|The Transect Line - March 2012||Newsletter Archive|
|Reef Check Spotlight: Shark Conservation in The Bahamas|
|By Krista Sherman, GEF FSP Coordinator, Bahamas National Trust
Sharks are an extremely diverse group of marine animals that can be found in various habitats worldwide. Sharks belong to the class Chondrichthyes, subclass Elasmobranchii that contains 12 orders of which three are extinct and 1100 species have been described. Chondrichthyes are cartilaginous fish characterized by the presence of five or more gill slits, paired fins, a true jaw and nostrils. There are approximately 500 shark species ranging in size from the 27cm pygmy shark Euprotomicrus bispinatus to the 21m whale shark Rhincodon typus. Collectively, sharks have played an instrumental role in marine ecosystems for over 400 million years as evidenced by fossil records of the Devonian and possibly lower Silurian. However, because of their K-selected life history strategy (i.e. slow maturation and reproduction, producing few viable offspring) and increasing anthropogenic pressures they are extremely vulnerable and susceptible to overexploitation. Some estimates report that global shark populations have declined by as much as 80% within the last 20 years. Additionally, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group (SSG) lists 30% of shark and ray species as threatened or near threatened with extinction.
Increased awareness about the impact of global shark fisheries, habitat destruction and the combined effects this will have on the marine environment and economy has improved collaborations between scientists, conservationists and government officials. The Bahamas National Trust (BNT), established in 1959, is mandated with conserving both natural and historic resources in The Bahamas and is the only non-governmental organization in the world mandated to manage a country’s entire national park system. BNT’s vision is to create a comprehensive system of national parks and protected areas, with every Bahamian embracing environmental stewardship. This vision has driven and continues to drive the organization to establish new parks, engage in community outreach and promote conservation, education and research in The Bahamas.
Bahamian shark populations are relatively healthy when compared to other parts of the world, which is due in part to the 1990s longline commercial fishing ban. However, to ensure that shark populations within The Bahamas remain healthy, in 2010 BNT partnered with the PEW Environment Group to launch a national “Protect the Sharks of The Bahamas” campaign to ban the commercial sale and trading of sharks and shark products within the country’s exclusive economic zone.
The campaign launched in May 2010 with participants including government officials, representatives from NGOs, scientists, dive tour operators, conservationists, media and other key stakeholders. The benefits of maintaining diverse and abundant shark populations to sustain healthy ecosystems and the associated economic benefits through dive-related tourism (valued at approximately $78 million per annum to the Bahamian economy) were highlighted. BNT partnered with PEW and local NGOs to raise public awareness on the global status of sharks through education and outreach programmes. A series of presentations, public meetings, community walk-throughs and outreach through social network forums and the media occurred during 2010-2011. More than 5,600 Bahamians signed handwritten petitions asking the government to “prohibit commercial fishing and selling of any shark or shark related products within the Commonwealth of The Bahamas”. In July 2011, the Bahamian Government created an amendment to the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act (Chapter 244) to prohibit commercial shark fishing along with the sale, importation and export of shark products within 630,000 km2 (243,244 mi2) of its waters. This marked another huge accomplishment for The Bahamas, which now protects over 40 known shark species. Shelley Cant, BNT shark campaign manager stated, “This new legislation has established The Bahamas as the regional leader for shark conservation”.
Decades of scientific research on sharks in The Bahamas has been used to assess their diversity and abundance and address deficiencies pertaining to their life history characteristics, diet, behaviour and distribution. Continued advancements in research combined with local capacity building, fisheries regulation enforcement and improved public awareness will lead to better conservation management. An ecosystem based approach will undoubtedly be most effective to sustain the diversity and function of sharks within marine ecosystems.
Editor's Note: Read our previous stories on sharks- New Laws in California & Marshall Islands Protect Sharks and An Asian-American Perspective on Shark Finning
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|Reef Check Partners With One World One Ocean Campaign|
By Ted Reckas, One World One Ocean
|Reef Check "SciGirls" Episode Wins An Emmy Award|
By Colleen Wisniewski, Reef Check California Southern California Manager
|Reef Check California Update|
|By Reef Check California Director Dr. Jan Freiwald
In February RCCA had its annual retreat on Catalina Island. Staff and contract instructors came together to plan for the upcoming training and survey season and to get into the water to re-calibrate their survey skills. This year we had a large group of instructors from our partner institutions including Monterey Bay State University, one of our new partners in the Monterey Bay area. After the retreat we started two new volunteer trainings at Monterey Bay State University and at UC Santa Cruz. At both universities we are training their scientific divers in the RCCA survey methods. We are excited about partnering with both schools and welcome these new RCCA divers!
