Monday, June 29, 2009

Third of open ocean sharks face extinction

A third of the world’s open water sharks – including the great white and hammerhead – face extinction, according to a major conservation survey.

Species hunted on the high seas are particularly at risk, with more than half in danger of dying out, reported the Shark Specialist Group at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Collapsing shark populations have already severely disrupted at least two coastal marine ecosystems, and could trigger even more severe consequences in the high seas, marine biologists warned at the same time.

The main culprit is overfishing. Sharks are prized for their meat, and in Asia especially for their fins, a prestige food thought to convey health benefits. The survey of 64 species of open water, or pelagic, sharks – the most comprehensive ever done – comes days before an international meeting on high-seas tuna fisheries that could potentially play a role in shark conservation.

For decades, significant numbers of sharks – including blue and mako – have perished as “by-catch” in commercial tuna and swordfish operations.

More recently, the soaring value of shark meat has prompted some of these fisheries to target sharks as a lucrative sideline, said Sonja Forham, Policy Director for the Shark Alliance, and co-author of the study. Sharks are especially vulnerable to overfishing because most species take many years to mature and have relatively few young.

Europe is the fastest growing market for meat from the porbeagle and another species, the spiny dogfish. The demand for shark fins, a traditional Chinese delicacy, has soared along with income levels in China over the last decade. Shark carcasses are often tossed back into the sea by fishermen after the fins are cut off. Despite bans in international waters, this practice – known as “finning” – is largely unregulated, experts say. The loss of sharks from the world’s oceans could have unpredictable impacts, say marine scientists.

“Removing large predators would deprive ecosystems of players that have been around for more than 400 million years,” said Francesco Ferretti, a researcher at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada.

The report identified the great hammerhead and scalloped hammerhead sharks, as well as giant devil rays as globally endangered. The smooth hammerhead, great white, basking, and oceanic whitetip sharks are listed as globally vulnerable to extinction, along with two species of makos and three types of threshers.

Some 100 million sharks are caught in commercial and sports fishing every year, and several species have declined by more than 80 percent in the past decade alone, according the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). afp

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Shark Safe Supporters Attend FWC Meetings in Dania Beach and Punta Gorda

As you know, one of Shark Safe's current campaigns is to encourage shark tournaments to change to catch-and-release only. Additionally we aim to stop shark fishing that is done solely for the purpose of trophy. We are not alone in this quest, which is good for the sharks. The recent study regarding the likely extinction of shark favorites like the great white and the hammerhead has garnered a lot of attention.

Fortunately the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is responding to the call for tighter management on shark fishing. Their goal was to seek feedback on options for amending its shark management rules that would comply with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Coastal Sharks. Over the past few weeks, workshops were held in different locations around the state. Some Shark Safe members as well as divers, fishermen, and shark scientists attended to give voice to the myriad topics.

Among the items discussed:

1. Overview of the ASMFC Plan Requirements -- Florida must comply with these rules, but may also be more restrictive
2. The ASMFC Plan applies to the Atlantic Coast of Florida -- should the same measures apply on the Gulf Coast?
3. Should Commercial and Recreational fisheries continue to be managed under the same rules?
4. Suggestions for alternative measures for shark management
5. Should FL rules be more restrictive than ASMFC?

And additionally:
1. Adding species to the Prohibited Species List
2. Banning "live mounts" for taxidermy
3. Protect breeding females by instituting maximum size limits to protect breeding female sharks
4. Require all Shark Tournaments to be 100% Catch and Release

In September there will be a draft rule hearing, then in December more public comments will be taken and the Commission will vote on it. Any new rules passed will go into effect in January 2010. In the meantime, please feel free to share your comments and suggestions.

