Did Covid give sharks a break?


Over the past year, the internet was awash with stories of wildlife moving into urban areas and reoccupying sites where they had rarely or ever been seen previously. This led us to wonder whether marine wildlife in our study countries had caught a similar break from humans due to our Covid-mediated restrictions on travel and gatherings. In many tropical countries, coastal fishing was curtailed for several months as governments grappled with the uncertainties of contagion and the virus’ lethality, doing their best to balance restrictions while avoiding food insecurity and economic collapse. 

During a period that mostly stretched from mid-March to early June 2020, traditional fishers were not allowed to go to sea in several countries where we work, such as Cabo Verde, Honduras, Belize and Panama. In many cases they were also not provided with any alternatives to feed their families or pay their rent and bills. Although a relative drop in the bucket of need, thanks to many supporters, we were able to support 22 fishing families for up to 5 months during the most challenging period, but as there were thousands of fishers across these sites, another set of questions begged: how have sharks and other fish fared following a short absence of fishing pressures? Would we be able to discern a Covid respite effect on any of the long-lived species that we study? Are marine protected areas proving effective for the protection of large marine wildlife as determined by our long term study on the differences in abundance, diversity and distribution between protected and unprotected areas?

To answer these questions, we are once again setting about to monitor the status of sharks and rays and other large marine wildlife with our traditional fisher partners. Between April and June our team will be at work across multiple sites along the MesoAmerican Reef (which encompasses the countries of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras) and in September in Panama, using our standardized tripartite methodology of underwater visual census transects, underwater videos, and scientific capture of sharks. Although we couldn’t travel to the field in 2020, we are fortunate we can count on a baseline dataset from previous years and added to in 2019 (the last time we were able to undertake monitoring), to which we can compare and quantify changes in animal numbers and distribution across sites. 

One of the key sites we are studying closely is the Turneffe Atoll in Belize. Situated 32 km from Belize city, the atoll spans 1,317 km2 of coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass meadows and cayes. Declared a marine protected area (MPA) in 2012, the atoll is co-managed by the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association and the Belize Fisheries Department. Management and enforcement started in 2014, bringing about an atoll-wide ban on the use of nets and longlines similar to that enforced in other MPAs in Belize. 

That same year, we were able to create a baseline for marine megafauna that has since served as a comparison and indicator of change for the subsequent years of monitoring. Our hope is that management of the fishing around the atoll will help the populations of threatened species found in the MPA, such as the scalloped hammerhead and hawksbill turtle, rebound over time. As we return to Turneffe this month, we hope to see positive changes in the number of stingrays, nurse sharks, Caribbean reef sharks, and other iconic species that are commonly sighted along other Belizean reefs.

We are trying to educate stakeholders on setting expectations for MPA effectiveness as one must consider the life history of the species that the MPA is expected to protect. Because many of the species we work with are long lived (30+ years for species of groupers and even snappers, longer for sharks and turtles), reach maturity at a late age (over 5 years for certain groupers and snappers, 15 years for nurse sharks), and bear relatively few young that survive to adulthood, long term monitoring needs to be conducted over decades to identify an MPA effect with rebounding populations. 

As MPAs are now considered by most scientists as an essential tool for marine habitats and wildlife management and conservation, considerable work will be needed to boost MPA management and effectiveness at most established sites, ensure the continuity of standardized and locally-led monitoring, and establish long term financing measures that are resilient to external shocks such as Covid. Our localized approach to monitoring and building local capacities, especially in the age of Covid, is paying dividends in this sector, as work can continue and further provide traditional fishers with an alternative source of income to fishing. This is especially important with the globally set goal of protecting 30% of the seas by 2030 was set by the IUCN at the World Conservation Congress in 2016. As of 2020 only 5% of the world’s oceans was under true MPA management per the Marine Conservation Institute’s conservative estimates. 

There is clearly much work to do to attain management and coverage goals, and we look forward to contributing our highly replicable and locally mediated monitoring efforts as a key part of the MPA puzzle and to assessing if indeed Covid gave sharks a break with greater survival recorded throughout our monitoring sites. And we are grateful to contribute to this effort this year in multiple locations thanks to the support of our fabulous individual donors, the MAR Fund, the Oak Foundation, the Whitley Fund for Nature, the Wildlife Conservation Network and the Pew Marine Fellowship

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Asistente de comunicación (Internship)

MarAlliance es una organización internacional sin ánimo de lucro registrada en EE.UU., Belice, Panamá y Cabo Verde, cuyo objetivo es explorar, facilitar e inspirar cambios positivos para la fauna marina amenazada, especialmente tiburones y rayas, sus hábitats críticos y las comunidades humanas dependientes. Nuestra misión es amplia y ambiciosa, y trabajamos en tres idiomas y en siete países de tres regiones. Ante el declive de muchas poblaciones de megafauna marina, estas especies necesitan una voz fuerte, eficaz y con base científica que las represente para ayudar a los socios dependientes a dar forma a las estrategias y acciones de gestión y conservación para invertir el declive.

Resumen del puesto:

Buscamos a un becario (6 meses) proactivo, con conocimientos digitales y excelente capacidad de redacción y edición de textos, que apoye la creación de contenidos escritos de alta calidad y recursos multicanal para difundir el trabajo que MarAlliance realiza a través de sus plataformas en línea (sitio web, redes sociales, boletín, entre otras) y fuera de línea, y que interactúe con nuestro público externo para contribuir a nuestros objetivos generales de comunicación y marketing. El Asistente de Comunicación dependerá directamente del Coordinador de Comunicación y Marketing, y trabajará en estrecha colaboración con el resto del equipo para apoyarles en los elementos de comunicación de su trabajo.

