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
Right now, delegates from 178 countries are meeting in Bangkok, Thailand to discuss a variety of conservation proposals. At the 16th CITES Conference of the Parties, among many other worthy topics, delegates will be debating a record-number of shark and ray proposals. These include iconic species like hammerhead sharks (3 species) and manta rays (2 species), as well as oceanic whitetip sharks, porbeagle sharks, and three species of freshwater stingray.
In addition to a record-number of shark and ray proposals, this year’s Conference of the Parties also has a record-number of attendees live-tweeting the meeting.Those of you who follow me on twitter know that I’ve been re-tweeting lots of information about CITES and these shark conservation proposals. In case you want to get the information directly from the source, I’ve prepared a guide to following along with the meeting on twitter.
1) Follow #CITES . Though this hashtag isn’t exclusively focused on sharks (and isn’t exclusively in English), there’s a lot of good information being shared.
2) Follow #Cites4Sharks . Also use this hashtag if you’re sharing any relevant links or information.
3) Follow the 13 accounts I’ve highlighted below (and let me know in the comments if you have suggestions for any accounts I should add to the list):
Continue reading A guide to following shark conservation proposals at CITES on twitter
I have a few important updates to share about ScienceOnline Oceans! For those of you who haven’t yet heard, ScienceOnline Oceans is a conference (affiliated with the NC-based ScienceOnline) that will explore how marine scientists and conservationists can use the internet for collaboration, education and outreach. The meeting will take place October 11-13th at the University of Miami (Miami, FL), and will include an expert panel discussion on current ocean conservation issues, a day of conference-style programming, and a day of field trips allowing attendees to explore south Florida’s marine environment. Scientists who want to learn more about collaboration and outreach applications of the internet are welcome, as are science communicators who want to learn more about ocean issues.
1) The Planning Wiki is now online, and will be until April 1st! If you have an idea for a session, now is the time to submit it! For those of you new to the ScienceOnline community, theplanning wiki can be thought of as similar to a traditional conference submission page, but there are three important differences:1) everyone can see what everyone else has submitted, 2) anyone can add to what anyone else has written (including questions, suggestions, etc.), and 3) the person who proposes a session can, but does not have to, actually run that session- you can simply suggest a topic that you’d like to see discussed and ask people to volunteer to run it (and you can also volunteer to help run sessions that others have suggested).
We are offering four kinds of sessions at ScienceOnline Oceans. Skills workshops (taught by a hands-on leader to help people learn a skill), panel discussions (3-4 experts on a topic sharing their expertise, possibly including time for audience questions at the end), directed discussions (led by 1 or 2 discussions leaders, primarily consisting of the audience asking questions of the discussion leaders), and facilitated conversations (unconference-style discussions, essentially discussions between audience members facilitated by 1 or 2 moderators, which can be a follow-up to a panel discussion or directed discussion). Here is the link to the planning wiki.
Continue reading ScienceOnline Oceans: The planning wiki is now open, and other important updates.
A new study* has estimated that the total number of sharks killed by fisheries each year is between 63 and 273 million, with a average of approximately 100 million.In an interview, lead author Dr. Boris Worm explains the importance of this estimate:
“This is by far the most comprehensive estimate of shark mortality yet,” he said, ”because we consider all sources of mortality, from direct fishing, finning, and discard mortality. the estimate was derived by crunching numbers from almost 100 publications on the catches and mortality of sharks.”
Of all the numbers this team crunched, the most important thing to consider is whether the exploitation rate is greater than the rebound rate. In other words, is this level of exploitation more than the populations can recover from? Though many estimates and approximations went into calculating these figures, it seems quite clear that sharks are being harvested at an unsustainable rate.
Continue reading Breaking News! “Most Comprehensive Estimate of Mortality”: Between 63 and 273 Million Sharks Killed Each Year
Sites like Care2 and Causes, for better or for worse, make it easier than ever to write petitions
Online petitions have become a popular tool of the conservation movement. A well-written petition can be an important tool for helping to shape policy, particularly when used as part of a larger and well-organized lobbying and advocacy campaign. Many petitions, however, are so badly written as to be ineffective or even counterproductive when it comes to influencing real policy change. Even worse, they falsely perpetuate the idea that an activist has “done something” about the problem, which may prevent them from participating in a process that could result in real change.
In case you want to join the numerous activists who are filling my Facebook news feed and e-mail inbox with useless petitions, here is an easy 5 step guide for you to to follow, using examples from some real petitions I’ve been asked to sign.
