Thursday, June 17, 2010

Help establish a new shark sanctuary in Raja Ampat, Indonesia

The shark population there has been depleted almost to the point of no return -- it's very urgent to protect what's left now!

And the manta rays that are now being targeted have even slower reproductive rates than most sharks - only one pup every one to three years! They absolutely cannot withstand directed commercial fishing pressure.

More background info:

Indonesia is one of the top shark fishing nations in the world, and supplies a large percentage of the fins that wind up in the world's shark fin markets. Many of you have seen the finned -- still breathing and bleeding -- baby nurse shark in the "Say 'No' to shark fin soup" PSA. That scene was filmed in Raja Ampat.

In the Raja Ampat Regency in Eastern Indonesia, the shark fishing pressure is coming mostly from the outside, and there's frustration among the local people as their resources are being plundered by outsiders. Shark finning has been going on there for quite some time, but manta and mobula fishing is fairly new there.

There have been some meetings with the Heads of Raja Ampat's Tourism and Fisheries Departments, and these government officials are open to hearing more about the value of sharks, mantas and mobulas to the economic future of their Regency. At the next meeting in early August, a full proposal will be presented, and this petition will be an important part of this proposal.

Note: This is not another "feel good" petition! The petition is one piece of a comprehensive initiative. It's very important that we show the Raja Ampat Fisheries and Tourism Departments that sharks, mantas and mobulas are very valuable to their local economy - ALIVE!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Impacts of Gulf Oil Spill on Vulnerable Whale Sharks

Research Needs to Assess Oil-Related Impacts on Whale Sharks in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

(Reposted from Gulf Coast Research Laboratory)

(Please be sure to specify that the donation is for "Whale Shark Research")

Please also report any sightings of whale sharks in the Northern Gulf of Mexico and spread the word about the GCRL’s Whale Shark Sighting Survey

The Problem

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.

Go to latest projections of the oil spill

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: and passive-acoustic tracking (Marine Meganet: 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:

give to whaleshark researchSupport Whale Shark Research

*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

Lessons Learned from the Deaths of 2 Pregnant Sharks

Last Wednesday was a very sad day in Florida for sharks and those of us who are working hard to conserve them. Dr. Neil Hammerschlag's report on the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program blog sums up the day's events and the senseless waste of two pregnant sharks - a Great Hammerhead and a Bull Shark - and their 47 unborn pups.

Out of tragedies, however, there are usually some positive outcomes and lessons learned. Having had a few days to calm down and think about what has happened, following are some observations.

Positive outcomes:

1. Positive Media Coverage for Sharks:
The media coverage of these incidents has been sympathetic across the board. The usual "monster" and "man-eater" terms have not been seen. The coverage of these incidents focused on the tragic lost and waste of beautiful animals that are vital to the ocean ecosystem. Brendal Davis and I, who attempted to save the pups from the Great Hammerhead that died in Delray Beach, were interviewed by the Sun Sentinel as well as the local CBS, NBC and ABC news affiliates. Not one reporter asked about shark attacks. They were interested in the importance of these animals to the ecosystem and the threats that sharks face. Each of them seemed genuinely saddened by the incidents. For example:

2. Public concern and support:
All of the onlookers gathered at the beach in Delray on Wednesday were saddened and shocked at the sight of the rare and beautiful female hammerhead and the 35 unborn pups that unfortunately were already dead when we got to them. Many people jumped in to help -- moving the massive shark out of the surf, cutting the shark to get to the pups, documenting with pictures and video (thank you Chloe!), and even the very unpleasant job of obtaining biological samples for shark research. Several people offered to participate in beach patrols to watch for and report illegal shark fishing on the beach. THANK YOU!!

3. Educational opportunity:
The questions that day at the beach were non-stop. People were eager to learn more about sharks and we took this opportunity to inform them that these animals are not only endangered, but are vital to the health of our oceans. I think that a number of people went home that day with a new respect and appreciation for sharks. Fear and misunderstanding was replaced with sympathy. One man at the scene commented that he would not want to run into a shark like that while diving, and then actually saw a Great Hammerhead later that afternoon on a dive! See this quote from the Sun Sentinel:

'Recreational diver Scott Williams, 35, of Delray Beach, had the rare opportunity of seeing the deceased shark, then a few hours later seeing a live one while diving about a mile off shore. After seeing the size of the dead one, he hoped to never run into one under the sea. But when he did, from a 30-yard distance, he was enchanted. The full-grown shark took a look at him, then craned its massive head back down, apparently looking for food. "It was elegant. I wasn't scared like I thought I would be," Williams said. "It was real docile. It didn't seem aggressive in any way. I was awestruck."'

