Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Honduras Lures Tourists by Saving Sharks


This story from Al Jazeera is the second in as many weeks of a shark sanctuary country reaping the benefits of protecting sharks. An upcoming study (shhhhh......don't say you heard it from us) will estimate the global value of shark diving and you may or may not be surprised that it is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In tiny Palau alone it is worth $18 million annually; in The Bahamas it is $78 million.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shark Sanctuary a Boon for Palau Economy

Earlier this month the Island Times reported that Palau had reached 100,000 tourist arrivals for the first time ever.
Local officials led by President Johnson Toribiong welcomed the 100,000th visitor to Palau who arrived at the Palau International Airport Thursday evening on a Continental flight from Guam.

Palau Visitors Authority said the 100,000th visitor was ushered from the plane to the VIP lounge and was greeted by Toribiong, members of the diplomatic corps, lawmakers, cabinet ministers and other officials.
Many of the tourist arrivals around the Pacific are falling, but Palau is trending the other way.  So what is the reason?  Shark conservation.

Jackson Henry is the chairman of the Palau Visitors Authority. Here is what he had to say: "Palau also appreciates President Toribiong declaring Palau as the world’s first shark sanctuary. His message has resonated around the globe, bringing Palau accolades and putting Palau under the world’s brightest spot light. I say the recent surge of tourism arrival is credited to the President’s declaration. Now the world is dashing to Palau anxious to see what this first shark sanctuary has in store."

And he is right. A recent economic study found Palau's reef sharks are worth millions of dollars each year to the economy and account for almost 10% of GDP.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Fiji Times: Queen of Sharks


Photo: Ivamere Rokovesa
GOD created all living things with a purpose.

And it is important that one must understand that and being able to strike a balance between living creatures, our culture and our surroundings.

Triumphant Miss Fiji Alisi Rabukawaqa, who flew back home with the Miss South Pacific crown last week, took this message with her to the pageant in Samoa.

In an interview with The Fiji Times yesterday, Miss Rabukawaqa said shark conservation was an issue that needed to be highlighted so there was an understanding of the importance of this creature to the ocean ecological system.

The 24-year old, originally from Vuya, Bua on Vanua Levu, also holds this issue close to her heart given the cultural significance of sharks that is a totem to the people of Cakaudrove where her mum hails from.

She drove the issue across to fellow Pacific Islanders and pageant contestants in Samoa, via the different categories she participated in.

In the Sarong category, Miss Rabukawaqa wore fabric with hammerhead sharks printed on it ù designed by artist brothers Warwick and Craig Marlow.

"For our ancestors, sharks were the protectors and now, they are being protected," she said.

"We need to protect these creatures because of the important role they play in the ecological food chain."

Miss Rabukawaqa said one thing was for sure ù sharks were in danger, attributed largely to fin trading.

"There is illegal shark fishing going on where fins of sharks are removed when they are caught and they are thrown back to the sea and they will not be able to swim, they will drown and this is just plain cruelty," she said.

Following the pageant, she said she loved to believe that her message on shark conservation was conveyed across eloquently, given the feedback and interest from people who approached her with more questions on the issue.

"There were people who were interested in the shark painting on my sarong and it was also an opportunity to tell them about the plight of sharks," Miss Rabukawaqa said.

She said for the Pacific, people related more to their culture and how such issues held symbolic significance in their respective villages.

Miss Rabukawaqa said she would "definitely" support initiatives that continued to promote shark conservation and join in efforts to help protect these lucrative predators.

Meanwhile, Global Shark Conservation PEW Environment Group manager Jill Hepp said increased awareness were being conducted locally to protect sharks.

"We're concerned because sharks play an important role in the ecosystem and they are an important component in the protection of coral reefs," Ms Hepp said.

She said between 70 to 90 per cent of sharks decline in global waters annually because of the demand for fin soup.

"That trend is concerning because sharks, unlike other fish, takes a long time to reproduce."

Ms Hepp also revealed that some 73 million shark fins are traded every year, which was an enormous scale.

On the global front, for Taiwan in particular, she said they caught about 49,000 tonnes a year ranking them number four in terms of global shark catches.

"They're a big player. Their vessels are fishing everywhere," she added.

Published in The Fiji Times on Monday, December 19. Written by Timoci Vula.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

MSC Board statement on shark finning

From the Marine Stewardship Council:
At its December 2011 meeting held in Berlin, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Board of Trustees resolved that fisheries engaged in shark finning would not be eligible for certification to the MSC standard for sustainable fisheries.

Shark finning is defined as the practice of removing and retaining any of the fins (including the tail) of the shark, and returning the carcass of the shark to the sea.

The Board’s decision is based upon international norms and consensus, such as that expressed in the FAO’s International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks, as well as scientific and management grounds.

This decision will become effective in March, 2013, following development of the technical implementation mechanism and opportunities for public consultation during 2012.

Source: MSC
There is a difference between shark fishing and shark finning. In terms of finning, nearly every country in the world bans it. Enforcement of a finning ban is a whole other thing, but the policy is already in place for most countries.

It will be interesting to see if MSC will focus on policy or enforcement when making their determinations of sustainable fishing. Will a country with a shark finning policy, but no enforcement be able to qualify for MSC certification? Hope not.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Shark Shoot, Fiji

Shark Shoot, Fiji will premier on the Travel Channel this Sunday, December 18 at 9 PM EST.  Hat tip to Mother Nature News:
A new show on the Travel Channel is airing this Sunday (9 PM EST/6 PM PST) and it has a novel premise: send a team of high-end Hollywood photographers to a series of remote locations and recreate a professional photography studio underwater. To this end, the team has pioneered new camera rigs, shooting platforms and lighting equiopment that supplies the kind of high-voltage illumination normally reserved for the cover of high-fashion magazines like Vanity Fair. 
In their first shoot in Fiji, Muller and his team descend 70 feet where they find and photograph over 8 varieties of sharks. One of their goals is to finally put a face on these elusive creatures who in many regions are struggling to survive with increasing pressures from shark-fin hunters, overfishing and changes in ocean temperature. 
The airing of this show comes as Fiji is contemplating permanent protections for all shark species, and coming fresh on the heels of shark champion Alisi Rabukawaqa being crowned Miss South Pacific, raises the issue of shark protections in Fiji to new heights.

You can support shark conservation efforts in Fiji and the rest of the South Pacific by taking the Fiji Shark Defenders Pledge.  Sign up and you will receive periodic updates on the progress of the Fiji Shark Sanctuary and how you can help.

Pew Environment Group and Coral Reef Alliance have more information on their respective websites.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Que se prohíba la importación de aletas de tiburón

Our friends in Costa Rica have asked for support in banning the importation of shark fins (in English and Espanol). A petition is available online.  Please download the petition, sign, and either email, mail, or fax it in.
We the undersigned, respectfully request that the importation of shark fins be immediately banned through a Presidential Decree, to close the legal loophole and direct Costa Rica towards a sustainable fishery. Foreign fleets are currently evading Costa Rican shark finning controls by landing shark fins in Nicaragua, loading them in Costa Rican trucks, and then importing them back into Costa Rica by land through Peñas Blancas, for later reexportation.
A full page add was published in the Costa Rican newspaper, La Nación, to support this effort. Here it is in Spanish:

Miss Fiji Crowned Miss South Pacific

Miss Fiji Alisi Rabukawaqa was crowned the new Miss South Pacific, news that one would normally find on a blog dedicated to shark conservation, except that Miss Rabukawaqa has made shark conservation and the creation of a Fiji Shark Sanctuary the focus of her pageant platform.

