Monday, January 25, 2010

Australian Shark Conservation - Makos Back on the Grill

One of the most perplexing issues with modern shark conservation is regional and local government buy in. Too often rules and regulations that protect shark species take years of legislative process, time, money, and energy to adopt.

And all too often we see a watering down or outright reversals of conservation rules and regulations. Such was the case in Australia this week, where new laws governing the take of mako shark were overturned by government slight of hand and a shameless buckling to commercial fishing pressures.

That's why we developed and support the Shark Free Marinas Initiative as an effective method to bypass government while enacting shark conservation measures.

The SFMI works with direct source points of shark traffic creating a win-win with local marinas to request that sharks are not landed at their facilities.

The metrics are there. In the USA alone 400,000 sport caught sharks arrive at marinas each year (NOAA) With just 50% of marinas in the USA adopting the SFMI we could save 200,000 sharks a year. Over the planet many hundreds of thousands more while educating fishermen to catch and release ethics making a shark fishery sustainable, without any government buy in at all.

A case study for modern shark conservation and one that has already seen 70% of Fiji go Shark Free with the help of PADI Project Aware, Stuart Gow and others.

Shark Diving Industry - Threats of Violence?

The last report we ever expected to see coming from the Maldives and the South Ari Atoll, home of an excellent regional whale shark research program, might involve commercial operations in the area threatening violence at knife point.

From the Dhivehi Observer this week tales of "ugliness on the high seas" as commercial operations come into conflict with regional researchers over whale shark gold.

This is not a new tale, shark diving operations that are in conflict with each other are the stuff of legends within the commercial shark diving industry. Up until today these conflicts usually stayed quiet and never appeared on the front page:

"MV Orion and MV Southern Cross crews have allegedly threatened to ram rival boats and stand accused of throwing heavy dive weights at tourists and dhoni crews from nearby Diva Resort. Most shockingly, in January, the crew of MV Southern Cross boarded a dhoni belonging to the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme, foreign researchers who monitor the sharks. The MV Southern Cross crew threatened at KNIFE POINT to kill the researchers unless they quit the area."

For the record we fully support the efforts of the Maldives Whale Shark Program and have done so for a few years. Small minded industry ugliness is not a new phenomenon. Calling it out for public consumption is.

The owner operators of both the MV Orion and MV Southern Cross must be made to understand that user groups have rights to animals as much as they do. A smart minded operation would seek ways to incorporate research into the fabric of its dive and marketing efforts, a win-win solution to user group conflicts under the banner of conservation shark diving.

Hopefully these well known dive operators will realize their errors before it is too late and commercial whale shark diving in Maldives becomes tainted by irreparable scandal.

Deep Blues - R.I. Shark Documentary

To all who had forgotten about the venerable Snappa Charters and Captain Charlie, here is a reminder that he's still "Running with the Blues" on the east coast and still thrilling divers almost 12 years later with a recent documentary about his operation. Snappa Charters remains one of the USA's oldest shark diving operations.

Kudos to Scott Tucker for the documentary, as always the Dorsal Fin Blog looked into the media side with a finer comb and brought up some salient points: