Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Shark Conservation - Message to Shark NGO's

For the most part the following shark conservation news went under reported by the conservation world this week.

For us this was interesting if not revolutionary news:

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- A Brazilian environmental group sued a fish exporter for $790 million Monday, alleging the firm has illegally sold the fins from 280,000 sharks since 2009 to meet demand in Asia where they are a culinary delicacy.

In Brazil, it is illegal to separate shark fins from the carcasses, and in May government agents reported finding 3.3 tons of shark fins during a single raid on the company sued by the Environmental Justice Institute.

Lawsuits vs Awareness Campaigns

A quick look around the Internet finds 95% of the shark conservation efforts focus on awareness.

That's not so surprising, as most have little to no funds to work with. We have been highlighting that problem for a while. There are however quite a few NGO's who have money, and their "awareness campaigns" ring hollow against an ongoing global shark crises.

The Environmental Justice Institute in Brazil has just fired the first shot and lead the way in what could well be a new paradigm for shark conservation. As the Environmental Justice Institute knows along with any group who's been in the shark conservation world for a while, the shark fin traffickers are not hiding. Their warehouses are not underground, their fishing fleets do not operate under cover of darkness, and for the most part they do not worry about the trade in fins.

This has to stop, and one way to make it stop is to hold the traffickers accountable for laws already on the books via lawsuits. So, the next time you see a top tier NGO asking for money for what amounts to an awareness campaign, think again.

Demand action in the form of lawsuits that target individual companies. As we have long said, the shark conservation world does not understand trade. Trade is business. Businesses can be seriously impacted when you look at the problem from the business and trade side of things.

Shark Mafia?

For too long, and thanks to some well placed and highly public media bubbles, the shark conservation world and the general public has come to believe that all shark fins, the entire trade is run by a global shark mafia. In conversations I had recently with an NGO talking about disrupting the trade I was hit with this question, "aren't you afraid they might come and do something to you?"

My response was "who are they exactly?" In my world "they" are folks like the following small company in Vietnam:

Ms Dieu Hanh
HX Export Center
405/2 Xo Viet Nghe Tinh str., Binh Thanh dist.,
Ho Chi Minhc city, Viet Nam
Tel: 848 5117992 - Fax: 848 5117829

You want to take down the shark fin trade, take down the trade by looking at trade from the business side.

The Environmental Justice Institute knows that shark fin companies can ill afford lawsuits and that successful prosecution of just one company will send a clear and unambiguous message to the rest.

Beats another repetitious awareness campaign any day of the week. By now even folks who get their news via rudimentary roof top carrier pigeons know there's a shark crises going on.

Kudos to The Environmental Justice Institute for the effort and the direct action lawsuit.

Note: There is one fine example of an awareness campaign that should continue to be funded and deserves note. WildAid's China campaign is about targeted awareness and over the past seven years has made serious and lasting inroads to curb shark fin use in China and Asia.

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