The Beacon

Blog Tags: Shark Conservation

Marylanders: Tell Your Senators to Protect Sharks

Today, the Maryland state Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee is holding a hearing on numerous bills including a bill that would ban the possession, sale, trade and distribution of shark and ray fins.

This bill will help protect global shark populations by reducing the demand for their fins. Each year, tens of million sharks are killed so that their fins can be used in shark fin soup. In the United States, the cruel and wasteful practice of shark finning is illegal. However, many fins are imported from all around the world, contributing to the demand for shark fins and the overfishing of sharks.

Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and California have already passed similar laws, and bills have also been introduced in New York, Illinois, Florida, and Virginia. Oceana supports Maryland’s initiative and asks that state residents do so as well.

Please show your support by telling your legislator to vote for SB 465!


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New Report: Sharks Neglected in the Atlantic

blue shark

Blue Shark © Karin Leonard/Marine Photobank

Three-quarters of the highly migratory sharks that are caught in the Atlantic are classified as threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but less than 1 percent are protected from overfishing by the organization that’s charged with that task.

That sad statistic is according to a new report we released today coinciding with the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Although ICCAT is in charge of shark conservation in the Atlantic’s international waters, Oceana’s new report shows that the organization is not doing enough.

Oceana scientists are present at the ICCAT meeting this week, and they are calling on the 48 countries that fish in the Atlantic to adopt greater measures to protect these vulnerable sharks from going extinct.  

Some sharks, like tunas, travel long distances across the oceans, so their populations can’t be effectively managed by any one country. Most shark species in the Atlantic are vulnerable to overfishing because of their exceptionally low reproductive rates. Currently, ICCAT only has protections in place for a few species including hammerhead and oceanic whitetip sharks, although many other sharks are threatened with extinction, including porbeagle, silky, shortfin mako and blue sharks.

And as you know, sharks keep the ocean ecosystem in balance. When sharks disappear, the implications for the entire ocean food chain are dire. Here’s hoping that ICCAT takes further action this time around to protect the Atlantic’s top predators.


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Victory for Vulnerable Porbeagle Sharks

porbeagle shark

This porbeagle is pleased. © Doug Perrine / WWF

October was a month full of shark protections, and we’re excited that the trend seems to be continuing into November.

Today, the EU has announced important measures that will protect porbeagle sharks, which are threatened by overfishing.

The new laws will protect porbeagles throughout EU waters, where previous regulations only applied in certain areas. Today’s measures make all fishing for porbeagles illegal and requires that any sharks caught accidentally be released immediately.

Porbeagles are heavily fished for their fins and meat, and because they take a long time to reproduce, they recover from overfishing extremely slowly. Estimates suggest that porbeagle populations in the Mediterranean have declined by 99% since the 1950s.

While this is great news, there is still more to be done to protect vulnerable porbeagles. “The protection of porbeagles by the EU represents an important step for the conservation of this species. However, given its highly migratory nature, if porbeagles are to recover, similar actions must follow at the international level,” said Dr. Allison Perry, wildlife marine scientist with Oceana.

We’re particularly excited about the timing of this measure because it comes right before this month’s meeting of ICCAT, an international commission with the authority to enact shark protections across the Atlantic Ocean.

We want the U.S. to call for international protections for porbeagles and other vulnerable shark species. You can help us by speaking up for sharks!


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Toronto and Taiwan Make Strides for Sharks

shark fins

Shark fins drying in the sun. © Oceana/LX

The good news just keeps rolling in for sharks – this time from Toronto and Taiwan.

Yesterday the Toronto City Council voted to ban the sale and use of shark fins in the city; the ban will take effect in September 2012.

Meanwhile, Taiwan has announced its intention to ban the practice of shark finning starting next year, a step forward in promoting the sustainable fishing and humane treatment of sharks. Shark finning is the practice of cutting the valuable fins off of sharks, and throwing the dead or dying body back in the ocean. Shark fins are used to make shark fin soup, a popular and expensive dish that is served primarily in China and Taiwan.

While the new regulation won’t stop the catching of sharks, it will mean that boats have to bring the whole shark in to port. This means that the species and size of the caught sharks can be monitored, and therefore can help assess the trends in populations.

While this is a step in the right direction, it is important to reduce the demand for shark fins as well. Up to 73 million sharks are killed each year for the global shark fin trade, and according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, about 20 percent of all sharks are threatened with extinction.

That’s why Oceana works to save sharks from overfishing. You can help by supporting our work to protect sharks!


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'Demon Fish' Author Discusses Human-Shark Relations

demon fish

When journalist Juliet Eilperin began reporting the stories that have led to her most recent book, she says, “Many people said it was a natural transition from politicians to sharks.” 

