Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Shark-Free Marinas Initiative, Bahamas

In the spring of 2008, Shark Diver was alerted to a female Tiger shark that was taken off Freeport, Bahamas.

Shark Diver is a commercial shark diving company which runs shark charters in the Bahamas and worldwide.

The animal was caught by a sport fisherman and displayed at a local marina where it was cut open to reveal several half-dead pups inside, some of which were dropped into the marina and struggled to survive for a few days.

We have decided act with the creation of the Shark Free Marinas Initiative.



The Government of the Bahamas allows sport fishing for sharks and we fully support sustainable catch and release fisheries. However, the taking of gravid female sharks for a one-time photo op and a set of jaws is a senseless waste of a valuable resource.



The Shark Free Marinas Initiative is a way to work with existing resort marinas in the Bahamas and worldwide that cater to sport fishing vessels, seeking their cooperation in asking them not to allow sharks to be taken and displayed at their marinas. This initiative, in turn, encourages the use of catch and release programs and promotes sustainable regional fisheries.



Each marina and resort that supports this initiative will receive both, a metal sign and logo we have created to post in their marina office, and the following information for posting on their marina websites:



(Name of resort and marina) supports the Shark-Free Marinas Initiative in the Bahamas region. The Bahamas is home to many shark species and the healthy reef systems that support these sharks. We feel the one-time harvesting of sharks for photo images or souvenir jaws is not in the best interests of the Bahamian people or Bahamian tourism.



Worldwide, sharks are being decimated for fins and jaws at a completely unsustainable rate. An estimated 60 million sharks per year are taken in this manner. By asking vessels not to arrive at our facilities with sharks, we hope to encourage responsible sport fishing, thereby ensuring a lasting and healthy population of sharks in Bahamian waters for future generations and contributing to the overall health of the Caribbean.



Please practice catch-and-release with all sharks and enjoy our facilities.



Welcome to the Bahamas.



Editors Note: This initiative is not only limited to the Bahamas and the several marinas who have expressed an interest in joining it (press release to follow). As a concept we will allow and help promote any organization or group to use this logo to enact their own regional Shark-Free Marinas. In places like Florida and the East coast this could conceivably help redirect shark kills and weigh ins. It offers the opportunity for marinas to claim the "Green Card" while at the same time redirecting fishermen into sustainable fisheries.



Special thanks to Richard Theiss RTSea Productions for video PSA's.


Shark conservation. One blog, one website, one person at a time.

17 comments:

Tania said...

Not a bad idea there guys, this could work. Count us in for a blog post when the servers come back up today!

DaShark said...

Bravo, great idea!

Please keep everybody informed about the marinas that do participate - and especially, about those that don't!

Question is, will the Bahamas Diving Association and its unparalleled "legendary" President jump on this chance for redemption......?

Shark Diver said...

If the BDA would like to jump in that would be great it would be nice to get some weight from that side. Many of the BDA members have dive marinas so it's a "gimmee".

The total thus far "confirmed" is three and they are some of the heavyweights.

One at a time.

Wolf Leander said...

While the idea as such is good, I cannot endorse it as it is. I would only support an initiative that would recommend a TOTAL ban on angling sharks. Catch and release is a brutal and senseless practice that hurts and often kills the sharks.

The Bahamas Government should outlaw catching any sharks for any purpose whatsoever, and thus make their archipelago the only true paradise for sharks on earth.

Sharks aren't safe even in 'protected' places such as the Marine Park of the Galapagos simply because the existing laws aren't being enforced by the Ecuadorian authorities.

The Bahamas could set a shining example in efficient shark protection.

I have lived in the Bahamas for more than 6 years, and in later years I have had the best shark dives in my life in the Bahamas.

I would do everything within my power to back the initiative if it would go for a COMPLETE ban on shark fishing.

Shark Diver said...

We get where you are coming from Wolf. Unfortunately the realities are the following:

1.More tourism dollars come from fishing in the Bahamas region than diving.

2.Sharks are considered "garbage fish" here by fishermen.

3.The money, time and effort, spent to try and get the Bahamian Gov to enact any laws to stop sharks from being killed would not stop the "killing for images" that is happening right now and balanced against the sheer dollars from fishing tourism might not ever pass.

I was told the following by several industry guys in the Bahamas after this springs event.

You know first hand how hard it is to get Yahoo! or Alibaba.com to change, try getting Governments.I am not saying it cannot be done, but in the short term something HAS TO BE done.

You choose your battles "carefully". Fishing is part of the lifeblood of an entire economy here. Let's show them a way to continue those economics-however personally repugnant it is to you-in a sustainable manner.

