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The power of partnerships: celebrating 10 years of SOSF support

By Sarah Waries, 11th October 2019

The poet John Wells’ said ‘No man is an island’, and this could not be more true for the conservation world, where partnerships are vital for success, and in particular, long-term, sustainable conservation efforts rely on multi-stakeholder cooperation and coordination over extended time periods.

Successful long-term partnerships are something to be celebrated and revered, and as such Shark Spotters are extremely excited this year to be celebrating 10 years of partnership with the Save Our Seas Foundation, who came on board as primary funders and partners of our sustainable shark safety organisation in 2009.

The SOSF originally began funding the False Bay white shark research program through Dr Alison Kock in 2004, and when this research program was incorporated into Shark Spotters five years later, the Foundation began supporting our shark safety initiatives, both financially and strategically, enabling the significant growth and development of Shark Spotters over the following decade.

An old image from the beginning of the research programme. Photo © Yvonne Kamp

Over the years the support received from the Save Our Seas Foundation has allowed Shark Spotters to expand to cover more beaches, provide significant skills development and training opportunities for our staff, continue our ground-breaking shark research program, test and trial a number of innovative sustainable shark safety measures, and more recently, expand our education programme, with the help of their Shark Education Centre in Kalk Bay, to increase our reach to those communities most in need of shark safety and ocean conservation interventions.

In addition to this, Shark Spotters and the Save Our Seas Foundation have partnered on some exciting ad-hoc projects over the years including co-hosting the 3rd Southern African Shark & Ray Symposium in 2015 and its associated #LoveFalseBay public event and outdoor photo exhibition, as well as the Wavescape BeachReach in 2016. Shark Spotters was also the focal subject of the Foundation’s inaugural conservation photography grant in 2014 which was an excellent showcase of the work we do.

Shark spotter Donny on duty at St James beach. Photo © Mac Stone | Save Our Seas Foundation

We are extremely grateful for the support we have received from SOSF, without which Shark Spotters would not be the program it is today. Together with our organisations have worked hand in hand towards their goals of sustainable conservation of threatened apex predators and healthy oceans, through innovative world-leading solutions.

Partnerships, by definition, are a combination of shared efforts and interests. While Shark Spotters has gained invaluable financial and operational support from SOSF over the last decade, we were interested in finding out how the Foundation values its partnership with Shark Spotters. We asked Foundation CEO, Michael Scholl, his take on the special relationship between the two organisations.

Why did the Foundation choose to support Shark Spotters as a project partner?

The Shark Spotters programme addresses a number of key issues in a manner that is innovative, science-informed and sustainable, hallmarks that underpin the kind of longterm conservation success that the Foundation considers when partnering with new projects. There is obvious alignment between the Shark Spotters and the Foundation’s goals when it comes to raising the profile of evidence-based education around white sharks and their behaviour, and the management of human-wildlife conflict. Perhaps less obvious, but none-the-less very important, is the involvement of, and job creation for, members of the coastal communities around Cape Town. It’s a project that prioritizes people and sharks, to the benefit of both, rather than one losing out to the other – and that is very much aligned with the interests and priorities of the Foundation.

In your opinion, what has been the highlight of this partnership in the past 10 years?

There are a number, but perhaps what is most encouraging for a funder and partner to see is the continued growth and stabilisation of a project that must be sustainable if it’s to be a success, both for the people who depend on the project for jobs and for the sharks whose ecosystem is increasingly under pressure. That Shark Spotters has been able to maintain a steady stream of research outputs, and even expand into questions that pertain to the wider ecosystem and other sharks in the region, is great to see. The expansion to new beaches, and growing profile of the outreach and education from the programme – both locally and globally – is truly fantastic.

Where does the Foundation hope to see Shark Spotters in 5 or 10 years time?

Solidified in its position as a global leader in shark research and human-wildlife management approaches, but also certainly acting as a model for other innovation in coastal communities around the world – and as a solid reference for pioneering shark and ecosystem research in southern Africa as our oceans and climate continue to change.

SOSF CEO Michael Scholl with Shark Spotter Lihle Kala. Photo by Michael Scholl | © Save Our Seas Foundation

While Shark Spotters takes this opportunity to celebrate and give thanks to the partnerships we have built in the past and what we have been able to achieve because of them, it is also a prime opportunity to look forward to the future, set new goals and form more relationships in order to increase the impact we make.

With global conservation issues becoming ever more complex it is clear that working alone will create only a “drop in the ocean” and that in order to “make waves” an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach to solving these problems is needed.

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