Thursday, May 31, 2012

Shark Defenders Shark Conservation Quiz

Let's play 5 questions with Shark Defenders.  How many shark conservation questions can you correctly answer?  If you need help, we've posted some links below to help you find the answers.  Leave your answers and comments in the comments of this blog (not Facebook or Twitter), and in a few days we'll post the answers along with some discussion points.

In our 10 Things You Can Do To Protect Sharks, our very first item is to educate yourself about the global situation of sharks.  Getting all five questions here correct should be difficult, but if you can do it you are on your way to becoming a true Shark Defender.
1. What is the best definition of ‘shark finning?’
a. Killing a shark
b. Killing a shark for its fins
c. Fishing for sharks
d. Cutting off a shark’s fins at sea
e. Cutting off a shark’s fins and discarding the body in the ocean

2. How many sharks are killed each year?
a. Less than 26 million
b. On average 38 million
c. More than 73 million
d. 100 million+
e. 200 million

3. The Shark Conservation Act in the United States does which of the following:
a. Bans the sale, trade, and possession of shark fin
b. Makes it illegal to kill sharks for their fins
c. Requires that sharks be brought to port with their fins naturally attached
d. Mandates that certain endangered shark species be released alive
e. Sets catch limits for the number of sharks fishermen can catch

4. The shark finning ban being considered by the European Union would:
a. Ban the sale, trade, and possession of shark fin
b. Make it illegal to kill sharks for their fins
c. Require that sharks be brought to port with their fins naturally attached
d. Mandate that certain endangered shark species be released alive
e. Set catch limits for the number of sharks fishermen can catch

5. The shark sanctuaries in Palau, The Bahamas, and Honduras:
a. Ban shark finning
b. Protect only endangered species of shark
c. Ban all commercial fishing
d. Ban all commercial shark fishing
Need some help?  No problem.  Here you go:

1. Believe it or not, Wikipedia has the best definition of ‘shark finning’ on the Internet.

2. The only peer-reviewed scientific study to estimate the number of sharks killed each year is Global estimates of shark catches using trade records from commercial markets by Shelley Clarke. Read Clarke’s 2006 study in Ecology Letters for the answer. 

3. The Pew Environment Group explains the US Shark Conservation Act in this Youtube video.

4. The Shark Alliance explains the shark protections being considered by the EU in this video.

5. Discovery News reports on the 2011 creation of shark sanctuaries in Honduras and The Bahamas and how they protect sharks.

Alright, did you write down your guesses?  Here are the answers.

EU Lists Porbeagle Shark on CITES Appendix III

The Pew Environment Group has some excellent news coming out of the European Union today:
Pew Applauds New EU International Trade Protection for Porbeagle Shark
More action needed to fully protect this vulnerable species
BRUSSELS/WASHINGTON (May 31, 2012)—The Pew Environment Group today applauded the European Union (EU) for its action to protect the porbeagle shark—which is critically endangered in parts of the North Atlantic. The EU has listed the species on Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), effectively prohibiting for the first time the trade of porbeagle products without CITES documentation.

“We welcome this strong decision by the European Union, a key market for porbeagle products,” said Susan Lieberman, director of international policy for the Pew Environment Group. “The listing is a critical and a positive step toward better conservation and management of this shark throughout its global range.”

The porbeagle is a large shark found throughout the temperate North Atlantic and Southern oceans. This species yields significant commercial value for its meat and large fins. Populations have been severely depleted around the globe, and those in the northeast Atlantic are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The combination of the porbeagle’s low reproductive rate and high market worth makes populations especially vulnerable to overexploitation and depletion.

Under the regulation, porbeagle products must now carry a “certificate of origin,” and if the sharks are caught by EU vessels, an Appendix III permit is required.

The measure stops short of a full ban on commercial trade of porbeagle, or an international obligation to assess whether the trade is sustainable, as would be required under a CITES Appendix I or II listing, respectively.

“Although this listing is a good first step, much more is needed,” said Elizabeth Wilson, manager of global shark conservation for the Pew Environment Group. "We will encourage regional fisheries bodies to follow scientific advice and take action so this vulnerable species is given the full protection it requires. We hope the EU will submit the porbeagle for further trade regulation at the 2013 CITES meeting in Thailand, and that by then, countries will be prepared to adopt it.”

The EU has been a long-standing champion of the porbeagle shark. It led trade protection efforts at two previous CITES meetings in 2008 and 2010, but the proposals were narrowly defeated.

Thirty percent of all shark species are currently threatened worldwide. Up to 73 million of these animals are killed every year to primarily support the global shark fin industry, valued for the Asian delicacy shark fin soup.

·         The Appendix III CITES listing means that all Parties to CITES must ensure that any porbeagle traded is accompanied by a CITES document. If the animal is from the EU, it must have an Appendix III permit. All other vessels must issue a Certificate of Origin that confirms the porbeagle is not from the EU. Parties outside the EU are not required to issue non-detriment (sustainability) findings, but they have to record and monitor the trade and be assured of its legality.
·         Appendix I includes species that are threatened among CITES-listed animals and plants. Appendix II includes species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction but that could become so unless trade is closely controlled.
·         Efforts were made to adopt porbeagle management measures at the past few meetings of the  International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas but no consensus was reached.
·         The North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) has banned directed fishing for porbeagle from 2012 to 2014 and requires any porbeagle caught incidentally to be promptly released. This is the only internationally agreed-upon protection for the species through regional fishery management organizations.
·         This decision has now been formally submitted to the CITES Secretariat.
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. For more information, visit

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Shark Finger Puppets: Don't Eat Stray Meat!

The students from Multiple Intelligence School in Suva, Fiji tell the story of Blayfin the Shark using finger puppets.  Brilliant!

