While we can all celebrate the recent passage of California’s shark fin ban, sharks still need your help! The government of Western Australia is planning a “shark cull”, intentionally killing large numbers of threatened species to reduce the probability of shark attacks. The Marine Stewardship Council is considering granting “sustainable” status to a fishery with huge shark bycatch issues (an issue we originally covered last year). The European Union, one of the largest shark fishing entities in the world, still has large loopholes in their shark fishing policy. In the past few weeks, I’ve been contacted by conservation organizations working on these issues, and they need our help! Please consider signing the petitions listed below, and please consider telling interested friends and colleagues. As I’ve written many times before here on Southern Fried Science, I don’t support just any petition, but these are all from legitimate people and organizations and I have chosen to sign all three.
1) Shark culls in Western Australia.
In response a to few recent (and highly publicized) shark attacks, the government of Western Australia is planning on culling large sharks and installing shark-killing nets. My friend Barbara Wueringer, a research scientist at the University of Western Australia, is presenting a letter to several Australian politicians criticizing this idea:
“Recent reports in the WA media have suggested that certain politicians and members of the public are calling for a shark cull in response to the recent shark attack fatalities. I am sending this letter to show my shear disgust at such an idea. I am pleading with you to review the facts and the reality of shark attacks to make the right decision and realize that a shark cull would be disastrous not only to our marine environment but also Australia’s reputation as a world leader in marine conservation…Although the Australian media continue to sensationalize the threat of shark attacks to swimmers, the statistics do not support these claims. According to the Australian Shark Attack File (ASAF) there have been only 53 human fatalities in the last 50 years (1.06 per year) in Australian waters from shark attacks. Some years there are no fatalities recorded, other years there have been up to three in a year, but the average remains around one per year. Yet each year thousands of swimmers take to our beaches, with this number increasing every year as population and tourism increases, and yet they manage to make it home unharmed….As most sharks serve as top predators at the pinnacle of the marine food pyramid, they play a critical role in ocean ecosystems. Directly or indirectly they regulate the natural balance of these ecosystems, at all levels, and so are an integral part of them. The effects of removing sharks from our ocean ecosystems are very likely to be ecologically and economically devastating. Moreover, white pointers Carcharodon carcharias,which are thought to be responsible for the latest attack, are a protected species in Australia, both under the EPBC Act, and also in various states.The best prevention of a shark attack is not to remove and needlessly kill the sharks but rather to simply employ common sense. Most attacks occur under very specific conditions related to when and where you swim and what activities you are undertaking whilst in the water. Simply being aware of these conditions and acting appropriately will dramatically reduce the already minute risk of being attacked….I encourage the use of non lethal shark protection measures such as spotter planes and patrol boats but please let common sense prevail and do not allow WA’s treasured sharks to be culled. Australia has one of the richest most diverse coastlines in the world. Please help to keep it that way and protect our sharks.”
Barbara is gathering signatures. If you would like to add your name to this petition, which will be delivered to Australian government officials on Friday, please e-mail her ASAP at B.Wueringer AT gmail DOT com with the subject “Shark Cull letter”. Please include your name, home city, and, if applicable, the institution where you study or work. UPDATE: This letter has been sent. Please stop e-mailing Barbara. We got over 100 signatures from scientists from around the world, though, so great work!
2) Shark bycatch in a “sustainable” fishery
An issue that we covered last year has come up again- the Marine Stewardship Council’s plan to list Canadian Atlantic longline-caught swordfish as “sustainable” despite the high shark bycatch has moved to its next phase.
If you would like to voice your objection to this proposal, send an e-mail to CanadianSwordfishObjection AT msc DOT org , and do so ASAP. Technically the deadline to officially voice an objection has expired, but you can still make your voice heard and let the MSC know that there are lots of people concerned about shark bycatch in commercial fisheries.
Friends of Hector has provided a draft letter, which you are free to use (copy/paste into your e-mail) or modify.
” I oppose the certification of Canada’s surface longline swordfish fleet by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and support the Friends of Hector campaign to prevent it Surface longlining is a major cause of the death of sea turtles and sharks in our oceans. This Canadian fishery catches an exceptionally high number of these animals and is not making any meaningful effort to reduce its bycatch levels. Conservation organizations and retailers have worked hard to increase demand for sustainable seafood and provide it to consumers. If the MSC begins eco-certifying unsustainable fisheries like the Canadian longline swordfish fishery, it will compromise this work and undermine many of our successes.I am convinced that consumers, finding that they were being sold an eco-label that supported these wasteful and destructive practices, would lose faith in the integrity of these standards. There is something fundamentally wrong with the MSC standard and process if a fishery like this is able to be certified. The Canadian longline swordfish fishery catches at least 100,000 sharks and 1,400 sea turtles every year for only 20,000 swordfish. No matter how you interpret the MSC standard, such wasteful killing of sensitive species cannot be considered ‘sustainable.’”
3) Closing loopholes in the EU shark finning ban.
The European Union is home to one of the world’s largest shark fishing fleets, and their vessels fish around the world. This fall, they are revising their shark fishing policy, which presently contains numerous loopholes. A group of leading shark scientists and conservation organizations were consulted, and they came up with a great proposal. Project AWARE is gathering signatures for a petition that will be presented to EU fisheries ministers encouraging them to adopt these new shark fishing standards. The petition can be found here.
I encourage you to sign all three as soon as possible, and to tel your friends.