Thursday, November 13, 2008

White Sharks In Tonga? You Bet!

Without a doubt 2008 will probably go down as one of the most exciting in terms of tracking data from a global effort with Great White sharks.

From the discovery of SOFA (Shared Offshore Feeding Area) in the Pacific to Y.O.Y migrations into the Sea of Cortez to this weeks revelations of white sharks in Tonga:

THREE Great White Sharks - each over 4 metres long and a kind rarely sighted in Tonga - have visited Tongatapu waters very recently, dropping their transmitting tags and surprising scientists who say that it is the first time they have known these creatures to come here.

They were among six Great Whites that were tagged off the Chatham Islands in April.

"All three sharks may still be in Tongan waters or they may have left," said Clinton Duffy, a scientist with the Aquatic & Threats Unit in New Zealand's Department of Conservation, who confirmed that three tags have popped up in Tongan waters in the last two months.

Whale Wars-Wagging the Conservation Dog

Our Whale Wars post this week has generated a mass of offline and thoughtful emails here at Underwater Thrills. We also got a few hysterical foaming-at-the-mouth diatribes as well.

Here's one example highlighting how Wagging the Conservation Dog harms an entire movement:

Sea Shepherd are not helping whales, they are exacerbating the problem. Every time they clash with the whaling ships in the Antarctic, the Japanese look like the victims, and they spin this for all it's worth at the IWC - "irresponsible NGOs, terrorist organisations" etc. SSCS are gifting the Japanese whalers a bargaining chip to use within the international diplomatic community. Whilst their hearts might be in the right place, and their passion evident, SSCS are sadly out of touch with reality.

Conservation doesn't happen by putting yourself between a harpoon and a whale - although admittedly that is a great way to get publicity. Real conservation happens in international fora - at the IWC, at CITES, within CMS, ACCOBAMS and ASCOBAMS. It's only though negotiation and diplomacy that NGOs can persuade governments and decision-making bodies to lay down new laws that protect wildlife . A £10,000 donation to an NGO that does this kind of work will secure the future of thousands or perhaps millions of whales and dolphins - SSCS would burn through it in a couple of days chasing the Japanese whalers around icebergs, giving just a handful of whales a temporary reprieve.

SSCS are attracting a lot of attention for their antics, and this is diverting funds from the organisations that can really make the difference. The environmental NGO community has come a long, long way in the past 20 years, and we've got inside governments and international fora to a point where we affect REAL change. By tackling the economics of whaling and trade, creating legal frameworks, working with industry and governance - we are making a huge difference to the conservation and welfare of these animals worldwide.

SSCS are alienating and undermining the conservation movement, not helping it. Funders should think long and hard before giving money to SSCS, and question the true value of what they get in return.