Nadia learns about life in the sea, from those who spend their lives around the sea. Collecting Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK) about sharks, sawfishes, manatees and sea turtles, she connects this information with spatial data to understand Mexico’s marine biodiversity. Nadia is focused on Holbox Island off the Yucatan Peninsula in Quintana Roo. The island forms a coastal lagoon surrounded by mangroves (thought to be shark breeding grounds) with its seafloor covered by seagrasses. Holbox is a treasure trove of marine life that Nadia is intent on helping manage in the wake of rapid development.
I founded and am the director of Mar Sustentable Ciencia y Conservación, A.C., a non-profit organisation that works to conserve marine life in Mexico’s Caribbean waters. I obtained my doctoral degree at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, and am currently researching how local communities exploit the near-shore areas of islands. With this information, I am developing a baseline trajectory of the diversity and accessibility of marine fauna, such as sharks, over time. I have been involved in numerous marine conservation research programmes in the Gulf of California and the Mexican...
Promote community awareness and foster the importance of preserving sociocultural values for the conservation of Holbox’s and Chiquilá’s biodiversity, focusing on sharing shark’s local knowledge and their relevance to coastal habitats. Generate scientific data on shark biodiversity in the region by integrating people’s traditional knowledge and historical and archaeological data.
Environmental education efforts need to be widespread on islands as Holbox, which share a rich socio-cultural heritage associated with nature and face increasing human migration and tourism development, threatening local biodiversity. Since pre-Columbian times sharks were abundant and had cultural value in the region of Holbox. The local knowledge of Holbox´s sharks is fading into the island´s contemporary history. Environmental education can help locals and visitors understand and value of top predators for healthy and biodiverse oceans.
Tourism development and increasing landscape and coastal exploitation are dire problems for coastal communities globally. In many regions, knowledge of human-nature interactions is still scant, such as islands in Latin America. This matters especially in megadiverse countries, like Mexico, with increasing tourism and coastal development. An example is Quintana Roo in the Yucatan Peninsula, which has evinced growing tourism-based economic development for over 40 years. For my postdoctoral research, I studied the above problem on Holbox Island in Quintana Roo. Here together with an interdisciplinary team, we initiated generating baseline data on fisheries exploitation and tourist’s perceptions of the environment. Our results on fishers’ traditional knowledge, literature sources, and archaeological records were published in Marine Policy. Here we report sharks and rays were abundant on Holbox’s nearshore waters. Overfishing through the mid 20th century led to changes in coastal food webs, illegal fishing is widespread, and socio-environmental issues related to tourism development and large communal land sellouts exists. The latter has disrupted the long-term relationship islanders had with the sea. The SOS funding will allow to:
This project focuses on fostering shark conservation in the Holbox region. A site that transformed into a global touristic hotspot that faces environmental degradation, social conflict, overfishing, and very few environmental education programs. Few know Holbox’s coastal waters were populated with sharks. Holbox’s tourism development brought losses and changes in socio-cultural values related to local biodiversity conservation.
Demian’s team is developing tools that help border control officers identify illegal shark products. His project is sifting through ‘rhino ray’ DNA sequences looking for differences in code between the guitarfishes, giant guitarfishes and wedgefishes nicknamed for their pointy snouts (and Endangered status). Months of testing will help ensure only rhino ray DNA is targeted before the team flies to Hong Kong to help officials use a portable DNA tester. This project will add to the arsenal currently being used to identify illegal shark fins moving across borders, and help stop the trafficking of ‘rhino ray’ fins.
Aristide created a citizen science platform and mobile app for fishers across Cameroon’s 400 km coastline to record sightings of sharks, rays and marine life. These photos are uploaded to iNaturalist where they are identified and will serve to create Cameroon’s first elasmobranch atlas. Together with his team, Aristide ensures data are being uploaded, visits fish landing sites to assess bycatch and measure sharks, and scours the beaches to check for strandings and sea turtle nests. He collects tissue samples of threatened species in these visits that can give more insights into the diversity, population size and structure of vulnerable sharks.
Ali is collaborating with researchers across North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean to develop support tools for guitarfish conservation. As an advocate, much of her work is completed behind a computer and locked in meetings, but her goal is to help bring awareness to the threatened status of guitarfish in the Mediterranean. The current Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust, Ali represents a large number of regional partners to engage with governments, develop new resources and coordinate guitarfish conservation activities.