Congrats to the new Miss South Pacific and all the other contestants.  We look forward to a year full of shark protections and advocacy!

2011 has been a banner year for shark protections, both in terms of enactment of policy and the beginnigs of enforcement.  What will 2012 bring?  A Fiji Shark Sanctuary would sure be a nice start.

From FijiVillage.com:
Alisi Rabukawaqa is the new Miss South Pacific, 24-year-old Miss Rabukawaqa was crowned last night, in Apia, Samoa.

Rabukawaqa who is also the current Vodafone Miss Fiji Hibiscus is a volunteer with the World Wildlife Fund and has been advocating on the issue of shark protection at the pageant.

She also grabbed Best Interview award in the Special Awards category.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pirates Busted in Palau Shark Sanctuary

Palauan fisheries officials have boarded and detained a Taiwanese fishing vessel suspected of illegal fishing activities during a joint patrol with Greenpeace of the Pacific Island nation’s exclusive economic zone. The Greenpeace ship Esperanza and the Palauan patrol boat, PSS President H.I. Remeliik, are currently escorting the vessel Sheng Chi Hui to port.

A Greenpeace helicopter flight spotted the sharks and fins on board the Sheng Chi Hui on the morning of December 8th, while the fishing vessel was inside Palaun waters – which were declared a shark sanctuary in 2009.

“The Sheng Chi Hui was in apparent breach of the law here in Palau’s exclusive economic zone. Illegal fishing is costing the future of our people, our country’s economic development and is a threat to the future of the legitimate fishing industry. It must be stopped,” said Palau President Johnson Toribiong.

Greenpeace and the Government of Palau signed a joint agreement earlier this week to both enforce fisheries regulations and bring illegal pirate fishing operations to justice.

“We are honored to be working with Greenpeace in the protection of our fisheries resources and securing the livelihood and future of our people. Let this be a warning to illegal operators,” President Toribiong continued.

Between 21 percent and 46 percent of all fishing in the Western Central Pacific Ocean is thought to be Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported[1]. The illegal plunder of fish from the Pacific is putting the region’s food security and economic prosperity at risk.

Like most Pacific Island countries Palau must patrol vast territorial waters with very limited capacity; it has one patrol boat and more than 604,000 km2 of ocean to patrol.

“Illegal fishing carried on by vessels like the Sheng Chi Hui is rampant in parts of the Pacific, with the slaughter of sharks and the theft of tuna occurring on a daily basis”, said Lagi Toribau, Greenpeace campaign leader on board the Esperanza. “If this continues, we will see a Pacific region with empty nets, empty plates and empty bellies. We applaud the Palauan government for taking a stand and enforcing its laws. Now we are calling on the Taiwanese government - as the responsible flag state - to better regulate its fishing industry”.

The Sheng Chi Hui will undergo further investigation by Palauan officials on its arrival in the country.Yesterday, officials from the Remeliik boarded an unlicensed Philippine flagged reefer, F-B Yanreyd 291, confiscated its fishing gear and catch and escorted it out of Palau’s waters.

Greenpeace’s "Defending Our Pacific" tour is campaigning to prevent the plunder of Pacific tuna and for the restoration of the health of the world's oceans through the creation of marine reserves.

The international environment group is calling for marine reserves to be established in four high seas pockets of the Pacific Commons, and be declared off limits to fishing. The environmental group is also seeking a ban on the use of FADs in purse seine fisheries and a 50 percent reduction across the entire tuna fisheries. These measures are important to keep valuable fish stocks at a sustainable level.

Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans and for a more sustainable fishing industry, both necessary steps to restoring our oceans to health. Around the world, Greenpeace is working with retailers and tuna brands across Europe, Australia and the Americas to increase the market share of sustainably-sourced tuna.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

One Year of Shark Defenders

One year ago today, Shark Defenders was born. What a year it has been! Thank you for all your support, for taking the Shark Defenders Pledge, signing onto our Action Alerts, donating photos, following us on Facebook, retweeting our tweets, and generally being there to help us create new shark sanctuaries and advocate for the proper management of sharks and ray species worldwide!

Career Opportunity: Communicating Shark Conservation to the World

The Pew Global Shark Conservation Campaign is looking for a communications expert.  Pew is the leader in global shark conservation having supported efforts to end the commercial fishing of sharks in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.  The job posting is online.  Follow the link to apply.  The position is based in Washington, DC, United States.

Overview:
Organization: The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today's most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life

Department: The Pew Environment Group – The mission of the Environment group is to promote policies and practices that protect the global environment, preserve healthy forests and marine ecosystems. For the past two decades, the Environment group has been a major force in driving conservation policy in the United States, and increasingly internationally. The group’s work is focused on reducing the scope and severity of three major global environmental problems:
  • Transition to a clean energy economy from one based primarily on the burning of fossil fuels.
  • The erosion of large wilderness ecosystems that contain a great part of the world’s remaining biodiversity; and,
  • The destruction of the world’s marine environment, with a particular emphasis on global fisheries.
Position Overview: The communications officer will work on a daily basis with programmatic campaign staffs, and will assist and advise Pew Environment Group (PEG) campaigns on outreach to journalists, web content, and all aspects of public communication. While supporting issues relating to PEG, this position reports to the head of communications for PEG within the central Communications department.

Pew’s global and highly visible shark campaign is seeking full-time communications support. The ideal candidate will have a passion for shark conservation, keen ability to shape and pitch stories, strong writing skills for preparing press materials, fact sheets and web content and the ability to translate dense information into compelling visuals [emphasis mine].

Responsibilities:
  • Facilitate the development of concepts and strategies for crucial projects;
  • Advise and coordinate with PEG Communications and PEG campaign staff on energy, oceans and land issues;
  • Develop and support Pew’s use of “new media” and social media outlets for the campaigns’ messages;
  • Participate and advise in the drafting of campaign-related communications tools and web content;
  • Work with PEG Communications staff on support and promotion of the organization’s brand;
  • Develop and maintain news media contacts to be used by all campaigns;
  • Provide support for PEG related communications as needed.
Requirements:
  • A minimum of eight years in advocacy communications. College degree required.
  • Must have excellent oral communications, writing, editing and research skills, and proven ability to frame and develop cogent messages.
  • Skills associated with completion of an undergraduate degree program in communications, journalism or related major required. Graduate degree preferred.
  • Must demonstrate understanding of media and news organizations, particularly broadcast media and web-based outlets.
  • Must be flexible, creative, consistent and assume high accountability for all areas of responsibility. Must demonstrate strong collaborative spirit and leadership ability.
  • Ability to think strategically, handle multiple priorities, be extremely well-organized, manage time effectively and identify resources for projects required.
  • Aptitude for understanding organizational structure and working through administrative systems preferred.
  • Must be able to work in groups and individually to meet goals.
  • Passion for achieving goals to protect the environment.
Travel
Domestic or international travel may be required.

Compensation
The Pew Charitable Trusts offers a competitive salary and excellent benefits package, including a generous 401(k) plan, four weeks vacation and flexible benefit options.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Taiwan Shark Finning Ban: Not Enough


Hat tip to DaShark in Fiji:
Taiwan has recently announced that they want to ban shark finning (the practice of removing a shark's fins and discarding the body at sea).

