Kids caring about sharks, part two: Ocean Hero Robin Culler teaches shark conservation

Filed Under (Activism, Sharks, Special Events, Summer Sharktakular 2010, conservation) by Alexa & Cindy on 25-07-2010

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 ”SHARKS…what? No way! I HATE sharks and I don’t want to know anything more about them!”

That is just the response I got from Pat, over three years ago. Today, Pat is one of my most avid Shark Finatics.

“We fear what we don’t know.” It so holds true with the world of sharks.

At one time or another, we fall prey to media sensationalism. We have become accustomed to the reports of injuries or death related to auto accidents, disease, and so forth. But, when a shark is implicated, you can almost hear the gasps. Thank you, “JAWS,” your impact will never be forgotten!

Do we continue to fall into our comfort zone of being deathly afraid of these amazing creatures or do we take the time to get the facts?

Shark Finatics! students show their stuff.

The Shark Finatics decided it would be way more beneficial to get the facts. We have spent a few years researching and learning as much as we can about the world of sharks. They have been here for over four hundred million years. How can we even begin to process that information? Through periods of extinction, when other species died out, the mighty shark remained.

Having to evolve very little, this incredible predator has managed to survive. But, is his time on this planet starting to run out?

Sharks play an essential role in our marine ecosystem. They are here for a reason and we need to ensure their continued existence.

The Shark Finatics believe it begins with education.

Our motto is “Learning, Teaching, Saving.” We are committed to learning all we can about sharks and then take every opportunity to teach others.

We have found that most people we talk to know nothing about shark finning. If enough people learn about this horrific practice and get angry, then maybe they will begin to take action. It is easy to be sympathetic towards the abused puppy or kitten. They’re warm and fuzzy. Sharks, meanwhile, are busy disputing their undeserved reputation as beach-clearing man-eathers. It is up to each of us to take the time to discover how truly magnificent sharks are.

Kids, look at what Alexa, as well as the Shark Finatics, are doing. They recognize the importance of nature’s gifts and are investing much time and energy into making a difference.

You can do the same. Form groups or clubs and gather information. There is so much available at your fingertips. Get involved with a conservation organization. They all love when children show their concern. Teach your classmates and friends…get them excited.

After all, you will be growing up in this world and right now, this world needs a lot of help.

It is such a great feeling to know that you are doing something to ensure a healthy planet.

Sharks need you and they need you now. And who knows, maybe you can be as lucky as the Shark Finatics and become an Ocean Hero. I believe Alexa is well on her way to becoming one!

~Robin Culler

Robin Culler with her Shark Finatics!

 Oceana’s 2010 Junior Ocean Hero award winner Robin Culler needs almost nothing written about her here, as we’re sure that 95% of you know who she is. If not, now you do.

 She teaches at Green Chimneys, a New York school that utilizes animal-assisted therapy to support emotionally impaired children, K-12, in their learning careers. It all started for Robin when she picked up a little book on sharks in the classroom one day because she didn’t have a lesson prepared. The rest is now a piece of Sharktakular history…lucky sharks! And lucky us, for having Robin and the Finatics as O4E friends.

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The Role of Non-Governmental Organizations in Shark Conservation

Filed Under (Activism, Sharks, Special Events, Summer Sharktakular 2010, conservation) by Alexa & Cindy on 25-07-2010

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  All week long during the Sharktakular, we’ve heard guest posters encourage us to educate ourselves and those around us about sharks and shark conservation by forming groups, joining groups, and getting out there ourselves and making a difference. But we aren’t all ”.orgs” with nonprofit, government-recognized status, so how can we really help?

Sonja Fordham, president of the newly formed, non-governmental initiative Shark Advocates International,  joins the Sharktakular to tell us yes, we can and illuminates the important role of the non-govermental organization in shark conservation today.  

Sonja Fordham: I’ve been working in shark conservation for nearly 20 years and I have never seen a time when more conservation-minded non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were involved in the issue. This terrific development should give us all hope that the tide is turning and many more sharks will get the protections they need before it’s too late.

The NGOs I consider as “conservation minded” actually represent a range of perspectives including protection, sustainable fisheries, non-consumptive use, research, social equity, and animal welfare. As a result of these various core aims as well as differing skills, priorities and reach, these groups play a variety of roles in the development of shark fishing and trade rules.

I see this diversity as a strength of the shark conservation movement, in that together we cover many bases and bring many voices to the table. Of course, when groups representing all these perspectives agree, it can be particularly powerful.

Most of the NGOs engaged in shark conservation aim to promote healthy shark populations and stop overfishing and waste of sharks. Many also oppose inhumane treatment of sharks, certain fishing gear types or products, and/or shark fishing altogether.

