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:
Anna is collecting genetic information from white shark fin clips to assess this species’ population size in South Africa. Using close-kin mark-recapture analysis instead of traditional methods, she hopes to provide an accurate account of South Africa’s white shark population size. She also aims to develop a monitoring protocol that can use genetic samples collected during shark net and drumline patrols by the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board. This information is needed in South Africa, where the conservation of a protected species is balanced against concerns about bather safety, and where sharks are caught in bather protection gear.
Faqih is filling the gaps in the scant knowledge of giant guitarfish in Java’s Karimunjawa National Park marine protected area (MPA). Karimunjawa is located near Northern Java’s main fishing grounds, but evidence of giant guitarfish caught in some of the use-zones of the MPA hints that the park may be a sanctuary for the species. Managing giant guitarfish in Karimunjawa requires species-specific information.
Faqih’s project is a socio-ecological one to help inform management and draws on new information about relative abundance and distribution, historical occurrence and fishing pressures to paint a contemporary picture of the species in the park.
Cindy wants to know if bonnethead sharks in the Eastern Pacific constitute a third, cryptic species. The Bonnethead complex need clarification in all its distribution range, and Panama is a key country to solve this question since we have the Caribbean sea and the Pacific Ocean. By collecting fin clip samples to compare species at the genetic level and collecting specimens to compare how they look (morphology), Cindy hopes to resolve the taxonomy of Sphyrna tiburo vespertina – that is, whether it’s a cryptic third species for bonnetheads in the region. Her information can help update the IUCN Red List for bonnetheads and improve fisheries policies in Latin America where bonnethead sharks are commonly caught.