Palau was the world’s first shark sanctuary. Tova and her team have spent years researching the region’s vibrant shark communities.
This study seeks to provide vital data about grey reef sharks, and in so doing, create links among community and ecotourism groups throughout the region, raising awareness of the value and plight of these animals to promote their conservation and ensuring that they retain their place as a keystone species within reef systems.
Reef sharks are one of the principal attractions drawing dive tourists to the reefs of Palau. Illegal fishing threatens the future of these animals, and we lack data on the status and migration patterns of grey reef sharks to know how best to target enforcement and management strategies.
The original goals of the project (photo-identification, tagging and community monitoring) have been expanded considerably, but all have been achieved. In addition, the goals now include a major community education programme that has targeted school children, local people and government to raise awareness about the role and importance of sharks in marine ecosystems (see Finny the Shark project). Additionally, we collaborated with the Pew Charitable Trusts to complete a major study of the economics of shark diving in Palau. The results of the work have been used by the Palauan government to strengthen legislation protecting sharks and to refute amendments to laws that would have allowed the resumption of shark fishing adjacent to reefs.
This project has five major aims for the next two years:
Watamu Marine National Park in northern coast of Kenya is one of the oldest marine protected areas in Africa, but conservationists are faced with the tension between the needs of an impoverished community and protecting nature. Peter aims to understand the role of the MPA in protecting sharks and rays.