Put simply Wolf, you either stop pregnant sharks from being outright killed with a self imposed ban on landings, or you lose an entire next generation of animals while the Government s-l-o-w-l-y decides their fate.

We have "one solution" and hopefully others will come forward with others. It starts with "one".

We're sorry to hear we'll be parting ways here on this one you're a solid voice in the community Wolf.

Stuart in Miami said...

Great idea guys, how about calling the following operations:

Stuart Cove
Unexco

We'll do some legwork on this end for you with a few of the smaller marinas and keep you updated!

Capt Dave Richards said...

Not a bad idea SD we have been wondering how to stop weigh ins here on the east coast every year another marina does a monster shark tourney, maybe this will help stemm the tide. I will ask around and see whos interested.

DaShark said...

I fully concur with you Shark Diver, well said!

It's about doing what's possible, RIGHT NOW.

Making a lot of noise and having a lot of people sign petitions has its place in Conservation, but all of that takes time and only seldom succeeds.

When one promotes all-or-nothing positions and as so often, demonizes the "other side" (often, the very Authorities that are being asked to enact legislation), one risks alienating them to the point where the situation doesn't improve but gets worse instead - see the whole Whale Conservation movement where positions have become completely entrenched, much to the detriment of the Whales one is trying to protect.

Or, as a stupid example (or example of stupidity?), look at what's happening in Congress right now.

Commercial considerations are a fact, especially in Emerging Countries.
We can bitch and moan as much as we like, yours truly included - but in the end, it's up to us to come up with compromises and alternatives, often comprising direct compensation for the loss of income by the fishermen.

Or like in the present case, to think outside of the box and try to create a win-win situation for everybody by promoting a feel-good, "green" label.

Those of us who succeed often do so by acting pragmatically, quietly and consensually - and when in another country: respectfully!

This notwithstanding, Wolf's idea of approaching the Bahamian Government is a good one. Again, why not through the BDA?
So, Wolf, will your put your money where your mouth is and write a couple of your inimitable letters to start the ball rolling?

But again, the one shouldn't exclude the other but complement it instead.

Wolf Leander said...

Da Shark - yeah, I will think about it. My emotions sometimes keep me from being pragmatic. Patric is right, and I will "work" on this with him.

I will be back with the beautiful tiger babes of Tiger Beach in November. Seeing them, and being close to them, will certainly inspire this old fart to do something on their behalf --- :-)

DaShark said...

Good on 'ya Wolf!

Your emotions notwithstanding, Shark Conservation is fortunate in having as passionate and vocal an advocate as you are!

Enjoy the tigers!

Mike

Felix Leander said...

Da Shark / Patric - my old man is usually emotional at first and then starts to think about it...I have advised him more than once to first sit on an idea before letting his emotions get the best of him ;) I would have told him the same thing. But you do see he is a reasonable person...

I think this is actually a phenomenal idea and initiative...

Jana said...

Hi, well this sounds like a good idea for the beginning but also catch and release way can be dangerous and many sharks can be killed as well. The fishermen would have to first know how to carefully release a shark in order to save his life. I personally talk to some fishermen, especially local Bahamians and they told me they often catch a shark but have no idea how to release it without any hurt to shark. Most of them are scared and don't want to "play" with shark in order to help him.

This sounds like now fishermen can catch sharks, take pictures and release them back into ocean. Shark-free marina seems to be like a ban not to bring sharks back to the marina.

I strongly think we need to fully protect sharks from fishing them.

In fact, sharks in the Bahamas are threatened by unsustainable developments in the Bahamas. The mangrove nursery areas and living space for sharks is being destroyed in order to build mega "Florida" resorts on Bahamians islands. It's the shame for the government that it's allowed but greed talks in this world! Just look at Bimini Islands or GUana cay. Check: www.restrictbiminibayresort.org or www.savebimini.org

Shark Diver said...

Hi Jana,

We respect your direction on this and agree that fishing these sharks is no solution. We need to separate two issues here. Our goal is to stop the taking of large breeding aged sharks for the sole purpose of images and jaws.

How do we accomplish that goal?

Partnering with forward thinking marinas to ensure they refuse vessel entry with these animals. Once vessels understand they can no longer do this-they will stop.It's Marine Fisheries Education 101.

We can dramatically lower the incident rate for kill-catch with one simple initiative.

Now, the next steps are always much harder but this is the low hanging fruit and we're going for it.

We also respect the needs for these marinas to cater to fishermen, and for the rights of these fishermen to catch fish. It is the lifeblood of the region and brings in millions to the economy.

Let's see if we can get traction on this first. I have 5 marinas who have said yes, we would like to get 15 on board and then roll this out as an East Coast effort to slow down the shark weigh ins there.

