Shark Foundation
Sharks threatened
Shark Foundation
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Photo © Klaus Jost

Photo © Klaus Jost

Photo © Klaus Jost

Sharks threatened

Extinction is forvever!

Extinction is forvever!

Extinction is forvever!

Photo © Steve de Neef

Photo © Steve de Neef

Photo © Steve de Neef

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Annual Reports of the Shark Foundation since 1998

Here you will find the current and last year's Annual Report as a web page. Earlier reports are available as PDF files.
(The audit reports in German are only available on the German pages.)

Latest Annual Report 2019


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Annual Report Shark Foundation 2019

September 2020

General




Foundation

The Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 did not spare the Shark Foundation any work. Account revisions, the annual report and hence the annual meeting of the Foundation Board had to be postponed until autumn. All field work on projects supported by the Foundation also had to be stopped. However, positive news reached us at the beginning of September that allowed us to slowly resume work on some of our projects.

Scientific research is expensive, especially with marine organisms. Thus, in addition to effective research materials, there are often costs for boats, crew, fuel, travel, etc. Molecular biological research such as the analysis of population dynamics or the study of large-scale migrations using satellite transmitters consumes vast amounts of research funds and can usually only be financed by large laboratories which often have several donors. The relatively small Shark Foundation supports or participates, where appropriate, in such larger projects that are specifically aimed at shark protection. Sometimes, however, the small, relatively inexpensive projects such as the analysis of local fish markets and shark landings in poorly studied regions can be even more interesting. These are rarely supported by large donors, especially by national research institutes. By funding such projects and by networking the project leaders among themselves and with larger laboratories, the Foundation can contribute substantially to shark conservation with relatively little effort.

The Shark Foundation has been committed to the worldwide protection of sharks since 1997. Without the support of many small and large donors, it would be impossible to do our work for sharks and hence for the protection of our oceans.

We would thus like to take this opportunity to thank all donors and patrons. Without your help our work would not be possible!!

EEA Conference, Rende, Italy

Alexander Godknecht represented the Shark Foundation as Switzerland's representative at the 23rd International Scientific Conference of the European Elasmobranch Society (EEA) in Rende (Italy) from October 16 to 18, 2019.

Publications

In 2019, five scientific papers were published based on the results of projects supported by the Shark Foundation. Especially noteworthy is the publication of the genome of great white sharks by the team of Professor Mahmood Shivji in the PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA).

Since 1997, a total of 77 scientific publications, three books, various conference reports and posters as well as various dissertations and theses have been supported by the Shark Foundation.

US Shark Foundation

In 2019 the US Shark Foundation was again registered as a charitable organization seated in Miami, Florida. Gary Adkison is registered as director of the US Foundation. In 2019, the US Shark Foundation was self-supporting and achieved several important successes in shark protection.

Total administrative costs to date: approx. . CHF 58,000

Prof. Samuel "Doc" Gruber

Professor Samuel Gruber, simply called "Shark Doc" by many, died on April 18, 2019, after a long illness. The world famous veteran shark researcher, motor of the Shark Lab on Bimini and good friend, leaves an unfillable gap. The Foundation has been working with Doc in various projects since 2007. We will miss his valuable input and interesting discussions.


Projects




Shark Exhibit

The exhibit has been in storage since September 2016 and we continue to look for new exhibition locations.
From April 2018 to January 2019 a large part of the shark models were rented out to the Dinosaur Museum ("Sauriermuseum") in Aathal, Switzerland, for a special exhibition entitled "Sharks of the Primeval Oceans."

Expenditures/investments to date: approx. CHF 260,000

Population genomics of large shark species

The project, led by the laboratory of Professor Mahmood Shivji, includes molecular genetic analyses of various large oceanic sharks, such as hammerheads, makos, great white sharks or whitetip sharks. The analyses will help in molecular-biological research on global genetic links between populations of especially large oceanic and other shark species.

Many shark species are heavily fished and are globally threatened. Although sharks can travel long distances, it must be assumed that they form local populations (philopatry) and that there is little genetic exchange between populations. The genetic exchange between the separated populations and thus the replenishment of the gene pool is an important factor for the survival of populations in severe decline.

In 2018/2019 Professor Shivji's team studied the populations of short-finned makos, a deep-sea shark species caught by both amateur fishermen and commercial fishing fleets. Significant decimation of the stocks is due especially to the mostly unregulated international fin trade. Macos are listed as globally endangered on the IUCN Red List.

High-resolution genetic analysis (SNP) will be used to analyze population dynamics, i.e. population structures, genetic diversity and the evolutionary history of short-finned macos throughout the Atlantic Ocean. On the basis of this information, authorities and international fisheries commissions will be able to better manage and protect the short-finned macos.

In 2019 a scientific paper on the genome of great white sharks and the reaction of macos to changing environmental factors was published as part of the research work of Professor Shivji with support from the Shark Foundation.

Investments 2019: CHF 12,200
Investments to date: approx. CHF 36,700

Global analysis of large shark migrations

Many shark species are in massive decline worldwide, mainly due to increased fishing pressure due to their meat and especially their fins. As top hunters, however, large sharks grow slowly, become sexually mature late and have few offspring. This makes them particularly sensitive to overfishing.

Hammerhead sharks, among others, are highly threatened. Fishery management authorities and organizations urgently need accurate data on population-level migration routes, preferred gathering areas, and areas of overlap with fishing zones of deep-sea fishing fleets.

Smooth hammerheads (Sphyrna zygaena) are globally sensitive (on the Red List: "vulnerable") and there is a risk of extinction. They migrate over larger distances, but almost nothing is known about their migration routes. This study, funded by the Shark Foundation, aims to shed light on the migrations of this shark species and help international fishery authorities to establish protection zones and time frames for this shark species.

