Friday, April 29, 2011

More Shark News from the US Virgin Islands

Thanks to for bringing attention to this video on Youtube showing a boat charter in St. John, Virgin Islands catching, harassing, and killing a juvenile tiger shark.

Having lived in and been diving the USVI (US Virgin Islands) and BVI for many years I can attest that sharks are just not part of the eco system in this Lesser Antilles chain as elsewhere in the world.

Finding a juvenile Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) in these waters is an exceptional and rare event. Which makes the following video so sad to watch.
And the video:

This video comes just a few weeks after some fishermen in St. Croix were photographed killing a tiger shark to prevent it from killing (more) leatherback turtles. is right. This video is sad. Those of us who know about shark biology understand that they are slow growing, slow to reach sexual maturity, and produce few young. Recreational killing of sharks is an unsustainable activity, never mind the arguments some would make about animal welfare. Catch and release would be more sustainable.

Tiger sharks are assessed as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, it is important to note that they currently have no specific conservation or management measures in place, and are only protected in marine protected areas or in countries like Palau and the Maldives that have shark sanctuaries.

If you believe that charismatic species like the tiger shark deserve protection, you should do what the kids on Saipan and on Guam did, and lobby your local government to create shark sanctuaries and ban the possession, import, and export of shark. And if you want to help protect sharks across the globe, you can take the Shark Defenders Pledge and we'll let you know when your voice is needed. This year we've passed legislation in Saipan and Guam, and legislation is pending in Washington, Oregon, California, The Bahamas, and some others that we're not at liberty to divulge just yet.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Scientists can track origin of shark fins using 'zip codes' in their DNA

Studies show that coastal sharks have 'DNA zip codes' that can reveal where they were born; underscores potential of DNA testing to monitor fin trade
STONY BROOK, NY -- An international team of scientists, led by the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, has used DNA to determine that groups of dusky sharks (Carcharhinus obscurus) and copper sharks (Carcharhinus brachyurus) living in different coastal regions across the glo

be are separate populations of each species. Both are large apex predators that are heavily exploited for the shark fin trade, which claims tens of millions of animals every year to produce the Asian delicacy, shark fin soup. Many of these species are declining as a result of this fishing pressure for their fins.

The dusky shark is classified as "Endangered" in the Western Atlantic by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as its population is below 20 percent of what it was two decades ago. These new studies show that the genetic differences among populations of these sharks are large enough for scientists to be able to track the actual origin of the fins on sale in Asian markets, enabling better regional monitoring and management of these threatened predators.
This is an assortment of dried shark fins in the process of being shipped from Fiji to Hong Kong. Tens of millions of fins are exported from nations around the globe to Asia, where they are used to make shark fin soup. Scientists have found that "zip codes" in the fin's DNA can reveal where the fin came from and thus contribute to improved shark conservation.
These research findings appear in two scientific articles. "Global phylogeography of the dusky shark, Carcharhinus obscurus: implications for fisheries management and monitoring the shark fin trade," has been published online in the journal Endangered Species Research. "Phylogeography of the copper shark (Carcharhinus brachyurus) in the southern hemisphere: implications for the conservation of a coastal apex predator" will soon be published in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research. The primary objective of these studies was to identify any genetic differences among regional groups of dusky and copper sharks and establish how many distinct populations there are. The second objective was to determine if these population differences were great enough to allow scientists to reconstruct their contributions to fin trade in the future. Like many large sharks, these species have a wide distribution around the globe but are tied to coastal areas for reproduction.

"By analyzing part of the genome that is inherited solely through the mother, we were able to detect differences between sharks living along different continents – in effect, their DNA zip codes," said Dr. Demian Chapman, leader of the research team and assistant director of science of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science. "This research shows that adult females faithfully give birth along the continental region where they were born. If fished too much, the population will collapse, and it is extremely unlikely that it will be replenished from immigration of sharks from another region."
The dusky shark (Carcharhinus obscurus) is classified as "Endangered" in the Western Atlantic by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as its population is below 20 percent of what it was two decades ago.
This is precisely what has happened along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, where the once common dusky shark is now rare and a species of concern for listing under the Endangered Species Act. At one time, these animals were common in ocean waters off the United States; however, a recent stock assessment of the sharks along the U.S. East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico showed an 80 percent decline even though they have been protected since 2000. The recovery of the species is extremely slow because the average age of maturity is 20 years, its reproductive cycle only occurs every three years – including a two-year pregnancy – and its litter size is relatively small (three to 14 offspring).

