Thursday, August 18, 2016

Native Hawaiians Call for World's Largest Marine Reserve

The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument “represents a responsibility to care for the place that is our beginning,” says Uncle Sol, a native Hawaiian with a special connection to this place. The 2006 designation of this highly protected ocean habitat in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands marked the beginning of a global movement that's led to the creation of more than a dozen other large-scale marine protected areas.

With the continued threat of global overfishing and the overall decline in the health of our seas, native Hawaiians are once again working with partners like The Pew Charitable Trusts' Global Ocean Legacy program to call for an expansion of the monument to the limits of the US Exclusive Economic Zone.

Enlarging Papahānaumokuākea would again position this area as the world’s largest marine reserve and ensure a healthy ecosystem for future generations and the species that depend on it. Expansion to the limits of the U.S. exclusive economic zone would make a remarkable contribution toward reaching critical global targets for ocean conservation.

Monday, August 15, 2016


The Office of Senator Brian Schatz sent out this FAQ regarding the expansion of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument and I thought it was worth resharing.  Here is is copied and pasted below:
Q: Why expand PMNM?

A: The best scientific data available support expansion since it will strengthen the health of the Pacific Ocean and directly benefit Hawaii’s fishing industry by creating an area that protects tuna and other marine species. In fact, 1500 scientists have reviewed the proposal and signed a letter indicating that expanding PMNM will protect and expand Hawaii’s fisheries.

Q: Will local fishermen be impacted?

A: No. Local fishermen do not go as far as the proposed monument. The local small boat fleet does not fish west of 163W Longitude so this proposal would have no impact on these fishers, and that is why Kauai Senator Ron Kouchi has publicly announced his support for the proposal.

Q: Will the proposal impact Hawaii’s longliners?

A: Not significantly. Hawaii’s longliners fish primarily for big eye tuna (ahi) in United States and international waters. That fishery is governed by an international tuna treaty that provides a strict quota, or maximum, of 3,554 metric tons. Of that quota amount, the longliners currently catch only about 5% in the proposed expansion area.

The Hawaii-based longline industry has had no difficulty in catching fish, and the expansion of the monument will not change that. In fact, in the past several years, the longliners have fished the maximum allowable amount for the year at increasingly earlier dates. In 2015, the longliners used up their quota on August 5. This year, the longliners used up their quota by July 22. Thus, it is the quota set by international treaty and not the size of the PMNM that annually disrupts the supply of ahi to local businesses and residents.

Q: Where will the longliners catch the 5% of the ahi that they currently catch in the proposed expansion area?

A: The longliners will catch ahi in the international and U.S. waters that will remain open, and are currently their preferred fishing areas.

Q: Will ahi be more expensive?

There is no credible economic evidence to support this claim. The only potential additional cost to fishermen with the proposed expansion is a possible increase in fuel. Remember that the longliners are permitted to catch the same amount of fish, they just may not do so in the Monument. Other costs to catch fish would remain the same. Fisheries science proves there is no evidence to suggest that the price of bigeye tuna will increase if expansion occurs. It is a global market, and the price of tuna is mostly set by the market in Japan, where 80% of all sashimi-grade sushi is consumed.

Q: Will Hawaii economically benefit if President Obama expands PMNN?

A: Yes. Hawaii stands to directly benefit from tourism, conferences, and research opportunities related to the expansion of PMNM. As an example, this year, Honolulu hosted the International Coral Reef Symposium in July, which resulted in approximately $9.4 million in visitor related spending. In September, Honolulu will host the World Conservation Congress, which will result in approximately $37.7 million in visitor spending and $3.6 million in tax revenues.


A thoughtful expansion of the PMNM will continue Hawaii’s long history of sustainable use of the land and oceans into the future, and help ensure that we can give our children the legacy of a healthy, vibrant Pacific Ocean. The PMNM also holds special significance for Native Hawaiians, and Governor David Ige has requested that OHA become a co-trustee for the PMNM, along with the Department of Commerce, the Department of the Interior, and the State of Hawaii.

Star Advertiser Editorial: Larger Marine Preserve Makes Sense 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Donald Trump on Sharks

These tweets from Donald Trump are getting attention this week thanks to the keen eye of David Shiffman down at the University of Miami. I wonder what happened on July 4, 2013 that inspired these? Sad.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Make Your Own Bycatch Beach

Bycatch Beach in Maui
Two hundred and fifty thousands sharks have been caught by longline fishing vessels in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in the last 25 years -- about 10,000 sharks per year.  A smaller, but not insignificant number of seabirds, turtles, whales, and dolphins are also caught as "bycatch."  Bycatch are animals that are caught when you are fishing for something else, in the case of Hawaii, the fishermen are targeting bigeye tuna.  Some of the bycatch has value, like other species of tuna or mahi mahi, but many species are protected or have no economic value and have to be thrown back in the water, even if they are dead or dying.

