Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Developing a Code of Conduct for whale shark interactions in Mozambique


The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is a popular focal species within the global marine tourism industry. Although this has contributed to increased protection being granted to the species in several countries, tourism itself can be detrimental to the sharks in the absence of appropriate management.

Potential impacts can be mitigated, at least in the short term, by adherence to well-designed interaction guidelines. A burgeoning marine tourism industry based on swimming with whale sharks has developed at Tofo Beach in Mozambique. However, no formal management is currently in place at this site. The behaviour of whale sharks during interactions with boats and swimmers were recorded during 137 commercial snorkelling trips run from Tofo Beach over a 20 month period. Whale sharks were encountered on 87% of trips, which operated year-round.

Boat proximity and shark size were significant predictors of avoidance behaviour. No avoidance responses were recorded at >20 m boat distance. The mean in-water interaction time between sharks and swimmers was 8 min 48 s overall. There was a significant decrease in interaction times during encounters where sharks expressed avoidance behaviours, and also in cases where sharks had expressed boat avoidance behaviour before swimmers entered the water. It is suggested that mean encounter times can be extended through adherence to a basic Code of Conduct for operators and swimmers that enforces minimum distances between the sharks, boats and swimmers.

Using encounter time as a measure of the 'success' of interactions holds promise, as longer encounters appear to be indicative of lower impacts on sharks while also providing higher customer satisfaction for swimmers.

Paper here.

32 Years in the Making Sea Shepherd Takes a Win?

We're no fans of Paul Watson and his insufferable braggadocio, compounded with an almost pathological disdain for the facts and truth, but on the other hand we're no fans of Japanese whaling either.

It would appear after 32 years of conservation noise, battles, reality television shows, and more lies and false reports than can be attributed to even the worst media output of a third rate dictatorship, (anyone remember Paul Watson getting shot?) Sea Shepherd has succeeded in pulling off a conservation win.

Japan has announced it will withdraw from whaling this season to "reassess it's operations in the region".


Does this mean and end to whaling? Time will tell.

Does this mean that Sea Shepherd will continue to be the most insufferable, mind numbing, small block conservation bully on the scene?

Unfortunately yes.

After 32 years of abject conservation failures from seals to tuna and sharks, Sea Shepherd will undoubtedly come out swinging at the many nay sayers (like us) who find their brand of conservation counter productive and wholly self serving.

But a win is a win, and even if the seals in Canada are still be harvested, now more than ever, (another Paul Watson epic fail) we'll give Sea Shepherd it's due.

After 32 years of trying, they, like that kid in the gym class who never could get a sit up right, deserve a tin star.


TRAFFIC - Verification First and IUU

Verification and illegal, unreported, and unregulated IIU legislation for fisheries is one way to by pass cultural heritage arguments when dealing with issues ranging from tuna harvests to shark fin.

By making the argument about the trade itself and the illegal importation of red list species legislation of this kind has a chance to accomplish its goals without perceived or politically motivated food source culture push back.

Tokyo, Japan, 16th February 2011—TRAFFIC Japan today
hosted a seminar entitled “Towards traceability and sustainable use of
marine resources: international trends and activities in Japan”, and in
a TRAFFIC first, the seminar was broadcast live online.

The aim of the seminar was to challenge people to answer the question as
to whether the fish on their dinner table has been caught legally or not.

“Here in Japan, there is growing awareness of the problems caused by IUU
[illegal unreported and unregulated] fishing of salmon, tuna, sharks and
other marines resources, and consumers are increasingly demanding
greater traceability in the source of the fish they eat, to ensure it
comes from legal and sustainable sources,” says Soyo Takahashi,
Fisheries Officer with TRAFFIC Japan.

“This seminar provides an opportunity for those interested in this issue
to hear how the experts are ensuring greater transparency in the
fisheries supply chain.”

Speakers included Mr Melcom Pohl Block, Namibian Ministry of Fisheries
Marine Resources on “Namibia and the challenge of sustainable
fisheries”; Mr Richard Parsons from the UK Government’s Department for
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on “The EU’s IUU fisheries
regulations and enforcement, with particular reference to the UK”; Mr
Nakamura Nobuyuki, Senior Managing Director of an eel retailing company
on “Traceability and eel farming: Production and public certification”;
plus TRAFFIC’s Ms Joyce Wu and Ms Soyo Takahashi and Ms Aiko Yamauchi of
WWF Japan.

More on TRAFFIC.