Wednesday, March 25, 2015

5 Questions With Shark Stanley: Dr. Callum Roberts

Professor Callum Roberts and Shark Stanley
It's time to meet our next Shark Ambassador, Professor Callum Roberts.

Professor Callum Roberts is a marine conservation biologist at the University of York. Professor Roberts's research focuses on human impacts on marine ecosystems. While his interests in marine conservation have blossomed over the years, his field research remains firmly rooted on coral reefs. On the islands of St. Lucia and Saba in the Caribbean, he has studied the effects of marine reserves closed to all fishing. Those studies revealed both the huge scale of human impacts on the sea, and the means of protecting marine ecosystems from such effects. He is now working to gain acceptance for marine reserves more widely, including in Britain and Europe where he is helping fishers to promote the concept within the industry and to politicians. Dr. Callum Roberts is our first Shark Ambassador from the United Kingdom.

We ask the same five questions of all of our Shark Amabassadors.  Here's what Professor Roberts had to say.

Why are sharks important to you?
I love their grace, beauty and self-assurance so it is always a thrill to see a shark underwater. But more than this, when I see plenty of sharks, I know that I am in a special place where wild nature is in charge.

How are we going to save the world’s sharks?
The simple answer is to stop catching, killing and eating them! To do that we need to persuade people that eating sharks is not cool, and for them to speak out and persuade their friends not to eat them either.

How are you working to protect sharks?
I speak up at every opportunity I can for creatures like sharks that can't speak for themselves, trying to persuade governments to give them protection. I wish everyone was a shark lover, but we have a long way to go yet.

Lots of people look up to you, who are your conservation heroes?
There are lots of people I hugely admire. I don't want to upset any of my living heroes by omission so will restrict myself to just two departed ones. Jacques Cousteau played a big part in my becoming a marine biologist by bringing the wonders of the sea to my home every week when I was a child. Rachel Carson wrote beautifully about the sea and realised before most others just how big human impacts on the world had become. She sounded a clarion call to action in the 1960s that we still follow today.

What advice would you give to young conservationists?
Deepen your knowledge, enlarge your experience and sharpen your communication skills. It takes energy, passion and a thick skin to convince others to value the wild world enough to protect it for ourselves and the many people yet to come.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Shark Stanley Goes to China

Shark Stanley was created to be used as a tool to engage the youth of the world to advocate for shark protections at the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, in 2013.  That campaign reached more than 10,000 people in 135 countries and resulted in the passage of all shark and ray proposals.  Manta rays, hammerhead, porbeagle, and oceanic whitetip sharks all received protections.  Countries now have the tools to implement those protections and they are working.

Over the last several weeks we have leaked previews of the new Adventures of Shark Stanley and Friends, where they travel around the world to advocate for the creation of new shark sanctuaries, huge swaths of ocean where sharks are protected.

We have quietly been making plans for Shark Stanley to head to China, too.  In the global version of the book, Shark Stanley meets a pair of kids who learn about the importance of sharks.  One of the benefits of sharks is ecotourism.

The Chinese version of the book introduces a family on holiday on the island with the first two children.  The family has two kids, who meet up with the island kids and the four of them team up to protect sharks.

The island kids take the visiting kids from island to island to protect sharks.  Shark Stanley is all about making connections between islands, so it is fitting that islanders are also connecting to kids in China.

Eventually the visiting kids hop on an airplane and fly home.  The island kids continue their quest to create shark sanctuaries, but the Chinese kids have a different task.

When the kids get back to China they go to a wedding where shark fin is served.  The young kids tell their older relatives about the importance of sharks and why we need to protect them.  The older generation is excited to hear from the younger, and they agree to a shark fin free wedding.

But its not enough, so the family starts to campaign for shark protections and consumer demand reductions in China.

The Chinese version of The Adventures of Shark Stanley and Friends will be released in China next month.  Ocean Ambassador Sylvia Earle will be handing out books to decision makers and other important people.  We'll make the Chinese version available online in the coming days.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

5 Questions With Shark Stanley: Doc Gruber

"Doc" Gruber and his Caribbean reef sharks in Bimini, The Bahamas
As Shark Stanley makes his way around the world, he gains the support of scientists, conservationists, athletes, celebrities, entrepreneurs, and politicians.  We are honoring the best minds in shark conservation as Shark Ambassadors and will highlight them in a series of upcoming blogs.  We'll ask each Ambassador five questions to learn about their work, their opinion on how we will save sharks, and advice to young people who want to follow in their footsteps.

Our first Shark Ambassador is Dr. Samuel "Doc" Gruber, founder of the world famous Sharklab in Bimini, The Bahamas.

