New Zealand Shark Fin Ban: Have Yor Say!

A lot of people are welcoming New Zealand’s proposal to ban shark finning (about time!) – but we want it done faster, and we want it to follow the advice from the Convention on Migratory Species.
You can make a submission by the 8th of December 2013 to NPOA-Sharks@mpi.govt.nz or to:

Fisheries Management
Ministry for Primary Industries
P O Box 2526
Wellington 6140

You want to make a difference? Here’s your chance. Say what you think but be polite.

More info: http://www.nzsharkalliance.org.nz/Action.html

Thanks to the wonderful New Zealand Shark Alliance for this action alert.

“Fins are for Sharks!” Poster

Stop Shark Finning has created a striking poster to encourage people to say no to shark fin soup. The graphic is available for download. Any supporters who would be able to help with creating versions in their own language are encouraged to get in touch.

Fins are for Sharks, not for soup!

 

Fins are for sharks, not for soup! The demand for shark fin soup means that in just a few years many shark species could become extinct. Sharks have been around for 400 million years and they are vital for the health of the oceans. Think about sharks. Think about the oceans. Say no to shark fin soup.

We Are The Monsters

Greenpeace New Zealand loved 8 year old Hector’s homemade anti-shark finning video so much that they asked for permission to use it in their campaign against shark finning.

Hector Danilo made his video – simply titled Hector on Shark Finning – after preparing for a speech he had to give at school. All the facts and figures were researched by Hector, with his older brother Felix helping out on cameraman duties.

New Zealand is one of a shrinking number of countries that still allow shark finning. If you live in New Zealand visit the New Zealand Shark Alliance to find out more about how you can demand a ban on shark finning in your country’s waters. You can also sign a petition to ban shark finning in New Zealand’s waters.

Tell Us Your Favourite Unusual Shark – Winner Announced

Wow! Over one hundred of you posted a comment on the website telling us about your favourite “unusual” shark. There were lots of very interesting comments with many awe-inspiring sharks being mentioned, including, among others, the cookiecutter, porbeagle, bonnethead, and lantern, frilled and goblin sharks. The number of entries served as a reminder of the huge variety of shark species there are in the oceans as well as how little we really know about many of them.
With such a large number of entries, selecting a winner was not an easy task, but in the end Derek Dapp was chosen, so he wins a “Bycatch is ecocide” T-shirt. Derek gave a great description of the greenland shark, and the greenland shark is such a mysterious and fascinating animal – it’s the kind of shark you read about and think “Heck – I wish we knew more about that shark!” It is generally slow moving, inhabits very cold water, often at great depths, and has a remarkably varied diet, having been known to eat anything from haddock and smaller sharks to polar bears and squid. One study has suggested that greenland sharks could live to around 200 years which would make it the longest lived vertebrate on Earth. Find out more about the greenland shark on the GEERG (Greenland Shark and Elasmobranch Education and Research Group) website!

Tell Us Your Favourite “Unusual” Shark (and win a T-shirt!)

Ask most people to name a shark species and there’s a good chance they’ll say the great white – a few might mention the hammerhead, or maybe a bull or tiger shark. But how many would say the goblin shark, or the cookie-cutter, or even the basking shark?

The truth is that there is a bewildering and varied range of shark species in the oceans – and most of them do not conform to the Jaws-influenced stereotype of what a shark should behave or look or like.

Frilled shark

Frilled shark – image by Citron

Take, for example, the rarely observed frilled shark. This species, which has a long eel-like body and grows to around 2 metres, derives its name from its six pairs of frilly gill slits, the first of which meet under its throat. The frilled shark is also regarded as a “living fossil” due to its ancient ancestry as its lineage dating back to the Late Cretaceous and perhaps even to the Late Jurassic.

And what about the cookie-cutter shark? This little critter only reaches about 50 cms in length but specialises in taking cookie sized bites out of larger fish and whales – it has even been known to tackle the occassional nuclear submarine!

Contrast that with the huge and graceful whale shark which lives mainly by filtering plankton and can live to around 70 years old (when allowed to do so by humans). Whale sharks are famed for being gentle giants and despite growing to sizes to rival any dinosaur, they behave in a very docile manner around humans.

Goblin shark

Goblin shark, showing protrusible jaw. Image: Dianne Bray / Museum Victoria

One of the strangest looking sharks must be the rarely observed goblin shark (pictured left). It has a protrusible jaw, which, when feeding, can extend out almost to the end of its snout, and has led to comparisons with the monster featured in the Alien movies.

These are just a few of the hundreds of shark species. Other unusual ones are the wobbegong, nurse shark, thresher shark, basking shark… and, well, you know what? Every shark is unique and special in its own way! So why don’t you tell us what your favourite shark is, and why? To give readers that little extra incentive (in case you needed it!), we’ll give away one of the brand new “Bycatch is ecocide” T-shirts to the person who gives the best answer.

New species of bamboo shark discovered

Bamboo shark Hemiscyllium halmahera (© Mark Erdmann / Wedaresort, www.wedaresort.com) from Sci-News.com on Vimeo.

A new species of bamboo shark has been discovered in eastern Indonesian waters near the island of Halmahera. Dr Gerald Allen, a research associate at the Western Australian Museum, described Hemiscyllium halmahera based on two specimens collected by the research team.

Bamboo sharks are unusual because of the way they “walk” by wriggling their bodies and pushing themselves along with their pelvic and pectoral fins. This new species reaches around 70 cm in length which is smaller than other bamboo sharks which can get to be as long as 122 cm.

