by Leah Meth
Meet Thresher Tala – Shark Stanley’s feisty friend from the Philippines! She’s the star of the #SaveThresherTala project, which is being led by our Shark Stanley Youth Ambassador Anna Oposa, her organization Save Philippine Seas, and a coalition of conservationists and dive shops across the country.
This is part of the larger Shark Stanley campaign – a global effort to mobilize grassroots support for shark conservation, tackling the issue from three key angles: supply, trade, and demand. The campaign is all about connecting young people around the world and bringing our collective voice to decision makers, with each of us – and each of our countries – having a unique role to play. In some places, we can advocate for shark sanctuaries and protection in our home waters; for others, we can help to reduce consumption and sale of sharks and shark products. For others still, we can look to global agreements like CITES and CMS to make sure that trade and catch is sustainable. Working together, we can make a difference.
With that, we want to share some of the amazing things happening in the Philippines, where Tala is bringing some much needed attention to the need for thresher shark protections.
Threshers are large, migratory oceanic and coastal sharks found across the world’s oceans. All are slow to grow and reproduce, meaning, like many sharks, that they’re vulnerable to overexploitation. All three species – the bigeye, common, and pelagic thresher – are assessed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, with population declines of over 80% in much of their historical range. This is in part because of the global shark fin trade.
In the Philippines, thresher sharks are incredibly important to the economy. Monad Shoal, a coastal seamount in Cebu, is the only place in the world where scuba divers can see the rare pelagic thresher shark almost every day, fueling a growing tourism and scuba diving industry that supports the local economy. People come from all over the world to see them. Threshers can also be seen in the waters of southern Cebu (Moalboal), Siargao, Bicol, and Batangas. Threshers, like all sharks, also play a key role in keeping ecosystems healthy because of their role in the food web as a top predator. However, they still remain unprotected by national law, which means they can still be fished and exported. As Anna Oposa says, “These are some of the many reasons why the Philippines should take the lead in protecting thresher sharks at home and globally.”
Save Philippine Seas is leading the movement with the #SaveThresherTala Campaign, calling upon the government to protect sharks nationally and to take the lead on protecting them internationally. Specifically, they are calling on the government to (1) pass the Fisheries Administrative Order to protect thresher sharks in the Philippines and (2) propose the listing of all three species of threshers in CITES Appendix II by the end of 2015.
The campaign is like all of our other Shark Stanley campaigns. You cut out the character, take a photo, and post it to social media using the hashtags #SharkStanley and #SaveThresherTala.
Each photo represents a signature on a unique petition that will be delivered on World Oceans Day on June 8th, 2015. Hundreds of kabayans have already shown their support and taken their photo.
Save Philippine Seas is also recruiting official “Fintastic Friends” to help the movement. Want to learn more? You can contact Anna at info[at]savephilippineseas[dot]org! You can also catch Tala and friends in person over the next few months at events across the country.