Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: Year of the Shark Defender

Thank you for helping Shark Stanley
The modern shark conservation movement began in September 2009 when the president of the Pacific island country of Palau declared the "world's first shark sanctuary."  Prior to that game changing announcement, much of the focus had been on finning.  Now the focus is on catch limits, prohibitions on endangered species, and shark sanctuaries.

Ten years from now we may look back on 2013 as the year that shark conservation turned a corner.  Most significantly, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) adopted the first protections for commercially exploited shark species.  The shark defenders, the global citizen activists who care about sharks, played a major role in this decision, as well as several other new policies protecting sharks.

In the first three months of the year, 10,000 shark defenders from 135 countries and territories supported our Shark Stanley campaign.  We asked you to take your photo with Shark Stanley and his friends Manta Reina, Waqi Whitetip, and Pierre Porbeagle, and to post those photos to social networks.  We took those photos to the CITES meeting in Bangkok, Thailand in March and shared them with the delegates representing the 178 member countries.  An editorial in the Japan Times after the decision was made to protect the sharks and manta rays called us "exuberant, fun, fierce and determined."  But only because we had your support.

To quote American Vice President Joe Biden, "This is a big fucking deal."  CITES listings matter because they have teeth.  If countries do not comply with the CITES requirements, in the worst case scenario they could lose the ability to trade in CITES species.  For example, as of this writing, Afghanistan has been banned from trading all CITES species.  If countries are unable to produce non-detriment findings to show that trade in hammerheads, oceanic whitetips, porbeagles, and mantas is sustainable, they will not be allowed to trade in those species.

The CITES secretariat has made the successful implementation of the shark listings on Appendix II a priority and have created a website dedicated to the new listings.  There are also a number of implementation workshops planned around the world.  Several have already taken place.

The Obama Administration announced in May they intend to preempt and thus overturn the shark fin trade bans enacted in 11 states and territories.  180,000 shark defenders signed petitions and wrote letters to oppose the rule proposed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  Notable comments were received from governors, lawmakers, agency heads, scientists, and conservation organizations.

Most recently, the presidents of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the governors of Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Yap issued a statement, “The shark fin trade bans were implemented with bipartisan support after considerable public feedback. The laws reflect the unique concerns and needs [of] our islands and our citizens."

It took two and a half years for NOAA to issue the proposed rule, and they could take just as long to publish the final rule.  We have received word that the federal government is reaching out to the state and territorial governments, but we have heard they are not looking to compromise.  This decision could be a major setback for global shark conservation if the trade bans are overturned, and in doing so the Obama Administration will anger a lot of people.

New Caledonia, a huge French territory in the South Pacific, announced in April they were creating a shark sanctuary, joining Palau, the Marshall Islands, the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Tokelau, Hawaii, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam in protecting sharks.

In the north tropical Pacific, Pohnpei and Yap, two of the four Federated States of Micronesia joined the State of Kosrae in passing comprehensive shark protections.  Chuuk State is expected to finalize their protections in early 2014 and the national government is expected to take up national protections soon, completing the already agreed to Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary.

In May, the oceanic whitetip became the world's most protected shark when the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission agreed to ban all fishing of this species.  Previously, oceanic whitetips had received protections from ICCAT in the Atlantic, WCPFC and IATTC in the Pacific, and CITES.

Silky sharks also received protections in the western central pacific ocean from the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission after scientific advice showed that the stocks were overfished and that overfishing was occurring.

Why read what we have to say when the New York Times does a much better job?  Josh Reichert, executive vice president of the Pew Charitable Trusts, penned an editorial today describing the dawn of "shark fin diplomacy."

In February,  President Xi Jinping issued instructions to all levels of the Chinese government that high-cost ingredients, including shark fins and specialties culled from other protected species, were not to be consumed at official meetings. 

Then, in September, came news from Hong Kong that the city government would ban shark fins from official functions there to “demonstrate its commitment to green living and sustainability.” Since 50 percent of the world’s annual trade in shark fins passes through Hong Kong, the move was highly encouraging.

The modern shark conservation movement is just getting started; we're not even five years old.  The new year will start with a string of shark sanctuary announcements in the Caribbean and Pacific, followed by the implementation of the CITES Appendix II listings in September.  2014 is also the Year of the Shark Movie, with a number of high profile independent films being released.  You should also expect more engagement with the private sector, both in terms of businesses who are shipping sharks and those who are selling them.

The post-modern shark conservation movement, if there is ever to be such a thing, will have to move into the countries where sharks are consumed such as China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, as well as the countries that are the major catchers of sharks including Spain, Fiji, Japan, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Trinidad & Tobago, and India.  Shark conservation in these countries is still in the "Stop Finning" phase.  They need to move towards catch limits, prohibitions, and sanctuaries if sharks are to have a chance.

As this happens, you should expect the current movement's fin fetish to dissipate.  Plenty of sharks are killed for shark & bake in the Caribbean, fish & chips in Australia, New Zealand, and Europe, kamaboko in Japan, and grilled steaks nearly everywhere.  These sharks need to become a part of the overall shark conservation discussion.

Stay safe tonight. You are more likely to be killed by a drunk driver than be killed by a shark.

