Today Shoal celebrates one month since the Partnership’s official launch. This was marked on Friday 1st March 2019 with a small event kindly hosted by the Fishmongers’ Company in London. The event brought together aquarists, anglers, businesses, zoos and aquariums, conservation organisations and foundations. Many of the organisations present were, or have since, signed up as Strategic Partners of Shoal, aligning with the Partnership’s mission: to save and recover populations of the most threatened fish and other threatened freshwater species.

Mike Baltzer, Director of Shoal, announced the realisation of his vision: a new partnership which will put freshwater species conservation front and centre (below, left). As well as highlighting the great peril faced by thousands of freshwater species across the world and the absence of coordinated conservation action for many of them, Mike also spoke with great optimism of the amazing global community of people and businesses passionate about freshwater species. Throughout the development of Shoal there has been a palpable sense that many have been waiting for just such an opportunity.

Click here to read an interview with Mike Baltzer
Click here to read an interview with Jeremy Wade

At the launch event we were also delighted to welcome author, biologist, angler and television presenter, Jeremy Wade as our special guest speaker (above, right). Jeremy is best known for River Monsters and Mighty Rivers, and he fascinated the audience with tales from his travels to catch some of the largest and most threatened freshwater fishes around the globe. Jeremy reflected of the increasing rarity of the Earth’s freshwater “monsters”. Often the communities he meets on the banks of the world’s rivers and lakes tell him that if he wanted to catch that particular species, he should have come 50 or 100 years ago. Jeremy said his travels had shown him the desperate need to better protect freshwater systems and the species who depend upon then, and that is why he had taken time out of his schedule to make sure he was at the Partnership’s launch in person. We are very pleased to announce that Jeremy has agreed to become an official ambassador for the Shoal Partnership.

Jeremy Wade with a Piraiba catfish (Brachyplatystoma filamentosum) , Essequibo River, Guyana (c) Icon Films

As well as the launch event we also organised a meeting for fish aquarists kindly hosted by Chester Zoo on Saturday 9th March. This meeting was coordinated by Shoal supporter Andy Patel, and brought together 17 aquarists and aquarist associations from the north of England. The purpose of the meeting was to understand more about how the aquarist community already engages in conservation, and how Shoal can help aquarists to implement and be apart of effective conservation programmes for the species they treasure. It was an extremely productive meeting with many promising ideas discussed. One outcome is that we will soon be launching a Facebook page which will aim to bring aquarists closer to the wild species and habitats they care for. We are also now exploring establishing an individual membership scheme for Shoal. The meeting ended with a tour of Chester Zoo’s aquarium, and the feedback from the meeting is now being developed into a new strategy focused on engagement of the aquarist community.

The Shoal aquarists meeting, kindly hosted at Cedar House, Chester Zoo (c) Claire Raisin

A commentary the topic ‘aquarists and conservation’ written by Andy Patel is available here.

In addition to these meetings we’ve also been continuing to reach out to individuals, businesses and organisations who show an interest in joining Shoal and working formalise these organisations engagement in the Partnership. You can learn more about Shoal’s strategic partners and how to become one here.

We are also continuing to develop our initial suite of projects, with a Conservation Planning meeting now being organised in India to kickstart work to save the mighty hump-backed mahseer from extinction. Project Mahseer is a collaborative initiative catalysed by Shoal to save this remarkable group of fish from extinction. The project will focus on conserving these species across their range, in turn contributing towards conservation of some of Asia’s most biodiverse and threatened river systems. The project will engage with a wide range of partner organisations, including non-governmental organisations (NGOs), government stakeholders, universities, scientists, businesses, anglers and local communities to devise and implement conservation solutions which reduce pressure on surviving mahseer populations, and help to recover populations in areas where they have undergone rapid decline. The initial objective is to focus on the conservation of the Critically Endangered hump-backed mahseer; however, it is hoped this will be the first of many projects which is undertaken under this new initiative. Project Mahseer intends to be a long-term initiative operating over a long-time horizon. This is both due to the enormity of the challenge to save mahseer in their 11 range countries, but also to ensure that the impacts of supported conservation interventions are sustainable and enduring. This initial planning meeting is being kindly hosted by WWF-India and is a vital first step in this ambitious project to save the hump-backed mahseer from extinction.

We thank everyone who has shown an interest in Shoal so far and helped to get the Partnership to the stage where we could officially launch. We are very much looking forward to the exciting next steps in the Partnership’s development and to working with you all. If you want to find out more about any of our programmes or have ideas for how Shoal can better engage with you and your community then contact us at: mike@shoalconservation.org or merlin@shoalconservation.org