Here are your contacts:

Aaron Podey, Fisheries Management Analyst :

Melissa Recks, Biological Scientist II:

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission:


Draft Addendum I to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Coastal Sharks for Public Comment

Public comment accepted until 5:00 PM EST, June 30, 2009
E-mail Comments to:


This is a good summary written after the Dania Beach workshop:

Additional background info on the FWC meetings:

We are definitely excited about the outcome of the workshops and have hope that new rules will result. Stay tuned...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Shark Entree Featured at Taste of Chicago; Humana Labels it a "Healthy Choice"

The popular food festival, Taste of Chicago, has begun and to our horror we have learned that shark is one of the featured offerings at the Polo Cafe's booth. They have been serving "Shark Vera Cruz" in their restaurant and at the Taste for years, along with "Shark and Olives." For some inconceivable reason, Humana Inc, a health benefits company, has decided to promote shark as one of the healthier choices at the Taste.

We have sent the following letter to Humana and we have contacted the organizers of the Taste of Chicago, the Polo Cafe and the Chicago Tribune, as well, to apprise them of the facts related to eating shark.

A recommendation from a large, respected health organization promoting shark meat as a healthy choice is huge blow to shark populations, which are already in serious trouble. In light of this week's IUCN report showing that a third of all open ocean sharks are threatened with extinction (, this recommendation is highly irresponsible. The Taste of Chicago, Humana and the Polo Cafe highlighting this menu item only encourages people to look for and request shark at grocery stores and restaurants.

We will keep you posted as to the response. In the meantime, please contact any of the following with your POLITE and RESPECTFUL comments! Please also contact any other media outlets that have run this story to urge them to give their readers and viewers the real facts. If you're in the Chicago area attending the festival, you may also stop by the booth and directly, but respectfully urge them to stop serving shark.

Polo Café:
Dave Samber - Owner
+1 (773) 927-POLO
Taste of Chicago 2009: June 26-July 5

Jim Turner - Manager, Corporate Media Relations
+1 (502) 476-2119

Taste of Chicago:
City of Chicago, Mayor's Office of Special Events (MOSE)
Megan McDonald, Executive Director
Mayor's Office of Special Events
121 N. LaSalle Street, Room 806
Chicago, IL 60602

Chicago Tribune:

• Local News: 312-222-3540
• Business: 312-222-5944
• Features: 312-222-3001
E-mail letter to the editor:

Here is the letter we emailed to Humana:

Dear Mr. Turner,

Humana is highly regarded as a leader in health care and known for enabling people to make well-informed decisions regarding their health care and healthy lifestyles. Which is why we are shocked at Humana’s decision to promote shark meat as one of the “healthier choice” entrees featured at the Taste of Chicago festival.

Humana has effectively provided a seal of approval for a product that carries warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Environmental Defense Fund, Seafood Watch, the New York Department of Health, to name but a few organizations. With all of these highly respected entities publicly disagreeing with Humana’s recommendations, one might wonder how responsible and informed Humana’s recommendations truly are.

Indeed, there is much research and publicly available data regarding the serious health issues associated with consumption of shark meat due to the high levels of mercury and other contaminants in the shark’s flesh. Because of these health risks, most health organizations advise that women of child-bearing age and children should not consume any shark meat at all, and everyone else should limit consumption to no more than one serving per month. The Florida Dept. of Health goes further to warn that EVERYONE should avoid eating meat from any sharks over 43 inches.

In addition to the risks posed to people by consuming shark meat, there are significant health risks for our planet. Sharks around the world are threatened with extinction due to overfishing. Populations of many shark species have decreased by as much as 90% just in the past thirty years. As the apex predators of the oceans, the role of sharks is to keep other marine life in healthy balance and to regulate the world’s largest and most important ecosystem. Removing sharks seriously upsets this delicate balance. A number of studies are already indicating that regional elimination of sharks can cause disastrous effects including the collapse of fisheries and the death of coral reefs.

There are many healthy and responsible seafood choices available that provide high quality lean protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids without unnecessarily exposing consumers to mercury and other dangerous toxins and without damaging the environment ((please see attached Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Guide ( and Shark Fact Sheet (

Humana has been a leader in quality healthcare and health choices. By recommending safe and sustainable seafood choices, Humana can only stand to gain by leading the industry in environmental responsibility as well.

