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Institute Scientist Pushes for South Pacific Shark Conservation

May 16, 2011

Dr. Demian Chapman, IOCS Assistant Science Director and Head of the Shark Research Program, recently spent a week in Fiji promoting shark conservation around these islands. Based in Suva, the island nation’s capital city, Dr. Chapman worked closely with members of the Pew Global Shark Campaign, The Coral Reef Alliance and the Department of Fisheries to reach a wide range of stakeholders and decision-makers and attempt to convince them to support Fijian shark conservation. Approximately 35 shark species live in on Fiji’s coral reefs, rivers, lagoons and nearshore pelagic waters, where they are exposed to increasing fishing pressure to supply the Asian shark fin trade.

In addition to meetings with various government ministries and community leaders, Dr. Chapman also got to speak to students, faculty, and members of the public at the University of the South Pacific. Another highlight was meeting the Fijian princess Ro Teimumu.

Local dive operators were also kind enough to introduce to Dr. Chapman to the rich reef shark fauna of Fiji, where he saw bull, sicklefin lemon, grey reef, blacktip reef, whitetip reef and tawny nurse sharks. Days later Dr. Chapman toured the warehouses of two shark fin traders, where he observed thousands of shark fins being prepared for shipment to Hong Kong.

“Fiji has some of the most spectacular coral reefs I have ever seen and some really healthy shark populations,” said Dr. Chapman. “After talking to many Fijians I have a strong sense that these animals are locally far more valuable as tourist attractions, top predators, and as symbols of Fijian heritage than they are as soup in a faraway country”.

bull shark Fiji group

Left: A bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) cruising at Shark Reef, Fiji.
Right: Dr. Chapman (standing at the top far left) meets with community leaders, including the Fijian princess (center).

Read more about the Institute’s shark projects.

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