Restoring Raja Ampat’s Endangered Zebra Shark Population through Translocation of Captive-Bred Offspring

Timeframe: 2020 - 2022
Country/Region: Indonesia
Partner: Conservation International (CI)

The zebra shark is found on shallow coastal reefs throughout the Indo-West Pacific. Despite its live value as a favored marine species in diver and snorkeler encounters, zebra shark populations worldwide have undergone dramatic reductions in the past 30 years as a result of habitat degradation and capture in a wide range of coastal fisheries, with targeted hunting for the Asian shark fin trade the primary driver of population declines.

In Indonesia, zebra sharks were largely extirpated from Raja Ampat, an archipelago of 1’500 islands by the early 2000’s due to targeted hunting for the Asian shark fin trade. This threat has now been removed and Raja’s reefs have been well-managed since the Raja Ampat government declared the region’s first shark and ray sanctuary in 2012. All shark species are now fully protected in its waters, however sadly the zebra shark population has not recovered yet.

To prevent the extinction of the population, Fondation Segré is supporting this project implemented by CI with the overarching goal to re-establish a healthy, breeding population of zebra sharks in Raja Ampat, through the world’s first conservation translocation of captive-bred endangered elasmobranchs. CI and partners aim to recover Raja Ampat’s zebra shark population through a strategically planned release of genetically appropriate, captive-bred offspring sourced from partner aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, in strict accordance with IUCN guidelines for conservation translocations. Eggs from aquariums will be shipped to hatcheries in Raja Ampat, with resulting juveniles grown out and eventually released into two strictly enforced no-take zones, where they will be monitored for post-release survivorship. Based upon historical abundances of zebra sharks and assuming high survivorship, the project anticipates releasing 200-300 individuals to restore the Raja population to a self-sustaining level within 6-10 years.