Great White Shark shot to death in Tunisian Waters

A truly shocking video has emerged of a Great White shark (possibly pregnant) being shot multiple times by Tunisian fishermen. The incident appears to have happened off the coast of Sousse, 140 km south of the capital Tunis.

People who are concerned about this are being urged to write to the head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Enviroment of Tunisia, as well as the government, and anyone else they think may be able to exert pressure to bring the culprits to justice (eg members of the European parliament).

The contact details are:

M.Mokhtar Jalleli
30, rue Alain Savary 1002-Tunis

Phone : (+216) 71 786 833
Fax : (+216) 71 780 391 ; 71 799 457

e-mail : mag@ministeres.tn

The government can be emailed at this contact form.

Video original link: http://youtu.be/k-yI5iySyHU

Also: http://sharkyear.com/2012/great-white-shark-shot-by-fisherman-in-tunisia.html

Please note that the video has now been removed, for unknown reasons.

Let’s talk about shark fin soup… But not here, and not now.

I recently came across a page on the popular TripAdvisor website where somebody had evidently tried to raise the subject of shark fin soup, the post was titled “Singapore and Shark Fin Soup” and was later removed; however I took a screenshot which is shown below. A comment had been left by the TripAdvisor moderator indicating that the post was “inappropriate” and had been removed. There was also a comment from another user saying “Wrong forum. This is a travel forum, not the world’s conscience.” The initial poster was berated for trying to impose “Western standards” on other cultures.

tripadvisor

Now, TripAdvisor is a private company, and they are evidently free to include or exclude whatever they wish on their website. But I found the episode revealing for two reasons. Firstly, specifically from the point of view of TripAdvisor, the fact that the post about shark fin soup was deemed inappropriate suggests that they thought it could be potentially embarrassing to their customers (ie restaurants that sell shark fin soup who advertise on their website) and therefore hit their bottom line. So although discussing the dishes that are served in restaurants listed on the website in terms of taste, appearance and service would most often be acceptable, discussing the origins of those same dishes in terms of the ecosystem, animal rights and sustainability is unacceptable, presumably because it reveals inconvenient truths and has the potential to hit somebody’s profit margins.

TripAdvisor is in no way alone in this behaviour, it is simply the latest example I have come across, which brings me to the second point of interest. There seems to be a widely accepted and unwritten rule that there is a “time and a place” for bringing up “difficult” or “controversial” subjects such as shark finning. The unconscious implication is that business always comes first… the placard-waving lunatics can say their piece, but only in the right place, at the right time, or in this case, on the right forum. “Issues” are all fine and well, but they mustn’t be allowed to interfere with the overarching right to make money.

Of course, under ideal circumstances, this might just be acceptable; for example if all those people and organisations who were involved in shark finning were prepared to listen to our concerns, if they were actively engaged and were prepared to act positively and reasonably, there would be no need to “interfere”. But what is revealed once again, is that many companies are not prepared to publicly recognise their involvement in morally reprehensible trades. In this particular case, TripAdvisor are publicising restaurants who sell shark fin soup and therefore are playing a part in the trade. By silencing people who wish to raise awareness about the origins of shark fin soup they are implicit in the ignorance surrounding it. They know that the public see shark finning very negatively, but they think they can keep making money from their advertisers who sell shark fin soup, and sweep the issue under the carpet whenever it raises its ugly head. Are they the only ones who do this? Of course not, there are probably hundreds of travel, eating, review and business-to-business websites who are guilty of exactly the same thing. The point is that there are a lot of individuals and companies who play a role in the shark fin trade besides the fishing boats and the restaurants.

These companies and individuals need to be exposed, challenged, and encouraged to make changes. The mantra of debate only “in the right time and place” should be swept to one side – it is just one more excuse to avoid engaging and facing up to their responsibilities. If the only way to get companies to engage is by publicly shaming them, then so be it.

The original screenshots are here and here.

Overwhelming NO to Great White Cull

Photo credit: Terry Goss

Photo credit: Terry Goss

The Australian government’s announcement in September that they would allow the culling of Great Whites that pose an “imminent threat” in tourist areas has certainly caused a great deal of controversy. While the government’s plans were helpful in a number of ways, the part about killing sharks has angered many ocean and shark activists. A recent poll by thewest.com.au revealed that a whopping 83% of the 6600 people surveyed did not want Great White Sharks to be culled.

Indeed Department of Fishery experts beleive that there is little likelihood that there is one shark that is responsible for the recent spate of attacks on ocean-goers, so the logic behind the killing of “potentially dangerous” sharks seems to be flawed. According to The West, “the money, time and effort would be better spent on increased helicopter patrols, more research and deterrents such as shark repellents, the creation of beach pools and education campaigns.”

