When we hear of ‘sharks’ and ‘rays’, the first thing coming to our mind, much likely, is ‘predators’ or something big and frightening. Despite this, sharks and rays have been hunted for centuries in Indonesia. For example, small-scale fishers in South East Sulawesi have been catching these species using bamboo-made fishing rods.
Sharks and rays are close relatives, comprising the subclass Elasmobranchii, one key characteristic of which is their skeletons are made of cartilage, rather than bone. Of the approximately 1,250 shark and ray species, 218 are found in Indonesia, of which more than 80 are hunted and 26 have high economic values. Unfortunately, some of the sub-species of sharks and rays are threatened with extinction, and have been listed in Appendix I and II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Wild Plants and Animals), as well as the IUCN Red List (International Union for Conservation of Nature). While degraded habitats and global climate change have greatly depleted them, over-exploitation to satisfy market demands, especially in Asia, is the greatest threat to the sustainability of these species.
In the light of the above and the fact that Indonesia is a country with a considerable population of sharks and rays, Wildlife Conservation Society-Indonesia Program (WCS-IP) and Yayasan Rekam Nusantara has initiated an education campaign program to promote protection of the species. Using hashtag #SobatHiuPari (lit. friends of sharks and rays), a website, hiupari.info, has been created to serve as a campaign medium to widely invite the public to get involved. In particular, in the digital era today, people tend to access the internet to get information as well as entertainment to get rid of stress and tiredness; therefore, the website is designed to feature an attractive design and easy-to-understand content.
Campaign #SobatHiuPari was publicly launched on Sunday (25/02) at GoetheHaus, Central Jakarta. The event was attended by a number of communities, students, and environmental organizations as well as groups/organization interested in being engaged deeper in environmental issues, in particular conservation of sharks and rays. Speaking in the events were Setiono, Head of Fish Conservation Division of the Directorate of Conservation and Biodiversity of the Directorate General of Sea Management of Marine Conservation Area; Ahmad Mukharror “Garonk”, shark conservation specialist dive instructor; Efin Muttaqin, Sharks and Rays Coordinator of Wildlife Conservation Society-Indonesia Program (WCS-IP); and Elsia Yuanti, Communication Manager of Rekam Nusantara Foundation.
The campaign is driven by the need to raise public awareness to reduce or avoid over-exploitation of sharks and rays, and spread information on the actual conditions of the species, and efforts to realize sustainable management of the species. Increased awareness is what will ultimately be able to persuade the general public – consumers, fishers, exporters, businesses, and local and national governments – to campaign for shark and ray protection. Such conservation will also affect food security. Given the fact that sharks are an apex predator at or near the top of their marine food chains regulating the populations of species below them, their massive depletion has cascading effects throughout the ocean’s ecosystems. With rays, the protection of these priority species is expected to efficiently impact the fisheries sector and tourism potential.