Thursday, June 17, 2010
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Research Needs to Assess Oil-Related Impacts on Whale Sharks in the Northern Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico (GOM) provides essential habitat for many shark and ray species, including the whale shark, Rhincodon typus (Hoffmayer et al., 2006). The oil spill resulting from the explosion of the BP/Deepwater Horizon platform on April 20, 2010 in the northern GOM is currently located in whale shark essential habitat (Hoffmayer et al, 2005) and is posing a critical threat to this species in the region. From 2002 to 2009, over 300 GOM whale shark sightings were reported to the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory's (GCRL) Whale Shark Sightings Survey, and over a third of the sightings were within the ever expanding oil coverage area (Figure 1). Given the amount of time whale sharks spend at/near the surface of the water (Figure 2), there is considerable potential for harm or death to these individuals resulting from direct exposure to and contamination from the spill (via oiling or clogging of their gills), as well as from depletion of prey, or consumption of oil-contaminated prey (Figure 3). In addition, the dispersants currently being used to ‘break up’ the oil will significantly increase the potential for exposure of sharks throughout the water column. What is unknown is if whale sharks are able to detect the oil and dispersants in the water and will avoid the areas affected or if they will directly encounter the oil without warning.
Figure 1. Map depicting historic (2002-2009) whale shark sighting locations shown within the estimated boundaries of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill coverage as of 18 May 2010.
Figure 2. Whale sharks surface filter feeding in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Photo credit: GCRL, June 26, 2006.
Figure 3. Oil at the surface near the accident site.
Photo credit: Vernon Asper, May 7, 2010.
Unfortunately, this problem is going to be far-reaching and has the ability to impact whale shark populations outside of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Over the last few years, GCRL researchers and their colleagues have documented direct evidence of connectivity between whale shark populations in the northern Gulf of Mexico with those in the southern Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
This connectivity has been documented through the use of photo-identification (Ecocean:http://www.whaleshark.org) and passive-acoustic tracking (Marine Meganet:http://www.facebook.com/MarineMeganet). Additionally, recent genetic studies have shown that whale sharks may comprise a single global population, meaning any mortalites in the northern Gulf of Mexico may impact sub- populations in other parts of the world.
Due to the slow growth rate, late age of maturation, and low fecundity (number of offspring) of whale sharks, they are currently listed as a “vulnerable” species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and are protected internationally by its inclusion in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). If our northern Gulf of Mexico whale shark population declines as a result of this oil spill, the recovery time would be extremely slow.
What Needs to be Done?
Researchers at GCRL are currently seeking funds to monitor oil impacts on whale sharks and other large pelagic animals in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Two immediate needs have been identified in order to gain a better understanding of how these sharks are being impacted by the oil spill.
Aerial surveys Plane surveys looking for whale shark presence in the northern Gulf region, particularly focusing on the area affected by the oil spill, need to be conducted to note whether these animals are traversing in or near these waters.
Satellite telemetry Tagging whale sharks with satellite tags will allow for the assessment and monitoring of fine-scale movements of whale sharks in and around contaminated waters. By deploying satellite/GPS tags and pop up satellite archival tags (PSAT) on whale sharks outside of the oil-affected area, GCRL researchers will be able to determine if these sharks will actively avoid the affected areas, or monitor their survival if they are exposed to the oil.
How Can You Help?
Although, the financial responsibility for oil spill monitoring, clean-up and damages, lies in the hands of BP Corporation, it may take years before financial support is available for research funding or reimbursement. It is paramount that monitoring projects be implemented immediately. To help support immediate monitoring and research of whale sharks and other large pelagic species in the northern Gulf of Mexico, please click on the link below:
*Please be sure to designate your donation toward
Whale Shark Research.
You can also help support this research by spreading the word about the GCRL’s Whale Shark Sighting Survey. Participation and awareness of the survey will increase the likelihood of reported sightings and aid with documentation of whale shark distribution in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
1. Positive Media Coverage for Sharks:
2. Public concern and support:
3. Educational opportunity:
4. Productive discussion about improving catch and release fishing gear and practices:
c.uva commented: "Recreational fishing for sharks does affect the population whether it be landbased or boat based, there are ways to improve the catch and release survivabillity of sharks. I ASK SEVERAL SCIENTESTS TO COME FOWARD TO WORK ALONGSIDE REACREATIONAL SHARK FISHERMAN .... TO DECREASE MORTALITY RATES OF RELEASED SHARKS."
