Sharks have a bad, but totally undeserved public image. In fact, sharks have been shaping our oceans for the last 400 million years and still today ensure their natural balance. That's why they are also alled "police of the seas".
As part of his Master Program ISATEC (International Studies in Aquatic Tropical Ecology) at the University of Bremen, Tom Vierus will conduct a six-month field study on Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji. He will be investigating whether the Ba river indeed serves as a nursery ground for juvenile scalloped hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna Lewini) as a preliminary study suggests. His research is intended to gather crucial data, that will help to establish a sound national management plan for these important animals. Identifying priority areas and involving the local community is the first step to a long-term protection of this species. Tom Vierus says: "Conservation only works together with people."
Recent studies show that approximately 240,000 sharks are killed each day! The Asian demand for shark fin soups, high bycatch rates, increasingly destroyed habitats, directed fisheries or game fishing - the pressure exerted on sharks is immense!
The scalloped hammerhead shark is now listed as endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and its international trade is regulated.
In the Ba river, many juvenile hammerheads die as bycatch in the nets of local fishermen. Most likely newborn sharks use this area as a nursery ground for the first two years of their life. Here, in the shallow, murky waters they find enough prey and are simultaneously protected from larger predators like bigger sharks. Since adult female hammerhead sharks always return to the same areas to give birth to their youngs, it is extremely important to identify such areas and eventually protect them adequately. This will contribute to the long-term survival of scalloped hammerhead sharks and ultimately protect and ensure the functioning of the marine ecosystem.
This master project is part of a wider three-year project of the University of the South Pacific, which aims to assess several rivers and finally adopt a national management program as a result. In addition to weekly sampling of the rivers, interviews will be conducted will local fishermen to find out more about the feeding ecology of juveniles as well as preferred habitation grounds and potential changes over the last years.
The field costs of approximately 3,200 Euro will be covered entirely by the University of the South Pacific (USP), which shows how important the project is assessed on site. However, everything else has to be financed. The gap of 1,800 Euro shall now be closed.
More on this topic is also available on the blog of Tom Vierus under