In West Africa, as a result of uncontrolled fishing 35% of shark and ray species are globally threatened. Cape Verde is the only country in the region where shark species are not fully exploited by fishers searching for lucrative fins. This, however, makes Cape Verde waters a very attractive target to fishers striving to meet a growing demand for shark products.
The project will address this threat by tackling the issues of overfishing, by-catch and unregulated fishing. There is also very little local awareness of the contribution sharks make to ecosystem balance. Furthermore, high unemployment drives communities to the ocean to seek sources of livelihood.
The project team work with Maio Island Marine Protected Area (MPA) enforcement partners and local fishers to monitor MPAs, identify and trial shark release techniques while encouraging fisher collaboration in conservation. The team will also map potential sites for shark and marine ecotourism, and develop new income opportunities for fishermen by involving them in participatory business planning while identifying pathways for micro-loans for the start-up of new business opportunities.
The project will culminate with a unique shark exhibition on Maio and in the capital Praia, bringing sharks and rays out of the shadows and hopefully inspire local Cape Verdeans to think differently about these animals.
See the camaraderie generated by a successful nurse shark release by community members on Maio, Cape Verde:
This project aims to track a shift in perception from ignorance to interest and curiosity, and eventually understanding and respect. Specifically the project aims to ensure
An effectively managed and locally supported network of 5 MPAs offering critical protection for shark and ray breeding and nursing sites.
That changing public perceptions and behaviour towards sharks leads to increased engagement and empowered local champions in 3 coastal communities.
A live shark release initiative is adopted by 30% of local fishermen.
New income generating opportunities will provide an enabling environment and concrete pathway for illegal fishers to transition from shark fishing to shark friendly activities.