Investments 2019: CHF 8,150
Investments to date: approx. CHF 24,400

Shark Nurseries

The shark "nursery" project in Rookery Bay, 10,000 Islands, Florida, has been managed by Pat O'Donnell in collaboration with the Mote Marine Lab since 2000. The region is used by sharks as a primary nursery (newborns) and secondary nursery (juvenile sharks one year and older). The study region includes Fakahatchee, Faka Union and Pumpkin Bay. The marshlands whose waters flow into these bays were drained over 20 years ago for a land reclamation project. The project failed. It was only a few years ago that the State of Florida decided to restore the original marshlands but this project was severely delayed and to date has not been completed. However, results are beginning to show. The amount of fresh water that used to be diverted to the sea through canals to drain the swamp is decreasing. The goal of this research is to determine how any salinity change in these nursery areas affects the juvenile sharks.

Pat O'Donnell is employed by the State of Florida (Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve). The project works primarily with enthusiastic volunteers, thus greatly reducing costs. Pat's team collects annual data on the number and species of juvenile sharks in the various regions, thus building up an impressive databank. The Foundation continues to invest in the project as needed.

Investments 2019: CHF -0-
Investments to date: approx. CHF 61,500

Fiji Shark Sanctuary

The Fiji Shark Conservation Park project is now self-sustaining. The Foundation will assist the project financially if necessary. At the end of 2013, Mike Neumann requested continued support for the Fiji Shark Count project which aims to inventory all sharks in the region as of 2012. The Fiji Shark Count is ongoing and was co-funded by the Foundation in 2013/14. In 2015, Christine Ward-Paige of Dalhousie University, Halifax, evaluated the data collected during the Fiji Shark Count.

Investments 2019: CHF -0-
Investments to date: approx. CHF 41,800

Migrations of large coastal sharks in Jupiter, FL, and the Bahamas

Great hammerhead sharks Jupiter/Bimini/Bahamas
Hammerhead sharks are severely overfished in many areas. In March 2014, great hammerhead sharks were listed as endangered in both Appendix II of the CITES Convention and the IUCN Red List. They migrate long distances through the territories of various nations. For this reason, they are also listed in Annex I of the UN Convention on highly migratory species, which calls for strong cooperation among all participating countries in their management.
Hammerheads are often found in bycatch, but are also actively fished because their fins command a high market value. Regulating bycatch and demanding that hammerhead sharks be thrown back into the sea makes little sense because their mortality rate of about 90% in bycatch is the highest of all species. For this reason, the locations, seasonal space usage and behavior of this hammerhead species need to be much better known in order to protect them more effectively.

In 2019, due to the death of Professor Samuel Gruber, most work had to be temporarily suspended to allow the Shark Lab and its staff to reposition themselves. The project will resume in 2020.

Investments 2019: CHF -0-
Investments to date: approx. CHF 22,400

Whale Sharks

In 2019, the team consisting of Dr. Simon Pierce, Dr. Chris Rohner, and Dr. Clare Pebble worked on various whale shark projects in the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador), Madagascar, Mexico, Mozambique, St. Helena (United Kingdom) and Tanzania.
Work in 2019 focused on expanding knowledge of whale shark biology employing new physiological techniques. For example, on an expedition to St. Helena – as in a previous trip to the Galapagos in 2018 – an underwater ultrasound device was successfully used to analyze pregnancy in free-swimming adult whale sharks. Blood samples were also collected for various biochemical analyses in the Galapagos and St. Helena. Because of their size and docility, whale sharks are well suited for testing new methods that may later be used on other shark species. Also in 2019, a large-scale collaborative study revealed the vulnerability of sharks to fishing during their migrations.
Another study in Java clearly showed for the first time the danger to whale sharks posed by plastic debris in the sea. Whale sharks in this area swallow about 137 pieces of plastic during one hour of feeding.
The team presented the results of their various projects at the Fifth International Whale Shark Conference in Australia.

With the support of the Foundation, a scientific article (in Nature) was published in 2019 outlining the major risks to migratory shark species from international fishing outside national jurisdictions. Another article on whale sharks in Mozambique appeared in mid-2020.

Investments: No funding requested in 2019
Investments to date: approx. CHF 101,000

White sharks in the North Atlantic: Analysis of hormones and microplastics

As top predators of the oceans, white sharks are at the end of food chains. As such, they accumulate environmental toxins such as mercury and microplastics. Surveys of great white shark populations, conducted in collaboration with Ocearch, should provide information on their health status.

The goal is to study 60 great white sharks, 20 from each three stages of life, and find answers to the following questions:

  1. What are the population genetics of white sharks in the North Atlantic?
  2. How do they move, how do they use their habitat and what are their diving profiles?
  3. What do they eat, what are their feeding strategies and what does their diet consist of?
  4. What does their reproductive cycle look like?
  5. Are they healthy and what is their level of environmental toxin accumulation?
  6. How does fishing and shipboard work affect their stress levels?
  7. What is the composition of their microbiome (all non-disease causing organisms on and in their body)?
  8. What general visual impressions do the sharks make?

 

The subproject leader, Michael Hyatt, is a veterinarian whose "stress through capture and examination" research on lemon, bull and hammerhead sharks in Rookery Bay has already been funded by the Foundation and published in three scientific journals. The project runs for three years and is supported with $10,000 annually.

