Jeff and the Sawfish Conservation Society are on a mission to create high-quality and accurate education materials in at least six languages that will create awareness around all five species of sawfish. As one of the most threatened groups of sharks and rays in the world, sawfishes need conservation attention – and Jeff and the Sawfish Conservation Society believe the success of this action will rely on public buy-in and support. Translating impactful information into multiple languages, they hope to create an online platform that is accessible to government, conservation, research, and educational institutes as well as the general public, in sawfish ‘hotspots’ around the world.
My passion in life grew from a clam. Growing up in Seattle, I spent a lot of time at the ocean, where my family and I explored tidal pools, combed beaches and hunted for clams, crabs and shrimp. I also spent time fishing and swimming in nearby lakes, where I encountered a whole new world of aquatic life. When I was in the 5th grade, I was snorkelling in a lake when I stumbled upon what I thought were the same clams that I had found in the ocean. I was astonished to find these saltwater clams in a freshwater...
Develop and increase the availability of accurate and effective multilingual outreach materials for government, conservation, research, and educational institutes as well as the public, so that they can educate themselves and their community.
Sawfish are one of the largest, most endangered, and least known sharks or rays in the world. Public knowledge of sawfish is lacking in part due to a paucity of sawfish educational resources, and accessibility to the few resources that do exist. A few groups have begun to publish materials to increase sawfish awareness; however, a larger, multilingual, and collaborative approach is needed as public involvement around the world is essential to help conserve the remaining sawfish populations.
Sawfishes (family Pristidae) are some of the most threatened fishes in the world, having undergone global declines in range and abundance in the past century. These declines are notably attributed to fishing pressure, habitat modification, and trade in sawfish parts. Consequently, all five species of sawfishes are listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Sawfish research, which was in its infancy only 20+ years ago, has markedly increased in recent years, with research now occurring in sawfish hotspots throughout the world. This increase in the understanding of sawfish has led to more informed conservation and management actions and policies, and the production of the Global Sawfish Conservation Strategy. However, public knowledge, support, and involvement with these conservation efforts are critical for their success. The combination of research, management, and public education efforts has been shown to be useful in protecting sawfish in global strongholds. For instance, the smalltooth sawfish population(s) in the U.S. decreased by around 95% over the last 100 years, but through years of work to advance sawfish research and management, as well as with improved public education and stewardship, sawfish numbers appear to be stabilizing and possibly increasing in their core range in Florida.
Having advanced our understanding of sawfish and the threats they face, and with a global guideline to follow to further sawfish conservation, it is now essential that this information is provided to the public through various educational programs including outreach events so that the public can be better informed of their actions and help advance sawfish conservation efforts.
Demian’s team is developing tools that help border control officers identify illegal shark products. His project is sifting through ‘rhino ray’ DNA sequences looking for differences in code between the guitarfishes, giant guitarfishes and wedgefishes nicknamed for their pointy snouts (and Endangered status). Months of testing will help ensure only rhino ray DNA is targeted before the team flies to Hong Kong to help officials use a portable DNA tester. This project will add to the arsenal currently being used to identify illegal shark fins moving across borders, and help stop the trafficking of ‘rhino ray’ fins.
Aristide created a citizen science platform and mobile app for fishers across Cameroon’s 400 km coastline to record sightings of sharks, rays and marine life. These photos are uploaded to iNaturalist where they are identified and will serve to create Cameroon’s first elasmobranch atlas. Together with his team, Aristide ensures data are being uploaded, visits fish landing sites to assess bycatch and measure sharks, and scours the beaches to check for strandings and sea turtle nests. He collects tissue samples of threatened species in these visits that can give more insights into the diversity, population size and structure of vulnerable sharks.
Ali is collaborating with researchers across North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean to develop support tools for guitarfish conservation. As an advocate, much of her work is completed behind a computer and locked in meetings, but her goal is to help bring awareness to the threatened status of guitarfish in the Mediterranean. The current Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust, Ali represents a large number of regional partners to engage with governments, develop new resources and coordinate guitarfish conservation activities.