I was under-impressed then and having recently discovered the sheer scope of Taiwan's declared Shark "bycatch" in the WCPFC, I'm even less impressed now. Having depleted their own seas, Taiwan's appalling distant-water fleets scour the global oceans and the Shark fins (certainly NOT the meat and skin!) are offloaded in distant ports and then airlifted home.

That's where the massacre happens and I very much doubt than any Taiwanese fins-attached policy will be enforced that far from home. Plus, legislation like that is archaic and comes much too late for any endangered Shark species, the more as it has become painfully evident that most countries simply lack the resources, and the political will for ever monitoring and enforcing those rules.

What is required now are fishing bans, not band-aid solutions.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

ACTION ALERT: Your Online Vote Could Secure $10,000 for Shark Research

Shark blogger and graduate student David Shiffman is 24 hours and a few votes away from winning a $10,000 blogging scholarship for his shark research at the University of Miami -- but he needs your help now!

CLICK HERE TO VOTE FOR DAVID SHIFFMAN

David Shiffman gave a presentation on the power of online shark advocacy at the International Marine Conservation Congress earlier this year in Victoria, BC, Canada, even mentioning Shark Defenders by name. Let's prove him right and help David Shiffman to win this scholarship.

This is what David Shiffman has to say about this scholarship:
"If I win, the money will be used to support shark conservation research. It will be supplies for my dissertation work, which focuses on the ecological importance of sharks to coral reef ecosystems. It will be used to support our lab's citizen science program, which has taken over 1,000 high school students and teachers into the field to learn about sharks and participate in an active research program. Additionally, I will adopt a satellite tagged shark in the name of the readers of Southern Fried Science, which they can name (through a contest) and follow on Google Earth."
So please take a moment to follow this link and vote for David Shiffman. He is the only ocean conservation blogger among the finalists, so let's help him win. And after you vote, please post the link to Facebook and Twitter and ask your followers to vote for David Shiffman.

Thank you very much for your assistance!

Fiji considers sanctuary designation

Fiji’s reputation as a leader in marine conservation may be enhanced if a proposal made by the Ministry of Primary Industries’ Department of Fisheries and Forests advances next month. The agency is considering measures that would ban the commercial fishing and trade of sharks and their parts, including fins. The proposal is being drafted, and if it advances in the Cabinet, new legislation could be in place before year’s end.

The government has the support of traditional leaders, as well as the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) and the Pew Environment Group, nonprofit organizations that last month launched a campaign to raise community awareness about the importance of sharks in Fiji.

“A national shark sanctuary in Fiji would be a huge victory for these animals,” said Matt Rand, director of global shark conservation for the Pew Environment Group. “This action would close down a major hub in the Pacific for the trafficking of fins and highlight Fiji as home to the world’s second-largest shark sanctuary.”



The proposed Fiji National Shark Sanctuary, encompassing the country’s 1.3-million-square-kilometer Exclusive Economic Zone, would be the first of its kind in Melanesia. It is modeled after similar conservation measures in the Marshall Islands, Palau, the Maldives, Honduras, the Bahamas, and Tokelau.

According to Fisheries Department annual reports, the country’s exports in 2003 were 180 metric tons of shark products. Most of Fiji’s shark fins are exported. “We don’t eat shark,” said Ratu Lalabalavu, who has expressed support for a national shark sanctuary in his capacity as the traditional leader of the Tovata Confederacy. “We feel that we are doing justice to something that is very much part of our life and our history in protecting sharks.” The heads of the Burebasaga Confederacy and Kubuna Confederacy also support the designation of Fijian waters for shark conservation.
“The Fijian people have a long history of supporting locally managed marine areas,” said Rick MacPherson, conservation programs director at CORAL. “This strong cultural connection to the reefs makes our job easier as we work alongside the Fijian community to develop an effective sanctuary for sharks that benefits both the marine ecosystem and the people who rely on it. This shark movement is an excellent opportunity for us to use our resources to unite a nation to protect marine ecosystems.”

Sharks are significant to the health of coral reefs. “A reef without sharks is a sick reef,” said Demian Chapman, PhD, a shark scientist at Stony Brook University in New York, who in March provided an assessment of the shark fin trade for fisheries officials in Fiji’s capital, Suva. As top ocean predators, sharks regulate the populations of prey species and potentially the overall health of the ocean, according to Chapman. Falling populations of these animals might even lead to general coral reef decline. “There is a clear empirical association between thriving shark populations and healthy coral reef ecosystems,” he said.

Chapman found that the shark fin trade in Suva includes the sale of thousands of fins from sharks that are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, such as scalloped hammerhead (Endangered) and silky, blacktip reef, and bull sharks (all Near Threatened). His assessment also found trade in fins from shark species that live and breed on the reef, and are important for ecotourism.

Earlier this year, the Australian Institute for Marine Studies found that reef sharks in Palau contribute nearly US$18 million annually to the national economy through diving and associated tourism activities. A similar analysis in French Polynesia found that an individual lemon shark has a lifetime value of more than US$300,000, a significantly higher figure than if it had been caught for its fins. “A living shark is worth far more than a dead shark,” said Rand.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Vote for David Shiffman to Win the 2011 Blogging Scholarship

Guest Blog
by David Shiffman

There are still a few days left to vote for me to win the 2011 blogging scholarship, which provides $10,000 towards research and education expenses to the winner! If I win, some of the money will be used to support shark conservation research at my lab. It will help support our citizen science program, which has brought over 1,000 high school students and teachers out into the field to learn about sharks and participate in an active research program. It will help support my dissertation work, which focuses on the ecological importance of sharks to coral reefs. It will also be used to adopt a satellite tagged shark in the name of you, the readers of Southern Fried Science. You’ll get to name it (through a contest), and I’ll post regular updates about where our shark is and what it’s likely to be encountering.

Remember, you can vote once per day until noon Pacific time on November 30th. For those of you who only know me as WhySharksMatter, my real name (as it’s entered on the voting page) is David Shiffman.

The voting page is here. Please vote for me to win $10,000 for shark conservation, and please share the voting page with your friends, colleagues, and fellow ocean lovers! You can also write a comment on the voting page explaining why you think sharks are important. Thanks for your continued support, everyone!

Act Now to Save Whale Sharks!

The world’s largest fish is threatened from tuna fishing boats in the western and central Pacific Ocean. Massive purse seine vessels with nets stretching up to a mile and extending 1,000 feet below the surface, cinch fish with a drawstring mechanism that prevents escape. These vessels frequently set their gear around whale sharks to scoop up the tuna that congregate underneath the larger fish.

More than 10 percent of the whale sharks netted this way are killed, and the fate of those released is unknown. The United States operates one of the biggest purse seine fleets for tuna in the region and should lead efforts to protect this impressive species.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION

Growing up to 60 feet and living 60 years or more, these gentle giants are filter feeders, eating microscopic prey and small fish. Although whale sharks have been classified as vulnerable to extinction, they are still being caught and killed, and their numbers are declining.

Countries that fish for tuna in the western and central Pacific will soon have the opportunity to protect whale sharks for good. At the upcoming annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), governments will consider an important measure to stop setting purse seine nets around these fish along with other shark conservation measures.

Take action! Urge the U.S. delegation to the WCPFC to support measures that prohibit intentional fishing around whale sharks and protect this gentle giant of the sea.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

We Ni Yava: The Sharkman Dives with Sharks



Our Champion for the shark conservation awareness campaign in Fiji is Manoa "The Sharkman" Rasagitale. During the week, Manoa is an environmental advocate with the Coral Reef Alliance, but on the weekends Monoa stars in his own reality television program, We Ni Yava.

