CABO VERDE PROJECT
Elasmobranch conservation and ecotourism in Cabo Verde
Cape Verde’s marine continental shelf (<200 m deep) covers 5,934 km2 and its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has a total area of 734,265 km2.
Over the past few years Cape Verde has become a major destination for European tourists and tourism is now the country’s largest source of income.
On July 2015, the Nakawe team travelled to Cape Verde (500 Km off the West of Africa) to assess the shark situation on the archipelago. The next two months in the island of Sal were spent contacting relevant players such as fishermen, dive centres and catch & release companies.
Findings showed a general lack of information about sharks around the islands. One of the catch & release companies had however been collecting data on sharks caught during their fishing trips. A preliminary analysis of this data, collected from October 2011 to May 2015, revealed the following:
- There are at least 13 species of sharks observed around the island;
- Of these 13 species, the most abundant is dusky sharks, followed by lemon and nurse sharks, respectively;
- In 2012 there was a peak in the number of dusky sharks caught in comparison to the other species, and to the rest of the years
In September, the team travelled to S. Vicente (a north-westerly island) to continue gathering information. Important contacts were made at several levels, including INDP (Instituto Nacional de Desenvolvimento das Pescas), Polícia Marítima, Acospesca, amongst others, and again found that information on shark populations is very limited, mainly due to limited access to means and knowledge.
Cape Verde has been targeted primarily by European and Chinese industrial fishing longliners which have been exploiting the archipelago for the past decade. In addition to overfishing, Cape Verde’s shark populations have become the focus of Asia’s high demand for shark fin.
-The lack of knowledge and economic means for the Cape Verdean Government to conduct further scientific studies on sharks’ stock assessment, to implement more effective fisheries surveillance and enforce the law;
-The low reproductive rates and slow growth of many of the shark species makes this group particularly vulnerable to overfishing and bycatch.
Interviews from different sectors agreed that the Cape Verdean government’s the lack of knowledge and economic means inhibit their ability to conduct further scientific studies on shark and ray stock assessment.
This lack of regulation and research combined with many elasmobranch species’ low reproductive rates, small litter sizes and late maturity make this group particularly vulnerable to overfishing and bycatch.
The Nakawe Project strongly believes that appropriate conservation, management and awareness of sharks and rays in the area has become increasingly important and necessary. As a result, a new elasmobranch (sharks, skates and rays) project is being established in collaboration with Project Biodiversity (local NGO www.projectbiodiversity.org)as well as other local companies, dive centres and institutions by the Nakawe team in Sal Island.
This project aims to:
- Estimate the relative abundance and distribution of sharks around the island,
- Educate and bring awareness to tourists as well as to local students and fishermen,
- Help people recognize the importance of sharks as apex predators in healthy marine ecosystems
- Use well-managed ecotourism to bring benefits to the country’s economy by demonstrating that sharks are worth more alive than