Loblaws' decision to stop selling some seafood in the interest of conservation could disrupt research into porbeagle sharks off Nova Scotia that relies on a managed fishery, a shark scientist says.
The grocery store chain, which owns the Atlantic Superstore, announced last week it will no longer sell skate, orange roughy, sea bass and shark — four types of fish it deemed unsustainable.
Steve Campana, a shark researcher at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, said the company might have good intentions to promote sustainable fisheries, but its ban could interfere with research that helps protect shark populations.
Scientists rely on fishermen with specialized gear, such as those in Sambro, near Halifax, for a lot of their research, Campana said. They work together to capture sharks and tag them, so that the sharks can be tracked by satellite.
Any trend toward restricting markets for the sharks could disrupt the well-managed fishery and the scientific work that makes that fishery possible, he said.
"I can understand the concern of the company for sharks in other parts of the world because many of those shark populations are in danger. Luckily, in Canadian waters, [the Department of Fisheries and Oceans] has taken a very strict line to allow a sustainable fishery on the sharks," Campana told CBC News.
The fishing quota for porbeagle shark is "very tiny," and the population is recovering as a result, he added.
Thanks to their co-operation with fishermen scientists now know that once the sharks leave Canadian waters, they go to the Sargasso Sea, near the Bermuda Triangle, to have their young, said Campana.
"Without knowing where they had given birth, we were concerned that we might inadvertently wipe out their spawning potential or perhaps, more dangerously, have an international fishery catch them," he said.
Though most of the shark meat caught off Canada's East Coast is sold in Europe, Campana worries that Loblaws' decision to ban certain seafood could prompt markets around the world to follow suit.