Micronesia Shark Foundation

  • Sharks
Years funded
  • 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
  • Archived
Project type
  • Research

Palau was the world’s first shark sanctuary. Tova and her team have spent years researching the region’s vibrant shark communities.

Micronesia Shark Foundation

Tova Harel Bornovski

Project leader
About the project leader
Having spent my early years travelling around the world, learning different languages and diving in different oceans, I have developed an immeasurable appreciation of the marine environment and its delicate ecosystems. Two decades ago, my husband Navot and I sailed with our two toddlers from Florida to Palau, an island of the Micronesia group in the western Pacific Ocean. We made our home on the island in 1993 and had two more children. I soon acquired a deep love for the culture, flora and fauna of this island nation. The realisation that sharks are badly treated locally and internationally, and...
Project details

Migration, population status and monitoring of grey reef sharks in Palau

Key objective

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.

Why is this important

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.

Aims & objectives

This project has five major aims for the next two years:

  • Upgrade and expand to neighbouring island states the education and outreach activities that have targeted schools, community groups and local government.
  • Complete tagging studies by expanding the array of listening stations in Palau. This will also enable the array to be used by community groups to track other marine species, including turtles, manta rays and fish.
  • Complete deployment of new tags available on the market to allow sharks to be tagged and tracked for up to a decade (compared with 12 to 18 months in the past).
  • Collaborate with ecotourism operators in other island states to develop community monitoring programmes.
  • Expand economic analyses of the value of shark and manta ray diving in neighbouring island states to provide evidence and support for regional government initiatives involving the development of shark sanctuaries.”