Monday, April 6, 2009

FINS Blog - Homerun Activisim

Authorities in Palau are on a roll - and it is time to send a clear message to them - this is no kids game:

Following moves to repeal laws protecting sharks in the waters of Palau, authorities there have now proposed legislation to exempt fish exports from tax, thereby making it cheaper for big fishing fleets to target fish in the area.

Full text below via the Shark Talk blog.

The Pressure Mounts on Palau’s Sharks and Other Marine Species!

On the heels of recently proposed legislation (SB8-44) that would undo Palau’s ban on shark fishing comes yet another threat to Palau’s marine resources and national treasury by way of proposed legislation (SB8-50) to exempt fishing companies from export taxes on fish caught by purse seining and to allow those fish to be off-loaded at a foreign port(s).

SENATE BILL S-44 proposes:
“To amend Title 27 of the Palau National Code to allow for the commercial fishing of sharks within Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone, to impose a tax on the export of sharks and tuna-like species, and for other related purposes.”

SENATE BILL S-50 proposes:
“To exempt, for a period of five years, the export of tuna and tuna-like species caught using the group purse seining or handline fishing method from Palau’s fish export tax, to allow for an alternate transshipment port for fish caught using the group purse seining or handline fishing method, and for other related purposes.”

The bill goes on to say in Section 4: “For five year from the effective date of this Act, the export of any fish caught by a commercial fishing company using the group purse seining or handline fishing method shall be exempt from the fish export tax”

If these two proposed bills pass in to law, the combined effect will 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.

Both proposed Bills are conspicuously absent of any information, explanation or data to demonstrate a positive benefit to the People of Palau and or Palau’s National Treasury from passage of these Bills. Meanwhile, members of Palau’s tourism industry are becoming increasingly alarmed at the potential severe negative impacts on tourism and the pristine marine environment that underpins that industry, if these Bills pass in to law.

There are very active negotiations underway between Palau and The Philippines at this very time to enter in to commercial fishing agreements and clearly there are elements of strong political support for the fishing companies as indicated by SB 8-44 and SB 8-50.

The private industry organizations Palau Chamber of Commerce ( and Belau Tourism Association ( and the government tourism office Palau Visitors Authority ( are urging those around the world opposed to shark fishing, shark finning and unsustainable fishing practices to please express their concerns immediately by e-mail to all of the respective organizations.

It is ironic in The International Year of The Shark 2009, that Palau, the worlds very first winner of Sharkprojects “Shark Guardian of The Year Award” is considering legislation that could potentially put it at bitter odds with the international shark conservation community and destroy its reputation as a world class dive destination known for abundant sharks and large pelagic animals.

Deni Ramirez - Mexico's Shark Research

A few years ago we got to meet Mexican shark researcher Deni Ramirez while on a pleasure cruise with the Nautilus Explorer to the Revillagigedo Islands.

Mexico is filled with dedicated biologists who lead the front line boots on the ground efforts to save and study it's endemic flora and fauna.

The week long meeting with her and her cohorts was a highlight of the trip and Kudos to Mike Lever for providing a platform for Mexico's researchers.

Today we got an exciting email about a new shark website Deni has launched:

Hello Shark Divers,

I hope that everything is ok for you! My whale shark project have a
web site. We are starting a whale shark adoption project. Our goal is
to collocate satellite tags in whale sharks from Mexico. We already
tagged 2 Whale Sharks and we will tag 4 more soon!! I hope that you
find it interest and probably you know people how find it interest!
here you can check the web site:

Whale Sharks Mexico

Best wishes!

Dení Ramírez Macías

Mike Rutzen Get's a Message - Loses Point

"Oh fickle media, why doth thou play so cruelly against our shark diving industry?"

An admirable industry lament these days - especially if you are famed S.A shark diver Mike Rutzen. Seems that we are one of the few industry people to point out the growing trend of "cageless without a point". The headlong rush by members of our community to get in close and dangerous with large predatory sharks, for the sheer pleasure, and media of it.

Mike Rutzen's ongoing media line "I do it to prove these critters are misunderstood"- fails to move us.

Until today and an article in the that rang with conservation messaging worthy of any NGO:

Mike Rutzen dives with great white sharks — without a cage. While he isn’t the first to do it, he’s taken shark diving to a previously unimagined level. He does it not for fun, to win bets or for the adrenaline rush, but to prove a point. And the point is that great white sharks have a gentle side to their nature.

It’s largely to campaign for the removal of the nets that that Rutzen wants to change the image of sharks.

Great Googly Moogly, famed shark diver Mike Rutzen has a conservation message and one that makes sense - now we're talking.

For a moment, an all too brief moment, we were about to pass on a Kudo to the man and his cageless with a point message in S.A. Unfortunately we read the rest of the article and it's devolution into a bunch of ridiculous half baked industry clap trap about the "quest for tonic immobility", "communicating with sharks through body language" and a series of other half brained media nuggets that do little but marginalize the one time beauty and imagery of interactions with big predatory sharks.

Here's our take on the whole thing. If you want to do it, go for it. There's nothing on this planet, except yourself, stopping human interactions with large predatory sharks. There we said it. On the flip side, if you are going to interact with large predatory species and become a media diva in the process, do not propagate groundless "media bites" about the suppposed or imagined worth of this activity.

As Mike sums up at the end of this article all too well - once and for all destroying the initial pro shark conservation message:

"We’ve just done the longest dorsal fin ride I’ve ever ridden. It’s surreal, it’s super-peaceful. It feels like you want to stay there.”

Did anyone ask the sharks opinion of this uninvited simian fin rider? Mike, stay on message and drop the PT Barnum act. Getting the media stage with the activity is the easy part. Getting a real and lasting conservation message to stick is the hard part.