Sharks International 2022 -what a blast!

When I arrived in Valencia on Wednesday, the 19th of October, my heart was beating fast. I was so excited for what was to come. The fourth Sharks International conference ( the in-person part) was about to begin with an icebreaker at the Oceanografic – Europe’s largest aquarium. And the ice needed no breaking – meeting old and new friends and my “Mediterranean shark family” felt like no time had passed since we last saw each other or talked. A few years had passed since I attended an in-person shark meeting, and -gosh- had I missed this and all the people. Three days full of shark science, catching up and meeting new people – what a blast. I cannot wait for the next one to come (Sri Lanka -2026). 

Day 1 started with a great variety of topics and presentations, a full auditorium and many more catch ups over a coffee, food or in-between sessions. In a very emotional opening  Michelle Heupel talked about her journey and the initiation of Sharks International and development over the past years since the first one in Australia in 2010. 

Not everyone’ s path into shark science and in life is straight forward. In fact, there are many obstacles to overcome to build a career in this field, from the lack of funding to times without any idea of what to do next. 

I can relate to this, my own journey has taken me across places and through tough times, and it’s far from being over or secured. 

Day 2 – The Mediterranean Sea in focus. 

This day was special for me, cause I could present part of my PhD work, and according to the feedback I received – I did ok 🙂 . 

Presenting is one thing, but presenting law and policy in 10 minutes is another 😀 . Thankfully, I got a few minutes extra, which helped a lot. While the focus of the conference was on hardcore science, a few legal and policy talks made it into the programme, which is an awesome trend. 

After presenting, I could relax and had many encouraging and interesting chats with colleagues and friends, sharing ideas and opinions on policy and law. My favourite coffee-break conversation was with Bob Hueter, one of the leading forces in shark research and policy development in and outside the USA, who I met in Amsterdam in 2017. We talked about OCEARCH plans to come to the Mediterranean, the time it takes to make policies work and obstacles that Mediterranean countries face. 

I also met fellow policy researchers who appreciated the talk. 

The day ended with a beautifully set-up gala dinner in the heart of Valencia – the botanical garden spending time with people close to me that I haven’t seen for too long. 

Day 3 – policy and advocacy focused discussions and presentations – yeah!

The last day of Sharks International was one to remember. Sonja Fordham took us through her life’s work- not without emotions and all those people who played a big role in her life and the policy changes for sharks. 

One day, I hope I will look back and made a contribution to this field. 

More amazing talks on the IUCN’s efforts for shark assessments and effective communication followed. 

The saddest part of the day- the end of a wonderful conference and “see you next time” goodbye’s after. A lovely dinner with my Mediterranean family concluded a wonderful time in Valencia. Until next year’s EEA.