Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Shark Conservation in American Samoa

Learning about sharks at Le Tausagi's EnviroDiscoveries Camp in Aunu'u
Sharks have roamed the world’s oceans for more than 400 million years, but today one-third of the more than 400 shark species are in trouble. Many of these vulnerable animals live in the waters surrounding American Samoa, including oceanic whitetips, hammerheads, whale sharks, and several types of reef sharks. Although American Samoa previously banned shark finning in its territorial waters, we are the only U.S. territory in the Pacific that has not yet banned the possession and trade of sharks and shark parts, including fins, which are in high demand in Asia as an ingredient for soup.

Sharks play an important role in Samoan culture, as seen in proverbs, legends, and traditional fishing practices. They help to maintain a healthy ocean, which the people of Samoa rely on as a source of food. As apex predators, sharks keep the marine ecosystem balanced. For example, sharks build resiliency for coral reefs by eating mid-level predators, thus protecting smaller fish that clean algae from corals. The loss of sharks leads to the loss of commercially valuable species and other reef fish.

The Coalition of Reef Lovers has partnered with the Coral Reef Advisory Group (CRAG) to support the efforts of the American Samoan government to raise public awareness about the need to protect the sharks . By safeguarding these animals, we can protect our valuable marine resources.  Follow along with oureach efforts at Polynesia Shark Defenders.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Don't Let That Thing On This Boat

An alternate title for this post could have been, "Fishermen Can't Count." Check out this Mako do nine flying backflips out of the water (not seven).  The video was shot during the Flying Mako, a catch and release, fly fishing only tournament.

Shark Attack Survivors for Shark Conservation

Left to right: Karen Sack, Mike Coots, Al Brenneka, Debbie Salamone, Krishna Thompson, and Jill Hepp.
On Wednesday, July 25, Shark Attack Survivors for Shark Conservation joined the Pew Environment Group and Discovery Channel to premiere Shark Fight, an hour long documentary featuring the survivors and their efforts to protect endangered shark species.  The show that will play on Shark Week this year.

The premiere was held in Washington, DC and four members of the group, Mike Coots, Al Brenneka, Debbie Salamone, and Krishna Thompson, were in attendence to meet the crowd and answer questions afterwards.  Photos of the event are posted on Facebook, and here is more from the Pew Environment Group:

Video Link

Shark attack survivors from around the globe have joined the Pew Environment Group’s effort to restore and conserve the world’s dwindling shark populations. Despite terrifying attacks and grave injuries, the survivors recognize that these predators are in peril, a situation that puts the ocean and all its marine life at risk.

The shark attack survivors are pressing world leaders to act for shark conservation. So far, the survivors have been instrumental in persuading the U.S. Congress to close loopholes in the nation’s shark finning ban—a law signed by President Obama in 2011. They have supported leaders, including the presidents of Palau and Honduras, who declared their waters shark sanctuaries. And the survivors have visited the United Nations to urge countries to develop shark sanctuaries, conservation plans, and similar measures.

The group of more than a dozen is organized by Pew’s Debbie Salamone, herself a survivor of a shark attack. Others in the group come from the United States, Europe, Australia, and South Africa. They include a school principal, a Wall Street banker, an Australian navy diver, and a professional photographer. Some have lost arms or legs, yet they harbor no animosity toward their attackers and believe they are uniquely qualified to call for shark protections.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Navigating Global Shark Conservation Measures

A new analysis by the Pew Environment Group, Navigating Global Shark Conservation Measures: Current Measures and Gaps, compiles existing management measures for sharks, highlights their inadequacies, and makes recommendations for improvements. The following is a summary of that analysis.

Sharks have been swimming the world’s oceans for more than 400 million years. But today, shark populations are in trouble globally. Life history characteristics, such as slow growth, late maturation, and production of few offspring, make sharks vulnerable to overfishing and slow to recover from decline. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species has assessed the extinction risk of 480 species of sharks from around the world. Forty-three percent (209 species) are data deficient. More than half of those with enough information to determine their conservation status (150 species) are threatened or near threatened with extinction. The loss of sharks could cause irreversible damage to the ocean, as sharks play an important role in maintaining balance in the marine environment.

Shark species not only span national jurisdictions, but also roam the high seas, thus complicating conservation and management efforts. Globally, the existing state of management for sharks is inadequate to protect these animals. Shark conservation and management is a piecemeal approach of varying measures at the domestic, regional, and international levels.

Shark fishing occurs around the globe, but little is known about the magnitude of the fishing or the catch. Evidence shows that actual global catch of sharks may be three to four times higher than the official statistics reported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Shark fishing globally is largely driven by the demand for shark fins. Hong Kong, the world’s largest shark fin market, represents approximately 50 percent of the global trade. According to trade data from the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong, 83 countries exported more than 10.3 million kilograms (22.7 million pounds) of shark fin products to Hong Kong in 2011.7 With shark fishing countries from around the world supplying fins to the Hong Kong market, effective shark management must be global, including all areas where sharks are caught.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fijian Sharks Holding Collective Breath

According to the Fiji Times, the Cabinet will consider the Fiji Shark Sanctuary decree on Tuesday, July 30, 2012.  Previous reports stated the decree would be taken up yesterday. From the Fiji Times:
THE Ministry of Fisheries will make its submission to Cabinet on July 30 for the proposed legislation to turn Fiji's 1.2 million square kilometre Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) into a shark sanctuary.

Deputy permanent secretary of Fisheries Penina Cirikiyasawa confirmed this, saying they were happy with the draft submission.

