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Marine Life & Conservation

Decimation of the Great White Shark

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The Great White Shark has survived an array of disasters during the last few million years, including several ice ages, which saw the extinction of many animals. Yet it is unlikely to survive its biggest threat to date… us. Some shark specialists believe they could be wiped out within the next decade. With the alarming decline in their numbers, this might be the last chance for people to see these incredible creatures without having to visit a museum.

Since the Great White Shark was listed on CITES Appendix II* at the 13th meeting of the Conference of Parties of CITES in Bankok, 2004, we have still seen massive drop in their numbers. Through research conducted by White Shark Africa’s students aboard vessels, we have seen the average number of individual Great White Shark sightings per boat trip drop from 4.56, to 2.75** and another recent study has discovered that only 219 Great White Sharks now exist in the waters off California***.

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The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) seem to have made an accurate prediction in September 2004 when they listed the Great White Shark among the ten species of animals and trees it believes will most likely become extinct. Shark finning, trophy hunting, the fishing trade, beach protection nets and ocean pollution all play a part in the decimation of these top level predators. Females do not reach reproductive age until at least 15 years of age, have a low reproductive rate with very small litters, and therefore cannot reproduce at the same rate as their decline.

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Despite their ferocious portrayal, the Great White Shark is a sociable character, often gentle and inquisitive, and even playful at times. They contribute massively to our ecosystems and with their deteriorating numbers we will see a direct impact to the entire planet. These top predators keep the marine ecosystems in balance with the prey they eat and if it is not held in check, the food source for several species of marine life disappears including microorganisms, which are essential for sustaining life.

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Christo Kruger, Director of White Shark Africa has worked with Great White Sharks for over 12 years though his passion stems back even longer and he is extremely concerned for their survival. “I’ve seen a dramatic drop in the number of sharks along the Western Cape coastline during my time working with them,” says Christo. “If things don’t change now, we will be responsible for the destruction of a species, though it may already be too late to change their future. I believe that we will be looking at the world’s oceans in 10 years time and it will almost be devoid of life.”

Several ways to get involved

 

  • Join one of White Shark Africa’s programs and learn more about these incredible creatures while viewing them in their natural environment.

 

  • Book a place on a viewing and cage diving trip, helping to ensure that the Great White Shark is worth more alive than dead.

 

  • Write to IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) to enforce the need for Great Whites to be relisted on their red list as ‘critically endangered’. They are currently classified as ‘vulnerable’.

 

  • Write to CITES to ask them to propose to move Great White Sharks to Appendix I*.

[youtube id=”GwN9ovmDg9g” width=”100%” height=”400px”]

To find out more, visit http://www.whitesharkafrica.com

  • * CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival. Appendix I lists species that are the most endangered.

 

  • ** Research comparison of data from January to June 2010 with January to June 2011 and average number of individual sightings calculated per trip.

 

 

  • *** Study conducted by Royal Society Biology Letters on Great White Sharks off Central California between 2006 and 2008.

Esther Jacobs is a shark conservationist, originally from Scotland, now living in South Africa working with sharks and other marine life. Esther works with Oceans Research, a marine research facility in Mossel Bay, South Africa. She also runs a shark conservation campaign called Keep Fin Alive, which features a handpuppet shark called Fin, who is on a mission to be photographed with as many people as possible holding a sign that says “I hugged a shark and I liked it… Keep Fin Alive”. He’s already been photographed with lots of celebrities and scientists. The ultimate goal of the campaign is to take a light-hearted approach to help change the common misconception of sharks and drive more attention to the problems of shark overfishing, finning, shark fishing tournaments, bycatch and longlining.

Marine Life & Conservation

Blue Marine Foundation launches new partnership with Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance

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Ocean charity makes initial grant of $90,000 to marine parks on six Dutch Caribbean islands. Award will fund projects including coral protection, and training youth marine rangers.

Ocean conservation charity Blue Marine Foundation has announced it is awarding $90,000 in funding to support marine conservation in the Dutch Caribbean. A range of projects run by protected area management organisations on six islands will each receive a grant of $15,000. The funding is the first step in a longer-term partnership to support the islands and help secure sustainable financing through the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) Trust fund.