Las funciones y responsabilidades incluirán, entre otras, las siguientes:

  1. Proporcionar apoyo creativo, editorial y operativo a los proyectos. 
  2. Apoyo en la organización, etiquetado y etiquetado del archivo fotográfico y gestión del archivo de vídeo.
  3. Gestión de la comunidad: Gestionar activamente los canales de medios sociales, así como identificar nuevas tendencias y oportunidades de colaboración. Generar reels y visuales.
  4. Apoyo en la redacción de artículos de blog (SEO) y contenido de boletines. 
  5. Ayudar a construir y desarrollar materiales, herramientas y acciones para campañas (online y offline).
  6. Ayudar en diferentes tareas relacionadas con la comunicación trabajando mano a mano con contratistas externos (desarrollador web, diseñador gráfico…) para mejorar el compromiso de las audiencias externas.
  7. Apoyo en la elaboración de informes de campañas y comunicaciones (Google Analytics, métricas de redes sociales, informes de marketing por correo electrónico).
  8. Como parte del Equipo de Comunicación de MarAlliance, apoyar al Coordinador de Comunicación y Marketing en cualquier otro proyecto de comunicación, coherente con las habilidades y experiencia del titular del puesto, en circunstancias no rutinarias.

Experiencia, conocimientos y aptitudes requeridos:

  1. Licenciatura en comunicación, periodismo, marketing o cualquier disciplina relacionada.
  2. Experiencia en comunicación digital o marketing.
  3. Pasión e interés por la naturaleza, la vida marina y la conservación.
  4. Capacidad demostrada para redactar y presentar comunicaciones creativas.
  5. Presencia y conocimientos de medios sociales y digitales.
  6. Capacidad para realizar múltiples tareas y detectar buenas historias.
  7. Capacidad para trabajar a distancia y cumplir los plazos establecidos.
  8. Conocimientos de diseño gráfico deseables, pero no necesarios.
  9. Conocimientos de edición de vídeo deseables pero no necesarios. 

Salario y prestaciones:

Estipendio durante 6 meses.


Español, con fluidez en inglés


Nacionales o residentes de Panamá, Belice, México, Honduras, Guatemala.

Este contrato será a distancia dentro de las zonas horarias de América, flexible, a tiempo completo y desde casa con hasta un 10% de viajes ocasionales locales e internacionales.

Cómo presentar la candidatura:

Por favor, envíe su currículum, portfolio si lo tiene, y carta de presentación a info@maralliance.org con “MAR-CA_Apellido” en el asunto antes del 21 de marzo, 2024. No se admiten llamadas.

Communications Assistant (Internship)

MarAlliance is an international non-profit registered in the US, Belize, Panama and Cabo Verde that aims to explore, enable and inspire positive changes for threatened marine wildlife – notably sharks and rays – their critical habitats and dependent human communities. Our remit is broad and ambitious, and we work in three languages and across seven countries encompassed by three regions. In the face of declines in many populations of marine megafauna, these species need a strong, effective, and science-based voice to represent them to help dependent partners shape management and conservation strategies and action to reverse declines.

Position summary:

We are seeking for a proactive, digitally savvy Paid Intern (6 month) Communications Assistant with excellent writing and copy editing skills, who will support the creation of high-quality written content and multichannel assets to broadcast the work MarAlliance does through its online (website, social media, newsletter, among others) and offline platforms, and engage with our external audiences to contribute to our overall communications and marketing goals. The Communications Assistant will directly report consistently to the Communications and Marketing Coordinator, and work closely with the rest of the team to support them on the communications elements of their work.

Duties and responsibilities will include but are not limited to:

  1. Provide creative, editorial, and operational project support. 
  2. Support organizing, labeling and tagging the photo archive and video archive management.
  3. Community Management: Actively manage social media channels, as well as identify new trends and collaboration opportunities. Generate reels and visuals.
  4. Support with writing blog articles (SEO) and newsletter content. 
  5. Help build and develop materials, toolkits, and actions for (online and offline) campaigns.
  6. Assist in different communications-related tasks working hand in hand with external contractors (web developer, graphic designer…) to improve the engagement of external audiences.
  7. Support in campaign and communications reporting (Google Analytics, social media metrics, email marketing reports)
  8. As part of the MarAlliance Communications Team, support the Communications and Marketing Coordinator with any other communications projects, consistent with the skills and expertise of the post holder, in non-routine circumstances.

Experience, Knowledge, and Skills Required:

  1. Bachelor’s degree in communications, journalism, marketing or any related discipline.
  2. Experience working in digital communications and or marketing.
  3. Passion and interest for nature, marine life and conservation.
  4. Proven ability to write and deliver creative communications.
  5. Social Media and digital presence and knowledge.
  6. Ability to multitask and spot good stories.
  7. Capable of working remotely and meeting established deadlines.
  8. Graphic design skills are desirable but not required.
  9. Video editing skills are desirable but not required.

Salary and benefits:

Stipend for 6 month.


English, Spanish are mandatory.


Panama, Belize, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala nationals or residents. 

This contract will be remote within the Americas time zones, flexible, full-time and home-based with up to 10% occasional local and international travel.

How to apply:

Please send your resume, portfolio if you have one, and cover letter to info@maralliance.org with “MAR-CA_Last name” in the subject line by 21st of March, 2024. No calls please.