Why are sharks important to you? 
I have studied sharks since 1961. They were and still are an object of fascination, but in fact little was and is known about them. So I dedicated my career to their study.

How are we going to save the world’s sharks? 
This is a political and philosophical question. As scientists we need to be neutral in this regard and supply real facts as we know them about the plight of sharks. Then we turn this over to the various conservation organizations.

How are you working to protect sharks? 
I gather basic data on shark biology relevant to shark conservation.

Lots of people look up to you, who are your conservation heroes? 
Carl Safina, Sylvia Earle, George Rabb, and Nick Dulvy.

What advice would you give to young scientists?
Don’t get bogged down in administration. If at first you don’t succeed (with grants), try try again.  Also, publish, publish, and publish in good high impact journals.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Annie Anderson Update

I asked Annie Anderson to write me a blog and she sent me this:
There once was a girl called Annie. She loved sharks more than pink nail polish and lipstick and she liked pink lipstick A LOT! The moral of this story? Anything is possible, chase your dreams.
Female sharks have eyelashes.  That's how you tell.
You'll notice that Annie hasn't published to her own blog since October last year. It has been even longer since she sent an entry to Shark Defenders. I think I speak on behalf of the Youth of the World when I say that we are all very, very disappointed in you, Annie.

Now stop playing around and send me a blog!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Bwanaan te Beeba: Protect Our Sharks!

The Kiribati Independent newspaper recently took a strong stand on the issue of creating a shark sanctuary in all of Kiribati's waters. The original was printed March 6, 2015 in the native language of Kiribati. Here is the English translation.
The Federated States of Micronesia has recently declared its ocean a shark sanctuary. This move has confirmed FSM’s support for the important role sharks play in keeping our marine ecosystems healthy today and for the future. The elders of Abemama have also shown their support towards the Kiribati oceans being a shark sanctuary and they urged the government this is right and it should be done.

Other islands that have confirmed their support for this before Abemama are Makin, Butaritari, Marakei, Abaiang, Eutan Tarawa, Tarawa Teinanino, Betio, Kiritimati, Maiana and Arorae. The shark sanctuary was introduced as a motion in the previous Parliament sittings which was opposed by the government. They argued that PIPA has become a tool for shark conservation, in addition to our people making a living from the shark fin trade.

The shark sanctuary project is more focused on protecting sharks in our entire EEZ with more emphasis on those fishing vessels that strive to boost the shark fin trade by harvesting sharks in our waters. These greedy fishermen only take the shark fins and discard the shark bodies. We must put a stop to this. The government’s reluctance to accepting the bill will only prove them to be silly and wrong since they have continuously opposed it from the first time this idea was brought up. They are afraid of being led by one or two people to a better future and also risk giving the public a reason to laugh at them. But then, what harm will come out of the government swallowing their pride and accepting this move?

With the increasing number of supporting islands, what is holding our leaders back from supporting this bill if this is to benefit our people? Is it because the campaign on the shark sanctuary founded and led by someone they consider their enemy? The government should open its mind like those elders who have opened their minds and accepted the shark sanctuary proposal during the island consultations. It is very hard to listen to someone you hate, even though that person’s ideas are very good for the nation, but your hatred will not allow you to accept those good ideas. Here is when we show we are not working on something useful but we are wrapped up in our personal differences.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Sharkwater Turks & Caicos Islands

Received exciting news today from shark conservation heavyweights Rob Stewart and Rick MacPherson that they will be in the Turks & Caicos Islands later this month to talk about shark conservation.  If you're going to be on Providenciales or Grand Turk, we hope you can go see them!

Frequently Asked Shark Stanley Questions

How do you tell the difference between male and female Shark Stanley characters?
The females have eyelashes.

Why doesn't Shark Stanley wear pants?
He has no legs.

Several characters look like they just told a joke.  What's so funny?
Wouldn't you like to know.

Can you mail me a laminated cutout?
No.  You can download the characters here, print them, cut them out, and take them to your local print shop to have them laminated.

Will the book be available in Klingon?
Probably not, but we have English, Mandarin, Cantonese, French, Spanish, Dutch, and Papiamento.

Why do some of the Shark Stanley characters only have four gills?
Because our artist is an artist and not a shark biologist.  Sorry, we missed it before the book went to print.

How do I get a copy of the book?
Digital copies will be available for free starting in April.  We are still working out hard copy distribution.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Dive Industry Supports Palau Marine Sanctuary

Dive industry stakeholders from 34 countries launched today a call to action for governments and international treaties to address threats to the world´s oceans faster and more efficiently in order to safeguard this multibillion-dollar industry from the effects of an impoverished marine environment.

