With a smaller turnout than usual due to border closures, this year’s Shark Week, organized by Fish ‘n Fins and the Micronesian Shark Foundation, rallied resident divers on a three-day diving excursion to document shark sightings.
A group of international resident divers who participated in the dives, which took place from Friday to Sunday, were asked to record the number and types of sharks they saw, and information such as the water temperature, visibility, and current after every dive to help with data collection for the Shark Foundation, a non-government organization dedicated to shark conservation in Palau and the wider Micronesian region.
The records are meant to help the Shark Foundation determine things such as where sharks aggregate, how the tide and lunar cycles affect shark numbers, and how water temperatures affect shark numbers.
Each day included a three-tank dive, and the participants visited a series of sites including Siaes Corner, the Sandbar, and Ulong Channel on the first day, Peleliu Cut and Ngedebus on the second day, and Blue Corner, New Drop Off, and German Channel on the third day. The participants sighted a number of species including grey reef, black tip, white tip, bull, and tiger sharks.
Shark Week, which just celebrated its 19th year, coincides with the mating season of grey reef sharks in Palau. The annual celebration began along with the establishment of the Micronesian Shark Foundation in 2002 and was initiated for the purpose of gaining greater knowledge of shark behavior.
“Customers would ask us questions about sharks,” said Ms. Tova Bornovski, owner of Fisn ‘n Fins and founder of the Micronesian Shark Foundation, at Sunday’s Gala Night at Barracuda Restaurant. “We only assumed; we didn’t know. So we started looking into science, research, data collection.”
The Shark Foundation, in addition to shark-monitoring and surveys, also uses methods such as tagging and acoustic receivers as well as DNA samples to collect data on changing shark populations in Palau.
In 2009, Palau was declared the world’s first shark sanctuary, meaning that all sharks in Palau’s waters are protected. Among other things, data collection and analysis helps to determine how effective the law has been in influencing shark numbers. The law took action especially against the impacts of shark-finning, a particularly destructive form of fishing popular in some parts of Asia which involves removing a shark’s fins for soup and disposing of the rest of the body. However, like the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, one of the challenges Palau has faced is enforcing this law throughout its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Something else which the founders of Shark Week and the Micronesian Shark Foundation hope to accomplish is education of Palau’s youth. Every year, the Foundation conducts school education programs particularly for the fifth-grade level in Palau’s schools, for the purpose of “teaching the next generation of Palauan leaders to care about the environment”.
While Ms. Bornovski stressed that “over the years, people have come from all over the world just to participate in Shark Week and dive with sharks”, this year Fish ‘n Fins relied on its resident customer base.

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