Itâ€™s not every day that you hear about the Marshall Islands. Scattered across a swath of the Pacific Ocean, these islands are home to only about 68,000 people. But as of this week, the waters around these islands may become home to a whole lot more sharks.
Thatâ€™s because the government has decided to make all of its watersâ€”more than 750,000 square miles, or about the size of Mexicoâ€”a shark sanctuary. This move will almost double the area in which sharks are protected globally.
Within the Marshall Islands, it will now be illegal to commercially fish sharks, sell any shark products, and use wire leaders (a type of fishing gear often responsible for shark deaths). In addition, all sharks caught accidentally must be released, and fishing boats will be required to bring all their catch directly to port for inspectionâ€”an important step in combating seafood fraud. Fines for having shark products will run the equivalent of $25,000 to $200,000.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.
Calling all Californians: Right now your Governor, Jerry Brown, is considering legislation that would effectively end the trade of shark fins. As youâ€™re probably aware, trade in shark fins facilitates the practice of shark finning, which is one of the single biggest contributors to the collapse of shark populations around the globe.
The California State Senate passed a bill to end the trade in California, A.B. 376, earlier this month and we expect the governor to sign or veto the bill this week, so your rapid input is critical.
While in 2010 the United States banned shark finning - the act of slicing off a shark's fins at seas and throwing the bleeding torso overboard to die - it has still allowed the sale and possession of shark fins, encouraging import and a market for the fins. Shark fins are primarily used in shark fin soup.
On Tuesday, the California Senate passed a bill to ban shark fin sale, trade, and possession. It awaits the governor's signature. Oceana joined the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Humane Society of the United States and Wildaid in support of this legislation.
This legislation builds on precedent and the momentum of Oceanaâ€™s work to protect sharks around the globe, including the U.S.â€™s ban passed last year, and a national ban on finning in Chile passed this July. The California bill joins similar legislation passed this year in Washington and Oregon, and last year in Hawaii. This coastwide action will help to lessen the demand for shark fins, and thus help save sharks across the globe that are slaughtered by countries with few or no regulations.
Up to 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins, including rare and endangered species. But with this legislation, we are making major progress in saving the oceans' top predator and one of the most ancient creatures in the sea.
If you're a California resident, you can help us. Place a phone call to Governor Brown's office to ask him to pass this bill, AB 376, by Oct. 9 in order to become law. You can reach Governor Brown's office at 916-445-2841.
With your support, we continue to win victories like this for our oceans. Thank you.
Things continue to look up for sharks in the Pacific.
Last night the California Senate passed a ban on the sale, trade, possession, and distribution of shark fins in the state. Oceana was instrumental in the passage of this bill to protect the oceanâ€™s apex predators.
If the bill is signed into law by Governor Brown by October 9, a sweeping West Coast ban on the trade of shark fins will be complete. Washington passed similar legislation in May, followed by Oregon in early August. Hawaii, Guam and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands have also passed similar bills.
While shark finning is illegal in the U.S., current federal laws banning the practice do not address the issue of the shark fin trade. As a result, fins are imported to the U.S. from countries with little to no shark protections in place. The only way to really address Californiaâ€™s contribution to the global declines in shark populations is to address the market demand for fins in the state.
The passage of this bill will help to protect global populations of at-risk shark species that are being targeted in unsustainable and unregulated fisheries worldwide.
Thanks to everyone who spoke up to help score this victory for sharks! You can see a list of the Senators who voted "aye" for the bill here.
I might play a blood-sucking vampire on â€śTrue Blood,â€ť but in real life Iâ€™m a devoted animal lover and conservationist.
In the past few weeks, Iâ€™ve followed the proposed ban on the shark fin trade in California, and â€“ in honor of Shark Week â€“ I wanted to share a letter I recently wrote to California State Senator Paul Fong asking for his help to protect sharks:
Dear Assemblymember Fong and Members of the Legislature:
This is part of a series of posts about our Pacific Hotspots expedition. Today's highlights: octupuses, hydrocorals and nudibranchs!
California Leg, Days 4-5
Friday concluded the Monterey portion of the expedition, and we had high hopes and much enthusiasm for the last day. We successfully completed three fantastic dives exploring three unique habitats.