We Ni Yava is Fijian for "footsteps," and every Monday night viewers on MaiTV follow him as he goes on an adventure somewhere around the country.  In this episode, Manoa goes diving with the bull sharks in Beqa Lagoon with AquaTrek Fiji.

The Sharkman actually filmed two episodes in Beqa Lagoon. The first episode was learning to dive. The second episode was diving with sharks.

Here are the links:

Learning to Dive, Part 1
Learning to Dive, Part 2
Learning to Dive, Part 3

Diving with Sharks, Part 1
Diving with Sharks, Part 2
Diving with Sharks, Part 3

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Fiji Times: Fiji's Endangered Sharks Top Fin Trade

SHARKS that lure tourists back to our waters in a multi-million-dollar industry are seeing red.

Ten species of sharks highlighted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (ICUN) on its Red List, which gauges the level of threat against endangered wildlife species, have been identified as top-of-the-range in Fiji's fin trade.

And among the ICUN's "near threatened" and "vulnerable" red-listed sharks are the country's main attractions in shark-related tourism activities.

A study on the shark fin trade in Suva conducted by Dr Demian Chapman, the assistant director of science at the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science, Stony Creek University in New York, shows that a large amount of sharks killed for their fins are those that frequent dive spots which tourists visit for shark encounters.

The alarming statistics collated after his assessment with officials of the Fisheries Department in March this year proved their theory that sharks from Fiji waters are being killed and traded in large volumes to China, where it is a delicacy among the growing population of the rich.

His assessment based on visits to two shark dealers in Suva March 29-30 and on field reports from shark experts who did other researches on the global decline of these ancient predators also showed that locals are more involved in the trade than previously thought.

It revealed that offshore species, sharks that live in deeper water and are targeted as bycatch in tuna fisheries, are the most killed. These include the silky shark, oceanic whitetip shark and blue sharks.

"Visits to two fin traders in Suva indicate that a large volume of shark fins are being exported from Fiji, at least on the order of tens of thousands of fins per month," Dr Chapman said in his report.

"Most of the fins I observed came from the three species. These are all epipelagic, offshore species that are being captured by longliners."

Dr Chapman, who is among the first to successfully trace scalloped hammerhead shark fins from the burgeoning Hong Kong market all the way back to the sharks' geographic origin using groundbreaking DNA research, said the traders in Suva confirmed that most of the offshore sharks had their fins cut and their bodies left to sink to the bottom where they suffered agonising deaths.

"I also observed a number of fins from inshore species. According to traders, these come from the coast of Fiji and are collected by local people who are paid by the dealers for shark fins and sea cucumbers," he said.

"I estimated the total number of fins present at each dealer by counting the number of fins visible in digital photographs taken onsite. Since most sharks produce four marketable fins (dorsal, two pectoral and lower caudal), I divided the estimated total number of fins by a factor of four to estimate the total number of individual sharks killed. One dealer had approximately 1000 fins drying, which represents at least 250 sharks killed.

"The dealer also had four large freezers full of frozen fins that were impossible to count. The other dealer had three very large piles of dried fins that I estimate contained a total of 10,000-12,000 fins and represented 2500-4000 dead sharks. The dealer indicated that they were exporting this volume on a monthly basis from Nadi International Airport to Hong Kong."

After returning to the US, Dr Chapman's digital images were verified by researchers at the Stony Creek University and 10 shark species were confirmed among these fins.

This accounted for 28.5 per cent of species found along the coast around Fiji.

"They include offshore and inshore reef species, confirming reports that dealers are using sharks captured along the Fijian coast. One species listed as endangered and four listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) were found, indicating that species that are of conservation concern occur in the trade. The presence of three species that are important for dive tourism was also confirmed, highlighting conflicting use of these species in Fiji."

Ratu Manoa Rasigatale, who is spearheading an awareness campaign for the Coral Reef Alliance and Pew Environment Group to turn Fiji's waters into a shark sanctuary, said the statistics are of concern.

"It is sad to note from Dr Chapman's assessmant that locals are heavily involved in the killing of reef sharks," said Ratu Manoa, dubbed the Sharkman for his efforts to spread the gospel of shark conservation to all levels of the community in Fiji.

"We must do all we can to stop this trade and make sure that these sharks are not driven to extinction.

"Without the sharks, our reefs will die."

Fiji sharks on the ICUN's Red List are the scalloped hammerhead shark (endangered), oceanic whitetip shark (vulnerable), bigeye threasher shark (vulnerable), smooth hammerhead (vulnerable), sicklefin lemon (vulnerable), silky sharks (near threatened), blue sharks (near threatened), shortfin mako (near threatened), tiger shark (near threatened) and blacktip reef sharks (near threatened).

Written by Ilaitia Turagabeci and published in The Fiji Times on Monday, November 7, 2011.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Vulnerable Shark Fact Sheets

The Pew Environment Group has developed fact sheets on silky, porbeagle, and shortfin mako sharks, species assessed as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The information on these important species is being released ahead of next week's meeting of The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) in Istanbul, Turkey.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Shark Hope


On Monday, October 24, Shark Hope premiered at the Village 6 movie theaters in Suva, Fiji. Produced by the Coral Reef Alliance and The Pew Environment Group’s Global Shark Conservation Campaign, the film is an entirely Fijian effort that details the plight of sharks in Fiji, focuses on the importance of sharks to Fiji’s culture, economy and marine environment, and efforts to create a Fiji National Shark Sanctuary. The film stars local Fijian celebrity Ratu Manoa Rasigatale and the Gone Turaga Bale na Tui Cakau (Paramount Chief of Tovata Confederacy), Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu.
Pew Environment Group and Coral Reef Alliance Staff (from left to right): Moala Tokota'a, Helen Sykes, Jason Vasques, Manoa Rasagitale, Angelo Villagomez, and Kelly Thomas Brown.
The Fiji Times covered the premiere in a front page story the following day:
Attorney General (Acting Prime Minister) Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum told guests last night at the launch of a locally shot shark conservation documentary, Shark Hope, that it would greatly assist government in its decisions on future policies regarding sharks.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum recommended the documentary to guests because it would provide them with a lot of information on the issue of shark conservation.
The mission now will be to get as many people to see the film as possible. If you are reading this, please do your part by sharing the Youtube link on your Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social networking websites.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Deploying BRUVs in Fiji

Guest Blog
By Kelly Thomas Brown

Bula Shark Defenders!

Since my last (and first) post I have started fieldwork on comparing reef associated shark densities in a marine protected area and a non-protected area, starting with fieldwork in the non-protected area which is near our capital city, Suva.

As this is the first time reef shark research is being carried out at the University of the South Pacific and there are no resident shark field biologists on staff so it was difficult to write up the fieldwork methodology at first. Advice from Dr. Demian Chapman of the Stony Brook University (New York, USA) introduced me to the Baited Remote Underwater Video Survey method, also known as BRUVS. This method basically uses a video camera placed in an underwater camera housing secured to a metal frame, to which bait is also attached. The frame is lowered into the sea and the video camera records any shark (and fish for that matter) that comes to investigate the bait.


BRUVS video still – Seagrass area. Bait bag in centre of picture.
The BRUVS method is ‘shark-friendly’ in the sense that sharks are not physically disturbed by human presence or actions. Edd Brooks of the Cape Eleuthera Institute (the Bahamas) assisted with the technical specifications of the BRUVS metal frame. Further research showed that researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) developed the BRUVS method. I am fortunate to get assistance from different parts of the world!