Any injury or death is a tragedy for those concerned, and reasonable measures should be taken to ensure that people are safe, but the ocean – just like roads, and life in general – is never going to be 100% safe. People need to be aware of the risks involved, but also understand that when you enter the ocean there are no cast-iron guarantees of safety.

People concerned about the Australian government’s plans to cull sharks are being asked to send a letter or email to the WA Premier, whose contact details are:

Honourable Colin Barnett MEc MLA
Premier; Minister for State Development
Address: 24th Floor, Governor Stirling Tower, 197 St Georges Terrace PERTH WA 6000
Telephone: (08) 6552-5000
Fax: (08) 6552-5001
e-Mail: wa-government@dpc.wa.gov.au

There is also a contact form here.

Manta Rays being driven to extinction by Chinese medicine demand

manta-rays-killed

Rays are closely related to sharks, both belong to the class Chondrichthyes, which means “cartilaginous fish”. A series of photographs was recently published on The Guardian newspaper website which shows the beauty and majesty of these creatures, but also the brutal way in which they are slaughtered and dismembered so that their body parts can be used to supply the demand from those people who believe that they can cure them of illlnesses.

Manta and mobula rays are killed mainly for their gill rakers, which it is claimed, can be used to alleviate fever. However they are said to not be an authentic component of Chinese medicine and their use is driven mainly by bogus advertising campaigns. Manta rays have become extinct in some areas such as the Sea of Cortez, and there has been little regulation and documentation of this industry.

To find out more about this and to help the campaign to save manta rays, visit MANTA RAY OF HOPE.

Ask Hilton Hotels to ban shark fin from all their restaurants

shark fin soup

A recent article described reports we had seen on the internet suggesting Hilton Hotels are serving shark fin soup at some of their hotels in Asia Pacific. We wrote to the Vice President of Corporate Responsibility, Jennifer Silberman, asking for official confirmation of whether or not this was actually the case. Sadly, she has admitted that the hotel chain does serve shark fin soup at its restaurants in Asia Pacific. However the company does appear to be open to change and claims it is sensitive to the issue. Ms Silberman says “At many of our hotels in Asia Pacific, we have chosen to stop promoting the inclusion of shark fin on our outlet and banqueting menus and will offer it only at the request of guests.” While falling a long way short of what we would expect from a business that prides itself on its sustainability credentials, it is at least a start.

shark-fins

We think that Hilton Hotels should be following the initiative of other hotel chains in the Far East such as Shangri-La, who announced in January of this year that they would no longer serve shark fin soup at any of their establishments. This sends a powerful message that it is just as unacceptable to serve the fins of endangered sharks as it would be to serve up tiger parts.

Many of their customers across the world would be surprised and shocked to hear that Hilton have such a flexible notion of the word “sustainable”. It seems that although they would not dream of serving shark fin soup in the USA or Europe they are perfectly willing to serve it in Asia Pacific.

If you would like to send a polite email to Hilton Hotels, the contact details of several of their staff, including the Vice President of Corporate Responsibility, are at this link. We are sure that Hilton Hotels would be especially interested to hear from their customers on this issue. Thank them for the efforts they have made so far, but let them know that shark fin should be totally banned from their restaurants.

Does Shark Week do more harm than good?

The 25th Shark Week premieres on the Discovery Channel this August 12th. But is it something that you would encourage your friends and family to watch? In previous years Discovery has been severely criticised for its portrayal of sharks in Shark Week, which plays up to the stereotypical image many people have of the shark as a dangerous, frightening man-eater.

This year’s Shark Week promises us Sharkzilla, Bite After Bite, An Air Jaws Apocalypse and warns us, “If we brought you any closer you’d be bait”. None of which gives the impression that Discovery are doing much to persuade people that all sharks are anything other than 15 foot long beasts lurking behind the nearest wave waiting to bite a chunk out of a surfer. The bigger the shark, and the bigger its teeth, the more likely it is going to feature heavily in Shark Week, so you’ll be seeing a lot of the Great White, and even the long extinct Megalodon, but not much of the many other species of shark, most of which are threatened or near-threatened with extinction.

To be fair, Discovery doesn’t totally ignore the very serious conservation issues – in last year’s Shark Week it did raise the issue of shark finning, and dedicated a portion of its program time to educating people about shark finning. But is it enough? Shouldn’t they be devoting the majority of the time to telling people about the terrible plight of sharks, and to presenting a realistic and more balanced picture of the world of sharks? Doesn’t playing up to the “man-killer” image of sharks just increase the hysteria and fear that people have of them? Doesn’t it just make people hate sharks? Is Shark Week doing more harm than good?