"We will be giving the copy of the submission to the Minister of Fisheries Joketani Cokanasiga by the end of this week," she said.

"The only change that could be made is recommendations from the minister himself. Other than that, we have already had consultations with the industry stakeholders and other relevant stakeholders and we are pleased with the draft that has been compiled.
The Fijian government has been considering shark protections since 2009 and has engaged with the Coral Reef Alliance and Pew Environment Group since December 2010 to conduct stakeholder consultations, including four rounds of consultation with the fishing industry, gather data, support research, including research that is identifying endangered scalloped hammerhead nursing grounds, and organize outreach activities, including the production and distribution of Shark Hope, a Fijian-made film about the importance of sharks to Fiji's culture, environment, and economy.

The Fiji Shark Defenders, a coalition headed by the Division of Fisheries, The Fiji Times, CORAL, and Pew, recently concluded a shark art contest for World Ocean's Day.  The winners of the contest received school supplies and had their photos and stories in the Fiji Times.  Additionally, entire schools have taken on the shark sanctuary campaign and organized their curricula around sharks.  The Suva Multiple Intelligence school in Suva was recently interviewed about what they have been doing all year:
Students from Classes One to Nine are encouraged to learn all aspects of shark conservation, including statistics, scientific terms as well as creating their own perceptions about the worldwide conservation efforts to protect sharks.

The school's co-founder Doctor Robin Taylor, through this shark conservation project, says his students are able to learn other subjects like mathematics and English as well as other skills that are applicable in real life.

"For the upper classes we have a puppet video production and the students have to write the screenplay, design the storyboard, write the dialogue and shoot the video of the puppets. These skills are real-life skills and they're learning it through this shark project," Dr Taylor says.

"The teachers can only suggest and supervise their activities but the students themselves come up with the original writing.

"Another example will be they get to learn how much shark fin costs as compared to one pound of tuna per square inch. By calculating this they are learning mathematics," Dr Taylor adds.
There is still time for you to participate in the creation of the Fiji Shark Sanctuary. Here are five simple things you can do right now to help:

1. Take the Fiji Shark Defenders pledge. We'll add you name to our petition, and call on you if we need your help. We will also inform you as soon as Fiji's sharks become protected.

2. Write a short letter to the Fiji Times and Fiji Sun explaining why you support shark protections.  Say you want to see full protections with no loopholes.  If you don't live in Fiji, say that you can't wait to come visit our sharks. Email your letter to: editor@fijitimes.com.fj and letters@fijisun.com.fj

3. Write a letter to the Fiji Director of Fisheries Sanaila Naqali thanking him for standing up for sharks, and encouraging full protections for Fiji's sharks including a ban on the commercial fishing, sale, trade, possession, and transshipment of shark and shark products, and retention of sharks caught as incidental bycatch. Mail your letter to: Director Sanaila Naqali; PO BOX 2218; Government Buildings; Suva, Fiji Islands.

4. Post our public service announcements to your Facebook wall. PSA #1 and PSA #2 talk about the importance of sharks, while PSA #3 (starring shark champion Senator Tony DeBrum from the Marshall Islands) talks about the importance of banning bycatch and transshipment.

5. Update your Facebook and Twitter status to I love Fiji Sharks #FijiMe #Finsanity Please Like, Share, and ReTweet the message every time you see it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pirates Busted for Poaching Sharks in Marshall Islands

Spanish-flaged Albacora Uno was assessed US$55,000 for violating the Republic of the Marshall Islands Shark Sanctuary.
The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) continues to lead the world in shark conservation with another successful enforcement effort.  Congratulations to Glen Joseph and his team at the Marshall Islands Marine Resource Authority for a job well done.  The Marshall Islands Journal carried the story of the successful enforcement in their July 6, 2012 issue:
Three Finners Fined by MIMRA
by Isaac Marty

Three fishing vessels were caught with shark skins, fins, and carcasses on board by the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA) last month.  Taiwan-flagged Eastern Star and Spanish-flagged Albacora Uno were fined US$55,000 each by MIMRA.  Both vessels are represented locally by Uliga Shipping Agency, Majuro.  The confiscated materials included two bags full of dried shark skins and fins for Eastern Star and 18 shark carcasses for Albacora Uno.

Meanwhile, RMI-flagged Koo's 107 was penalized for a bag full of shark skins and fins.  The vessel is still undergoing its case with MIMRA.  Penalty for the vessel has not yet been decided.  MIMRA enforcement officer Marcella Tarkwon, in referring to MIMRA Act Title 61 under the RMI law, stated that vessels settle their cases with MIMRA instead of going to court.  "All three fishing vessels were caught in Majuro lagoon during off loading," said Tarkwon.

Published in the Marshall Islands Journal on July 6, 2012.
This is not the first time the Albacora Uno, owned by Spanish company Albacora S.A., has been caught poaching in the Pacific.  In 2010 the owners were charged with 67 counts of fishing inside the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone in the western and central Pacific without a valid U.S. permit.  The company was assessed a US$5 million civil penalty for the infractions, the largest civil penalty ever assessed by the American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fiji: Almost There

The Fiji Times reports that the Cabinet will take up the shark decree on July 17:
Shark Decree
THE Shark Decree will be tabled in Cabinet in two weeks. Ministry of Fisheries deputy permanent secretary Penina Cirikiyasawa said it would be a positive decree and that they consulted stakeholders. She also said while it was their job to facilitate and enhance economic growth, it was also the State's duty to conserve the marine eco-system for future generations.
Take the Fiji Shark Sanctuary Pledge to be among the first to know the outcome.
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