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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MEGApage-turners: sharks in popular fiction

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

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 What would a Sharktakular be without a MEGALODON lurking around?

Today, we hear from NY Times best-selling science fiction author Steve Alten, who penned the wildly successful MEG series, starring a giant prehistoric shark called a Megalodon. His thoughts need no paraphrasing:

As the author of the MEG series, centered around Carcharodon megalodon, I am often asked how I came to write the first novel. As a teen, I loved reading about shark attack stories and found there was always a blurb about the Great White shark’s monstrous cousin. In each of the four MEG novels, I try to weave ocean science into the story.

With only about 5% of the oceans having been explored, and less than 1% of the abyss, much of what lies below the surface remains a mystery. What we do know, however, is that, if our species is to survive we must protect our oceans and its inhabitants…especially the sharks.

Sharks serve an important role in the oceans’ ecology, and Megdalon aside, most have no interest in humans.

Sadly, each year, industry butchers sharks by the tens of thousands, slicing off their fins for shark fin soup, then tossing the wounded fish back into the sea to die. Yes, the world has bigger problems to deal with, but protecting the shark population is a positive step in protecting our own future.

What better way to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Jaws than to take a stance against this senseless killing.

~Steve Alten


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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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