The project continued to progress well in 2019. Field trips made to the Carolinas/Georgia/Florida, Massachusetts and Nova Scotia, Canada were successful. An interim report with data from the trips was submitted in late 2019.br />
Investments 2019: CHF 10,100
Investments to date: approx. CHF 20,100

New 2019:Cape Verde Shark Conservation Project

West Africa's Cape Verde is an archipelago consisting of ten volcanic islands and is home to over 60 species of sharks and rays, including whale sharks, tiger sharks and manta rays. These species have been exploited uncontrollably in West Africa for many years. However, the Cape Verde Islands – particularly Brava and Maio – are exceptional in that they are the only country in this region where sharks and rays are not intensively fished, making them a hotspot for these species and one of their last refuges in the northeast Atlantic.

However, threats to the country's shark population are increasing. Illegal and excessive fishing, pollution and climate change – not to mention a rapidly growing tourism industry in the region – are just a few examples of the increased pressure that the Cape Verde's marine ecosystems and species, including sharks, are subjected to.

There are already two nongovernmental organizations involved in the protection of the waters around the Cape Verde Islands, Fundação Maio Biodiversidade (FMB) in Maio, and Biflores in Brava. The project, whose main sponsor is Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is aimed at building up these two organizations to the point where they can take on all conservation tasks independently in the future.

Preliminary objectives in 2019 (1 year):

  1. Achieve effective site-based marine management (Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), fisheries, and species-based conservation in priority areas).
  2. Improve policies and practices to reduce threats of greater magnitude to species and habitats (national fishery reforms, responsible business practices).
  3. Develop the capacity of local conservation organizations (FMB and Biflores) and optimize their operations to assist them in effective marine conservation.
Objectives of the main project 2020:

  1. Close knowledge gaps through research and experimentation. To this end, the following activities will be carried out:
    • Examine historical shark populations and their diversity in Cape Verde.
    • Identify and describe shark nurseries around Brava and Maio, giving priority to these areas.
    • Evaluate the feasibility and suitability of a fishing gear exchange program for fishermen in Brava and Maio (hooks, nets, etc.).
    • Analyze finning activities in Cape Verde, especially among local fishermen. If needed, develop measures to end finning.
    • Analyze the suitability of Brava and Maio for sustainable ecotourism, e.g. shark diving.
    • Collect and analyze catch data on the frequency of juvenile fish and catch per unit effort (CPUE) to find out if sharks around Brava are being fished sustainably.
  2. Targeted actions to prevent destructive activities and support positive initiatives:
    • Educate fishermen in Brava and Maio about existing fishing laws and their rationale, especially as it relates to sharks.
    • Address local myths that endanger sharks and encourage fishermen to return sharks caught in bycatch alive to the sea whenever possible.
    • Inform local fishermen about sustainable fishing practices (to protect sharks and their prey).
    • Hold interviews with fishermen on Maio regarding shark population trends and sizes, as well as bycatch to show trends since 2016.
    • Organize meetings with local authorities and enforcement officers in Maio. Sport fishing companies also need to be involved. These must comply with sport fishing laws and follow best practices that are sustainable for sharks and other endangered species.
  3. Local capacity building:
    • Support continued capacity building at Biflores to form them into Brava's primary marine conservation organization. They are expected to take the regional leadership role in shark conservation in the future.
    • Support Maio's "Guardians of the Sea" to monitor and verify project work, identify any new threats, and prevent illegal activities related to sharks and their food base in Maio's MPAs.
    • Conduct courses for local fishermen, such as in boat repair and first aid. These are "good will" offerings and primarily serve to foster good cooperation with fishermen and reduce their maintenance costs. This is to ensure continued cooperation also with fishermen in the protection of sharks in Cape Verde.
For this project, the Foundation will cover partial costs for the planned scientific shark studies.

 

Investments 2019: CHF 10,000
Investments to date: approx. CHF 10,000

New 2019: Indigenous fisheries in Ghana

Ghana is one of the most important shark and ray fishing nations in West Africa. This fishery industry is one of the major employers in the coastal regions and provides livelihoods and income for many of the poorest communities on the Ghanaian coast.
The project aims to collect critical baseline information on indigenous fisheries in Ghana, focusing on ecological, cultural, and socioeconomic characteristics of western Ghanaian fisheries. Specific threats to sharks typical of a region will be specifically analyzed. Based on this data, which has been lacking until now, a national strategy will be developed to sustainably protect and manage Ghana's shark and ray stocks.
The project duration is scheduled for 3 years. Data collection began in April 2019, and the project is an excellent complement to the short project analyzing local fisheries in Angola. The two teams are in contact and are working together.
At the beginning of the project, massive uncertainties became apparent in the complex identification of shark and ray species caught in Ghana. It takes a lot of experience to always correctly identify certain species. However, with the help of the team from Angola and Professor em. Benard Seret (France), the identification error rate was drastically reduced.
Total investments over 3 years: CHF 18,500

Project Manager: Seidu Issah
Investments 2019: CHF 8,300

Short-Term Projects

New 2019: Illegal trade with shark products in Greece

Greek marine waters have a remarkable biodiversity of sharks and rays with 67 species (37 shark species, 30 ray species) confirmed to occur so far. Based on the latest IUCN Red List assessment, 21 of the 37 shark species found in Greek waters are considered threatened (vulnerable, endangered, critical). Sixteen shark species are protected based on national and international legislation (including the Barcelona Convention, the Bern Convention, CITES, GFCM recommendations and presidential decrees). However, no species-specific data is available because there is no specific fishery for these species and most of them are simply discarded at sea due to their low commercial value. Landed species are reported in aggregated categories. In the absence of current data on any protected species landed, there is a high risk of illegal trade in these species.
The project team visited fish markets and auctions between January and December 2019 and collected small tissue samples from the sharks sold. They also conducted interviews with fishmongers and customers and launched a media campaign.
The results of DNA analyses of 274 meat samples clearly showed that protected sharks such as blue sharks were also sold, probably unknowingly.
The interviews showed, among other things, that fishmongers sell their fish under the name on the purchase receipt. These names often only designate categories or are incorrect. Customers do not know exactly what species they are effectively buying.
The project was successfully completed in 2019 and already resulted in the publication of one scientific paper. Two more papers are in the works.

