Madagascar’s sharks are in steep decline. Frances has trained members of the Vezo community to collect real-time information about local shark fishing using mobile phones.
Most people working in marine conservation say that they have always had a passion for the sea and its inhabitants since as far back as they can remember. My background is no different, and learning to scuba dive and seeing marine creatures up close confirmed that this environment would define the rest of my life.
After studying biology and marine biology at university in the UK, I volunteered and worked for marine conservation groups in the Philippines and Indonesia. There I savoured the opportunity to learn the Latin names of corals and was proud that I could demonstrate the difference between...
To create an information and communication network based on everyday smart-phone technology, to provide broad-scale data needed for shark population assessment and monitoring, and to catalyse effective conservation measures for shark species on a national scale in Madagascar.
A major stumbling block to establishing effective and broad-scale conservation of shark species is the paucity of information on their ecology, fisheries and socio-economic value. In the absence of any such understanding, diverse and unconnected stakeholders have no basis or motivation to enact meaningful conservation measures.
Madagascar’s coastline of more than 5,500 kilometres comprises the most diverse and extensive shallow marine habitats in the western Indian Ocean region. Its waters harbour 81 recorded species of shark, although it is estimated that there could be 123 shark and ray species in total.
Despite the biodiversity of Madagascar’s sharks, there is a paucity of information on their ecology, fisheries and socioeconomic value. There are good reasons for the present information and management vacuum: much of the fishery takes place in remote fishing grounds scattered over thousands of kilometres of coastline; the fishers are highly mobile and move great distances to productive fishing grounds; and in the absence of any such understanding the diverse and unconnected stakeholders have no basis or motivation to enact meaningful conservation measures.
The recent extension of GSM mobile phone coverage to much of Madagascar’s coast now provides an excellent opportunity to use an information and communication network to help overcome these barriers. The project will establish a network of community data collectors and managers, equipped with mobile phones and solar panel chargers, to monitor shark fisheries. Through establishing such infrastructure, all stakeholders will effectively share information and communicate, despite many of them being isolated and widely dispersed.
The overall aim of the project is to set up and trial an information and communication network based on everyday mobile smart-phones in southwest Madagascar that provides data needed for the conservation of sharks.
The project has two main objectives:
To find out which shark species occur in Puerto Rican waters, Glorimar is using genetics and getting samples from fish markets. She also relies on the assistance of local fishers. Filling this fundamental knowledge gap will help to assess local consumption of sharks and build up the community’s understanding of how sharks function in the marine ecosystem.
Shark fishing is becoming increasingly important in St Vincent, but little is known about the shark populations there. Catherine is figuring out which sharks live there and how they are utilised by local communities. She’s working with fishermen to achieve sustainable management of these fisheries.
At the northern extent of the hugely productive waters of the Benguela Ecosystem, Angola’s rich waters support a huge artisanal fishing fleet. Ana is unlocking information about sharks and rays in the region, building the baseline for managing and protecting these species in West African waters.