Friday, February 11, 2011
Lee Webber: Pass the Guam shark finning bill into law
Posted by Shark Defenders
First, live sharks are an extremely valuable asset to Guam and the balance of the Pacific island economies. To some extent, sharks are the equivalent of an underwater gold mine. Tourists visit areas to see things they cannot see at home. They come to Guam for sun, sea and sand. But they can find that in many other places too. So that is not really a special asset.
On the other hand, if our tourists visited Guam to see sharks, turtles and beautiful coral reefs, it would generate far more money for our tourism economy.
Second, the importance of sharks in our ocean ecosystem, coupled with the fact that they are endangered, should be a vital concern to us all. Sharks are not only natural predators, they are critical partners, cleaning and balancing agents in our surrounding waters.
Third, the value of supporting testimony shows that Bill 44 is not only local, but global, with nearly 11,000 testimonies and 14,298 online signatures respectively.
Fourth, Bill 44 does not call local fisherman evil or make it look like they are the ones killing sharks. While catching a shark may happen accidentally from time to time, this bill is really designed to prevent anyone and everyone from intentionally killing sharks and rays for the purpose of commercial sale of their body parts. In particular, fins.
Having lived and fished here for more than 40 years, I have no conscious recollection of anyone I ever knew going out to fish specifically for sharks. In reality, as good stewards of our environment, fishermen, the Department of Agriculture's Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the University of Guam's Marine Lab, administration and Legislature must work together to sustain our ocean environment for generations to come.
Fifth, and more importantly, Bill 44 protects us within our jurisdictional waters.
I have been a scuba diver for more than 38 years. I like to see and interact with large sealife, in particular, sharks.
According to Oceana.org, "scuba divers are valuable participants in ecotourism and provide coastal areas with economic incentives to protect and preserve local marine wildlife and habitats. ... Divers often enjoy a deeper understanding and willingness to protect the oceans because they have experienced them firsthand."
Maybe more of our political officials should become certified divers!
"Divers contribute to local economies by paying to dive and vacationing in areas near dive sites," the Oceana notes. "As a group, scuba divers take an estimated 1.7 million dive vacations each year at an average cost of $2,424 per trip, thus spending more than $4.1 billion dollars in dive-related vacations annually" worldwide.
"Healthy marine ecosystems are of great value to divers around the world. In fact, most scuba divers are willing to pay more for a chance to see healthy ocean wildlife, such as sharks, sea turtles and healthy coral reefs," Oceana says. "This proves that there is an economic incentive for protecting ocean resources, for the economies of both coastal and non-coastal communities. Unfortunately, our oceans face serious threats and urgently need increased protections. Divers and others who value healthy oceans need to speak up on the oceans' behalf."
"Quantifying this value is important, in part, because it provides economic justification for the protection of marine wildlife. Oceana conducted a study, in collaboration with Duke University, to assess the value of seeing healthy corals, sea turtles and sharks to divers. To assess this economic value, scuba divers were asked the maximum amount of money they were willing to pay, in addition to their normal dive costs, for an increased likelihood of seeing a particular species."
According to ocean costal management studies, divers are willing to pay to see turtles at the rate of $29.63 per dive, sharks at the rate of $35.36 per dive and healthy coral reefs are the rate of $55.35 per dive. Annualized, this translates into a total annual value of $ 177.8 million, $212.2 million and $332.1 million respectively for divers worldwide.
In addition, the survey examined the divers' views on their role in marine conservation. Information was obtained from 504 scuba divers from across the United States, who responded to a 25 question, web-based survey. "Of the 467 respondents willing to pay more to see healthy reefs, nearly three-quarters viewed coral reefs as an essential component of the marine ecosystem," Oceana says.
"The most common reason given by divers that were not willing to pay to protect coral reefs was that they could not afford to donate (90.5 percent), indicating they still believe reef conservation is important."
It seems fairly simple: shark, turtle and coral reef protection not only makes good ecological sense, it can also serve to grow economies and leave the oceans natural beauty in place for posterity.
Lee P. Webber is a former president and publisher of the Pacific Daily News, and has been a resident of Guam since 1968.
Published in the Pacific Daily News on February 12, 2011