What Is the Thailand eShark Project?
The Thailand eShark Project aims to find out if shark populations in Thailand are declining. The survey provides a simple way for divers and snorkelers to report the sharks, rays and sawfish they see, and don’t see (zero’s are just as important), in a way that is used to assess and monitor populations, communities and ecosystems. Most importantly these data are used to assess the need for, and the success of marine management initiatives, including sanctuaries. These surveys have been rigorously developed through collaborations with divers, statisticians, biologists and experts in the field of citizen science.
The Thailand eShark Project has been organised through Shark Guardian to collectively gather data from as many divers in Thailand as possible and hopes to be the largest project ever undertaken in one country by divers for shark conservation.
Why Are Sharks Important?
Sharks have a vital role in maintaining the balance in the Ocean in a way other fish do not, having kept this environment healthy for 450 million years. Often the apex predator, sharks regulate the populations below them, keeping them in the correct proportions for these oceanic ecosystems.
They are a critical component in an ecosystem that provides a third of our world with food, produces more oxygen than all the rain forests combined, removes half of the atmosphere’s manmade carbon dioxide (greenhouse gases) and controls our planet’s temperature and weather.
Over 70% of our planet is covered by the Ocean, which is home to 80% of all life. Therefore it goes without saying, that protecting sharks, as one of the main regulators within this ecosystem, is crucial to our life on Earth. In part, our existence depends on theirs.
What Will eShark Results Be Used For?
Previous Thailand eShark Project survey results have been used for several publications to assist with shark conservation. Result of eShark has been used to assist the IUCN data of sharks for the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).
The Thailand eShark Project results will continue to be used to raise awareness of declining shark populations in Thailand to the general public, Thai government and the Department of Marine Coastal Resources (DMCR) of Thailand. Additionally, to help improve protected marine parks with the aim of creating shark sanctuaries. The identification of shark species and areas is also an important step in determining the best method for recovery and protection.
Who Can Contribute to the Thailand eShark Project?
You can! In fact anyone that has ever dived or snorkeled in the ocean can contribute to eShark project. All ocean going divers (professionals, recreational, and tourists) are candidates for this survey. The on-line surveys should be filled out after each dive you make – even if you do not see any sharks, as non sightings are equally as important as sighting, in terms of building accurate eShark survey results.
The Thailand eShark Project aims to evaluate how shark and ray populations have changed through time in Thai waters. eShark uses scuba diver’s observations to census shark populations around the world. Scuba divers possess valuable information because they census areas that fishers don’t- like coral reefs, seagrass beds, and pinnacles. Divers are also extremely valuable for monitoring no-take zones and Marine Protected Areas- where fishing is prohibited.
How You Can Help
Scubafish And eShark
Scubafish is an official Shark Guardian dive centre. Christine Ward-Paige, who is the lead scientist behind Thailand eShark, dived with Scubafish in 2008. Since then, staff at Scubafish have been contributing data to Christine’s Global Shark Assessment which is the basis of eShark. Shark Guardian is very happy to have the support of Scubafish in this way.
On a daily basis, Scubafish records data from every dive which is then submitted to the eShark data base. Every dive recorded is literally making an accumulative difference to conservation of Sharks in Thailand.
Shark Guardian is a UK registered charity with Brendon Sing and Elizabeth Ward-Sing the Directors. They manage all Shark Guardian events, activities and projects (including eShark) worldwide on a full time basis, being based in Thailand, as many projects and educational programs are operational within Asia.
Both Brendon and Liz are experienced scuba diving instructors. Brendon has the highest qualification in both recreational and technical scuba diving and experience in shark research. Liz is also a fully qualified Physiotherapist with a great passion for sharks and conservation. Brendon and Liz together created Shark Guardian, the Shark Guardian presentations, initiated many Shark Guardian conservation and research projects, including eShark.
Through Thailand eShark Project and other projects, they hope to achieve a greater understanding about certain species of sharks and how to better protect them.
Shark Guardian now have affiliated dive centres in Mozambique, China, East Timor, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Phillipines, Spain, Netherlands and of course Thailand, including Scubafish.
This now examines the effect of human activities on the marine environment, evaluates the success of conservation strategies and identifies the need for improved management initiatives.
Papers published by Christine Ward-Paige include:
The Global Shark Assessment
The Global Shark Assessment was a project launched in October of 2003 by the late Dr. Ransom Myres and colleagues. It’s purpose was to assess how global shark populations have changed since the beginning of industrial scale fishing, to make predictions about how these populations will respond to global climate change and to different methods of fishing.
eShark And Project Aware
The Project AWARE Foundation was established in 1989 by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). Project AWARE is a registered nonprofit organisation, active in 180 countries and working with volunteer scuba divers. It currently focuses on two issues, namely, Sharks in Peril and Marine Debris.
In 2013, Shark guardian won a grant towards Thailand eShark Project from Project AWARE. This was as a result of being voted one of the winners in their Ocean Action Projects. This extra funding meant Shark Guardian could produce more resources to leave with dive centres and schools, as well as travel and present in more locations, thus increasing the scope of the eShark project.