Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Shark awareness at the Natural History Museum

Group photo with the primary students 
On the 16th and 17th November, the Green Islands Foundation (GIF) together with the Fishermen and Boat Owners Association (FBOA) and the Natural History Museum (NHM) hosted two educational workshops with different groups of children from the French School based on one key marine species, the shark.

GIF staff showing the children the different 
features used to identify sharks
A group of 16 primary students and 23 secondary students were hosted on the first and second day respectively. The students got the chance to visit the shark collection currently on exhibition at NHM and learn about the differences between shark species. The shark collection contains 17 species of sharks commonly caught by Seychellois artisanal fishermen, and is the largest exhibit of preserved sharks in the Indian Ocean open to public viewing. It was set up by GIF in August 2015 and it aims to raise awareness about the ecology and importance of sharks in the marine ecosystem. With the sharks on display, it is easier to learn the key characteristics used to identify different shark species.

GIF also created a series of educational posters, developed in collaboration with the Save Our Seas foundation, Wildlife clubs of Seychelles and the Ministry of Education. Using these posters, staff from GIF, FBOA and NHM explained how sharks, a top predator in the ocean, keeps the ecosystem in balance and the ocean healthy, but also the main threaths they face such as finning, overfishing and human development.

The primary group also learnt step by step how to draw sharks by professional artist, Peter Lalande. With the 'Sustainable fishing game' they learnt that regulating shark catch maintains a viable shark population in the ocean and at the same time allows shark fishing to continue for many years.

Children playing the 'sustainable fishing game'
The secondary students on the other hand were put to a challenge. Using the information they gathered about sharks they were asked to create a display to sensitize the public and raise awareness on this species. The students had many brilliant ideas and got really creative creating posters and 3D displays depicting fun facts about sharks, the misconception surrounding these fish, but also their alarming plight.  At the end of the session all students received shark related gifts for their participation. "The kids really enjoyed themselves and I believe that they have grasped the main message we were sending out which is that we need sharks in our oceans! The display competition was beyond my expectation and they will be showcased in our exhibition next year" says Jennifer William from NHM.

A group of secondary students working on their display
This workshop is part of the ‘Shark fin soup’ project which aims to raise awareness on the importance of sharks in Seychelles through several outreach campaigns and the creation of a children's comic book by local artist Peter Lalande. This project is funded by the European Union and co-implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations through the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) - SmartFish Program. It is being implemented by FBOA in collaboration with the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) and GIF.

Group photo of the secondary students and their displays

According to Virginie Lagarde from FBOA "The workshop was really great; we succeeded in finding a balance between fun and learning. We even succeeded to make small ones understand the notion of sustainable fishing and they all understand the importance of sharks. A success for us". Jennifer Appoo from GIF says that “Over the past year, GIF has been sensitizing the public on sharks and we are happy that we are able to continue this work as part of this project. We hope that the message goes further and more people are made aware of the crucial role sharks play in our oceans”. 

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