The European Parliament is set to vote next week on a complete ban of shark finning for the EU fishing fleet. EU fishermen currently span the globe fishing for sharks, from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, to the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean, ranking second in shark catch globally.
Predictably, the move has drawn the hackles of the fishing industry which claims that the ban will cost them more than €9 million. This might seem like a lot--that is, unless, you take into account the fact that boats authorized to cut off shark fins have received more than €117 million in EU subsidies from 1994 to 2007. As executive director of Oceana Europe, Xavier Pastor says about the measure:
“European tax payers have invested a huge sum of money in these fishing vessels. They paid to help build them, modernise them, and support them while they headed off in search of new fishing grounds for sharks. Now, Europe is asking these vessels to commit to sustainable fishing practices for the sake of both the sharks and the future of the fishing sector.”
Shark finning, as the name implies, is the brutal practice of slicing off a shark’s fin and then discarding the shark, which is often still alive, overboard, where it is left to die. It is estimated that more than 70 million sharks every year are killed, mostly to supply growing demand in Asia for shark fin soup. While the shark fin itself is a mostly flavorless component of the dish, its conspicuous consumption at weddings, banquets and business meetings has become a status symbol for the region’s growing middle class.
We'll keep you posted as the story unfolds!
We found an amazing set of infographics provided by the people at Project AWARE, an underwater conservation group founded by SCUBA divers. Turns out shortfin makos have unbelievable aerial skills, matched only by the sperm whale's ability to plumb the depths. Check out the whole set on Pinterest.
Great news this shark week! We just got word that Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber will sign a bill this afternoon banning the sale, trade, and possession of shark fins in the state. Oceana was instrumental in the passage of this bill, which passed the State House and Senate with bipartisan support.
The bill’s passage moves the U.S. West Coast closer to a full ban on the trade of shark fins, thereby helping to protect global populations of at-risk shark species that are being targeted in unsustainable and unregulated fisheries worldwide.
While shark finning is illegal in the U.S., current federal laws banning the practice do not address the shark fin trade. As a result, fins are being imported to the U.S. from countries with few or even no shark protections in place.
Governor Chris Gregoire of Washington State signed similar legislation into law on May 12, 2011 and a bill in the California legislature passed the Assembly and is currently under consideration in committee in the Senate.
We commend Governor Kitzhaber for his extraordinary leadership to protect the ocean’s top predators, and congratulate our Pacific colleagues for their work in achieving this victory!
Many of you have inquired via Twitter, Facebook and e-mail about how the Japanese nuclear crisis is affecting the oceans and marine life. There are still a lot of question marks, but here’s what our scientists have to say.
How it could affect marine life in general:
The greatest concern for marine life comes from the radiation from cesium, strontium and radioactive iodine entering the oceans via the smoke and water runoff from the damaged facilities. Small doses of radiation will be spread out over the Pacific Ocean, and monitors on the U.S. West Coast have even picked up slight traces of radiation from the smoke.
Although the levels of cesium and radioactive iodine in the immediate vicinity of the plant have increased and very small amounts of radiation have even been detected in local anchovies (1 percent of acceptable levels), it is not clear whether there will be any long-term or significant impacts on marine life off the coast of Japan or out to sea, according to researchers who studied the marine effects of fallout from nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific and the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
Earlier this week we heard the latest from one of our 2010 Ocean Heroes, Robin Culler, leader of the Shark Finatics.
Today, another update, this time from Ocean Hero finalist Sara Bayles. Sara was just featured in the Los Angeles Times for her ongoing effort to spend 20 minutes a day for 365 non-consecutive days collecting trash from her Santa Monica beach. She weighs the garbage and keeps a tally on her blog, The Daily Ocean.
We’re glad she’s getting the recognition she deserves. Kudos to you, Sara!
In addition to starting your own beach cleanup like Sara, you can take our pledge to use less plastic if you haven't already.
Here’s your expedition update for today, from Oceana’s senior campaign communications manager Dustin Cranor:
News flash – the oil in the Gulf is not gone.
Although there have been lots of media reports that the oil in the Gulf is "gone," two new scientific studies were released today that give a different -- and less rosy -- picture.
First, independent scientists estimate that as much as 80 percent of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill is still in the Gulf. Even if it's only 50 percent, that’s a lot of oil. Second, and even more disturbing, scientists discovered oil from the spill on the seafloor of Desoto Canyon, which means that oil could be in shallower waters where vulnerable habitats exist.
Oceana believes that the worst of the oil’s impacts are yet to be seen. As part of our effort to document valuable and vulnerable habitats, we took advantage of our location and dove not too far from the same beach that President Obama recently visited in Panama City.
On this nearly 90 foot dive, Oceana’s divers spotted tiny corals, arrow crabs, hermit crabs, flatfish, soapfish and butterflyfish, all species at risk from the effects of oil spills. What many do not realize is that there is simply no effective way to remove oil from coral.
Look at some of the incredible creatures our divers spotted:
As shark week comes to a close, we thought we’d hit you with the good stuff: numbers. Here are some of the most revealing statistics about sharks that we could find:
400 million: Approximate number of years that sharks have been on planet Earth.
50: Number of shark species that are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of threatened species
138,894: Number of people in the U.S. who suffered ladder-related injuries in 1996.
13: Number who suffered shark-related injuries in the U.S. in 1996.
22 million: Amount, in pounds, of shark fins that were imported into Hong Kong in 2008, making it the world’s largest single market for the product.
Dr. Jeffrey Short, Oceana's Pacific Science Director, recently retired from a 31-year career as a research chemist at NOAA, where he worked primarily on oil pollution and other contaminant issues.
He was the leading chemist for the governments of Alaska and the United States for the natural resource damage assessment and restoration of Exxon Valdez oil spill, and guided numerous studies on the distribution, persistence and effects of the oil.
Representatives from both the oil industry and the U.S. government insisted offshore drilling was safe. They were wrong.
Quotes from the Oil Industry:
“This is the first time the industry has had to confront this issue in this water depth, and there is a lot of real-time learning going on.” Tony Hayward, BP Chief Executive Officer, May 10, 2010
On August 21, 2009 the Montara oil rig suffered a blowout and began spilling oil. The well was located in 250 ft of water, between East Timor and Australia. It took four attempts over ten weeks to block the leak and it was eventually achieved when mud was pumped into a relief well.