BRUVS video still – Channel. Bait bag in centre of picture.
It took a while to get the BRUVS frame, video camera and housing together. The housing had to be imported and the video camera required was not cheap to buy in Fiji so you can understand my anxiety when it came to the equipment field testing stage for this part of the research when I realised that the only video camera that my research budget can afford was going in seawater (electronics and saltwater are not great friends). Great housing care and working advice (and horror stories of flooded cameras) from Stuart Gow, a local SCUBA professional, ensured that I did everything possible to prevent the housing from flooding and there were no problems out in the field.


BRUVS frame deployment.
I didn’t get any video of sharks during the field test since the main aim of the test was equipment integrity, but when I do get a great shot of a shark during fieldwork I will definitely post it here.

Until my next post, moce mada.

Kelly Thomas Brown is a Masters candidate at the University of South Pacific and is the Manager of Fiji Shark Defenders.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Shark Hope Sneak Peak



Shark Hope will be released online early next week. To give you a taste of the film, here is a preview. This clip contains undercover footage of a shark fin warehouse in Suva, Fiji.

Shark Conservation Goes Mainstream

From the New York Times:
The global campaign in defense of sharks has picked up considerably in the last two or three years. What was once a niche issue — a sharp decline in shark populations because of soaring demand for their fins in parts of Asia — has gone mainstream.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

We Don't Want to Hurt You: The Shark Song



You painstakingly spend hours coming up with a script, spend weeks filming, agonize over picking the perfect music, time all the edits for maximum audience reaction, and then a seven year old kid spends three minutes creating a video blowing all other shark videos out of the water.

Tip of the hat to Shark Divers.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fiji Times Shark Overload

Shark Defenders syndicates the Fiji Times' weekly shark stories on this blog, but with the Coral Reef Alliance and Pew Environment Group's launch of an awareness campaign this week there has been an overload of shark stories. Instead of posting them all in individual blogs, here are some of the highlights:

Editorial: The Shark Fight

Fear them or feel sorry for them. Emotional attachments will mean nothing if we are not aware of their plight.

Article: Rhythms of Life


"Our youths need to regain and protect their Pacific identify. The future will be bleak if youths are disjointed from their natural environment," he said.

"The sea, the land, our traditional medicine, we need to regain that knowledge so that our children know and learn the rhythms of life.

"The young, and I also mean those in their 40s and 50s, are already disjointed. Imagine the younger generations.

"If the protection of sharks stand a chance going into the future, we need to rectify this. For conservation efforts to be successful, the young need to regain that knowledge. The knowledge has to be passed down."

Article: Taiwan in Top Four Kill List

TEN months after releasing a landmark report revealing the planet's top 20 shark-fishing catchers, the Pew Environment Group has expressed concern about new images and video taken in Taiwan that detail the expansive and unregulated nature of shark fishing globally.

The depictions show fins and body parts of biologically vulnerable shark species, such as scalloped hammerhead and oceanic whitetip, being readied for market.

"These images present a snapshot of the immense scale of shark-fishing operations and show the devastation resulting from the lack of science-based management of sharks," said Matt Rand, director of global shark conservation at the Pew Environment Group, in a press statement.

"Unfortunately, since there are no limits on the number of these animals that can be killed in the open ocean, this activity can continue unabated."

Sharkman Manoa Rasigatale said the trend was alarming, that's why Fiji needed to push for legislation to curb the indiscriminate killing of these ancient predators.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Fiji Times: Hope in the Deep

DAKUWAQA will be a happy fish, so too his keepers.

The ancient shark god ù who Fijians believe still roams our waters and upholds his end of the bargain to protect his people and their livelihood in the reefs ù may finally see his deal with humans on paper.

The Ministry of Primary Industries' Department of Fisheries and Forests will forward a proposal, which is being drafted, to Cabinet soon for legislation to ban the commercial fishing and trade of sharks and their parts, including fins.

If it is passed, new legislation could be in place before year's end.

The Gone Turaga Bale na Tui Cakau, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, who has a strong traditional link to the shark god, has given his support for a national shark sanctuary in his capacity as the traditional leader of the Tovata Confederacy.

His yavusa Ai Sokula (clan) comes from the lineage of the Gone Mai Wai, whose twin was a shark and is known as Dakuwaqa, also referred to as the Gone Mai Wai.

Ratu Naiqama's Cakaudrove Province is already a shark sanctuary, from the Somosomo Strait across to the other side of Vanua Levu and to the furthest islands North.

The people of Cakaudrove have an obligation to protect the sharks, who they believe, will in turn protect them and the reefs which they feed on.

Like Ratu Naiqama, the heads of the Kubuna and Burebasaga confederacies also support the designation of Fijian waters for shark conservation.

Traditional leaders have given their support to the Fisheries Ministry, as well as the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) and the Pew Environment Group, non-profit organisations that next week will step up the campaign to raise community awareness about the importance of sharks in Fiji.

Matt Rand, the director of Global Shark Conservation for the Pew Environment Group, said a national shark sanctuary in Fiji would be a huge victory "for these animals".

"This action would close down a major hub in the Pacific for the trafficking of fins and highlight Fiji as home to the world's second-largest shark sanctuary," he said in a joint statement from CORAL and Pew.

The proposed Fiji National Shark Sanctuary, encompassing the country's 1.3-million-square-kilometre Exclusive Economic Zone, will be the first of its kind in the West Pacific.

It is modelled after similar conservation measures in the Marshall Islands, Palau, the Maldives, Honduras, the Bahamas, and Tokelau.

According to the Fisheries Department annual reports, the country's exports in 2003 were 180 tonnes of shark products.

Most of Fiji's sharks' fins are exported.

Traditionally Fijians don't eat sharks but this has changed in recent times with shark meat being used for fish and chips and sold to unsuspecting people. With the rise in the trade of fins, shark meat used to be sold openly at the Suva Market.

This changed slowly as awareness campaigns led by Sharkman Ratu Manoa Rasigatale and members of CORAL went across the country to schools and villages.

"We made a presentation to all the roko from around Fiji at their meeting at Nadave and they have given us their 100 per cent support. We are gaining momentum and look forward to the day we have legislation to protect sharks," said Rasigatale.

"Fijians must treasure this cultural link with the sharks. They have protected us all this time and it is time we stood up to protect them from the greed of people."

Rick MacPherson, the conservation programs director at CORAL, said Fijians have a long history of supporting locally managed-marine areas.

"This strong cultural connection to the reefs makes our job easier as we work alongside the Fijian community to develop an effective sanctuary for sharks that benefits both the marine ecosystem and the people who rely on it," he said in a statement.

"This shark movement is an excellent opportunity for us to use our resources to unite a nation to protect marine ecosystems."

Sharks are significant to the health of coral reefs.

Shark scientist Demian Chapman, PhD, from the Stony Brook University in New York, provided an assessment of the sharks' fin trade for fisheries officials in Suva and highlighted the need to protect the ancient predators.

"A reef without sharks is a sick reef," Mr Chapman said in the statement.

As top ocean predators, sharks regulate the populations of prey species and potentially the overall health of the ocean, according to Mr Chapman.

Falling populations of these animals might even lead to general coral reef decline.

"There is a clear empirical association between thriving shark populations and healthy coral reef ecosystems," he said.

Mr Chapman found that the sharks' fin trade in Suva includes the sale of thousands of fins from sharks that are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, such as scalloped hammerhead (endangered) and silky, blacktip reef, and bull sharks (all near threatened).

