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:
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. As 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.