4. Productive discussion about improving catch and release fishing gear and practices:
Comments on the RJ Dunlap blog have spurred a healthy dialogue among members of the recreational fishing community. Some examples:

Capt. Bill Hardy of Berightback Charters commented: "Any useless and senseless destruction of life in our precious and fragile ocean ecosystem must be eliminated ....... Through study and education, we may have a chance to preserve our ocean."

George Campbell commented: "As a fisherman and advocate for sustainable catch and release shark fishing, I have to say that this is a tremendous loss." And he goes on to explain steps that "responsible fisherman can take to protect these animals while fishing".

Captain Curt Slonim of Curtasea Charters commented: "I would ask that you just take a moment to consider making the following changes within the club; mandate Circle hooks, take measurements and photos in a minimum of waist deep water, partner with a credited Research Organization, and take Shark Tournaments off of the calendar during the time of year that is known for Shark birthing."

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."

I would say this sounds like a great opportunity!

Recreational fishing is one of the largest contributors to Florida's economy. The vast majority of these fishermen are ethical, responsible and keenly aware of the need to protect our precious marine resources. There is definitely a need for more education on the value of these animals to the ecosystem, the life history characteristics and population status of Threatened shark species as well as gear and handling techniques to reduce stress, injury and post release mortality. Since the dialogue has now started, we need to keep it going and take this opportunity to make things better.

Lessons Learned:

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.

What I am sure of, though, is that every one of these mature reproductive females is extremely important. Research by Dr. Gruber's team and other shark scientists has demonstrated that a very small number of these breeders is responsible for maintaining the population for their species over a very broad area. The loss of just one of these mature females, especially a pregnant one, can seriously impact the population.

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.

"Based on observations of hammerheads, compared with other sharks, when they are caught on rod & reel, they exert a tremendous amount of energy to fight the angler. They try to sprint (instead of jog) the marathon of the fishing they become quickly stressed and over-exerted. There are both behavioral and physiological effects that increase their vulnerability at this stage. While fighting on a line, their normal swimming ability is greatly impaired, making it difficult for them to ram ventalate (pump water over their gills) as well as offload CO2. Thus, CO2 and subsequent lactate concentrations build up in their blood. which greatly increases capture stress and post-release mortality."

In addition many recreational shark fishermen attest that hammerheads very often die on the line and are much more susceptible to mortality than other shark species.

Because of this extreme fragility, I believe hammerheads should not only be Prohibited Species, but perhaps should be also be given protection under the Endangered Species Act. With ESA protection, any hammerhead accidentally hooked would have to be immediately cut loose, as is the case with smalltooth sawfish.

4. Enforcement should be improved. The agencies responsible for enforcement have limited budgets and personnel. Despite these difficulties, however, efforts could be improved. Education for enforcement personnel on what the regulations are, how to identify violators, and the importance of enforcing the regulations would help. Education and coordination of public volunteers to assist with enforcement could also relieve some of the pressure on these stressed agencies. We in the conservation community can help this area.

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!

These numbers should a provide a big incentive to fund research aimed at understanding the causes of post release mortality and reducing it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hawaii SB 2169 Passes Another Big Step!

The Hawaii bill to ban sale, possession, distribution of shark fins and all shark harvest in Hawaii passed the Conference session with a unanimous YES vote. More work for the legislators to do today, but hopefully the bill will to the House and Senate for votes on Friday.

Thank you all so much for all your letters and phone calls. It has made an enormous impact.

More news very soon!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Update on Hawaii Shark Fin Bill: SB2169

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:

  • Ask the members of the legislature to please make sure SB2169 will move ahead and become law. Don't let this important opportunity slip away.
  • Legislators, please listen to the majority, and not to the interests of a small group that is trying to hold up this ground breaking movement.
  • The world is watching. Hawaii can make a difference. Legislators can show great leadership by taking a strong stance.