In an attempt to highlight the threat of bycatch to otherwise protected or managed ecosystems, several conservationists in Hawaii including members of 808 cleanups, put together an art project called "Bycatch Beach."  They cut out silhouettes of some of the species caught as bycatch in Hawaii and displayed them to represent the amounts based on data from the government.

Bycatch Beach in Oahu
Bycatch Beach has been displayed in Oahu and Maui, with plans for more displays in coming weeks.

Do you want to do something similar with your club, organization, or classroom?  This is a really fun, easy to do project that is visually compelling.  We don't want to give you too many instructions (it's an art project after all), but all you need to do is make silhouettes on colored paper (photocopies are going to be your friend), cut them out, tape or glue them to popsicle sticks, and then find an interesting place to stick them in the ground.  In Hawaii, that's the beach!

Bycatch Beach cutouts.  It's really simple!
If you are doing this with a class, the students should spend some time learning about bycatch, what species are affected, and how much occurs in your country.  For the United States, all bycatch data is available on the NOAA website.  If you live somewhere else, you could contact your government, or simply use global data.  For example, 100 million sharks are killed each year.

Have fun!  And if you decide to try this project out, take lots of photos and please tag us on Twitter!

Bycatch Beach event in Guam

Thursday, May 12, 2016

ACTION ALERT: Rob Stewart Joins Effort to Expand Papahanaumokuakea

Sharkwater and Revolution director and star Rob Stewart has joined the effort to protect sharks in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands by expanding the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. In just under two weeks, the petition started by surfer, photographer, and shark attack survivor Mike Coots has reached more than 35,000 signatures.


This has been one of the most viral petitions the Shark Defenders have worked on in our five year history. The petition to protect all of the sharks swimming inside the U.S. EEZ around the Northwest Hawaiian Islands kicked off with a post on Mike's very popular Instagram account, but very quickly gained traction on social media.

I am in dire need of your help. In the last 60 minutes, over 11,000 sharks were needlessly killed. This is hour after hour, day after day, year after year. We are on a very fast track to extinction, and extinction is forever. As president Obama has a few short months left in office, we are pushing him to leave a lasting legacy here in Hawai’i. Right now in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is a marine monument called Papahanaumokuakea. It is a safe area for fish to live undisturbed and reefs to exist as they have been for millions of years. Without having to painstakingly use Congress but with the ease of one pen stroke, Obama can expand the area protected to five times it size and will make Papahanaumokuakea the largest protected area in the world. It will truly be a marine reserve of historic proportions, something all of us will be proud of. Navigator Nainoa Thompson is quoted as saying this expansion will be a gift to the children of the Earth. Fish will have time to mature before spawning, seabeds will be unmolested by mineral mining, and nature will thrive like nature intended. This safe haven will allow fish to get bigger and older. When a female fish doubles her size, her egg production can increase a thousand fold. Fisherman in Hawaii will love this as there will be more spillover of bigger fish in our coastal waters. A protected area of this magnitude will change the health of the entire Pacific ocean for the better. Sharks are very often caught by longliners who’s thousands of hooks indiscrimanatly catch everything that swims in the deep blue. With 47 million of these longline hooks set last year in Hawaii, this is a awful lot of sharks. I have a link in my bio with a very quick way to show your support to the president for the expansion. This is a moment in time that could be a pivotal point for the future of our oceans health. Something we will look back on as a proud step to helping stop the hemorrhaging of Earth most irreplaceable species. I really believe a marine reserve of this scale will save life both under and above water. And we need your help now. Lets be stewards today for what we leave to our children tomorrow. Thank you! 📷Jeff Rotman

A photo posted by Mike Coots (@mikecoots) on

Then when Mike shared it on his Facebook wall, more than 170 people (as of this writing) shared it on their walls:

Hundreds and perhaps thousands of you have helped send this petition around the world. Please keep up the good work, and sign, share, tweet, and post the petition all across the Internet!


Just the other day, American actor Sean Faris shared the petition with his 67,000 followers on Twitter:

Barack Obama: Protect Threatened Sharks in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands - Sign the Petition! via @Change

— Sean Faris(@onlyseanfaris) May 9, 2016

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

27,000 Signatures in One Week!

According to an article in Civil Beat, the Obama administration sent a delegation to Hawaii this week to meet with stakeholders, including Native Hawaiians, scientists, local fishermen and the conservation community, who presented cultural and scientific evidence to support expanding the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument to fully protect the cultural, historical, and biological significance of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

And guess what?  Mike Coots was one of the people asked to attend one of the sessions!

