On the last day of Shark Week we were honoured to have the President of the Republic of Palau, His Excellency Mr Johnson Toribiong attend the Gala evening. In his speech he demonstrated his ongoing commitment to protecting the marine environment of Palau and voiced his appreciation for the diverse supporters of Shark Week.
During shark week the participating divers collected a considerable amount of data on shark abundance that will be added to the community monitoring research database. In the evenings they attended some informative and captivating talks.
Some highlights from the talks included:
- The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) presented their findings and future research direction in Palau. One of their upcoming projects will be looking at understanding whether temperature change causes Palau’s sharks to prefer different depths over the year. Two PhD students have joined the team, one of which is aiming to identify the economic value of a live shark to the Palauan economy – a powerful piece of information. In the Bahamas such a study revealed that a live shark is worth $250,000 while a dead reef shark has a value of $50.
- The Palau Conservation Society (PCS) presented a study which found considerably fewer sharks present in the north than south of Palau. They also introduced their educational program “Reach to Reef”, which ranges from drawing competitions to school field trips.
- The following evening the Save Our Seas Foundation presented its projects and current research on sharks, including a study investigating whether heavy metals and POPs have a tendency to bio-accumulate in shark fins.
- The Micronesian Shark Foundation (MSF), who works closely with AIMS and communicates research results to Palau’s government and community summarised their work to date and presented “Finny the Shark”, their education program linked to PCS activities. Founder Tova Bornovski highlighted that new challenges that lie ahead as the new shark sanctuary needs to be patrolled, however only one patrol boat is currently available and the cost for petrol is limiting the work.
The President closed his speech with the following apt words, “Palau has taken the bold first step. Now we need the rest of the world to follow.” Here’s hoping that the work of Palau becomes an inspiration for many others to join and protect our oceans!