Help Protect Our Planet's Coral Reefs!

 
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CITES workshop participants (Angelo Villagomez)
CITES workshop participants (Angelo Villagomez)

On February 11 and 12, 2014, in Nadi, Fiji, The Pew Charitable Trusts, CORAL, and the Fiji Government hosted the Oceania Follow-up Regional Workshop on the Implementation of CITES Appendix II Shark Listings. With representatives from 11 countries in the Pacific and over 60 participants and observers, significant progress was made toward ensuring these newly listed species–oceanic whitetip, scalloped hammerhead, great hammerhead, smooth hammerhead, the porbeagle shark, and two species of manta rays–achieve the protection they desperately need.

The workshop kicked off in traditional Fijian fashion with an opening welcome from Mr. Samuela Namosimaluaa, Permanent Secretary for Local Government, Urban Development, Housing and Environment, as well as with a video message from the CITES Secretary General Mr. John Scanlon. The panel included Imogen Zethoven, Director of Global Shark Conservation for The Pew Charitable Trusts acting as Chair of the meeting; Mr. Aisake Batibasaga, Principal Fisheries Officer for Fiji; Colin Simfendorfer Director of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group; Shaneen Coulson, CITES Scientific Authority of Australia; and Hugh Robertson, CITES Scientific Authority of New Zealand. Speakers also included Stan Shea—an expert in the shark fin trade in Hong Kong, Ian Freeman from the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), and Lindsay Chapman from Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

All of these speakers assisted in familiarizing participants with the context of these new listings and on the details of how to ensure they are implemented properly. But one presentation stole the show (and the fresh air from the room). Dr. Demian Chapman, aka the ‘”fin Doctor,” as he was aptly nicknamed after his demonstration, ensured that all attendees were familiar with how to identify the fins of these species. His hands-on approach involved displaying dried fins on all of the tables around the room, providing a very fragrant and visual reference.

Overall, the two-day workshop was filled with thoughtful questions and productive strategic planning. But most importantly, this meeting gave all of the CITES parties in the region the opportunity to convene and discuss what needs to be done regionally in order for the new listings to be effective. Some key conclusions that spanned the region were:

  • Additional data to determine Non-Detrimental Findings (NDFs) for hammerhead sharks in the region is needed.
  • Regional collaboration to assess the hammerhead stocks is desired.
  • Due to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) ban on oceanic white tip and the Convention on Migratory Species Appendix I listing of the manta ray, it is unlikely that a NDF could be determined for those species.
  • Sufficient funds to implement, enforce, and monitor CITES listed sharks and rays are needed. Australia and New Zealand will apply for funding to the CITES Secretariat on behalf of all eight Oceania Parties. The EU gave the secretariat more than $1 million euros.

These conclusions will ideally translate into action on the ground, including a plan to address gaps in data, as well as a strategy for enforcement to be put in place prior to the September 14, 2014 implementation date.

CORAL looks forward to working with our partners in Fiji to ensure that the government is equipped and prepared to make the most of these landmark listings—which have the potential to significantly reduce shark mortality not only in the Pacific but around the world.

CORAL
CORAL's Hawaii Water Guide

“Hotel X” could save between $137,000 and $147,000 on its water bill each year by using recycled water while at the same time helping preserve Maui’s coral reefs, according to the results of a water-use survey CORAL conducted recently. The survey was part of our campaign to assist hotel and condominium property managers as they prepare to access recycled (“R1”) water from the County of Maui’s new purple pipes; using recycled wastewater for landscaping and other purposes will reduce the amount of treated wastewater that ultimately reaches the reefs. The water-use survey results, plus tips for connecting to the recycled water system and navigating the permit process, were just published by CORAL in Recycled Water for Reefs/A Guide for West Maui’s Resorts and Condominium Properties (downloadable at www.coral.org/hawaiiwater). The guide also includes information about using recycled water for landscaping, as well as how to get involved in the broader watershed stewardship movement, the West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative, of which CORAL is a partner.

