Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays

Maligayamg Pasko!

Merry Christmas!

Nollag shona dhuit!

즐거운 크리쓰마쓰!

Feliz Natal!

Feliz Navidad!

メリークリスマス!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shark Conservation Act Passes US House

Photo: Stuart Cove
One day after being passed by the United States Senate, HR 81 Shark Conservation Act of 2009 has passed the United States House of Representatives. The bill now goes to President Barack Obama's desk for signing.

The Shark Conservation Act completely prohibits the removal of shark fins at sea; It requires that all sharks be landed in port with their fins naturally attached, replacing the rule that allowed for sharks to be finned at sea if certain conditions were met. The Shark Conservation act also closes loopholes in the current finning law and promotes shark conservation in other countries.

The bill, according to a summary:

• “eliminates an enforcement loophole related to the transport of shark fins by prohibiting any vessel from having custody, control, or possession of shark fins without the corresponding carcass";

• “strengthens enforcement by deleting the rebuttable presumption that any shark fins landed were taken, held or landed in violation of the law if the total weight of shark fins landed or found on board exceeds 5 percent of the total weight of shark carcasses”;

• “specifies that all sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached”;

• “amends the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act to allow the secretary of Commerce to identify and list nations that have fishing vessels that have not adopted a regulatory program for the conservation of sharks that is similar to the U.S.; and”

• “promotes the conservation of sharks internationally and provides a more equal playing field for U.S. fishermen.”

Shark Defenders Logo

Shark Defenders is developing a logo. We've been very lucky in getting donations of high quality shark photos for use on Google Earth and on this blog, but we also want an image that defines the work of Shark Defenders, which is developing shark sanctuaries and supporting the proper management of shark and ray species worldwide.  We'll eventually pick one logo that we'll use to represent us, but we'll probably make all of them available as stickers and buttons.

This first logo is based on the idea that Shark Defenders are like superheroes.  To get feedback on this logo (and all the other logos), we posted it on Facebook.  Many of the comments said that this logo looks too much like a sports team and that it is too aggressive.

This logo was based on the idea that nothing represents the word "defenders" better than a shield.  This one is my personal favorite and got a lot of positive comments on Facebook.  It also garnered a few negative comments: It looks too much like a sports logo (Oakland Raiders, perhaps).  It is too aggressive.  It looks like a car logo.

A lot of people who support shark conservation are divers.  This logo tries to convey that, but we're probably not going to use it because we want our scope to be much larger than just focusing on divers.  It will make a nice bumper sticker, though.

Our Facebook supporters really liked this one.  Our hope was to convey that we are a global coalition in support of shark conservation.  At the moment most of our supporters are in Indonesia, Philippines, and Malaysia, but we are growing to the rest of the world.

This is the same logo, but with the wording a bit different.  So which one do you prefer?  You can leave a comment on this blog or leave comments on our Facebook album.

Shark Defenders is dedicated to creating shark sanctuaries and supporting the proper management of shark and ray species worldwide. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and take the Shark Defenders Pledge.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hawaii State Senator Pushes for Shark Conservation in Northern Mariana Islands


This story ran on Saipan's local news channel on Monday, December 20, 2010. A big thank you to Liz Wahl of KSPN 2 for posting the story to Youtube.

The Saipan Tribune also carries a story about the shark fin ban under consideration in the Northern Mariana Islands:
Photo: Haidee Eugenio
Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands - Hawaiian State Senator Clayton Hee, the author of the bill that became the strongest anti-shark finning law in the nation, is drumming up support for a similar CNMI House bill pending at the Senate.

Hee and WildAid shark campaign project manager Stefanie Brendl met with Gov. Benigno R. Fitial yesterday afternoon to push for the enactment into law of CNMI House minority leader Diego Benavente's (R-Saipan) House Bill 17-94, which bans the sale and distribution of shark fins in the CNMI.
Click HERE to read the full story.

Pew Applauds Senate Action to Protect Sharks

Washington, DC - Matt Rand, director of the Pew Environment Group’s Global Shark Conservation Campaign, issued the following statement today in response to the U.S. Senate passing the Shark Conservation Act, which was introduced by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).