Mike personally handed your signatures to government officials representing the Obama administration!  There is still time to sign the petition and add your voice to the chorus calling for the expansion of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.  Please click here to sign the petition, and don't forget to share, tweet, and post it all across the Internet!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

President Obama: Protect Sharks by Expanding Papahanaumokuakea

I am a surfer, photographer, and shark attack survivor from the island of Kaua'i. I am passionate about marine conservation, particularly what's going on with shark conservation and the rapid decline of shark stocks worldwide. I also feel a calling to help others overcome adversity, and enjoy being an outreach to other amputees and the adaptive/disabled community.

It's insane the amount of sharks needlessly killed, about 100 million a year. It is a completely unsustainable rate considering extinction is forever. As an apex predator, they play a invaluable role in our marine ecosystem. We need our oceans to be living and functioning, or our lives, regardless of on land or water, will become greatly affected over time.

As a fellow "island boy," President Barack Obama knows the importance of Aloha 'Aina (love of the land) and he has done a lot for sharks since he took office. He signed the Shark Conservation Act of 2010 and has created huge marine protected areas in the Central Pacific that protect all species. The president has only a few more months left in office and there's a few more things he can do to protect threatened shark species here in Hawaii. Please sign this petition to ask President Obama to expand the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument as proposed by prominent members of the Native Hawaiian community.

Research also shows that habitats within the existing monument support abundant Galapagos sharks (Carcharhinus galapagensis), tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier), and grey reef sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhinchos). These species, and others, have been shown to travel to the area of the proposed monument expansion. For example, a combination of fishing data and satellite and acoustic telemetry revealed tiger sharks swim thousands of kilometers along the Hawaiian chain and out into the open ocean, with individuals found more than 600 kilometers offshore.

By increasing the size of Papahanaumokuakea, these resident species, and other highly migratory sharks that frequent these waters can be protected. The value of large protected areas to sharks has been demonstrated, and expanded protection in this area will be of benefit to multiple threatened shark species.

Please join me in encouraging President Obama to go big and expand the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument according to the proposal put forward by the Native Hawaiian community! #GoBigObama #ExpandPMNM

Friday, April 22, 2016

Sustainable Shark Dive Tourism Website Now Live: Best Practices and Trip Reviews

That's Angelo enjoying a shark dive
Sustainable Shark Diving (, a new website that provides tools and “Trip Advisor-like reviews of shark dive tourism operations around the world is now live. The website, previewed at the 2015 DEMA Show in Florida to overwhelming interest and support, has opened and now offers shark divers an opportunity to learn about best practices while helping to promote more sustainable environmental and safety within the industry.

The popularity and growth of shark dive tourism over the past decade is undeniable. Divers increasingly want to see sharks and are willing to pay well to have close encounters with these charismatic species. For a critically threatened group such as sharks, this is good news. “Over 100 million sharks die each year due to interactions with fisheries, “ reports Rick MacPherson, marine biologist, conservationist, and founder of the new online tool Sustainable Shark Diving “I believe a living shark showcased for tourism over its lifetime is better than a dead shark used once for its fins and meat,” says MacPherson. “I created as a free, open access portal for tourists and dive operators to help underscore the value of healthy shark populations to tourism as well as highlight best practices and lessons learned from shark dive operations around the world.” Dr Austin Gallagher, Postdoctoral Researcher at Carleton University and principal author of a ground-breaking 2015 global study of the shark diving industry, agrees, "The value of shark diving tourism to local economies and cultures has emerged as one of the leading arguments for the conservation of sharks around the world."

The shark dive tourism industry has already taken note of the value of this new online tool. Jorge Loria, owner of Phantom Divers, a bull shark diving operation in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, believes this tool will help create a higher standard for the growing shark diving industry, “Diving with a sustainable business that is safe and educational results in a benefit to both divers and sharks because the more we know about sharks the better we can protect them.” Mike Neumann, owner of Beqa Adventure Divers in Fiji agrees: “This will be a game changer and a huge step towards propelling the shark diving industry towards a more long term sustainable model.”

Sustainable Shark Diving fills an industry need by providing a free, one-stop source for best safety and environmental practices and guidelines that have been established around the world for the viewing of sharks (and their flat cousins the rays). “Sustainable Shark Diving offers visitors a compilation of shark diving best practices and guidelines,” explains MacPherson. “You can search by shark species or by region. Whether you want to dive with white sharks, whale sharks, oceanic whitetip, bull, nurse, or any species, you will find the most currently accepted sustainability guidelines for that type of experience.”

Importantly, Sustainable Shark Diving features a Trip Advisor-like review section that allows divers to rate their experience with any shark dive operation against a set of sustainability criteria that includes safety, environmental performance, staff interactions, and overall educational/conservation value. "This tool has enormous potential to begin pushing the entire global industry closer to sustainability and accountability”, says Dr Gallagher. “By allowing the tourists themselves - the lifeblood of this and any tourism industry - to rank the performance, safety, and environmental ethics of operators around the world, the industry as a whole becomes more transparent and we can promote the good and hopefully phase out the bad."
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