The County of Maui’s Steve Parabicoli says he’s excited to see Maui moving forward with recycled water use, not only for the benefits to reefs, but also because it will help extend Maui’s limited supply of potable water. “I’ve seen the need for years. We’ve looked at this as a wastewater disposal issue, but it should also be looked at as a drought-proof water supply issue.”

Lisa Paulson, Executive Director of the Maui Hotel & Lodging Association, says she sees recycled water use directly benefiting both reefs and the local economy. “Our reefs are integral to everybody’s visit. I would say ninety percent of the visitors who come here are in the ocean. We all realize that if we don’t maintain our island, we’re going to lose the main reason people come to visit us.” 

Thanks so much for your support of our clean water work in Hawaii--and best "fishes" for a wonderful New Year!

Links:

Fish on the way to market
Fish on the way to market

The biggest surprise for former CORAL Conservation Programs Director Rick MacPherson on his spring reef surveys off the north coast of Bali was that the nearshore reefs—which he expected to be teeming with life, “like the ‘Times Square’ of the Coral Triangle”—were instead very quiet. “Gone were the colorful reef fish grazing on algae on the coral rock, along with the usual underwater chorus of snaps and pops from their nibbling,” he recalls. The magnificent predator fish were gone too: no sharks, jack, snapper, or grouper.

Where he did find lots of fish, however, was displayed in front of the beach-long strip of restaurants in the village of Jimbaran just outside the Bali capital of Denpasar. There, hundreds of tourists were disembarking from tour buses and engaging in a feeding frenzy, selecting their favorite reef fish for dinner. Lobster and crab were on display as well. All of these fish and crustaceans play important ecological roles in keeping reefs healthy, so the fact that they were onshore, rather than on the reef, was disturbing. “The sheer volume surprised me,” says Rick. “I saw more grouper for sale on the beach than in one week of reef surveys.”

In nearby Amed, Reef Check Indonesia has worked for several years to discourage the practice of unsustainable reef fishing, while CORAL has complemented their efforts by building community support for a voluntary user fee system that would bring alternative income into the community through dive tourism. We have also been encouraging the community to take more ownership of their reef. In some other communities along the northern coast, locals have asserted their own access rights, establishing a “turf.” When poachers come in, they are chased out. In contrast to what he saw at Jimbaran, says Rick, those local “rights-based” fishery areas had visibly more abundant and intact fish communities. “It’s still obviously depleted, but you can see the recovery taking place.”

CORAL hopes that by building support from within communities like Amed, we can inspire replication of this kind of rights-based approach. At the same time, we plan to work with legislators and policymakers at the regency (local) or federal level to reinforce this type of ownership through legal decrees. Such a solution speaks to what CORAL is all about: bringing people—tourism operators, fishermen, NGO partners, government officials—together to reestablish healthy reefs.

Amed dive tag generates money for conservation
Amed dive tag generates money for conservation
CORAL staff documenting the beautiful reefs
CORAL staff documenting the beautiful reefs

In Honduras, the groundswell of interest in conserving coral reefs continues. CORAL’s Field Manager Jenny Myton recently appeared on “Frente a Frente,” the most viewed show on national television, to talk about Cordelia Banks, CORAL’s voluntary standards for sustainable marine tourism, CORAL and partners’ responsible seafood guide, and why reefs are important to every Honduran. Since her appearance on the show, she has been inundated with calls, including from government representatives.

“The most important comments I’ve received are people telling me, ‘I now know why the reefs are so important’ or ‘I didn’t know you shouldn’t eat shark and turtle,’” says Jenny. “Now they know they have alternatives and can make better choices.”

Jenny also led a scuba and sustainable marine recreation training for Tela’s municipal and federal government officials and a local NGO, Prolansate, at the request of the Mayor of Tela, who is interested in having the coral reefs of Capiro Banks declared a Site of Wildlife Importance before the end of the year. To that end, CORAL and the Healthy Reefs Initiative recently assessed the reef using the Atlantic Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment standard protocols to verify and delineate its extent and condition—and to provide the necessary documentation and basis for designating the reef a Site of Wildlife Importance.

