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Marine Life & Conservation

Mantas and Whale Sharks gain protection under new law in Mozambique

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After 20 years of research and lobbying efforts, the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF) is thrilled to announce a major legislative victory for ocean life in Mozambique. A new commercial fishing law enacts sweeping protections for several threatened species, including whale sharks, manta rays, and all mobula species.

This new legislation is a huge step in the right direction for the protection of threatened marine species in Mozambique. MMF commend the Mozambican government for taking these bold steps to protect the region’s breathtaking sea life, while still supporting the local fishing culture and economy.

“This law will make it far easier for our fishing communities to manage their impact by empowering them to create no-take zones and enforce rules limiting the use of gear that is destructive to important coral reef and mangrove habitats,” says MMF Conservation Project Manager Emerson Neves. “This will help us achieve our goal of sustainable fishing for generations to come, so we can both conserve our incredible fish life and allow people to have a stable livelihood and food source.”

The passing of this law is no small feat and has taken years of scientific research and lobbying by NGOs and institutions, including MMF, to highlight the importance of establishing protections for the threatened marine species in the region. MMF are grateful that the government has responded to the data and recommendations of scientists which has led to the formation of these new regulations.

MMF has been researching whale sharks and mobula rays in Mozambique for almost two decades. Their achievements have included the discovery that manta rays are two separate species and the first formal studies of these species in Africa. “The largest identified populations of both reef and giant manta rays in Africa have been identified off the southern Mozambican coastline, making it a critical region for their conservation in the Western Indian Ocean,” explains MMF Co-founder and Principal Scientist, Dr. Andrea Marshall.

MMF has also led groundbreaking research on whale sharks in the region. Their research into the importance of the whale shark habitat in the area and increasing human pressures, such as accidental catch in gill nets, which has halved their global population since the 1980s, helped to justify their inclusion in this new law.

“The Mozambican coast is an internationally important habitat for whale sharks, the world’s largest fish,” elaborates Dr. Simon Pierce, MMF Co-founder and Principal Scientist. “Protection in Mozambican waters provides a safeguard for the species locally, where whale sharks are the basis for sustainable marine ecotourism, but will also help these gentle giants to recover in the broader Indian Ocean. The Mozambique government has taken a commendable step for the worldwide conservation of this endangered species.”

Some of the most crucial and troubling data captured by MMF shows dramatic declines in observational sightings of marine megafauna like manta, mobula rays, and whale sharks. In 2013 they reported a 79% decline in whale shark sightings and an 88% decline in reef manta sightings, and sadly these trends continue. Their data now show declines of over 90% for giant mantas, reef mantas, and shortfin devil rays in the south of the country.

“Evidence of these stark declines, which have been attributed in large part to localized fishing pressure, are a testament to the urgency of these protections which go into effect today,” states Dr. Marshall.

MMF researchers have estimated the economic importance of manta rays and other megafauna to the Mozambican tourism industry, highlighting the economic incentive for their protection.  The study, lead-authored by Dr. Stephanie Venables a senior scientist at MMF, illustrated the economic impact of manta ray tourism in the Inhambane province, including $34 million USD per year of direct economic impact of manta ray tourism, and a projected yearly loss of $16-$25 million USD if Mozambique were to lose manta rays.

Healthy populations of megafauna are crucial for maintaining healthy oceans. Manta rays and whale sharks are listed as vulnerable or endangered on the IUCN Red List with declining populations worldwide. Local conservation measures, like this law, are vital for the overall persistence of these species. Every organism plays an important role in an ecosystem, but ocean giants often play vital roles in maintaining balance and regulating resources in their environments. This in turn, naturally keeps fish populations healthy and improves the viability of fishing industries into the future.

In addition to the protection granted to mantas, mobulas, and whale sharks, the law also includes the following new regulations:

  • Fishers must land the full body of any sharks caught with fins attached
  • New clearer regulations for CCPs (community fishing councils)
  • A ban on destructive fishing practices on coral, seagrass, or mangroves
  • A ban on the harvesting of live coral
  • Bycatch must be thrown back unless you have prior written permission to use it for research
  • Turtle excluder devices are mandated on industrial and semi-industrial nets

While this law is a significant breakthrough, a number of other important species were not given protection. “This new protection is a huge step in the right direction and we’re thrilled that Mozambique is recognizing the importance of some of the species we study, but there are other rare and endangered species in Mozambique that still lack protection,” explains MMF Manta Research Manager, Anna Flam.

“We’re hoping to use the positive momentum from this new law, combined with our research, to lobby Mozambique to add protection for hammerhead sharks, smalleye stingrays, leopard sharks, and wedgefish, among other vulnerable species.” 

MMF is currently working with other NGOs to submit a list of species that we believe must be added as an amendment to the new law.

For more information about the work of MMF visit their website by clicking here.

Images: Dr. Andrea Marshall

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

Marine Life & Conservation

Beers raise cash for ocean clean-up

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The Driftwood Spars Brewery, a pioneering microbrewery based on the North Cornwall coast, is donating a percentage of all profits from its Cove range of beers to Fathoms Free, a certified charity which actively cleans the ocean around the Cornish peninsula.