"Here in the United States, it took only a few decades to nearly wipe out our dusky sharks, and it will probably take a few centuries for their stocks to be replenished," said Martin Benavides, lead author of both studies and research assistant at the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science. "Our results dash any hopes that dusky sharks from other areas of the world will replenish the depleted U.S. stock. The sight of a dusky shark swimming off our shores will be a rare experience for generations to come."
The copper or bronze whaler shark (Carcharhinus brachyurus) is a large, coastally oriented top predator that is vulnerable to overexploitation.
"We know very little about the shark fin trade, but by using DNA-zip coding we can identify source populations that are contributing most to the trade, and prioritize them for management," added Dr. Chapman. "We, therefore, really need to establish sampling programs of fins on their way to Asia or in the markets to regulate the global trade before many more populations suffer the fate of the dusky shark in the United States."

For years, it was difficult to determine the origin of these fins and whether they were from threatened species. A study by Dr. Chapman, which was published in 2009 , used DNA testing to trace scalloped hammerhead shark fins from the Hong Kong market all the way back to the sharks' geographic origin and found many came from collapsed Western Atlantic populations.* These new research results demonstrate that this type of testing also can be used to trace the origins of the fins of dusky and copper sharks.

"As apex predators at the top of marine food webs, it is essential for ocean health that we take steps, such as monitoring and regulating the fin trade, to protect these large sharks," said Dr. Ellen K. Pikitch, executive director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science.

Both research projects were conducted by a collaborative international team of scientists from the United States, Australia, South America, Asia, New Zealand and southern Africa. The scientists collectively analyzed part of the mitochondrial DNA in nearly 400 sharks sampled from all over the globe.

This research was funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts through a grant to the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University. Sequence data were collected in the Field Museum's Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution, operated with support from the Pritzker Foundation. Additional sequence data were collected at the Guy Harvey Research Institute with operational funds and a grant from the Save Our Seas Foundation. Funding was also provided by the Turner Fellowship Program and the Tinker Foundation.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Kids Can Protect the Ocean, Too

Guest Blog
by Rob Stewart

When I set out to make Sharkwater, I wanted people to see what I saw, an incredible undersea world that is so foreign to most of the planet. I had no idea it would become a human drama that would take over four years, span 15 countries, and nearly end my life. I couldn’t have imagined sea battles with shark poachers, boat rammings, gunboat chases, mafia, espionage, corrupt court systems, charges of attempted murder, or that I’d contract West Nile disease, dengue fever, tuberculosis, or flesh-eating disease, never mind all four.

When I first started filming I did not know that sharks are the most threatened family of animals in our oceans today. Some species, like oceanic whitetip sharks in the Gulf of Mexico, have seen their numbers reduced by as much as 99%. There are simply very few, if any, places in the world where shark populations remain healthy.

I learned that this devastation is due to the demand for shark fin soup, a luxury item and status symbol for the wealthy in Asia. To meet the insatiable demand for the soup, as many as 73 million sharks are killed each year.

I also learned that sharks are not like other fish. They are slow growing, produce few young over their lifetimes, and take as many as twenty years to reach sexual maturity. This biological strategy worked well for 400 million years, but now that humans are the ocean’s apex predators, shark populations are unable to keep up with the pressures of modern industrial fishing.

I was incensed when I found that fishermen target sharks solely for their fins. The fins are cut off as soon as the sharks are caught, then the living, writhing animal is thrown back into the ocean, only to drown or be eaten by another shark. This wasteful, unsustainable practice is called finning.

Now when I look back on the years of filming and the reaction the film has received since its release, I think of how Sharkwater at its core is about my personal journey from underwater photographer to shark conservationist. As an outcome of that journey and the resulting film, I like to think that I have raised awareness about sharks and that ultimately it will help protect them.

