RJD Twitter teach-ins start Monday at 1 with overfishing

My lab, the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program at the University of Miami, will be hosting a series of Twitter teach-ins on marine biology and conservation topics. Each teach-in will cover a topic in a series of Tweets, including links to photos and videos, as well as NGO reports, blog posts, and scientific papers which people can read to find more information. I will RT important points from my Twitter account (@WhySharksMatter), but the teach-in itself will take place from the RJ Dunlap program’s Twitter account (@RJ_Dunlap) and include hashtag #RJDTeachIn.

I encourage anyone interested in participating in the teach-in to follow (and encourage your friends, colleagues, and Twitter followers to follow) @RJ_Dunlap. I also encourage people to RT important points for their own followers.

Each teach-in will take approximately 20-30 minutes. Following each teach-in, there will be an opportunity for anyone to ask us questions. We will answer any question that people ask us.

The topic of the first RJD teach-in, which will take place Monday at 1:00 EST, will be overfishing. Future topics will include invasive species,bycatch, seafood sustanability,  marine protected areas, shark biology and conservation, sea turtle biology and conservation, ecotourism, and more- stay tuned! Additionally, if you have a topic you’d like to hear more about, let us know in the comments section of this post and we may host a teach-in about it.

The mission of the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program is to “advance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) literacy and marine conservation by combining cutting edge research and outreach activities”, and we hope that these Twitter teach-ins will help us to advance that mission. I hope that you’ll follow along with the first teach-in Monday at 1 EST, and I hope that you’ll encourage your followers to do the same.

New research lists tuna species as threatened; will fisheries managers act?

Image courtesy Keith Ellenbogen, OCEANA

Bluefin tuna have become a posterchild for the marine conservation movement. A single bluefin can sell for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, which results in heavy fishing pressure. Conservationists and fisheries scientists have tried for years to get the fishing quota reduced. They tried to get  CITES protection for the bluefin. Citing both heavy fishing pressure and the fact that the oil spill occurred in bluefin spawning grounds in the Gulf, some recently tried to get these animals protected under the Endangered Species Act. To date, these efforts have fallen short, resulting in just a modest quota reduction at ICCAT. New research, however, shows just how important protecting this group of fishes is.

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Book Review: Saving the Oceans 101

Ted Danson (yes, that Ted Danson) isn’t your typical ocean activist. Though he is best known as the bartender on Cheers, he has been actively involved in marine conservation issues for more than 25 years. While living in California to work on Cheers, he took a walk on the beach with his daughters. When they came across a sign that read “water polluted, no swimming”, he didn’t know how to explain to his disappointed children what was wrong with the ocean. He decided to learn more, began to work with local scientists and conservationists, and eventually co-founded the American Oceans Campaign (one of the founding members of Oceana) Danson’s decades of knowledge of and passion for the oceans are clear in his new book, “Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans And What We Can Do to Save Them”.

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Can marine protected areas save the oceans? Under certain circumstances, maybe.

Although marine fish face many threats, one of the greatest is large-scale modern commercial fishing. Technology makes it all too easy for so-called “factory ships” to remove enormous numbers of fish from the oceans, sometimes with devastating effects on the populations of those fish and their habitat.

Marine conservationists have proposed a variety of policies to protect fish populations around the world. Of these, the concept of the marine protected area (MPA) is arguably the most popular. Though technically a marine protected area is any area of the ocean where human activities are restricted in some way, the best known version is an area where fishing is banned with the goal of letting exploited fish stocks recover.

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The red snapper controversy: Interviews with fishermen

New proposed regulations for the red snapper fishery have  conservationists celebrating and fishermen marching on Washington, DC in protest. Quota reductions are some of the most extreme and far-reaching  I’ve ever come across. A huge area of the ocean (over 10,000 square miles) has been targeted for closure of not just the red snapper fishery… but all “bottom fishing” of the 73 species in the snapper-grouper management complex. According to the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, such severe regulations are necessary because of the degree of overfishing that has been occurring (8 times the sustainable level since 1970). As a result of this overfishing, the stock is also considered to be seriously overfished- the National Marine Fisheries Service estimates that current stocks are 3% of target size. A total area closure is necessary, according to the SAFMC, because even accidental bycatch of red snapper while trying to catch other snapper-grouper complex fishes can seriously impact such a reduced population. Since these fish live in relatively deep water, they often die after being released. Finally, an 87% reduction in red snapper mortality needs to occur over many years (possibly decades) to rebuild stocks. These regulations are in place right now via a process called “the interim rule”, and meetings will take place later this year to determine if they should remain in place.

Because of the controversy surrounding this topic, SAFMC science personnel were unable to be interviewed. However, . Zack Bowen, a charter boat operator from Savannah, Georgia, and Blaine Dickenson, a recreational fishermen and SAFMC advisor, agreed to participate.

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Four things everyone needs to know about sharks: A shark conservation documentary and lesson plan

One week after the world premier at the Benthic Ecology conference’s Beneath the Waves Film Festival, I am pleased to announce that my new shark conservation mini-documentary, “four things everyone needs to know about sharks”, is now available on YouTube.

Check it out here:

If you are an educator, the movie is intended to be part of a lesson plan about shark conservation. I have created a middle school version, a high school version, and a college version. Contact me at WhySharksMatter AT gmail DOT com with the subject “Shark Lesson Plan” and I’ll send you what I have, or we can discuss making a custom lesson plan that suits the specific needs of your class.

If you are not an educator but care about sharks, the movie can be a stand-alone way to educate your friends, family, coworkers, classmates, etc.

Please let me know what you think about the video by commenting on this blog post.

Thanks to all of my photographer and musician partners in this project!

Check out their websites:

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