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce our new Southern California Volunteer Coordinator, Brianne Billups. Brianne started working with us this month and will help organize trainings and surveys in southern California. She is finishing up her degree in Marine Biology at UC Santa Barbara and has an extensive diving background, especially diving in National Parks around the country as part of the Our World Underwater National Park Service Scholarship she received before joining Reef Check. Please join me in welcoming Brianne to the team!
RCCA trainings and recertifications will start up next month with the first recerts on April 14 and 15th in Los Angeles and Monterey. If you are a RCCA citizen scientist and would like to survey with us this year please go to our website and sign up for a recertification date in your region or if you would like to become a new RCCA diver choose one of the trainings in the region closest to you.
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|Early Results From Oman EcoExpedition Available|
By Rita Bento, Reef Check United Arab Emirates Coordinator
|3rd Punta Sayulita Surf Contest a Winner for Reef Check|
The 3rd Annual Punta Sayulita Longboard & Stand-Up Paddle Classic took place March 9 – 11 in Sayulita, Mexico with a terrific turnout and lots of fun as well as another great series of competitions and races featuring professional and amateur surfers from around the world. Some of the world’s leading surfers and surfing legends were there to participate. The contest is designed as a charity event to raise funds for a local school and Reef Check Mexico, and the generous sponsors helped make that happen. Reef Check thanks Kevin Roberts and his team for being amazing hosts as always, and for supporting the Reef Check education and survey program in the waters of Bahia Banderas and offshore islands.
|Kids Get Wet to Learn About Coral Reefs in Indonesia|
|By Jenny Willis, Reef Check Indonesia
A group of children from Bali’s Green School are some of Indonesia’s newest Reef Checkers, thanks to an adventurous education program. Run by Indonesia’s learning adventure company, Odyssey Institute, the program was designed to complement the school's curriculum, which has a conservation theme.
Odyssey’s Program director Brad Korpalski said the kids learned about the Reef Check survey method during their stay in West Bali National Park.
“We held a discussion about coral reefs and the type of information we were looking to collect, and what that information means,” Brad said.
“We had the students practice on the beach by using Reef Check's indicator species marine cards, and in the shallow water, before attempting to survey a pre-determined transect.”
Brad said the reef monitoring was challenging for the kids – especially the substrate survey, but they really seemed to enjoy the learning.
“I think students are the perfect people to get involved in this type of effort. They can easily involve monitoring in school clubs or weekend adventures, and tend to have time and energy to contribute. I think it [the program] was a success. So much so, that we are getting our Reef Check EcoDiver certification to continue the program and establish the site as an official monitoring location. The school group in the film will be the first to make an official submission to the database in May.”
Odyssey Institute is one of the only experiential education organizations in Bali and Brad says they are firm believers that the best education results from direct experience, and the best experiences are those in which we are holistically (spiritually, mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally) involved.
“Spending time in the ocean in remote corners of Bali is a great way to get connected with a world outside the one we've created. In the end, you simply hope someone's going to be impacted enough to make future decisions that take into account a world bigger than ourselves. Also, the reef monitoring provides a tangible action to the thought of ‘I want to make a difference.’”
“We always challenge students creatively with our projects. So while we did a beach clean up, we also provided them the space to use the garbage to make art and create and deliver a message about conservation. I think they did a skit using all the flip-flops and Red Bull bottles they found!”
Brad says part of their mission is to support local NGOs and communities through the provision of resources to enable specific projects and create sustainable livelihoods. Reef Check Foundation Indonesia is one of those NGOs.
Check out a fun video about the program here.
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|Reef Check Save the Reefs, Save the Oceans Gala: September 8, 2012|
This year's Save the Reefs, Save the Oceans Reef Check Gala will be be held September 8, 2012 at the Jonathan Beach Club in Santa Monica, California. The evening will recognize the contributions of our “Heroes of the Reef” each having demonstrated an exemplary commitment to ocean conservation.
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