Monday, April 30, 2012

Interview With a Shark Fin Driver

This clip from Shark Hope features a truck driver from Suva, Fiji who would transfer shark fins from the tuna boats at port to warehouses.  In the interview he discusses the prices traders are getting for sharks, but laments that indigenous Fijians living on isolated islands are getting as little as a bag of sugar for their fins.  Shark Hope in its entirety can be viewed on Youtube.

Sharks in Fiji are important for their economic, environmental, and cultural value.  A recent study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science determined that sharks are worth $75 million to Fiji's tourism economy.  In today's Fiji Times, a tourism operator discusses the environmental importance:
Save sharks

I am writing to you today and asking you to help us plead with the Fiji government to save our priceless sharks by banning all shark fining and shark fishing.

Sharks take part in a major role in keeping our ocean life in balance. Without sharks, the quality and diversity of marine life will be negatively affected, destroying our oceans.

Every month in Fiji, over 26,000 sharks are killed for their fins. This is appalling and needs to come to an end. Scientists have also shown that eating shark fins damages our nervous system and causes cancer. Sharks have been living on this planet since before the dinosaurs, yet we are destroying their population at an alarming rate with each passing year. I cannot urge you and your team enough to help Fiji save its sharks by supporting a shark sanctuary for all of Fiji. Help us demand that the government pass laws to protect sharks before it's too late. Thanks for your time and much needed support!

You can show your support for protecting Fiji's sharks by taking the Fiji Shark Pledge.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Support for Shark Conservation in Fiji Builds

There are four shark conservation related stories in this morning's Fiji Times.
Shark conservation is big news in Fiji these days.  The Australian Institute of Marine Science released a socioeconomic report on the importance of shark tourism to the Fijian economy, calculating that sharks bring nearly F$75 million in tourist spending to the country each year.  The Fijian police also pledge their support to shark conservation, even while shark fishing continues (the reporter interviews a fishermen who sold juvenile tiger sharks and hammerheads to Chinese traders for $8 a piece).

Pacific Shark Defenders Unite: Ratu Manoa "The Sharkman" Rasagitale with Guam Senator Carlotta Leon Guerrero.
Senator Carlotta Leon Guerrero of Guam, also makes an appearance in today's paper.  The senator was recently in Fiji in transit and had a chance to sit down with the Fiji Times for an interview:
Stop the killing
by Ilaitia Turagabeci
Monday, April 30, 2012

Data sharing among Pacific island states will help them protect sharks, says a leading campaigner from Guam.

Carlotta Leon Guerrero, who returned home over the weekend after visiting Kiribati, said islanders should do all they can to conserve their tuna stocks and stop the indiscriminate killing of sharks in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

She said officials in Kiribati were studying plans to protect their seas and had taken data shared by other island states, including Fiji.

"After my presentation, they asked me 'which country has the toughest law' and I told them the Marshalls Islands. They simply said 'that one is what we want'."

The Marshalls has declared its waters a shark sanctuary, imposing heavy fines on fishing vessels that breach that. It has also banned ships that have sharks as by-catch from entering its ports.

Money it collects from fines goes towards the enforcement of its laws at sea.

"As Pacific islanders, we should stand up to these distance-fishing nations to change their gear, which is depleting our marine stocks.

"The reason for the slaughter of sharks is wrong. The Asian delicacy of shark fin soup, for which these sharks are senselessly killed for, is just to show off."

Professor Clark the Science Shark

Guest Blog
By Karen Lamberson, Author & Illustrator

I have been an art teacher for 16 years and have always been fascinated by the ocean, especially sharks. As an educator, especially one living so close to the ocean in Florida, I create lesson plans centered on the importance of our marine ecosystems, and try to draw attention to the vast biodiversity of species living beneath the waves.  My hope is to inspire my students to tell the stories of the ocean through art.

And there is no species that needs their story told more than ever than the shark.  Around the world sharks are in serious trouble.  Up to 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins.  This number is almost impossible to comprehend, but it has led to precipitous drops in shark populations.  Why, just this week, a study was released that found reef sharks in the Pacific have dropped by 90%.