His assessment also found trade in fins from shark species that live and breed on the reef, and are important for ecotourism.

Earlier this year, the Australian Institute for Marine Studies found that reef sharks in Palau contribute nearly US$18 million annually to the national economy through diving and associated tourism activities.

A similar analysis in French Polynesia found that an individual lemon shark has a lifetime value of more than $US300,000, a significantly higher figure than if it had been caught for its fins.

"A living shark is worth far more than a dead shark," said Mr Rand.



On Monday, the awareness campaign steps up with its launch at Suva's Village 6 Cinemas by the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

It includes the screening of a 30-minute documentary called Shark Hope.

It is about the plight of Fiji's sharks and efforts to protect them, chronicles their importance to Fiji's culture through myths and stories, as well as the critical role they play in maintaining a healthy marine environment.

The film features Ratu Naiqama and Sharkman Rasigatale, a Fijian cultural icon, former senator, and reality television personality.

Written by Ilaitia Turagabeci and published in the Fiji Times on Saturday, October 22, 2011. Support shark conservation and the protection of Fiji's reefs. Send your comments to ituragabeci@fijitimes.com.fj

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Now We Wait for Obama's Response

Our petition to the Obama White House asking to ban the sale, trade, and possession of shark and shark parts, including shark fins, has reached the all important threshold of 5,000 signatures. Thank you to everyone who signed and to the dozens and hundreds of you who tweeted, shared, and emailed this around.

5 Minutes to help ban sharks in Toronto!

As you know, Toronto City Council will be voting on the motion to ban shark fins this MONDAY, October 24th. This is the final opportunity to submit letters to council asking them to support the ban. If you live in Toronto, your letters will have the most impact on councillors, so please, take a moment to write a letter and please ask your neighbors to do the same.

The letter can be as long or as short as you like. Ask them to support the ban, if you are a Toronto resident, please include your address so that your Councillor knows their ward supports shark conservation. The entire process should take a few minutes and all the email addresses are listed at the bottom of this page.

For more information please visit www.finfreetoronto.com, and if you would like to make a donation to help us bring the campaign across Canada please visit our website or click http://unitedconservationists.org/index.php?option=com_wrapper&view=wrapper&Itemid=246

Taiwan: Shark Fin Trade Exposed



Ten months after releasing a landmark report revealing the planet’s top 20 shark-fishing catchers, the Pew Environment Group is expressing concern about new images and video taken in Taiwan that detail the expansive and unregulated nature of shark fishing globally. The depictions show fins and body parts of biologically vulnerable shark species, such as scalloped hammerhead and oceanic whitetip, being readied for market.


“These images present a snapshot of the immense scale of shark-fishing operations and show the devastation resulting from the lack of science-based management of sharks, “said Matt Rand, director of global shark conservation at the Pew Environment Group. “Unfortunately, since there are no limits on the number of these animals that can be killed in the open ocean, this activity can continue unabated.”


The report by Pew and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, listed Taiwan as having the fourth-largest number of reported shark catches in the world after Indonesia, India, and Spain. Those four account for more than 35 percent of total global landings.


The demand for shark fins, meat, liver oil, and other products has driven some populations of these animals to the brink of extinction. Up to 73 million sharks are killed annually to support the global trade in their fins. The International Union for Conservation of Nature assessed in its Red List of Threatened Species that 30 percent of shark populations around the world are Threatened or Near Threatened with extinction. Since sharks are top predators, their depletion also has risks for the health of entire ocean ecosystems.


“This strip-mining of the world’s sharks is clearly unsustainable, and governments need to act now if these predators are to swim the world’s oceans in the future,” said Rand.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

URGENT: 4 Days to Collect 800 Signatures

There are only 4 days remaining to sign the White House petition to ban the sale, trade, and possession of shark and shark products, including shark fin.

Click HERE to sign the White House petition to protect sharks

We only need 1,000 more signatures to send shark conservation to the White House. Once we get these signatures, the Obama Administration will issue an official response to our petition.

We understand that signing this petition takes longer than most online petitions. The White House requires that you create a profile and confirm your email address before signing, but this is because they want to make sure you are a real person. This process takes a few minutes, but it will be worth it once we reach our signature goal.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Fiji Times: Hub of the Fin

Jason Vasques (left) of The Coral Reef Alliance and Angelo O'Connor Villagomez of the Global Shark Conservation (Pew Environment Group), in Suva, yesterday. Picture: ELIKI NUKUTABU
WITH the high commercial demand for shark products, tax incentives is also said to be among the major factors strengthening shark trading in Fiji.

Angelo O'Connor Villagomez, the global shark conservation senior associate with Washington-based Pew Environment Group said Fiji had been the hub of trade for shark products, particularly shark fins a delicacy for Asian countries, particularly China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Mr Villagomez said one of the reasons was Fiji's geographical location "and that it is cheaper to fish here".

He said Fiji had also had tax incentives that had attracted companies to set up here.

"Companies are fishing for tuna but they are catching sharks as a by-catch," Mr Villagomez told The Fiji Times last night.

He said the shark population was threatened because of the high demand from Asia.

"The real problem is the demand coming from Hong Kong," he said, adding there was not much value in Fiji.

"What I don't want to happen is for Fiji to think that shark fishing is a long-term sustainable fisheries.

He said a study in 2006 found that between 26 million to 73 million sharks were killed that year.

Partnering conservationist organisation Coral Reef Alliance assistant director for conservation programs Jason Vasques said while the economical value for shark was significant, their ecological value must also be considered.

"Our role here is to raise awareness on the importance of sharks to coral reefs. Without sharks, you tend to have a less healthy reef," Mr Vasques said.

"If sharks help maintain healthy reefs, it protects the infrastructure, the coastlines and also promotes a healthy reef that will also attract tourists here," he said.

Mr Villagomez and Mr Vasques are in the country on their second visit to meet counterparts in locally-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and relevant government officials in their bid to assist local initiatives in protecting sharks in our waters.

The duo was in Fiji in February early this year.

"We want to support the government in its attempt to protect sharks," Mr Villagomez said.

He said they wanted to see Fiji become the first Melanesian country to declare its waters as a shark sanctuary, and the world's second largest sanctuary.

Written by Timoci Vula and published in the Fiji Times on Monday, October 17, 2011.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fiji Times: Shark Ban Spreads

FIJIANS should stand by neighbours in the central Pacific to ensure long-lasting protection for sharks, says Sharkman Manoa Rasigatale. The veteran campaigner made the plea as the Republic of the Marshall Islands became home to the largest shark sanctuary in the world last week.

The Marshall Islands joins Palau, Honduras, Tokelau, the Maldives, and the Bahamas in prohibiting the commercial fishing of sharks in their nation's waters.

Its new legislation officially bans the commercial fishing of sharks in all 1,990,530 square kilometres of the Marshall Islands waters, an area equivalent to the size of Mexico.

"Fiji is home to a high diversity of sharks and many of these species are threatened with extinction globally," said Mr Rasigatale, a member of CORAL's Fiji shark sanctuary campaign team.

The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), in partnership with the Pew Environment Group and the Fijian Department of Fisheries, is championing new legislation for Fiji. Through a targeted campaign determined to raise local support for a designated shark sanctuary, the team is educating communities in Fiji about the importance of sharks to both their history and their economy.

"We salute the Republic of the Marshall Islands for recognising the importance of healthy shark populations to our oceans," said Matt Rand, director of global shark conservation for Pew, in a statement.

"The momentum for protecting these animals continues to spread across the globe, creating greater areas where they can thrive without the threats of commercial fishing."

CORAL said, in a press statement, that it was determined to raise local support for a designated shark sanctuary.

The Department of Fisheries is expected to draft legislation soon to make Fiji the first Melanesian country to approve comprehensive protection for sharks before the end of the year.

Up to 73 million sharks are specially killed annually for their fins, a much sought-after delicacy in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

By Ilaitia Turagabeci. Published in the Fiji Times on Monday, October 10, 2011.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

CNN: The Push to Stop Shark Hunting


OUTSTANDING video from CNN on the recently declared Marshall Islands National Shark Sanctuary. Includes an interview with Philippe Cousteau.

And it is time for the United States to do something similar. Shark Defenders started a petition on the Obama White House website that calls for a "ban the sale, trade, and possession of shark and shark products, including shark fin." As of this writing it needs 1,644 more signatures to reach the level that will guarantee a response from the president.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fiji Times: The Kings of the Reef

SHARKS are an ancient life form. 400 Million years ago, before man was on the Earth, before the Dinosaurs walked the planet, there were primitive sharks. The body and biology of the shark is so perfectly adapted to its lifestyle that it has hardly changed in the past 65 million years,

This amazing fish has no bones, a skeleton made of cartilage, and teeth that never stop replacing themselves as old ones fall out. They can live to be at least 25 years old, but for many species exact maximum ages are not known,

Most sharks do not breed until they are between 5 and 15 years old, and usually only once every year or less often. Most of the sharks found in Fiji give birth to between 2 and 10 live babies at a time. Because of this late breeding age and small number of babies born, sharks are very vulnerable to overfishing, being slow to replace their numbers once killed.

Reproductive ages of different shark species

Some sharks give birth to live young (Viviparous), some lay leathery eggs (Oviparous), and some reproduce in a mixture of the two methods, where eggs form but are kept inside the mother's body until they hatch and are born (Ovoviviparous).

Food Pyramid

Carnivores eat fish. Herbivores eat seaweeds. Corallivores eat corals

Sharks are the top of the Food Pyramid. As "Apex predators" they eat second level predators and thereby control the entire natural ecosystem. Without sharks to hunt second level predators, the ecosystem becomes imbalanced, and eventually coral reefs die, and fish stocks disappear.

At least 35 species of shark are found in Fiji's coastal and near coastal waters. The most common ones are quite easy to tell apart.

Photo: Angelo Villagomez
Whitetip Reef Shark, Triaenodon obsesus
(Qio Tukivula/ Qio Dina):

Rounded nose, white tip on dorsal fin (back fin) and tail fin. Small; largest around 2 metres long. Found on or near shallow coral reefs.

In daytime rests on sandy slopes and caves, sitting motionless. At night feed on crabs, lobster, octopus and fish sleeping in holes in the reef.

Gives birth to 1-5 live babies. Stay within a few kilometres of their home range

Photo: Rodolphe Holler, Tahiti Private Expeditions
Blacktip Reef Shark, Carcharhinus melanopterus
(Qio Tukiloa/ Qio Mokomoko)

Sharp nose, black tip on dorsal fin (back fin), pectoral fins (side fins) tail and smaller fins. Small; largest around 1.6 metres long. Found on or near shallow coral reefs, young sharks often on reef flats near beaches

Feed on shrimp, octopus and small fish. Are sometimes eaten by large groupers and other sharks.

Gives birth to 2 to 4 live babies.

Photo: Rodolphe Holler, Tahiti Private Expeditions
Grey Reef Shark, Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos
(Qio Saqa/ Qio Rewasaqa)

Sharp nose, plain grey dorsal fin (back fin) and pectoral fins (side fins), black edge to tail and smaller fins. Medium size; largest around 2.5 metres long.

Found in deeper reef passages and walls, females often in small schools.

Feed on crabs, lobsters, octopus and small fish.

Gives birth to 1 to 6 live babies, which stay in nursery grounds for some months.

Photo: Veronique Arnoldi
Tawny Nurse Shark, Nebrius ferrugineus
(Qio Dramila)

Round nose, two plain grey dorsal fins (back fin) and pectoral fins (side fins),very long top lobe on grey tail fin. Large; largest around 3.2 metres long.

In daytime found resting motionless in shallow reef passages and caves, sometimes in groups. At night feed on corals, crabs, lobster, sea urchins, octopus and small fish sleeping in holes in the reef.

Gives birth to 4 or more live babies

Photo: Rodolphe Holler, Tahiti Private Expeditions
Sickle-fin Lemon Shark, Negaprion acutidens
(Qio Damu)

Round nose, two plain grey dorsal fins (back fins), grey pectoral fins (side fins) and tail fin. Large; largest around 3.2 metres long

Found in bays and estuaries, often in cloudy water, swimming slowly.

Feeds on bottom feeding fish such as porcupine fish and stingrays.

Give birth to 1 to 13 live babies.

Photo: Guy Stevens
Silvertip Shark, Carcharhinus albimarginatus
(Qio Dina):

Sharp nose, white tips to dorsal fin (back fin), pectoral fins (side fins), tail and smaller fins. Large; largest around 3 metres long

Found in deep water inshore and offshore, often seen in deeper reef passages.

Feeds on midwater and bottom fish, tuna, wahoo, eagle rays, octopus.

Give birth to 1 to 11 live babies.

Photo: Angelo Villagomez
Bull Shark, Carcharhinus leucas
(Qio Tovuto)

Sharp nose, plain grey dorsal fin (back fin), pectoral fins (side fins), tail and smaller fins, thick bodied.

Large; largest around 3.4 metres long.

Found on deeper reefs, shallow estuaries, river mouths in cloudy water.

Feeds on many species including other sharks, dolphins, rays, reef and midwater fish such as walu, tuna, snappers, jacks and tuna, seabirds.

Gives birth to 1 to 13 live babies, often many kilometres up river.

The only shark to be found in completely fresh water.

Photo: Rodolphe Holler, Tahiti Private Expeditions
Tiger Shark, Galeocerdo cuvier
(Qio Taika/ Qio Oria)

Sharp nose, plain grey dorsal fin (back fin), pectoral fins (side fins), tail and smaller fins, thick bodied. Younger sharks show dark grey bars on sides.

Very large; largest around 6 metres long, unconfirmed sightings up to 9 metres.

Found in deeper ocean and steep reef areas.

Spends days in deeper water.

Feeds at night in shallower water on many species, Has been seen to consume other sharks, dolphins, seals, turtles, sea snakes, rays, fish, seabirds, dead and live land animals, and even non-edible items such as metal, wood, and plastic.

Give birth to 10 to 80+ live babies.

Published in the Fiji Times on Monday, October 3, 2011. Written by Helen Sykes, Manager of the Coral Reef Alliance and Pew Environment Group shark campaign in Fiji.

The photos in this story were all donated by people like you.  Shark Defenders depends on the generostiy and support of underwater photographers donating royalty-free photos for our use in online and print media.  If you have the rights to high quality photos of sharks, please consider donating them for our use.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

World's Largest Shark Sanctuary Declared in Central Pacific

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is now home to the world’s largest shark sanctuary. The Nitijela, the Marshallese parliament, unanimously passed legislation this week that ends commercial fishing of sharks in all 1,990,530 square kilometers (768,547 square miles) of the central Pacific country’s waters, an ocean area four times the landmass of California.

