A successful first year for the Shark Initiative
While the small team behind Sharks: Restoring the Balance has devoted considerable effort to the critical nuts and bolts of launching new conservation projects – from fine-tuning the objectives and strategies to fundraising for them – we’re already starting to make a real difference.
And the platforms and relationships we’re building will serve the initiative – and the world’s sharks and rays – well for years to come.
The following is just a snapshot of what has happened in the past year:
- We launched the Pacific Shark Heritage Programme from our WWF-Fiji office and Fiji, Samoa and French Polynesia have already formally indicated they would like to work with us to protect sharks and rays, which play an important role in the cultural heritage of indigenous people across the Pacific;
- WWF-Hong Kong conducted a survey of 154 catering outlets, including Chinese banquet caterers, hotels and clubhouses, which found that the volume of shark fin consumed dropped by 47% in 2013 compared to 2012;
- The largest airline in the Philippines, Cebu-Pacific, banned the carriage of shark fin with the support of WWF-Philippines;
- WWF attended the 11th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) as technical adviser to the official Fijian delegation, where our proposals for international protection for reef mantas and nine species of devil rays were accepted and adopted;
- Prior to the CMS conference, the British government gave a presentation to the Convention’s Scientific Council on the risk method developed by TRAFFIC, which identifies species threatened by overexploitation, and proposed that it should be used to identify priority species;
- We formed a partnership with the Manta Trust and Project AWARE to produce expert guidance on shark and ray tourism;
- While a new partnership – between WWF, TRAFFIC, WCS, Shark Advocates International, Shark Trust and the IUCN Shark Specialist Group – to develop a 10-year strategy for shark conservation has progressed very well;
- TRAFFIC began a series of surveys that will provide a better understanding of the current market for shark fin and ray gill plates in China, and support the subsequent development and delivery of a strategy to reduce Chinese demand for shark and ray products. Along with research into the type and quantity of products consumed, the first phase will also include market monitoring in Hong Kong and Taiwan to pinpoint the key trade routes into China;
- Malaysia launched its second National Plan of Action for sharks and WWF-Malaysia is assisting with implementation through the Sabah Shark Alliance;
- The CITES guide to conducting non-detriment findings for sharks, which TRAFFIC was involved in drafting and which the German government funded, was refined and an improved version is now available via the CITES Shark Portal; and
- WWF is leading on the development of an innovative ‘Rapid Assessment Tool-kit’ for sharks and rays, which will help countries acquire and analyse much needed data to so reduce unwanted mortality.
But none of these critical steps can rival my most vivid personal moments: seeing manta rays being auctioned in a market in Sri Lanka and their gill plates removed for export to China, watching fisheries inspectors recording detailed information for every shark and ray hauled ashore in one of the main landing sites in Ecuador, and photographing thresher sharks circling a cleaner station at dawn in the Philippines.
It is these moments that will inspire me in the years ahead – to keep on campaigning until we have really begun to restore the balance.