Sally is working with local researchers and communities in the Palawan province to produce a film that will advance protection of the Philippines’ natural heritage. Her focus is on sharks and rays in the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion. The Sulu Sea, where the film is set, is both a site of incredible marine diversity and one of the region’s key fishing grounds. Sally will bring to communities stories of one of the world’s largest shark aggregations at Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, the whale sharks and feeding aggregations of oceanic manta rays at Honda Bay, visions of Cagayancillio (the country’s largest marine protected area), and a newly-discovered reef manta ray cleaning station.
I am a conservationist and filmmaker, and an executive director of the Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines, the largest NGO dedicated to the conservation of marine megafauna and their environment in the Philippines. As a passionate science communicator, I have worked with the BBC, National Geographic Channel, S4C, and PTS in diverse roles from associate producer, undercover filmmaker, and self-shooting presenter to a fixer for blue-chip series. I believe in conservation filmmaking as a tool for behavioral change and delivering stories that connect people and the environment. Although I started my career in conservation as a...
To conserve sharks and rays in Palawan, Philippines, by enhancing local knowledge, community participation and government support through the production and screening of a 30-minute film and through an interactive impact campaign.
Shark and ray populations have declined throughout South-East Asia and, despite international and national protection for many species, are still being harvested locally by both commercial and small-scale fisheries every day, further driving the few remaining populations into local extinction. This campaign brings awareness of priority sites for sharks and rays identified in the province of Palawan to increase the buy-in of local communities and politicians to ensure these areas are protected.
Sharks are virtually absent on many of Asia’s coral reefs and the Philippines is no exception. Over a century of targeted and untargeted fishing, followed by direct exploitation in the 1980s and ’90s and a currently oversaturated open-access industry, has depleted Philippine waters. Even when sharks are not directly targeted, results from a rapid by-catch assessment conducted across the province of Palawan have revealed alarming rates of illegal and unreported shark and ray by-catch in small-scale fisheries. Despite this, there are a few glimmers of hope for the future of these species. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, a large, long-established and remote protected area, is an extraordinary site for reef sharks, hosting some of the highest densities recorded worldwide. However, research in the park has shown that even large reef-associated elasmobranchs like adult grey reef sharks, reef manta rays and tiger sharks make large-scale movements and need multiple specifically designed protected areas to ensure their survival. Meanwhile, the development of tourism in internationally important feeding sites for whale sharks and cleaning stations for manta rays are posing potential new threats to these species. The passing and implementation of legislation to protect four priority habitats is urgent to safeguard the future of elasmobranchs. This project will raise awareness about the value of sharks and rays and the threats they are facing and will identify and promote the removal of barriers to ensure their conservation in the province of Palawan, taking insight from Rare’s Principles of Pride and Theory of Change Model. The campaign will increase the buy-in of communities and government to protective measures for sharks and rays by producing and screening a 30-minute film that is expected to increase knowledge, shift attitudes and encourage communication and consultations with local stakeholders to identify barriers and solutions to protective measures.
This project uses a holistic approach to ensure the conservation of elasmobranchs in the province of Palawan in the Philippines by:
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.