Can you help?

Jana said...

Thanks for your reply. I do support your initiative and see it positive. It's always better than doing nothing for the shark protection.

Which marinas did you speak to and where in the Bahamas? I worked at the Sharklab in Bimini past two summers and I know this island as my home since I've been coming there since 2004. Maybe I could try to do something to get two marinas on board as well.

Shark Diver said...

Hi Jana,

We spoke with all the majors last week and sent the following email that you may use. If any doubling happens that's fine.

We will be publishing the entire list of Marinas in December. Can you go after those marinas that have dive operations attached to them should be easy to get them on board-they can contact us with any additional questions. We will supply them with a metal street sign with the logo at our cost.

Hi Bob,

I spoke with Dwight your Harbor Master today and he suggested we contact you in person. We would like you to join us and a growing number of commercial marinas in the Bahamas region with the Shark Free Marinas Initiative. I have included a brief synopsis of what is involved and the logo we are proposing. All marinas that sign on to this initiative will receive a complimentary metal street sign from us with our logo to post at your marina plus mention in several eco and fishing news articles that will be going out to both the local news agencies in the Bahamas and South Florida.

This initiative will help both support sustainable shark fisheries in the Bahamas and allow your marina to green up with little to no effort by yourself. It's a win-win for sustainable fisheries in the Bahamas region.

Shark Free Marinas Initiative

The Shark-Free Marinas Initiative is a way to work with existing resort marinas in the Bahamas that cater to sport fishing vessels, seeking their cooperation in asking them not to allow sharks to be taken and displayed at their marinas. This initiative, in turn, encourages the use of catch-and-release programs and promotes sustainable fisheries.

Each marina and resort that supports this initiative will receive both, a metal sign and logo we have created to post in their marina office and the following information for posting on their marina websites. In December of 2008 we will be sending out a series of press releases to both Bahamian news sources, websites and South Florida news sources talking about the Shark-Free Marinas Initiative mentioning the marinas that have signed on to the program:

Your Website Information

(Name of resort and marina) supports the Shark-Free Marinas Initiative in the Bahamas region. The Bahamas is home to many shark species and the healthy reef systems that support these sharks. We feel the one-time harvesting of sharks for photo images or souvenir jaws is not in the best interests of the Bahamian people or Bahamian tourism.

Worldwide, sharks are being decimated for fins and jaws at a completely unsustainable rate. An estimated 60 million sharks per year are taken in this manner. By asking vessels not to arrive at our facilities with sharks, we hope to encourage responsible sport fishing, thereby ensuring a lasting and healthy population of sharks in Bahamian waters for future generations and contributing to the overall health of the Caribbean.

Please practice catch-and-release with all sharks and enjoy our facilities.Welcome to the Bahamas.

I will be in contact with you next week, please let us know if you are interested in joining us for the long term health of fisheries in the Bahamas.

--
Cheers,
XXX

Jana said...

Thanks for the information. I'll go over this at the weekend. I think that Bimini Big Game or Bimini Sands can join. Bimini Sands is more environmentally now so it should be easy to get this resort on board.

RTSea said...

Many thanks for all the comments you have contributed regarding the Shark-Free Marina Initiative!

We realize it's not the silver bullet, end all solution that many of you would like to see implemented. Instead, it's a more incremental approach, chipping away at the problem from different angles.

Shark conservation is less pragmatic than other marine conservation issues - for the most part, there are no issues of nutrition vs. overfishing (like, say, bluefin tuna, wherein you try to provided alternatives through aquaculture, different fishing techniques, or species rotation).

The challenge here is cultural. The long-standing culture behind the demand for shark fins or other shark products, the culture behind trophy fishing, and in a larger sense, the long-standing culture of fear about sharks. Changing culture is always a more challenging task. It requires a multi-pronged approach starting from the grass roots level and working your way up. And, unfortunately, it takes time.

Today, I just came from an environmental symposium being held in Laguna Beach, CA (check my blog) where I had the opportunity to talk with the symposium chair, Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General at the U.N. Being a worldwide political figure, he had something very interesting to say,"Governments will do nothing if left alone; they must be motivated." Motivated by commerce (the military-industrial complex) and/or (believe it or not) motivated by the people.

So, we start from the ground up, looking for every avenue to educate and enlighten people to the plight of sharks regionally and worldwide - a frightened child here, a testosterone-loving fisherman there, an Asian market here and a tourism marina there. Every little bit helps towards building a groundswell of public opinion that will not only propel the decision-makers to act but to also support and enforce.

Again, thanks for your support of the Shark-Free Marina Initiative! Let's hope it continues to grow and spawn other visible measures that support shark conservation!

Richard Theiss
RTSea