As a teacher, I am always in need of materials to share with my kids for use in the classroom.  These days, you can find quite a few shark-themed items marketed for kids. There are t-shirts, plush toys and even a remote controlled flying shark. But there isn’t much educational material geared towards kids that explain what sharks really do for the ocean or the imminent dangers that shark populations are facing worldwide. And when I started to research kid’s books and games about sharks they all seemed to perpetuate the shark as the evil villain with big sharp teeth, to be feared not understood.

These weren’t the sharks that I wanted to expose my students to; these weren’t the sharks that I knew from personal experience.  Frustrated by the lack of fun, friendly and educational kids’ material that were available, it became clear to me what my next step had to be.

I decided I needed to write a children’s book.

I wanted my book to be based on science, and I wanted children to be able to connect with my stories and to have empathy for the status of shark populations around the world, to have an understanding of how important they are for the entire ocean, so I decided that there needed to be a spokes-person, or spokes-shark, that could inspire the next generation to do something to protect shark species.   Sharks need to be viewed for what they really are, essential and fascinating animals important to our ecosystem and not as the media usually falsely portrays them.

Enter Professor Clark the Science Shark.

The life and adventures of this extraordinary tiger shark is documented and illustrated in a series of children’s books that the entire family can enjoy.  The books describe how a little tiger shark pup grows up to become Professor Clark and helps teach others about ocean ecosystems, their inhabitants, and of course his soon to be new friends, the humans. The beautiful images are all hand drawn and will transport you to the bottom of the sea with lots of other sea creatures to keep your imagination going. My storylines are poignant and reflect the messaging of shark conservation, backed by sound science, to determine the most important issues facing some 465 different species of sharks.  I develop and write storylines in a way that makes them understandable to kids and ensures the stories reflect, as closely as possible, the natural world of a tiger shark, without losing the magic of an imaginary talking shark and friends, of course.

And I am very excited that my first book is now ready to be shared!

Professor Clark the Science Shark: The Beginning is currently available on our website and from Tate Publishing Company.  I think with everyone’s help, we, along with one extraordinary shark, we can help save the sharks and the ocean.  Please check us out, I guarantee my book will bring laughter, tears, and plenty of enjoyment to your entire family for many, many years!

Karen Lamberson is an art teacher, illustrator, and author living in South Florida.  The next two adventures in the series, Professor Clark: Going Home and Professor Clark: The Encounter are in the final stages of the publishing process and will be available later this summer.  For more information on Professor Clark, visit his website at

Monday, April 23, 2012

World Wide Attention on Fiji

Letters from around the world are pouring into Fiji congratulating them and encouraging the government to move ahead with shark protections.  These letters were published in the Fiji Times on Tuesday, April 24, 2012:

Dive destination
I have heard through the bubbles that your government is close to making a decision on shark protection in your waters. I strongly support any positive decision. Fiji is on the top of my list as a destination to dive with sharks, I have a video clip from a friend that was taken at Beqa and I watch it often. The world is starting to wake up to the fact that we need sharks, an ocean with sharks is a healthy ocean. Please don't let the only sharks I see in Fiji be the ones that I watch in the video.
Gina Mascord

Citizen of the world
As a citizen of the world, I urge you to please support shark protection in Fiji. Sharks are a very important part of the ecosystem and essential to the health of the world's oceans. Plus, one of the main reasons I scuba dive is to see sharks. If you protect your sharks, shark loving divers will spend money in Fiji! It is a win-win situation for everyone involved, and the world will know how smart folks in Fiji are!
Pittsboro NC USA

Shark visit
Sharks are important to the environment, economy, and culture. I pledge to support policies and initiatives that protect shark species in Fiji and throughout the South Pacific. I can't wait to come visit Fiji sharks and just hope when the time will come there still will be some of them alive.