But that was my story.

Now I want to tell yours.

Let me explain:

One of the beautiful beaches on Saipan.
In January I traveled to Saipan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Saipan is small, with a population of about only 50,000. About twice the size of Manhattan, the island sits along the Mariana Trench between the Pacific Ocean and the Philippine Sea, an emerald jewel amid an expanse of turquoise. Japanese tourists have known about Saipan for decades, but the rest of the world is only now beginning to discover it. This was my first trip there.

Miss Kathy and her class at San Vicente Elementary School.
A class of grade sixes from San Vicente Elementary School invited me there as a result of their teacher, Miss Kathy, showing them Sharkwater. After they watched the film they carried out a class project to learn about Saipan’s sharks. They quickly realized they needed to protect their sharks, so they wrote me to see if I could help.

In Saipan a bill that would ban the possession, sale, and trade of shark fins was making its way through the local legislature. As part of the American family, fishing regulations were left up to the United States federal government, but commerce on land and the landing of sharks in port could be controlled by the Commonwealth. A ban on shark fins was the strongest protections for sharks the Commonwealth could pass.

The students were following the progress of the bill and had supported its passage at every juncture. They wrote letters to their Representatives and Senators and asked for their support. They also took to social networking websites like Facebook and asked people around the world to support them in their mission to protect Saipan’s sharks.

I came to Saipan to capture the drama at its peak. The week before the governor was to sign the bill into law, lobbyists from the fishing industry in Hawaii traveled to Saipan to kill the bill. The students swung into action and, with help from adults on the island and the international community who were tracking the bill, convinced Governor Benigno R. Fitial to sign the bill into law.

Governor Benigno Fitial signs the shark fin ban into law.
Kids can do amazing things. On January 27, 2011, the Northern Mariana Islands became only the second place in the world to ban shark fins. Had it not been for a dedicated group of 11-years olds (and a similarly dedicated group of adults), this historic milestone in shark conservation might not have happened.

Students from George Washington High School show their enthusiasm for protecting Guam's sharks.
A similar bill has also passed in Guam. The effort there was student-led, as well. Students from Simon Sanchez High School and George Washington High School started a Shark Tsunami and helped set a record for testimony received for any bill in the Guam Senate (I am told the flood of incoming emails crashed the blackberries of everyone working in the Guam Senate). And as of this writing, a bill in Washington State in the United States also awaits the governor’s signature.

These students inspire me and I want them to inspire the rest of the world, too. I am going to tell their stories, but I need your help.

I am currently working on a new television series where I profile kids who are making history and changing the world. I need your help identifying kids, groups of kids, classes of kids, or schools of kids, that are doing something to protect the environment. The students don’t have to be protecting sharks (but if they are, great!); we’re looking for any kids making a difference saving animals and ecosystems. The students can be focused on anything as long as they have a good story to tell.

There is no application or anything, just send us your story along with any supporting materials (a few photos or a short video if you want to create one) to You can also snail mail a package to:

Diatribe Pictures
71 Barber Greene Rd.
Toronto, Ontario, M3C 2A2

And look for a preview of the Saipan story in the coming weeks (in addition to the short on Entertainment Tonight Canada a few weeks ago). I just wrapped filming for my new movie Rise Again and I’ve been busy in the editing room. We are editing a short piece on Saipan for the Internet as a preview for both Rise Again and our new yet-to-be-named TV show.

Rob Stewart is an underwater photographer and filmmaker. He directed and produced the award winning Sharkwater. Visit his website at

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Captain Ron and Emma the Shark

Captain Ron: The Bahamas famous one-eyed Lemon Shark
I stumbled upon Captain Ron and Emma the Shark's Facebook Pages tonight.  Brilliant!

I encourage you to become a fan of both Facebook pages.  After you click "LIKE," be sure to tell them that Shark Defenders sent you!

Emma the Shark: This 14-foot tiger shark is the most photographed shark on the planet.

