In a coup for for shark and manta conservation efforts, five species of shark and two species of manta rays will now be subject to international trade regulation under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
A required two thirds majority of CITES members voted to extend protections to oceanic whitetip sharks, porbeagle sharks, three species of hammerhead sharks, and the two species of manta rays. This marks a major increase in the number of sharks protected by CITES from three to eight species, and could prevent a total collapse of these threatened species.
Sharks are primarily targeted for their fins, which are traded to Asia for use in shark fin soup. Manta rays are caught and killed for their gill rakers — the part used to filter their food from the water — which have come into high demand in recent years as a purported health tonic used in Chinese medicine.
Dr. Demian Chapman of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University has published a shark fin identification guide aimed at aiding enforcement and customs personnel in the identification of the first dorsal fins of five shark species heavily targeted for their fins. An estimated 26-73 million sharks are killed each year to supply the global shark fin trade.
Many experts agree that it is necessary to monitor the trade in fins of five shark species of concern: oceanic whitetip, porbeagle and three species of hammerhead sharks (scalloped, smooth and great). These species are globally distributed, large-bodied and their fins are traded internationally in large numbers. Four of the species have at least one population listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In addition, four of the species are subject to conservation and management measures in one or more regional fisheries management organizations. All of these species have also at some point been proposed for inclusion on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The guide can be accessed online here, and downloadable PDF…
The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favor of closing loopholes in the European Union ban on shark finning (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea), the culmination of six years of campaigning and debate. Members of the European Parliament voted 566-47 in favor of the European Commission’s proposal to impose the best practice for finning ban enforcement: a prohibition on removing shark fins at sea. The measure faced formidable opposition from representatives of Spain and Portugal, Europe’s leaders in catch of oceanic sharks.
“Parliament’s overwhelming support for strengthening the EU finning ban represents a significant victory for shark conservation in the EU and beyond,” said Ali Hood, Shark Trust Director of Conservation. “Because of the EU’s influence at international fisheries bodies, this action holds great promise for combating this wasteful practice on a global scale.”
The EU banned finning in 2003, but the associated regulation includes loopholes that allow shark fins to be removed on board and landed separately from shark bodies, which hampers enforcement.
“We owe so much of our success to the tens of thousands of divers across Europe who voiced their concern for sharks,” said Suzanne Pleydell, Director for Project AWARE…
Using a new comprehensive index designed to assess the benefits to people of healthy oceans, scientists have evaluated the ecological, social, economic, and political conditions for every coastal country in the world. Their findings, published recently in the journal Nature, show that the global ocean scores 60 out of 100 overall on the Ocean Health Index. Individual country scores range widely, from 36 to 86. The highest-scoring locations included densely populated, highly developed nations such as Germany, as well as uninhabited islands, such as Jarvis Island in the Pacific.
Determining whether a score of 60 is better or worse than one would expect is less about analysis and more about perspective. “Is the score far from perfect with ample room for improvement, or more than half way to perfect with plenty of reason to applaud success? I think it’s both,” said lead author Ben Halpern, an ecologist at UC Santa Barbara. “What the Index does is help us separate our gut feelings about good and bad from the measurement of what’s happening.”
The Ocean Health Index is the first broad, quantitative assessment of the critical relationships between the ocean and people, framed in terms of the many benefits…
The grant application process for projects to take place next year (2013/14) is now open. Stage 1 grant applications must be submitted by August 26th 2012. This year, SOSF encourages researchers to apply for new projects focused upon mobulid rays and whale sharks. More information is provided below.
Unfortunately we were unable to fund many highly rated projects. Researchers who got to the final stage 2 list last year, but did not receiving funding for this grant year, and who would like to resubmit their 2011 applications (either in the same form or only slightly amended) are invited to inform the SOSF project team of this intention. Please do so using a Stage 1 form, but make it clear in section 5 that this will be a resubmission of the application that you made last year.
Education and Public Awareness
The Foundation considers education and awareness vital to long-term success – by inspiring people to fall in love with, to respect and learn to act in a more responsible manner towards the ocean, we create the guardians of the future. We therefore welcome applications for projects in this field, and prefer those in the regions where we have…
The Oceanic Whitetip is critically endangered in the Atlantic, yet few scientific studies have been undertaken on this species. In 2011 a team of scientists from the Cape Eleuthera Institute, Microwave Telemetry, Inc, Stony Brook University and the University of North Florida initiated a tagging study on this species using X-Tag pop off satellite tags (PSAT). Continuing the study, the team returned in 2012 tagging an incredible 29 oceanics in only 11 fishing days.
The research team expects to publish their preliminary findings on the movements and behavior of sharks tagged in 2011 in the coming months, and is already planning the 2013 expedition. The 2012 research expedition was funded by Microwave Telemetry, private donors to the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University and The Save Our Seas Foundation.
Nicholas Pilcher heads up the Sea Turtle Conservation project in Sabah, Malaysia, and he has been posting some great updates from a recent Malaysian Fisheries Delegation on Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) to the US. Turtle Excluder Devices are fitted to fishing nets to allow Turtles that are caught to escape. This is an important invention as fishing nets are a major cause of sea turtle mortality. Check out Nick’s daily updates here:
Day 1 - The other side of the world is far, far away! Day 2 - An introduction to the US TED program. Day 3 - Building a TED from scratch! Day 4 - Testing the TEDs with turtles at sea. Day 5 - What makes an effective TED configuration? It’s all about angles. Day 6 - Examining video and data results from the trials. Day 7 - Wrapping up!