Shark vote
As a fellow pacific islander living in South Florida, I was so proud and happy of my people voting to protect our local sharks of the Northern Mariana Islands, especially during these really tough times. As you know, sharks are being killed by the millions on an annual basis and conservation experts have stated that at this rate our grandchildren will not have the opportunity to enjoy their presence in the oceans and our marine ecosystem. They play their part in the sea and we ours on the land. Let them have the chance to replenish, so that we don't destroy our seas for our future generations. Pacific Islanders realise the importance our fellow sea creatures play in the way this world runs. Because of our island roots, we have a deeper connection to our oceans. A strong ocean signifies a strong beating heart and spirit of our native people. Help maintain the peace of our seas and protect the sharks in our oceans from the irreversible impact of overfishing and exploitation. On behalf of Fijian sharks and sharks all over the world.
Northern Marianas native

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fiji Times Editor-in-Chief: Protect Our Sharks

AS the battle to protect the shark intensifies, it is good to note that diving to see, touch or simply experience the aura of these predators of the sea is aiding the local economy.

Shark-related dives contributed $75million to our economy in 2010, a survey revealed.

The study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the University of Western Australia discovered that shark diving was gaining popularity and is poised to become a tourism economic driver with conservation measures proposed to turn Fiji's waters into a shark sanctuary.

While the industry contributed $31.2m in government taxes, $20.7m in corporate taxes and $10.5m in direct taxes from shark divers, local communities received $7.1m from shark diving operations.

Spin-offs in terms of salaries paid out amounted to $6.9m for workers and $221,904 for traditional reef owners.

The survey also discovered that sharks were among the most significant creatures tourists wish to see when scuba diving.

There is no doubt about the fact that this survey is good news for the tourism industry.

The revenue is a factor which should be encouraged and nurtured.

Considering the shark fin trade and the millions it is supposed to earn, this revelation stands out as a positive feedback in the campaign to protect our sharks.

Living sharks are good for the economy and it is imperative that every effort is made to ensure they are around well into the future.

It is encouraging to note that Fiji offers world-class shark dives.

It is up to us though to accept our blessings and learn to appreciate our surroundings.

What separates Fiji from the rest of the top shark dive spots around the world is the interesting fact that we offer divers the opportunity to be among eight different species of sharks in one location reef.

Tourism among other things depends on the goodwill of the people of this country to flourish.

We can make or break it. It is up to each one of us to do the right thing, for ourselves first and for our country. A Fiji shark sanctuary is not a bad idea. But there are sceptics who may insist consideration must be there for the people on the frontline ù the men and women in the fishing industry and how any law protecting sharks could have an impact on them.

Perhaps we need to consider the fact that up to 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins, but this new report adds to the growing knowledge that they are worth much more alive than dead.

Protect Our Sharks was published by Fiji Times Editor-in-Chief Fred Wesley on Friday, April 20, 2012.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Shark Dive Tourism in Fiji Worth F$73 Million a Year

Photo Credit: Christophe Jurdan
A new analysis by the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the University of Western Australia concluded that in 2010, shark-related diving contributed US$42.2 million ($73 million Fijian) to the economy of Fiji. Shark-diving operations generated US$4 million that year for Fijian communities through salaries and local levies.

“This study clearly shows the role sharks and tourism play in the economy of Fiji,” said Jill Hepp, manager of global shark conservation at the Pew Environment Group. “Fiji has a significant financial incentive to declare a shark sanctuary and solidify its reputation as one of the top diving destinations in the world.”

The study, “The Socio-Economic Value of the Shark-Diving Industry in Fiji,” found that overall tourism activities in 2010 generated US$558 million, approximately 18 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), and that one in 10 tourists engaged in diving activities. In particular, diving with sharks has become more popular over the past several years; one dive operator in Pacific Harbour, on the island of Viti Levu, reported the number of divers at his business alone increased more than 300 percent, from 700 in 2004 to 3,000 in 2010.

Photo Credit: Angelo Villagomez
Shark diving is popular throughout Fiji, not just in Pacific Harbor. In Viti Levu, the country’s largest island, profits totaled approximately $10.2 million; and to the northwest, the island groups of Mamanuca and Yasawa generated $3.2 million.

Socio-Economic Value of Shark-Diving in Fiji“Our survey found that sharks are one of the most significant creatures tourists wish to see when scuba diving,” said Dr. Mark Meekan of the Australian Institute of Marine Science and co-author of the study. “These animals are also an indicator of healthy coral reef ecosystems.”

