Miskito Cays, unexplored marine wildlife under threat

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The boat we used for monitoring at one of Miskito Cays’ many islets

The Miskito Cays in the far eastern stretches of Honduras known as La Moskitia, represent one of the last remote marine wildernesses in the Caribbean, and as we recently discovered, a veritable “wild west”of the sea. In search of answers on the status of marine megafauna in the Caribbean’s most difficult to access areas, the MarAlliance team recently conducted an expedition to these remote and sparsely inhabited islands.

Comprised of 49 small coral islands and sandbars spanning an area of 750 square km, the Miskito Cays are located 60km from the coast and are named after the region’s indigenous population, the Miskitos, who are subsistence fishers.

We interviewed Gaby Ochoa, MarAlliance’s Honduras Country Coordinator, about the importance of the region and its marine wildlife.

Why does MarAlliance work in the Miskito Cays?

Sharks are important to the reef’s ecosystem. This photo shows critically endangered elkhorn coral.

Gaby: Since 2016, our research associate Ely Augustinus ran a series of preliminary market and shark fishing surveys with Miskito fishers which all pointed to the fact that shark fishery was taking place in that area. We became very interested in collecting data in this remote area, primarily because no baseline surveys of the marine megafauna, like sharks and rays, had been done before. Previous monitoring by others was not very inclusive, which made the fishers uninterested in participating in any research. Our experience in engaging local fisher communities has helped us to be more sustainable. We have worked closely with indigenous Miskito fishers to ensure they are part of this endeavor. If you want to make an impact, you need to work alongside communities, which is why we started monitoring the life beneath the surface with these key partners on our side.

Can you draw a picture of the current situation of this reef for sharks and rays?

MarAlliance team heading back after a successful monitoring day

Gaby: The reef falls under the permanent shark sanctuary legislation, which protects both the country’s Atlantic and Pacific sharks and entered into force in 2011. Unfortunately, an amendment to this legislation in 2016, stipulates that every shark caught incidentally during fishing can be used for sale. This amendment turned into a loophole, that is becoming increasingly visual in the run up to the country’s religious festivities of the Semana Santa (holy week or Easter week). Shark meat is first salted and then dried to be sold for a popular soup during lent. From January until Easter, we noticed fisheries directly targeting endangered hammerhead sharks and boats returning daily to the fishing camps filled with over 100 sharks each. Moreover, rays do not fall under this regulation.

During the fishing season, the region’s fishermen are all out at sea. Both artisanal and industrial fisheries are active in the area; it is the artisanal fishing that is detrimental to the shark populations who are so important to the marine ecosystem.

What does our work in the area entail?

Deploying a baited remote underwater video

Gaby: We received the go ahead of the Consejo Consultivo of La Mosquitia, a local government agency, to do the first ever fisheries-independent baseline survey in the area. We trained local fishers how to take part in the survey. For this, we deployed 45 baited remote underwater video (BRUV) stations. It will take some time to go over all this footage, determine all the species and pin down the numbers of our first baseline survey, but I am expecting results to come out in July this year. Having watched some of the footage already, my first observation would be that this might be an area for juvenile sharks, and that it might have more shark sightings than other places surveyed in the country so far! However, proper analysis will give us a better picture.

What are the challenges for marine conservation in the Miskito Cays?

Gaby: For conservation to succeed in the area, the shark sanctuary legislation needs to be followed more closely as well as better enforced. More research is needed on which species and how many of them the fishers are actually catching. Lastly, close ongoing cooperation with the local fisher communities, the government and grassroots associations such as the Miskitu Asla Takanka are crucial to achieving success.

What is your wish for the future?

Gaby: The monitoring activities made us aware that there is much more work and research to be done. What we discovered is only the top of the iceberg. Moreover, we made community commitments to work together to better understand the status of shark fisheries and marine health. We would love to keep these commitments by continuing our work in the area.

Meet the MarAlliance Honduras team!

This project is funded by Houston Zoo and Fly Fish Guanaja.

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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.

Idiomas:

Español, con fluidez en inglés

Localización:

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 febrero, 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.

Language:

Spanish, with fluent English

Location:

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 February, 2024. No calls please.