Shark and Ray conservation is high on the agenda of many scientists and is a subject written about by even more conservationists. I am getting quite a few shark conservation blogs coming through now as more people are driven to write and share their experiences and feelings. All I can say is keep them coming. It shows we care.
We are finally getting into an era where people who are not directly involved with environmental or biological sciences are getting more conscious about our planet’s endangered natural sources. However, the knowledge that actually manages to get to our societies is limited and seems to be very focused on a couple of global ‘fashion’ issues like climate change, saving the dolphins, or transgenic corn. Nothing against that, but there are so many scientific studies, so many other important topics, and so little that passes to our society that it almost seems like a waste. This narrowed-down flow of information also creates a phenomenon that is sort of known as ‘the science/society gap’ where much needed information gets lost. So now I’m writing about the science I’m involved with, not reinventing the wheel here, but instead aiming to ‘fill in some of the gap’ on the topics I love and study: marine conservation and sharks-&-rays .
Now, one of the biggest recent news for sharks & rays is the declaration of a shark sanctuary in Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia (http://blog.conservation.org/2013/02/raja-ampat-launches-indonesias-first-shark-sanctuary/). This is the first shark sanctuary in Indonesia and is a major achievement of the local Papuan communities, Indonesia’s government, and NGOs (Non-government organizations) working in this area. But to understand what the problem is with sharks & rays and why this sanctuary is such an achievement, I will start by explaining what the problem is.
Black tip sharks are now protected in the Shark Sanctuary.
Besides being amazing creatures, sharks & rays are predators and have a very important role in keeping a balanced and healthy marine ecosystem. On the other hand, their populations support intensive fisheries and, therefore, human livelihoods all over the world. Sharks & rays occur in every ocean and in every ocean they are fished: from Mexico to Chile, from Japan to Australia, from UK to Cairo, from India to South Africa; everywhere. Generally, the meat is locally consumed, but the biggest trade and threat is their fins and/or gills which get exported to China to be used in traditional medicine and in traditional soup. Problem is, these animals grow very slow, they take a long time to be mature enough to reproduce, they have low numbers of pups, and they reproduce nowhere near as often as other fish that support similar intensity of fishery like tuna; their life characteristics are more similar of that of a whale or an elephant than that of a tuna or a sardine. The consequence of this is that sharks & rays cannot keep up with the intensive fishing they are subject of, nor do they have much chance to recover after been overfished.
The brighter side is that the importance of sharks & rays has been recognized in science for a while now, and it’s finally getting recognized too by the general public and government policy as noted with the recent addition of some species of sharks to the CITES list. Many countries, particularly those we called ‘developed nations’, have invested efforts in managing and conserving their populations of sharks and rays. However, many other nations are big consumers of this resource and have much less capacity for management or alternative of food sources.
Indonesia is one of the nations with the highest diversity of marine life but, sadly, it also has the largest fishery of sharks & rays in the world.
In a remote corner of Eastern Indonesia, although in the centre of the Coral Triangle (http://worldwildlife.org/places/coral-triangle), the government of a beautiful archipelago called Raja Ampat has managed to declare their waters a sanctuary where no extraction of sharks & rays should happen from now on. The local communities do not depend on this resource but are rather interested in looking after what is traditionally considered their water territories. Foreign fisheries are responsible for the shark & ray fishing in this area and they do this illegally. Moreover, the diving and marine eco-tourism industry at Raja Ampat is growing, providing an opportunity for an ‘environmentally conscious’ tourism that can appreciate this magnificent creatures alive rather than dead. The potential for sharks & rays to provide better incomes and livelihoods through tourism in this area is huge. So, I honestly think this is a great achievement and I may even venture to say that Indonesia is now one of the leaders in sharks and rays conservation!
Manta rays are also protected in the Shark Sanctuary.
However, it’s quite not the end but rather the start of sharks & rays conservation in this area. It was a long way and significant hard work was invested by many people to get this sanctuary finally declared, but there is still more work to do to implement it and monitor its success. Education, implementation, and monitoring of sharks & rays populations should now be the next steps to make this spot a real sanctuary where these amazing animals don’t go extinct and yet aid in the economic sustainability of the local communities.
So now I wonder, who’d be next nation lining up for sharks & rays protection?
Reef-World Launches New Partnerships to Accelerate Sustainability in the Dive Industry
The Reef-World Foundation, DiveAssure, and ZuBlu are launching a new collaboration to champion marine conservation while promoting sustainable diving practices. The symbiotic partnerships aim to increase awareness and implementation of environmental standards in the marine tourism industry through the Green Fins initiative, spearheaded by Reef-World in partnership with the UN Environment Programme.