Together, these groups generally serve to speak for the sharks and the public interest, educate the public and policy makers, balance short-term economic interests, bridge the gap between science and policy, and promote research. In terms of activities, NGO representatives might meet with government officials, provide testimony on proposed management actions, alert others to opportunities to influence such measures, issue reports and articles, generate media attention, serve on advisory panels, take legal action, hold rallies, and/or disrupt fishing operations or negotiations.

My new organization, Shark Advocates International, was established as a project of The Ocean Foundation to advance science-based national and international shark conservation policies. We specialize in translating scientific advice into fishing and trade limits through active participation in shark management debates and processes.

Long-term “in the trenches” experience helps us in our efforts to defend existing shark safeguards and promote positive changes. Most of our advocacy work is done in a collaborative way, mainly by forming coalitions of NGOs and scientists to take a common stand on a shark management issue and then making timely appeals to government on behalf of those interests.

The growing NGO interest in sharks is resulting in heightened sensitivity to the issue within governments and increased acceptance by more traditional stakeholders, as well as new and improved shark conservation policies. At the same time, NGOs remain outnumbered in the shark fisheries management arena and our battle is still an uphill one. In too many cases, time is running out.

I find great promise in on-line forums such as this one which are breaking new ground and uniting the diverse array of people who want to see sharks better protected. I am hopeful that together we can focus and enhance the influence of the NGO community with respect to shark conservation decisions and, in turn, build a brighter future for these valuable yet vulnerable animals.

We welcome your assistance with our cause.


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David Shiffman on How to Get there: part three of a three-part series on shark conservation

Filed Under (Activism, Sharks, Special Events, Summer Sharktakular 2010, conservation) by Alexa & Cindy on 24-07-2010

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 By WhySharksMatter


It’s easy to dream big and come up with impossible goals. It’s much harder to draw a realistic map showing how to get from where we are to where we want to be.


Most of you reading this already don’t eat shark fin soup, and many of you don’t eat foods with high shark bycatch. That’s great, but while I have a pretty high opinion of myself, even I don’t believe that I reach enough people through my writing to make a difference in a major global issue. Not directly, at least.


The key to achieving the goals of the shark conservation movement (and the conservation movement in general) is education. Maybe I’m too much of an optimist, but I fervently believe that sharks aren’t in trouble because no one cares what is happening to them. I believe that sharks are in trouble because no one knows that sharks are important to a healthy ecosystem, and no one knows that sharks are in trouble.


The absolute best thing you can do is to learn about sharks and tell others. Tell your friends, tell your family, tell your classmates or tell your co-workers. Tell them that sharks matter, and tell them that sharks are in trouble. Tell them not to eat shark fin soup, and not to eat seafood with high shark bycatch. Tell them to support shark conservation legislation by calling their elected officials.


What you should NOT do is support violent groups that claim to “fight for the sharks” through “direct action”. These groups are not only ineffective, but they are counterproductive to the cause of conservation. The conservation movement is a PR war, and we will win through facts and persuasive argument- NOT through trying to hurt people who disagree with us.


Another common (and flawed) solution is to not eat seafood at all because of environmental concerns. If all of the people who care about the oceans stop eating seafood, it’s impossible for conservation-minded folks to “vote with their wallets” and support more environmentally friendly methods of catching fish. I instead recommend eating Marine Stewardship Council certified sustainable seafood.


Graduate students such as myself lack the resources to donate significant amounts of money to conservation NGO’s (non-governmental organizations), but if any readers are looking for my opinion on what NGO’s to trust, I have a few. Oceana doesn’t focus specifically on sharks, but I love almost all of what they do. WildAid also has a broad focus, but their anti-finning campaigns are wonderful (they recruited Yao Ming, who is a huge celebrity in China, to be their spokesman). The Save Our Seas Foundation does a lot of inspiring work with educating children about the importance of sharks and other sea life. The Shark Research Institute is a small but great organization that focuses on both conservation and science. Sonja Fordham’s Shark Advocates International is a new organization, but Sonja is legendary within the shark conservation community and I know she’ll accomplish amazing things with SAI.


If you are looking for a source for shark-themed gifts that help sharks, I have a few suggestions. Iemanya Oceanica’s “Adopt a Shark” program makes a good gift, and promotes shark research. The American Elasmobranch Society student store raises money for young shark scientists to do important research. My own Southern Fried Science store sells “Sharks Matter/No finning gear”, which raises money for the charities I’ve listed above.


Many people claim that it’s too late to save the planet. I couldn’t disagree more.


The problem is a big one. The goals are difficult, but they are achievable in some form. Now that you know what to do, get to it.


To paraphrase a famous Donella Meadows quote, we have exactly enough time to save sharks and save our oceans… starting now.


Dr. Dirk Schmidt/Marine Photobank

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