The new species brings to nine those recognised in the Hemiscyllium genus. Four of these have been discovered in the last five years, highlighting just how little we really know about sharks and ocean life. This is just one more reason to demand more protection for sharks and to stop the destructive and dangerous industrial fishing methods that are endangering ocean life.

India Bans Shark Finning

India has today announced a ban on finning sharks at sea. This will mean that all sharks must be landed with their fins attached. A statement from the Environment Ministry said “The policy prescribes that any possession of shark fins that are not naturally attached to the body of the shark would amount to “hunting” of a schedule I species… Sharks, Rays and Skates (Elasmobranchs) are an important part of the marine ecosystem. They play an important the role in maintenance of the marine ecosystem like tigers and leopards in the forests.”

The ban on finning sharks will allow the ministry to more effectively monitor exactly how many sharks, and of what species, are being caught. The new policy also calls upon state governments to legislate to prevent the hunting of shark species protected under the WildLife (Protection) Act, 1972, and to effectively enforce laws.

As India is the second largest catcher of sharks in the world (according to self-reported data published by the UN) it is hoped that this ban on shark finning will mark a turning point for shark conservation in the region.

Bycatch is Ecocide.

Bycatch is Ecocide. Design by Duncan Carson.

 

Over 50 million. That’s an estimate of the number of sharks caught as bycatch each year. Add onto that the millions of whales, porpoises, sea turtles, dolphins, albatrosses and other marine animals and you have an ecological disaster on your hands.

Please eat only sustainably sourced fish (if you can find it) – or none at all.

This design has been printed on our latest T-shirts.

Think all sharks are maneaters? You might be a sharkist!

sharkist

 

 

Sharks. There are a few different kinds but basically they’re all the same (except for that weird one with the hammer-shaped head). Scary, aggressive, over-sized creatures with razor sharp teeth that will bite you in half the moment they spot you in the water.  One shark’s just as bad as the next because they’re all mindless killers and a menace to humans. Right? Wrong!

Years of programming from media outlets looking to boost their audience and advertising revenue has led to widespread hysteria and misconceptions about sharks. It didn’t start with Jaws – there was already a pervasive deep-seated fear of sharks – but Jaws did intensify the hype, repeating the same simple message over and over: sharks are dangerous, sharks attack humans, sharks are killers. But the truth is that there are over 470 species of sharks – with new species being discovered every year – and barely a handful of these have ever attacked a human. Many people have never even seen a picture of most of these sharks. The only photographs most people see of sharks are those shots of great whites with their mouths gaping open alongside the latest shark attack story.

Cartoon courtesy of shaaark.com

Cartoon courtesy of shaaark.com

We have been brainwashed about sharks. We’ve been fed an incredibly skewed narrative that focuses on isolated and extreme examples of human-shark interaction. In reality most unprovoked fatal attacks come from just three species – the great white, bull and tiger sharks – with a smaller proportion of mainly non-fatal attacks coming from a handful of other shark species, such as the oceanic whitetip, shortfin mako, lemon, blacktip reef shark and a few more.

The stereotypical image of sharks is wrong. It’s wrong because it only focuses on a small subset of the hundreds of shark species. It’s wrong because it obsesses over extreme examples of shark behaviour. And it’s wrong because it anthropomorphises shark behaviour and often doesn’t take into account human behaviour, both in the immediate and wider context – the human may have entered the water without understanding either the risks or shark behaviour – and the behaviour of humans as a species may be behind a recent slight rise in the number of attacks.

In the same way that erroneous and exaggerated portrayals of ethnic groups can lead to racist stereotypes, the incessant repetition of one story that sharks kill humans leads people to hate and fear sharks, and it makes them believe that all sharks are the same. It leads to a prejudice against all sharks. It turns people into sharkists.

So how do you stop “sharkism”? The same way you stop any kind of prejudice – with education. This is one thing we can all do something about. Most of us have access to the internet and a wealth of information – we can start by educating ourselves, and by doing our best to educate people we know. Those of us who are in the teaching profession can give the younger generation a more balanced view of the fascinating behaviour of sharks. Most importantly, perhaps those in the media can take a step back, stop giving undue attention to shark attacks and instead focus more on equally interesting and powerful stories that teach the public more about shark behaviour and shark conservation.

Longnose Saw shark - another one of those sharks you don't hear much about. Sketch by William Buelow Gould, c1832. (No photo available).

Longnose Saw shark – another one of those sharks you don’t hear much about. Sketch by William Buelow Gould, c1832. (No photo available).

Reunion Island Wants to Cull 90 Sharks

Bull Shark - one of the species of sharks threatened with a cull.

Bull Shark – one of the species of sharks threatened with a cull.

Anyone with an interest in sharks will have heard about the recent unfortunate death of a girl in a shark attack in the waters off the French island of Reunion. This followed the death of a surfer a few months earlier and brings to a total of five the number killed in shark attacks since 2011 on the island.

The reaction from the government of Reunion has been to announce a cull of 45 bull sharks and 45 tiger sharks. There is no way of knowing whether the “culprit” will be caught, and this action will mean many innocent sharks will be killed.

A petition to stop the cull has been started by David McGuire of Sea Stewards. Stop Shark Finning supports this petition and urges supporters of the cause to sign.

Update (Aug.19, 2013). A petition has been started on change.org which is getting more traction.