Diving with sharks is a growing business worldwide, with established operations found in at least 83 locations in 29 countries. Although places such as South Africa, the United States, and Australia have typically dominated this industry, shark diving is becoming an economic driver across the Indo-Pacific. In Palau, a recent study found that $18 million a year (or 8 percent of its GDP) is generated by this activity. In French Polynesia, diving with lemon sharks off Moorea Island brings in about $5.4 million annually.

"This study quantifies what we already knew but could only guess up until now,” said Michael Wong, chief executive officer of the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association. “Living sharks add real value to our economy, so it makes sense to do everything we can to protect Fiji's sharks. A Fiji shark sanctuary is the strongest means possible."

Photo: Angelo Villagomez
“Protecting sharks is a win-win opportunity,” said Rick MacPherson, Director of Conservation Programs for the Coral Reef Alliance. “Living sharks provide a direct—and renewable—economic benefit for the people of Fiji. They also contribute to a healthy marine environment, which is paramount to Fiji’s long-term social, cultural, and financial well-being.”

At least 75 shark and ray species inhabit the waters of the Fiji islands. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of threatened species, 66 percent of these species are globally threatened or near threatened. Although Fiji has implemented strong measures to safeguard the marine environment, there are no specific protections for sharks.

Up to 73 million of these animals are killed every year primarily for their fins, which are used to make shark fin soup, a popular dish in Asia. Over the last two years, several countries—including Palau, the Maldives, Honduras, the Bahamas, and the Marshall Islands—have created sanctuaries and prohibited commercial shark fishing to protect these species in their waters.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Is There a Shark Nursery in the Rewa River?

Guest Blog
By Kelly Thomas Brown

Bula Shark Defenders!

It’s been a long time. My research is on-going with some set-backs experienced, but you learn to develop even more patience and/or pick up the pieces and move on.

Fiji experienced major flooding on our main island, Viti Levu, in late January and again in March, with thousands of people being displaced from their homes. The rain and flooding were caused by a series of low pressure weather systems, fortunately not developing into cyclones. Some towns were inundated more than once in a span of two weeks. Bad weather saw it unsafe to launch our boat for field research for a while.

Then my place was broken into! Taken were the video camera for the BRUVS research, laptop, and external hard drives. My raw data was on the one hard drive that wasn’t taken, so all that work wasn’t for nothing. I am slowly reanalysing data, replacing the stolen equipment and trying to get funding for another camera. Lesson: as soon as I back-up my data, copies are moved and kept everywhere.

With the BRUVS study on hold until the camera is replaced, the shark nursery portion of my research has started and this is keeping my team busy. The objective of the this study is to find out if the estuary of the Rewa River (Fiji’s largest river system) is a nursery for the scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini) and we’re in the process of collecting data.
Releasing juvenile scalloped hammerheads back into the estuary after taking length, weight, and other measurements.  Photo Credit: Kelly T. Brown
As these photos can attest, the initial data collection seems to point to YES!  This is a significant discovery.  The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species assesses the scalloped hammerhead as Endangered globally.

It is amazing to handle a juvenile shark of only 50 centimeters in length and realise that this beautiful animal can grow up to 4 meters. The study will continue for a couple months. I’ll let you know what we find. 
Volunteer and fellow graduate study Jerome release one of the juvenile scalloped hammerhead back into the estuary.  Notice the shape of the head (the shark's not Jerome's!)  That's where the scalloped hammerhead gets its name.  Photo Credit: Kelly T. Brown
Special thanks to my volunteers for the great work done – even in the rain and until midnight!  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.

A Healthy Shark Population Means a Healthy Marine Environment

The Coral Reef Alliance and Pew Environment Group are working with the Fijian government to protect threatened shark species in Fiji. These public service announcements feature Sharkman Manoa Rasagitale, Kelly Thomas Brown, and Sunil Raj of the Coral Reef Alliance, Carson Young of the Fiji Islands Voyaging Society, Miss South Pacific Alisi Rabukawaqa, Arthur Sokimi of Beqa Adventure Divers, and members of the Fiji Police Rugby Team.

You can show your support for shark protections in Fiji by taking the Fiji Shark Defenders Pledge.

