Archive for Sharks
www.bbc.co.uk 11th March 2013
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has made a progressive step towards the conservation of sharks around the world by giving added protection to three endangered species. The convention, currently being held in Bangkok, Thailand, voted by a two-thirds majority to increase the status of the ocean whitetip, three species of hammerhead, and the porbeagle sharks, as well as Manta rays. Despite strong opposition from Japan and China, two countries known for their taste in exotic marine species, a shift in the attitude of South American nations such as Brazil and Colombia helped the motion pass. However, it could still be overturned on appeal on the final day of the convention this week. Although the move stops short of banning the shark fin trade altogether, it does introduce stricter regulations that can result in sanctions on animal products if flouted. Many shark populations have plummeted 90% in the last 100 years largely as a result of overfishing. As many as a 100 million sharks are captured every year.
www.cnn.com 3rd July 2012
The Government Office Administration of the State Council of China has announced its intention to ban shark fins being served at official banquets. Shark fins are usually served in a soup that was originally reserved for the elite during imperial times. With the Chinese economic boom however, demand for the luxury dish has rocketed resulting in widespread and unsustainable shark fishing. Sharks are usually finned while still alive and the rest of the body is discarded. The demand for shark fin soup has been attributed to the increase of endangered shark species across the planet, rising from 15 in 1996 to 181 today. Between 26 and 73 million sharks are killed every year. The move by the Government Office Administration came after a proposal was put forward in the National People’s Congress early last year. Although it may take as long as three years to implement, the ban would ‘help cut the cost of sometimes lavish banquets held for state functions.’ Several companies have also made moves to ban the product in China including the Peninsula Hotel and Shangri-la Hotels chains. Swissotel in Beijing has already stopped.
LMV director Ed Scott-Clarke had the pleasure of attending a screening of Guy Harvey’s new documentary on sharks in the Caribbean today. Showing at the Hollywood Theatre in Grand Cayman, ‘This is Your Ocean‘ follows the journey of famous marine artists Guy Harvey and Wyland and shark specialist Tim Abernathy as they raise awareness on the plight of sharks (particularly Tiger sharks) in the Bahamas. Their work helped the Bahamas government announce in July 2011 the cessation of all commercial shark fishing in the country’s economic exclusion zone. The move wasn’t a moment too soon as the islands are about to host a 5,000 strong Chinese harbour construction crew. China is one of the main consumers of shark fin soup and there were fears that the arrival of the workforce would push up demand in the area. ‘This is Your Ocean’ is a 45 minute film is an enjoyable educational film that centres around the three environmentalists and a 14ft Tiger shark called Emma. Emma’s relationship with Tim Abernathy particularly is very moving. LMV attended with the Cayman Islands’ Department of the Environment shark specialist Ollie Dubock, who was also in the film. Following the showing, Ed met Guy and briefly discussed the possibility of working together (in collaboration with Pangaea Explorations) on a short documentary on sharks in the Cayman Islands towards the end of the year.
On Wednesday LMV made front page news on the cover of the biggest Cayman Islands newspaper, the Caymanian Compass (pictured below). The article, written by local journalist Norma Connolly, spoke of LMV’s director Ed Scott-Clarke and our film Plastic Shores. We here at LMV hope that it will bring about much-needed debate on the problems of marine debris in the Cayman Islands as well as the lack of recycling options for plastic here.
Much of the trash that does wash up on Caymanian beaches isn’t from the islands themselves, but from countries further East in the Caribbean like Jamaica and Haiti. The currents in the Caribbean (pictured) mean that the Cayman Islands, like Hawai’i, suffer a disproportionate (compared to population size) amount of waste on their shores. This is a sad and unfortunate problem and one which the Caribbean region as a whole need to work together to tackle.
