Welcome to 2010.
(Image by Christy Fisher)
I have been thinking a lot about this new decade and the direction it is going both in terms of the commercial shark diving world and shark conservation.
What is evident is that we have left a decade of "shark awareness" behind and have entered the decade of "shark action" and I am very happy to see this sea change within the industry.
This post read by most of you - is now a reality. “Noblesse Oblige." Back in October of 2008 this concept was as far away from being a reality as was Americas ideas of going to the moon in 1961, with the exception of a few operators who lead the industry by example.
We were one of them.
In 2009 the shark diving industry, lead by a few dedicated shark folks and a few "industry late adopters" gelled together and created a tsunami of shark conservation efforts, websites, and a few genuine eco wins.
Now we begin the heavy lifting. Shark conservation is a full time effort as many of you have discovered first hand. It is not "awareness" anymore. It is also not a back end way of promoting "stunt work with sharks" under the guise of conservation.
Flipping tiger sharks upside down at well known shark sites is not conservation.
Playing guitars at 60 feet surrounded by white sharks is also not conservation.
These images and video will, in the long haul, hurt the shark conservation movement, and our industry, and only serve to provide fodder for those who would seek to close the industry regionally, and internationally. The shotgun marriage with these "shark stunts" and shark conservation dilute and marginalize the entire effort.
Given the numbers of shark conservationists we now have engaged around the world, will we be able to effect real and lasting conservation change?
I hope so. Real change will involve critical thinking. It will involve taking risks. It will involve dedication beyond online petitions. It will also involve ignoring flashy and ultimately useless efforts that gain media attention and little else - that was the "decade of awareness."
By now we are all aware that sharks need help. That help must come in the form of measurable, serious, and dedicated efforts. Anyone can claim victory for sharks but unless there is measurable change, the effort is next to useless.
In the conservation game "the ends do not justify the means."
A perfect example of serious and lasting conservation change would be the Alibaba.com effort. Without a doubt this single sustained effort did more to save sharks and stamp out the trade in shark fins than almost any other effort in 2009. It remains a shining example of boots on the ground shark conservation.
The conservation world is rapidly changing from large and ponderous NGO's, to small, nimble conservation efforts that will ultimately lead the "decade of shark action."
Once again kudos to all for the new face of shark conservation, and a successful 2010 to you all.
Patric Douglas CEO