At a National Geographic Live event in DC last night, she discussed her book “Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks,” about how human relationships with sharks have developed over centuries, and what may lie in their future.

She began by discussing the central role sharks played in the lives of traditional island cultures, from the shark god whom Hawaiians credited with inventing surfing to the common belief that sharks protected ships. But Eilperin said that during the Middle Ages, many European cultures essentially forgot about sharks.

Stark reminders of their power came when sailors noticed sharks following slave ships, and again in the early 1900s, when shark attacks on beachgoers were widely publicized. These incidents played into political campaigns and prompted government committees.

“There’s no question,” Eilperin said, “that Jaws had an incredible impact” on popular perceptions of sharks and their danger to humans. On average, shark attacks kill only five people a year, far less than other large predators, diseases, or even vending machines. However, she is quick to note that while plenty of people—even marine biologists!—were caught up in the scare, there were also some who became inspired to study sharks.


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Marshall Islands Creates World’s Largest Shark Sanctuary

A great white shark. © Oceana/ David P. Stephens

It’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.

That’s because the government has decided to make all of its waters—more than 750,000 square miles, or about the size of Mexico—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 inspection—an important step in combating seafood fraud.  Fines for having shark products will run the equivalent of $25,000 to $200,000.


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Breaking: Chile Passes Shark Finning Ban

shark

Fantastic news! Earlier this afternoon, the Chilean National Congress passed a nationwide ban on shark finning.

This groundbreaking decision comes on the heels of a very similar ban passed by the United States Congress last December, and puts both countries at the forefront of shark conservation. Oceana drafted the Chilean bill in January, and we are elated to see it pass into law – without a single dissenter.

Shark finning is an inhumane practice that often involves throwing the rest of the shark’s body back into the water once the desired fin is obtained. Despite its cruelty, shark finning is incredibly rampant, due to culinary demand from Asian countries such as China, where shark fin soup is popular.

With the passage of this bill, Chile joins a growing list of countries leading the way in shark conservation. Because sharks do not respect national boundaries, this legislation will help protect shark populations and ocean health in Chile and beyond.


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Ending Shark Finning, One Wedding at a Time?

Shark fin soup. [Image via Wikimedia Commons]

Shark fin soup is bad for sharks -- we all know this. But can you have a Chinese wedding without it? The folks at Shark Truth say you can, and they're running a contest to prove it.

Shark Truth asks couples holding traditional Chinese wedding feasts to drop one of the traditions: the controversial soup. According to Shark Truth, every ten bowls of soup kills one shark, and many of these couples are holding weddings with hundreds of guests. That's a lot of sharks saved!

The shark-loving couples sent in pictures (some of them quite funny!) of themselves to be voted on through June 6, and the winning couple will be given a honeymoon trip to Hawaii to cage-dive with sharks and see the creatures they are saving.

The practice of slicing off a shark's fin and throwing the shark (sometimes still alive) overboard is cruel, wasteful, and could lead to the extinction of some of these ancient creatures.

Aside from nixing shark fin soup, what else can you do to help? Oceana is urging the U.S. government to do all it can to protect the most vulnerable species. Sign our petition to protect hammerhead and oceanic whitetip sharks from finning.

 


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Ocean Hero Finalists: Sophi Bromenshenkel

Sophi with a hammerhead shark confection.

This is the tenth in a series of posts about this year’s Ocean Hero finalists.

Today’s featured junior Ocean Hero finalist is shy eight-year-old Sophi Bromenshenkel, who has been working from her hometown of Richfield, Minnesota to protect sharks.

Sophi’s interest in the oceans started on a fishing trip with her uncle in the Florida Keys four years ago. Last year, when she saw a pregnant bull shark left for dead on a beach near her uncle’s home, she decided she had to take action.

By selling lemonade and hot chocolate, shark cookies and wristbands, and through email campaigns and local fliers, Sophi has raised more than $3,500 for sharks. She has partnered with the University of Miami’s RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program, where her funds pay for satellite tags on sharks.


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January Jones on Swimming with Whale Sharks

For her second “Scared for Sharks” PSA, “Mad Men” star January Jones joined Oceana in Belize to swim with the largest fish in the ocean: the whale shark.

Last spring, I traveled with Oceana to Belize’s Gladden Spit Marine Reserve to photograph and film whale sharks for the new "Scared for Sharks" PSA. It was my second time swimming with sharks, so I wasn’t as nervous, especially since whale sharks, like most sharks, are not a threat to humans.

 

It’s humans, in fact, who pose the greater risk to sharks because of our insatiable desire for shark fins, shark livers, shark teeth and every other shark product you can think of. Scientists say that tens of millions of sharks are killed every year for their fins, which is directly causing some shark populations around the world to crash.


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