1. Circle Hooks need to be a requirement. Florida will consider a proposal to require circle hooks this year, which is a great step, but circle hooks should be required everywhere. J Hooks, which were used in both of Wednesday's incidents, often result in "gut-hooking" when the shark swallows the bait and the hook catches and tears internal organs. With circle hooks, the shark is hooked in the corner of the mouth, making the hook easier to remove and preventing the often fatal injuries caused by gut hooking or hooking the gills.
2. Regulations to protect pregnant female sharks during pupping season should be explored. Florida's coasts serve as vital breeding and pupping grounds - or Essential Fish Habitats - for several sharks species. During the Spring and early Summer, pregnant females come to these inshore areas to give birth to their pups. I honestly don't know what the appropriate regulation would be to protect these females during the pupping season. Two of the charter boat fishing captains who commented on the RJ Dunlap blog suggested either restricting land based fishing for sharks during this time of year or at least not holding land based shark tournaments during this time. Obviously more discussion is needed to come up with a rule that will adequately protect the pregnant females with the least negative impact on fishermen.
3. Hammerheads need more protection. The US and Palau recently proposed protection for hammerhead sharks under CITES, yet no hammerhead species is protected in US waters. Three types of hammerheads are classified as Threatened by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group -- Great Hammerheads -- Endangered - Very High Risk of Extintion; Scalloped Hammerheads -- Endangered -- Very High Risk of Extinction and Smooth Hammerhead - Vulnerable -- High Risk of Extinction. In addition, hammerheads are considered by scientists and fishermen to be among the most fragile species, which suffer extremely high post release mortality, both from commercial and recreational fishing. See this quote from Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, Director of the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program at University of Miami. In the course of his research Dr. Hammerschlag has had the opportunity to observe and participate in the catch and release of thousands of sharks of many different species.
5. More study is needed on Catch and Release stress and mortality. According to NOAA Fisheries reports, approximately 550,000 sharks were harvested and another 14 million sharks were caught and released alive by recreational anglers in the US in 2007. And NMFS estimates that at least 20% of released fish end up dying. This works out to 14 million @ 20% = 2.8 million sharks + 550,000 = over 3.3 million sharks. Commercial shark landings in 2007 in the US totaled 15 million pounds. Using an estimated average weight of 10 lbs per shark, this works out to an estimated 1.5 million sharks. If the 20% mortality figure is correct, then the recreational fishing impact on sharks may be more than double that of commercial shark fisheries in the US. And the bulk of that number comes from well-meaning people who don't even intend to kill the animals!
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
|An historic bill is moving through the Hawaiian Legislature calling on a prohibition of shark fin. Since passing the Hawaiian Senate, and then, last week's vote in the Hawaiian House of Representatives, SB 2169 - Relating to Shark Fins - has now moved to the next step in this long legislative process. And once again, it is necessary to rally support to ensure its final passage. There are still a few more steps to go, so please bear with us!|
Following is an update from Stefanie Brendl of Shark Allies in Hawaii with instructions on how you can help today.
Here is where we are with this bill:
After passing the House vote, the bill went into "Conference", where Representatives from the House and the Senate are meeting to discuss a final version. Because the bill went through so many changes in the different Committees, the House and Senate disagree on some details of the final language. This is why the Conference is necessary.
The main issue now is that some members of the House are asking for changes that dilute the bill to the point of changing the whole intent. For example, taking out "possession" so that shark fins could still be imported for shark fin soup. And if the Senate and House cannot come to agreement on the language during this Conference process, the bill will not be able to move forward and won't even make it the next step.
The Hawaiian people are overwhelming in support of the measure, including more and more among the Chinese community in Hawaii. But there is still some opposition in the House that is not completely clear.
We have scheduled a press conference for Sunday where we will show the depth of support that we really have. We have invited members of the community to represent the Hawaiian and the Chinese culture, as well as representatives of conservation groups. We will have videos, photos and articles available.
Here is how you can help:
1) Please send a letter to the Hawaii House Representatives:
The important points to include in the letter are:
It is important that they realize how many people are watching this effort, and how much impact this will have.
Please address your letters to:
Hawaii State Legislature
Re: S.B. No. 2169, Relating to Shark Fins
Dear Members of the Hawaii State Legislature,
Also please send a copy to all the Representatives at this address:
2) If you have time, give these offices a call ASAP.
These are the House Representatives on the conference committee that still have objections to the bill.
Speaker Say is not on the committee, but he is the speaker of the House, and therefore has a great deal of influence on all of the Representatives.