Project Manager: Ioannis Giovos, iSea Greece
Investments 2019: CHF 6,500

New 2019: Catch analyses of sixgill sharks in the Mediterranean Sea

Bluntnose sixgill sharks are not considered endangered in the Mediterranean, according to the IUCN Red List, but fisheries in the Mediterranean are poorly documented and controlled. Sixgill sharks are also frequently found in the bycatch of deep-sea fisheries (up to 2000 m). Considering the declining trends of most other shark populations in the Mediterranean, which have shrunk to 10-20% of their former size, this positive assessment seems rather unlikely and outdated.
This new study will involve interviews and observations to identify trends in sixgill shark landings throughout the Mediterranean and will cover 11 countries: Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Montenegro, Albania, Cyprus and Israel. It will be carried out in collaboration with local researchers and volunteers from each country. The project is coordinated by Ignazio Nuez from the EEA member organization Spain (Submon). The project is not only of great interest for shark conservation but also aims to promote cooperation within the different EEA members in the Mediterranean area, especially between the new EEA members Greece and Israel.

The project is ongoing. Some preliminary data was first presented at the IUCN workshop in Palma de Mallorca in November 2019.

Project Manager: Ignasi Nuez, Msc, Submon Portugal
Investments 2019: CHF 9,650

Ecological analysis of blue sharks in South Cornwall (England)

Blue sharks (Prionace glauca) are large deep-sea sharks and top predators found globally in temperate and tropical waters. Like other shark species, they are an important regulating factor in their marine ecosystems.
Blue sharks are caught directly for their fins or perish in the bycatch of deep-sea fishing fleets. Their status on the Red List of Threatened Species is "Near Threatened," i.e. close to or with a strong tendency towards "Endangered." However, there is a lack of more recent data, so that they might already have to be classified as "Endangered."

In addition to the threat posed to blue sharks from fishing, these top predators also encounter a major problem with the accumulation of environmental toxins. High concentrations of arsenic and mercury far above European limits have already been measured in blue sharks. PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) can also accumulate in top predators, affecting their health and fertility.
Objectives of the project are:

  • To analyze the general water quality of the southwest coast of Cornwall.
  • By means of photo IDs of dorsal fins and population genetic analyses, to determine whether the region is used as a feeding ground by different blue shark populations or whether the local population is homogeneous.
  • To determine the health status of the population(s) using chemical and genetic analyses.
  • To educate and raise awareness among the local population and fishermen about blue sharks off the southwest coast of Cornwall.

An online photo database was created in order to reach and include a broader public in the identification of blue sharks. This databank will include photos of collected blue shark dorsal fins that will be analyzed later on.

In this project problems are still encountered with the biopsy needles since blue sharks are very fast swimmers. Unfortunately, these problems could not yet be completely solved despite cooperation with the research team from Fiji.

Unfortunately, the year 2019 saw no major progress in this project, partly because the cost of the ships used in the expeditions was too high. The project manager is looking for alternatives and will report progress in the Fall of 2020. The project received no support in 2019.

Project Manager: Dr. Andrea Gaion, South Devon College

Investments 2019: -0- CHF
Investments to date: approx. CHF 13,200

Indigenous fisheries in Angola

In West Africa, an alarming decline of sharks is being observed, mainly due to the ever increasing demand for shark fins in the Asian region. Great hammerheads, lemon sharks and bull sharks are experiencing an especially threatening decline, but many other shark species are also affected.

Angola is located in the northern part of the so-called Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME). The BCLME is an extremely productive marine region, as the confluence of the Benguela and Angola Currents creates eddies that bring nutrient-rich deep water to the surface.

The demand for shark fins has led to a massive increase in local coastal fishing in Angola, especially in the last 10 years (source FAO, United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization). However, accurate data on specific shark fishing is not available and will be collected in the project.

The project is progressing well. A second interim report with data from various ports in Angola is available.

Project Manager: Dr. Rima Jabado (Environment Agency Abu Dhabi)

Investments: approx: cCHF 9,500 over 3 years (2017-2019)
Investments 2019: 4'000 CHF
Investments to date: approx. CHF 8,700

 


Public relations work of the Shark Foundation and Shark Info




Media/Public Relations Work

The Foundation and Shark Info answered questions, edited articles in various media, and provided expertise and tips on sharks and shark conservation.

Web Server

In 2019, the Shark Foundation's web server recorded approximately 107,500 definite visitors who viewed 430,000 pages. The visitors stemmed mainly from Germany, Poland, Switzerland and Austria. The Shark Foundation server recorded 60,000 visits with 270,000 page views. The visitors came mainly from the USA, Poland, China and Germany. The leading category visited at Hai.ch was clearly the shark database and at shark.ch it was the home page. The trend compared to 2018 is still clearly declining, due mainly to the lack of support for mobile browsers and thus a poor ranking on Google. On hai.ch 52% of the browsers were mobile versions, while on shark.ch the number remains at 31%. It is astonishing that mobile accesses are by far more frequent in German-speaking countries than in English-speaking countries.
The Foundation's new web pages will most likely go online in the Winter of 2020. We expect the new pages to provide a much better internet presence, thanks to the optimization of Google ranking, SEO and mobile devices.


Administration




Shark Foundation Financial Policy

The Shark Foundation was established on August 29, 1997. As an internationally active foundation, it is subject to the supervision of the Federal Department of Home Affairs / Foundation Supervision, Bern, and can accept tax-deductible donations. Once a year it submits its annual report and financial statements to the supervisory authority for approval.

