Thursday, November 10, 2011

Battleground for sharks Western Sahara?

Shark Fishing in Africa circa 1876
The shark population in occupied Western Saharan waters is under threat by Moroccan and European fishing. That is one of the many disturbing conclusions of the independent post-evaluation report on the EU's fish deal with Morocco.

Through targeting sharks, rays and skates, European vessels fishing in Western Saharan waters have adopted the same exploitation strategy as the Moroccan vessels, says the evaluation report from Océanic Developpement - an independent consultancy firm hired by the European Commission to review the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA).

The Moroccan fleet has long-time held a special interest for sharks. Up to 4.000 tonnes are landed each year to accommodate the demands for shark of the Asian markets. Particularly the deep sea species are targeted, as their large liver makes them interesting for the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry.

Deplorably, the EU fleet is not lagging behind. No less than 70% of the total catches of the three Portuguese vessels active in Saharawi waters, consists of sharks, rays and skates. That's well above 450 tonnes of endangered species. This is said to be the findings of the independent study written for the European Commission. The report mentions that one single Spanish vessel fished about 60 tonnes of sharks and rays, equalling 30% of its total catches.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers sharks, rays and skates to be in danger of extinction. These species are highly vulnerable in terms of reproduction, and are as a consequence in danger of extermination when exposed to over-fishing. And that is precisely the case in Western Sahara: the EU's evaluation study concluded that the fish stocks of both Moroccan and Saharawi waters are either fully exploited or over-exploited.

In order to protect sharks and rays, an International Plan of Action for Conservation and Management of Sharks was adopted by the FAO in 1999. The catches of sharks, rays and skates by European vessels are furthermore in violation of the EU’s Action Plan on Sharks, adopted in 2009. That same year, the Moroccan government issued a set of guidelines to reduce the fishing impact on sharks, but the evaluation report found no information as to whether and how these measures have been implemented.

Since sharks, rays and skates are already in danger of extinction, continued fishing will have detrimental effects on all ongoing attempts of conservation. Three out of ten sharks captured by the EU fleet are of types that are considered 'vulnerable' by the IUCN, meaning that their population has already been reduced by 80%.


Gulf Oil Spill Research "Cornucopedia?"

What do you get when dozens of researchers from a variety of oceanic disciplines drop hundreds of pages of fresh research content on the Internet representing thousands of hours of field work...all in the space of a week?

Why that would be a veritable 
"Cornucopedia" of study material, and folks it is time to get busy with the answers to many of the questions we have been wondering about concerning the Gulf Oil Spill of 2010.

Of course the big answer, "did the oil spill have an impact?" is here in stark black and white.

Yes it did.

If you ask a BP rep/lawyer/evil incarnate baby eater the same question the answer will be vastly different and that, people, is why we have scientists to break it down for you.

But this work is absolutely no good to anyone unless it is read, dissemintaed, and talked about and that's where you come in. Now if you're some of the folks we know in the shark biz, forewarning this link contains big words and some numbers that go as high as 12, as in 12 pack beer. So you might want to wait until others have posted on Facebook pages with big glossy pictures of oiled seabirds so you can get angry, otherwise you'll just get lost with this stuff.


If you're the other folks we know in the shark biz, the majority, read on, and pay close attention to the next few months with fresh papers coming out concerning Whale sharks in the Gulf.

We hear tell this is going to be some interesting stuff. Then again we have been watching closely since this event broke in 2010 helping to drive the media where we could in response to these magnificent animals who, at the time, were migrating right through bands of oil.

For these animals it would appear they suffered greatly.

Tagging Tigers Guy Harvey's Clan Returns Home

Three tiger sharks tagged off  the coast of Grand Cayman as part of a collaborative research project have returned to local waters after almost a year travelling around the Caribbean. Although Tina was last tracked off the coast of Jamaica, Coco is in the deep water off Grand Cayman at present and Luiza, who was last heard of off Honduras – Nicaragua in the summer, has come home for a visit and officials are watching to see when she will leave again on her voyage around the Caribbean. The three sharks were given satellite tags as part of an extensive survey of the sharks around the Cayman Islands, which has revealed information on what species there are and some of the threats to Cayman’s large marine animals.

The project is a joint effort between the Department of Environment (DoE), Marine Conservation International (MCI), the Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) at Nova Southeastern University and the Save Our Seas Foundation.

Studies elsewhere have shown that where large sharks have been fished out, the resulting catch of desirable fish for the fishers has drastically changed and reduced in species and numbers. The current study will provide information on the situation in the Cayman Islands and help to prevent such a disastrous situation for our waters.

The long migration paths of the three tigers show the sharks use a large part of the Caribbean Sea. Dr Mauvis Gore from Marine Conservation International said the tracks show the extensive areas that the tiger sharks need to patrol for food and in turn help to keep a balance in the seas.

Despite their precarious situation, there is no law to protect sharks in Cayman waters but hopes for the species have been raised in the region following the ban on shark fishing by Belize, Mexico, St Maarten, Honduras and the Bahamas. Timothy Austin, Deputy Director of the DoE, welcomed the ban by neighbouring countries.  “This will give a boost to the health of the marine environment for the Caribbean,” he said.

A boost to shark conservation has also come from the Cayman Islands Brewery, which is donating five cents to the project from the sale of every can of its new award winning White Tip lager.

You can watch the Tiger tracks here.