This past week, Pelagic Safari participated in Mission Blue’s & Pelagios Kakunjá Shark Conference in La Paz, Baja Califronia Sur. The goal of the meeting was to unite organizations and individuals motivated to discuss approaches to curbing the overfishing of sharks in the Eastern Pacific and Gulf of California. This meeting was a great success, providing a platform for a wide and diverse range of participants to present and discuss their ideas on these important issues. Participants in the conference also took part in various work groups to further discuss how to protect sharks by implementing no-take zones, marine protected areas (MPAs), shark swimways and other management tools.
Many notable participants gave extremely interesting presentations. MigraMar’s Executive Director Olivier Chassot, poke about the research and conservation of highly migratory marine speices in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. Frida Lara (Pelagios Kakunjá/MigraMar) talked about shark connectivity in this region as well, offering a closer look at the emerging evidence that supports a MigraVia between Revillagigedo and the Gulf of California in Mexico. There were also talks by Racahel Graham (of MAR Alliance, who has extraordinary experience in the Caribbean) and Luke Inman (Lemanya, working tirelessly with local fishing communities).
Randall Araúz (CREMA/Fins Attached/MigraMar), offered an overall view on shark fisheries along with an evaluation of diverse tools, that when combined, could contribute to reducing shark and turtle bycatch. James Ketchum (Pelagios Kakunjá/MigraMar), spoke about the current knowledge of shark populations in the Gulf and of the challenges they face: of 70 shark species, only 3 are protected (great white, basking and whalesharks). Pelagios Kakunjá and the Mexican government are working together on the necessary inputs to foster the expansion and creation of of MPAs and added conservation measurs of exisiting ones in Mexico (such as zoning and no-take zones). Nakawe Project’s founder and Pelagic Safari Director, Regina Domingo, presented on Pelgaic Safari and their efforts to develop shark conservation-oriented ecotourism business model in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
What was unique about this shark conference was that participation was not limited to only scientists or those working for conservation NGOs. To provide their distinct and important viewpoints, Juan Cuevas and his brother Felipe, shark fishermen from Isla El Pardito fishing camp (150km north of La Paz), discussed their experience and views on the declining shark populations and on working with fishing sanctuaries in order to increase their fish stocks. An interesting fact: their grandfather introduced the famous Jacques Cousteau the Gulf California! We think it was an absolute wonderful idea to host these two brothers, to have them be able to represent a side of shark fishing that is so often left out of conservation discussions.
Finally, the woman behind Mission Blue herself, gave a memorable speech about the local shark populations in these areas and the immediate and critical need to stop over fishing them and to create new Hope Spots in these areas. We all left this conference feeling motivated and even more driven to achieve on conservation goals for sharks in these areas. It is so important to connect and network with other individuals involved in shark conservation in this area in order to set up priorities, develop new ideas and, most importantly, hear all sides of these issues and the concerns of the individuals actually living and working in these areas. Creating and maintaining relationships and cooperating together allows each of our actions to have more power than they would alone. Together, we really can make a difference!