Businesses have a unique opportunity to create a long-lasting impact through partnerships with conservation organisations. These partnerships show how tourism can go hand in hand with sustainability when businesses join forces with conservation organisations. By working together, these organisations and companies demonstrate their dedication towards sustainability and open doors to endless opportunities for growth and success in the tourism industry that benefit the people and the planet.
As the number of divers continues to grow and make a comeback post-pandemic, studies have shown that there’s a strong demand for sustainability education from dive tourists. This resulted in the partnership between Reef-World, DiveAssure and ZuBlu to promote sustainable diving practices through one of Green Fins tools, the Green Fins Diver e-Course. The course is designed for recreational divers to build on their existing scuba diving knowledge and provide them with the skills and confidence to conduct environmentally friendly diving trips. This, in return, empowers them to use their consumer power to demand more sustainable practices.
Chloe Harvey, Executive Director at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We’re thrilled to be taking this step with these two wonderful companies. This is a truly symbiotic partnership, one that furthers the business priorities of DiveAssure and ZuBlu, as well as delivering on our conservation objectives. Reef-World has a long history of working with sustainability leaders in the diving industry, and with their support, we look forward to diving into a future where sustainability is at the heart of every dive adventure.”
What the partnerships entail for divers who have completed the Green Fins Diver e-Course:
- Get 20% off worldwide diving accident and dive-travel insurance from DiveAssure.
- Get 5% off scuba diving holidays booked with ZuBlu, a dive travel agency which has over 800 carefully chosen resort and liveaboard partners across 100 dive destinations worldwide.
- Reef-World to provide 10% off on Green Fins Diver e-Course for all DiveAssure and ZuBlu customers and members.
Besides offering a discount on their diving accident and travel plans, DiveAssure proudly supports top Green Fins Members across the globe with grants to fulfil their sustainability and conservation goals. Founded in 1999, DiveAssure has a goal of not only providing scuba divers with everything they might need in terms of safety and medical assistance, they are also committed to sustainability and the protection of our ocean. They champion responsible diving, endorse marine conservation, and continuously strive to minimise environmental footprints. Every quarter, DiveAssure evaluates initiatives proposed by Green Fins members — be it beach or reef cleanups, coral propagation, or setting up marine life nurseries. Dive centres keen to collaborate on such impactful endeavours are encouraged to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Tal Tamir, Business Development & Community Chief at DiveAssure, said: “We are thrilled about our new partnership with The Reef-World Foundation. We believe that sustainable diving is a key factor in preserving the beauty and biodiversity of our ocean. And that through education, we can raise awareness and drive positive change. The Green Fins courses empower divers and operators with knowledge about marine conservation, sustainable diving practices and the importance of protecting the ocean and its ecosystems — knowledge we encourage all our members to have. Green Fins Members are welcome to apply for funding for their blue-green initiatives, which are considered quarterly. Let’s do good together!”
With the “Explore the blue. Dive green.” tagline, ZuBlu celebrates sustainable businesses and encourages divers to be more environmentally conscious while on their adventures to contribute to a healthier ocean. Reef-World has proudly collaborated with ZuBlu since 2018, and this new partnership model represents a transformation in the impact they can have together. Their mission centres around improving the way travellers engage with the ocean. They believe every dive starts at home, and every decision made in planning a holiday can make a difference to the marine environment. With access to information on the sustainable practices implemented by their featured resort and liveaboard partners, they can ensure their customers find sustainable operators to book their ocean adventures with.
Adam Broadbent, co-founder and CEO at ZuBlu, said: “We are delighted to be deepening our collaboration with The Reef-World Foundation to further encourage more conscious divers. At ZuBlu, we want to empower our guests to be a force for good on their scuba diving adventures. And we are delighted to be rewarding Green Fins Divers with a 5% discount to acknowledge their commitment to the ocean.”
Join the movement to protect our ocean by taking the Green Fins Diver e-Course and receiving all the rewards that come from the partnerships.
The Reef-World Foundation is a registered UK charity which delivers practical solutions for marine conservation around the world. The charity promotes the wise use of natural resources – particularly coral reefs and related ecosystems – for the benefit of local communities, visitors and future generations. It is dedicated to supporting, inspiring and empowering governments, businesses, communities and individuals around the world to act in conserving and sustainably developing coastal resources.
