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Visiting shark expert to discuss methods of slowing species decline

The Asian delicacy shark fin soup is often served at weddings, banquets and important business deals and symbolizes wealth, power, prestige and honour, but demand for its main ingredient has led to the overfishing and rapid decline of many shark species around the world.

A visiting researcher will discuss his work, which he hopes will help slow that decline, at a lecture this afternoon.

“The overfishing of sharks is a global environmental problem, but with the tools I’ll describe and the political will to put them to use, I suggest it’s not an insurmountable one,” says Demian Chapman, an assistant professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at Stony Brook University.

Those tools include a combination of field-based visual identification and genetic testing that could enable a species-specific regulation of the shark trade, Dr. Chapman said.

Chapman said the global nature of the shark trade makes it difficult to track how certain species are being affected and to establish population-specific regulations to prevent overfishing. Genetic testing is an effective way to identify shark fins, but he says the perception persists that it’s expensive, time-consuming and cannot be done in the field.

“We have found that several of the key shark species in trade have fins that are readily identifiable by non-experts in the field using fin coloration and morphological characteristics,” he said.

Chapman’s lecture will be held at 3 p.m. today in Room 250 at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research.

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