Maybe we should have a popularity contest? Become a fan of Captain Ron the lemon shark if you think he is The Bahamas #1 celebrity, or if you prefer tiger sharks, become a fan of Emma the Shark. The shark with the most "LIKES" at the end of next month...gets the satisfaction of knowing they are popular on Facebook.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

El Senado de Chile votan por el fin de aleteo de tiburones

fins naturally attached
Photo Credit: Oceana/Shark Finning and the EU
Perdón, pero el Español no es mi primera idioma:
Matt Rand, Director de la Campaña Global de Conservación de Tiburones Pew Environment Group, se refirió hoy en respuesta al favorable voto del Senado de Chile al proyecto de ley que por primera vez permitiría al país prohibir el aleteo de tiburones, requiriendo para ello que todos los tiburones capturados deben ser desembarcados con sus aletas naturalmente adheridas, es decir descargando el animal completo y no solo partes de él. Ahora se espera que la Cámara de Diputados comience su discusión en los próximos días.

“Con este voto, el Senado permite terminar con esta derrochadora práctica de aletear tiburones. Una vez que el Congreso haya aprobado el proyecto de ley y se convierta en ley, esta prohibición tendrá un importante efecto sobre la vida marina mucho más allá del cono sur de Sudamérica”.

“Unos 73 millones de tiburones son muertos alrededor del mundo principalmente para extraer sus aletas, las cuales son comúnmente consumidas en Asia en sopas de aletas. Los tiburones poseen un crecimiento muy lento, una madurez sexual tardía y producen pocas crías durante su larga vida. Esta forma completamente insustentable de pesca, está llevando a los tiburones a su desaparición en todo el mundo y con ello produciendo un gran desbalance en los océanos del mundo”.

“Las aguas chilenas, alimentadas por la corriente de Humboldt, son conocidas por su diversidad marina. Un estimado de 53 especies de tiburones viven en estas aguas. Aplaudimos al Senado de Chile por trabajar en la protección de estos importantes animales y asegurar de esta forma el futuro del ambiente marino que ello habitan
The Chilean Senate passed Chile’s first-ever ban on shark finning today, requiring that ships catching sharks have to land them with their fins naturally attached (meaning that the shark’s whole body must be taken to port). The bill now heads to the Chamber of Deputies; they are expected to begin consideration of the bill in a few weeks.

Short of a shark sanctuary, a fins naturally attached policy is one of the strongest policies a nation can enact to prevent the wasteful and unsustainable practice of shark finning.  As the map from Oceana cleary indicates, very few nations have a fins naturally attached policy, or shark sanctuaries for that matter.  Once passed, Chile would become a regional and international leader in shark conservation and management.

Pew Environment Group has photos from the Chilean Senate and the story in English posted to their website.

I'm On A Boat...with sharks

The long wait is over. Discovery Channel has announced their first ever Chief Shark Officer. From a press release:
After a long and arduous process of blood typing, insurance verification and wetsuit fittings, Discovery Channel today announced the appointment of its first ever Chief Shark Officer (CSO), Andy Samberg.

As CSO, Samberg will host the network's 24th annual SHARK WEEK celebration, cable's longest running programming event and the official mark of summer. He will film on-air wraps for the weeklong event, host a SHARK WEEK special and may even take the plunge and dive with the apex predators.

"SHARK WEEK is a summertime celebration. It's about being scared out of your swim trunks but it's also about being entertained and learning something new. Andy Samberg, an incredibly talented comedian and innovator, is the perfect person to bring those elements together and represent Discovery for our biggest week of the year," said Discovery Channel President and General Manager Clark Bunting.

Said Samberg: "I'm overjoyed about being appointed CSO. Everyone loves Shark Week. It's the Bill Cosby of week-long television blocks dedicated to sea animals.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Future of Sharks: A Review of Action and Inaction

pew environment group and traffic shark report
A decade after members of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) approved an international plan to conserve sharks, a new analysis finds that it has yet to be fully implemented. With 30 percent of all shark species now threatened or near threatened with extinction, there is little evidence that the plan has contributed significantly to improved conservation and management of these animals.