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
State Capitol Building
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

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

Representative Ken Ito: ph 808 586-8470 e-mail

Representative Angus McKelvey ph 808 586-6160 e-mail

House Speaker Calvin K.Y. Say ph 808 586-6100 e-mail

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!

Stefanie Brendl
Shark Allies

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Shark Truth Wedding Contest: Closes May 9th!

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.

Contest Details:


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

Questions and comments? Email

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?

'Happy Hearts Love Sharks' wedding contest:

More about Shark Truth:

If you want to help us Stop the Soup or if you have any questions, please contact Shark Truth.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hawaii Shark Fin Bill Passes the House of Representatives!!!!


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 Steps:

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

Hawaiian Bill to Ban the Possession, Sale and Distribution of Shark Fins

Thanks to the tireless efforts of:

Stefanie Brendl of Shark Allies, as well as Inga Gibson - Humane Society, Linda Paul - Hawaii Audubon Society, and of course Senator Clayton Hee, who wrote and introduced the bill, and former Hawaiian First Lady Mrs. Vicky Cayetano - the inspiration for the bill! - and many other supporters --- Hawaiian Senate Bill 2169 has made it through numerous , hearings, votes and reviews over the past few months. And it's still alive!!

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.

But it's not time to celebrate yet. Lots more work to do.


Following are the instructions from Stefanie and we've also posted an example letter written by Mark Thorpe, founder of the Global Shark Initiative. And please, please keep all letters positive and respectful!!


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:

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.


Example letter from Mark Thorpe:

TO: House Representatives
RE: House floor vote on Measure SB 2169 Relating to shark fins

Dear Representatives,

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.

(Your Name)
Proud Member of The Global Shark Initiative

Thank you for your help!!! We'll be posting regular updates on Facebook.

Shark Safe Network Team

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Please Support Hawaii's Shark Eco-Tourism!

Hawaiian shark eco-tours are under attack once again. Shark eco-tourism promotes appreciation and understanding of these magnificent and vital animals. Please help to support Hawaii's shark eco-tour operators!

Here's a summary of what's going on:

And lots more background information and facts:

And here's how you can help:

Send a written statement of support to these two offices:
(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:
Reference House bill: HB2459, HB2664, HB2705, HB2483, HB2900

-Senate Committee on Land and Water - Senator Clayton Hee (Fax: 586-7334 email:
Reference Senate Bill: SB2330, SB2655

(save your letters so you can send them again for the next batch of committee hearings).

And if you live in Hawaii or are able to travel there, please get in touch with Stefanie Brendl about participating in the hearings.

Sample letter below. Please feel free to copy parts or the whole letter as you see fit. There is also a wealth of information available on the Why Sharks Matter website, including support letters written by other people.

Thank you for your help!

Dear Sen. Hee,

I am writing in support of two North Shore shark eco-tour businesses, North Shore Shark Adventures and Hawaii Shark Encounters. These responsible businesses, that draw tens of thousands of tourists every year, are being unfairly targeted by a series of five bills (SB2330, HB2664, HB2459, HB2705, HB2483) that have been submitted to this year's State Legislative session. It is appalling and unconscionable that public officials -- who are supported by Hawaiians' tax dollars -- would take up the State Legislature's time and resources with this series of bills that have no other purpose than to destroy two hard working and law abiding small businesses.

The proponents of these bills have been conducting a campaign of misinformation and misguided emotion with no regard to the facts or any common sense. A calm review of the facts and issues, however, presents a much different picture.

Following are some observations on the issues involved that I respectfully present to you:

1. Public Safety: There has been no evidence to indicate that these shark eco-tours pose a hazard to public safety, nor is there any indication that the tours cause a significant change in the sharks' behavior. Please see the following University of Hawaii study, which concluded that shark tours have a "negligible impact on public safety" (

Other activities in Hawaii's waters are much more likely to attract sharks close to shore and the surfers, canoers and swimmers. For example, the Waikiki Midnight shark hunt operates near the most populated areas of Waikiki and Hawaii Kai. Spear fishing goes on right in the surf zone where bleeding and struggling fish attract sharks.