Jenny conducting a workshop for govt officials
Jenny conducting a workshop for govt officials
A beautiful--and now protected--hammerhead shark
A beautiful--and now protected--hammerhead shark

With an estimated 97 million sharks being harvested each year, serious protection measures can’t come soon enough. In March, at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Conference of the Parties in Bangkok, member nations took action. They agreed to list the oceanic whitetip shark, three species of hammerhead shark (scalloped, smooth, and great), the porbeagle shark, and both species of manta rays in CITES Appendix II, an action that means increased protection but that still allows legal and “sustainable” trade. Countries supporting the listing included Brazil, Colombia, the European Union, Costa Rica, Honduras, Ecuador, Mexico, Comoros, Egypt, the United States, and countries in West Africa, with opposition coming from Japan, Gambia, India, Grenada, and China. Sharks continue to be overharvested to meet Asian demand for shark fin soup and through bycatch; fishermen also catch some shark species for their meat, while others kill manta rays for their gill plates in support of the Chinese medicinal trade.

Says CORAL’s Conservation Programs Director Rick MacPherson, “The immediate outcome of the CITES listing for those species is that these seriously threatened sharks and rays can finally get some breathing room to recover. Of course CITES protections must be enforced or the designations are meaningless. But what these historic steps indicate is that short term financial interests don’t always trump long-term conservation vision.”

The Pew Charitable Trust’s Angelo Villagomez says CORAL’s and many other NGOs’ efforts undoubtedly contributed to the vote. “CITES decisions are not made by consensus, but by a vote. Fiji, Mexico, Honduras, and the United States were very supportive of the CITES shark proposals, and CORAL’s work on domestic campaigns in CITE S member countries surely played a part in that.”

Fiji

The CITES decision comes as CORAL continues to push for greater shark protections in Fiji. CORAL has been publishing an ongoing series of editorials in the Fiji Sun, urging the government to adopt stronger standards, including a possible temporary moratorium on shark fishing, in its new National Plan of Action for Sharks. In late January, CORAL assisted the Fijian government and the Fiji Times in an investigation of the deaths of 27 baby scalloped hammerhead sharks on Nukulu Island.

And with Pew, our partners in this initiative, CORAL taught a “Pacific Shark School” in January in Suva. The school brought together shark conservation leaders from different islands and included a “Shark Biology 101” section and focused on strategies for conservation and work plans for each place.

“The most valuable part of the shark school was seeing how the training encouraged and inspired participants,” says Rick MacPherson. “It takes more than just ideas to succeed in conservation. It takes passionate and skilled professionals to bring home the win. The shark school was an exciting opportunity to unite shark conservationists across the Pacific who returned to their home campaigns with new tools and energy.”

Indonesia

Greater protection for sharks and rays is also on the way in Indonesia, where the Regency Government of Raja Ampat signed the shark and manta ray sanctuary it had designated back in 2010 into law. CORAL and many other NGOs—as well as CORAL’s partner, the Misool Eco Resort—have advocated for years for better shark protections in Indonesia. The law protects sharks and rays in 46,000 square kilometers (18,000 square miles) of ocean off the coast Raja Ampat. Sharks are starting to show signs of recovery in marine protected areas there.

Andrew Miners, Managing Director of the Misool Eco Resort, says the sanctuary “sends a clear signal to the national government that the destructive fishing of sharks and rays is extremely detrimental to Indonesia’s growing marine tourism industry and the local communities that are supported by it.” Manta ray tourism in Indonesia generates more than $15 million per year vs. three percent of that amount from a manta ray fishery.

CORAL is also working to create a network of locally managed protected marine areas in the Sunda-Banda region of Indonesia, which will benefit sharks and rays.

Could we do all this without you?  Absolutely not!  So thanks so much for your continued support.

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Project Leader

Sarah Freiermuth

Asst. Director of Development
San Francisco, CA United States

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