The analysis, The Future of Sharks: A Review of Action and Inaction (PDF), uses fisheries information provided to the UN FAO to identify the top 20 shark-catching countries and other entities, and then assesses whether they have taken the management and conservation measures they agreed to in 2001. According to the review, only 13 of the top 20 have developed national plans of action to protect sharks - one of the primary recommendations from 2001 - and it remains unclear how those plans have been implemented or if they have been effective.

The top 20 shark catchers account for more than 640,000 tonnes annually, nearly 80 percent of the total shark catch reported globally.

The top 10, in order, are: Indonesia, India, Spain, Taiwan, Argentina, Mexico, Pakistan, United States, Japan, and Malaysia. Indonesia, India, Spain and Taiwan account for more than 35 percent of all sharks taken annually, based on their own reported data.

Worldwide, shark populations are in decline due to unregulated fishing, much of it to meet the high demand for fins. Up to 73 million are killed annually primarily for their fins, which are used as an ingredient in shark fin soup, a popular dish in many East Asian countries.

The analysis was produced by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, and the Pew Environment Group.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pew: Shark Populations Enrich Ecosystem, Economy in The Bahamas

Here is another PSA from the Pew Environment Group:
Sharks are in trouble globally, and there are few locations where healthy shark populations still exist. In The Bahamas, a 20 year-old ban on longline fishing gear has left its waters as one of the few places in the world with relatively healthy shark populations. This has paid off for the small island nation. According to The Bahamas Diving Association, diving tourism has contributed up to $800 million to the Bahamian economy since the longline ban. There are, however, no laws there that specifically protect sharks. Pew is currently working with The Bahamas National Trust to gain permanent protections in all of The Bahamas' Exclusive Economic Zone, an area encompassing approximately 630,000 square kilometers of ocean. By establishing comprehensive protections for sharks, not only will sharks be permanently safeguarded against other threats, but the health of the marine environment and the economy of The Bahamas will be conserved for generations to come.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Malaysia: Save Our Sharks From A Bowl Of Soup

From our friends at Save Our Shark From a Bowl of Soup:
Malaysian Celebrities stepping up, volunteer and supporting the campaign
"Say NO to Shark Fin"

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tiger Sharks Killed for Eating Leatherback Turtles

tiger shark eating leatherback turtle

This photo depicts the head of an adult leatherback turtle that had just been found in the stomach of a tiger shark. The photo was taken last week at a dock near Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands.

Sandy Point is one of the few places on the planet where leatherback turtles, a species listed as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, are known to lay their eggs.  Year after year adult leatherbacks return to the same stretch of beach to lay a clutch of eggs, their only hope of producing the next generation of turtles. Tiger sharks, a near threatened species, have fed off the annual aggregate of turtles for millions of years.

Tiger sharks are apex predators and sit at the top of the food chain. Their natural diet includes many large animals, including Hawaiian monk seals, several species of albatross, and sea turtles.

virgin islands tiger shark

This time of year, the leatherbacks at Sandy Point start coming ashore, and there were reports of as many as seven 4-meter long tiger sharks patrolling the area. The contents of this shark's stomach clearly substantiate those stories.

The person who sent me these photos said that the killing of this shark was not instigated by the local government or the national wildlife refuge; local fishermen just wanted to do something to protect the turtles.

giant tiger shark

It is easy to understand the want to protect the turtles, they are critically endangered and their existence probably provides some tourism dollars to the St. Croix economy.  However, to put it simply, sharks eat turtles. Sea turtles evolved about 250 million years ago and have most likely been a part of sharks' diet ever since.

Sharks are not to blame for driving sea turtles towards extinction.  In the last few decades turtle nesting habitat has been destroyed to make way for hotels and condos, and turtles have been killed by the thousands (millions?) for their meat and as bycatch. Their nests are also raided for their eggs, destroying their ability to reproduce and create the next generation of turtles.

Killing sharks to protect turtles is misguided.  While the turtles are critically endangered, they are still food for tiger sharks, whose populations are near threatened with extinction themselves.

Sharks have eaten sea turtles for 250 million years. Nothing we do will change the fact that sharks eat turtles. Just as sure as the turtles return to the same beach year after year to lay eggs, the sharks return year after year to feed.