Beneath the Waves in Virginia

The Beneath the Waves Film Festival makes its way to Norfolk, Virginia at 7:15 PM tonight.  If you are in the area, the event is free and open to the public.  Our short film, Sharkwater Saipan, is featured as part of the film festival.

Monday, April 16, 2012

An Important Petition From Hong Kong

When it comes to petitions, we try to steer our readers and followers towards taking actions that lead to solid policy outcomes. Consumer campaigns certainly play a role in protecting shark species, but we try to focus on supporting policies that ban the trade of shark, create shark sanctuaries, or in someway mandate a reduction in the number of sharks killed.


The Hong Kong Shark Foundation has a petition going that we think is important. They are asking the Hong Kong SAR Government to make it public policy not to serve shark products at official functions.


Hong Kong is the center of the global shark fin trade, and if the government were to set a policy of not serving shark fin, it would set a precedent for moving towards a total ban on the shark fin trade.

Some people who have tried to sign the petition have had trouble with the address and the mailing code. If this is a problem for you, go ahead and use 1000 Shark Defenders Street for the address and 73mil for the mailing code.


Here is more information from the petition website:
Sharks are fundamental to maintaining the balance of the marine ecosystem. As apex predators at the top of the food chain, sharks help regulate the abundance and diversity of the extraordinary marine life beneath them. Declining populations therefore directly affect the health of our oceans.

Shark populations worldwide are in rapid decline from overfishing and habitat destruction. In some regions, populations have fallen by as much as 90%. According to the globally recognised International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), almost 56% of shark species (where there is sufficient data to determine conservation status) are at high risk of extinction either now or in the near future. That’s 143 shark species!

The demand for shark fin soup is driving this decline. The fins from up to 73 million sharks are traded worldwide each year (around 200,000 sharks per day!). Based on official (FAO) statistics, global shark catches are likely to be underestimated by an astonishing three to four fold.

Hong Kong is the centre of the global shark fin trade, being responsible for approximately 50% of global imports annually. The trade is highly valuable to a relatively small number of traders with retail prices ranging from 1650 HK$/kg (212USD) to 14,550HK$ /kg (1870USD).

The Hong Kong trade is unregulated. No scientific identification i.e. genetic test of imported fins is required other than for the three species protected under UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Research published in 2006 showed that approximately 40% of the auctioned fin weight in the Hong Kong shark fin market came from 14 shark species listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Recent research conducted in 2011 also confirmed that IUCN Red List Species are being traded in Hong Kong.

The HKSAR government’s behaviour is contrary to its own assertion that it ‘pays heed to the principles of sustainable development and to the commendable foresight it demonstrated recently upon becoming a signatory to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. The aim of the Convention is the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity. To date there is only one relatively small MSC-certified shark fishery which cannot support the demand of the global shark fin trade.

Shark fin soup is widely consumed in Hong Kong and is served largely on special occasions, such as banquets and official functions. In a recent survey, 73% of Hong Kong people had consumed shark fin in the previous 12 months, compared to just 6% for shark liver capsules and 3% for shark meat.

The Hong Kong government includes 69 departments/agencies as well as 15 policy bureaus (including government secretariat) and public funds are used for official dining parties and banquets. The Government states that its banquets should ‘not include expensive food or endangered species’ and that its menus do not ‘generally include shark fin’. However, it does NOT monitor the use of public funds in this regard nor whether banquet menus actually include shark fin. Nor does it ‘think it appropriate to lay down guidelines to regulate the kind of food consumed at banquets’. We ask quite simply, in the interests of sustainability and the public purse, WHY NOT?

Join us in requesting that the Hong Kong Government demonstrates its principles of sustainability by establishing a formal policy that shark and shark fin must not be served at HKSAR Government banquets, dining parties or other official functions. It’s a request that not only reaffirms the Governments own statements, but is both realistic and achievable.