Now that Humana is aware of the situation, we cannot imagine you will stand behind these flawed recommendations. We respectfully request that Humana take a stand and immediately rescind its recommendation of shark as a healthy choice option. We further request that Humana issue a retracting statement to all media outlets to which these recommendations were promoted. Finally, the recommendation should be withdrawn from the literature at the Taste of Chicago booth. Instead, the public, especially women and children, should be properly warned about the dangers of consuming shark – consistent with the recommendations of the EPA and the FDA.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We will be happy to provide you with further research studies and to answer any questions you may have.

Best Regards,

Shark Safe

Shark Savers

Shark Angels

Sea Shepherd

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Shark Fins Dealer Pleads Guilty to Illegally Dealing in Fins from Protected Species

The Shark Conservation "spotlight" has certainly been on Florida lately. Most of this attention has been brought on by obvious public  issues such as Shark Tournaments and the ongoing unsustainable taking of sharks. Here is some good and bad news about Florida sharks. The Good News is that they finally busted this guy, The Bad News is, how long he has been getting away with this and the penalties seem far to lenient. 

Southport resident Mark L. Harrison had been running a substantial shark fin industry right in his own backyard. According to the charges and other information presented in court, Harrison allegedly represented himself to be the nation’s largest shark fin buyer, purchasing "millions" of shark fins since he had been in the business, beginning in 1989. 

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice

WASHINGTON—Mark L. Harrison, a resident of Southport, Fla., and Harrison International LLC, a Florida corporation, today pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Atlanta to violating the Lacey Act, a federal fish and wildlife trafficking law, by dealing in shark fins, the landing of which was not reported as required by law, the Justice Department announced today.

In addition, Mark Harrison pleaded guilty to a second charge related to his attempted export of shark fins of species that are prohibited to harvest under laws of the state of Florida. Harrison also pleaded guilty to a third charge related to trading in shark fins that had been prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions.

According to the charges and other information presented in court, Harrison allegedly represented himself to be the nation’s largest shark fin buyer, purchasing "millions" of shark fins since he had been in the business, beginning in 1989. According to the plea agreements, in February 2005, Harrison purchased shark fins in Florida from an individual fisherman and later resold them in interstate commerce. No report of the landing or sale of those fins was filed with any Florida authorities, as required by law. Accurate reporting statistics of shark harvests are crucial for managing and regulating the populations of the various shark species that occur in U.S. waters.

In August 2007, Harrison attempted to export through Atlanta a shipment of shark fins that included at least 211 fins from Caribbean sharp-nosed sharks, two fins from bignose sharks, and two fins from night sharks, all of which are protected by Florida and/or federal laws due to their low population levels.

Finally, the plea agreements reveal that for almost four years Harrison processed shark fins by drying them on open air racks and/or tarpaulins laid on the ground, outdoors, on his property in Southport. The fins were left out at all times until dry and were exposed to bird droppings and insects. Dogs ran freely among the drying racks. Harrison would then sell the dried fins and ship them in interstate commerce through the Northern District of Georgia.

"Trafficking the fins of these shark species is not a harmless offense," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. "These species are protected in order to ensure their continued sustainability. The Justice Department, along with our partner agencies, will continue to prosecute those who illegally trade in protected shark or other wildlife species."

"We will not tolerate the illegal harvest and sale of protected shark species whose populations continue to diminish in our oceans," said Hal Robbins, Special Agent in Charge for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Southeast Region. "We are pleased with the apprehension of Mr. Harrison, who is one of the country’s largest commercial shark fin buyers and I applaud the efforts of the prosecutors and Agents involved in this multi-agency federal investigation."

The Lacey Act, enacted in 1900, is the first national wildlife law, and was passed to assist states in enforcing wildlife laws. It provides additional protection to fish, wildlife and plants that were taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of state, tribal, foreign or U.S. law.

Since 1993, the NOAA Fisheries Service has managed, via federal fishery management plans, the commercial harvest and sale of sharks in or from federal waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. In 1998, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization finalized and adopted an "International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks," recognizing the worldwide pressure being placed on declining shark populations by commercial fishing and the demand for shark fin soup. U.S. management of sharks has included prohibitions against retaining and/or selling particular species, including some in which Harrison was dealing, the populations of which are so reduced that further harvesting cannot be sustained.. There are currently 19 federally protected species of sharks.