A note on terminology: Petitions typically contain a few basic elements, which I term here “the problem”, “the target”, and “the solution”. The problem briefly describes the undesirable situation that the petition hopes to remedy. The target is who the petition is directed at. The solution is what should be done about the problem.
Continue reading How to make a completely useless online environmental petition in 5 easy steps
In the fall of 2012, I took a class entitled “Using Communications to Influence Health and Environmental Policy: Theory and Practice”. The readings and discussions were fascinating, but what really got me excited was the semester project. Working with a group of other students, we were asked to identify an environmental problem on campus, and come up with a detailed plan to fix it. Our group was concerned by the lack of sustainable and recyclable options at the University of Miami’s food court, and focused our project on that issue. Below are modified excerpts from our group’s final project (the full document is approximately 50 pages). Though the class is over, I and others from my group will still be working with the University’s Office of Sustainability to help implement our project in the coming months. We welcome your feedback, suggestions for improvement, and assistance in achieving these goals!
That’s it- only trash cans. There are no recycling bins in the food court.
The University of Miami has made a series of public commitments to campus sustainability, but progress has been extremely slow. One of the most obvious and public examples of waste occurs in the food court. Located in a central area of campus, the UM food court has over 3,000 transactions each day, and serves students, faculty, and visitors alike. Most of the food court restaurants provide packaging materials, plates, cups, and utensils that are not recyclable. Almost 2,000 pounds of plastic wrappers and utensils are thrown away every week, a figure that does not include the national chain restaurants. There aren’t even recycle bins located in (or near) the food court for the few recyclable materials provided by vendors!
The first step was determining what other universities do to reduce waste at their on-campus restaurants. We evaluated reports on this topic by four leading institutions: the Sierra Club, the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the Sustainable Endowment Institute, and the Princeton Review. Interestingly, no schools appeared on all four reports’ lists of the schools with the best sustainable practice, but Oberlin College appeared on 3, and three schools (University of Washington, Cal Tech, and Arizona State) appeared on 2 lists each. No schools located in the state of Florida were on any list, but the (relatively) nearby University of Florida received an overall grade of a B+.
Continue reading Your homework: Find an environmental problem on campus, and fix it! Increasing sustainability at the UM food court
Dr. Chris Lowe is a Professor of Marine Biology at California State University Long Beach, and is Director of the CSULB Shark Lab. He has studied California’s great white sharks for more than 10 years, and has written more than 75 peer-reviewed scientific publications. Dr. Lowe also serves on the Board of Directors for the American Elasmobranch Society, the world’s largest professional organization of shark scientists. The following guest post was also submitted as a public comment to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Comments for consideration on the petition to list white shark as threatened or endangered species:
I am a Professor of Marine Biology and the Director of the CSULB Shark Lab at California State University Long Beach and have been conducting State and Federally permitted white shark research in California since 2002. In addition, as a professional and published shark scientist who has studied a variety of shark species around the world, including white sharks in California, I would like to take this opportunity to express my personal professional opinion in regards to the petition request and the science behind it.
Continue reading Guest post: Why a California great white shark scientist opposes CA Endangered Species Act protections
As many of our readers prepare for a romantic evening with their special someone (or a Single’s Awareness Day celebration with friends), I invite you to take a few minutes and learn how our toothy friends in the ocean do it. And by “do it”, I mean “do it”. Here are 10 things you might not have known about shark sex.
1) Sharks have external reproductive organs. A male shark has reproductive organs called “claspers” (yes, there are two of them), and females have a “cloaca”. As I regularly tell the high school students who join us for shark research trips, even if you don’t have a degree in marine biology, you’ll quickly recognize what you’re looking at.
A closeup of claspers (male reproductive organs) on a spotted Wobbegong shark. Photo credit: Richard Ling, WikiMedia Commons
Continue reading 50 Shades of Grey Reef Shark: A Valentine’s Day Special Report on Shark Sex (With Pictures! And Video!)
I am thrilled to officially announce Science Online: Oceans, which will take place in Miami this October! ScienceOnline: Oceans is affiliated with the North Carolina based ScienceOnline organization and meeting, and we hope to incorporate much of what makes those meetings so special, but there is one key difference that regular ScienceOnline attendees should be aware of. ScienceOnline: Oceans will focus exclusively on ocean science and conservation (and, of course, how these topics relate to the internet and social media).
Who can attend? Anyone! Any interested scientist, journalist, student, blogger, communicator, activist, or member of the public is welcome. Due to logistical limits, we will have to cap total attendance at 200 (previously it was 150), including organizers, presenters, and attendees. Registration will open in March, stay tuned!
Continue reading Introducing ScienceOnline: Oceans!