And thanks for another great year.  Here's to a great 2014!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bahamas assumes chairmanship of United Nations Shark Coalition

At the luncheon held for the formal handover of chairmanship of the United Nations Shark Coalition from Palau to The Bahamas on Tuesday, December 10, from left to right are: Ms Kimberley Lam, Second Secretary, Permanent Mission of The Bahamas to the United Nations; Ms Sasha Dixon, Third Secretary, Permanent Mission of The Bahamas to the United Nations; His Excellency Dr. Elliston Rahming, Bahamas Ambassador to the United Nations and the OAS; His Excellency Stuart Beck, Ambassador of Oceans and Seas for the Republic of Palau; Mr. Aaron Koman, Counsellor, Republic of Palau Mission; Ms Joan Yang, Senior Officer for International Ocean Policy, Pew; Mr Craig Powell, Third Secretary, Permanent Mission of The Bahamas to the United Nations; and Ms. Imogen Zethoven, Director of Global Shark Conservation, Pew.
NEW YORK -- In a brief but impressive ceremony on Tuesday, December 10, 2013, The Bahamas assumed chairmanship of the United Nations Shark Coalition, which affords the country a leadership role on a global platform of international significance.

His Excellency Dr. Elliston Rahming, The Bahamas Ambassador to the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS), accepted the chairmanship on behalf of The Bahamas as some 20 Ambassadors looked on.

This development is important for The Bahamas, considering that in July 2011 the then government banned shark fishing in all 240,000 miles of Bahamian waters.

His Excellency Dr. Elliston Rahming, Bahamas Ambassador to the United Nations and the OAS receives the United Nations Shark Coalition Chairmanship from His Excellency Stuart Beck, Ambassador of Oceans and Seas for the Republic of Palau
According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, an entity which works to establish shark sanctuaries and which underwrites the costs of the coalition’s activities, shark diving provides some $78 million dollars to the Bahamian economy annually in tourism revenue. It has been estimated that a shark that is captured will yield up to $10,000 versus the $3 million that could be derived over that same shark’s lifetime if left in the ocean to be enjoyed and studied by divers and scientists.

A shark sanctuary is an area that forbids commercial fishing operations from catching sharks. The State of Palau created the first shark sanctuary in 2009, followed by the Republic of Maldives, Honduras, The Bahamas and Tokelau.

According to Wikipedia, every year, fishermen pull up close to 100 million sharks from the world’s oceans, and according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more than half of the shark species face over exploitation or depletion. The search for shark fins drives the illegal hunting trade.

The International Journal of Conservation postulates that shark ecotourism (conservation) currently generates more than $314 million dollars per year world-wide and is expected to grow to $800 million dollars in 20 years.

Global shark fishing, on the other hand, yields $630 million dollars annually and is in decline.

In the Caribbean, shark tourism generates almost $124 million in tourism dollars annually supporting more than 5000 jobs.

The primary focus of the coalition is to encourage governments to create shark sanctuaries and to create an awareness of shark conservation as a major source of revenue.

The Bahamas will relinquish the chairmanship in December, 2014.

Written by Oswald Brown and published in Bahamas Weekly on December 17, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Shark Products Available on Amazon.com

If our blog statistics are to be believed, most of the people reading this sentence are from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, and Germany, in that order.  Most shark conservation organizations focus their blame on the rising middle class in China, but did you that mako, dogfish, and thresher sharks are sold as fish & chips and filets?  And did you know that there are many products available to you that are made from shark?  A quick search of Amazon.com discovered these items:
Shark fin soup
Shark soup is clearly one of the drivers of shark mortality.  A 2006 study estimated that between 26-73 million sharks were killed each year to supply the shark fin trade in Hong Kong.  While shark fin soup is very popular in Asia, it is also available in your country.  It is served at your local Chinese restaurant, and you can have it delivered to your door.

Sharkskin Wasabi Grater
Do you like eating sushi?  The best wasabi graters are made with sharkskin.  Chances are your local restaurant is using something squeezed out of a tube, but you might want to check.

Squalene pills
Squalene pills are made from processed shark livers.  The makers claim they have some kind of health benefit.  Squalene can also be made from olives.  One wonders why you would use shark livers when you can use olives?

Squalane skin oil
Squalene is used to make squalane, which is used in cosmetics, especially in Japan.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Shark Culls and Twitter Gold

I was lying in bed watching tv when I sent this tweet. Apparently some people thought it was funny. Amazing the things the Internet decides go viral.

Australia and Hawaii are both considering shark culls after a string of grisly shark bites. Humans have extreme reactions to shark bites, and I was pointing out some things that are more likely to happen than being killed by a shark. It is tragic when a person dies from a shark bite, but this is thankfully extremely rare.
A group of shark bite victims calling themselves Shark Attack Survivors for Shark Conservation have been advocating for shark protections for several years now and I think they are the best people to address issues like this. They were profiled on Facebook Stories a few months ago and recommend you read about them before making up your mind on shark culls.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

2014: Year of the Shark Movie

Shark conservation has picked up steam in recent years. After some early successes, several of the large conservation organizations have started their own shark programs, new shark oriented campaigns have launched, and now some of the those success stories are being told in new movies set to release next year.

Of Shark and Man
Of Shark and Man uncovers the inspiring untold story of Shark Reef in Fiji, one of the greatest conservation successes of recent times, where a dead reef was brought back to life by the return of its sharks. The film follows David Diley as he investigates the story of the Reef's rebirth, its protection, Fiji's relationship with the shark as a God and explores the controversy raging around the subject of humans feeding sharks. We also see his own personal journey towards getting closer to these sharks than anyone has been before, but can he achieve his ultimate goal, an unprotected interaction with up to 100 giant Bulls? David Diley has been chronicling his metamorphosis from office worker to documentarian on his blog From the Office to the Ocean since 2010. The three teasers can be found here, here, and here.

"Of Shark and Man" - Teaser Trailer 1 from Scarlet View Media on Vimeo.

