Save Our Seas Foundation
12 May 2008
The Save Our Seas Foundation’s Shark Centre is opening its doors this week with a mission to challenge the world to Rethink the Shark.
For all their perceived menace, sharks are extremely fragile and in deep trouble: Over 100 million sharks are being purged from the oceans annually by increased fishing pressures. Added to this, habitat destruction, coupled with a poor understanding of their general biology and ecological needs has resulted in 110 species being listed as threatened with extinction on the International Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN). The prevailing negative perceptions the general public has of sharks do little to help their precarious status. But, if sharks are to survive we need to rethink them, and take urgent measures to conserve them.
Proactively addressing these concerns is the new Save Our Seas Shark Centre (SOSSC), which will open its doors to the public on the 15th May. It is prestigiously positioned in Kalk Bay, South Africa, a white shark hotspot of the world. This exciting new development is part of the global expansion of the Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF), which has made significant contributions towards marine conservation through the support of over 72 projects in over 30 countries. SOSF have been active in South Africa for more than five years, supporting numerous high profile projects such as pioneering research on white sharks in False Bay, and on tiger sharks in KwaZulu Natal. They are also responsible for satellite tagging and releasing raggedtooth sharks from the Two Oceans Aquarium as part of the SOSF M-SEA Programme, and sponsoring the Shark World exhibit at Iziko Museum.
Chris Clarke, Executive Director of the Foundation says: “The new SOSSC cements our commitment to make a meaningful contribution toward shark conservation in southern Africa. By becoming a Centre open to the general public it will be a visible reminder of the importance of sharks in our ecosystem and the integral role they play in the health of our oceans.”
The SOSSC will promote the protection and conservation of sharks worldwide by developing scientific research projects, and global education and awareness projects that target the general public, fishers, and in particular, children. Lesley Rochat, recognized for her significant contribution toward shark education and awareness through the SOSF M-SEA Programme, is the manager of the Centre. The Centre’s Chief Scientist, Dr Leonard Compagno, internationally recognized as being one of the world’s top shark scientists, and Alison Kock, a shark researcher, well known for her research on white sharks in False Bay, will direct the scientific research. “Our vision is to drive exciting scientific research projects, supported by compelling education and awareness campaigns”, says Rochat. “We will use the very channels and methods employed by the media to brand sharks as nature’s outcasts to turn the tables. The Rethink the Shark campaign developed for us by Saatchi & Saatchi is our education and awareness mission statement.”
Just as exciting is the first SOSF Shark and Ray workshop, which has been planned to coincide with the grand opening of the SOSSC. This three day workshop brings together top shark and ray scientists funded by the SOSF from around the world. “We will present our work with the aim of encouraging collaboration between all SOSF funded projects focused on sharks and rays, while identifying new areas of critical research,” says Kock. “Time is running out for many species and collaboration amongst scientists is urgently required to assist in their conservation.”
The Centre will also encourage collaboration with other scientists, universities, industry and government in the area of shark research and conservation both locally and internationally. Compagno says: “The Centre will provide a forum for reliable and accessible dissemination of scientific information and aims to become globally recognised for elasmobranch research excellence.”
Sharks play a vital role in maintaining the delicate balance of marine ecosystems and if our oceans are purged of them it will have severe repercussions on the millions of people that depend upon the oceans for food. Despite their importance in the marine food-chain, however, sharks remain a low conservation priority. Clarke says: “Increased global awareness of the need to protect our ocean’s limited resources, in particular sharks, lies at the heart of all SOSSC goals.”
ISSUED BY the Save Our Seas Shark Centre:
Manager, Save Our Seas Shark Centre
Contact: 0833310376, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chief Scientist, Save Our Seas Shark Centre
Contact: 0834502759, Email: email@example.com
Marine Biologist, Save Our Seas Shark Centre
Contact: 0726619516, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Save Our Seas Foundation PR and Marketing
Contact: 0797179070, email@example.com
Visit: www.saveourseas.com or www.rethinktheshark.com to learn more about SOSF and SOSSC. Photographs available of SOSF projects, various shark species and the SOSSC.