Monday, January 7, 2013

Shark Stanley Visits the Mariana Trench

Members of Beautify CNMI with Shark Stanley.
They have more photos posted to Facebook.
Shark Stanley, a charismatic hammerhead shark traveling the globe looking for people to help protect shark and ray species at the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, has made his way to the shores of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Shark Stanley has partnered with local conservation organization Beautify CNMI! in order to organize local support for the proposals to protect five species of shark and two species of manta ray at CITES 16th Convention of the Parties to be held in Bangkok, Thailand March 3-16.

“The Commonwealth is already an international leader in shark management and it is only natural that we want to see sharks protected at a global level,” said Cinta Kaipat of Beautify CNMI. “As islanders dependent on the ocean, and as part of the United States, we want to see these protections go through.”

Leah Meth and Onon Bayasgalan, graduate students at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, created the Shark Stanley campaign so that the global youth would have a voice at CITES. Their goal is for at least 20 people in each of the 177 CITES member countries to participate in the Shark Stanley campaign.

“Our idea is to create a campaign that will stand out from the typical petitions you see,” said Meth. “Each photo will serve as a 'signature,' representing a person who supports shark protections at CITES.”

People can participate in the campaign by cutting out a paper copy of Shark Stanley and his friends Manta Reina, Pierre le Porbeagle, and Waqi Whitetip, and then taking photographs with the characters, and posting them on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, tagging their posts with #SharkStanley. Meth and Bayasgalan are compiling the photos and will release the petition during the CITES meeting in March.

“We are able to get our materials translated into other languages and cultures by partnering with dive shops and environmental organizations around the world,” said Bayasgalan. “We have reached 47 countries since we launched last month, and we're hopeful we'll get to 177 as the campaign grows.”

The Pacific countries voting at CITES are Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Australia, and New Zealand. The Northern Mariana Islands will be represented by the United States at the meeting. The United States is a cosponsor of the proposals to protect the oceanic whitetip shark.

Printed in the Saipan Tribune on Tuesday, January 8, 2013.
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