I met David in 2011, along with his crew Hamish and Hugh, during his month long shoot in Pacific Harbour, Fiji. I've been waiting for two years for this film to come out and it is now in the final stages of post production.

Extinction Soup
Extinction Soup follows documentary filmmaker Philip Waller on his quest for adventure as he sets out to tell the story of his larger-than-life friend and extreme sports legend, Jimmy Hall. The film quickly takes a surprise turn when Waller finds himself consumed with exposing to the world an environmental catastrophe in the making - the extinction of the oceans' shark population through the mass slaughter of these magnificent animals for their fins. Waller documents the efforts of conservationist Stefanie Brendl as she fights to educate lawmakers and help pass ground-breaking legislation that will curb the consumption of shark fin soup.

Peter Knights, Clayton Hee, Stefanie Brendl, and Shawn Heinrichs all appear in the trailer, a stellar bunch of shark conservationists.

FINdonesia highlights the fishing and processing aspect of both sharks and manta rays and looks at entities working with fishermen in ways that promote shark tourism and conservation. In this way creating a long term income to them as opposed to a one off sale value of the animal at the fish markets. In creating a viable model where the sharks become assets worth more alive than dead will allow the onset of shark conservation projects throughout the region.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Silky Sharks Protected

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The member countries of the WCPFC—which include Japan, the United States, the European Union, China, Chinese Taipei, and South Korea—agreed to ban fishing of the near-threatened silky shark, an oceanic species that has experienced dramatic declines in its numbers.

“Silky sharks are naturally vulnerable because, like many sharks, they grow slowly and produce few offspring,” said Luke Warwick, a shark policy specialist with Pew. “A stock assessment has shown that silky sharks are overfished and that overfishing of the species has been ongoing. The Commission still needs to set catch limits for all commercially exploited sharks, prohibit the retention of threatened species, and support national laws, such as sanctuaries, that offer greater prospect for population recovery.”

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Tuna Poetry

Delegates to the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission were asked to describe how they felt the meeting was going, what they hoped to get out of the meeting, or to write a poem about WCPFC or the ocean.  There were about 300 responses; here are some of our favorites:

Beautiful Ocean
It should be full of fish
For that we work!

Very Frustrating
Tunas decline quickly but
Conservation stalls

Dream of sleep
And fish
Of sleep I wish
Ocean blue

My Pacific sea
Longlines, Tuna, Albacore
Your wealth, my future

There once was a juvenile bigeye named Jill
Who traversed the Pacific and wouldn’t stay still
In the nets of a “purse” was her ultimate fate
Where she ended up on a sashimi plate

Sunday, December 1, 2013

10 Year Vision for WCPFC

The Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission is meeting in Cairns, Australia this week to discuss among other issues, prohibiting the retention of silky sharks and banning gear used to target sharks. This is the second year WCPFC will consider the bycatch measure put forth by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA). The silky shark proposal is being considered for the first time.

The FFA bycatch proposal is going to be controversial because the United States will oppose restricting the use of wire leaders and several of the Asian fishing countries will oppose requiring that sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached. The science behind the silky shark proposal is not controversial; The stocks are overfished and overfishing is still occurring. The politics, however, will be a completely different story.

Even if both proposals pass, which is unlikely, they will not ensure sustainable long term shark populations. Much more work is needed. Here are our suggestions. Please retweet if you agree.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

ICCAT Fails Again

"Sharks is where they really dropped the ball," said Elizabeth Wilson, director of the Pew Charitable Trusts' international ocean policy unit, which had observer status at the gathering, which concluded Monday. "There was very little discussion about sharks. They barely even talked about it in their meetings, which is very disappointing," she said in a phone interview after the meeting ended.

"I think there are some countries that are catching a lot of sharks and they have the ability to do that in completely unregulated fisheries and they don't want catch limits. The end result is that ICCAT is failing to take action on sharks. It's a really frustrating situation," Wilson said.

Critics also attacked ICCAT's failure to take action to protect two other vulnerable shark species in the Atlantic, the shortfin mako and blue shark, as the amount of sharks taken continues to climb.

Sharks are often caught primarily for fins used in shark fin soup in Asia. Critics mentioned Japan, China and South Korea as nations that blocked measures to protect sharks at the ICCAT meeting. Canada opposed a ban on the critically endangered porbeagle shark, according to observers.

An estimated 100 million sharks are killed every year, according to a March scientific study in the journal Marine Policy, which said the number could be as high as 273 million. The study found that sharks were being overfished far beyond their ability to recover.

“Biologically, sharks simply can’t keep up with the current rate of exploitation and demand. Protective measures must be scaled up significantly in order to avoid further depletion and the possible extinction of many shark species,” said the report's lead author, Boris Worm, a marine biologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, at the time the study was released.

Wilson said European nations and some other countries at the ICCAT meeting took a strong stance on shark protection, but weren't able push through protective measures.

"There were some countries trying to be proactive on sharks but it's the same countries year after year that continue to block these proposals," she said.

Published in the Los Angeles Times on November 26, 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

Beneath the Waves Film Festival Showing in Portugal Tomorrow

Sharkwater Saipan will be shown in Lisbon, Portugal this Saturday as part of the Portuguese National Day of the Sea. The Beneath the Waves Film Festival event will take place at the Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada Centro de Biociencias. After the showing, a discussion will take place led by panelists represting several Portuguese NGOs working on fisheries management, conservation, and climate change issues.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Oceana Asks NOAA: Whose Side Are You On?

Oceana is taking the fight to protect the 11 state and territorial shark fin trade bans being threatened by the Obama Administration straight to NOAA.  From their website:
Today, Oceana launched a new advertising campaign in the Washington, D.C. Metro system that asks the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to “Protect Sharks, Not Shark Finners.”

