WhySharksMatter and a whale shark at the Georgia Aquarium
The world’s largest shark eats only plankton, couldn’t bite a human if it wanted to, and is one of the few sharks that could be reasonably described as beautiful. Globally, SCUBA divers pay an estimated $50 million each year for the chance to swim with these incredible fish. Their long migrations through international waters makes international cooperation necessary to protect them, which is particularly important because the 30 years it can take for these animals to reach reproductive maturity means that populations will take a long time to recover if they are overexploited. They’re listed by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group as Vulnerable globally. Between their charismatic nature, their inability to harm humans, and their value to ecotourism, it should be easy to convince governments to protect whale sharks *, making two recent reports all the more shocking.
Continue reading Bad news for whale sharks: The world’s largest fish are being killed for bait and billboards
If a picture is worth a thousand words, than Man and Shark is a must for anyone interested in shark fisheries and conservation issues. This book by Alex Hofford and Paul Hilton features a collection of incredible photographs of sharks and shark fishing from all over the planet, from the fishing ports of the developing world to the markets of Asia and the kitchens and restaurants where shark fin soup is prepared and served. The list of 14 contributing conservation photographers features some of the world’s best.
Each chapter features a brief introduction (in both English and Mandarin Chinese) explaining key points about shark biology or conservation, followed by a series of stunning, and in some cases horrifying, photos which showcase both the diversity of living sharks and the global industrial scale of shark fisheries. Photos of finned sharks lying on the seabed paired with interviews from fisheries biologists and conservationists gets the message across concisely, directly and effectively.
Man and Shark is a passionate call for humans to change our relationship with the oceans, and I commend Paul and Alex for their excellent contribution to the world of shark conservation.
Caribbean reef shark, Bimini. Photo credit: David Shiffman
2011 was a relatively good year for sharks and rays. Presented below, in no particular order, are ten important shark conservation stories from the past year.
1. Shark sanctuaries. The world gained several new shark sanctuaries, areas where shark fishing is banned, in 2011. Nations creating new shark sanctuaries include Honduras (~92,000 square miles), the Bahamas (~240,000 square miles), Marshall Islands/Guam/Palau (a regional partnership protecting almost 2 million square miles). Numerous concerns about enforcing rules in these huge areas, as well as concerns about potential loopholes in the policies, exist among conservation scientists.
2. Fin bans. These laws ban the possession, trade, or sale of shark fins within the boundaries of a city, state/territory, or country. In 2011, Hawaii’s first-in-the-US fin ban took effect, and a few other US states (California, Washington, and Oregon) passed similar laws. There is an ongoing debate in the shark conservation community about whether blanket bans on finning are better than promoting best practices (i.e. more sustainable shark fishing techniques). Additionally, some are concerned that we aren’t focusing enough on other threats to sharks like bycatch and habitat destruction.
Continue reading The top 10 shark conservation stories of 2011
Two pieces of good news for European sharks were announced yesterday. The European Union signed the UN Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Memorandum of Understanding for sharks. This MOU was established last year to support the conservation of seven shark species which regularly migrate between national boundaries, a list which includes great whites and whale sharks.
Also, the European Commission introduced a proposal to close some loopholes in the existing European Union ban on shark finning at sea. If the proposed amendment passes, any European Union fishing vessel anywhere on Earth would need to land sharks with their fins attached. This amendment faces strong opposition from Spain, the third largest shark fishing nation in the world, but is strongly supported by scientists and conservationists. The debate is expected to least several months, and we’ll be sure to let you know how you can help when it reaches its next phase.
“Today the EU has taken two major steps for sharks that demonstrate continued progress in European policy and offer new hope for safeguarding these vulnerable species on a global scale,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International, who is attending the CMS meeting. “We call on the EU Council and Parliament to promptly adopt the European Commission‟s finning ban proposal and encourage all fishing nations to fully engage in ensuring CMS shark conservation initiatives succeed.”
The sharks of Guam need your help! Bill number 44-31, which would make selling or possessing shark fins illegal in Guam, was just introduced by members of the Senate. The Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the bill next Tuesday night Guam time, which is Monday night our time.
This bill is expected to face strong opposition from the fishing industry, which has a powerful voice. However, you can help! You send a letter in support of this policy to Shark Defenders, and they will make sure that it gets into the right hands. Many of the letters will be read out loud as testimony, and receiving a large number of letters in support of the law will be a big help!
Please send these letters to Info AT SharkDefenders DOT com by Monday afternoon U.S. East Coast time (sooner would be better).
Continue reading Send testimony to help protect Guam’s sharks!
While we were away, a variety of interesting shark news stories were reported. Here are links to some of my favorites.
It’s been an exciting time for shark conservation.
In addition to the Shark Conservation Act passing the Senate, the Northern Mariana Islands voted to protect sharks in their waters, and the Phillipines will start protecting thresher sharks and manta rays.
The IUCN shark specialist group also came out with a study recommending a complete ban on shark finning in European Union waters.
A Brazilian NGO called the Environmental Justice Institute is suing to stop illegal shark finning in Brazil.
Continue reading Blog-cation Shark news roundup
We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog-cation to bring you some exciting news- today, the U.S. Senate passed the Shark Conservation Act!
The act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives last year, closes important loopholes in current U.S. shark management policy by banning the practice of removing fins * at sea (for almost all species, more on this later). It also provides a framework for Federal officials to work with our trading partners that don’t similarly protect sharks.
It was expect to easily pass the Senate, but as we reported earlier this fall, Republican firebrand Tom Coburn blocked it and related conservation legislation. Senator Coburn’s stated objection to the bill was that it would cost too much, but the estimated cost according to GovTrack is less than $1 per American taxpayer.
Continue reading U.S. Senate passes Shark Conservation Act, but at what cost?
Sharks consistently rank near the top of lists of American’s greatest fears. In reality, they have much more to fear from us than we do from them. Because of our actions, many species of sharks are on the verge of extinction. A recent International Union for the Conservation of Nature Shark Specialist Group report shows that fully 1/3 of open-ocean species of sharks are in danger of extinction in the next few decades. Many shark species have had population declines of over 90% in the last few decades.
Fins from a blacktip shark. Photo credit: David Shiffman
Continue reading Shark Conservation: The problem, the goal, and how to get there
A few weeks ago, I asked readers to voice their support for a proposed anti-shark finning bill in Hawaii. Those of you who follow me on Twitter have seen numerous updates about this important issue. I am pleased to report that the bill passed both the House and Senate this morning, and it will soon go to the desk of the Governor of Hawaii. If signed (and everyone is pretty optimistic that it will be signed), it will be the strongest shark conservation law in North America- and one of the strongest in the world. Stefanie Brendl, President of Shark Allies and owner of Hawaii Shark Encounter worked harder than anyone on this issue, and she has agreed to answer a few questions about it for us.
Continue reading Hawaii shark fin bill passes!
Our latest reader mail comes from my friend Mike, who writes for the conservative political blog SaveTheGop. Though we don’t agree on much, he’s usually a reasonable guy. His question concerns a post I recently wrote about Hawaii’s proposed bill to ban the sale of shark fins within their state.
Continue reading Reader mail: Sustainable shark finning?