鯊魚在維持海洋生態平衡上,擔當不可或缺的角色。作為海洋食物鏈的頂層捕獵者,鯊魚主宰了所有下層海洋生物的 數量和種類的多寡。

面對過度捕撈和棲息地被破壞,全球鯊魚數量正在急速下降;個別地區更下跌 9成。根據國際知名的世界自然保護聯盟所作的統計,近5成6,亦即是143種鯊魚品種已即將或正在面臨絕種威脅(這還未包括其他缺乏統計數據的品種)。

人們對魚翅的需求直接促使鯊魚數量的下滑。按全球魚翅交易量顯示,每年有多達7千3百萬條鯊魚被捕撈(亦即每日20萬條!)。而根據 聯合國糧食及農業組織的統計,確實數字應多3至4倍。 WHY LOBBY THE HKSAR GOVERNMENT? 為什麼向政府遊說?

香港是全球 魚翅貿易總樞紐,每年,約百分之五十魚翅在本港經銷。香港魚翅商不多,以零售價每公斤$1,650港幣(212美元)至$1,4550港幣 (1,870美元)看來,營業額十分可觀。

政府對魚翅貿易監管不足。政府對魚翅貿易監管不足,例如為所有進口魚翅進行基因測試鑑定品種,而現時卻只有3種受《瀕危野生動植物種國際貿易公約》保護的 鯊魚的魚翅接受基因測試。2006年一項研究卻指出,約4成在香港交易的魚翅來自14種被《世界自然保護聯盟瀕危物種紅色名錄》列為「瀕危」或「易危」的 鯊魚。2011年也有研究證實,《世界自然保護聯盟瀕危物種紅色名錄》中的鯊魚物種的確在港經銷。

特區政府曾承諾支持可持續發展原則,早前更簽署了《生物多樣性公 約》;卻一直沒有實際行動。《生物多樣性公約》的主要目的是保障生物多樣性,和可持續地利用其組成部分。至今,世界上只有一個規模很小而被海洋管理委員會 認可的鯊魚漁業,實不足以滿足世界各地對魚翅的殷切需求。

在香港,各大小宴會的菜單上必定有魚翅。最近一項民 意調查顯示,超過7成港人過去1年內曾經進食魚翅,而曾進食鯊魚肝油丸和鯊魚肉的就分別只有百分之六和三。

香港特區政府包含69個部門及15個決策局(組成政府總部),各部門舉行的宴會開支都由公帑支付。政府曾表明所 有宴會都「不會食用貴價食材和瀕危物種」,而菜單「一般都不會有魚翅」。但事實上,政府並沒有監管這方面公帑的使用或規定宴會上不用魚翅款客;而有關宴會 上可提供菜式的明確指引,政府內部根本沒有列出。事情既涉及可持續發展原則,又關乎公帑使用,何不加以規管?


And what are those petitions we've asked you to sign?

We have asked you to take the Shark Defenders pledge so that we can contact you from time to time to help, asked you to (successfully) protect sharks in Guam and Washington, and to (less successfully) protect whale sharks from purse seiners on the high seas, oceanic whitetip and hammerhead sharks in US waters, close down the shark fin trade in the United States, and protect grey nurse sharks in Australia. We also asked you to support shark protections in southeastern Mexico.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Dr. Giam and CITES

Dr. Giam Choo Hoo, a member of the CITES Animals Committee from Singapore, outraged the environmental community back in February when he claimed that eating shark fin soup helped poor fishermen in developing countries. Now a number of organizations, including Sea Shepherd, are calling for his removal.

This video explains the controversy.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kiribati Must Protect Sharks

Guest Blog
by Ben Namakin

Sharks are in trouble and they must be protected. We, I-Kiribati People, believe that we are ocean people as we depend so much on our ocean resources for our very existence, and traditional marine conservation practices is very much part of our Kiribati culture. If we are today exploiting sharks by overfishing them for their fins, then we lose part of our custom which makes us who we are, Ocean People.

According to the Pew Environment Group, the decline in shark populations can lead to unpredictable consequences, including the collapse of important fisheries. Impacts from the loss of sharks can be felt throughout the entire system. In coral reef ecosystems, such as those in the Caribbean and the Pacific, corals depend on the herbivorous fish such as the parrot fish to eat algae and provide space for corals to settle and grow. When sharks are removed from the system, the larger fish which feed on herbivorous fish increase in abundance. Without the smaller fish to eat the algae, corals can no longer compete for space. As a result, the ecosystem switches to an algae-dominated system, lacking the diversity and abundance of marine species (such as reef species we depend on for our daily food) once found within the coral reef ecosystem.