Reef-World leads the global implementation of the UN Environment Programme’s Green Fins initiative, which focuses on driving environmentally friendly scuba diving and snorkelling practices across the industry globally. As such, the charity provides low-cost and practical solutions to local and industry-wide environmental challenges associated with the marine tourism industry. It provides education and capacity-building assistance to empower environmental champions (within the diving industry, local communities, authorities and governments) to implement proven coastal resource management approaches.
About Green Fins
Green Fins is a proven conservation management approach – spearheaded by The Reef-World Foundation in partnership with the UN Environment Programme – which leads to a measurable reduction in the negative environmental impacts associated with the marine tourism industry. The initiative aims to protect and conserve coral reefs through environmentally friendly guidelines that promote a sustainable diving and snorkelling tourism industry. It provides the only internationally recognised environmental standards for the diving and snorkelling industry and has a robust assessment system to measure compliance.
Green Fins encourages and empowers members of the diving industry to act to reduce the pressures on coral reefs by offering dive and snorkel companies practical, low-cost alternatives to harmful practices – such as anchoring, fish feeding and chemical pollution – as well as providing strategic training, support and resources. By reducing the local direct and indirect pressures tourism puts on coral reefs, it helps make corals healthier and more resilient to other stresses such as the effects of climate change. Look for the Green Fins logo when booking your next dive trip.
DiveAssure goes beyond being just another member association. DiveAssure is your steadfast companion and passport to extraordinary underwater adventures. Their membership provides medical, rescue and evacuation services in case divers and travellers have an accident, become injured, sick or if their safety is threatened.
Whatever the emergency, wherever you are, DiveAssure has your back. So you can immerse yourself in the wonders of the deep, knowing their comprehensive benefits, global network, and unwavering commitment to your safety will ensure that every dive is an unforgettable and secure experience. Learn more at www.diveassure.com.
ZuBlu is the world’s leading dive travel agency for scuba diving and ocean experiences, with more than 800 partners in over 100 dive destinations around the world. Secure online booking, expert travel advisors and flexible booking terms mean you can discover, compare and book scuba diving holidays with ease. Discover and book your next diving adventure at www.zubludiving.com now.
Seahorse National Park announced on Eleuthera in The Bahamas
This week has seen the announcement of the designation of Seahorse National Park at Hatchet Bay Cave and Sweetings Pond on Eleuthera. This monumental announcement comes after years of efforts from the BNT and its partners in advocating for the protection of Sweetings Pond and its surrounding areas as an official national park under the BNT’s management.
Sweetings Pond is a large, land-locked saltwater pond in Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera. It has many unique natural features, but the most notable of them all is its incredible seahorse population, which is believed to be the densest population of seahorses in the world. The new 548-acre national park protects the entire one-mile-long pond and the surrounding terrestrial area. The land surrounding Sweetings Pond is a blend of intact coppice, mangroves, and farmlands. In addition, the new national park includes the extensive Hatchet Bay Caves system. This historic cave system is a popular attraction and contains a number of impressive geological features. It is one of the longest dry cave systems in The Bahamas.
Since 2014, the BNT has been leading efforts to have the area declared as a national park. This included years of public outreach and stakeholder consultations in communities across Eleuthera; education presentations in local schools; science and research efforts; and engaging consecutive government administrations. In 2018, the BNT submitted the “20 by 20 Marine Protection Plan” to the government, which included the recommendation to declare Sweetings Pond and other areas in The Bahamas as protected areas.
During the lease signing ceremony for Seahorse National Park, Minister Clay Sweeting, said, “This lease agreement for Sweetings Pond has been a long time coming. It represents a milestone in our journey towards sustainable development. It symbolises our collective responsibility to safeguard our natural heritage and create a harmonious relationship between economic progress and environmental preservation.
“I would like to express my gratitude to all stakeholders in this process of drafting and finalising this lease agreement. Their dedication, expertise, and commitment has been crucial in ensuring that this agreement falls in line with our vision of creating a thriving ecosystem while promoting responsible usage. Let us continue to preserve the jewel that is Sweetings Pond for many generations to come.”
The BNT invites the public to stay tuned for more news about its plan for the country’s newest national park: Seahorse National Park at Hatchet Bay Cave and Sweetings Pond!
To learn more about the role the BNT plays in managing terrestrial and marine national parks, conserving wildlife, and informing environmental policy, please visit its website: www.bnt.bs
Banner Image: A lined seahorse (Hippocampus erectus), female, clining to algae in an alkaline pond in The Bahamas by Shane Gross
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