26. January 2019 Maria Paternoga

Shark Awards 2019: Adi Barash from Israel was honoured as Shark Guardian of the Year for her extensive efforts at protecting sharks.

Every year at the “boot” expo in Düsseldorf, Sharkproject presents the Shark Awards, which award one Shark Guardian and one Shark Enemy of the Year. Doctoral candidate Adi Barash (40) of the Leon Charney Institute at the University of Haifa was chosen as Shark Guardian in 2018.

Adi Barash convinced us of her exceptional scientific achievements in her research of shark populations along the coast of Israel, and of her political involvement in the creation of the only shark conservation area in the Mediterranean Sea.

Although shark research in Israel is, in comparison to other states, still in its infancy, Adi Barash has gained international recognition as a pioneer in her field. She has spent more than seven years in Israel studying the biodiversity of cartilaginous fish such as rays and sharks. It was during these studies that she made an interesting observation: for years, large numbers of sharks like dusky and sandbank sharks have gathered alongside the large power stations in Hadera and its surroundings. Adi Barash theorised that the sharks were attracted by the warmer water, the increased oxygen levels in the water in front of the pipelines as well as organic waste from the Hadera river mouth. Based on this and using her own DNA-analysis she determined that the dusky sharks off the Israeli coast probably represent a hybrid species whose ancestors migrated over the Suez Canal from the Mediterranean and Indo-Pacific.

Dusty sharks gather in big groups near the power stations at the Israeli coast.

Aside from these scientific findings, Adi Barash is in continuous dialogue with various stakeholders such as officials, politicians, divers, scientists and the public. When Israel passed an official ban on shark fishing in 2008, Adi Barash, together with Dr. Assaf Ariel, developed a plan aimed at identifying possible key areas for sharks and rays and taking concrete measures to protect these species. This action plan includes, amongst others, the enforcement of laws with the help of the authorities, especially with regards to illegal fishing and the previously popular selling of the shark to Gaza. The shark fishing ban and the protection efforts by scientists like Adi Barash have ensured that, after only a few years, the local shark populations are increasing noticeably. In addition, Adi Barash is using her Facebook group “Sharks in Israel” to call on the public to report shark sightings supporting her to document the developments of the shark population and to protect them.

 

The Shark Enemy goes to Mark Quartiano, better known to the public as “Mark the Shark”. The US American has spent over 40 years running a commercial charter fishing boat on which he, together with tourists and celebrities like Will Smith and Shaquille O’Neal, catches large predatory fish like hammerheads, tiger sharks, swordfish, tuna and sailfish. His controversially discussed “trophies” are posted for the thousands of followers of his social media channels. Sharkproject awards him with the Shark Enemy based on his purposed exploitation of inadequate shark protection regulations for increasing his own profit and due to his irresponsible influence on the public with regards to sharks.

Photos: Daniel Brinckmann, Mey-tal Gewing