As the science says, sharks inhabited the oceans 200 million years before dinosaurs appeared. But now, just 50 years after industrialized fishing began, many of these vulnerable species may not survive this century. Sharks are ancient species that deserves safeguarding.

Sharks fins have been considered one of the most valuable food items in the world, reaching prices as high as US$2,640 per kg. The value of shark fins has increased in recent years with the economic growth in China, and this growth is a major factor in the commercial exploitation of sharks worldwide (Clarke et al. 2006). A recent study estimates that as many as 73 million sharks have been killed in a single year to supply the fin trade, actual catches may be much higher.

I am very concerned because sharks play an important role in the ecosystem and they are an important component in the protection of coral reefs.

I have no doubt this is an issue that is close to the heart of the Kiribati people and government leaders. As an independent small nation, Kiribati has been recognized internationally for being outspoken on the issue of climate change.

In a recent interview with The Fiji Times, the newly crowned Miss South Pacific of Fiji, 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. Miss South Pacific is also showing good leadership in driving this issue amongst her fellow Pacific Islanders and I am grateful for this.

We must act now for this is not too late. We have neighboring islands in the region that are protecting sharks in their water. Last year the Republic of Palau declared its waters to be a shark sanctuary and banned commercial shark fishing, in their EEZ. Following Palau footsteps, Guam and the Northern Marianas (CNMI) passed a bill in banning the shark trade.

The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is introducing a resolution this year to recognize the important role that sharks, rays, dolphins, and whales play in the ocean’s ecosystem, as well as a significant part of FSM’s cultural heritage and tourism throughout the FSM. Recently, the Marshall Islands have joined Palau, the Maldives, Honduras, the Bahamas and Tokelau in delivering the gold standard of protection for ensuring shark survival by creating a shark sanctuary.

I applaud the Republic of the Marshall Islands that is now home to the world’s largest shark sanctuary. the Marshallese parliament, unanimously passed legislation in October 2011 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.

I hope that the Republic of Kiribati will join with other Micronesian leaders to make good on their collective promise of a regional sanctuary. This should be amongst the priorities for Kiribati in the first house of assembly in April this year.

Kiribati stretches across the western Pacific and includes the Gilbert, Phoenix, and Line Islands.  Ben Namakin lives in Tarawa, the capital.  Follow him on Micronesia Shark Defenders.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pohnpei Shark Week

Guest Blog
by Willy Kostka

From April 1st to the 7th, Pohnpei will be celebrating Shark Week. These celebrations are part of the Global Shark Campaign spearheaded by the Pew Environment Group and the Micronesia Shark Sanctuary Campaign headed by the Chief Executives of Micronesia. At their Micronesia Chief Executives’ Meeting in Pohnpei from July 25-28, 2011, the Chief Executives passed a resolution authorizing the development of a regional ban on the possession, sale, offer for sale and trade of shark fins in the Oceans of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, the US Territory of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (Micronesia). The resolution also calls for the establishment of a strategic framework in order to implement a marine based conservation program of action that will establish the world’s first and biggest regional shark sanctuary in Micronesia by December 2012.

The Republic of Palau was the first nation in the world to declare itself a shark sanctuary. Since then the US Territory of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands and the Republic of the Marshall Islands have all passed laws prohibiting the sale of shark fins and other shark parts. FSM has several bills introduced at the state levels and a resolution at the national level calling for the establishment of shark protection laws.
Film screening in Pohnpei on April 5. Photo Credit: Michael Ramsey
The Pew Environmental Group is working with the Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT) to support shark awareness and protection campaigns in the Federated States of Micronesia through MCT’s local partner organizations. The Pohnpei State Government and the Conservation Society of Pohnpei (CSP) are now leading the campaign in Pohnpei. As part of these campaigns, MCT along Pohnpei State, CSP and others are working with a couple of professional videographers to develop a shark movie to be played on an outdoor screen at the Spanish Wall Park from April 5-7th.

