Monday, 5 July 2010

Why we should appreciate Shark Savers...

Shark Savers, the stateside non profit organisation, seems to be the first such organisation to be mentioning the need to include manta and mobula products alongside the call to protect all shark species.
It has surprised me how quickly the demand for manta/mobula products has risen, we have seen the growth of considerable mobula catches in Ecuador where only 12 months ago there were none.
It has been mentioned a time or two in the UK press, including this article in the Times, that as a side effect of the overfishing of sharks: a reduction in worldwide total shark catches, the buyers supplying the lucrative fin trade are seeking manta/mobula products to fulfil that demand. Of course it is not long taken before the fishermen answer that demand and begin to target these massive and graceful rays.
It will be interesting to see how long it takes the scientific community to begin to call for protective measures. There is very little research into population sizes, and for mantas it is thought that the numbers could be very small indeed, far smaller than global shark populations, and so the demise of these most magnificent of species could be swift, and dare I say, hardly even noticed by the land loving general public.
Shark Savers do not seem to be bogged down with the requirement of every argument to be backed up with scientific evidence. Although this does have its severe pitfalls (imagine the mess the IPCC would be in now if it didn't have peer reviewed scientific data to back up its arguments...errr..what..oh ok....sshhhhhhh), there is a definite case for much of the emphasis of conservation effort to come from the heart, and not the mind. There is a certain air of haughty exclusivity amongst much of the science community, some of that I would hazzard a guess, is derived from stopping someone from stealing all your data. Understandable, of course, but the closed society of science is not paritucalarly brilliant when it comes to asking for help from Joe Public. Shark Savers therefore is a fine example of how to bridge that gap. They have a very well qualified baord of directors, who collectively know an immense amount about the subjects that shark savers deals with, but, they present it to a broad audience, global in fact, in a non patronising, informative manner. Let's hope that the conservation community takes at least one leaf out of the Shark Savers book and starts to talk about the problems faced by a quickly dwindling population of Mantas and Mobulas.

Click here to sign the Shark Savers petition to save the mantas and mobulas of Raja Ampat.

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