We’re Shark Conservationists – And You Can Be Too!
Why we do what we do…
Like most scuba divers, we’re big shark lovers. And living in Indonesia, the center of the Coral Triangle, we should be seeing one of the most diverse collections of sharks found in the world on a daily basis. Yet we don’t. Indonesia is unfortunately the largest shark fishing nation in the world. The IUCN states that out of the 1000+ assessed species of cardiligenous fish (sharks, rays, skates, chimearas), 30% are threatened with extinction! Sharks are targeted for their fins to be sold a Chinese delicacy, shark fin soup. Rays are also caught on mass in Indonesia for their gill rakers, which the Chinese believe to have magical medicinal powers. Practitioners interviewed in China, however, have admitted that gill rakers were not effective and many alternatives were available.
So what are we doing about it?
Sitting right off the coast of Lombok are three small idyllic islands known as the Gilis. At Gili Shark Conservation, our main goal is to work with local government and non-government organisations to provide critial data for effective marine management. We hope to make our reserve a shark sanctuary, which would prohibit fisherman from fishing these waters and protect our local reef sharks. To achieve this, we are gathering scientific data to prove that this area is in fact a shark nursery. We have two years to gather this data before the policy makers reconvene and re-examine the parameters of the Gili Matra Marine Reserve. We have multiple projects that work towards this goal including underwater video survailance, roving survey dives, photographic identification, and community outreach.
We can create awareness. We can
We provide the data and science that proves this is a shark nursery. We also source our data out to global organizations to help combat data deficiency. Scientists still do not know a lot about the population dynamics and health of many species of sharks. Our data is helping to inform organizations like Global FinPrint, Shark-Base, and eOceans to have an impact on shark conservation globally. We are creating an open access abundance data base available free to anyone who asks. Getting this information to more people will help us in our fight to save the sharks of indonesia.
Our day to day. Life as a Gili Shark Warrior.
As a volunteer with the Gili Shark Conservation Project you work 5 days a week from 8-5 conducting research during your dives in the morning and inputting and analysing the data in the afternoons. We are a small group of dedicated individuals from all different ages and backgrounds.
Your first 2 weeks are dedicated to diver and scientific methodology training. First you must be a good diver before you can become a good research diver. The great team at Gili Islands Divers and Franck, our dive instructor, are very knowledge about diving and the area.
The accomodation and Shark Headquarters is located in the beautiful Villa Nanagka, complete with kitchen, hot water showers, and a pool! With 4 people to a room we talk and laugh in the mornings before heading down for a home cooked breakfast by our house mother Rose. Pancakes, eggs, fresh fruit, and coffee before we jump on our bikes and head up to meet Lauren (our lead scientist) at Gili Islands Divers. We set up our equipment and load it onto the boat. With slates and t-sticks ready we jump into the water for our first survey dive. Actively seeking out sharks, rays, turtles, and indicator species. Once we are back on the boat we transfer our data onto the sheets and get ready for our second dive. Our second dive is dedicated to dropping our baited underwater cameras and bringing our spare GoPro’s to take our photo ID pictures to track the population of sharks and turtles throughout the reserve.
After washing and putting all of our equipment away we head back to Villa Nanagka for lunch. Sandwhiches, pastas, local cuisine, and fresh juice is on the menu before we break into our teams to complete our tasks for the afternoon. Sometimes we are entering data, sometimes we are watching the video and counting sharks, other times we are working on personal projects. One thing for sure we are always working!
We also have other scheduled events such as community outreach days which include underwater clean ups, beach clean ups, visits to the local elementry school, and hosting movie and presentations around the island. A new event every week keeps us busy planning and executing these Saturday afternoons. We also have weekly Bahasa Indonesian language classes and cooking classes, to get a real taste of Indonesian living.
The evenings and weekends are spent together trying out different restaurants on the island, doing yoga classes, or having a drink at our local watering hole, Freedom Bar! There are so many activies on the island you can do on your spare time. It really is a little slice of heaven!