EJF's new shark and ray conservation project in Côte d'Ivoire
EJF has launched a new project to protect sharks and rays in Côte d'Ivoire. This will build on the success of a long-term shark and ray data collection and community outreach programme in Liberia. The programme is building understanding and support for the conservation of sharks and rays.
As in neighbouring Liberia, there are no laws protecting sharks and rays in Côte d'Ivoire. There is little information on the species that are living in the coastal and deep-sea waters, or on those that are being caught. It is unknown in what numbers sharks and rays are caught, and what their prospects are for long-term survival in the region.
EJF will train government staff to gather essential information on sharks and rays and the fisheries that target them and help develop effective management and conservation plans.
Alongside the research, we’ll use films and radio to build community awareness of sharks and their true value to the oceans.
The project will not only help protect sharks and rays but also preserve the ecosystems that provide food and livelihoods for coastal communities in Côte d'Ivoire.
Sharks and rays play a vital role in the health of many marine habitats. Loss of sharks can lead to dramatic imbalances in the ecosystem. This contributes to the degradation of coral reefs and destruction of seagrass beds, both of which provide important nursery habitats for young fish.
Sharks and rays are important to the marine ecosystems that support local fishing communities. They are at the top of the food chain. If they disappear this can have effects that cascade down the entire ecosystem.
Sharks and rays are vulnerable to overfishing because they tend to grow slowly, reach sexual maturity late and have low rates of reproduction.
In Côte d'Ivoire a variety of hammerhead species are caught, including the great hammerhead, a species which is endangered globally, but critically endangered in West African waters. Smooth hammerheads, which are globally vulnerable are also being caught, as well as the endangered scalloped hammerhead.
Hammerhead sharks are migratory species, and as such it is crucial that data is collected across the region, which will therefore build further on the data already gained in Liberia.
However, the majority of landings are blue sharks which are listed as near threatened by the IUCN. Devil rays are also landed, including Chilean, Bent-Fin and Giant devil rays. These are some of the least reproductive sharks on the planet.
The initiative – which runs alongside EJF’s successful long-term shark and ray monitoring project in neighbouring Liberia – will collect data from sharks and rays being landed at three key fishing sites in Abidjan and in San Pedro, engaging local communities on the benefits of shark and ray conservation to local livelihoods and involving them in developing conservation solutions.