Earlier this year, NOAA chose to challenge state shark fin bans across the country, suggesting that they might be preempted by federal law. Oceana’s ads, which now appear on the platform of the Silver Spring Metro station (home to NOAA’s offices), read “NOAA: WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON? Don’t interfere with state shark fin bans. PROTECT SHARKS, NOT SHARK FINNERS!”

“NOAA’s action just doesn’t make sense,” said Dominique Cano-Stocco, campaign director at Oceana. “The state laws are incredibly important. By stopping the trade of shark fins, states are helping to close a loophole in the federal law. NOAA should side with sharks, not shark finners.”

On July 9, Rep. Jared Huffman of California and 61 other Members of Congress wrote to NOAA’s Acting Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, asking the agency to withdraw its attempt to preempt the state shark fin bans. Just this month, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) also wrote to NOAA in support of the state shark fin bans.

For more than a decade, Oceana and other environmental groups have championed shark conservation in the United States. Following the passage of the Shark Conservation Act of 2010, which banned shark finning in U.S. waters, several states – Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Maryland, Delaware, Illinois and New York – enacted legislation to further protect sharks by banning the sale, trade, distribution and possession of shark fins.

For more information about Oceana’s campaign to save sharks, please visit www.oceana.org/sharksnotfinners.
A long list of notable governors, congressmen, senators, state representatives, and conservationists are standing up to the Obama Administration proposal to overturn the 11 state and territorial shark fin trade bans.  We don't have a timeline of when the final rule will be published, but will keep you informed as the situation develops.  If you'd like to be involved, you can take the Shark Defenders Pledge and join our email list.

Monday, November 4, 2013

2013 Sea Hero of the Year: Rick MacPherson

Building a global team of effective local conservation leaders in a half-dozen countries is no small feat, but for Rick MacPherson, it is only a means to a higher end: empowering local people to believe that conservation starts at home.

For his efforts, MacPherson — our August issue Sea Hero — has been selected as the 2013 Sea Hero of the Year. Scuba Diving magazine and Oris, the sponsor of the Sea Heroes program, recognized MacPherson for his work partnering with local communities around the world to address problems like water pollution, overfishing and unsustainable tourism.

“As a life-long and avid diver, it’s remarkably satisfying to be recognized in this way,” says MacPherson. “The Sea Hero of the Year Award is a tremendous validation of the work I am trying to accomplish. I’m both flattered and honored by this recognition.”

MacPherson’s vision for coral-reef conservation is that every local reef community should be able to reach out to a neighboring village, island or nation for the assistance they need to solve their reef challenges. “There’s something powerful and fundamentally different about local reef communities helping other reef communities that outside assistance cannot begin to match,” he says. “I see my work as helping to identify and build these local leadership teams and ‘nodes of excellence.’ It’s exciting and certainly ambitious, but the payoff potential for reefs and people into the future is off the charts.”

“Too often, calls for conservation assistance come to my attention that I’m unable to act upon because funds aren’t available. The nature of marine conservation work — or any conservation work — is that the need far outweighs the resources available to act,” he says. “The Sea Hero of the Year Award will allow me to expand my conservation efforts beyond the restrictions that grants typically place around my work.”

MacPherson’s efforts — and those of all of the 2013 Sea Heroes — were applauded by V.J. Geronimo, CEO at Oris Watches USA.

“We are thrilled to honor Rick MacPherson as the 2013 Sea Hero of the year for his global work in community-based conservation. As in past years, it was difficult to choose just one winner, when each of our Sea Heroes has done tremendous work — this year’s causes included coral-reef restoration, retraining of local fisherman, protection of coral reefs, creation of shark sanctuaries and advocating on behalf of the marine environment of Thailand,” Geronimo said. “We at Oris continue to be strong supporters of marine conservation and are proud to be the sponsor of the Sea Heroes program, now in its third year. These individuals have made selfless contributions to the marine environment and personify ‘real people.’”

After many years with the Coral Reef Alliance, MacPherson recently has started a new chapter in his career, with new challenges: working with stakeholders to resolve dive shop, resort and local government conflicts around shark diving in the Playa del Carmen area of Mexico; advising Bluecology, a local start-up conservation organization in the San Francisco Bay area; and working with a team of deep-sea scientists and conservation biologists in exploring possible legal action to protect deep seafloor ecosystems from questionably safe and highly experimental seafloor mining in Papua New Guinea. You can follow his progress on Facebook at Rick MacPherson and on Twitter at @rmacpherson.

“I’m a big believer in the power of social media as a means of connecting people far and wide. I welcome any interested readers to follow me,” MacPherson says.

The Sea Heroes Award is sponsored by Scuba Diving and Oris Watches. Each Sea Hero receives an Oris Diver’s Date watch (worth $1,595). Judges select one overall winner, who receives a $5,000 cash award from Oris to further his or her work. Nominate a Sea Hero at scubadiving.com/seaheroes.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Illegal Fishing Roundup VII

Nauru - October 15, 2013 – Radio New Zealand International
The Nauru District Court has fined a Spanish fishing vessel and its crew about one million US.

Australia – October 18, 2013 – Newcastle Herald
Ocean yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen came home from the sea this year determined to tell the world about the horror that he saw beyond the horizon.

Greece – October 22, 2013 – Financial Times
As if years of economic and financial turmoil were not enough, Greece has lost its crown as the world’s biggest producer of sea bass and bream – to Turkey.

Pacific – October 18, 2013 – Radio New Zealand International
The Parties to the Nauru Agreement, or PNA, says the introduction of its vessel day scheme has helped the Pacific gain increasing control over its tuna resource.

