2009 was a great year for shark conservation and Shark Diver initiatives (click image).
Back in 2007/8 I became aware of several Tiger sharks that had been killed for their jaws and images in the Bahamas. The animals were harvested near a shark site we operate at both commercially and with film and television productions.
We blogged about it here.
The animals taken were significant to the region and as a shark diving operator I felt a moral obligation to act.
The million dollar question was, "how do you tackle the entire sport take shark fishing industry?"
Welcome to the Shark Free Marinas Initiative.
What started as a conservation idea, brought about by commercial shark diving, became much more in the hands of a skilled conservationist like Luke Tipple who ultimately became the Director and public face of the initiative.
Launched in the summer of 2009 the initiative exploded on to the conservation scene with the help of regional leaders in the Bahamas like Oceanic Allstars and Staurt Gow in Fiji who, thanks to his efforts, have become 70% Shark Free - a stunning achievement.
Leaders within the sport fishing community and shark diving community adopted the SFMI in an endless summer series of television interviews, Op Eds, magazine articles and online posts. In short, a titanic media management effort that delivered conservation messaging and action in a nice little package.
Our proudest moment in 2009.
If there was one thing I was most appreciative of in 2009 it was the folks who saw the Shark Free Marinas Initiative and pushed it regionally, and internationally. They are the true shark conservationists, the ones who took the tools we provided to effect real conservation change in their region.
The stakes could not be higher. Hundreds of thousands of sport caught sharks land at marinas in the USA alone every single year. The Shark Free Marinas Initiative could, in just a few short years, actually reduce that number dramatically, while at the same time educating fishermen to the plight of sharks.
The Shark Free Marinas Initiative website concept, providing conservation tools to regional associates, was quickly carbon copied by at least three new shark conservation groups. Further good news, as this effort stands as a leadership example to others within the shark conservation community.
This is how you do shark conservation. Unique conservation ideas, solid tools, and media that moves people to act. Metrics for conservation success.
I have been a strong proponent of leadership within the shark diving community by "doing" and "effecting change." 2009 was another example of that burning desire to give back substantially to the very animals we make our living with.
I am looking forward to 2010. We have arrived at the "Decade of Action" for sharks.
Patric Douglas CEO