Feel free to ask some tough questions and demand answers on why they are hesitating to support this bill. But please keep it polite and respectful! Email addresses are included below in case you want to follow up with materials etc.
Representative Jon Riki Karamatsu ph 808 586-8490 e-mail repkaramatsu@Capitol.hawaii.gov
Representative Ken Ito: ph 808 586-8470 e-mail repito@Capitol.hawaii.gov
Representative Angus McKelvey ph 808 586-6160 e-mail repmckelvey@Capitol.hawaii.gov
House Speaker Calvin K.Y. Say ph 808 586-6100 e-mail repsay@Capitol.hawaii.gov
Thank you for your continued support and patience! We will continue to keep you up to date as this bill moves through this - sometimes tedious - process!
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Please spread the word about Shark Truth and their contest to reward couples who make the decision to not serve shark fin soup at their weddings. Let's help Shark Truth to "Stop the Soup: One Bowl at a Time".
Shark Truth is a not-for-profit consumer awareness group that seeks to engage consumers in a collaborative discussion to find alternatives to shark fin soup. We are dedicated to promoting awareness around the irreversibly detrimental effects of the shark finning industry by specifically working with (and not against) consumers.
Happy Hearts Love Sharks
Wedding Contest 2010
Did you know that a wedding banquet serving shark fin soup to 300 guests can kill up to 30 sharks? Through the 'Happy Hearts Love Sharks' wedding contest, we will reward couples who submit a video or photo entry of their pledge to Stop the Soup at their wedding banquet and promote shark fin soup alternatives.
Couples can enter now for a chance to our International Grand Prize: a waterproof digital camera and an adopt-a-shark package.
**The first 5 international couples to enter the contest will get the beautiful coffee table book “Sharks Up Close”, which captures the majestic, beautiful shark in photography.
Contest closes May 9th, 2010
Registration and contest details at http://sharktruth.com/wedding
Questions and comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Stop the Soup - Spread Shark Truth
For the Happy Hearts Love Sharks pamphlet and other Shark Truth goodies to download, please contact us.
Want more info?
Why wedding banquets? http://sharktruth.com/stop-the-soup/wedding/why/
'Happy Hearts Love Sharks' wedding contest: sharktruth.com/wedding
More about Shark Truth: http://sharktruth.com/about/
If you want to help us Stop the Soup or if you have any questions, please contact Shark Truth.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Perhaps the most significant legislation involving sharks in US history was passed yesterday by the Hawaiian House of Representatives. This bill will prohibit the sale, possession, and trade of any type of shark fin or shark fin product in the State, including State waters.
This bill has stirred up a great deal of political debate, pitting the concerns of ocean health against a lucrative trade. And has also spurred somewhat of a cultural debate, since the Chinese cultural preference for consuming shark fin soup runs counter to the Hawaiian reverence and respect for sharks as powerful "aumakua", which in Hawaiian is defined as a benevolent guardian spirit or family protector.
Former Hawaiian First Lady Vicky Cayetano is the inspiration behind the bill and asked Sen. Clayton Hee to write the legislation. She is a Chinese immigrant, extremely well respected, and a very outspoken proponent of the bill. Sen. Hee, who is half Chinese and half Hawaiian, has served in Hawaii's State Legislature since 1982 and is Chairman of the Native Hawaiian Culture and Arts Program. He introduced the bill on January 20th.
Both Sen. Hee and Mrs. Cayetano have fought hard to keep the bill alive and are determined to see it passed into law. Mrs. Cayetano provided powerful testimony at the recent House Judiciary Committee Hearing, including her statement that "shark fin soup is about as cultural as bound feet". Their efforts were also instrumental in getting the meaure resurrected last week after it had been deferred by the House Judicial Committee by Rep. Karamatsu.
Local conservationists, Stefanie Brendl of Shark Allies and Inga Gibson, of The Humane Society of the United States, have completely dedicated themselves to advocating the passage of this bill for the past two months. Stefanie, through her tireless grass roots efforts, has garnered widespread international attention and support. And meanwhile Inga has been working non stop to help to iron out legal issues, drafting amendments and working on wording changes to ensure that the bill is fair and will hold up to scrutiny. The efforts of these two dedicated women have contributed greatly to keeping SB 2169 moving through all the various committees that had to review and vote on the measure. They have spent almost every other day at the capitol meeting with committee members, working with the opposition and helping to draft amendments, all the while spreading education about sharks, finning and the bill.
And of course the groundswell of public support from within the Hawaiian community and from around the world has been nothing short of phenomenal. Stefanie has rallied the troops at every critical step along the way, assisted by some key contributors, all of whom have spent many, many hours glued to phones and keyboards, pulling out all stops in efforts to keep the bill going.
