« … This issue includes stories of hope but also stories that should be sounding alarm bells. Legislative amendments in Bangladesh to protect 23 shark and ray species highlight how important it is for organizations like the Wildlife Conservation Society to work on the ground and engage with governments. These commitments to protect species are often only possible when national-level data are available on species diversity and interactions with fisheries. So it’s great to see projects being completed or taking off in places like Sri Lanka, Iran, and Angola, where only a few years ago, little to no information was available on sharks and rays. In Sri Lanka, there are now data suggesting declines in the numbers of Mantas and Devil Rays landed, which can support ongoing discussions with the government on conservation measures for these species. Through trawl surveys in Iran, a Critically Endangered butterfly ray thought to be Possibly Extinct across its known range was rediscovered, bringing hope for its conservation. In Angola, work has begun with local communities to understand the utilization of sharks and rays and the impact of artisanal fisheries on landed species. Working with communities and the public can bridge knowledge gaps for scientists while fostering awareness of conservation issues. We have a great story from questionnaire-based surveys on public attitudes to sharks and how culture and history can shape attitudes around the world.
Our feature story on freshwater sharks and rays allows us to delve into the little-known world of this unique group of animals. It highlights their plight from human activities, particularly urban development, and the importance of undertaking research and raising their profile. This species group requires immediate attention, and I hope we can work more on freshwater species over the next few years, particularly the South American Freshwater Stingrays, many of which are listed on Appendix III of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES). With the next CITES Conference of Parties less than a year away, we wanted to share information on its rules of procedure and our role as the IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group when engaging with such international treaties.
We also focus on how art can contribute to improving our understanding of sharks, rays, and chimaeras from the fantastic illustrations drawn by Marc Dando that showcase the beauty and diversity of this group. We recognize the importance of having identification materials to improve data collection in fisheries and trade and inspire future generations to learn about these species through the development of species brochures in Chile. But we understand that capacity building is not only about sharing technical knowledge. It can be inspiring students to care and learn more or engaging with women in small-island states to empower them and teach them about marine conservation and the value of species conservation by teaching them how to swim. »
Dr Rima W. Jabado | IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group (SSG) Chair
We also would like to thank and recognise the many contributors who have contributed and helped to shape this fourth issue: Rima Jabado, Tanya Houppermans, Chelsea Stein, Michelle Scott, Alexandra Zoe Morata, Marc Dando, Guy Stevens, Sarah Fowler, Daniel Fernando, Dr Cassie Rigby, Glenn Sant, Ioannis Giovos, Carlotta Mazzoldi, Peter Kyne, David Ebert, Paula Carlson, Flossy Barraud, Michael Grant, Me’ira Mizrahi, Rachel Mather, Darcy Roeger, Mathew Young, Alicia Warner, Kaitlyn Zerr, Simon Hilbourne, Ana Lúcia Furtado Soares, Antonio Mukanda, Mohsen Rezaie-Atagholipour, Nadim Parves, Elisabeth Fahrni Mansur, Farid Hemida, Ignacio Contreras, Carolina Zagal, Jorge Ruiz, Flávia Petean, Fernanda Lana, Catarina Lopes, Mariana Martins, Bianca Rangel, Mariana Rêgo, Fernanda Rolim, Pollyana Roque, Karla Soares, Natascha Wosnick, Michael Scholl, Peter Scholl and all the IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group (SSG) members.