The Letter from Palau – Dive Industry Declaration on Marine Conservation, presented first-hand by the signatories to the Hon. F. Umiich Sengebau, Minister for Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism of Palau, praises the leadership that this Pacific island nation has sustained on marine conservation issues, but at the same time calls attention to the grave threats faced by marine ecosystems worldwide, which endanger the dive industry and the livelihoods of those who depend upon it. Palau´s President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. has announced his intention to make 80% of its Exclusive Economic Zone off-limits to industrial fishing in order to boost profits from a growing diving industry in the country, and also to add value to the concession of sustainable tuna fishing permits in the remaining 20%.

José Truda Palazzo, Jr. (right), on behalf of the dive industry signatories, presents the Letter from Palau to the Hon. F. Umiich Sengebau, Minister for Natural Resources, Enviroment and Tourism of the Republic of Palau. Credit: Divers for Sharks.
In particular the Declaration requests that governments and treaties urgently put an end to overfishing and the rampant killing of endangered marine life (such as sharks, turtles and seabirds) by industrial fisheries, which continue to be heavily subsidized despite being clearly unsustainable; work towards creating and implementing further no-take Marine Protected Areas, with a view of achieving 30% of all oceans fully protected; and finalize a binding agreement on climate change in the next few months, capable of halting global warming and ocean acidification which threaten to wipe out the world´s coral reefs in the next few decades and cause irreversible damage to ocean life webs.

According to José Truda Palazzo, Jr., CEO of the marine policy consulting firm Truda Palazzo & Associates and co-founder of Divers for Sharks, a global dive businesses initiative which promoted the Declaration, “the dive industry, its millions of customers and professionals around the world are increasingly alarmed by the degree of ocean degradation that is being witnessed by divers, impacting the very basis of our activity and threatening to put entire coastal communities out of work. Dive sites with degraded coral reefs and devoid of sharks and other fish are a disaster for our industry, and this is what overfishing and climate change are leaving behind. It´s time for policymakers around the world to follow the leadership of Palau in its bold steps towards protecting most of its marine jurisdiction from predatory industrial fishing, taking account of the thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue created by non-extractive uses of the oceans, such as diving, and safeguarding such uses accordingly”.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Introducing all 18 Shark Stanley characters!

Here are all of Shark Stanley's friends. Can you identify all of the species? Click on each character to open a high resolution image. You can download, print, cut out, and photograph your friends and family with your favorite character. Want to take the next great photo? Here are some tips.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Popular on Twitter

The United Nations likes us! Well, at least they responded to our photo of Shark Stanley in front of the Empire State Building. I guess we'll take this opportunity to remind you of some of our favorite Twitter moments. And of our favorite people to follow. And the big celebrities that have met Shark Stanley.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

10 year old New Yorker collects signatures in support of Palau marine reserve

Nick Silverstein and Palau President Tommy Remegesau Jr.
Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. has big plans. Already well known around the world as the driving force behind the Micronesia Challenge, an initiative to effectively conserve 30% of near shore resources in a vast area of ocean spanning three countries and two US territories, the President is pushing for a measure that would close the waters surrounding his island nation to foreign commercial fishing. The proposed marine reserve is nearly the size of France and would be one of the largest in the world.

The president’s plan inspired a young boy in Queens, New York who read about the initiative on Facebook. For the past two years, Nick Silverstein, with the help of his mom Danielle, has collected signatures from his friends and family in support of ocean conservation.

Nick hands the letter and signatures over to the president.
Nick found out about President Remengesau’s plans for the marine reserve and decided to write a letter of support. He aspired to show that the youth of the world support ocean conservation, so he recruited nearly 1000 people to co-sign his letter.

Nick and his mom handed the letter and the signatures over to President Remengesau during a meet-and-greet at the United Nations today.

If a 10 year old can protect the ocean, so can you! #sharkstanley

A photo posted by Angelo Taotaotasi (@sharkdefenders) on

“I told him I wanted him to protect the ocean,” says Nick. “I told him that kids in New York supported him and asked him to talk to kids in his country to do the same.”

President Remengesau and Shark Stanley.
In addition to the letter, Nick gave President Remengesau a copy of the book The Adventures of Shark Stanley and Friends. The book tells the story of how children around the world connect to create shark sanctuaries.

“I’m a youth ambassador for Shark Stanley and I want the president to know about our cause,” says Nick.

When Nick was only three years old he showed a special interest in the ocean.

“I think it was a National Geographic special I watched,” he explains. “I fell in love with great white sharks. They’re awesome.”

