No conservation initiative is an island. To enable the best chances of long term success in the protection of large marine wildlife, conservation science and action require multiple approaches, skills and levels of engagement. MarAlliance works from the grassroots level with fishers and community partners to academia and protected area decision-makers to policy-makers. We build successful collaborative cross-sector conservation ventures that help us to create networks to facilitate knowledge sharing of successful approaches (and lessons learned!). These collaborations and networks are key mechanisms that underpin the replication and scaling up of marine megafauna research and conservation efforts for greater conservation impact.

A largetooth sawfish (Pristis pristis) captured in the Sarstoon River, Guatemala, around 1970.

Working with the Sawfish Conservation Society

Sawfish, a family of cartilaginous fishes consisting of five species, were recently identified as the most vulnerable of all elasmobranch families. Ecologically extinct throughout most of their ranges due to overexploitation, notably through the expanded use of gillnets, sawfish are now on the brink of extinction. We work with the Sawfish Conservation Society and the scientists in the US to contribute data to help assess population diversity and distribution throughout their remaining range.

Partnering for Genetic Science

Studying the DNA of organisms can reveal more than just their genetic code. We are working with scientists in the US and Australia to determine species identification, patterns of movement and connectivity, biodiversity, population relatedness, and spatial ecology of sharks, rays, and finfish. We collect genetic information by cutting a small piece of fin from the animal and preserving it in ethanol or DMSO. This procedure is non-invasive, and the small piece of tissue holds vast amounts of information about the individual.

Studying Contaminants with the Institute for Integrated Research on Materials, Environment and Society (IIRMES)

Marine fishes are important sources of protein throughout the world. As fish grow and age, they will accumulate contaminants, such as heavy metals and PCBs, that can be harmful to humans if consumed in high concentrations. Large, slow growing fishes that are at the top of the food web bioaccumulate contaminants over their lifetime, and therefore the largest fish often have the highest levels of these toxins. MarAlliance is collaborating with researchers at IIRMES to determine the levels of contaminants such as methyl mercury in fish and sharks to determine how contaminant levels in these organisms change over time. Results from these studies will help to inform the public about which fish species, and what sizes of these fish are safest to eat and which should avoided.