Photo Credit: Jessica King, Marine Photobank
I’ve written in the past about why shark fin bans might not be the best tool for the conservation and management of sharks. Though specific details vary, these so-called “blanket bans” typically make it illegal for anyone to buy, sell, or possess shark fins regardless of the source *. Additionally, to date most of these fin bans have taken place in a few U.S. states and Canadian towns. If the goal of these state-level fin bans is to reduce the supply of fins to the global market, proponents should consider that according to TRAFFIC, more than 95% of the supply of shark products comes from countries outside of the U.S. and Canada. Even if every U.S. state passed a fin ban, it would have a negligible direct impact on global supply. Additionally, the United States has some of the most sustainably managed shark fisheries in the world (hammerhead sharks and a few others are an exception). We want other countries to emulate out management practices, not to remove our management practices from the global marketplace.
If the goal of these local fin bans is to reduce global demand, proponents should consider that the overwhelming majority of the demand for shark fin soup is in China and Southeast Asia, where passing such bans will pose a significant challenge. Some proponents of fin bans say (after the negligible impact on supply and demand is pointed out) that fin bans help with ”raising awareness of the problem of overfishing of sharks”. While these fin bans do result in (relatively) positive media coverage for shark conservation, “raising awareness” is not the publicly stated goal of these bans. If your goal is to educate people about a problem, educate people about the problem.
Instead of inflexible and ineffective fin bans that penalize fishermen who have adopted best practices * without impacting the global market, I’ve advocated for a science-based approach to sustainable shark management following the 10 basic principles in line with what has been laid out in the United Nations Fisheries and Aquaculture Organization’s International Plan of Action for Sharks and IUCN Shark Specialist Group guidance. These principles include banning finning of sharks by requiring that carcasses be landed whole (recall that finning is a specific fishing practice not synonymous with the fin trade), using science-based quotas to manage the fisheries of sharks whose populations can support a fishery, and restricting the harvest of species whose populations cannot.
Recently, the United States National Marine Fisheries Service (which, once again, manages some of the most sustainable shark fisheries on Earth) has started to officially speak out against state level fin bans.
Continue reading U.S. government: shark fin bans “significantly undermine conservation and management of Federal shark fisheries”
A great hammerhead shark swims by a Project AWARE “Extinction is NOT an Option” sign, Bimini, Bahamas. Photo credit: Neil Hammerschlag
The Endangered Species Act is one of the strongest conservation laws on the planet, and to date, no shark has ever been given ESA protections. In recent weeks, however, the National Marine Fisheries Service has responded to a series of NGO petitions requesting ESA protections for two species of hammerhead sharks. NMFS proposes to list 2 “distinct” population segments” (DPS) of scalloped hammerhead sharks as endangered and 2 as threatened, with 2 DPS’s listed as “not warranted”. The response to the great hammerhead petition is not as developed (the petition itself is more recent), but notes that “the petitioned action may be warranted”.
I strongly believe that both of these species of hammerhead sharks need and qualify for Endangered Species Act protections. If you agree, I encourage you to submit an official public comment in support of listing both under the ESA following the instructions below. Failure to follow all instructions to the letter will result in your comment not being considered. Commenting on this blog post does not count as submitting a public comment, and neither does commenting on a Facebook post about this blog post. Online petitions will not be considered. This process is open to the public, but requires that we follow basic instructions.
To submit a public comment in support of great hammerhead ESA listings, click on the “comment now” button on this page and fill in the required information. To submit a public comment in support of scalloped hammerhead ESA listings, click on the “comment now” button on this page and fill in all the required information. You can also submit written comments via the mail to “Office of Protected Resources,NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910 or by fax to 301-713-4060 attn: Maggie Miller. Please note that if you submit a comment by mail or fax, you need to include code NOAA-NMFS-2013-0046 for great hammerheads and code NOAA-NMFS-2011-0261 for scalloped hammerheads.
To help craft your public comment, I’ve written a list of 10 reasons why these sharks qualify for Endangered Species Act protections. Please do not just quote this post word-for-word, if you do then your comment will be considered a “form letter” and not an individual comment.
Continue reading 10 Reasons why Great and Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks Deserve Endangered Species Act Protections
I am pleased to announce the return of Blue Pints, our Google+ hangout discussion series ! Join us at 6:30 P.M. EST on Monday 4/29! The Southern Fried Scientist will be discussing the Sea Leveler and other DIY projects related to ocean instrumentation, and I’ll be talking about ScienceOnline Oceans!
We’ll share the link to watch shortly before the hangout starts here in this post as well as on twitter and Facebook. While the video will be archived, we encourage you to follow along live and ask questions via twitter. Blue Pints is intended to be a casual conversation about marine science, so we’ll each have a pint or three. I hope you’ll join us!
I have exciting news about ScienceOnline Oceans to share! General registration will start in a little over two weeks. As this is a little different from traditional scientific conferences, I’d like to explain the process in some detail.
