Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Death by SMS...

From November onwards each year, the shark newswires begin to buzz with screams of Death, Ataaacckkkk, Surfer, and BLOOoooooddd emanating from Australia's newcasts. Great whites and other sharks congregate along parts of the aussie coastline in an annual migratory fashion. The event is usually pre empted by public calls for more beach patrols, more drum lines, beach cordons and aerial shark control hit squads who can snipe surfer chewing sharks from a helicopter.
Fortunately the predictable media merry-go-round is accompanied by sane and earthly quotes from the same surfers who are said to require the overt protection such as "well mate, were in their world, we don't have the right to cull them, it's our own risk..." and such like. Thank goodness the surfers are more in touch with the real world than the marine authorities.
This week in welcome contrast came news from this online source of a method to track great whites via satelite technology that will allow data from the tags to be received by SMS to mobile phones. The technology is not brand new, there was talk of this methodology being used in Aliwal Shoal to track tiger shark migrations back in 07.
The beauty of it is that it allows marine safety officials to monitor shark movements along the coast in a realtime environment. The beneficial offshoot to the effort is that marine scientists can learn valuable marine management strategies to help protect great whites from the unnecessary and rediculous tactic of deadly drum lines and beach nets.

Monday, 28 December 2009

There's sharks in them thar hills....

Here's an interesting blog that popped into my inbox this it here. It seems that once upon a time there were a lot of sharks living in the hills around LA. Maybe the sea got that high a few million years ago, or maybe the mountains got pushed up out of the sea by tectonic plate activity...or...maybe, just maybe, prehistoric man living in the area used scuba gear to catch mako sharks and they were a staple part of their diet. Or...maybe there was waaaayy too much brandy in my christmas pudding.

photo source.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Africa Leads...

It's not often that you read a truly inspiring newscast from an NGO. Many are laced with propagandist hype and fireside assuage, promising to "work harder next year". More promises
equals more requirement for cash. It's not a difficult equation.

However, there is a hardened example for all of us to take notice of and inspiration from in the shape of Lesley Rochat. I for one was taken aback by her calm ability to film sharks being finned
in front of her aboard a South African longliner last year, which transpired in her film
Sharks in Deep Touble. The real lesson to be learned from Lesley Rochat though is her ability to create organic energy from in integration of effort from many sources. She is the founder of the AfriOceans Conservation Alliance which draws together efforts, pooling resources to assist in the fight for true marine conservation objectives.
This is not just empty discourse. Lesley's recently published blog about her new initiative 'AfriOceans Warriors' is proof that there is not just talk emanating from the Rochat camp, there is action. Real organic, community integrated action. The crux of the idea around these new ocean warriors is that it they are the ocean guardians of tommorow, that in the inspiring words of her blog they are "fighting for their constitutional right to inherit healthy oceans". I have long been a proponent of the idea that it is our children that we should be looking to to pick up the recently thrown down gauntlet to save our oceans. I posted this video on youtube back in May 08 relating to the same issue, and I am really pleased to see that a major organisation is tackling the essential involvement of our youth in ocean conservation. I firmly believe that when you show the importance of ocean conservation to a child, the change doesn't only happen when the child grows up and gains power as an adult, it happens straight away. The child talks about it to their friends, to their family, they disseminate their new found passion in a way that is more consuming than fire. Yes they are our tommorow, but they are also our today.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Some good news and some good news.

A little late of a post to call this news but on the 15th Dec the mighty Shark Alliance sent out a press release announcing that, finally, after a huge effort from shark conservation groups, the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers has ended ALL fishing for porbeagle sharks and reduced the quotes for spurdog by NINETY PERCENT. It is the first major move to protect endangered shark species under the EU Plan of Action for Sharks that was implemented back in the spring of this year. After many false and frustrating starts at attempting to curb fishing for these species ending in paltry limit reductions due to filibuster tactics, usually by the Spanish, this is a great victory.

Also, news of an interesting interview with former environmental slash and burn bandit Jack Ma, yes the boss of THAT former shark fin online wholesaler (amongst other things) ALIBABA.COM, where he reveals his new love of all things green and environmental and states that it was all triggered by his attention being drawn to Alibaba by opponents of its online shark fin trade. I suspect there might be the slight chance that Mr Ma has timed the release of this interview to co-incide with Copenhagen, perhaps to help his heavywiehgt friends in China win crucial but massive funding as a developing nation to help them develop in a carbon neutral way. But, lets not be too cynical, the proof of the pudding is always in the eating, and I have yet to order my starter. You can read the full interview on's site but as it's such a huge site you might like to go directly by clicking here. The interview was bought to my attention by my friend and all round hero; inspiring person of the century Wolfgang Leander.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Forensic Help for Shark Conservation

AFP today reports that a group of scientists working in Hong Kong have been using DNA testing to try to trace the source of a batch of shark fins purchased amongst the city's notorious shark fin trading markets. The technique has been used previously to trace the origin of fish, turtles and marine mammals but this is the first time it has been used on sharks. The US scientists managed to trace 21 percent of their purchase to endangered scalloped hammerhead stock from the western Atlantic (Full article here).

This is great news for the shark conservation movement as it can indicate where to concentrate efforts or to step up action. However, some governments might be ahead of the game. The scientist's work is hoped to strengthen efforts at next year's CITES meeting in Qatar to list more shark species in appendix II, so bringing about protection via increased monitoring and licensing for international trade. However, such moves might not work so effectively in Eucador where there is already a licensing and catch monitoring system in what is arguably one of the most productive shark fishing nations in the world. Perhaps if Hong Kong trade percentages can be directly attributed to Ecuador will they be shamed into not just monitoring the catches but actually begin to restrict the high number of sharks landed on their shores.
On an inspirational note, there is a great post on a BBC site all about our wards, the Giant Manta Ray (Manta birostris). I guess following Andrea Marshall's program on her work with mantas in Mozambique, this post has links to some great manta footage and also has some interesting manta facts and some opinion on species variant.