With all sharks including our magnificent great white sharks declining in number, our mission is to help protect the long-term future of these species by translating research into evidence-based conservation initiatives. We hope to contribute to the understanding of our populations so we can assist with correct decision-making at the highest level when government makes consumptive and non-consumptive decisions. And ultimately we want to try to help ensure a healthy sustainable ocean for generations to come.
During the 2016 National Workshop on the Implementation of a Shark Biodiversity Management Plan in South Africa, it was underlined that fundamental baseline data are critically required to develop effective management and conservation initiatives for sharks. Our various aims and objectives hope to close some of these gaps in the data to help with the development of effective management plans.
The Shark and Marine Research Institute aims and research objectives are as follows:
- Build a new database of great white sharks using dorsal fin identification photographs and use the software developed and described by Andreotti et al. 2017, to assess current white shark population numbers, and compare to previous numbers estimated by Dr Andreotti in Andreotti et al. 2016.
- Monitor great white shark growth rates using laser photogrammetry as outlined in Leurs et al. 2015.
- Establish baseline abundance and diversity numbers of other shark species in the Gansbaai area, using catch and release methods and baited remote underwater video.
- Explore other shark species habitat use, seasonality, movement patterns and growth rates.
- Undergo genetic studies on other shark species to determine their effective population sizes.
- Assess the level of decline in other shark species in Gansbaai over a three-year period and the potential causes of any declines present.
- Investigate how such declines could also impact our great white shark populations in the area.
- Continue to contribute to studies at the University of Stellenbosch Genomics group by providing the samples that are needed for various projects on some of the smaller shark species around South Africa. Such projects are investigating shark population numbers, genetic diversity, genetic drift and hybridization.
- Continue to raise awareness about the Sharksafe barrier, developed by Dr Craig O’Connell from the University of Massachusetts, Dr Conrad Matthee and Dr Sara Andreotti from the University of Stellenbosch, and Mike Rutzen. Assist in raising funds for the testing and implementation of the barrier around the world as an alternative to beach nets and drumlines.