Monday, September 22, 2008

Betting on sharks-Barbarians at the gate

We're not sure what is more repugnant a pastime. Shark finning or illegal betting on dead shark "weigh ins" like a recent expose at the Martha's Vinyard Monster Shark Tournament.

One thing we are sure about. Media is a powerful tool. With the advent of You Tube you can get your message across to millions. As far as shark conservation goes the next time you see an online save-the-sharks petition...shut down your computer and go pick up a camcorder:

Kudo's the the Humane Society for this kind of direct action.

Ecotoursim:Making a personal connection with Nature

From RTSea's Blog today. One of the reasons we work with Richard and have come to admire him as a friend and shark colleague is his ability to cut through hype and deliver thoughtful ideas, expressions, industry analysis and news:

Shark diving, whale watching, safari tours, mountain gorilla expeditions - all fall under a single heading: Ecotourism. It's a complex activity that brings together conservation, education, and economic development - all for good or for evil depending on the motivations of the operators.

Many conservation organizations or NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) are turning to ecotourism as a new strategic direction. In many parts of the world, conservation legislation and regulations which have been put in place - but unsupported logistically or economically - have proven less than effective. Ecotourism has the potential for both enlightening the public and providing economic incentive to governments or local economies. But it must be structured in a way that insures safety to the animals, safety for the participants, and minimizes it's ecological footprint while at the same time remaining economically viable.

There will always be an element of adventure associated with ecotourism - the thrill of seeing an elusive, endangered, or even potentially dangerous animal in the wild, and that will remain a major component as to its allure. Consider this online video promo I produced on shark diving for, emphasizing the mystique of these incredible animals (as opposed to promoting some macho, life-threatening experience).

Once participants are attracted to this unique opportunity, then it is imperative that the operators stress the concepts of education, conservation and protection. If not, then they are just profiteering and that greed can lead to lax policies that endanger people and animals. Shark, for which I am an on-call consultant, provides professional services to help advance the future of responsible shark eco-tourism by assessing potential sites and recommending detailed safety and environmental procedures that require strict compliance on the part of the operators.

Ecotourism is no "silver bullet" solution or panacea. It can be abused by unscrupulous operators just like any other commercial venture. But many in the conservation and ecology movement are finding that a greater level of awareness - a more personal connection - is in order and ecotourism may be one way to help reach that goal.

White Shark at Ocean Beach-San Francisco

The boys over the The Fear Beneath blog posted the following shark report. For some states the heralding of late summer and fall comes with the turning of leaves. For us here in Nor is the arrival of the Great White sharks:

On September 19, 2008 Evan Kinkel was surfing at Ocean Beach near Sloat Blvd., San Francisco. Kinkel reported; “I had been in the water about 45 minutes prior to a large fishing boat passing North of my location just outside the breakers. Seagulls circled and dove behind the boat and you could certainly see the chum that they were after. The thought did occur to me that seagulls wouldn’t be the only marine life these fishermen were attracting.

Not five minutes later a 10 – 12 foot White Shark was thrashing just outside the line up and I wasn’t the only one to notice. Myself and some others paddled in while others chose to remain in the water, the waves were good so I suppose they where willing to risk it. I also alerted my sighting to surfers on the beach about to head out.”

Isla Guadalupe Catches Fire Last Week

We keep track of several blogs in Mexico who keep track of Isla Guadalupe. Recently a fire on the island was contained but not after burning 520 hectares of grassland and trees on the top of the island. Here is the translated review of the situation and the agencies involved:

September 2008
The fire in Guadeloupe

In order to combat forest fires in Guadeloupe, and save the radiata pine variety endemic to the region as well as the flora and fauna, the Ministry of Agricultural Development (Sefo), as part of their duties, participates in specialized elements leadership in fire prevention and control by providing a light aircraft for the movement of personnel and provision of food and fuel, reported the Director of Forestry and Wildlife, Jose Angel Valdez Martinez.

The damage from the first impact, are 520 hectares (ha), of which 400 ha. are of grassland and 120 ha. correspond to the wooded area, where the predominant variety of cypress Guadalupe, located north of the island, which has been consumed by fire.

The radiata pine variety, is at risk because the wind direction, enemy number one in the control of radical different fronts of fire, which also limited the opening of gaps short fire because the area is declared by the Commission National Protected Areas (Conanp), as a protected zone.

He noted that the main strength for the control of fire in its entirety, is due to the coordination of 79 elements that comprise the brigade of the different units, such as Sefo, the National Forest Commission (CONAFOR), the Conanp, the Army and the Navy.

The equipment and tools involved are 4 planes under the stewardship of the state and Conanp, which have provided the necessary tools to control the fire in question.

The Guadeloupe is the more territory away from the country, is the last frontier of Mexico in the Pacific Ocean and is located in the far northwest of the country at coordinates 29 degrees north latitude and 118 degrees west longitude.

The value of the territory of the island, is projected onto its territorial waters and the adjacent 200-mile exclusive economic zone, from which she draws and in strategic terms of sovereignty, natural resources and biodiversity, its value is incalculable, because there is a permanent detachment of the Ministry of the Navy - Mexican Navy, also sits there for decades, a fishing cooperative state-federal share of the SCPPE, Abuloneros and Langosteros, SCL.