Among this avalanche of support, most notable has been a statement signed by fifty one members of the Mission Blue Voyage, a National Geographic project which was imagined to fulfill Sylvia Earle's 2009 TEDPrize wish to save the oceans!! This list is a who's who of the world’s most renowned ocean experts – marine scientists, deep sea explorers, technology innovators, policy makers, business leaders, environmentalists, activists and artists.
More letters of support came from renowned Artist of the Sea and Hawaiian resident, Wyland, as well as Hollywood actors, prominent business leaders, and scientists.
The combination of all of these elements has contributed to getting the bill to this point. It has made it through two Senate Committees, three Judicial Committees and a full vote on the House Floor. Many hurdles have been overcome, but there are still a few more steps to go.
Next week the bill will go to a Conference meeting, in which one Senate Committee and one House Committee get together to clean up any issues with the language, and the "defective" 2050 date will be corrected - see note below. For example, many of you read about opposition from Shark Researchers at the University of Hawaii. They were initially opposed to the bill, because they feared that it would make it illegal for them to possess specimens needed for their research. The original bill did include an exemption for educational and research purposes, but this exemption was taken out at some point in the process. After addressing this concern with the researchers, they are now strongly in support of the bill provided the education and research exemption is included.
Because attempts to kill the bill were not successful, it's very possible that a new wave of opposition may surface.
During the Conference meetings, there will likely be many voices trying to be heard. Some interest groups will surely be vocal in wanting exemptions and less stringent language. Some compromises may have to be made. Support for the bill and full protection for sharks is strong, however.
After the Conference meetings, the bill will move on to a Senate vote.
And after the Senate vote it will be sent to the Governor. The Governor can sign the bill into law or veto it.
At this point we need to sit tight and try to be patient for the next week as the bill goes through the conference process. We'll send another update soon.
In the meantime, thank you to everyone who wrote, made phone calls and spread the word over the past two months!! Our voices really do count and all this effort does make a difference!! Our input will be needed again soon; we'll send an update to let you know what we can do to help.
Please hang in there and stay with us over the coming weeks until this bill is finally signed into law!
** Note about 2050 date:
Legislators insert a "defective date" on many bills that are expected to go through a great deal of discussion and amendments. When a committee feels that all issues have not been resolved, but they want to pass the bill out of their committee to keep it alive, (because the deadlines are so tight) they add the defective date. This signals to everyone that more discussion is needed, but that the bill is essentially alive. Without this option, some bills would get stuck in a committee until every single issue was resolved beyond any doubt. And as a result, these bills would never make it through all the steps within the designated time.
A defective date also forces the bill into a "conference meeting", which means that the bill has to be approved by the "originating body". Again, that's because after a bill has gone through a number of changes, the originating body (in this case Senator Hee's committee in the Senate) is given the opportunity to agree or disagree with the other Committee's additions and changes. This process prevents the bill from turning into something completely different from its original intent.
Once Representatives and Senators that have been designated to the conference committee have agreed on the final draft, they remove the defective date and assign the "effective date". Generally the effective date will be July of the same year or the beginning of the next year.
Friday, April 2, 2010
Yesterday, after the House Judiciary Committee had deferred (translation: killed) the bill, supporters refused to give up. They persevered and were able to get it back into a decision meeting hearing yesterday, where it was voted on and passed out of committee. Now the bill is officially ALIVE again and moving ahead!!!! Getting it out of Judiciary committee was a HUGE step, and certainly the most difficult one so far.
THE NEXT STEP
A) The bill will now go to the House Floor for a vote (probably tuesday).
You can help us tackle the next hurdle by writing to the representatives:
Before Tuesday, April 6
Send a message to all of them (it's just one email address), and ask them to vote in support of SB2169 Relating to shark fins during House floor vote
email address: reps@Capitol.hawaii.gov
include this information
TO: House Representatives
RE: House floor vote on Measure SB 2169 Relating to shark fins
Let them know that this is an important step not only for Hawaii, but also for the rest of the world. Hawaii can be a leader and send a strong message by helping this ground breaking bill pass into law. They should feel good about being in the forefront of such an important issue.
I think it is not necessary to write a lot. If your message is short and to the point, it is more likely to be read.
B) Media coverage of any kind will be very helpful at this point. The kind of coverage that shows that this is a very important and ground breaking effort and that Hawaii will show strong leadership by taking this step. We want to show the politicians that this is getting international positive attention, and they can take great pride in supporting the bill.
