In Belize, a Team Comes Together to Protect Sharks and Rays

Wildlife Conservation Society
Our Ocean, Our Future
4 min readMay 22, 2024

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By Dana Tricarico | May 21, 2024

Meeting attendees were able to jump in and explore the biodiversity surrounding Glover’s atoll and the WCS field station, including this large school of creole wrasse. Photo Credit: ©Godefroy de Bruyne.

More than 50 WCS staff and partners from 22 countries around the globe gathered recently in Belize to share ideas, forge new relationships, and build on the WCS Shark and Ray “10 x10” initiative — a comprehensive, science-based strategy, providing guidance for management reforms in 10 geographies over 10 years between 2020 and 2030.

This meeting, meant to act as both a continuation and expansion from the WCS shark and ray meeting hosted in South Africa in 2022, came at a critical time for these vulnerable, and ecologically important species.

“WCS’s ‘10 x10' initiative is a comprehensive, science-based strategy, providing guidance for management reforms in 10 geographies over 10 years between 2020 and 2030.”

Organized by the WCS global shark and ray program and the WCS Belize team, the meeting included representatives from 19 WCS programs, including cross-cutting, country, and regional programs, in addition to global partners that work closely with WCS shark and ray programs on conservation initiatives. Experts in the room emphasized that despite WCS’s hard work, we need to work even harder and more efficiently if we want to reverse the declines of these species.

Sunrise over the accommodations at the WCS field station on Middle Caye in Belize after a night out on the atoll. Photo Credit: Adria Defalco ©WCS.

The 5-day workshop had a substantial agenda, which began with updating aspects of the 10 x10 shark strategy, discussing new tools for implementation of the strategy, and further creating linkages between the WCS marine thematic programs and external partners. The goal with these connections was to multiply efforts across the different themes and areas of expertise, and to maximize and coordinate efforts.

“The meeting touched on best approaches to collaborate and campaign in international forums to protect shark and ray species from further wildlife trafficking threats.”

In the final days, we discussed upcoming international policy opportunities, with a heavy focus on CITES implementation and future proposals. This portion of the meeting also touched on best approaches for how to collaborate and campaign in these international forums to protect shark and ray species from further international trade, and international wildlife trafficking threats.

To see firsthand some of the positive impacts of successful marine conservation efforts, attendees were able to spend a night at the WCS field station located on Glover’s Atoll, where attendees were able to explore this resource and see the impacts underwater for themselves. This location is a source of pride not just for the WCS Belize team, but for all of WCS.

Over 50 WCS shark and ray staff and external partners met for a week in Belize to discuss future collaborative shark work. Photo Credit: Dana Tricarico ©WCS.

Glover’s Reef represents our only field station and a location famous not just for shark and ray conservation, but ongoing marine research. Most notably in relation to this meeting, Glover’s Atoll is where some of the world’s first research was conducted on the most effective ways to protect shark and ray species using marine protected areas.

“After an incredibly productive, inspiring, and collaborative week, we left Belize energized to further strengthen our global efforts.”

Given the wide array of threats that sharks and rays face, leading to their status as the second most threatened group of vertebrate species in the world, Belize has been able to provide us with some hope from their strong fisheries management measures and protected areas. Thanks to the great effort of the WCS Belize team and their work with community partners, Belize provides a great example of drivers that positively impact the stabilization and recovery of threatened species in WCS’s shark conservation work around the world.

After an incredibly productive, inspiring, and collaborative week — including coverage in the local media — we left Belize energized to further strengthen our global efforts. WCS shark and ray country programs will now begin to re-think their 10 x10 strategy, work with external partners that can provide expertise on various aspects of shark and ray conservation, and work together as a united team as we try and save these species from extinction.

As the WCS Program Manager for the global shark and ray program, Dana Tricarico guides strategic direction, research, and policy initiatives for country and regional programs around the world.

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Wildlife Conservation Society
Our Ocean, Our Future

WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.