The Ocean Portal’s Top Five Reasons to Revere – Not Fear – Sharks

Filed Under (Sharks, Special Events, Summer Sharktakular 2010, conservation) by Alexa & Cindy on 23-07-2010

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 Is it Friday already?

Then let’s TGIF!

We can’t think of a better way than with this Sharktakular Top 5 list from our friends at the Smithsonian Ocean Portal. 

If you haven’t visited what we affectionately refer to as ”the OP,” get on over there right now – but please allow yourself some browsing time, because you will be lost in their comprehensive ocean science and conservation offerings that will deepen your passion for all things BLUE. The website is a collaboration with a network of more than 20 research partner organizations from around the world, and we dare say there is truly something for everyone at the OP. This post will hit the Portal next week, but they have brought it to the Shartakular first. Thanks, Ocean Portal team!

Here are their ‘Top 5 Reasons to Revere – Not Fear – Sharks:’

August 1st 2010 marks the being of an annual television ritual: The Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week.” But this summer, as the TV frenzy begins and millions tune in for sensational docudramas like Oceans of Fear and Deadly Waters, we challenge you to take a second look at these magnificent creatures.

photo credit (c) Terry Goss 2006/Marine Photobank

Why? We’ll give you five reasons to re-think the shark—even the great white, a species that has starred in our horror movies and collective nightmares for decades. It’s time to embrace the fact that there’s far more to sharks than their bite.

1. Respect Your Elders

Sharks have a long and impressive lineage. Ancient sharks, including relatives of the great white like the giant megatooth, were cruising the ocean long before dinosaurs. Meet some of the other imposing top predators from ages past.

2. King of the Food Chain

Sharks have six highly refined senses: smell, hearing, touch, taste, sight, and electromagnetism. These finely honed senses, along with a sleek, torpedo-shaped body, make most sharks highly skilled hunters. They often serve as top predators—keeping populations of prey species in check. Removing them in large numbers can have ripple effects that throw entire ecosystems out of balance.

3. Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

While shark attacks do occur, they are actually extremely rare—despite the extensive media coverage they usually receive. In fact, your chances of being the victim of an unprovoked shark attack are lower than your chances of being struck by lightning, injured in a hunting accident or even attacked by a domestic dog. Even though the odds are in your favor, sharks are wild animals that must be respected when encountered.

4. Risky Behavior

It’s not just comparisons to other traumatic events that can help put the danger of shark attacks in perspective. Things we encounter in everyday life and common activities often pose much greater danger than sharks. For example, you are much more likely to be killed by a car or bicycle accident, a fall, a mishap with fireworks, or even a bad case of the flu than by a shark attack.

Marcia Moreno-Baez, University of Arizona/Marine Photobank

5. The Tables are Turned

Every year, humans kill an estimated 100 million sharks. The threats we pose are many. By-catch: the accidental killing of sharks in fishing gear intended for other species. Illegal poaching and hunting: selling shark fins for soup and sportfishing for shark-jaw trophies. Nets: placed along coastlines to keep sharks away from beaches. It turns out that sharks have more reason to fear humans than the other way around. That’s why even shark attack survivors have started speaking up in defense of sharks.

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You’re never too young – kids caring about sharks, part one

Filed Under (Sharks, Special Events, Summer Sharktakular 2010, conservation) by Alexa & Cindy on 22-07-2010

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You’re never too young to start caring about sharks.

We’d like to introduce you to Alexa’s cousin,  Avery Jean. She’s four, and is learning about the ocean in her preschool class. She made a poster for Sharktakular to express her feelings.

“I love all ocean animals, and sharks bring balance to aquatic life,” Avery say. ”They’re very important and I don’t want them to die.”

Her poster reads “I love sharks. Don’t FINish them.”

We sense a deputy O4E editor is now being groomed! ;-)

Just goes to show you, you’re never too young to start caring about – and helping – sharks. We’ll have more on the latter in part two with a guest post by Robin Culler, teacher and captain of Oceana’s 2010 Junior Ocean Hero winners, The Shark Finatics

Have a SHARKTAKULAR evening!

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David Shiffman on The Goal: part two of a three part series on shark conservation

Filed Under (Sharks, Special Events, Summer Sharktakular 2010, conservation) by Alexa & Cindy on 22-07-2010

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Today, David Shiffman puts forth his take on where we go from here to turn the tide on practices that put shark populations at risk, including finning, bycatch and David’s personal roadmap for how to help sharks. 

By WhySharksMatter

It’s easy to become discouraged when considering the enormity of the problem, but we must not give up. We must focus on the goal, and work towards it!

