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
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
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