Each purchase of the small-batch, craft beers – there are four different canned beers in the Cove range – will help generate funds to purchase a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and fund retrieval dives; every brew will raise the equivalent cost of a fully-funded dive. 

Fathoms Free is a Cornwall-based charity whose day-to-day mission involves dives from their fast-response specialist vessel to recover ghost fishing gear; abandoned nets, pots, angling equipment and other plastic causes severe damage to the marine environment and the death of countless seabirds, seals, dolphins and other sea life.

The campaign to raise funds for an ROV is a new initiative which will take the clean-up work to a new level; the highly manoeuvrable underwater vehicle will be used to scour the seabed, harbours and remote parts of the coastline for abandoned fishing gear and other marine litter.

Project Manager Natallia Paliakova from Fathoms Free said: “Apart from helping us locate ghost gear underwater, the ROV will also be capable of recording underwater video which is always great for raising awareness about marine pollution issues.”

She added: “We are really excited to be partnering with The Driftwood Spars Brewery and appreciate the proactive support of Mike and his team in bringing the purchase of an ROV a step closer to reality.”

Head Brewer Mike Mason personally approached the charity after their work was featured on the BBC 2 documentary, ‘Cornwall with Simon Reeve’.    

He said: “As a keen surfer I am only too aware of the problem of marine litter and had heard about Fathoms Free, but seeing them in action prompted me to find a way of contributing. The scale of the challenge is scary, but the determination of organisations like Fathoms Free is inspiring.”

Photo by Beagle Media Ltd

Photo by Beagle Media Ltd

The Driftwood Spars Brewery was founded in 2000 in Trevaunance Cove, St Agnes; the microbrewery is just a few steps away from it’s co-joined brewpub, The Driftwood Spars; both pub and brewery are well-regarded far beyond the Cornish cove they call home. 

You can hear the waves and taste the salt on the air from the door of both brewery and pub, and the rough seas along the rugged North coast often throw up discarded nets and other detritus; Louise Treseder, Landlady of The Driftwood Spars and a keen sea swimmer, often collects washed up ghost gear on her daily beach excursions.     

Louise commented: “This is a great partnership to support a cause close to our hearts – I know the money we raise will have a positive and lasting impact. The Cove range was inspired by our unique surroundings and the artwork – by local artist Jago Silver – reflects that. Now donations from each purchase will contribute towards the vital ocean clean-up taking place right on our doorstep.”

The Cove range can currently be purchased online here, and is available in good independent bottle shops in Cornwall.

To find out more about Fathoms Free visit their website here.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Dive Guides invited to apply for the Green Fins Dive Guide Scholarship

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Reef-World’s campaign is helping dive guides in need receive Green Fins environmental certification

The Reef-World Foundation – international coordinator of the UN Environment Programme’s Green Fins initiative – is calling for dive guides to submit their application for the Green Fins Dive Guide Scholarship.

As a result of the Scholarship campaign, dive guides working around the world – including Brazil, the Philippines, Egypt, Colombia, South Africa, Indonesia and Turkey – have received their certificate proving their status as a Green Fins certified dive guide. Yet, thanks to funding from Reef-World’s partner Paralenz, 149 more scuba diving guides will be able to receive their Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course environmental certification.

Dive guides who meet the criteria (outlined below) can apply for the scholarship at any time through the Green Fins website. To be eligible for the scholarship, guides must:

  • have completed and passed all modules of the Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course
  • be able to demonstrate they or their employer are not financially able to purchase the certificate
  • be a national of a country which receives official development assistance from the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The Scholarship was created in response to feedback from dive guides who had passed the Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course and were keen to download and display their personalised electronic certificate but were not financially able to cover the associated cost (£19 / $25 USD). The personalised electronic certificate can be displayed to entice eco-minded guests by informing them the guide has received this vital environmental certification and is aware of how to reduce the negative environmental impacts associated with diving.

Diving related damage to sensitive marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, is becoming an increasingly significant issue. This damage makes them less likely to survive other local and wider stressors, such as overfishing or run-off from land containing pollutants and plastic debris as well as the effects of climate change, such as rising sea temperatures. The Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course, created with the support of Professional SCUBA Schools International (PSS) and running on their innovative EVO e-learning platform, teaches dive professionals how to prevent diving-related damage to coral reefs by following the highest environmental standards and better managing their guests to prevent damage to the reef.

Sam Craven, Programmes Manager at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We’re proud to be offering dive guides around the world the opportunity to become Green Fins certified; no matter their background. Both the e-Course and the Scholarship have been a great success so far and we’re delighted to see so many dive professionals demonstrating their commitment to sustainable tourism by taking the course. We urge dive guides who haven’t yet taken the course to consider taking this step and welcome Scholarship applications from anyone who meets the criteria. Together, we can protect coral reefs through sustainable diving and we’d love as many dive guides as possible to join us.”


Dive guides who want to be considered for scholarship can visit www.greenfins.net/green-fins-dive-guide-scholarship-applications to apply.

To donate to the Green Fins Dive Guide Scholarship Fund, please visit www.greenfins.net/appeal/sponsor-a-dive-guide.

Supporters who are interested in helping additional dive guides receive their certifications can also donate to Sponsor a Dive Guide.

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