And as Sen Hee has pointed out, this will also help the federal bill (Shark Conservation Act) -- an important point he is going to drive home next week.
RE: House floor vote on Measure SB 2169 Relating to shark fins
I write to express my profound request that you see fit to enact the Hawaii Shark Fin Bill: SB2169.
The recent events at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in Doha, Qatar were seen as an affront to the very existence of sharks and the health of our oceans. As a global citizen concerned with the accelerated destruction of our planet's natural resources and stocks I implore that you see fit to help enact SB2169.
As a proud Hawaiian I also draw your attention to the fact that sharks occupy a very special place in the Hawaiian culture. Known as both Kamohoali'i and Ukanipo in Hawaiian folklore these deity have played an integral role in the formation of many proud and strong Hawaiian people. It serves no one, except corporate entities, in allowing the spirits to these cultural deity to be sold to the highest bidder. How anyone involved with the removal of this Bill could then continue to suggest they are a proud Hawaiian would in itself be an insult to those who strive for its enforcement.
I am not here today to inform you of the numbers of sharks slaughtered for their fins on an annual basis. I am not here today to inform you of the effect this is having on our Oceans as a whole and neither am I here to inform you of the mounting number of global citizens who can see these crimes being committed on a daily basis against our birthright, and yet we don't get to have a say.
Instead, today I am here as an individual. I am here as a family member, a parent, a father, a mother, a son and a daughter. I am here to ask you to make a stand and align with the bold actions of leaders in Palau and the Maldives who have recently ordained their waters as official Shark sanctuaries. I am here to ask you to be a role model for emerging generations of proud Hawaiians, to be a catalyst in the request for healthy Oceans, ones that I would be proud to pass on to my children.
Your actions in the coming days will define you as a Hawaiian, as a culturally proud member of this unique race it is your responsibility to ensure that this bill gets passed. The global shark conservation community implores you to 'Do the right thing', for Sharks, for Hawaii and for the benefit of our Ocean planet.
Proud Member of The Global Shark Initiative
Sunday, January 31, 2010
(This has to happen as soon as possible, because hearings are being scheduled every day. You can use what you had written before for the City council or letters to the editor. Keep it short and sweet and tell them that you are strongly opposed to/appalled/disturbed/ shocked by :) any bills that will kill small businesses.)
-House Committee on Water, Land, Ocean Resources - Representative Ken Ito (Fax: 586-8474 email: email@example.com)
Reference House bill: HB2459, HB2664, HB2705, HB2483, HB2900
-Senate Committee on Land and Water - Senator Clayton Hee (Fax: 586-7334 email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Reference Senate Bill: SB2330, SB2655
(save your letters so you can send them again for the next batch of committee hearings).
Monday, January 11, 2010
Sunday, January 10, marked the first annual South Florida Shark Conservation Party. The event was hosted by Shark Savers, Oceanic Defense and Shark Safe Network at Pro Dive International in Ft. Lauderdale.
The purpose of the gathering was to introduce and unite local folks and beyond who love sharks and healthy oceans, and want to get involved with shark conservation efforts. The crowd consisted of scientists, divers, students, boat captains, and the general public. Clips from Lawrence Groth's extensive archive of shark footage were shown while fun music played in the background.
The shark party revelers were treated to PSA screenings produced by Shark Savers/WildAid. These powerful PSAs feature international basketball star Yao Ming, and other known celebrities and athletes. To view the Yao Ming PSA, check out this page . Julie Andersen of Shark Savers introduced the PSAs as well as gave updates on the campaign. We are proud to contribute to such a creative and effective cause!
Joe Romeiro and a virtual Bill Fisher, of 333 Productions, debuted their latest film, "A Lateral Line." Along with visually stunning shark footage, the film includes graphic coverage of a shark kill tournament. One astonishing scene shows the beating heart of a long-dead mako. Sad, but incredibly convincing. The film was well-received and we continue to applaud the efforts of our friends at 333.
Samantha Whitcraft from Oceanic Defense followed by presenting their 100% catch and release video to the audience.
Finally, the inimitable Andy Brandy Casagrande IV entertained the masses with his infectious songs about finning (anti, of course!) and being a great white shark.
So far, photos from the party can be viewed on the Facebook pages of Samantha Whitcraft, Fort Lauderdale Dive Report by Pro Dive International, Brendal Davis, Thomas Sergent, or Felix Leander.
A hardy thank you to all for your support and attendance of the inaugural South Florida shark conservation party! See you all again next year!!