Registration will take place in four stages.
1) Session moderators and workshop leaders. If your proposal for a session or workshop at ScienceOnline Oceans has been accepted (more information on that soon), a spot is automatically reserved for you, and registration will be a separate process. Please DO NOT register through the regular process.
2) Open registration. Open registration will take place on Wednesday, May 8th. To accommodate people in different time zones, there will be two registration times: 9:00 a.m. EST and 2:00 P.M. EST. There are 50 available spots during each timeslot, and they are first come, first served. In the past, ScienceOnline open registration spots have filled up in as little as 5 minutes, so please be sure to be prompt!
3) Lottery. The remaining spots will be filled by lottery. If you do not get a spot during open registration, sign up for the lottery and we’ll get back to you soon to let you know if you got a spot! Please note that the lottery is for the opportunity to register, not for a free spot.
4) Waitlist. There is also a waitlist for those who don’t get a spot during open registration or the lottery. As additional spots become available due to cancellations, people will be accepted off the waitlist.
Continue reading ScienceOnline Oceans update: Registration information and costs
I’d like to introduce you to a new series I’ve been working on called “Conservation Conversations”. Each discussion, which will take place first on twitter, will focus on a particular marine conservation issue. I will then Storify and share selected responses here on the blog, allowing the conversation to continue.
The first conservation conversation focused on sustainable seafood. A new paper showed that many fisheries scientists and conservationists believe that the Marine Stewardship Council’s “sustainable seafood” certification process is too lenient, a topic I’ve written about before. I wanted to know how my twitter followers decide what seafood is sustainable. I also asked whether they choose to avoid seafood entirely or focus on sustainable seafood.
Continue reading Conservation Conversations: Sustainable Seafood
President, Shark Advocates International
Sonja Fordham founded Shark Advocates International as a project of The Ocean Foundation in 2010 based on her two decades of shark conservation experience at Ocean Conservancy. She is Deputy Chair of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group and Conservation Committee Chair for the American Elasmobranch Society, has co-authored numerous publications on shark fisheries management, and serves on most of the U.S. federal and state government advisory panels relevant to sharks and rays. Her awards include the U.S. Department of Commerce Environmental Hero Award, the Peter Benchley Shark Conservation Award, and the IUCN Harry Messel Award for Conservation Leadership.
After many months of intense attention to advances in international shark conservation policy through CITES and the European Parliament, it’s time to refocus on sharks in my backyard. A potentially terrible shark policy precedent has been brewing through the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), and threatens to weaken that body’s coast-wide ban on finning (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea) smoothhounds and other sharks. Help from the concerned public is needed in the final few days of the official public comment for this proposal!
Continue reading Guest post: A Call to Action: Preventing a Potential Setback in U.S. Atlantic Shark Finning Policy
Last fall, we invited you to support ocean science education in classrooms around the country as part of the DonorsChoose Science Bloggers for Students Challenge. In total, 347 donors to the 2012 Science Bloggers for Students Challenge raised over $29,711 and helped 26,955 students! Team Ocean and Geobloggers, which Southern Fried Science was proudly a part of, raised the most money: $6,894! Team Scientopia Bloggers was a close second with $6,876 raised, and no other team raised over $4,000.
Within Team Ocean and Geobloggers, Southern Fried Science readers raised the 2nd most money, $1,603, and helped 1,903 students! 15 of the projects we supported were fully funded. I’ve been receiving thank-you notes from teachers, along with photos of students utilizing the completed projects. I’d like to share some of them with you.
Continue reading Thank you notes from DonorsChoose Science Bloggers Challenge teachers
As 16th Conference of the Parties of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES COP16, pronounced sight-eze) comes to a close, I’d like to reflect on something that made this meeting unlike almost any other wildlife conservation and management meeting in history. Yes, history was made as delegates voted to list commercially exploited shark species for the first time, and history was made when manta rays became the first shark or ray species to be listed under CITES the first time they were proposed, and that’s all fantastic news. However, what I believe made CITES COP16 a game-changer for wildlife conservation and management was the large-scale inclusion of online outreach by both attendees and organizers. For the first time ever, interested members of the public from all over the world could follow along (and to some degree, participate) in real time.
Continue reading Was CITES COP16 a game-changer for online outreach at wildlife management meetings?
The 16th Conference of the Parties of CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species has been truly historic in terms of shark and ray protections. I’ve created a Storify featuring some highlights of the ongoing twitter conversation, organized by proposal. The tweets include links to fact sheets and scientific research about the species up for protections, as well as original content such as summaries of arguments made by delegates for and against CITES protections. Tweets come from experts in attendance at CITES, and those following along from around the world (including me). For those of you who didn’t follow along live, or if you did and want to relive the experience, check it out! Warning- there are a LOT of tweets.
Continue reading Debate and celebration from CITES: A Storify of #CITES4sharks tweets