To improve ocean governance, Blue Marine uses a combination of top-down intervention and bottom-up project delivery to help local communities at the front line of conservation. It will work together with the DCNA to help marine-park organisations protect the unique and threatened biodiversity of the Dutch Caribbean.

The new partnership is an important development in the successful management of marine conservation parks in the Dutch Caribbean. The UK-based charity has established a small-grants fund to provide rapid access to support for critical conservation projects run by marine parks.

The individual projects and their local partners are:

Unique ecosystems on the islands are vulnerable to threats such as feral livestock causing sedimentation on reefs, and invasive species, including lionfish and coral diseases. They are also at risk from overfishing, climate change, coastal development, erosion and the build-up of harmful algae caused by waste water.

The islands of the Dutch Caribbean are also home to important “blue carbon” habitats – ocean ecosystems such as seagrasses, mangroves and other marine plants that suck up and lock away carbon from the earth’s atmosphere. Seagrass is so efficient at this it can capture and store carbon dioxide up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests.  The management and protection of these blue carbon habitats is vital in the fight against climate change.

Current marine conservation measures in the islands include a 25,390 square km mammal and shark sanctuary- Yarari sanctuary- across the Exclusive Economic Zone of Bonaire, Saba and St Eustatius. All six islands have inshore Marine Protected Areas ranging in size from 10 to 60 sq km.

Blue Marine’s Senior Project Manager Jude Brown commented: “Having recently visited two of the islands, I witnessed first-hand how special this region is. Diving the waters off Saba I saw huge Tarpon swimming amongst shoals of blue tang, and hawksbill turtles feeding on the seagrass beds. I also witnessed the challenges these islands are facing from coral disease to issues with coastal development. It is an exciting opportunity to work in the Dutch Caribbean, bringing expertise and funding from Blue Marine to join with the wealth of knowledge already on the islands, to work together to protect the important marine life arounds these islands.”

Tadzio Bervoets, Director of the DNCA commented: “The Dutch Caribbean consists of the Windward Islands of St. Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius and the Leeward Islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. The nature of the Dutch Caribbean contains the richest biodiversity in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The diverse ecosystems are a magnet for tourism and at the same time the most important source of income for residents of the Dutch Caribbean. Nature on the islands is unique and important but it is also fragile. The coming week we will be in The Netherlands to present a Climate Action Plan for the Dutch Caribbean to emphasize the urgent need for a climate smart future for our islands.”


Photo: Coral reefs in the Dutch Caribbean- Photo credit: Naturepics: Y.+T. Kühnast- all rights reserved

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Marine Life & Conservation

CCMI announces launch of two key projects, supported by RESEMBID

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Building Resilient Reefs

Project title: Increasing Coral Reef Resilience with Assisted Evolution via Selective Restoration

Via this recently awarded RESEMBID grant, funded by the European Union, CCMI aims to rebuild coral reef ecosystem resilience through cutting-edge restoration techniques. The project will develop assisted evolution methods via selective restoration with stress (heat and disease) tolerant corals, to promote and sustain biodiversity of these threatened ecosystems.

This project will build on CCMI’s past research, incorporating our understanding of coral restoration disease resistance and outplanting methodology, while conducting state of the art experimentation to assess thermal tolerance, all of which will be used to increase the resilience of coral reefs through advanced restoration practices. Visiting collaborator Dr. John Bruno (Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), will be joining the team in the field in April 2022 and will also be present for the press conference. Outcomes from the work will include improved restoration strategies that will be shared regionally – seeking to ultimately increase coral resilience throughout the Caribbean. A short project overview will be given, including the opportunity for Q&As. The press conference will then be followed by a Reef Lecture by Dr John Bruno on the wider threats to global coral reef health.

https://reefresearch.org/what-we-do/research/restoration/


Adapting to COVID-19

Project Title: Urgent technical assistance to support CCMI’s capacity to be a regional leader in protecting marine biodiversity and improving resilience.

This project is supported by a RESEMBID grant, funded by the European Union, which will enable CCMI to manage the impacts of COVID-19 by improving health and safety features of the facilities infrastructure and adapting emergency management processes. The grant will support enhanced operational resilience, thereby supporting CCMI’s continued work on improving and protecting marine biodiversity in the Cayman Islands and wider Overseas Territories.

https://reefresearch.org/who-we-are/field-station/adapting-to-covid-19/

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