Friday, April 3, 2009

Palau's Shark Shame - Tourism Blowback

RTSea's Blog summed up the recent shark conservation policy shift in Palau. As always they distilled this issue down to what matters and why:

Palau has been a favorite dive tourist destination for many years because of its wonderful reefs and bountiful fishlife. And the island has, in the past, taken active steps to protect its shark populations with aggressive action against illegal shark finning operations. All of these efforts have contributed to the island's tourist economy and sound conservation policy.

But that all could potentially be undone with recent legislation that was introduced to both allow for commercial shark fishing and allow for the use of purse seining - a method that brings in a large amount of by-catch. Palau commercial fishing interests have been working with Philippine fishing groups and the combined influence on Palau legislators has produced SB8-44 (which drops the ban on shark fishing) and SB8-50 (which drops an export tax on fish caught by purse seining).

According to FinsMagazine, the collective result of the laws would be:
  • To permit and encourage the killing of sharks in Palau’s waters
  • To promote shark finning
  • To promote fishing methods that according to Monterey Bay Aquarium “result in large amounts of unintended catch” including sharks, dolphins, turtles, rays and juveniles:
  • To exempt fishing companies from any export taxes on fish taken from Palau’s waters
  • To make it practically impossible for Palau’s law enforcement personnel to successfully prosecute alleged violators in the courts
  • To risk destroying Palau’s sustainable tourism industry
  • To risk destroying Palau’s marine resources through unsustainable practices
  • To gamble on all of the above for no apparent gain to Palau or Palauans.
This issue has made the rounds of several shark blogs recently, but opinions from everyone - from divers to land-bound ocean advocates - are needed to remind the Palau government that the negative impact on tourism and the island's marine ecology will ultimately outweigh the short-term gains in a working relationship with Philippine commercial fisheries.

Email to make your voice heard:

Palau Chamber of Commerce (
Belau Tourism Association (
Palau Visitors Authority ( .

Shark Allies - Commercial Conservation

As a long running theme here at this blog we have advocated for commercial shark diving involvement and leadership in conservation efforts.

Last week we got the following email and announcement from Stefanie Brendl, owner of Hawaiian Shark Encounters.

Shark conservation, outreach, and education is best served by the front line operators in the region.

Welcome to the new conservation website Shark Allies and Kudos to the guys in Hawaii for dreaming this up:

Hi Guys,

At last, our non-profit "Shark Allies" is getting off the ground. We have been tinkering around with websites and organizational stuff, but at last, we are going official. We have a booth at the Ocean Expo in Oahu this weekend where we will hand out a lot of info, introduce our first three projects, have some petitions to sign and hopefully get some members and volunteers.

Our first projects are:

A) Supporting and expanding the Marine Science Program at Waialua High School. We gave them money from Shark Encounters last year so they could start. The students love it and it has been very successful. They need more money to expand it so more students can sign up.

B)Supporting research for the study of the movement of sharks in the Hawaiian islands. Shark Encounters has been supporting a tagging project done by the Shark Lab of UH for two years that has given us a lot of new data for Galapagos and Sandbar sharks. We want to expand it to tiger sharks and beyond the North Shore.

C) Shark Fin legislation in Hawaii. Right now Sharks have to be landed whole, but it is not illegal to bring in or transship fins. So containers packed with fins still come into Hawaii.
We want to work towards a ban on all shark fin products in Hawaii.

This is a very small and humble start, keeping it local at first. But hopefully it can grow into an organization that can make a difference beyond Hawaii.


Editors Note: You had us at Shark Allies;)

What "You Tube" Does For Enforcement

Interesting news this week from You Tube and NOAA. Turns out videos posted on You Tube and other online media sites are being watched by enforcement officials - against illegal dolphin feeding.

As a case point to the commercial shark diving industry, we too are being watched. Video's posted to You Tube and other online media sites from South Africa, to the Bahamas and Mexico are being used in ways that are detrimental to our industry.

Viral video spreads faster than traditional media and is more effective in making a case for or against commercial shark diving:

Wildlife protection agencies have a new tool at their disposal - YouTube.

The video-sharing Web site allowed Al Samuels, a special agent with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's office for law enforcement, to find a record of a Georgia shrimper and guests on his boat feeding dolphins near Tybee Island.

"They had taken the bycatch and were using it to feed dolphins, and that was on YouTube," he said. "I got in touch and issued them a warning." Because the investigation remains open, Samuels could not disclose the name of the shrimper or any other details.

However, a video that fits the description was still posted Thursday on YouTube. The 18-minute clip shows a family on the boat holding fish overboard as dolphins beg and jump out of the water.

What looks like harmless fun is not, wildlife officials say.

Complete Story