Sharks of the Sulu Sea

  • Sharks
Years funded
  • 2021
  • Active
Project type
  • Education
  • Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines (LAMAVE)

Sally is working with local researchers and communities in the Palawan province to produce a film that can advance the 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 Puerto Princesa City, visions of Cagayancillio (the country’s largest MPA), and a newly-discovered reef manta ray cleaning stations.

Sharks of the Sulu Sea

Sally Snow

Project leader
About the project leader

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...

PROJECT LOCATION : Philippines, Palawan province
Project details

Sharks of the Sulu: Impact media campaign to support elasmobranch conservation in Palawan

Key objective

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 interactive impact campaign.

Why is this important

Shark and ray populations have declined throughout South East Asia, and despite international and national protection for many species, local harvesting from both commercial and small-scale fisheries still happens daily, further driving the few remaining populations into local extinction. This campaign brings awareness to priority sites for sharks and rays identified in the province of Palawan to amplify the buy-in of local communities and politicians to ensure these areas are protected.


Sharks are virtually absent on many of Asians’ coral reefs and the Philippines is no exception. Over a century of targeted and untargeted fishing, followed by direct exploitation in the ’80s and ’90s and a currently oversaturated open-access industry have depleted Philippine waters. Even when not targeted, results from a rapid bycatch assessment conducted across the province of Palawan have revealed alarming rates of illegal and unreported shark and ray bycatch in small scale fisheries.
Despite this, there are a few hope spots for the future of these species within the country. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, a large, long-established, fully protected 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 on the value of sharks and rays, the threats they are facing, and 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. Through the production and screening of a 30-minute film, the campaign will amplify the buy-in of communities and governments towards protective measures for sharks and rays, through the increase of knowledge, the shift of attitudes and communication and consultations with local stakeholders to identify barriers and solutions to protective measures.

Aims & objectives

This project uses a holistic approach to ensure the conservation of elasmobranchs in the province of Palawan in the Philippines through:

  • The production of a 30-minute film led by local characters showcasing threats to sharks and rays and the conservation success at the local level.
  • Workshops to enhance local communities’ engagement and active participation in sharks’ conservation and sustainable resource management in four priority habitats for sharks and rays.
  • The use of the film as a tool to lobby and facilitate Local Government Units and the Palawan Council of Sustainable Development for the legal protection of priority areas for elasmobranchs, the regulation of marine wildlife tourism interaction and other potential mitigation strategies.
  • Promote STEM and shark conservation as a viable career option for early-career scientists and students from Palawan and nationwide.