Sri Lanka – October 20, 2013 – Sri Lanka Navy
Naval personnel attached to SLN Dockyard of the Eastern Naval Command on routine patrol arrested 24 persons with 04 FGDs engaged in illegal fishing using purse seine nets on 19th October 2013 in the seas off Dutch Bay in Trincomalee.

Africa – October 19, 2013 – The Olive Press
A SPANISH fishing boat has been fined €5,000 for illegally fishing off the coast of Africa.

Liberia – October 21, 2013 – allafrica.com
The Bureau of National Fisheries at the Ministry of Agriculture and the Collaborative Management Association (CMA) in Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County, have signed an agreement to prevent illegal fishing in the county.

Pacific – October 21, 2013 – Samoa Observer
More than 1,000 vessels were sighted over 10 days in the region’s biggest surveillance exercise, an annual event that includes Samoa.

Taiwan – October 18, 2013 – The China Post
A Taiwanese fishing boat and its crew were being detained yesterday by Russian authorities after they were arrested for allegedly fishing within the country's economic waters earlier this month, Deputy Foreign Minister Simon Ko (柯森耀) said yesterday.

Australia – October 22, 2013 – The Fish Site
HMAS Wollongong, together with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS), has apprehended four Indonesian boats suspected of illegal fishing in Australian waters.

EU – October 22, 2013 – nytimes.com
In a world of giant trawlers and fish-farming operations, Gwenaël Pennarun still sets out most days from this Breton village to catch sea bass the old-fashioned way, with baited hooks.

Brussels – October 23, 2013 – salon.com
The European Parliament has voted down proposals to subsidize the construction of more fishing vessels and has set caps on public spending on fleets in a move by the legislature to contain overfishing.

Pacific – October 2013 – islandsbusiness.com
When Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) observer Chris Ragi (not his real name) boarded a tuna purse seiner fishing boat for the first time in 2009, he did not know what to expect.

Australia – October 24, 2013 – ABC News Australia
Three illegal Indonesian fishing boats intercepted by the Royal Australian Navy and Customs off the Northern Territory coast this month have been destroyed in Darwin.

Sierra Leone – October 24, 2013 – Energy FM
Money donated by the International Development Committee is helping fight illegal fishing in Sierra Leone.

Costa Rica – October 23, 2013 – The Costa Rica News
A group of environmental organizations has called on the Costa Rican government to reform the National Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (Incopesca) in order to avoid trawling and illegal fishing in protected sites.
United States – October 24, 2013 – Islands Business
The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPRFMC) has reached the conclusion that the United States ought to refuse the reduction in the existing bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus) quota along the Hawaiian coast.

European Union – October 24, 2013 – Brussels Office Weblog
This summer, representatives from the Cook Islands and the European Union (EU), met in Rarotonga, Cook Islands to discuss and begin negotiations on a Sustainable Fishing Partnership Agreement (SFPA).

Republic of Korea – October 24, 2013 – The Jet Newspaper
The relationship between the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Pacific Island countries (PICs) has been further strengthened this week at the 2nd Korea-Pacific Islands Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) in Seoul, Korea.

European Union – October 22, 2013 – Fis.com
The European Commission (EC) has welcomed the outcome of the first meeting of the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA) held in Melbourne, Australia. Several key decisions were taken on the setting up of the organisation and intersessional work that will lead to a fully operational organisation.

Peru – October 21, 2013 – fis.com
The head of the Regional Directorate of Production (Direpro) of Piura, Lizardo Ayon Valdivieso, asked the national government to impose a ban on the catch of mackerel (Scomber scombrus) in the north of the country due to the high level of illegal fishing.

Sri Lanka – October 22, 2013 – Times Online
At least 113 persons were arrested while engaged in illegal fishing in the Trincomalee area at the over the past two days, a senior naval official said today.

Somalia – October 23, 2013 -  Somalilandpress
A recent Illegal Unregulated and Unreported [IUU] Fisheries workshop held in Djibouti by the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development [IGAD] for East Africa and facilitated by the Fish I Africa Organisation and the African Maritime Safety and Security Agency finalised in an unanimous decision from the high level delegates to formalise the development of a task force focused on the advancement of sustainable fisheries for the Horn of Africa sub regions.

EU – October 24, 2013 – EurActiv.com
Fishermen will not get European Union subsidies to build new vessels for the bloc's already swollen fleet, EU lawmakers agreed on Wednesday (23 October), in a vote that raised hopes for an end to decades of over-fishing in Europe.

EU – October 24, 2013 – intrafish.com (subscription required)
Earlier this month the European Council of Ministers approved a proposal to force seafood importers to disclose what gear type was used in the capture of their fish and a more detailed description of where fish was caught.

Australia – October 24, 2013 – seafoodnews.com
A delegation left for China last week to negotiate a deal with South Australian rock lobster and southern bluefin tuna that could be worth up to $100 million.

Japan – October 24, 2013 – seafoodnews.com
OPRT (Organization for Responsible Tuna Fisheries) a conservation group based in Japan, reports that the  Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) agreed to increase the total allowable catch (TAC) of southern bluefin tuna in next year to 12,449 tons and also in 2015-2017 to 14,647 tons per year, and its recent annual meeting.

United States – October 21, 2013 – ktoo.org
The U.S. Coast Guard says a 59-foot longliner that burned Sunday in the Bering Sea has sunk.

Pacific – October 24, 2013 – Radio New Zealand International
Electronic monitoring of longline fishing boats is being considered as an alternative to on-board observers.

