Yunita is in search of sawfish in Asmat Regency, in the Papuan provinces of Indonesia. Her project will describe the current presence, distribution and diversity of sawfish species in the region. She will also be investigating the cultural and socio-economic value of sawfish for the people of Asmat Regency. For rays that have largely disappeared from Indonesian waters elsewhere, this project can provide the Indonesian government with baseline information that will help to bring sawfish into a national conservation strategy.
I was born and raised in Indonesia, a country made up of thousands of islands that has the highest level of shark exploitation in the world. My interest in sawfish began when I was studying the socio-economics of fisheries at a university in Indonesia. During the course I became aware of the dynamics of coastal communities and how the sustainability of ocean resources depends on balancing the competing interests of commerce and biodiversity. After I graduated I joined the conservation organisation Sawfish Indonesia as its socio-economic coordinator. In this role I have conducted numerous interviews with fishermen to assess the...
To determine the current and recent historical presence of sawfish in Asmat Regency waters and provide initial data and information that can be utilised as a reference for the local and Indonesian governments to protect sawfish and their habitat.
Sawfish have largely disappeared from Indonesian waters and little is known about their current status in Papua Province. Although parts of the province have been overfished, more remote regions such as Asmat Regency are likely to still provide key habitat for sawfish. It is therefore crucial to document the status of sawfish populations in this area. The findings of this project will form a solid basis for developing more comprehensive research and species protection plans.
It is very difficult to determine the current status of sawfish populations in Papua Province, Indonesia, a former stronghold of Pristis species, due to the lack of data from this remote region. Without such information, it is possible that sawfish could become fully extirpated there. However, in the less fished Asmat Regency in Papua there is anecdotal evidence that sawfish were still caught there as late as 1995. In addition, historical photographs have been obtained that confirm that at least three species have been landed in Asmat: largetooth sawfish Pristis pristis, green sawfish P. zijsron and the elusive dwarf sawfish P. clavata.
This project is collecting the first comprehensive data to document the presence, distribution, change in abundance, and diversity of sawfish species in Asmat Regency. In addition, a cultural survey is being conducted to establish what members of the local community know about sawfish and their attitudes to the species. The Asmat people represent sawfish in their art and formerly used sawfish for meat and tools. Cultural studies are a crucial component of conservation efforts, as local attitudes to endangered species directly impact the outcome of such efforts. To be successful, conservation programmes in remote communities must foster interest in and concern for threatened species among the local people, drawing on their cultural values where appropriate. Therefore, to ensure the continued presence of sawfish populations in the Asmat region and in Papua Province generally, information about their status is necessary to provide guidance for the government and relevant institutions to immediately take concrete action to protect the species.
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.