The Countdown to Secure Trade Protection for Sharks Starts NOW

Did you know? Only three shark species are protected under CITES regulations (great white, whale shark and basking shark). Yet many shark species such as scalloped hammerhead, porbeagle and spiny dogfish are on the brink of extinction!

In less than one year’s time, Government officials from all around the world will meet in Thailand to discuss the fate of the most threatened and heavily traded shark species. With 175 member countries the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) sets controls on the international trade and movement of animals and plants at risks of becoming extinct.

Many shark populations have declined dramatically over the past thirty years, some by as much as 99%. By supporting the Big Shark Shout Out campaign and signing the CITES petition you can give sharks a fighting chance and ensure the most vulnerable shark species get the trade protection they desperately need.

Sign the CITES petition TODAY

SHARK FINNING

The burgeoning and largely unregulated trade in shark fins represents one of the most serious threats to shark populations worldwide.

Shark finning (the cruel practice which involves slicing fins from sharks at sea and dumping their bodies overboard) is not only an Asian problem. Shark fin soup can be found in many restaurants across the world and many countries export shark fins to the Asian market.

According to some studies, every country with a coastline export fins to Hong Kong. Despite a shark finning ban implemented in 2003 in Europe for instance, EU countries (particularly Spain) continue to be the single largest supplier of shark fins to the Hong Kong market.

WHY SHARKS ARE IMPORTANT

Sharks play an important role in keeping the ocean healthy and in balance. They regulate the quantity and health of other species of fish and invertebrates. Sharks quite often prey on sick, diseased or old animals. This prevents the disease or sickness from spreading and  creates habitat space for other animals. Oceans without sharks are oceans out of balance, which means trouble for everyone who depends on oceans for food, jobs and enjoyment. All of us really!

Support for shark protection is difficult to achieve because of the persistent irrational fear of sharks. A change in attitude, perception, media coverage, and improved conservation legislation and fishing policies are desperately needed. Public support for shark conservation is crucial to balance short-term interests and ensure that strong and enforceable shark conservation measures are implemented.

We can’t afford to ignore the fate of sharks because some of us are afraid of these animals or because this slaughter happens miles out at sea where no one sees it. The results of the loss of sharks will have effects beyond our  imagination and beyond our current ability to understand.

Bahamas bans commercial shark fishing

Published on: July, 5th 2011 – By Juliet Eilperin, Whashington PostBahamas bans commercial shark fishing .

The Bahamas announced Tuesday morning it would end all commercial shark fishing in its waters, an area that encompasses more than 240,000 square miles.

The move — under which only the catch and release of sharks is permitted — marks the second time in two weeks that a Caribbean nation has enacted broad protections for sharks in its exclusive economic zone. Honduras instituted a total ban on shark fishing in its waters June 24.

“The Bahamas government is determined to enhance the protection extended to sharks,” said Lawrence S. Cartwright, the country’s minister of agriculture and marine resources, at a press conference where he signed the measure into law. “As we are all aware, sharks are heavily fished in many corners of the world’s oceans.”

Aggregation of nurse sharks (Ginglymostoma cirratum) at Highborne Cay, Bahamas imageRoughly 40 species of sharks swim in the waters of the Bahamas, which is heavily dependent on tourism. Eric Carey, executive director of the Bahamas National Trust, noted in a recent interview that tourism accounts for 60 percent of his nation’s gross domestic product, and shark tourism alone generates $80 million in annual revenue.

Last fall a seafood export firm in the Bahamas raised the idea of catching sharks to meet the global demand for shark’s fin soup, which sparked a major public relations and lobbying campaign aimed at enacting a shark fishing ban. The Bahamas prohibited longline fishing in 1993, which helped maintain the region’s healthy shark populations.

“We started realizing we had to start protecting the sharks,” said Carey, whose non-governmental organization manages the Bahamas’ national park system.

The Bahamas National Trust, along with the U.S.-based Pew Environment Group, sponsored a petition drive, televised public service announcements and distributed posters and T-shirts. Several international shark advocates — including Pierre-Yves Cousteau, the son of Jacques Cousteau, artist Guy Harvey and Sherman’s Lagoon cartoonist Jim Toomey — visited the Bahamas to push for the ban.

Jill Hepp, the Pew Environment Group’s manager of global shark conservation, said that “2011 is fast becoming the year of the shark. We applaud the people and government of the Bahamas for being bold leaders in marine conservation.”

Some shark researchers, however, warn that these bans will not achieve their aims unless there is adequate enforcement along with outreach to local communities.

“I really think what we’re seeing is a media war at the expense of well-grounded, meaningful marine conservation,” said Rachel Graham, who directs the Gulf and Caribbean sharks and rays program for the Wildlife Conservation Society, referring to the recent proliferation of national shark sanctuaries. “And that makes me worried.”

But Cartwright said many of the Bahamas’ 300,000 residents have come to embrace shark conservation, noting that 5,000 residents signed a petition supporting the new restrictions. “As far as we’re aware, there is wide support for it,” he said in a phone interview after the press conference.

Cartwright added that the Bahamas Defense Force, which has three installations throughout the islands and is establishing a fourth, will enforce the new law. He added that fishing vessel operators, who all have cellphones on their boats, are likely to report any violations of the regulations.

“Our fishermen are our greatest resource, in terms of enforcement,” he said.

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