Humans likely kill more leatherbacks and other sea turtles each year than sharks do, that is why they are endangered in the first place. What is needed is better management of humans, not better management of sharks.

Killing sharks is not the answer to bring leatherbacks back from the brink of extinction.

The real threat is people.

The full set of photos are posted to the Shark Defenders Facebook Page.

Update: The Virgin Islands Daily News published a story a few hours after we published our blog. The story in the paper is pretty much the same as the story we got from our source, but also raised concerns about the perceived dangers of sharks.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bahamas: Protect Our Sharks

This public service announcement was produced by The Bahamas National Trust (BNT), in collaboration with Pew Environment Group, in support of a grassroots petition to protect sharks in Bahamian waters. Sharks are in trouble globally, and there are few locations where healthy shark populations still exist. In The Bahamas, a 20 year-old ban on longline fishing gear has left its waters as one of the few places in the world with relatively healthy shark populations. This has paid off for the small island nation. According to The Bahamas Diving Association, diving tourism has contributed up to $800 million to the Bahamian economy since the longline ban. There are, however, no laws there that specifically protect sharks. Pew is currently working with The Bahamas National Trust to gain permanent protections in all of The Bahamas' Exclusive Economic Zone, an area encompassing approximately 630,000 square kilometers of ocean. By establishing comprehensive protections for sharks, not only will sharks be permanently safeguarded against other threats, but the health of the marine environment and the economy of The Bahamas will be conserved for generations to come.

Follow this link to sign the petition.

Japan objects to Sea Shepherd protection for Palau

japan shark

KOROR — The Palau government said Friday it was reconsidering its agreement to have the conservation group Sea Shepherd patrol its waters after receiving a counter offer from Japan.

President Johnson Toribiong did not identify who was in the Japanese delegation but said they were of "ministerial level" and they described the conservation group as "terrorists".

He said the Japanese had offered to send their own patrol vessel, adding: "I am weighing things now. I want to make sure I get potential diplomatic issues resolved."

The US-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has regularly clashed with Japanese whalers and this year forced them to cut short their annual Antarctic hunt.

A Memorandum of Understanding signed in Palau last month authorised Sea Shepherd to patrol the Palau marine area designated as the world?s first shark sanctuary.

Under the deal, "Sea Shepherd will, at its sole expense, send a vessel to patrol Palau?s territorial waters against illegal fishing activity", the conservation group said on its website.

Toribiong said although an agreement had been signed, it was not final until reviewed by the Attorney General's Office.

In 2009, Palau declared the world's first shark sanctuary, banning shark fishing in its exclusive economic zone, which covers almost 630,000 square kilometres (240,000 square miles) of the northern Pacific.

Published by AFP on April, 15, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Shark Touch Tank Opens Tomorrow in Boston

new england aquarium logo
The New England Aquarium in Boston is opening the East Coast's largest touch tank tomorrow. The $1.5 million addition will hold 80 cownose rays and several small sharks (I think they are bamboo catsharks from the looks of this video).

From the Boston Globe:
Touch of rays and sharks added to aquarium visit

They’re surprisingly velvety to the touch, slightly scary by reputation, imbued with natural curiosity, and mesmerizing to watch swim around — and around, and around — their tropical-themed habitat.

Already drawing oohs and aahs from New England Aquarium members allowed access to the exhibit, the inhabitants of the new Trust Family Foundation Shark and Ray Touch Tank, which will open to the general public Friday, clearly possess star potential.

“Visitors are more sophisticated now. They want to be able to enter that aquatic world,’’ said aquarium official Jim Duffy, who helped design the $1.5 million exhibit.

More interactive attractions like this one are the wave of the future, he said. “The old model of frames on a wall with fish behind them doesn’t resonate so well.’’