The Foundation finances all its activities through donations, lectures or the sale of products such as T-shirts or soft toy sharks. The Foundation Board works on a voluntary basis and receives neither meeting fees nor salary. The Foundation runs a "shark store" on its internet pages (for T-shirts, soft toy sharks, tear-off blocks, postcards, shark sponsorships). Proceeds from sales go directly back into the Foundation's account. As a rule, a mailing goes out once a year to all interested parties with a payment slip and donation request.

At the first meeting of the respective year, the Board of Trustees of the Shark Foundation decides on the use of the profit carried forward and the money coming from donations of the previous year. Until now, no provisions have been made, but all the funds have been released for current projects, investments and administrative expenses.

The Foundation's accounts are audited annually by the auditing company Revisal (Gossau).


Annual Report 2018


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Shark Foundation Annual Report for 2018

August 2019

General


Foundation

Scientific research is expensive, especially when it comes to marine organisms. Costs for boats, crew, fuel, trips, etc., thus often also accrue in addition to effective research materials. Molecular biological research, e.g. the analysis of population dynamics or the examination of extensive migrations via satellite transmitters can swallow huge sums of research money which usually can only be financed through the support of large laboratories and often various financial backers. As a relatively small organization, the Shark Foundation supports or involves itself wherever appropriate in any larger projects which specifically serve shark protection. On the other hand, we also get involved in small, relatively cost-effective projects that can be of interest, such as the analysis of local fish markets and shark landings in poorly examined regions. Smaller projects are, however, rarely supported by large financial backers, and especially by any national research facilities. Yet by financing such projects and networking project managers with each other and with larger laboratories, the Foundation can substantially contribute to shark protection at relatively low costs.

The Shark Foundation has been committed to the international protection of sharks ever since 1997. Without the support of numerous small and large donors it would be impossible for us to continue working for sharks and hence the protection of our oceans.

Once again we would thus like to thank all our donors and benefactors for their ongoing financial support. Our work would not be possible without your generosity!

EEA Conference in Peniche, Portugal

From October 12 to 14, 2018, Alexander Godknecht represented the Shark Foundation in Switzerland at the 22nd International Scientific Conference of the European Elasmobranch Association (EEA) in Peniche (Portugal).

Publikationen

In 2018 six (6) scientific papers were published, based on results of projects supported by the Shark Foundation.

Since 1997 until mid-2018 the Shark Foundation has supported a total of 72 scientific publications, 3 books, various conference reports, posters as well as a diploma thesis.

US Shark Foundation

In 2018 the US Shark Foundation was again registered as a charitable organization seated in Miami, Florida, with Gary Adkison as the registered Director of the US Foundation. The Foundation was self-supporting in 2018 and achieved several important successes for shark protection.

Total administrative costs to date: approx. CHF 58,000


Projects


Shark Exhibit

The exhibit has been in storage since September 2016 and we are looking for new exhibit locations.

A large number of the shark models have been rented to the Dinosaur Museum in Aathal as of April 2018 where they will remain until January 2019 as part of a special exhibit on "Sharks of the Primordial Oceans."

In 2018 the model of a hammerhead shark was also donated to the Museum of Natural History in St. Gall for its permanent exhibit to honor the memory of Heinrich Thorbecke and as a sign of our gratitude for his longstanding support of our work.

Expenditures/Investments to date: approx. CHF 260,000

Population Genomics of
Large Shark Species

Under the direction of Professor Mahmood Shivji's laboratory, this project encompasses the molecular-genetic analyses of various large pelagic sharks, e.g. large hammerheads, makos, white sharks or white-tipped pelagic sharks. These analyses will help in the examination of global genetic connections between populations of especially large pelagic and other shark species on a molecular-biological basis.

Many shark species are being strongly overfished and are threatened globally. Although sharks can swim large distances, it must be assumed that they form local populations (philopatry) so that only a minimum of genetic exchange between the individual populations can occur. The genetic exchange between separated living populations and the resulting refreshment of the gene pool is an especially important factor that determines the survival of strongly declining populations.

During 2018/2019 Professor Shivji's team has been exploring the populations of short-finned makos, a pelagic shark species that is caught in the nets of both hobby fishermen as well as commercial fishing fleets. Significant decimation of their populations is the result of the highly unregulated international fin trade. Makos are on the Red List of the IUCN and are considered as threatened worldwide. In 2018 the team was able to show that the mortality rate in mako fishing was underestimated and was ten times higher than initially thought. This in turn led to the declaration of emergency catch restrictions by the NOAA (US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

Population dynamic as well as structures, genetic diversity and evolutionary history of the short-finned makos in the entire Atlantic were analyzed using high-resolution genetic analyses (SNP). The resulting information should enable all relevant authorities and international fishing commissions to improve not only the protection of short-finned makos but also the management of their populations.

With the support of the Shark Foundation Professor Shivji was able to publish a scientific paper in 2018, covering his team's scientific work on the large genetic differences among white sharks in the Pacific.

Investments 2018: CHF 12,000
Investments to date: approx. CHF 24,500

Global Analysis of the Migratory Behavior of Large Shark Species

Many shark species are being decimated on a massive scale worldwide, mainly due to increased pressure from the fishing industry for their meat and especially their fins. Large sharks are top predators but they develop and grow very slowly, undergo a long period of time before becoming sexually mature and give birth to only a small number of pups. This makes them especially sensitive to overfishing.

Among the strongly threatened sharks are the hammerheads. Fishing management authorities and organizations are in urgent need of precise data on the migratory routes of their populations, their preferred gathering areas and regions where they are likely to cross paths with the fishing zones of high seas fishing fleets.

