Saturday, September 22, 2012

Micronesia Speaks Up to Save Sharks

Sharks are rapidly disappearing from the world's oceans, primarily as a result of the demand for their fins, which are valued as a soup ingredient in some cultures. Each year, up to 73 million of these animals are killed by humans. However, advocates in the Pacific would like to put a stop to this activity.

Soon, an area covering more than 2 million square miles of the western Pacific Ocean—approximately two-thirds the size of the land area of the United States—is slated to become the world's largest shark sanctuary, and the first created through a regional agreement among governments. The resolution, which was negotiated last year, also authorizes the development of a regional ban on the possession, sale, and trade of shark fins in the waters of Palau, the Marshall Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the Federated States of Micronesia, which includes Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae.

This short video, produced by the Pew Environment Group, demonstrates the need for countries to implement the agreement and recounts the successful efforts of Guam, where thousands of students and other citizens spoke out about the importance of safeguarding these important keystone species.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Urgent Action Needed! Help Oceanic Whitetip Sharks

Oceanic whitetip sharks—one of the most recognizable sharks in the ocean—have undergone significant population declines fueled by a global demand for their large, highly valued fins. They are considered Vulnerable globally, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. In the Gulf of Mexico, oceanic whitetip populations have declined by 99 percent in just over four decades.

The United States signaled its intention to submit a proposal to list this shark species on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which provides strict regulation of trade. To date, no proposal has been submitted and the Oct. 4 deadline is rapidly approaching.


Your voice is critical and is needed now. Please write or call your members of Congress and the Secretary of the Interior to urge the United States to take action to protect oceanic whitetip sharks.


Small Island of Kosrae Joins Effort to Create Massive Shark Sanctuary

Kosrae has become the first member of the Federated States of Micronesia to establish shark protections in its waters. The unanimous vote by the legislature in Kosrae, a small island of 7,700 people in the Pacific, is an important step in the creation of the world’s first regional shark sanctuary, which will encompass 2 million square miles of ocean. The legislation now heads to Gov. Lyndon Jackson’s desk for signature.

“The protection of sharks fits into an even larger conservation goal for Micronesia,” said Governor Lyndon Jackson, “This goal, called the Micronesia Challenge, seeks to effectively conserve 30 percent of nearshore resources. But some species, especially sharks, swim in and out of protected areas, so additional policies are needed.”

When signed into law, the Kosrae sanctuary will ban the sale, trade, and possession of shark products in Kosrea and prohibit commercial shark fishing in the 12 mile area under its jurisdiction. Sen. Tulensa Palik, vice chairman of the state’s Committee on Resources and Development, introduced the bill.

“This is an extremely important piece of legislation,” said Palik. “I am proud to have Kosrae be a part of a global movement to protect sharks and the health of our ocean.”
In this video conservationists from Guam, Saipan, and the Marshall Islands talk about shark protections in the region:

During the Micronesian Chief Executive Summit in July 2011, Jackson and the other leaders pledged to join a much larger effort to create the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary. The agreement includes all four members of the Federated States of Micronesia—Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae—as well as the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Palau, and the Marshall Islands. It will result in a regional sanctuary covering 2 million square miles.

“Micronesia is leading the world in shark conservation,” said Jill Hepp, director of shark conservation at the Pew Environment Group. “Kosrae is an important piece in the puzzle to protect sharks in the region.”

“Conservation has always been an integral part of life in Kosrae,” said Andy George, executive director of the Kosrae Conservation and Safety Organization. “This is something our people wanted.”
This video is from the Kosrae Chamber of Commerce:
Kosrae from on Vimeo.

Each year, up to 73 million sharks are killed by people, largely for their fins to supply the demand for shark fin soup. Of the 150 species of shark assessed as Threatened or Near Threatened with extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, at least 30 are known to swim in Micronesia’s waters, including scalloped hammerheads, whale sharks, oceanic whitetips, and several species of reef sharks.

If the other members of the Federated States of Micronesia move forward with their plan to create a sanctuary in the next year, 2.9 million square kilometers (1.1 million square miles) will be added to the more than 4.7 million square kilometers (1.8 million square miles) of ocean worldwide that have already been protected by six shark sanctuaries: Palau, the Maldives, Tokelau, Honduras, the Bahamas, and the Marshall Islands.
The President of the Marshall Islands and the Governor of Pohnpei discuss shark protections in this preview of Micronesia Sanctuary: The Last Stand for Sharks:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Conservationists praise shark, reef protection in Marshalls

Shark populations and high-quality reefs in the Marshall Islands received high praise last week from two visiting conservationists from the United States.

“I’ve filmed reefs all over the world,” said filmer Shawn Heinrichs. “I’m really impressed here. This is a gold mine for tourism.”

Heinrichs is visiting with Angelo Villagomez, the senior associate for Global Shark Conservation at the PEW Environment Group in Washington, D.C. They are making two films on the Marshall Islands related to protection of sharks and enforcement of a shark fishing ban adopted by lawmakers last year, and also participating in an enforcement training that is happening this week with trainers here from Guam and Palau assisting Marshall Islands enforcement officials.

They did several dives in Arno and Majuro atolls and came away enthusiastic about the good condition of reefs and shark populations. At all locations, they saw multiple species of shark, which means the reef eco-system is in good condition, Villagomez said.

Additional to the many sharks they encountered, they said the reefs along Majuro’s north shore were in excellent condition by world standards and very accessible to divers. Heinrichs said his experience is that globally, shallow reefs are damaged by pollution and climate change. But the shallow reefs in Majuro are very healthy. In other parts of the world, “from a photography standpoint, you have to dive deep to see healthy reefs,” he said. “Here, you don’t even have to be a diver to see beautiful reefs. All you need is a snorkel.”

He showed a number of his photos of reefs at Eneko that show the island in the background. “If dive photographers see these images close to islands, you will get a line-up of divers wanting to see this,” he said.

After diving the reef around Majuro Atoll, Heinrich was ecstatic. “I’ve dived the Great Barrier Reef (Australia), Indonesia and Fiji,” he said. “The structure of the reef here is world class. It’s right here: beautiful water, a variety of corals, fish and sharks.”

The Marshall Islands has a tremendous resource for tourism in its reefs, he said. He described the combination of healthy reefs in Arno and Majuro and mixed species of sharks as world class. “Any diver in the world who sees these reefs would say ‘I want to dive here,’” Heinrichs said.

“I’ve dived in 10 countries and not seen silvertip sharks in 30-to-70 feet of water,” said Villagomez, who is originally from Saipan. At one location, they saw a number of silvertips. “This is an indication of shark protection,” he added.

Heinrichs urged the Marshall Islands to pay attention to what goes into the lagoon because “pollution will damage” the reefs.

“You don’t have to go to an outer island for beautiful corals,” he said. “This is an untapped tourism opportunity.”

Written by Giff Johnson and printed in the Marianas Variety on Monday, September 17, 2012.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Rob Stewart: Save the Humans

Rob's got a new book.  We haven't read it yet, but look forward to a good read.  He's got a new movie coming out soon, too.

Love you, Rob!
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