Thursday, 30 December 2010

Scarred Earth

In just over 24 hours we will have completed the first decade of the millennium. It is an ideal time to look back over our recent history and see how we are faring from a conservation standpoint. The term Shifting Baselines entered the conservationist's vocabulary some time ago, along with the help of Jack Black and other Hollywood celebrities, they raised the perspective that we do not notice the changes going on around us; that over generations, even our own short lifetimes, the changes happening slowly around us are absorbed into our psyche and go pretty much unnoticed. Generational shifts are even less noticeable, with tales told to us by our grandparents of how this wetland used to be twice as large, or that housing project used to be a field with hedgerows full of wildlife, long forgotten by us in the mists of our childhood. And our own children, what we look upon as a degraded and destroyed environment, they will look upon as normal. And so what of our grandchildren?
I may be writing this at the risk of sounding a tad sentimental, but a recent online application made me realise that there are ways we can accurately look back into the past to weigh up the impact we are having on our planet, and what the real issues will be for our species in the years to come. The UNEP maps are viewable in Google Earth and other applications, that allow side by side comparisons of satellite images of a wide variety of sites around the world from very recent images and ones dating back numbers of years. The contrast of some of the images are stark to say the least, and certainly bring the changes we accept on a daily basis home to us. I recommend you look at it, if you are genuinely concerned about natural resource depletion, it is the cold flannel slap in the face you have been looking for to welcome you into 2011.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Get the Bite Back Calendar for 2011...

O.K. so it might be a little tiny bit late for Christmas shopping, but there is still plenty of time until January the 1st to get a Bite Back Calendar. It is featured here in a BBC Earth News piece today. I have long been a fan of Bite Back and recently had the pleasure of meeting founder and driving force Graham Buckingham. Bite Back have done an incredibly good job of bringing the sustainability issue of seafood to the attention of the UK's largest retailers, with several successful efforts at getting shark products and other endangered seafood removed from large retail shelves. Graham and his crew do sterling work for sharks and rays, and a purchase of this calendar is not just an option; It is essential.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A Christmas message from Manta Claus

House Approves Shark Shark Bill (U.S.)

A report in the Washington Post describes this important process happening in the U.S.

The House adopted legislation Tuesday aimed at protecting sharks off U.S. coasts, though an exemption in the bill has raised concerns among federal fishery officials.

The Senate approved the bill Monday, and it now awaits President Obama's signature.

The Shark Conservation Act addresses loopholes in a law passed a decade ago in an effort to curb "finning," the practice of cutting off a shark's valuable fins and dumping its body overboard. It would require any vessel to land sharks with their fins attached and would prevent non-fishing vessels from transporting fins without their carcasses.

Shark finning, now prohibited off the Atlantic Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico but not the Pacific, has expanded worldwide due to rising demand for shark fin soup in Asia.

To win the support of Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the bill allows those catching smooth dogfish off his state's coast to bring in fins separately as long as they account for no more than 12 percent of the total weight of the catch.

Del. Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-Guam), who wrote the House version of the bill, told her colleagues just before the floor vote, "While I am not supportive of this exemption, I think it is important to note that this fishery represents less than 1 percent of all the shark fishing in the United States and that the restrictions on shark finning currently in the law will still apply to them."

When asked whether the president would sign the legislation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said they were still examining the smooth dogfish provision and other portions of the bill.

"We are happy that Congress has taken up shark conservation," said Eric Schwaab, NOAA Fisheries assistant administrator, in a statement. "It's a priority for our agency. However, the bill's carve-out of one specific shark fishery presents major enforcement and implementation challenges, and we need to work to fix this loophole."

Most environmentalists back the measure on the grounds that it will help endangered shark populations recover.

"The law on the books was complicated and difficult to enforce," said Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, "but this new set of standards will ensure that sharks will no longer be mutilated and thrown back in the water to face a gruesome death just for shark fin soup."