Film screening in Pohnpei on April 5. Photo Credit: Michael Ramsey
Why sharks? Sharks are apex predators that help to keep a balance in our marine ecosystems by weeding out the weak and sick fish and other marine creatures, ensuring that only the genes from strong and healthy fish and marine creatures are passed on. This is very similar to the way Pohnpeians or Pacific islanders take care of their crops, most especially their breadfruits. Farmers have to manage their breadfruits by constantly picking off the fruits that have disease so they don’t destroy the whole lot. A few spoiled or invested breadfruits can destroy an entire lot from a tree. By picking out the invested breadfruits, they ensure that the rest are saved and remain healthy/survive for longer periods. This is the same role sharks play on our reefs.

Willy Kostka is a 2006 Pew Marine Fellow and the executive director of the Micronesia Conservation Trust

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United States: 10 Shark Species Being Considered for CITES

The United States released today the list of shark species for which they may propose amendments for consideration at next year's Conference of the Parties to CITES. From the Federal Register:
The United States, as a Party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), may propose amendments to the CITES Appendices for consideration at meetings of the Conference of the Parties. The sixteenth regular meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP16) is tentatively scheduled to be held in Thailand, March 3–15, 2013. With this notice, we describe proposed amendments to the CITES Appendices (species proposals) that the United States might submit for consideration at CoP16 and invite your comments and information on these proposals.

You may submit comments pertaining to species proposals for consideration at CoP16 by one of the following methods:

Federal eRulemaking Portal:
Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS–R9–IA–2011–0087.

U.S. mail or hand-delivery:
Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R9–IA–2011–0087
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM
Arlington, VA 22203.


The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES or the Convention) is an international treaty designed to control and regulate international trade in certain animal and plant species that are now or potentially may be threatened with extinction, and are affected by trade. These species are included in Appendices to CITES, which are available on the CITES Secretariat’s Web site. Currently, 175 countries, including the United States, are Parties to CITES. The Convention calls for meetings of the Conference of the Parties, held every 2 to 3 years, at which the Parties review its implementation, make provisions enabling the CITES Secretariat in Switzerland to carry out its functions, consider amendments to the lists of species in Appendices I and II, consider reports presented by the Secretariat, and make recommendations for the improved effectiveness of CITES. Any country that is a Party to CITES may propose amendments to Appendices I and II, as well as resolutions, decisions, and agenda items for consideration by all the Parties.
The 10 shark species being considered by the United States are:

Longfin mako shark (Isurus paucus)—Inclusion in Appendix II.

Shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus)—Inclusion in Appendix II.

Porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus)—Inclusion in Appendix II or Appendix I.

Scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini), great hammerhead shark (S. mokarran), and smooth hammerhead shark (S. zygaena)— Inclusion in Appendix II.

Oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus)—Inclusion in Appendix II or Appendix I.

Bigeye thresher shark (Alopias superciliosus), common thresher shark (A. vulpinus), and pelagic thresher shark (A. pelagicus)—Inclusion in Appendix II.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

There Are No Sharks in This Blog Post

Our Senior Editor is visiting family in Saipan this week, and did some diving and hiking.  Oh, and this post has nothing to do with sharks.  Please enjoy some photos from Saipan:

Green turtles known to sleep in the underwater caves surrounding the island.  Napoleon wrasse are also known to sleep in the caves:

This big guy had his tail sticking out of a hole in the coral.  Luckily, there was a hole on the other side of him, too:

This is definitely his better side.  Most nights you'll find whitetip sharks either sleeping in the caves or hunting on the reefs, too, but this night belonged to the turtles:

Regular readers will remember that Saipan is the largest island in the Northern Mariana Islands, and home to the world's second ban on the sale, trade, and possession of shark fin.  The law was signed in January 2011, and similar laws quickly followed in Guam, Washington, Oregon, California, and a number of Canadian municipalities.  Similar laws have also been introduced in Virginia, New York, Maryland, Florida, and Illinois.

Rob Stewart told the story of the sixth grade class at San Vicente Elementary School who petitioned their government to pass the law in his short film, Saipan Sharkwater, which you can watch on Youtube.

Rob captured some of these vistas in his mini-documentary, but nothing beats going there in person.  So the next time you are bumming around Micronesia, make sure you stop by Saipan.

This beach is called Forbidden Island.  Put it on your bucket list.  Here are a few more photos:

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