And what do you do to contribute to shifting this change in a positive way?
I believe knowledge is power. So, to effectively make a long term difference, we need more knowledge of nature. From a young age, my curiosity has always driven me to try and understand objects, nature and animals. Now, working as a researcher, I use this curiosity to study sharks and rays in different parts of the world. Based on increased understanding of their distribution and ecological roles, we can advise on more effective conservation strategies and possibly even on the implementation of new marine protected areas.
Currently, my main focus is on sharks and rays within the large intertidal areas, like the Bijagos Archipelago in Guinea Bissau. While we’ve gained considerable knowledge of these species on a global scale, in developing regions like West Africa this understanding is less advanced. Like in all waters around the world, the pressure on sharks and rays is high in West African waters. Here, sharks and guitarfish are still caught for their fins, and the meat of both sharks and rays is sold on local markets. As a result, we see a decline in especially larger shark and ray species, but we don’t fully understand their role within large intertidal ecosystems, like the Bijagos Archipelago. That is what we set out to study over the next 3 to 4 years. Besides that, I also have projects running in the Dutch Caribbean, for example on the habitat use and trophic ecology (the structure of feeding relationships among organisms in an ecosystem) of juvenile silky sharks on the Saba Bank.