Pacific – October 24, 2013 – Radio New Zealand International
The tuna industry in the Pacific is not meeting its target to reduce catches, and leaders say there must be an agreement this year on new quotas.

Pacific – October 24, 2014 – Radio New Zealand International
The member countries of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission are set to face tough demands at their December meeting.

Russia – October 24, 2013 – undercurrentnews.com
Russia’s supreme arbitration court ruled that all fish caught within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ, 200 miles, or 370 kilometers from the coast), must be subject to export tax, reported Izvestia.

New Zealand – October 24, 2013 – undercurrentnews.com

New Zealand fishing group Sanford said its full-year profit would miss its forecast by NZD 3 million to NZD 5m as a result of lower harvest of skipjack and toothfish, and slow growth in its main Marlborough mussel growing area.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

DEMA: How to Ban the Sale of Shark Fins in Your Area

It looks like DEMA is holding a workshop on banning shark fins in your community.  #7 in the Shark Defenders' 10 Things You Can Do To Protect Sharks is 'support the banning of shark fishing and shark products in your community.'

I'm interested to see what the 'model' shark fin ban legislation DEMA has developed contains.  Not all shark fin trade bans are created alike. This chart from page 28 of How World Leaders Are Protecting Sharks by the Pew Charitable Trusts compares the shark fin trade bans in Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Guam, and Northern Mariana Islands (this was written before the laws in Illinois, Maryland, Deleware New York, and American Samoa):

Our opinion is that the Hawaiian law, the first one passed, is the strongest legislation as it is the most comprehensive, has very high fines, and the least exemptions.  Law student Don Gourlie also wrote a guest blog comparing the shark fin bans last year and comes to similar conclusions.

Here is the information for the DEMA workshop:
Saturday, November 9
8:30 AM - 9:45 AM
How to Ban the Sale of Shark Fins in Your Area
Speaker: Bob Harris, DEMA Legislative Consultant, Messer Caparello Law Firm
Room: S31OEF
The session will outline how to introduce legislation in your state or community that would make the sale of shark fins illegal.  Join Bob Harris, DEMA Legislative Consultant, for this informative session on how you can help DEMA and the diving industry put an end to this thoughtless practice once and for all.

Session Outcomes:

  • Learn what DEMA and other states have done so far on this issue.
  • Understand the model shark fin ban legislation DEMA has developed.
  • Receive step-by-step instructions for introducing the legislation in your state or community.
  • Learn first-hand techniques on how to get this done.

Shawn Heinrichs at Tedx Boulder

Shawn Heinrichs and Mary O'Malley moments after manta rays were approved for listing on CITES Appendix II
Shark Defenders has worked with Shawn Heinrichs for several years going back to the protection of sharks in the Northern Mariana Islands in 2011. He gave a Tedx talk in Boulder, Colorado a few weeks ago, and we think you should watch it:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Illegal Fishing Roundup VI

Somalia – October 10, 2013 – Maritime Executive
The dock workers at Mogadishu's port have to carry cargo on their backs to clear berths for the ships waiting out at sea. The dilapidated facility has no functioning cranes and the vessels must use their own gear to unload once they make it in. Yet the port is one of the Somali government's main sources of revenue, despite minimal investment over the years.

South Africa – October 13, 2013 – IOL News
The Naham No 4, flying an Omani flag, has been arrested in South Africa.  The vessel has been charged with seven violations of the Marine Living Resource Act and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission regulations, including: entering the South African exclusive economic zone without a permit, failure to produce a fishing logbook on demand, failure to have original licences and permits on board, failure to produce up-to-date descriptions of the layout of the vessel, failure to produce a certificate from the flag state describing the nature of modifications, and furnishing false or misleading particulars.

Alaska – October 11, 2013 – Alaska Journal
A secretive project aimed at developing “criteria to evaluate seafood sustainability programs” was scheduled to begin with an Oct. 9 working dinner workshop in Atlanta. The project is being managed by “The Sustainability Consortium,” a think tank that describes itself as representing “100+ of the world’s largest organizations,” but appears to be an initiative of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which was a founding member of TSC.

Somalia – October 14, 2013 – MaritimeExecutive.com
EU Naval Force confirmed that on Friday, 11 October 2013, a fully laden super tanker, known as a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC), was fired upon by eight armed men in two ‘skiffs’ 230 miles off the Somali coast.

Peru – October 17, 2013 – itv.co
For more than a decade scientists and environmentalists have been warning of a mass slaughter of dolphins around Peru.  Hundreds of fishing boats have been accused of killing the animals and using their fatty bodies as bait to catch sharks.

Guyana – October 11, 2013 – MaritimeExecutive.com
The government of Guyana issued a statement on Friday saying that the Venezuelan government has intercepted a U.S. operated ship conducting seismic surveys off its coast. The crew of the vessel, which includes five U.S. citizens, has been escorted back to Venezuela for detention.

Belgium – October 9, 2013 – Radio Daljir
The European Union wants to help Somalia establish a coast guard service to combat piracy in the Horn of Africa.

Worldwide – October 16, 2013 – Al Jazeera America
Slavery remains a serious global problem, with 29.6 million people in various states of forced servitude, including sexual exploitation, debt bondage and forced marriage, according to a new report. "Today some people are still being born into hereditary slavery, a staggering but harsh reality, particularly in parts of West Africa and South Asia," the report states.  "Other victims are captured or kidnapped before being sold or kept for exploitation, whether through 'marriage,' unpaid labor on fishing boats, or as domestic workers," the report continues.

South Korea – October 12, 2013 – Global Times
China's foreign ministry Friday demanded that South Korea properly handle a fishery dispute in which 13 Chinese fishermen were detained for alleged illegal fishing in South Korean waters.