Smooth hammerheads (Sphyrna zygaena) are globally sensitive (Red List: "vulnerable") and are at risk of becoming extinct. They migrate over large distances although practically very little is known about their migratory routes. This study, financed by the Shark Foundation, should reveal more details on this shark's migratory habits and thus help international fishing authorities establish protection zones with respective timetables to support such protection measures.

Investments 2018: CHF 8,000
Investments to date: approx. CHF 16,200

Shark Nurseries

The project "Shark Nurseries" in Rookery Bay, 10,000 Islands, has been supervised by Pat O’Donnell since the year 2000 in collaboration with the Mote Marine Lab. Sharks frequent this region for use as their primary (pupping) and secondary nursing grounds (juvenile sharks older than one year). The research area encompasses Fakahatchee, Faka Union and Pumpkin Bay. The aim of this research is to determine how any changes in the salinity of the nurseries affect juvenile sharks.

The project functions mainly with the help of enthusiastic volunteers which helps to strongly reduce costs. The Foundation continues to invest in the project whenever necessary.

Investments 2018: CHF 0
Investments to date: approx. CHF 61,500

Fiji Shark Protection Zone

Today the Fiji Shark Protection Project is financially self-sustaining. The Foundation is prepared to support the project financially, whenever necessary. At the end of 2013 Mike Neumann requested further support of the Fiji Shark Count project which since 2012 has aimed at establishing an inventory of all sharks in the region. The Fiji Shark Count continues and was co-financed by the Foundation in 2013/2014.

Investments 2018: CHF 0
Investments to date: approx. CHF 41,800

Migration of Large Coastal Sharks in Jupiter, FL, and the Bahamas

Great Hammerhead Sharks in Jupiter/Bimini/Bahamas The species of hammerhead sharks is heavily overfished in many regions. In March 2014 the large hammerheads were taken up in both Appendix II of the CITES Convention and the Red List of the IUCN and declared as endangered. They migrate over extensive distances through the territorial waters of various nations. For this reason they are also listed in Annex I of the UN Convention for Highly Migratory Species which calls for close cooperation of all involved countries in the management of these species.
Hammerheads are frequently found in bycatch, but are also actively fished because their fins score high market prices. Regulating bycatch and demanding that hammerheads be thrown back into the ocean makes little sense since the mortality rate of the hammerheads in bycatch is approximately 90%, the highest of all species. For this reason more information on the habitats, seasonal spatial usage and behavior of these hammerhead species must be better known in order to provide them with more effective protection.

In 2018 the project team continued to focus on the migrations of great hammerheads (Sphyrna mokarran) in the regions Jupiter (Florida, US), Bimini and generally the Bahamas. Analyses of the movements of great hammerhead sharks confirm a philopatric behavior. They migrate in annual cycles, remain stationary in one region for a season and continue to follow this behavior over many years. In Bimini and the Bahamas they remain from October to April, while in Jupiter/Florida they stay from October to March. Hammerheads who were tagged with satellite transmitters in Bimini or Jupiter wandered up to North Virginia and back, a distance totalling approx. 3,000 km. Such seasonal and thus predictable migrations are dangerous for the already strongly endangered hammerhead populations because they increase the probability of being caught on a targeted basis or they die in bycatch

Long-term objective of the project is to provide the national US Fishery Authorities with solid scientific data in order to enable granting protection of great hammerheads in the exclusive US fishing zone. For this purpose data must be collected on the seasonal large- and small-scale migrations (received via satellite, acoustic transmitters, classical tags, photo ID), feeding habits (stable isotope analysis) and nurseries/birthing areas (ultrasound and hormone examinations).

Investments 2018: CHF 14,200
Investments to date: approx. CHF 226,400

Whale Sharks

Whale sharks are found on the IUCN Red List and on Appendix II of CITES where they are designated a globally endangered species. In addition to work being done in Mozambique to establish a marine sanctuary for whale sharks, the team of Simon Pierce and Chris Rohner, together with local and international scientists, is studying various ecological, genetic and biochemical aspects of whale shark populations around Mafia Island (Tanzania), the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Philippines, Mexico (Yucatan), the Galapagos and a new whale shark hot spot around Madagascar. The Shark Foundation has been supporting the research of Simon Pierce and the Marine Megafauna Foundation since 2009.

Various projects at various locations include:

  • IUCN Red List of Endangered Species: In 2017 the official assessment of the global number of whale sharks was updated and extended by data from the Arabian Sea. Current numbers point to an approximate 50% decrease in worldwide whale shark populations since 1980, with no signs of any recovery since then.

  • UN Convention on Migratory Species: A very significant success for whale shark protection was achieved in 2017. Based on IUCN data compiled by the team of Dr. Simon Pierce and other researchers, whale sharks were placed under the highest protection (Appendix I) of the UN Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). Aim of the CMS is to protect migratory species, not only in specific countries but also throughout their entire territory.

  • Madagascar: A significant reduction of individuals in all larger whale shark populations was noted in the western Indian Ocean – especially in Mozambique and the Seychelles. The newly discovered whale shark population in Madagascar thus becomes all the more important and fortunately is even much larger than first assumed. Since 2015 more than 240 sharks could be identified there.

  • Mexico: Genetic studies have shown that Atlantic whale sharks very rarely migrate into the Pacific or Indian Ocean. Based on the current state of scientific knowledge, two whale shark populations could be identified, one in the Atlantic and the other in the Indo-Pacific region.

  • Galapagos: the Galapagos Island of Darwin is the only place in the world currently known where fully mature, pregnant whale shark females are sighted. Small tissue samples taken from these females should provide information on their population genetics as well as their feeding habits (stable isotopes and fatty acid analysis). The sharks were also tagged with satellite transmitters (not financed by the Foundation) in order to study their migratory routes.