To paraphrase an old joke about my fellow Jews, if you ask three conservationists what their goal is, you’ll likely get four answers. This post is about my goal, which isn’t necessarily the goal of the entire save the sharks movement. I expect that many of my conservationist friends will disagree with parts of it, and I look forward to a lively discussion.

We know from The Problem that sharks are being harvested (or killed accidentally as bycatch) at wildly unsustainable rates. This needs to stop, and sharks need some strong legal protections.

The form that these legal protections will take is the subject of much debate. A (very) few countries like Palau make fishing for sharks in any form illegal in their territorial waters. Hawaii now bans the selling, purchasing, or possession of shark fins within state boundaries. U.S. fisheries management policy presently makes it illegal to kill some species of shark and sets size limits on some other species. However, most countries have no legal protection at all for sharks, and the number of species with worldwide protection (at least on paper, since these are difficult to enforce in the middle of the ocean) can be counted on one hand.

Though this may shock some of my readers, I do not think that global shark conservation policy needs to be as extreme as Palau’s “you can’t kill any sharks ever” law. I do not object to the sustainable harvest of sharks for food. Sustainably harvesting animals that have so few young so late in life is extremely difficult, and most times that it has been tried, the fishery has collapsed within a few decades. That doesn’t mean that it is impossible and it doesn’t mean that we should ban all shark fishing. However, for me to be satisfied, the world of commercial fishing is going to need to undergo some drastic changes.

The goal for finning

While I can accept sustainable fishing for some shark meat, I object to the shark fin soup fishery. In most parts of the world, this fishery is brutal, wasteful, and unsustainable. Sharks of any species and size have their fins cut off, and the rest of the animal is dumped overboard to bleed to death or drown- all to provide texture to a delicacy for the rich. The few countries that have shark finning policies have different strategies to manage it.

Some, like Canada, require that fishermen land the rest of the shark and not just the fins (not attached to each other), and they enforce this by weighing total fins and total shark carcasses. This is silly, because different shark species can have a drastically different fin-to-body weight ratio. Other countries require that fishermen land sharks with the fins still attached, which is better and is starting to become the standard. It still allows finning, however.

I would feel differently about shark finning if it provided a staple food item for the world’s poor instead of a delicacy for the rich. I would feel differently about shark finning if the shark’s meat was used, instead of just cartilage for texture. I would feel differently if fishermen targeted only certain species of a certain size instead of every shark they find. As it stands, though, my goal for the shark finning fishery is its complete abolition.

The goal for bycatch

The threat sharks face from bycatch is harder to regulate. In some cases, simple gear modifications can minimize the amount of sharks caught without greatly influencing the catch of target species. In other cases, simply placing gear in slightly different locations or depths can greatly reduce the number of sharks caught accidentally. Some of these changes have been made already, most have not been. Conservationists who fight for long-term large-scale goals should sometimes fight for easy fixes that will still make a lot of difference. My goal is for every single known and feasible bycatch reduction strategy to be implemented. This won’t eliminate bycatch, but it will reduce it significantly.

Some fishing gear is so destructive (to sharks and many other ocean animals) that simple fixes just won’t help. In these cases, my goal is for that gear to be banned entirely. This is not unprecedented- the U.N. banned large drift nets almost 20 years ago because of the huge amount of bycatch they caused.

The goal for marine protected areas

While I don’t think that we need a global ban on shark fishing modeled after Palau’s policy, some small-scale areas where shark fishing is banned would be very helpful. Research performed on a marine protected area in Belize has shown that many species of shark remain in a small area for much of their lives, showing that a small region where shark fishing is illegal can have an effect. However, some species, like the Great White shark, can swim thousands of miles in a year and wouldn’t stay in a small protected area very long. Although they won’t help all shark species, marine protected areas will protect many. My goal is a large worldwide network of marine protected areas that protect sharks and other marine animals.

My goal for fishermen

The global commercial fisheries industry is at a crossroads. There are too many fisherman chasing too few fish, and overfishing is rampant. However, contrary to the claims and insinuations of some conservationists, fishermen are not evil people trying to destroy the environment. They are hardworking people who are just trying to provide for their families, and they are correct when the point out that most policies that will protect marine life will harm them financially. However, if nothing is done, there will be no fish to catch and fishermen will be harmed financially anyway. My goal is for there to be fewer commercial fishing vessels and a much lower global catch, and I am open to suggestions on how to help the fishermen that this policy would negatively impact.

My goal

My goal is for an end to unsustainable shark fishing, a ban on the shark fin soup fishery, the implementation of bycatch reduction policies, a global network of marine protected areas, and some form of incentive or regulation to encourage fishermen to catch fewer fish overall. Some parts of this goal would be more effective for protecting sharks than others. Some are more achievable than others. I believe that all are worth fighting for.

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