Chile – October 15, 2013 – Fis.com
The National Fisheries Society (Sonapesca) has expressed "surprise and alarm" over the claim made by a nongovernmental organization that ensures that about 24 foreign vessels performed illegal fishing activities in the Chilean sea surrounding Easter Island.

United States – October 17, 2013 – gcaptain.com             
The researchers at Trend Micro have exposed some significant vulnerabilities to the security of the Automatic Identification System (AIS), a ship identification system relied upon by mariners, VTS operators, government agencies, and likely enemies to all of the above to identify and track vessels.

Spain – October 18, 2013 – fis.com
The head of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment (Magrama), Miguel Arias Cañete, will ask the European Commission (EC) to consider a reasonable increase in bluefin tuna quotas, taking into account the latest scientific studies.

Washington State – October 15, 2013 – Komonews.com
Investigators say some of Seattle's top seafood restaurants and markets may have unwittingly sold stolen oysters and clams to customers.  Now the shellfish producer charged with trafficking stolen property is preparing to stand trial.

Worldwide – October 17, 2013 – intrafish.com

Africa – October 16, 2013 – The Atlantic
Evidence from the final research vessel to brave the treacherous waters off the coast of Africa in 2001 may have just turned the tables on the accepted scientific view of how—and how quickly—the Sahara became a desert.

West Africa – Pirate attacks off Nigeria’s coast have jumped by a third this year with ships passing through West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, a major commodities hub, increasingly under threat from gangs wanting to snatch cargoes and crews.tober 17, 2013 – Reuters

Caribbean – October 14, 2013 – Stabroek News
After years of indecision, Caricom is set to adopt a Common Fisheries Policy ( CFP) that includes the development of cohesive trade mechanisms while addressing potential overfishing, the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organisations ( CNFO) says. Executive Secretary of the CNFO Vernel Nicholls told Stabroek News that “illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing is what the CFP has to focus on.”

Arctic Ocean – October 15, 2013 – Maritime Executive
The new shipping route opened up through the Arctic by climate change will not be crowded any time soon.

Sri Lanka – October 17, 2013 – ptinews.com
The Sri Lankan Navy today arrested 32 Indian fishermen for alleged illegal fishing off the east coast, taking the total number of fishermen arrested during the last two days to nearly 70.

Australia – October 15, 2013 – Port Lincoln Times
FISHERS will be able to access the latest rules and regulations through a new recreational fishing smartphone app.

India – October 15, 2013 – Sahara Samay
The recovery of carcasses of various marine species, illegal fishing methods and discharge of effluents in the sea , the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park has decided on installing CCTVs to beef up security along the coast in a bid to check dwindling numbers at Tharavanthapuram.

Australia – October 15, 2013 – ABC News
A high-profile Tasmanian fisherman has warned in court to stop intimidating a police undercover agent.

United States – October 15, 2013 – Consumeradvertisinglawblog.com
A proposed amendment to the Lacey Act, the U.S.’s oldest wildlife conservation law, appears carefully crafted to address a problem that doesn’t really exist, and actually would create a whole lot of problems no one wants.

Qatar – October 11, 2013 – DNA India
Twenty-nine Indians, employed as fishermen in the UAE, have been sentenced for two weeks for allegedly entering the Qatari waters. The 29 Indians were arrested on September 30 by Qatari authorities and were yesterday sentenced to two weeks in jail by a special court, The Peninsula reported today.

Australia – October 15, 2013 – The Australian
OVERFISHING is putting sea cucumbers in a pickle on the Great Barrier Reef, marine biologists say.

Caribbean Sea – October 15, 2013 – The Yucatan Times
In 2013 there is a sea cucumber thriving black market along the coast of Yucatan, driven by the demand in China where a pound might sell for $300 USD.

Canada – October 14, 2013 – Times Colonist
A $32-million commercial fishery has inexplicably and completely collapsed this year on the B.C. coast.  The sardine seine fleet has gone home after failing to catch a single fish. And the commercial disappearance of the small schooling fish is having repercussions all the way up the food chain to threatened humpback whales.

Puerto Rico – October 14, 2013 – Earthjustice
A federal district court has ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the law by allowing fishing for depleted parrotfish and other algae-eating reef fish species without properly monitoring the fishery’s impacts on rare corals that depend on healthy fish populations.

Saipan – October 16, 2013 – Saipan Tribune
A committee advising the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council convenes this week in Honolulu to discuss, among other things, proposed shark management in the Marianas that includes “directed fishery for sharks” or “indirect catch,” which some advocates say seems to negatively impact the CNMI’s two-year-old law against possession, selling, trading or distributing shark fins.

World – October 16, 2017 – Maritime-Executive.com
The IMB Live Piracy & Armed Robbery Report 2013 reported at least 10 maritime piracy incidents this month so far – mainly off Indonesia.

Australia – October 17, 2013 – 9 News National
Australian Customs has intercepted four Indonesian boats suspected of illegal fishing in Australian waters.

Namibia – October 17, 2013 – The Namibian
“THEY are busy killing the river and nobody is doing anything about it!” laments Riaan van Niekerk the owner of Island View Lodge in the Zambezi Region.

United Kingdom – October 15, 2013 – Maritime Executive
Britain's cash-strapped military on Tuesday launched a search for buyers for its sole remaining aircraft carrier, saying it would entertain bids from companies, charities and trusts.

Ghana – October 16, 2013 – ghanaweb.com
Premiums on marine insurance in Ghana and neighboring countries are expected to shoot up as piracy increases in the Gulf of Guinea.

