What if your country was declared a shark sanctuary but people knew little to nothing about it, or didn’t even understand sharks needed protection? Our public campaign to raise awareness for sharks and rays is launching this month in Honduras thanks to funding from the US Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Houston Zoo and the Oak Foundation.
The initiative seeks to raise support for shark and ray protection in Latin American’s only declared shark sanctuary and reduce consumer demand for illegally sourced meat. We shaped our campaign strategies based on the results from a broadly applied public knowledge and perceptions survey conducted throughout main cities in Honduras in 2018, we determined that people know very little about sharks.
A high percentage of interviewees confirmed that their knowledge was derived from Discovery Channel programs and never from local television and media. Likewise, we confirmed that 91% of those interviewed agreed on the need for an entity that protects sharks and rays in Honduras; however, only 45% felt that it should be a Government entity. Nevertheless, the biggest obstacle is that despite the sanctuary designation, directed and incidental fishing for sharks and rays continues unabated in-country, generated by a demand for meat, protein alternatives, use of unsustainable gears and a lack of knowledge on the benefits sharks provide to keep the seas healthy.
Many fishermen and the general public are unaware of shark species’ age at maturity or fecundity, and generally think that they mature quickly like cats and dogs, produce tens or hundreds of young on a regular basis, when the exact opposite is true. A high percentage of the public is also unaware that shark meat is harmful to their health due to its high methyl mercury content and were unaware that fillet sold in markets is actually shark or ray.
To create awareness, change minds and begin the process of shifting consumers away from shark and ray products while we seek alternatives for fishers and traders dependent on these species for their livelihoods, we initiated the campaign “Lend Your Voice to Sharks”. Now highly visible in several malls and airports in Honduras as videos and banners, the country team has held focus group meetings with fishers, fish market vendors, consumers and is about to launch a social media campaign.
We look forward to informing on the impact of this campaign after we hold a post campaign survey following the peak of shark and ray consumption during the Lenten season in 2020. We hope to see consumption reduced, knowledge and awareness increased and more empathy for sharks and rays in the Honduras public.