Want to show YOUR support for a Fiji Shark Sanctuary?  Grab a marker and webcam and email us your "We Love Fiji Sharks" photo at (by emailing us a photo you give us permission to use it).

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Meaning of Awesome: 42 Shark Tattoos

Wow. Talk about a response. We asked you to send in pictures of your shark tattoos and you delivered in droves. Here are 42 shark tattoos from our Shark Defender supporters. Check out more tattoos on Facebook, Flickr, and Pinterest.  And if you want us to share your tattoo, email a photo of it to (by emailing the photo you give us permission to use it).

And if you agree that sharks are awesome and need protections, take the Shark Defenders Pledge and help us advocate for shark sanctuaries and proper management of shark and ray species across the globe.

And please join our email list so that you can help us protect endangered shark populations.  After you sign up we will send you a confirmation email, and we will never ask you for money.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Presidents and Kids Working Together to Protect Sharks in Micronesia

Guest Blog
by Carlotta Leon Guerrero

Like emeralds sprinkled across a sapphire canvas, the remote islands of Micronesia are some of the most beautiful, unspoiled places on the planet.

The islands were settled by adventurers in tiny outrigger canoes without the use of modern navigation tools.  The people navigated their world using sacred knowledge of the stars, the waves, and the wind.  This knowledge was handed down generation to generation, from father to son, mother to daughter.

Blacktip Reef Shark on a coral reef.  Photo Credit: Rodolphe Holler/Tahiti Private Expeditions
The people developed a deep bond with the ocean.  The ocean took care of the people, fed their families, and the people took care of the ocean in turn. Traditional forms of conservation were developed centuries before western countries came up with the idea of marine spatial planning.

In Palau, a chief would declare a bul, a moratorium on fishing, during the spawning season of certain fish.  This ensured that resources were naturally replenished, guaranteeing long term supplies of fish. In the Marshall Islands, the community designated certain parts of land, a whole island, or reef area as a mo, a restricted site.  Only the Iroij or paramount chief could give permission to visit.

Turtles figure prominently in the cultures of Micronesia.  Photo Credit: Angelo Villagomez/Shark Defenders
Taboos against eating certain foods also developed.  The more charismatic animals were incorporated into the culture, too.  Some people believe that their ancestors are descended from the creatures living in the sea, including sharks, turtles, and big fish like Napoleon wrasse . Clans would not eat the animals making up their totem.

These traditional conservation strategies worked for millennia to guarantee ensuing generations inherited their natural heritage from their forefathers.  But the world has changed.  The modern world provides new challenges. Climate change.  Overfishing.  Pollution.  How will Micronesians navigate these changes?

One of the biggest problems facing Micronesia is the overfishing of sharks.  The overfishing is fueled by the demand for shark fin soup, a delicacy in Asian countries. Once reserved for emperors, it has become hugely popular in the last few decades, and is now ubiquitous at weddings, banquets and business dinners. A single kilogram of shark fin can be worth thousands of dollars, leading fishermen to overfish their populations.

Blue sharks on a factory floor in Asia.  Photo Credit: Shawn Heinrichs/Blue Sphere Media
Up to 73 million sharks are killed each year to supply the global shark fin trade.  As a result some populations have dropped by as much as 90%, all in the span of a single human lifetime.  Sharks aren't like other fish, they reproduce more like mammals, having only a few babies at a time and taking decades to reach sexual maturity.

Losing sharks will have serious consequences for people because sharks are apex predators.  They maintain the health of ocean ecosystems, especially coral reefs.  Studies have shown that when sharks are removed from coral reefs, the ecosystem falls out of balance and this can lead to a reduction in the number of fish and the amount of living coral on the reef.

Students from San Vicente Elementary School during their campaign to protection sharks in Saipan.  Photo Credit: Shawn Heinrichs/Blue Sphere Media
In Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, students who learned about the global situation of sharks realized they needed to do something.  A sixth grade class at San Vicente Elementary School started a class project to learn about sharks.  When they found sharks were being slaughtered, the students wrote letters to the governor, and contacted international conservation organizations to help them.

Guam student activists calling for more shark protections.  Photo Credit: Angelo Villagomez/Shark Defenders
Around the same time, students in neighboring Guam decided they wanted to protect their sharks.  The students held save the shark rallies, and when a bill was introduced, they organized their friends and filled a hearing room to capacity.  The students on Guam also asked the world for help.  They got so many emails and letters from around the world that the blackberries of several senators crashed.

But the road to protecting sharks was not an easy one.  Lobbyists from the fishing industry in Hawaii flew to Saipan to try to convince the governor to veto the bill.  And the bill on Guam was controversial because a few fishermen were opposed to it.

Palau was the first country in Micronesia to protect sharks.  In 2009, on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly, president Johnson Toribiong declared his countries waters off limits to commercial shark fishing.

And on Saipan and Guam, the students convinced their governors to sign the laws.  Saipan became the second place in the world to ban shark fins and Guam became the third.

Senator Tony DeBrum at the Micronesia Chief Executive Summit in Guam.  Photo Credit: Angelo Villagomez/Shark Defenders
Then the Marshall Islands, led by the charismatic Senator Tony DeBrum, banned the commercial fishing of sharks.

The Federated States of Micronesia is considering creating a shark sanctuary this year, too.  Already, bills protecting sharks have been introduced in Pohnpei and Yap, and there is great interest in Chuuk and Kosrae.

Micronesians are navigating this change by studying their problems, and by working together.  Though separated by thousands of miles, these islands are connected by their care for the marine environment, and by their deep cultural connections to the ocean.

Carlotta Leon Guerrero is the executive director of the Ayuda Foundation and a former member of the Guam Senate.
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