Indonesia’s Ay and Rhun Islands Marine Protected Area was declared in 2021, but three species of thresher shark were not listed as conservation targets. With no management plan that addresses the fisheries and no national or local policies to address thresher shark fisheries in particular, there is much left to do to manage the species’ populations. Rafid is collecting the first information about these fisheries with a view to developing the conservation and management strategies needed to effectively address thresher shark populations in the Ay and Rhun Islands Marine Protected Area.
An early-career conservationist from the city of South Tangerang, Indonesia, I was a Fellow at the University of Oxford‘s Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science in Oxford, UK, and the winner of the Future Conservationist Award from the Conservation Leadership Programme. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree, I moved to the coral triangle region of Indonesia, an epicentre of marine biodiversity. There my passion for sharks and rays was nurtured by voluntary work in Lamakera, East Nusa Tenggara, where the most manta rays in the world have been killed. I earned a Master’s degree from the
The objective of the project is to initiate the first effort to conserve the pelagic thresher shark in Banda Neira, Indonesia, by studying the fishery and the socio-economic dependence of the communities on it and by conducting public outreach programmes.
As populations of the pelagic thresher shark decrease across Indonesia, the species should become a priority for conservation. This project aims to provide comprehensive information about the status and utilisation of this Endangered species by exploring its population levels and socio-economic dependence on it. We focus on Rhun Island, the centre of fisheries activity in the Ay and Rhun Islands Marine Protected Area, in the heart of the coral triangle, where preserving marine biodiversity is critical.
Sharks are apex predators in the ocean, so it is essential to conserve and manage them if marine biodiversity is to be protected. Thresher sharks are most vulnerable to overexploitation by fisheries (as target and bycatch) because of their slow rate of reproduction. In the 2019 assessment of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the pelagic thresher shark Alopias pelagicus was reclassified from globally Vulnerable to Endangered. The species is also listed on CITES Appendix II.
In 2021 a marine protected area was established around the islands of Ay and Rhun, but none of the three thresher shark species are listed as conservation targets in its management plan. There are also no fundamental national or local policies or measures to address the thresher shark fisheries, so the exploitation of pelagic thresher sharks remains unchecked. Moreover, the lack of reliable catch, effort and abundance information hinders stock assessment of the pelagic thresher shark at the local level.
The poor availability of data and the complexity of shark fisheries could lead to the implementation of conservation policies with limited understanding of the social dimension. The potential consequences for Rhun fishermen of reduced income from shark fisheries may be severe and could lead to the fishers resorting to catching sharks illegally. Understanding the motivation for shark fisheries can help to create policies that predict or adapt to these social consequences and promote compliance. Non-compliance is a primary challenge to halting declines in global shark populations.
The project will collect the first robust data and information about the local fisheries to develop future conservation and management of pelagic thresher sharks within Ay and Rhun Islands Marine Protected Area.
Outside the USA, The Bahamas is the only place where Critically Endangered smalltooth sawfish can reliably be found. Tristan wants to ensure that protection measures in The Bahamas are understood and enforced as far as sawfish are concerned to close the current gap between policy and the people. He’ll be using aerial surveys, sonar and BRUVs, combined with interviews that draw on local knowledge, to identify essential sawfish habitats that need protection. Engaging with the community through workshops and by training students and meeting with government, Tristan intends to advocate for smalltooth sawfish protection throughout The Bahamas’ territorial waters.
Steven and Kevin are using genetic techniques to understand how Caribbean reef shark populations are connected across the extent of their range. Populations of this Endangered shark are in decline generally, but where they are managed and there is effective protection, their numbers are stable. With the integration of the correct information, Steven and Kevin are convinced that we can give Caribbean reef sharks a better shot at recovery and population stabilisation. They will also explore any barriers to connectivity, looking to the future recruitment and recovery of these sharks.
With very little information available about Endangered sicklefin devil rays, their seasonal aggregations at sea mounts in the Azores give Sophie an opportunity to learn more about their lives. She will be collecting satellite-tracking data that show how they move in the Azores’ exclusive economic zone. The information she collects will be used to develop maps of how the rays are using the zone and to identify essential areas that multiple species use. With this information at hand, Sophie hopes her work can contribute to a network of marine protected areas.