In other news, yesterday LMV director Ed Scott-Clarke accompanied the Department of Environment’s shark and cetacean specialist Ollie Dubock to the north side of Grand Cayman to see a shark feeding frenzy around the carcass of a dead dwarf sperm whale (pictured). Unfortunately the frenzy had disappeared by the time we arrived (midday is not a good time for shark feeding) but there was plenty of evidence of shark bites. The cause of death for the whale is unknown, as no necropsy has been performed but due to its size (about 12 foot, the size of a full-grown dwarf sperm whale), Ollie guessed it could have died of natural causes. Of more concern was the threat to feeding sharks by local fishermen, who had publicly stated that they intended to catch them for Christmas time. Fortunately, neither sharks nor fishermen were in sight when we arrived.
www.bbc.co.uk 3rd October 2011
The republic of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific has created the world’s largest shark sanctuary, covering around 2 million square kilometres (772,000 square miles) of ocean. The sanctuary, roughly the equivalent area of Mexico or Saudi Arabia, is three times the size of the former largest sanctuary created by Palau two years ago. The move by the Marshall government reflects the importance of diving tourism on the islands’ economy. ”In passing this [shark protection] bill, there is no greater statement we can make about the importance of sharks to our culture, environment and economy,” said Senator Tony deBrum, who co-sponsored the bill. New laws now dictate that the commercial fishing of sharks is banned, as is the trade in any shark products. Certain types of fishing gear will be banned and violators of these laws will face fines of up to £200,000. Shark fishing has been on the rise in recent years due to high demand in China and other Asian countries for shark fins. Around 73 million are killed annually resulting in a third of ocean-going sharks being out on the Red List of Threatened Species. The Marshall Island government worked closely with the US-based Pew Environmental Group to create the sanctuary.
www.latimes.com 4th August 2011
Oregon has joined Hawai’i and Washington to become the third state to pass legislation against the sale, trade, and possession of shark fins. Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber signed bill HB 2838 on Thursday (4th August) making California the last of the mainland Pacific coast states not to have similar legislation (it is currently being held up in the state Senate). President Obama has also made steps to tighten up a ban on shark finning in the US by signing federal legislation earlier this year. Shark fin soup is a delicacy in Chinese communities and is viewed as a status symbol served particularly for weddings and banquets. Defenders of the practice claim it is a cultural tradition and banning it is tantamount to an “attack on Asian culture.” Many sharks have their fins removed while still alive and are then thrown back into the ocean to die a slow and painful death. Marine experts claim shark finning has led to the global decline in shark populations (around 73 million sharks are killed annually for their fins and meat).
The Agriculture Minister of the Bahamas Larry Cartwright has approved this Tuesday a ban on the sale, import and export of shark products. The move sees the island chain join other countries such as Honduras, the Maldives, and Palau in banning shark fishing. Roughly 73 million sharks are killed annually, mostly to supply the heavy demand from China where sharks’ fins are used in traditional soups. The ban in the Bahamas, as well as the increase in shark-fishing fines from $3,000 to $5,000, will effectively make its 243,000 square mile territorial waters a safe haven for the ancient group of species. Although long-line fishing has been banned in the country since 1993, shark-fishing was still legal until conservationists launched a campaign in response to a local company announcing its intentions to export shark meat to Hong Kong. Tourism brings in $80 million to the Bahamas annually and each reef shark, according to the Pew Environmental Group, is worth about $250,000. This is compared to the $10,800 market value of a dead shark.
www.nytimes.com 2nd May 2011
A recent study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science has come up with a statistic that should encourage locals to turn their backs on shark finning altogether. Palau Island in the Pacific Ocean was made a shark sanctuary in 2009 and a large amount of the country’s tourism is orientated towards divers who want to see the protected species. Using a straight forward mathematical equation, the AIMS then worked out the economic value of the sharks to the national economy: ‘diver tourism contributes about 39 percent of the country’s gross domestic product of $218 million, and 21 percent of divers chose their vacation there specifically to see the sharks, meaning that tourism to view sharks contributes about 8 percent of G.D.P., the study said. The researchers concluded that the roughly 100 sharks that inhabit the prime dive sites were each worth $179,000 annually to the island nation’s tourism industry, and that each shark had a lifetime value of $1.9 million.’ This is compared to the $10,800 a shark is worth if it is killed for its fins and meat. Palau is the world’s first shark sanctuary but there was a point where it may have been created at all. The Palau government were thinking of creating a shark finning factory instead but later reconsidered. Their change of mind now brings in $1.2 million for local residents annually and $1.5 million for the government. Global political-will has been lacking in creating marine conservation zones with only around 1% of the world’s oceans protected.