Above: Southeast coast of Isla Guadalupe

As ecosystem, along with the rest of the islands in the Pacific northwest Mexico is unique in its kind in the country, it is safe and siege of reproduction of species of marine mammals such as sea lion of Guadalupe (arcotephalus townsedi), elephant Marine (Mirounga angustirostris), the California sea lion (zalophus californianus), numerous species of birds and species unique in the world, such as the Guadalupe pine (Pinus radiata), the cypress Guadalupe (cipressus guadalupensis) and the palm of Guadalupe (Brahea edulis ).

In the middle of the eighteenth century, were deliberately introduced to the island, domestic goats, with the goal of having fresh meat for boats that arrived on the scene. By 1870, the number of domestic goats increased significantly. It was estimated that the load capacity of the island could reach up to 100,000 animals. The multiplication of goats caused a dramatic collapse of the forest, because they ate all the young trees and prevented recruitment of new seedlings of any kind in over a century.

Hat Tip: Christie Fisher image 2007

The flip Side of the Coin-Da Sharks Take

One of the reasons we love the Blog from Fiji. They make sense of things and cause you to scratch your head at least once or twice a week. That's a good thing people:

Under the title "Saving Sharks at the expense of Fishermen", here comes a real interesting article exploring the flip side of Shark Conservation, i.e. the fate of Shark fishermen who are being pushed out of business by new rules from the National Fisheries Management Services, a division of the US' NOAA.

The Atlantic Ocean Shark population overall has dropped 89 percent, with Tigers dropping by 97%, and Hammerheads, Duskies and Bulls 98%. That has prompted the Authorities to step in with some draconian fishing quotas.

Once they are fully implemented, the new rules could lead to the likely recovery of the population of Sandbar Sharks by 2070, of Porbeagles (like the one pictured above caught for "Science"; the water tube sticking out of his mouth is meant to ventilate it whilst it's being "worked on") ), within the next 100 years and of Dusky Sharks, within the next 100 to 400 years.

Yes you have read it correctly: up to 400 years! This is an indication of the present damage to stocks, but it is also due to the fact that Sharks are extremely slow breeders.

Obviously, the Shark fishing community cannot afford the luxury of waiting for so long and is now faced with immediate disaster, as the new quotas are too low to operate a vessel.

"But hey, wait a minute", I hear you say, "aren't these the very same people that have exterminated the stocks in the first place?"

Yes, they are, and if left to themselves, they would undoubtedly continue to reap and pillage until the very last stocks would be wiped out, along with the industry living off them. That's what fishermen seem to do time after time after time again.From that point of view, they should be left to go under, with nobody to blame but themselves for what appears to be their stupid and reckless greed.

But having said this, what about the guys who supposedly have the "brains"?
What was NOAA doing whilst the stocks were falling by 30, and then 40 and then 50 and then 60 and then 70 and then 80 and then 90 percent?

You guessed it: likely nada de nada! Or better: as the stocks were falling, they may have started to collect data in order to properly document the threat in view of some future decision.
That's what Fisheries Biology has become all too often: collecting data in order to diligently document the decline, and all to often, the demise of a species. Caught between the interests of environmentalists who say they're not doing enough and the fishing lobby who fear for their livelihood, the Agencies all to often keep procrastinating until the situation has progressed well beyond its tipping point and everyone is faced with a catastrophe.

As an example, the new rules have taken years to document and one and a half years to "equitably" draft by consulting with all of the stakeholders - way too long for the stocks and the fishing industry alike.

Was that smart?

Will anybody learn from this unholy and repetitive pattern? Maybe issue some pre-emptive injunction and only then go out and document it with the required data?

I wish!

But hope, as they say, springs eternal.

Stinkin' Dead Shark Award September 2008

At the end of this month we would like to present the SDS Award to those within the global community whose abjectly abhorrent behavior towards sharks and sustainable fisheries or shark conservation warrants a big black eye.

Translation-your treatment of sharks sucks!

This months award winner is:

Damien Hirsts art sale this week.

But wait there's more... turns out the Tiger shark Hirst acquired came from none other than notorious Australian shark killer Vic Hislop.

Total cost for a once live magnificent Tiger shark? $200

Total sale cost of the unholy object d'art? $21 million

Editors Note: To give you some perspective $21 million dollars would fully staff park enforcement officers for sharks in protected areas like Galapagos for 5 full years.

Dubai Aquarium Tiger Sharks Turn Aggressive, Kill 40 Smaller Sharks

We blogged about Sand Tigers a few months ago and then double checked with a buddy who's in charge of sharks at the Long Beach Aquarium.

The final verdict? Sand Tigers are the "Hit Men" of the AQ world totally unpredictable. So it was no surprise when we read about this mornings aquarium equivalent of a "drive by massacre" at the Dubai Aquarium.

The final tally:

40 dead reef sharks

DUBAI - Sand Tiger sharks have killed at least 40 smaller reef sharks and been aggressive towards divers at The Dubai Mall Aquarium, Khaleej Times has learnt. Divers carrying out tasks in the tank, without a cage, have had their equipment substantially damaged and experienced minor injuries due to the behaviour of the sharks, according to sources.

Editors Note:The video we posted in January pretty much sums it up for these critters. A quick reminder to all AQ divers, always eat lunch with your back to a wall.