Belgium – October 15, 2013 – National Public Radio
One of the great conceits of crime fiction is the notion that criminals are often masterminds capable of cleverly outfoxing the cops who are pursuing them. In the real world, the contrary is closer to the truth. Criminals are often not too bright and they are capable of self-defeating stupidities.

The most recent evidence of that is the case of Mohamed Abdi Hassan, a Somali pirate. Abdi Hassan is now in custody in Belgium, having been lured there by a honey pot designed to trap the man who can steal just about everything else. His captors offered Abdi Hassan a movie deal.

ACTION ALERT: Protect Bermudian Waters, Save Sharks

The Bermuda Sustainable Development Department is soliciting public comments on establishing a marine reserve in the offshore waters of Bermuda's Exclusive Economic Zone. This marine reserve will protect many species of sharks.

Will you take thirty seconds to answer four simple questions in a government survey?

The survey consists of just four brief questions.


Please answer YES for Question #1.

Choose OPTION 1 or OPTION 4 for Question #2:

OPTION 1 Yes - Protect three quarters (3/4) of our Exclusive Economic Zone.


OPTION 4 Yes - Bermuda should create a marine reserve in our Exclusive Economic Zone, but I would propose a different design (size, location, shape, and protections).

Copy and past the following comment into Question #3 which also provides an opportunity for you to expand on why we need large marine protected areas, especially in Bermuda. What are your reasons for wanting to protected the ocean?:

"If we made the marine reserve from 50 miles to 200 miles then the new Marine Reserve would be larger than the Great Barrier Reef, and there is considerable evidence to suggest that the tourism benefits would increase significantly without any impact on current fishing or recreational practice."


Thank you for your continued support.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Island Leaders Concerned With Federal Proposal to "Reduce Shark Biomass"

In 2011, conservationists, lawmakers, and students came together to protect sharks in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands. The law bans the sale, trade, and possession of shark fins and was followed by a flood of shark conservation laws throughout the Pacific.

In a press statement released last week, the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) that advises the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council announced they would consider a proposal to "reduce the shark biomass either through a directed fishery for sharks or an indirect catch by pelagic longlining." Island leaders are concerned that this federal proposal conflicts with local concerns and culture. From the Saipan Tribune:
Proposed regional shark plan could defeat CNMI’s shark protection law
By Haidee V. Eugenio

A committee advising the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council convenes this week in Honolulu to discuss, among other things, proposed shark management in the Marianas that includes “directed fishery for sharks” or “indirect catch,” which some advocates say seems to negatively impact the CNMI’s two-year-old law against possession, selling, trading or distributing shark fins.

The Scientific and Statistical Committee will meet in Honolulu, Hawaii from Oct. 16 to 18.

Former representative Diego Benavente, author of the shark protection bill that became CNMI Public Law 17-27, said yesterday that the CNMI government should voice out its concerns on the proposed shark management methods, specifically to “reduce shark biomass” as Wespac stated in a release last week.

“I hope that Hawaii, Guam and our other allies such as Palau and the Marshall Islands to come out and voice out their concerns about the proposals to manage sharks in the region,” Benavente told Saipan Tribune.

The CNMI law prohibits possession, selling, offering for sale, trading, or distributing shark fins in the CNMI. It, however, allows catching of sharks for subsistence or non-commercial purposes.

Wespac said last week that fishermen in the Marianas archipelago -- which includes the CNMI and Guam -- have complained for more than a decade about “shark depredation,” including taking of bait by sharks.

It also said one consideration for the depredation problem is to reduce the shark biomass either through a directed fishery for sharks or an indirect catch by pelagic longlining.

Benavente said while Wespac seems to be concerned about fishermen’s issues concerning sharks right now, there seems to be disregard about shark protection and overall marine ecosystem now and for generations to come.

“I am also a fisherman. We also fish in areas where there are sharks but we still manage to catch fish. I just can’t understand why Wespac would suggest that sharks need to be destroyed because of fishermen’s concerns but what about their role in the ecosystem. Are they suggesting destroying ocean resources because of current concerns?” said Benavente, a former speaker and former lieutenant governor.

Wespac said recommendations from the Scientific and Statistical Committee will be considered by the Council from Oct. 16 to 18, 2013.

Angelo Villagomez, with The Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C., said management decisions should be based sound science, not hearsay.

“There isn’t a scientific study in the tropical Pacific showing that shark populations are healthy and that shark fishing levels are sustainable. On the contrary, every study has shown declines,” he said when sought for comment.

He said sharks are good for tourism.

“Senator Pete Reyes recognized this back in 2007 when he passed some of the first protections for sharks in the eagle ray protection law. Diego Benavente strengthened those protections in 2011. These laws are giving depleted shark populations a chance to recover, which will be good for the marine environment, but also for the increasing number of divers who expect to see sharks and other large predators when they spend thousands of dollars to visit Saipan,” Villagomez said.

Villagomez also said a NOAA-funded study in Guam showed that the biomass of sharks was already four times lower than a similar area in Australia that was a known shark fishery.

He also said the three stock assessments done by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission show that oceanic whitetips, blue, and silky sharks are overfished and that overfishing is occurring. More information is available at http://www.wcpfc.int.

Villagomez also cited a study published by Shelley Clarke in 2012 shows that populations of blue, mako, oceanic whitetip, and silky sharks are declining. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2012.01943.x/abstract).

“Only a few months ago, members of the CNMI Legislature joined the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures in calling for a Pacific-wide shark sanctuary. The WESPAC proposal appears in contradiction with what elected leaders from all of Micronesia, Hawaii, and American Samoa want,” Villagomez added.
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