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

10 Tips for Taking Great Shark Stanley Photos

Shark Stanley combines science with art to advocate for conservation. Get creative. We’ve come up with ideas and created all sorts of materials. We're looking for you to take great Shark Stanley photos that will stand out and catch the eye of decision makers.  What can you do to take it to the next level?  Here are a few ideas:

#1. Make sure your photo has happy smiling faces, not just pretty backgrounds. The key to Shark Stanley’s success is people! Show your personality!

#2.  Tell us your story. Snap photos in places and with people that are important to you.

#3. Take photos in front of historical locations in your hometown. Shark Stanley is all about making connections. Mark your hometown as a place that supports shark protections by highlighting it in your photos. You can stand in front of a welcome sign, government building, or your place of worship.

#4. Laminate your cutout and take Shark Stanley underwater (make sure you use a waterproof camera!)

#5. Take photos of Shark Stanley in front of iconic locations during your next vacation. Not going on vacation, but know someone who is? Give them a Shark Stanley to take photos with.

#6. Get a celebrity to take a selfie with you while holding Shark Stanley.

#7. Take photos during big events like concerts, celebrations, and holidays. Mark the passage of the year by taking photos during all four seasons.

#8. Highlight your local culture and include Shark Stanley.

#SharkStanley with Marshall Islands Ambassador Kabua and Minister deBrum #RMI

A photo posted by Shark Stanley (@sharkstanley) on

#9. Ask a politician to support shark conservation by taking a photo with Shark Stanley.

#10.  Get even more creative! Customize the black and white version of your Shark Stanley, or draw your own using paint, pencils, or chalk. Create a Shark Stanley wall in your classroom. Some students in Guam made a Harlem Shake video with Shark Stanley. What’s your great idea?

Shark Sanctuary Declared Across Micronesia

President Manny Mori signs the 2011 Micronesian Chief Executive Summit pledge to create a shark sanctuary.
The Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) passed legislation Feb. 4 to create a shark sanctuary in the country’s full exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which covers nearly 3 million square kilometers (1.1 million square miles) in the western Pacific Ocean. President Manny Mori transmitted and assigned the legislation as Public Law No. 18-108.

The Pew Charitable Trusts, which has worked the past four years with the Micronesia Conservation Trust to advocate for protection of sharks throughout Micronesia, welcomed the legislation. The measure, expected to be signed into law by President Manny Mori, prohibits the commercial fishing and trade of sharks and their parts.

"Our commitment to the Micronesia Challenge includes the protection of the top predators in our ocean," President Mori said. The Micronesia Challenge is a regional declaration of conservation goals to which the nation agreed in 2006. "Our traditional stories say that sharks protect the people. Now the people will protect the sharks."

The Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary is larger than the European Union.
On a broader scale, passage of the legislation marks the completion of the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary, which already includes the waters of Palau (more photos), the Marshall Islands (more photos), and the U.S. territories of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. In total, the area of protected shark habitat across the contiguous area is larger than the size of the European Union.

Creation of the FSM sanctuary follows a grassroots effort spearheaded by the Micronesia Conservation Trust, based in Pohnpei. Led by executive director Willy Kostka, the organization built a coalition of conservationists, traditional leaders, and students to advocate for protection of sharks throughout Micronesia.

"More than 8,000 students from across the region signed petitions to support these protections," Kostka said. "This is something the people wanted."

Passage of the FSM’s law creates the 10th shark sanctuary in the world and cements the country as a global leader in shark conservation. The sanctuary will protect iconic species such as silky and thresher sharks, which are considered near threatened and threatened, respectively, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Worldwide, an estimated 100 million sharks are killed each year in commercial fisheries. Nearly 30 percent of all known shark species assessed by scientists are threatened with extinction.

"The completion of the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary is truly a landmark action because it joins together a massive swath of the western Pacific as a trans-boundary sanctuary for all the sharks that migrate across this huge ocean region," said Angelo Villagomez, a shark expert with Pew. "We look forward to working with our partners in the FSM to make certain that the implementing regulations ensure strong protections for sharks."

Sharks play an important role in maintaining the health of the entire ocean. As top predators, they regulate the variety and abundance of other species in the food web, including commercially important fish. Sharks help maintain healthy marine habitats, such as coral reefs.

They also are among the foremost species that scuba divers want to see, and their presence helps attracts tourists to these islands. By establishing a shark sanctuary, the FSM is acting to strengthen the marine ecosystem, including coral reefs, and helping to secure industries, such as tourism, that depend on a healthy ocean.

The Federated States of Micronesia consists of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei (more photos),and Kosrae.
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