This section of the expedition involves two ROVs, a compact one able to capture footage in more shallow depths and one designed to dive much deeper. The crew is still making improvements to the larger ROV so we used the smaller one to document bottom habitat consisting of sand, boulders, and large white sponges inside Point Pinos reef; the pinnacles at Asilomar State Marine Reserve; and investigated marine life hiding within the ledges of the Monterey Shale Beds.
The strong swells we had been working against all week calmed a bit under the overcast sky. Special guests joining us today included scientists from the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, a reporter and photographer from the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper, and documentary filmmakers from Sea Studios.
Our dive within the newly established Asilomar State Marine Reserve was truly extraordinary. We were pleasantly surprised to see that this marine protected area contained such large pinnacles, equivalent in splendor and color to what we observed further south near Carmel earlier in the week.
This is the fourth in a series of posts about this yearâ€™s Ocean Hero finalists.
For more than two decades, Peter Wallerstein has been rescuing marine animals on the coast of California.
In 1985 he founded the Whale Rescue Team, which is now part of Marine Animal Rescue (MAR), a project of Friends of Animals. Peter started a 24-hour hotline for citizens to report stranded or injured marine mammals, and he has personally rescued more than 4,000 marine mammals and birds in Southern California, from stranded dolphins to whales tangled in gillnets.
Thanks to Peterâ€™s persistence, Los Angeles County now has the only professional marine mammal rescue team in the U.S. that conducts hundreds of rescues each year, working 24/7 if needed. In April he conducted 86 marine mammal rescues, 120 for the year so far.
Now Peter is working to address the lack of adequate care facilities for marine mammals. After a decade of work, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has authorized MAR to design, construct and operate a second marine mammal care facility in Los Angeles County.
Chinese NBA basketball star Yao Ming hopes so. As center for the Houston Rockets, Ming is spreading the word to â€śSay no to shark fin soupâ€ť with his new ads sponsored by Oceana and WildAid.
Mingâ€™s message is traveling through San Francisco by bus, including those on Chinatown routes to support legislation (AB 376) to ban the possession, sale, trade, and distribution of shark fins in California.
This is the second in a series of posts about this yearâ€™s Ocean Hero finalists.
Todayâ€™s featured finalist is Nancy Caruso, who was selected for her work to protect giant kelp forests in California. Nancy was inspired to become a marine biologist at age 10, and she has been involved in ocean conservation ever since.
After working on the Orange County Giant Kelp Restoration Project, Nancy started her own non-profit organization, Get Inspired!, which teaches students to grow giant kelp in classroom nurseries. Over the last nine years, Nancy has taught 4000 students to grow giant kelp, which is then planted in the ocean by the 250 volunteer scuba divers that she trained. In addition, this year Nancy started the only program in California to restock green abalone and white sea bass, also in classroom nurseries.
In 2010 Nancy started Kelpfest!, an annual festival with a mission to celebrate giant kelp forests. Thousands turned out in April for the second annual event in Laguna Beach, which included live music, a live underwater broadcast from the kelp forest just offshore, and a scale model of a kelp forest for people to walk through.
Oceanography legend Jacques Cousteau once said â€śThe Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.â€ť This spellbound wonder is certainly true for our fascination with the 7 species of sea turtles that have inhabited the worldâ€™s oceans for four million years and, sadly, which are all now threatened or endangered with extinction. These awe-inspiring ocean reptiles were the focus of the 31st Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology & Conservation in San Diego.
Actress and sea turtle advocate Rachael Harris (â€śThe Hangoverâ€ť) presented at our Friday reception. She shared a special connection she made with a green sea turtle named Esmeralda while touring a sea turtle rehabilitation center in Mexico with Oceana last year.
Harris was captivated by how expressive Esmeralda was despite her flippers being mutilated after becoming entangled in fishing line and being attacked by a dog while on a beach to nest. Harrisâ€™ enthusiastic support for sea turtle protections is shared by fellow sea turtle advocate Angela Kinsey (â€śThe Officeâ€ť). The two will storm the nationâ€™s capitol in early May to educate Congress about why we need to get turtles off the hook and the need for more sea turtle protections throughout our nationâ€™s waters.