Cyrus is using DNA barcoding to record which shark species are landed and processed in Tanzania’s fisheries and to improve the taxonomic resolution of finned and processed shark products from the country. With interviews and questionnaires, he hopes to identify the illegal supply networks of protected sharks in Tanzania and provide information that is useful to law enforcement officers.
Born in Dar es Salaam and raised in Kyerwa, Tanzania, I obtained a BSc in aquaculture from the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in 2008 and an MSc and PhD in marine biology from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in 2011 and 2017, respectively. Immediately after completing my BSc in 2008, I officially began my academic career by joining SUA as a tutorial assistant. In 2010 I was promoted to the rank of assistant lecturer and three years later became a lecturer. For more than five years I have gained experience in teaching and researching aquatic biodiversity and conservation,...
Our key objective is to expose the black market of the protected sharks in Tanzania using DNA barcoding and foster sustainable shark fisheries through increased awareness of enhanced enforcement.
This project will improve ocean health and promote sustainable shark fisheries in Tanzania.
Illegal fishing has depleted the fishery with some species fished close to the level of extinction. Although measures are taken to control trade and exploitation of endangered sharks, black markets still occur through the trading of processed shark products such as fins, meat, and liver oil. This project will use DNA barcoding to reveal the identity and conservation status of sharks in processed, traded, and landed specimens. Also, it will administer interviews and questionnaires to expose the illegal supply networks of the endangered sharks in order to enhance law enforcement and enable the fishery to recover.
Lastly, it will conduct stakeholder meetings and use mass media to raise awareness and educate the local communities regarding the protected species of sharks and the impacts of illegal fishing. This will reduce illegal fishing and curb black markets of sharks.
Due to rapid growth in the coastal population and frequent droughts, the demand for fishery resources in Tanzania continues to increase. As a result, fish are becoming more scarce, prices are rising, and the incidences of illegal fishing, habitat degradation, and overfishing have increased. Because sharks grow slowly, mature late, and produce few young, the shark fishery has been severely affected. The number and size of the landed sharks have declined in recent decades and many species of sharks are classed as endangered. To ensure that international trade in fins and meat of the endangered sharks does not threaten their survival, more than thirty species of these fish were included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). These fish include the Silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis), the basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus), great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), and the porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus), to mention a few. Also, Tanzania has clear legislation on the protection of the endangered sharks and it has ratified several treaties on the protection of the fish. Despite the existence of such regulations, black markets of the endangered sharks still occur through the trading of processed products and the morphologically deformed specimen because they cannot be morphologically identified by law enforcement. This project will use DNA barcoding to identify and reveal the conservation status of species in landed, processed, and traded shark products from Tanzania. Also, interviews and questionnaires will be administered to identify and expose the illegal supply networks of the endangered sharks. Lastly, stakeholder meetings will be conducted to raise the awareness of the stakeholders regarding the banned species. This will help to enhance law enforcement and enable the fishery to recover.
Approximately 23 different species of sharks and rays are landed and traded in Tanzanian fish markets. Despite differences among landing sites, the spottail shark Carcharhinus sorrah, bottlenose wedge fish Rhynchobatus australiae, and the scalloped hammerhead Sphyrna lewini were the most commonly landed and traded species in the study area. Furthermore, 50% of landed and traded species are either critically endangered or endangered, and 49% of them are CITES protected, indicating that they are fished and traded in contravention to Tanzanian Fisheries Regulation 67 of 2009. This calls for increased enforcement of fisheries regulations as well as increased public awareness in order to reduce fishing and trade of threatened sharks and rays in Tanzania.
The project revealed that approximately 50% of traded sharks and rays in Tanzania are threatened. This shows that the current enforcement measures are insufficient because all threatened species of sharks and rays are protected under Tanzanian laws. These findings will raise awareness among decision-makers and policymakers, potentially leading to improved enforcement of the existing regulations.
Education and public awareness achievements
We worked very closely with fishers and fisheries officers at landing sites and fish markets. During sampling, fishers were trained on how to identify protected sharks and rays. However, it was revealed that many fishers are not aware that endangered sharks and rays are protected and the majority are unaware of the protected species. We were unable to reach a large number of fishermen due to a limited budget. Nonetheless, we have applied for the keystone grant, which, if approved, will allow us to educate more fishers about the endangered and protected species of sharks, rays, and mobulids. This could help to change fishers’ perception and reduce illegal trade in protected elasmobranch.
To develop long-term solutions for coral reef management, we have to understand the threats to coral reefs, such as rising sea temperatures. Elena will survey the reefs in D’Arros and St Joseph in the Seychelles, comparing this year’s findings to previous data.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are only effective if the species you want to safeguard stays within its borders. Evan will assess factors such as movement, energy use, and prey availability to understand if and how these factors govern the home range size of sharks, ultimately improving the design of MPAs.
To protect certain species of sharks and their habitats, we need to have a clear understanding about how they behave and interact with their environment. Jenna will use accelerometer tags (technologically similar to activity trackers such as fitbits) to measure sicklefin lemon shark behaviour in three-dimensions.