Gili Shark Conservation was set up in 2015 on the beautiful island of Gili Air with a mission to promote shark conservation efforts through education and research. Three years on, the project and the passion-fuelled team behind it, work to protect not just sharks but all marine life in the area. In this interview Zara Ellis, Dive Operations Manager at Gili Shark Conservation tells us more about the project, what it’s achieving and how you can get involved on your next trip to the Gili Islands.
What is Gili Shark Conservation and what are its goal?
The Gili Shark Conservation project is a small grassroots organization designed around conservation through citizen science research. We collect abundant data from the reefs within the Gili Matra Marine Recreational Reserve using varies different survey methods. With the data collected we make an analysis of the health of the zones within the marine protected area. We share this information with the local government to assist them in making effective changes to the reserve in order to better protect the marine life in the area. One of our main objectives is to have the marine reserve officially recognized as a shark nursery area and therefore a critical habitat for the sharks we love so much.
How/when was Gili Shark Conservation set up?
The Gili Shark Conservation project was founded in 2015 by three ocean lovers who found each other on the beautiful island of Gili Air. They each had a passion for sharks and other marine life and so together they created the project with the objective of promoting conservation efforts and to increase the level of protection for the reefs surrounding the Gili islands through research and education.
What species of sharks do you see in the waters around the Gili Islands?
We mostly find Whitetip reef sharks and Blacktip reef sharks around the Gili islands however occasionally we have sightings of other species such as Silvertip sharks and whale sharks passing by.
Is being based in Indonesia an important factor to the project?
As Indonesia is recognized as one of the top shark fishing nations in the world we feel blessed to be based in this country and to be able to offer education to the local community about sharks and sustainable fishing.
Other than sharks, does the project focus on any other ocean issues?
Our aim is to protect not only sharks but all marine life including bony fish, sharks, rays, turtles and coral reefs. We carry out several survey methods in order to do this. Aside from collecting data of species populations within the area we also have a land-based project called “Plastic Free Paradise”
Our Plastic-free paradise project was set up over a year ago with the objective of encouraging our community to reduce the use of one use plastic products. We offer plastic free paradise training to all businesses on the island to educate the local staff about the danger of plastic to our environment and offer them simple solutions and alternatives to using one use plastic products.
We also visit the school on Gili Air every Saturday morning to host a conservation class called “Club Harapan (Club Hope)” during which we educate the children about marine life and plastic and get them involved with conservation efforts. We also host a community day once per week which we invite everyone to join. Our community day is normally a beach clean-up or upcycling workshop which involves creating something useful from our trash or unwanted goods such as making a reusable shopping bag from old t-shirts or making candle holders from empty soft drinks cans (very useful during power cuts which we experience from time to time.)
Do you work with the local communities on the Gili Islands?
The local community on Gili Air are amazing! As I mentioned before, we have the joy of visiting the local school once per week to host a conservation class, often the children that attend our classes also join us for our community days and it is such a special thing to watch.
How can people get involved? Do they need to be a diver to take part?
You don’t need to be a diver or scientist to become a research assistant; we are simply looking for enthusiastic ocean lovers who are eager to learn and make a difference in the world. It is very easy to apply and you can do so directly through our website https://gilisharkconservation.com/how-to-apply/
Gili Shark Conservation has adopted Meno Slope, what do you regularly find on your Dive Against Debris Surveys? Do you see sharks at the dive site?
We adopted Meno Slope at the start of 2018 and conduct a Dive Against Debris Survey there every Friday morning.
The most common debris that we find are baby’s diapers, food packaging and one use plastic sachets for shampoo or laundry detergent. We also often find discarded fishing gear at the dive site and recently we found a green sea turtle who was entangled in fishing line around her fin, luckily one of the divemasters Yunis of Oceans5 dive resort (our amazing partner) was able to free the turtle.
What can people do in their everyday lives to help shark conservation?
Everyone can help in shark conservation by making simple lifestyle changes and choices that help to protect the environment and sharks.
- Cut down on the use of one use plastic products and dispose of your trash appropriately
- Don’t eat shark fin soup!
- Don’t purchase products containing shark (read the small print)
- Don’t buy shark teeth or jaws as souvenirs
- Eat sustainable seafood
- Join dives against debris
- Organize and participate in beach clean-ups
- Educate yourself about sharks by taking the Aware Shark Conservation Diver distinctive specialty course
- Share a positive message about sharks and their importance to our existence