WWF scientist lands international conservation award

Posted on 03 December 2008    
Dr Samantha Petersen receives the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Thesis Award in Rome, December, 2008.
© WWF / Liz McLellan
Dr Samantha Petersen, a biologist with WWF, the conservation organisation, has won a prestigious international award for her research into the impact of commercial fishing on migratory seabirds, sea turtles and sharks.

Dr Petersen is the WWF Responsible Fisheries Programme Manager. Her entry to the 2008 UNEP/CMS Thesis Award on Migratory Species Conservation was judged the winner among those submitted by 32 candidates from 18 countries.

Another South African, Dr Ross Wanless, won 3rd place with his research on Impacts of the introduced house mouse on the seabirds of Gough Island.

Dr Lin Xia's thesis on Traffic Disturbance to the Migration of Tibetan Antelopes (Pantholops hodgsoni) in Hoh-xil National Nature Reserve took 2nd place.

The award is sponsored annually by National Geographic Deutschland, Deutsche Lufthansa, Zoological Research Museum Koenig and CMS.

The judges noted that Dr Petersen's thesis on Understanding and Mitigating Vulnerable Bycatch in southern African Trawl and Longline Fisheries has made a significant contribution to improving the affected species' conservation status. The document urges a holistic approach toward sustainable use of marine resources.

Dr Petersen says: "This award is very gratifying as the exposure will help drive further research and action to help save these vulnerable species from extinction.

"Our work in this sphere is absolutely crucial now. In the last decade concern globally has grown over the impact of bycatch on these species, especially in longline and trawl fishing, which decimated their populations. It's estimated that 75% of global fish stocks are either exploited to their maximum or over-exploited and that around 25% of marine resources landed are dumped.

"This has led to a catastrophic decline in vulnerable marine life, including the loss of up to 90% of the large predatory fish."

Dr Morne du Plessis, CEO of WWF in SA, says: "This is an important award as it demonstrates not only the scientific expertise in WWF and in SA's scientific community, but also highlights the growing concern over the impact of human activity on marine resources."
Dr Samantha Petersen receives the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Thesis Award in Rome, December, 2008.
© WWF / Liz McLellan Enlarge
Dr Samantha Petersen in the field, untangling a large, dead seabird from a fishing line.
© WWF / S. Petersen Enlarge

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