It doesn't make a lot of sense that activities that attract sharks close to shore are apparently not considered to be a threat, while shark viewing tours that operate three miles offshore are being criticized as a hazard to public safety. Yes, these tours operate three miles offshore in 600 foot deep water, far from where any surfing, swimming or canoeing takes place. Participants view the sharks from Poly Glass cages that allow them to view the sharks with no risk of physical contact.

This anti-shark tour movement seems to be fueled by a fear of sharks and shark attacks that is way out of proportion to the actual risk. For example, according to the International Shark Attack File there have been five shark attack fatalities in Oahu since 1828, and the last one occurred in 1992. The shark eco-tours that are being targeted have only been in existence since 2001. Proponents of the bills in question, however, are using the fear factor to manipulate the public and attract attention to promote themselves and their personal agendas.

2. Hawaiian Culture - Aumakua: Please see the following Public Service Announcement that is currently being aired on Fijian television -- . Sharks are also very important to Fijians and other Polynesian cultures. Yet the Fijians do not consider shark viewing tours to be offensive or disrespectful. What does offend Fijians is the unsustainable killing of sharks that is going on throughout the world.

The Waikiki Midnight shark hunt attracts sharks with bait so that paying customers can catch and release the sharks. Is this activity not using the sharks for entertainment and profit? Yet shark fishing tours are not being targeted by these bills; only the shark viewing tours.

Shark fin soup is sold in Hawaiian restaurants and container loads filled with shark fins can be seen in Honolulu Harbour. If the welfare of the sharks is the concern here, it seems that the shark fin traders in Hawaii's ports and markets and the longliners in Hawaii's waters would be more appropriate targets.

Since sharks are such an integral part of Hawaii's culture why not promote shark conservation, education, respect and understanding? What the shark viewing eco-tours are doing is educating and enlightening, promoting understanding and respect, not fear. How is this bad?

3. Sharks are vital to the health of the marine ecosystem. Hawaii's tourism industry depends heavily on its marine resources. Without sharks to keep the oceans in balance, the ecosystem begins to fall apart, and everyone suffers. Sharks should be protected, not vilified.

4. Impact on tourism and small businesses: A decision to ban shark tours would shut out 40,000 tourists from the North Shore. These tour operators are generating tourism dollars for the local economy. They are hard working small business owners who pay taxes. The tourists who go on these tours also stay in hotels, eat in restaurants and go shopping. Especially during these challenging economic times, is it wise to take actions that will drive out small businesses and tourists? Stirring up fear of shark attacks doesn't seem to be a good idea for tourism either. This fiasco has generated a huge amount of press, not just locally, but internationally as well. And it does not show Hawaii in a favorable light.

It's understandable that Hawaiians would want to see some kind of regulation or oversight of shark tour operations. Irresponsible tour operators certainly could endanger their clients, generate negative press and even possibly endanger others. This statement applies not only to shark tour operators, however, but to many recreational activities.

But why attack responsible tour operators who are operating three miles offshore in deep waters far away from any surfing, canoeing or swimming?

Please consider all the issues and the potential consequences of any proposed actions. And please don't allow Hawaii's Legislature to be hijacked by this witch hunt mentality that aims to destroy small businesses and recklessly divert the State's attention and resources from much more important matters.

Thank you very much for your time and attention!


Monday, January 11, 2010

First Annual South Florida Shark Conservation Party a Huge Success!

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.

One goal of the event was to raise money for the Shark Savers/WildAid billboard campaign to "Say 'no' to shark fin soup" currently being run in China. From party donations, we will be able to purchase 15 bus stop billboards! This is a very exciting outcome of the shark celebration. For more information on the campaign and purchasing these billboards yourself, go to here.

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.

Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, Dr. Gruber, Steve Stock, and Bill Parks each spoke to the room about what has been accomplished in 2009 and what their plans for conservation and research are for 2010. They expressed words of encouragement and heartening after seeing the progress that has been made this past year. Walt Stearns was unable to attend, as he was away on a dive trip.

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.

We are grateful to Pro Dive for volunteering to host the event. Even though our plans for an evening boat ride were scrapped due to Florida's unseasonable cold, we were able to stay indoors at Pro Dive and enjoy an evening with good friends. The food and drinks from Coconuts restaurant were delish. Special thanks to Sergio for the three exceptionally well-designed shark cakes!

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!!