Project

Conservation for Cameroon’s sharks and rays

Species
  • Rays & Skates
  • Sharks
Years funded
  • 2021
Status
  • Active
Project types
  • Conservation
  • Research
Affiliations
  • Agricultural Research Institute for Development of Cameroon
  • Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management
Description

Lionel is gaining insights into Cameroon’s sharks and their conservation status. His focus lies in Cameroon’s north coast, a stretch that runs for over 160 km at the foot of the mount Cameroon, central Africa’s highest mountain and an active volcano. He is scouring landing sites and fish markets, as well as gleaning traditional ecological knowledge with interview surveys and questionnaires. The region Lionel is researching hosts critical habitats for sharks and rays and is a proposed marine protected area. His goal is to provide decision-makers a baseline of shark and ray occurrence data to ensure their long term conservation.

Conservation for Cameroon’s sharks and rays

Lionel Yamb

Project leader
About the project leader

I’m an early-career marine ecologist working in Cameroon with the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development. I have a Master’s degree in marine science from the University of Douala. For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by marine life. I was a huge fan of the National Geographic shark documentaries when I was growing up and fell in love with these charismatic ocean predators that to me embodied all the strength and power that other kids of my age saw in their favourite superheroes. The idea of a career in marine conservation occurred to me...

PROJECT LOCATION : Cameroon
Project details

Improving the conservation status of elasmobranch species (sharks and rays) on the north coast, Cameroon

Key objective

The key objective of this project is to improve the conservation status of sharks and rays on the north coast of Cameroon. More specifically, the project seeks to assess diversity, abundance and threats to these species in the area as well as evaluate and raise the level of local awareness.

This project will be conducted in Cameroon (3° 52′ 0 N, 11° 31′ 0 E). Cameroon is an African country located slightly above the equator in the Central Africa Region. The country is bordering Nigeria in the West, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Congo in the South, Chad in the North and the Central Africa Republic in the East. The project will be located on 04 sites on the northern coastline including Limbe (4.02° N, 9.21° E), Batoke (4.02’30”N, 9.06’21”E), Bakingili (4 04′ 17”N 9 02′ 28”E) and Idenau (4°13′ 60″ N 8° 58′ 60″E) bordering the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The northern coastline is part of the South-West region of Cameroon and is open on the Atlantic Ocean in the gulf of Guinea. The region stretches over 160km and encompasses about 50% of the Cameroon’s total coastal length. We can find there an unusual ecological richness and biodiversity including sea birds, marine mammals, sea turtles and elasmobranch species. The particularity of this coastal area is the black color of sandy beaches.

Why is this important

There is no legal status protecting sharks in Cameroon and people are unaware of their importance to the marine ecosystem. As a result, species are facing serious threats that are driven by overfishing and by-catch. This project will help raise awareness and will generate important data on the ecology and threats to sharks that will help assess their conservation status and improve the current wildlife legislation for a long-term conservation and management in the country.

Background

Worldwide sharks and rays, collectively known as elasmobranchs, are at a substantially higher risk of extinction than most other groups of vertebrates. Sharks and rays considered at the greatest risk of extinction include species that are globally classified into Endangered and Critically Endangered categories that include also Sphyrna mokarran and Dasyatis margarita, the species that are specially targeted in this study. While industrial longline fleets are responsible for the largest component of elasmobranch landings worldwide, landings from artisanal fishers are also considerable, especially in developing countries. In Cameroon, research on elasmobranch species is still at a very early stage. Therefore, appropriate management to reduce threats and protect these species is hampered by a lack of data and by a historically low priority given to these fishes over many years. Yet in the country, elasmobranchs are at risk because of high levels of targeted fishing and by-catch and are not included in the wildlife law, thus there is no legal status protecting them. Most of the fishery data we have in-country come from the south coast as several studies have been already done there. However, we don’t know too much about fishery activities on the north coast that can be of threat to sharks as the area have been affected by many years of conflict that prevented several pieces of research to be carried out there. Though providing reliable scientific data on sharks is very important for the conservation of these species in this area, developing awareness will also play a critical role. Our project will set the first foundations for conservation and long-term management of sharks in the country by providing baseline data that will allow assessing the conservation status of these species and will guide future conservation actions in the area while also serving as decision-making tools for wildlife managers.

Aims & objectives

The aims and objectives of this project are to:

  •  Assess the diversity and relative abundance of sharks and rays species on the north coast of Cameroon.
  • Evaluate, map and quantify direct and indirect threats as well as potential threats to shark and ray species on the north coast of Cameroon
  • Assess the level of local awareness of sharks and rays
  • Raise the local awareness by sensitizing at least 70% of the people living around the most important landing areas along the Cameroon northern coastline.