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...
The aim of this project is to promote community awareness and emphasise the importance of preserving socio-cultural values for the conservation of Holbox’s and Chiquilá’s biodiversity, focusing on sharing local knowledge about sharks and their relevance to coastal habitats. We will also generate scientific data on shark biodiversity in the region by integrating people’s traditional knowledge with historical and archaeological data.
Environmental education efforts need to be widespread on islands such as Holbox, which share a rich socio-cultural heritage associated with nature and face increasing human migration and tourism development that threaten local biodiversity. From pre-Columbian times, sharks were abundant and had cultural value in the Holbox region. Local knowledge about Holbox’s sharks is fading into the island’s history. Environmental education can help locals and visitors understand the value of top predators for healthy and biodiverse oceans.
Tourism development and increasing landscape and coastal exploitation are a dire problem for coastal communities globally. In many regions, such as islands in Latin America, knowledge about interactions between humans and nature is still scant. This matters, especially in mega-diverse countries like Mexico, which is witnessing increasing tourism and coastal development. An example is Quintana Roo on the Yucatán Peninsula, which has shown growing tourism-based economic development for more than 40 years. For my postdoctoral research, I studied the encroachment of coastal development on Holbox Island in Quintana Roo. Here, together with an interdisciplinary team, I initiated the generation of baseline data on fisheries exploitation and tourists’ perceptions of the environment. Our results in relation to fishers’ traditional knowledge, literature sources and archaeological records were published in <i>Marine Policy</i>. Here we reported that sharks and rays were abundant in the nearshore waters around Holbox. Overfishing until the mid-20th century led to changes in coastal food webs, illegal fishing has become widespread and there are now socio-environmental issues relating to tourism development and large sell-outs of communal land. The latter has disrupted the long-term relationship that islanders had with the sea. We will continue to document changes in the biodiversity of sharks and sawfish over time and will initiate diverse activities with the community and novel environmental education material to locally, regionally and internationally communicate about the sharks of Holbox.
This project focuses on fostering shark conservation in the Holbox region, a site that has transformed into a global tourism hotspot and now faces environmental degradation, social conflict and overfishing, and benefits from very few environmental education programmes. Few people know that sharks populated the waters around Holbox. The island’s tourism development brought losses and changes in socio-cultural values relating to the conservation of local biodiversity. The project’s activities will comprise:
Outside the USA, The Bahamas is the only place where Critically Endangered smalltooth sawfish can reliably be found. Tristan wants to ensure that protection measures in The Bahamas are understood and enforced as far as sawfish are concerned to close the current gap between policy and the people. He’ll be using aerial surveys, sonar and BRUVs, combined with interviews that draw on local knowledge, to identify essential sawfish habitats that need protection. Engaging with the community through workshops and by training students and meeting with government, Tristan intends to advocate for smalltooth sawfish protection throughout The Bahamas’ territorial waters.
Steven and Kevin are using genetic techniques to understand how Caribbean reef shark populations are connected across the extent of their range. Populations of this Endangered shark are in decline generally, but where they are managed and there is effective protection, their numbers are stable. With the integration of the correct information, Steven and Kevin are convinced that we can give Caribbean reef sharks a better shot at recovery and population stabilisation. They will also explore any barriers to connectivity, looking to the future recruitment and recovery of these sharks.
With very little information available about Endangered sicklefin devil rays, their seasonal aggregations at sea mounts in the Azores give Sophie an opportunity to learn more about their lives. She will be collecting satellite-tracking data that show how they move in the Azores’ exclusive economic zone. The information she collects will be used to develop maps of how the rays are using the zone and to identify essential areas that multiple species use. With this information at hand, Sophie hopes her work can contribute to a network of marine protected areas.