multiple countries and require further action. The thesis concludes by proposing next steps for shark governance in the region to address these challenges. While this assessment can be used as a baseline against which future progress can be measured and can support priority setting in shark governance at national level, there are limitations to the approach taken. More research is required to further validate the national state of shark governance and to evaluate the outcome of existing policies to further fill the gap of legal and policy research in this region.

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