Let Discovery know what you think.

On facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sharkweek
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/SharkWeek

Are Hilton Hotels Serving Shark Fin Soup?

We were recently informed that shark fin soup is being served at an unspecified number of Hilton Hotel restaurants in China and the Far East. Chynna at the Hilton Kuala Lumpur lists shark fin dishes on its online menu; there are also reports of it being served at the Hilton Nanjing and the Millennium Seoul Hilton. Repeated attempts to contact the company via various channels for confirmation of their policy regarding sustainability and shark fin soup have been unsuccessful.

Most of their customers in North America, Europe and elsewhere would be appalled to know that Hilton Hotels are happy to let shark fin soup be served in China and the Far East if it will make their company more profitable. Their policy seems to be “keep quiet and hope nobody outside China notices”.

Hilton Hotels proudly states on its website:

“Sustainability is simply good business. Since Hilton Worldwide brands touch thousands of communities and millions of people every day, it’s important for us to lead our industry with sustainable practices that deliver great guest experiences and protect the world we live in.”

shark-fins2

Sadly it seems that Hilton Hotel’s notion of sustainability does not include conserving shark populations. Other hotel chains such as Shangri-La and Swiss-Belhotel have removed shark fin from their menus – they have seen that the tide of public opinion in the Far East is changing. Even the Chinese government is beginning to catch on, with their recent announcement that shark fin soup will be banned at official banquets… but Hilton Hotels are dragging their feet. What will it take for them to do the right thing?

Ask Hilton Hotels to clarify their policy on shark fin soup, and insist on a total ban on it in their restaurants.

Bureaucracy trumps shark conservation in the UK

We were recently sent a link to this page where a British Conservative MP, Oliver Colville, asked the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural affairs if the British government would bring forward proposals to ban the sale of shark fin soup in the UK.

bureaucracy-shark-fins-uk

The astonishing response is that the British government is unable to pass law banning shark fin soup as it would “contravene EU trade agreements and World Trade Organisation (WTO) obligations”. Contrast this with the situation in the United States where individual states have successfully passed bans on the trade in shark fins – presumably flouting those “obligations” with the WTO?

The British government seems to be getting lost in a sea of bureacracy. And the lesson for shark conservationists in the UK is that a ban will have to be sought at the EU level…. potentially setting us back years and leading to the deaths of millions more sharks.

Ask the New York Times to remove their recipe for shark fin soup.

The New York Times recently ran an article about the bill that would ban the shark fin trade in New York. Sounds good, right? But why on Earth is the NY Times also running a separate article describing how to make shark fin soup? Many species of sharks are becoming endangered due to rampant over-fishing; the shark fin trade is unethical and unsustainable. If we don’t stop killing sharks many species will die out. As it is populations would take many years to recover if they were given the chance to. The New York Times should not be undecided or vague about this issue – what’s next, a recipe for tiger steaks?

We are asking readers to send a polite email to the editor in charge of integrity issues at the New York Times, Mr Arthur Brisbane, asking him to get the recipe removed from the website and for a public apology to be made regarding this “oversight”.

You can contact Mr Arthur Brisbane here at this email address: public@nytimes.com

Get Dr Giam Choo-Hoo out of CITES

shark-fins3

Stop Shark Finning recently featured a post about CITES and in particular how Dr Giam Choo-Hoo is subverting the organisation by using it as a way of allowing the shark fin trade. Because here’s the thing: Although Giam is a member of the UN body that is supposed to protect wildlife, he actually supports the shark fin trade. So what we have here in effect is a wolf guarding the hen house.

Ocean Correspondent for The Times, Frank Pope, recently interviewed Giam and published an article about said interview on his blog, “In Conversation With the Shark Fin Godfather“. It really is an astonishing read. Aside from being a member of CITES, Dr Giam Choo-Hoo is also a director for a company that trades in crocodile skins sourced from the Nile… and apparently has acted as a representative of the Shark Fin and Marine Products Association Limited at at least one CITES meeting. Seriously. You couldn’t make this up.

What’s more, Dr Giam will neither confirm nor deny his business interests – he doesn’t think it’s relevant. Even more shockingly, CITES itself recently agreed not to bring in any rules that would mean members might have to declare any conflict of interest. So, in effect, CITES is presenting itself as a protector of wildlife, but is not allowing any public scrutiny of the interests of its members. CITES is notoriously sluggish and ineffective when it comes to regulating trade in endangered species. The case of Dr Giam Choo-Hoo provides a disturbing insight into the likely motivations of at least one of its members. How many more Dr Giam Choo-Hoos are there in CITES?

A petition has been launched to get Dr Giam Choo-Hoo out of CITES. Please sign it here.