The banning of shark finning off the coast of California in December last year has been called ‘largely symbolic’ as most of the fins sold in the state come from outside its territorial waters. As a result, two Californian assemblymen Paul Fong (Cupertino District) and Jared Huffman (San Rafael District) have proposed a new law (AB 376) that would see the complete ban of the sale and distribution of shark fins within the State of California. Fong and Huffman have claimed public support for their bill has been overwhelming but State Senator Leland Yee has branded it “an attack in Asian culture”. Shark fin soup has been a delicacy in manly Chinese culture for millennia and it is because of this that Senator Yee believes that the law discriminates against Chinese cuisine. Despite this, he insists that he is concerned about the welfare of sharks.
LMV: if approved, the California ban on shark fins would reduce the overall global demand and have a significant effect on the industry, which sees the killing of between 26 and 73 million sharks a year. With many shark populations on the verge of collapse, shark fin prices have soared to US$500 a pound ($50 a head for the soup). Something needs to be done and the actions of assemblymen Fong and Huffman are trying to do it. It is non-sensical to reject an outright ban on the grounds that one item on the menu of a Chinese restaurant would be removed. As Senator Yee argues, there are sustainable shark finneries around the world but they are very much in the minority and their fins make up a tiny portion of the market. The practice is barbaric and commonly sees the sharks finned while still alive. California is taking an important step. Is it really worth turning down this landmark law that will help protect numerous species in favour of ‘tradition’.
LMV warning, violent and bloody scenes.
Quoted from source:
‘Lesley Rochat spent 2 years researching the subject and securing an opportunity to film on a longline vessel. Lesley goes out on a limb, single-handedly, to investigate both legal shark longlining and illegal shark finning off the coast of South Africa. Armed with her camera and the passion to make a difference, she boarded a shark longline vessel for two days and captured disturbing, high quality footage of mass shark slaughter. In good journalistic style she uncovers that the threat to shark populations in South Africa lies with the local governments inadequate management and compliance of this resource. Though South Africa is a small contributor to the world slaughter of over 100 million sharks each year, Sharks in Deep Trouble is indicative of the global plight of sharks. General inertia of governments worldwide in taking responsibility for their natural resources is driving many fish species, including many shark species to extinction. The documentary was broadcast on 50/50 in South Africa to over 1 million people. It contains footage rarely seen which shocked viewers, bringing many to tears.’
www.nytimes.com 3rd December 2010
Quoted from source:
‘European nations will keep trawling the deep sea bottom, officials said this week, confounding hopes that they would honor commitments made to the United Nations General Assembly to stop the destructive practice. The Council of Fisheries Ministers, made up of officials from the 27 member nations of the European Union, said Monday that there would be little change in deep-sea quotas for the next two years, despite strong objections from the conservationist camp. Officials agreed to end deep-sea shark fishing and to restrict fishing for a handful of species, but in a victory for the French and Spanish fleets, fishing will continue largely as before. Deep-seas fisheries are defined as those below 200 meters, or about 650 feet. Deep-sea trolling and long-lining can lead to overfishing a stock, and dragging heavy nets across the bottom destroys coral and vegetation, disrupting the fragile ecosystem of the ocean floor. Making matters worse, deep-sea species tend to reproduce more slowly than species higher in the water column, so severely depleted stocks can face a tough road back to health even if significant conservation measures are eventually enacted.’
Read more at the New York Times.