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Save our Seas Foundation celebrates 20 years with ocean-inspired talks and films

Victoria, Seychelles | October 16, 2023, Monday @ 16:01 in Environment » CONSERVATION | By: Juliette Dine Edited By: Betymie Bonnelame | Views: 8953
Save our Seas Foundation celebrates 20 years with ocean-inspired talks and films

The SOSF mainly focuses on the protection of sharks and manta rays. (Clare Daly, Save Our Seas Foundation)

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(Seychelles News Agency) - The Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF) highlighted the achievements it has made for its 20 years in existence with a movie event showcasing its work on Friday at Eden Bleu on Eden Island.

Entitled "Celebrate our Seas", the event was an evening of ocean-inspired talks and films in celebration of the seas and 20 years of the existence of the Save Our Seas Foundation.

The philanthopic foundation, which was set up on September 23, 2003, in Geneva, Switzerland, mainly focuses on the protection of sharks and manta rays. It is present in 91 countries, including Seychelles, and has worked on 482 projects.

The SOSF's chief executive, Dr James Lea, said that the 20 years of achievements represent a milestone because sharks and rays are experiencing massive threats worldwide mostly due to overfishing.

"We've been working for the past 20 years to try and change that momentum and help with the recovery and in some ways it can be quite disheartening as it continues to get worse, as we have seen over the years. But now there is a growing community of all these people, especially the younger scientists, coming up to really try and do so much more to help save sharks and rays. We've seen a big turning point in how people think and act," he added.

The event was an evening of ocean-inspired talks and films in celebration of the seas and 20 years of the existence of the Save Our Seas Foundation. (Juliette Dine) Photo License: CC-BY 

Lea said that in the last couple of years, SOSF has seen progress in the implementation of some of its most important agenda and that was the shark fin trade, which was not properly regulated before, with very few restrictions on certain species.

"Now the majority of countries have formed a unilateral agreement to protect more than 90 percent of the species from the shark fin trade. A lot of our project leaders were involved in that process and to me that shows that people are realising that it has to be taken seriously and action has to be taken and I feel that now is the turning point," said the CEO.

The SOSF is aiming for more growth in the future and intends to invest in people who would like to become scientists, those who are really passionate and who want to make a difference.  

Lea said that the Foundation will be putting more investment by not only supporting their projects but also giving out fellowships and support for their livelihood.

He acknowledged the challenges for scientists to follow their passion if they are not making any money to support their livelihoods and this is the reason behind the initiative.

"That will give these people the support during the first few years of their career and that will be combined with mentorship. It is a privilege for us to be able to facilitate all these fantastic passionate people, to showcase them and help them tell their stories so that they can inspire more people like them to grow this global community and turn the tides for rays and sharks," he added.  

Programme with school children on D'Arros Research Centre. (Dillys Poupouneau) Photo License: All Rights Reserved   

With regards to the manta ray, the CEO said that the population found in Seychelles is quite big but in other parts of the world, there's a growing trade for their gills, which are used in medicine and other areas.

"So now we are getting new regulations, how do we make them effective? How do people enforce them? How do we make sure they work for the people whom it's going to affect? So, we call that implementation, but we are focusing on making sure that change is actually implemented and is effective," said Lea.

The SOSF recognises that out of the many challenges faced over the years, it has to work with the local teams.

"The biggest thing we've learned is the importance of teaming up and focusing on local teams because they know exactly what is going in their communities. In the end, conservation has to work for everyone so we need a constructive and inclusive approach to conservation," he said.

The SOSF has three centres around the world, one is in Miami, U.S., which focuses on genetics, one is in Cape Town, South Africa, focusing on education and the other one is in Seychelles, on D'Arros Island, where it monitors all species that are in the region.

The D'Arros team also tries to protect  the species  and provide solid data for the conservation of the species with the centre established in 2012 and a team of 10 people

Sandrine Griffiths, grant programme manager of SOSF, said that most of the foundation projects are scientific projects but they also have educative projects.

"We hope to continue the work that we do, we have hope that things can improve for sharks and rays because they have a very important role in the balance of the ocean and the whole planet, we are confident that some progress has been made and more will be made," she said. 

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