“The Senate has acted decisively today to help protect sharks, the predators at the top of the global marine food chain. The Shark Conservation Act would once and for all end the practice of shark finning in U.S. waters and give the United States the credibility to persuade other nations and international fishery managers to follow suit.

“Sharks are in serious trouble. An estimated 73 million are killed every year primarily to support the global shark fin trade. 30 percent of the world’s species are threatened or near threatened with extinction. Some populations, such as scalloped hammerheads and dusky sharks along the eastern U.S. coast, have plummeted by as much as 80 percent since the 1970s.

“As our marine environment becomes more and more threatened, we need further safeguards to keep ecosystems and top predator populations healthy. Domestic protections alone will not save sharks. The U.S. should use this act to bolster its position when negotiating for increased international protections.”

“We commend the sponsor of this bill, Senator John Kerry, as well as Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller and Senator Olympia Snowe for their assistance in passing this important legislation. We also thank Delegate Madeleine Bordallo of Guam for her sponsorship of the House version of this bill.”

BACKGROUND

1. Statistics on shark populations obtained from:

S. Clarke, et al., “Global estimates of shark catches using trade records from commercial markets,” Ecology Letters, 9:10, Blackwell Publishing Ltd/CNRS, 2006, pp. 1115-1126, www.iccs.org.uk/papers/Clarke2006EcologyLetters.pdf

International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Shark Specialist Group, http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/ssg_pelagic_report_final.pdf

J. Baum, et al., “Collapse and Conservation of Shark Populations in the Northwest Atlantic,” Science 17 January 2003 299: 389-392, http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/299/5605/389.pdf

2. The House of Representatives passed an earlier version of the bill by unanimous consent in April 2009 but would have to pass an updated version.

Shark Conservation Act Passes US Senate

Photo: Carlos Villoch
Shark conservation took a dramatic step forward today with the passage of HR 81 Shark Conservation Act of 2009 in the United States Senate. The Shark Conservation Act completely prohibits the removal of shark fins at sea; It requires that all sharks be landed in port with their fins naturally attached, replacing the rule that allowed for sharks to be finned at sea if certain conditions were met. The Shark Conservation act also closes loopholes in the current finning law and promotes shark conservation in other countries.

The bill now returns to the United States House of Representatives where it must pass by a majority vote before heading to the desk of President Barack Obama for signing. Shark Defenders will update our blog as things progress. There is one week left in this session, so hopefully this will law will be passed before the week is out.

**UPDATE:**

The Hill is the first media outlet to report on these developments:
Senate passes bill to restrict U.S. shark fin trading
By Andrew Restuccia

The Senate passed legislation Monday to put restrictions on shark fin trading in the United States.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), closes a number of loopholes in a ban on shark finning imposed by then-President Clinton.

While the House has already passed a version of the bill, it still needs to approve the Senate version, because Kerry’s office made a number of technical changes to the legislation.

[snip]

The bill, according to a summary:

• “eliminates an enforcement loophole related to the transport of shark fins by prohibiting any vessel from having custody, control, or possession of shark fins without the corresponding carcass";

• “strengthens enforcement by deleting the rebuttable presumption that any shark fins landed were taken, held or landed in violation of the law if the total weight of shark fins landed or found on board exceeds 5 percent of the total weight of shark carcasses”;

• “specifies that all sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached”;

• “amends the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act to allow the secretary of Commerce to identify and list nations that have fishing vessels that have not adopted a regulatory program for the conservation of sharks that is similar to the U.S.; and”

• “promotes the conservation of sharks internationally and provides a more equal playing field for U.S. fishermen.”
Pew Environment Group and Oceana have also released statements.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Whale Shark of an Opportunity Lost in Hawaii

Photo Credit: Guy Stevens
By Amanda Nickson and Julie Arner

The whale shark is the largest fish in the ocean. A favorite of many nature lovers, a mature adult is roughly the size of a school bus -- weighing more than 20 tons on average and measuring up to ten yards in length. This massive stature and the fact that it is harmless to people make it a huge economic engine, generating millions of dollars in tourism activities for countries in the Pacific.

Yet, while whale sharks are enormous in size, leading scientists have grown increasingly concerned that the numbers of these magnificent animals in our oceans are now dangerously low. Commercial fishing takes its toll on the species, and not all of the countries responsible acknowledge the problem. Fisheries targeting other species, such as tuna, are a particular threat.