“We salute the Republic of the Marshall Islands for enacting the strongest legislation to protect sharks that we have seen,” said Matt Rand, director of global shark conservation for the Pew Environment Group, which is spearheading efforts to establish shark sanctuaries, where targeted fishing for these species is prohibited. “As leaders recognize the importance of healthy shark populations to our oceans, the momentum for protecting these animals continues to spread across the globe.”

Key provisions of the comprehensive Marshall Islands' law include:
  • A complete prohibition on the commercial fishing of sharks as well as the sale of any sharks or shark products. Its zero retention stipulation requires that any shark caught accidentally by fishing vessels must be set free.
  • Large monetary fines, anywhere between US$25,000 to US$200,000, for anyone who is found to be fishing sharks or in possession of shark fins. In addition, violators would be fined the market value of the product in their possession.
  • A ban on the use of wire leaders, a longline fishing gear which is among the most lethal to sharks.
  • A monitoring and enforcement provision which requires all fishing vessels to land their catch at one of the country's ports and bans at sea transfers.
This week’s action was initiated in March of this year when the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority issued a moratorium on the shark trade. It was furthered in June, when President Jurelang Zedkaia joined other central Pacific leaders in setting the stage for the creation of a Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary, the first regional shark conservation agreement of its kind. In July, the Marshall Islands Mayors Association moved to make this vision a reality by passing a resolution that called on the 24 inhabited atolls throughout the Marshalls, each with its own local government, to enact ordinances prohibiting the sale and trade of sharks or shark fins.

“In passing this bill, there is no greater statement we can make about the importance of sharks to our culture, environment and economy,” said Senator Tony deBrum, a representative from Kwajalein Atoll who is a bill cosponsor. “I thank President Jurelang Zedkaia for his vision and support for this effort. Ours may be a small island nation, but our waters are now the biggest place where sharks are protected. We hope other Micronesian leaders will join with us to make good on our collective promise of a regional sanctuary.”

In addition to deBrum, Senators Michael Kabua (Kwajalein), Jeban Riklon (Kwajalein), David Kabua (Wotho), Jerakoj Bejang (Lib), and Dennis Momotaro (Mejit) cosponsored the enacted legislation, which also bans the sale, trade and possession of sharks, shark fins, or any other part of shark.

“The Marshall Islands have joined Palau, the Maldives, Honduras, the Bahamas and Tokelau in delivering the gold standard of protection for ensuring shark survival,” Rand said. “We look forward to helping other countries enlist in this cause.”

Published by Pew Environment Group on Sunday, October 2, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

La Réunion: "opération ciblée" d'élimination de requins après des attaques

SAINT-DENIS-DE-LA REUNION, 26 septembre 2011 (AFP) - Le préfet de la Réunion Michel Lalande a annoncé lundi l’élimination dès cette semaine d’une dizaine de squales appartenant aux espèces les plus dangereuses à l’origine de quatre attaques, dont deux mortelles, contre des surfeurs depuis le début de l’année.

Ces éliminations s'intègrent dans une vaste stratégie de réduction du risque requins "équilibrée et concertée", a précisé le préfet.

"Le risque requin est un risque endémique à la Réunion et touche tous les pays baignés de mer chaude", a rappelé M. Lalande.

Entre 1980 et 2010, 32 attaques ont été enregistrées sur les côtes réunionnaises dont 14 mortelles. La dernière s’est produite le 19 septembre à Saint-Gilles où un moniteur de surf, Mathieu Schiller, 32 ans, a été happé par un requin à une vingtaine de mètres de la plage, suscitant une vive émotion et un début de polémique sur l’absence de mesures de sécurisation.

Malgré plusieurs jours de recherche à l’aide d’importants moyens, son corps n’a pas été retrouvé.

Jugeant "exceptionnelle et difficilement explicable" la concentration d’attaques de requins à Saint-Gilles, la zone la plus touristique de l’île, le préfet a annoncé la mise en place d’une stratégie de réduction de risques à court et long terme.

La mesure la plus spectaculaire consistera en une "opération ciblée" d’élimination de requins bouledogue et tigre, jugés responsables de la majorité des attaques enregistrées dans l’île.

Ces deux espèces ne sont pas protégées par la réglementation française mais considérées comme "quasi-menacées" dans le classement de l’Union Internationale pour la Conservation de la Nature (UICN).

Au total dix spécimens seront capturés par deux pêcheurs professionnels sur trois jours pendant lesquels les activités nautiques et de baignade seront interdites. "Il s’agit des requins qui se seraient sédentarisés. Il faut créer un trouble dans cette population", a déclaré le préfet.

La Fondation Brigitte Bardot a déploré une décision "démesurée". "De quel droit nous permettons-nous d’envahir tous les milieux en faisant le ménage de tout ce qui peut représenter un danger pour l’homme ?", dénonce la Fondation dans une lettre au préfet.

L’opération de capture sera complétée par des moyens de prévention sur la commune de Saint-Paul, dont dépend la plage de Saint-Gilles. Trois mesures de long terme, dont le lancement de deux études scientifiques, ont également été annoncées.

Le préfet a toutefois rappelé qu’"il n’y a pas et qu’il n’y aura jamais de risque zéro" soulignant que les "activités de pleine mer présentent un risque réel et sérieux que chacun doit assumer, quelles que soient les mesures prises".

Le week-end prochain, lors d’une compétition de surf, la ligue locale a prévu la présence de scaphandriers, de bateaux, de jet-skis ainsi que des plongeurs pour signaler toute présence de requins.

Printed in Tahiti Infos on Tuesday, September 26, 2011

English Translation:

The head of the French overseas department of Reunion Island announced on Monday the authorization to kill dozens of sharks belonging to the most dangerous species. These species have been responsible for 4 attacks (including 2 lethal) against surfers since the beginning of the year.

This decision is part of a vast strategy to reduce the "shark risk" and has been taken after discussion with the local mayors.
The "shark risk" is endemic to Reunion island and all warm ocean countries are facing it.

Between 1980 and 2010, 32 attacks were recorded on the island's coast, including 14 deaths. The last one occured on 19th September where a surf instructor, Mathieu Schiller, 32, got caught by a shark, 20 meters away from the beach. This triggered emotion and the start of a controversy on the absence of local safety measures.

Despite important measures to find the body, Mathieu Schiller is still missing.

This "exceptional and hardly explainable" shark concentration on the most popular beach of the island, the Prefet, head of the department, announced thestrategy to reduce short and long term risks.

The most spectacular measure will consist in a "targeted operation" to eliminate bull and tiger sharks held responsible for the majority of the attacks recorded around the island.

These two species are not protected by French law but assessed as "near threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

In total, 10 sharks will be killed by professional fishermen over a 3 day period during which all water activities will be prohibited in the area. "These sharks have settled in the area. We are targeting at creating confusion in this shark population" said the Prefet.

The Brigitte Bardot foundation stated that the measures were disproportionate. "How can we invade all areas clearing all those representating a threat to Man?", says the letter sent to the Prefet by the Foundation.

These prevention operation will be completed in the town of Saint Paul where the Saint Gilles beach is located. 3 long term measures, including the launch of a couple of scientific studies, have also been announced.

The Prefet reminded though that a "zero" risk did not exist emphasizing that open ocean activities represent a serious risk whatever prevention measures are taken.

Next weekend, during a surf competition, the local surf league has planned to have scuba divers, boats and jet skis patrolling to spot sharks in order to prevent an attack.

Translation courtesy of Tahiti Private Expeditions
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...