Yearly, the Sea of Change Foundation supports innovative conservation projects around the world, including past and present projects focusing on threatened species including corals, seahorses, sea turtles, right whales, Asian elephants, and, of course, sharks. Now, in support of MarAlliance’s research efforts in Belize, the Foundation is pleased to help fund another such project, focusing on training local students and traditional fishermen to participate in the important local monitoring of key species including sharks.
Their project –Assessing impacts of new protective measures on elasmobranch diversity and relative abundance at Turneffe Atoll, Belize – is well underway with early successes. For example, this year already, nine local fishers and 10 University of Belize students have been trained in their marine monitoring methods including tagging for catch and release data and video surveys using baited remote underwater video cameras (BRUVs). And, throughout Turneffe Atoll, 31 habitat sites have been fully surveyed. Additionally, with guidance from the team, these local students are forming The BRUV Club to learn marine science through the lens of this important field work including how to review and analyze collected videos and other monitoring data.
With the main data gathering portion of the project completed, the remainder of the project will analyze the collected data for comparison to previous years’ data from the study site to look for any changes in shark population trends at Turneffe Atoll. Once the data are fully analyzed, results will be shared with protected area management and the local community through meetings and outreach materials, with a goal of encouraging international standards.
Why is this important? The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that worldwide 37% of all shark and ray species are threatened with extinction due to habitat loss, overfishing, and other anthropogenic stressors. MarAlliance is working on a national shark tourism strategy that will support species conservation and economic growth through the tourism sector at the national level. “We have always believed that the long-term conservation of sharks starts with engaging and supporting our local communities,” says Rachel Graham PhD, Founder and Executive Director of MarAlliance, who has work with communities and sharks across the broader MesoAmerican Reef for 25+ years. “Indeed, expanding citizen science and promoting sustainable ecotourism are both central to the Foundation’s mission to create positive change,” says Samantha Whitcraft, the Foundation’s Executive Director. “At the Sea of Change Foundation, we are committed to supporting the important work of saving sharks around the world so future generations can also learn to respect and value them,” concluded Wayne Brown, CEO of Aggressor AdventuresTM and Chairman of the Foundation’s Board.
About MarAlliance: MarAlliance, an international nonprofit, explores, enables, and inspires conservation action for threatened marine wildlife and their critical habitats with dependent communities. Learn more here.