International representatives at the December meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in Hawaii, for example, looked at measures that could have helped protect this animal, but couldn't agree on taking action.

Big Fish in big Trouble

Sharks caught in high-seas fisheries, either intentionally or indirectly through so-called "bycatch," are among the ocean's most vulnerable animals. More than one-half of those taken in high-seas fisheries are classified as Threatened or Near Threatened with extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Indeed, their low reproductive rates make them particularly susceptible to overfishing in the face of increased demand for shark fins and other products. And this problem now imperils an array of species from hammerheads to whale sharks.

While whale sharks attract divers from around the globe to places like the Maldives, Belize and Australia, they are also a magnet for schools of tuna, which are drawn to many of the larger marine species. Fishing boats chase tuna for their lucrative flesh, but also catch sharks as a result of their efforts. Sometimes, whale sharks are even encircled just to capture the tuna that swim with them.
For example, in the Western and Central Pacific, 60 whale sharks were estimated to have died in purse seine nets in 2009. Purse seine fishing vessels surround large schools of tuna with enormous nets that stretch up to one mile long. Whale shark mortality in the waters of the West and Central Pacific is estimated at 12 percent, a rate much too high for a species threatened with extinction.

A Window of Opportunity in the Aloha State

The issue of whale sharks and purse seine vessels was taken up at WCPFC's meeting in Honolulu. Established by an international convention in 2004, the WCPFC is one of the world's newest and largest Regional Fisheries Management Organizations. It is responsible for managing highly migratory fish stocks over a swath of ocean that covers nearly one fifth of the Earth's surface. Its membership ranges from small island states like Fiji and Palau to major economic powers such as China, Japan and the United States. But what makes the WCPFC rather unique among other fisheries management organizations is its charter.

The WCPFC's modern charter empowers its members to create a sustainable future for a large proportion of the world's commercial fish populations. Indeed, the charter:

Mandates the use of precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches to management;
Insists that decisions are based on the best scientific information available; and
Requires members to minimize bycatch and protect biodiversity.
WCPFC does not only look at sharks. With almost 60 percent of the world's tuna originating from the waters of the western and central Pacific, these fish are critical to the livelihoods of Pacific peoples and states. WCPFC also addresses how the developing countries of the Pacific, whose waters are home to these species, can receive equitable benefits from the sustainable harvesting of fish as well as to address the unregulated fishing and the under-reporting of catch in their waters.

The Continued Need for Action

Even though no action was taken on whale sharks at this meeting, it is important to continue to look hopefully to the member countries of the WCPFC because so many of them -- most notably leading Pacific Island countries -- have embraced the future of the oceans that surround and sustain them. The waters of Palau, for example, an area of the Pacific the size of France, are a sanctuary for sharks and all marine mammals. Not surprisingly, the healthy reefs of Palau, featuring a complete ecosystem rarely found elsewhere, attract tourists from around the world. It is this example we hold up, and hope that all countries embrace.

Amanda Nickson and Julie Arner attended the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting that took place December 6-10, 2010 on behalf of the Pew Environment Group.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Isla de Guadalupe: Great White Shark

Sharkdiver.com donated this amazing photo of a Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) at Isla de Guadalupe off the coast of Mexico in the Pacific Ocean.  Thank you!

If you would like to help out Shark Defenders by donating royalty-free photos to our conservation efforts, please visit this link.

Shark Defenders is dedicated to creating shark sanctuaries and supporting the proper management of shark and ray species worldwide. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and take the Shark Defenders Pledge.

Northern Mariana Islands considering stronger shark protections

Photo: Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands - According to the Marianas Variety, last week the Senate of the Northern Mariana Islands passed an amended version of an NMI House bill banning the sale of shark fins. The House bill proposed a first-time fine from $5,000 to $15,000 with no jail sentence. The Senate bill imposes a fine from $5,000 to $30,000, with a six-month jail term. The bill now heads back to the NMI House, and then if approved, to the desk of Governor Benigno R. Fitial.  Currently there are no shark protection measures in the NMI.  The Northern Mariana Islands are a chain of 14 volcanic and limestone islands along the Mariana Trench in the Western Pacific.

