The Safina Center

Mako sharkMako sharkPhoto taken by: Carl Safina

Debra Abercrombie – Safina Center Fellow

Debra Abercrombie with bullsharkDebra Abercrombie  is a professional marine biologist with over ten years’ experience working with sharks and shark fisheries. She has worked closely with Dr. Demian Chapman on several shark conservation initiatives.

Abercrombie and Chapman are both outstanding communicators working across scientific disciplines and at the interface between science and policy. They have both been at the forefront of developing tools and resources to aid in monitoring and regulating the global dried shark fin trade.

During their tenure as Safina Center Fellows, Abercrombie and Chapman have led Shark Fin ID Workshops around the world: Honduras, Belize, Costa Rica, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Thailand, UAE, Egypt, Peru, Brazil, Fiji, Hong Kong and Costa Rica. Their workshops train customs and wildlife inspectors who are in charge of identify fins from shark species newly listed on CITES. These trained officials will be in charge of implementing new international regulations aimed at controlling the global shark fin trade. The innovative shark fin identification guide developed by Abercrombie and Chapman is the basis for these training sessions.

Abercrombie’s experience also includes working for the Pelagic Observer Program and as a Fishery Biologist for the Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Logbook Program, at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center (NOAA/NMFS/SEFSC) in Miami, FL.

She has published peer-reviewed papers on the genetic identification of CITES listed and proposed shark species (white shark, hammerheads) and the global fin trade in leading journals such as Conservation Biology andConservation Genetics.

During the genetic testing of shark fins, Abercrombie was one of the discoverers of the fact that Chinese trade names for fins have high concordance with particular species, which implies that visual fin identification is possible. She also worked with the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement to genetically identify fins from prohibited shark species that were confiscated from commercial fishing operations in the Atlantic Ocean.