Click here to read the rest of the story
While this attraction will bring millions of people face to face with sharks and rays, nothing beats seeing the real thing in the wild. Shark Defenders supports the creation of shark sanctuaries, places where shark fishing is not allowed and the sale, possession, and trade of sharks and shark parts is banned.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Shark Cartoonist Jim Toomey Joins Effort to Protect Sharks in The Bahamas

shermans lagoon bahamas
NASSAU, Bahamas - Syndicated cartoonist Jim Toomey, whose Sherman's Lagoon comic strip appears in more than 250 newspapers in over 30 countries, will be in The Bahamas this week to push for increased shark protections. The artist will speak at several public forums and will visit with schoolchildren in Long Island and Nassau.

"The Bahamas has something wonderful in its waters, something very few countries have," said Toomey. "Because the government banned longline fishing, the shark populations off the Bahamian coast are still relatively healthy and the marine ecosystem is more intact here than almost any other place in the world."

Toomey's cartoon features a great white shark that lives off of a fictional island in the Palauan archipelago. In the real world, the Pacific island nation of Palau established a sanctuary for these animals in 2009.

More than 40 different kinds of sharks can be found in Bahamian waters, including the whale shark, the great hammerhead and even great whites. Toomey is joining efforts spearheaded by the Pew Environment Group and The Bahamas National Trust to establish specific protections for the species; none currently exist.

"Under Jim Toomey's direction, Sherman and his friends confront all of the damage and indignities that we heap upon the underwater environment," said Eric Carey, executive director of The Bahamas National Trust. "Beyond the cartoon page, we need better marine protections so that the sharks can continue to keep our oceans healthy. That should start no other place but here in The Bahamas."

"The waters of The Bahamas were once known for buried treasure and pirate ships," said Jill Hepp, manager of Global Shark Conservation for the Pew Environment Group. "But living treasure can now be found swimming freely in the ocean. Over the past 20 years, shark diving has generated US$800 million for the Bahamian economy. In protecting these animals, we protect the health of our oceans and our economies."

Worldwide, up to 73 million sharks are killed every year, primarily for their fins, which are valued for their use in shark-fin soup, an Asian delicacy. As a result, 30 percent of the world's species are threatened or near-threatened with extinction. For an additional 47 percent, scientists lack sufficient data to properly assess their population status.

The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a nongovernmental organization that works globally to establish pragmatic, science-based policies that protect our oceans, preserve our wildlands and promote clean energy. .

The Bahamas National Trust was established by an Act of Parliament in 1959 and is mandated with the conservation of natural and historic resources of The Bahamas. It is the only known non-governmental organization in the world with the mandate to manage a country's entire national park system.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pew Environment Group Encouraged by Chilean Senate's Efforts to End Shark Finning

Officials from the Pew Environment Group were in Valparaiso this week to present to the Senate fisheries commission and meet with the presidents of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies as well as other government officials in support of a Senate bill that would end the practice of shark finning in Chilean waters.

The Pew delegation discussed pending legislation mandating that sharks can only be brought into Chilean ports with their fins naturally attached to their bodies. The Chamber of Deputies will consider the bill once it clears the Senate.

"Shark finning—the practice of catching a shark, removing its fins and tossing the carcass overboard—is one of the most wasteful fishing practices ever known," said Matt Rand, director of shark conservation for the Pew Environment Group. "The Humboldt Current provides Chile with one of the richest marine environments in the world, but the ocean does not provide endless numbers of sharks."

"Finning is taking a tremendous toll on sharks around the globe," said Maximiliano Bello, senior adviser to the Pew Environment Group. "These animals grow slowly, mature late and produce few young over their lifetimes, leaving them exceptionally vulnerable to overfishing and finning. With an estimated 53 shark species found in Chilean waters, we need to protect these important animals before it is too late."

Chile has the world's seventh most productive fishing fleet, harvesting 3.6 million metric tonnes of seafood in 2008, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. That year alone, the country exported 36 metric tonnes of dried and frozen shark fins to Hong Kong, the world's primary importer.

Worldwide, up to 73 million sharks are killed every year primarily for their fins, which are valued for their use in shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy. As a result, 30 percent of the world's species are threatened or near-threatened with extinction. For an additional 47 percent of species, scientists lack sufficient data to properly assess their population status.

The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-governmental organization that works globally to establish pragmatic, science-based policies that protect our oceans, preserve our wildlands and promote clean energy.
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