David E. Nahmias, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia said, "There is an immense trade in wildlife products. Those who trade in wildlife must comply with federal and state wildlife statutes and regulations. We will support the investigative work of those agencies who identify violations of these laws, and commend the teamwork of the investigators who brought these wildlife violations to our attention."

"We are proud of the coordinated investigative work of our agents with their colleagues from NOAA, Office of Law Enforcement and the Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations," said James Gale, Special Agent in Charge, Southeast Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement. "This case is an excellent example of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s commitment to investigate and interdict the commercialization of protected wildlife species."

Harrison is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 19, 2009, at 9:30 a.m., before U.S. Magistrate Judge Russell Vineyard of the Northern District of Georgia. Harrison faces up to one year in federal prison and a fine of up to $100,000. His company faces a fine of $200,000.

This case was investigated by Special Agents of the NOAA Office for Law Enforcement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement and the Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations.

The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia and the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.

Great work and thanks to all the agencies involved!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Help Make the Discovery Channel
Shark Safe

To all of our Shark Safe Friends

Please sign and forward this petition to your friends! It is just a beginning.....but a necessary one. Some of you know that recently our Marine Preserve Shark Park in Fiji was the site of a sensationalized filming project in which our sharks where depicted as blood thirsty maniacal killers! The crew was filming the lead program for Shark Week for Discovery Channel and the program is named "Deadly Waters"! For two years we were able to steer these clowns with a "Jaws" mentality away from this environmental and local economically successful Fijian Marine Preserve however this year they slipped in on a large boat and shot their story board sequences for several days. The "bogus" experiments they set up altered the behavior of the local shark population creating a dangerous situation for future divers in the park, created frenzied artificial feeding scenarios and sensationalized the "blood and horror" image of sharks once again. They dumped thousands of pounds of chum on the site in an attempt to pull to the surface the normally deeper dwelling species of bull and silver tipped sharks in an effort to get footage of sharks tearing into a tuna fish stuffed wetsuit which was portrayed as an unsuspecting diver......!! "Jaws" died decades ago! The sharks and the oceans need our help and in "the day" Discovery set the bar of credibility high in their programing and scientific content. Sadly today it has become a travesty of ratings seeking "fear" mongering. Please sign the petition....forward it to all your friends and encourage Discovery to educate their audience....not "bullshit" them!

Thanks in advance for all your help.

Gary and Brenda Adkison
Shark Foundation, USA

Monday, June 8, 2009

Attention Florida Shark Fans
Florida's sharks need you!

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has scheduled a series of public workshops this month to receive comments on the management of sharks. The FWC is seeking feedback on options for amending its shark management rules that would comply with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Coastal Sharks.

The Commission wants to hear public comments regarding the recreational and commercial harvest of sharks in state waters of Florida, including possible changes to shark bag and size limits, the prohibited shark species list, and shark landing requirements and gear rules.

The FWC encourages interested persons to participate in the workshops, which will take place from 6-8 p.m. local time, as follows:

Monday, June 15

Gulf Coast Community College

5230 W. U.S. Hwy. 98

Social Science Building, Room #201

Panama City

Monday, June 22

Brevard Agricultural Center

3695 Lake Drive


Tuesday, June 23

IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum

300 Gulf Stream Way

Dania Beach

Wednesday, June 24

City of Key Colony Beach

City Hall Building

Mile Marker 53.5

600 W. Ocean Drive

Key Colony Beach

Thursday, June 25

Punta Gorda City Hall

326 W. Marion Ave.

Punta Gorda

Anyone requiring special accommodations to participate in the workshops should advise the FWC at least five days prior to the workshop by calling 850-488-6411. If you are hearing- or speech-impaired, contact the FWC using the Florida Relay Service at 800-955-8771 (TDD) or 800-955-8770 (voice).