Sharks are in decline worldwide. In 2010, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources’ (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species listed 74 shark species as being at high risk of extinction (Critically Endangered, Endangered, or Vulnerable). The biggest threats sharks face are anthropogenic exploitation, specifically via targeted catch to supply the international shark fin trade and via bycatch mortality in commercial fisheries. Despite comprehensive data indicating declining overall trends, there is a lack of recorded knowledge on specific, current shark sightings in areas where the frequency and regularity of shark sightings seems to have declined such as Florida, Massachusetts, California, Hong Kong, South Africa, and the Bahamas. More information about local shark sightings from these critical areas can help bolster conservation efforts, support sustainable ecotourism, and further engage divers and coastal communities in conservation. Negative media fosters fear in the public and sharks have been villainized and targeted due to misconceptions about their nature and behaviors. Effective conservation efforts need to include more positive messages about the importance of protecting sharks as marine apex predators, especially to contribute to maintaining the ecological integrity of our oceans and fisheries. I promoted shark conservation by providing educational materials to the public while creating international support to save sharks. The goal was to change misconceptions about sharks through education and hands-on learning. Teaching individuals how to identify and log sightings of local shark species underwater is a fun,easy way to instill a sense of participation in exciting marine conservation. The project focused on: (1) filming and editing footage and stills, during JAWSFEST events and the Great Fiji Shark Count, for online and media content; (2) creating outreach materials (i.e. SharksCount presentations, educational materials) and social media content (i.e. blog posts, watermarked images); (3) acquiring photos and scientific illustrations and creating Shark Savers regional shark ID sheets; (4) helping to streamline the organizational communications (i.e. help coordinate SharksCount international projects’ mailing lists); and (5) assisting program managers in planning and establishing other regional counts. The ultimate goals are to provide stakeholders with the opportunity to document and value their local sharks, and to build support and gain advocates for top predators and marine conservation.
Caster, Jennah B., "Saving sharks: Projects to promote conservation awareness and citizen science." (2012). Internship Reports (Restricted). 211.
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