For Immediate Release, August 31, 2021

Contacts: Elizabeth Purcell, Turtle Island Restoration Network,

Gayathra Bandara, Earthlanka,

Sudarsha De Silva, Earthlanka, 

Sri Lankan Nonprofit Awarded Funding to Protect Sharks

Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) held the Shark Awareness & Protection Grant Contest this summer to offer nonprofit organizations around the world funds to help protect sharks. One $5,000 grant was awarded to Earthlanka, based out of Sri Lanka.

“All shark species serve a vital role in ocean ecosystems,” said Elizabeth Purcell of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “Turtle Island Restoration Network is honored to support fellow nonprofits to ensure at-risk shark species do not go extinct in our lifetimes.” 

The mission of Earthlanka is to create and sustain and protect the environment, creating spaces for young people to express themselves and take action on environmental issues, which they feel strongly for safeguarding the earth’s natural resources. Grant funds will be used to conduct research on the local shark species’ prey of choice to conserve their prey, as well as educate local fishermen to conserve sharks and rays while introducing alternatives. Sri Lanka is home to about 85 species of sharks and rays, but Sri Lanka is also a key country when it comes to shark fin trade in the world.

“This will be our first project for shark awareness and conservation in Sri Lanka,” said Sudarsha De Silva, co-founder of Earthlanka. “We are really delighted to win this award and I must thank all the global networks that supported us to win this competition. I must also congratulate Gayathra Bandara who designed this initiative and will lead this conservation project for our organization.” 

Gayathra Bandara is a Sri Lankan marine biologist and conservationist with an interest in elasmobranch conservation and deep sea science. Currently he is working in High Seas Alliance, coordinating marine-related education programs targeting local communities. He studied Fisheries and Marine Sciences at the Ocean University of Sri Lanka and did a preliminary age growth study of elasmobranchs in Sri Lanka for his dissertation.

According to Gayathra, “There will be a small research project about shark diets parallel to the awareness program. First the team will go to the landing sites and select shark species that have abundant landing. Then they will take photographs and measurements like standard length, total length, pre-caudal length, and weight. If possible they will also take a DNA sample to further analyze them. After that, at the cutting station, they will take the gut (both stomach and spiral intestine) from the fishermen. Next they will store those in an ice box and bring them to the field station. We will not freeze those, since freezing can affect the quality and quantity of samples. After that we will take the weight of the samples and they will be smoothly cut separately using surgical blades. After that we will identify the prey items in another day. We will record all the prey items with photographs. We will also measure the prey weight to calculate IRI (Index of Relative Importance). This will help to get a better understanding of their biology and eventually help to conserve those valuable species.” 

To learn more about the Shark Awareness & Protection Grant Contest visit

Turtle Island Restoration Network is a global nonprofit whose mission is to inspire and mobilize people around the world to protect marine biodiversity and the oceans that sustain all life on Earth.

Earthlanka is a youth based organization working on empowering youth to conserve the coasts and marine resources in the Indian Ocean. In 2015 Earthlanka started their initiative Poseidon Army to engage, educate and activate youth for coastal, marine conservation. The youth have been involved in working on advocacy, education, research, mangrove conservation, coral transplantation, creating artificial  coral reefs  with and coastal, marine  debris  cleaning since 2015.