Conservation actions highlighted at Second Indonesia Shark and Ray Symposium
The Second Indonesia Shark and Ray Symposium wrapped up with calls for increased research-related improvements to the nation’s waters, such as an integrated research roadmap covering improved fishery data from West Indonesia, more studies on rays, and more research on social, economic and institutional factors affecting marine wildlife populations.
The symposium was held in Jakarta 28-29 March. The event served to highlight a wide array of research, conservation measures and education initiatives spanning western Sumatra to Papua by governments, NGOs including the WWF, academic institutions and tourism operators, with a particular focus on CITES-listed species.
Opening the symposium was Indonesia’s Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti, who told the gathering that overexploitation of sharks and rays in Indonesia will cause a rapid decline to their populations, particularly if overfishing continues among CITES Appendix II-listed species. Since sharks and rays are known for their relatively low fertility rates and slow growth, Minister Susi called on local governments to reach out to communities and fishery facilitators to stop catching sharks and manta rays.
“We must understand that manta rays and sharks live in a territory where the waters are bountiful and productive,” said Minister Susi, who also noted that foreign fishing operations contributed to lowered Indonesian fish stocks. “If there are large fish, it means that there are plenty of small fish. So the local government has to be proactive to remind the community to stop catching manta rays.”
WWF provides insights
WWF speakers covered topics from the global momentum to conserve sharks with relevance to Indonesia, to bycatch mitigation trials and landings of CITES-listed species. Tourism was also highlighted, as well as emerging topics such as the impacts of plastic in the ocean on manta rays.
“Indonesia was noted by many as one of, if not the most important, country in the world for shark and ray conservation,” said Dr. Andy Cornish, Leader of WWF’s Shark & Ray Initiative, who spoke at the symposium. “The country has been the largest shark catcher for many years, and the Coral Triangle has the highest shark and ray biodiversity. The steps outlined at this gathering are very timely.”
The symposium also recognized the importance of collaboration, coordination and synergy of various parties in the management and conservation of sharks and rays. This includes implementation of the National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Shark and Rays 2016-2020. Requests were also voiced for a more genetic and molecular-based research approach, as well as the need for a multi-disciplinary study to evaluate the impacts and benefits of sharks and rays management regulation at Indonesia’s district, provincial and national levels.
Reason for hope
While the overall concensus among attendees was to help ensure the action plan of the 2nd Indonesia Sharks and Rays Symposium could respond to priority issues related to sharks and rays management, there was reason for hope as illustrated by Minister Susi, buoyed by research conducted by the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the Agency for Marine and Fisheries Research, showing that the country’s fish stocks are on the rise. “In Probolinggo, I witnessed dozens of fish schools,” said Minister Susi. “In Kaimana and Gorontalo, where almost a decade of low populations were the norm, fish are starting to appear. These are signs that our fisheries are rebuilding.”
Minister Susi also expressed her intention to establish a facility that will become an education center for communities, especially children, on the importance of the ocean. She invited local governments and organizations to help make this possible, adding that she hopes this symposium will formulate further recommendations and actions. “We will take this as advice followed by action. We will also campaign for seafood restaurants to stop serving sharks,” she said.
The symposium was organized by the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Conservation International, Misool Foundation and WWF.
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