    In 2017 the project gained prominence thanks to its introduction in the world renowned BBC Production Blue Planet 2, an important public relations action to help save endangered whale sharks.

    In the 2018 expedition to the Galapagos the team succeeded for the first time ever in applying ultrasound to examine the gestation of 21 free swimming and most likely pregnant females. The collected data is still being evaluated. In addition, blood samples were taken from 6 females. Previous attempts to take blood samples from 10 to 12 meter long adult whale sharks for hormonal testing had failed due to their more than 25 cm thick skin. This time the Pierce and Rohner team found an area on the shark with much thinner skin. Tissue samples will provide information on genetic relationships to other locations.

  • Mafia Island: The whale shark populations around Mafia Island are probably the best studied ones both genetically and biochemically. These studies were continued in 2018, focusing among other things on differences in female and male whale sharks. In 2017 many returning whale sharks were observed, accompanied by some new ones.

    For the beginning of whale shark tourism, and based on its respective extensive experience in Tanzania, the team compiled appropriate guidelines which it then presented to the responsible authorities.

  • Mozambique: The work in Mozambique, including research on the network of whale sharks in the various Indo-Pacific as well as Arabian regions, continues.

  • Biology: Various analyses on the biology of whale sharks run parallel to protection efforts. Research is thus being conducted to find out where adult females and males stay after they leave the "hot spots." First results indicate that they spend the rest of their lives in open waters on the high seas.

    How do whale sharks navigate on the high seas? Movement analyses show that they occasionally submerge to depths of over 1,200 m. Is this how they better orient themselves to the earth’s magnetic field?

    Further research revealed that parasites accumulate their DNA on the surface of their hosts. This so-called iDNA (DNA won from invertebrates) was discovered for the first time in marine animals in this whale shark study.

    Modern techniques make it possible to analyze entire genomes from living organisms faster and at lower costs. Genomic DNA can provide considerably more detailed information on populations and their interactions compared to classical short DNA pieces/strings. Applying these new technologies should enable a more detailed analysis of international whale shark populations.

In 2018 four scientific papers were published thanks to the support of the Foundation.

Funding 2017: CHF 9,700
Investments to date: approx.CHF 101,000

2018 successfully completed:
Bull Shark Populations in Fiji

With the constantly increasing overusage/overfishing of the oceans, the conservation of single key species, their populations and their habitats all gain even more importance. As a large top predator with an extensive distribution range, bull sharks belong to those key species because they significantly regulate the ecosystem in which they live. In order to manage and maintain their populations sustainably, obtaining reliable information on their distribution, reproduction, diet and behavior is essential. Bull shark populations in Fiji have already been intensely scrutinized over several years. Nevertheless many questions are still open. In the scope of her doctoral thesis at the University of the South Pacific, Fiji, Kerstin Glaus (University Basel) will address several of these questions:

  • Do bull shark populations in Fiji form separate reproduction communities which must also be managed separately?

  • Do bull shark populations in Fiji mix with other populations in the Indo-Pacific region or are they strongly isolated?

  • How do bull sharks fit into the concept of metapopulations in which individual populations can show very specific behavioral patterns while at the same time can be influenced by the exchange of individuals between the different populations?
    Dynamic metapopulation models start off with a set of populations that are interconnected through genetic exchange, but whose genetic material is outweighed by their individual adaptations.

For this research, genetic population studies will be carried out in the bull shark nurseries around Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. Research will continue to determine the number of bull shark females who use the different nurseries, as well as the survival rate of their offspring. Cohort studies of young male bull sharks in rivers should provide insight into the behavior of the young sharks. Altogether these studies should then make it possible to estimate population sizes and establish effective management plans.

Status 2017/18: During two years of field studies, 236 juvenile bull sharks were caught, measured, tagged and released in the largest rivers of the main island Viti Levu. They include 188 in Rewa, 38 in Navua and 10 in Sigatoka. The collected data is currently being modelled and the respective publication on the prevalence of juvenile bull sharks in Fiji is expected to be submitted to the professional journal "Ecology & Evolution" in August 2018.

The genetic population structure of bull sharks in Fiji will be embedded in a transregional context. This will enable scientists to determine the gene flow between different populations and thus their degree of connectivity and isolation as they focus on populations within the Indo-Pacific oceans. Over 1,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were identified and biostatistically analyzed to determine the genetic population structure and connectivity between bull sharks from the Indo-Pacific. Results show that the bull sharks located off Fiji and New Caledonia are genetically different, while a high degree of connectivity exists between the remaining populations. One possible reason for this observation is that the gene flow between the bull sharks off Fiji and New Caledonia and the other populations is limited due to discontinuous habitats and biogeographic barriers within the oceans (e.g. currents, deep sea trenches, temperature differences).

Bull sharks belong to the viviparous shark species. Although the occurrence of juvenile bull sharks in the three river systems has been successfully documented, their exact places of birth are still unknown. In October 2017 20 acoustic receivers were thus stationed in four rivers. Eleven pregnant animals and 3 juvenile bull sharks were tagged with acoustic transmitters. The transmitters used for the young animals have a lifespan of up to 10 years so that the movements and habitat usage of bull sharks off Fiji can probably be documented for the first time over a period up to 10 years.

The project was successfully completed. Results were published in June 2019 in the scientific journal "Ecology and Evolution" under the title "Young bull sharks in Fiji's largest riverine system."

Funding 2018: CHF 15,000
Investments to date: approx. CHF 45,000

New 2018:
White Sharks in the North Atlantic: Analysis of Hormones and Microplastics

As top ocean predators, white sharks are found at the end of the food chains and are thus prone to accumulating environmental poisons such as mercury and microplastics in their bodies. The examinations of white shark populations currently under way in cooperation with Ocearch should provide information on their health status. In addition a stress and other hormone examination should indicate the degree of stress experienced by white sharks when they are caught and examined.