Friday, 17 December 2010

European Parliament Supports Strengthening the EU Finning Ban

16.12.10: The European Parliament today endorsed a resolution on shark finning that calls on the Commission to deliver a proposal to prohibit the removal of shark fins on-board vessels.
Four Members of the European Parliament (MEPs): Jean-Paul Besset, Chris Davies, Sirpa Pietikäinen, and Daciana Octavia Sârbu, from the ALDE, EPP-DE, Greens-EFA and S&D groups launched Written Declaration 71/2010 on shark finning on 20 September. By 16 December, over 400 of the 736 MEPs had added their names, achieving a majority. The Written Declaration is now adopted by the Plenary of the European Parliament. Endorsed as a Resolution of the Parliament, it will be forwarded to the European Commission, who last month launched a public consultation on options for amending the regulation, including a ban on at-sea fin removal.
“The removal of fins on board vessels and discarding the carcass is a wasteful and unacceptable way to fish. Europe is home to some of the world’s largest fishing fleets and poor European shark policies with lack of enforcement pose threats to sharks not only in European waters but in other parts of the world. The shark finning ban needs to be enforced effectively and we welcome this support from MEPs from across all European member states and political groups”, stated Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP, Finland, from the Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats).
“I would like to thank EU citizens for encouraging us to take action. It sends a powerful message to EU decision makers that these valuable yet vulnerable species must be protected”, added Jean-Paul Besset MEP, France, from the group of the Greens/European Free Alliance.
“The current exploitation of the world’s oceans is unsustainable and we need to act now to preserve marine biodiversity. Sharks are crucial to the natural balance of marine ecosystem, and this Resolution is a positive step towards their much needed protection”, explained Daciana Sarbu MEP, Romania from the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.
“The EU Commission now needs to propose legislation as soon as possible in 2011 with the one truly reliable option for preventing finning - a complete prohibition of the removal of shark fins at sea”, stated Chris Davies MEP, UK, from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group.
Sharks’ tendency to grow slowly, mature late and/or produce a small number of young makes them exceptionally vulnerable to overfishing. Roughly one-third of European species are considered threatened.

The Shark Alliance is a coalition of more than 100 conservation, scientific and recreational organisations dedicated to restoring and conserving shark populations by improving shark conservation policies. The Shark Alliance was pleased to support MEPs in this initiative.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

MOSSAD is controlling killer sharks in Sharm el Sheikh...

...but they are not effective in killing divers with over 50 logged it April the 1st? You might be forgiven for thinking so, but there has been intense heated exchange on Egyptian TV program "Egypt Today". Apparently General Abdel-Fadeel Shosha, the governor of South Sinai, backed a "famous" dive guide Captain Mustafa Ismail's theory that MOSSAD were sending sharks controlled by GPS into egypt to destabilise the tourist economy. In a phone call to the TV program, he said that it is possible that Israeli intelligence, Mossad, is behind the incidents and that they are doing it to undermine the Egyptian tourism industry. He added that Egypt needs time to investigate the theory.
In the meanwhile, as General Shosha and his friends await international experts to arrive (it is not known if these experts are knowledgeable in GPS, disaster movies from the 70's, or are agents of MI5 and the FBI) the dive sites around the town of Sharm are being reopened to divers with more than 50 logged dives.
If you don't believe me, read the original article here.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Now another shark attack in Sharm

The BBC is today reporting the death of a German tourist by shark attack in Sharm el Sheikh only a short time after beaches were re-opened to swimmers. The two sharks killed by authorities recently therefore were not the culprits.
The shark conservation movement has recently been quietly celebrating the protection of oceanic white tips in the Atlantic, yet in Sharm, not that far away, we see authorised killing of individual sharks with no real guarantee the right ones are taking the hit. There should be a thorough search, and preliminary tests to see if any individuals removed are the correct ones.
Of course, any loss of life is deeply regrettable, but knee jerk reactions are clearly not a suitable answer to the problem, as was regrettably discovered today.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Shiver. Probably the best shark documentary made.

I've just watched "Shiver", a brand new shark conservation film by Dave Charley and Chris Scarffe. I have to say it is everything that I have always wanted to see in a shark conservation film, and leaves the dissapointment of Sharkwater a long way behind. I sincerely hope that this film will become the most quoted and referenced shark conservation documentary of 2011.
Why do I think it is so good? It covers all of the aspects that we already know about shark fishing, but the film embraces the problem from a local community perspective. It follows the journey of a mozamibiquan man as he tries to find out more about fishing interests that are threatening the shark populations along his coastline. I enjoyed it as it is refreshingly devoid of ego, and in the absence of such, the content is turned to concentrate fully on the subject at hand.
This film is a must-see for anyone interested in shark conservation, and underlines the idea that local communities ultimately loose out if shark conservation is ignored.
Shiver. Spread the word.

Shiver: shark finning in Mozambique from aaron gekoski on Vimeo.