Shark Defenders is dedicated to creating shark sanctuaries and supporting the proper management of shark and ray species worldwide. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and take the Shark Defenders Pledge.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Egypt: Oceanic Whitetip Shark Photos

oceanic whitetip shark
These photos of an oceanic whitetip shark at Elphinstone reef in Egypt's Red Sea were donated to Shark Defenders by Christophe Jurdan for our use in educational materials, particularly the shark layer we are producing on Google Ocean (viewable on our blog or by downloading the Google Earth program).

There has been a lot interest in the oceanic whitetip sharks of the Red Sea lately, so I thought it would be timely to share these photos on our blog.

oceanic whitetip shark
An oceanic whitetip shark is being blamed for biting several tourists in Egypt, including a fatality.  These recent shark encounters have once again shone a light on the nearshore interactions between humans and the largest species of sharks. These recent encounters have resulted in a media frenzy and literally thousands of newspaper stories in print and online.

If it pans out that an oceanic whitetip was indeed involved in these interactions, the fatality would be the second unprovoked oceanic whitetip fatality in recorded history. While oceanic whitetips are suspected culprits in hundreds, if not thousands, of at-sea disasters, there has only been a single case of one being involved in a fatality.

oceanic whitetip shark
In the meantime, humans have killed millions of oceanic whitetips for just their fins, which is used as an ingredient in a luxury soup in some Asian countries. As a result of this overfishing, worldwide this species is assessed as Vulnerable, but in the Northwest and Western Central Atlantic it is Critically Endangered. Scientific data has shown that populations in the Gulf of Mexico have declined by 99.3% since the mid-1950's.

oceanic whitetip shark
The recently concluded meeting of the International Convention of the Conservation of Tuna voted to ban the fishing and sale of oceanic whitetips and and six types of hammerheads. This is good news for a charismatic species on the brink of extinction.

Shark Defenders is dedicated to creating shark sanctuaries and supporting the proper management of shark and ray species worldwide. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and take the Shark Defenders Pledge.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Shark Defenders Facebook Header

To encourage Facebook users to become a fan of the Shark Defenders Facebook Page we are going to post this logo into our Share This! tab.  Thank you to Christophe Jurdan for donating the photo.

Thanks for taking our pledge!

Thank you for taking the Shark Defenders pledge. An email confirming your signature has been sent to your in-box.

If you would like to stay informed of the latest in shark conservation news, please opt-in to subscribe to our email list. You can unsubscribe at any time.

In addition to occasionally sharing conservation news, there will be times when we will call upon our supporters to sign petitions, write letters, and make phone calls.

Better yet, we promise to never ask you for money. Ever!

Thanks again for your support,

Shark Defenders

Caribbean Reef Shark

Photo: Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas
Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezi) are the most commonly encountered shark by divers in the Caribbean. The species ranges along reefs from North Carolina to Brazil and is assessed as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List due to overfishing.

Shark Defenders is dedicated to creating shark sanctuaries and supporting the proper management of shark and ray species worldwide. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and take the Shark Defenders Pledge.

Great White Shark

Photo: Nicola Bird/Shark Defenders
The great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is the world's largest known living predator. These sharks are intelligent, highly inquisitive creatures, and contrary to depictions in popular media such as the movie Jaws, do not hunt humans. Their diet consists mainly of fish, pinnipeds, and seabirds.

Shark Defenders is dedicated to creating shark sanctuaries and supporting the proper management of shark and ray species worldwide. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and take the Shark Defenders Pledge.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Red Sea: Oceanic Whitetip Shark

Christophe Jurdan met this oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus) during his decompression stop at Elphinstone Reef, Egypt, Red Sea. Divers for sharks hasn't used this photo for any of our materials yet, but I'm sure it will make an appearance soon.

The oceanic whitetip shark is assessed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. The main threat to this species is overfishing.

If you would like to help us by donating royalty-free photos to our conservation efforts, please visit this link.

Shark Defenders is dedicated to creating shark sanctuaries and supporting the proper management of shark and ray species worldwide. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and take the Shark Defenders Pledge.

First Post

This is the first post on the Shark Defenders blog.  Stay tuned!

In the meantime, please "like" us on the Shark Defenders Facebook Page.
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