The subproject manager, Michael Hyatt, is a veterinarian whose research on "stress through catch methods and examinations" experienced by lemon sharks, bull sharks and hammerheads in Rookery Bay have already been financed by the Foundation and published in 3 scientific journals. The project shall run for 3 years and will be supported annually with $10,000.
In September 2018 the first expedition went to Nova Scotia. In February 2019 an expedition left for southeastern Atlantic regions and another one is planned in August 2019 to Nantucket.

Funding 2018: CHF 10,000
Investments to date: approx. CHF 10,000

Short-Term Projects

Ecological analysis of blue sharks in South Cornwell (England).

Blue sharks (Prionace glauca) are large pelagic sharks and top global predators found in temperate and tropical waters. Like other shark species they are a vital regulation factor in their marine ecosystems.
Blue sharks are caught directly for their fins or wind up as bycatch in pelagic fishing fleets. Their current status on the Red List of Endangered Species is "Near Threatened," i.e. shortly before, or with a strong tendency to becoming "Endangered." Any respective current data on this subject is not available at the moment so that they may already have to be deemed as "Endangered".

Blue Sharks are not only threatened directly by the fishing industry but as top predators they are also exposed to another big problem, namely the accumulation of environmental toxins.
Concentrations of arsenic and mercury that exceed by far the European limits have been found in blue sharks. PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls), PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) can also accumulate in top predators, influencing their health and fertility.

Project objectives are to:

  • Analyze the overall water quality along the southwestern coastline of Cornwall.

  • Apply photo IDs of dorsal fins and perform population genetic analyses to determine if the region is frequented by various blue shark populations as feeding grounds, or if the local population is homogeneous.

  • Determine the health status of one or more populations using chemical and genetic analyses.

  • Inform and sensitize the local population and fishermen about blue sharks on the southwestern coast of Cornwall.

The project encountered some snags with regard to the biopsy needles used because blue sharks are very fast swimmers. They were resolved by the Fiji research team and Gary Adkison, President of the US Shark Foundation, thanks to their longstanding experience in collecting samples from bull sharks. This is one of many examples showing how the Shark Foundation was able to solve problems quickly and efficiently thanks to its large network of research teams.

In order to engage a broader public to help with the identification of blue sharks, an online photo databank was created. Photos of blue shark dorsal fins will be collected in this databank and will be analyzed later on.

Project Management: Dr. Andrea Gaion, South Devon College

Funding 2018: CHF 6,700
Investments to date: approx. CHF 13,200

Artisanal fishing in Angola

An alarming reduction of sharks has been noticed in West Africa, due mainly to the ever increasing demand for shark fins in the Asian region. Many shark species are affected by this threatening decrease but so far the ones being most decimated are hammerheads, lemon and bull sharks.

Angola is located in the northern part of the so-called "Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME)." This is an extremely productive marine region. The confluence of the Benguela and Angola rivers produces turbulence that transports nutrient-rich deep water to the surface.

The demand for shark fins is the reason why local coastal fisheries in Angola have sharply increased, especially within the last 10 years (source FAO, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization ). Precise data on specific shark fishing is not yet available, but shall be collected in this project.

The project is progressing well. An initial interim report including data from different ports in Angola is available.

Project Management: : Dr. Rima Jabado (Environment Agency Abu Dhabi)

Funding: approx. CHF 9,500 for 2 years (2017/18-2019).
Funding 2018: CHF 0, next payment in 2019
Investments to date: approx. CHF 4,700


Public Relations (Shark Foundation and Shark Info)


Media/Public Relations

In 2018 the Foundation supported lectures, gave various interviews, wrote articles for diverse media and provided expert advice and tips on sharks and shark protection.

Web-Server

2In 2018 the Shark Foundation's German website recorded about 135,000 real visitors who called up 640,000 pages. The visitors stemmed mainly from Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Poland.
The English website recorded 75,500 visitors who called up 200,000 pages. Here the visitors were mainly from the US, Poland, China, the Ukraine and Germany. Most popular with hai.ch and shark.ch was the Shark Databank. Compared to 2017, the trend is clearly retrogressive due to lack of support for mobile browsers and hence a bad ranking from Google. On hai.ch 47% (2017 44%) of the browsers were mobile versions, on shark.ch it was at least almost 22% (2017 30%). It is thus urgent that the pages are transferred into a CMS System with responsive design. This project is in progress.


Administrativa


Financial Policy of the Shark Foundation

Established on August 29, 1997, the Shark Foundation is an internationally active organization that falls under the supervision of the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA) / Swiss Federal Supervisory Authority in Bern. The Foundation can accept tax-deductible donations and once a year it submits its annual report and financial statement to the supervisory authority for approval.
The Foundation finances all its activities through donations, presentations or the sale of products such as T-shirts or plush toy sharks. The Board of Trustees works on a voluntary basis and its members receive neither attendance fees nor salaries. The Foundation runs a "Shark Shop" on its Internet website (T-shirts, cuddly plush toy sharks, tear-off notebooks, postcards, shark sponsorships). Sales revenues flow directly into the Foundation account, and once a year all interested parties are sent a mailing requesting donations and including a pay-in slip.

n its first meeting of the respective year, the Board of Trustees of the Shark Foundation decides on the usage of any accumulated income and donation money from the previous year. Up until then no reserves are set aside; instead all funds are released to cover ongoing projects, investments and administrative costs.

The annual accounts for both the Foundation and Shark Info are checked by Revisal, an auditing company located in Gossau.


Annual Reports 1998 and 1999

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