Sunday, April 12, 2015

Shark Stanley in Grenada

Devon, Elise, Leah, Krisma, Shark Stanley, and me!
On Monday morning I woke up and hopped on a plane to Grenada. I came back on Friday afternoon just in time for rush hour traffic. In between I worked with my amazing team to launch the new Adventures of Shark Stanley and Friends. We had public readings, a party with kids, and took lots and lots of photos. And I was on TV.

international organization on a drive to preserve the lives of sharks
A global organization is in Grenada on a drive to protect sharks, which they say are being killed for commercial reasons, and the group recently staged a shark Stanley launch campaign in the Isle of Spice.
Posted by CC6 on Friday, April 10, 2015

Monday, April 06, 2015

Hawaii Shark Fin Ban Survives Preemption

Woo hoo! Thanks, Obama!
One of the biggest shark conservation issues taking place over the last few years is probably one that you've heard the least about. Since 2010, several US states and territories have to varying degrees banned the sale, trade, and possession of shark fins. There are 12 shark fin bans today, with several more pending. While they all vary on their level of fines and exemptions, what they all have in common is that they legislate a reduction in the supply of shark fins. This is literally WildAid's slogan written into law: When the buying stops, the killing can, too. If there is no market for fishermen to sell their fins, then the logic is that they will catch fewer sharks (yes, I understand it's more complicated than that, that's why shark fin trade bans aren't the only policy my employer advocates for).

Around the same time that the states and territories started banning shark fins, the United States Congress changed the way shark fishermen kill sharks. For 10 years the United States had banned finning; they mandated that its fishermen use a carcass-to-fin ratio when sharks were landed. In January 2011 President Obama closed some loopholes in the existing finning ban and signed a law requiring that sharks be brought back to port with their fins naturally attached.

Officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration felt that the state trade bans conflicted with federal laws that they claimed mandate that fish resources be exploited (again, more complicated than that), and in May 2013 the agency published a draft rule that would overturn all of the shark fin trade bans. The shark conservationists naturally disagreed, so we let NOAA and the Obama administration know how we felt.  During the public comment period we collectively dumped more than 180,000 American voices on their head.

This was the biggest shark conservation issue in the United States for the last two years, but we actually didn't get much domestic media interest. Was it because it was so technical? Was it the liberal media? I don't really know. But I did give several interviews to foreign media outlets -- including in Australia and the United Kingdom -- to describe the problem.

Fast forward two years.  On Thursday afternoon one of the members of my team checked the NOAA website to check for updates on the preemption issue.  Over the last several months the state and federal governments representing each respective shark fin trade ban have held meetings to discuss the preemption issue.  All of the mainland states were exempted for preemption last year.

The CNMI was exempted in February.  I issued a statement commending everyone.  I gave a KSPN interview, too.

Hawaii was another story.  I always assumed the national fight would ultimately come down to Hawaii.  Hawaii does not make exemptions, was once a big shark fishery, and they have a fisheries council known to, well, why don't you just google WESPAC yourself.

And you know what?

NOAA exempted Hawaii from preemption!

So what does this mean?  I visited the port where Hawaii lands all of its fish last year.  I found one shark.  I talked to some of the fishermen and they said that it was a slow day that day.  On average they brought in a handful of sharks.  Each of those sharks gets shipped off to California where they are rendered down to fish balls you get in your noodle soup in Asian restaurants.  That's probably not the best use of the ocean's top predator.

Similar to what happened in CNMI, there was a compromise between Hawaii and the federal government.  Fishermen fishing in federal waters can catch a shark and bring it back to port if the fins are naturally attached.  They can sell the meat, but they can't sell the fins.

Considering that the value of a shark is in its fins (a situation that may be changing), the economic incentive to bring a big shark back to port is stripped.  The fisherman can keep the big shark and hope to sell it for about $100.

The shark was sold for $100.
Posted by The Saipan Blog on Saturday, February 22, 2014

Or he can cut the shark loose and hope to catch a $900 tuna instead.  If there is less of an economic incentive to land sharks, then fewer sharks will be killed.

Thanks to the federal and Hawaiian officials who came to this compromise.  And congrats to the thousands of activists who helped make this happen!

Now we wait for the results of Guam and American Samoa, the only two jurisdictions yet to be exempted.

These were the two biggest bigeye (ahi) on the floor.
Posted by The Saipan Blog on Saturday, February 22, 2014

Friday, April 03, 2015

Healthy Reefs Need Sharks

Sir Richard and Shark Stanley
It's been a busy year. It's only April and I've already been to The Bahamas, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, St. Martin, and St. Maarten to talk shark conservation. In the next month I'll visit Grenada, Fiji, and Samoa.

Speaking of Grenada, we're launching our global Shark Stanley campaign there on Thursday.  Richard Branson recorded this most excellent video to help us promote the good work of Shark Stanley and the creation of new Shark Sanctuaries.

I'd love your help, too. You can visit, download one of the characters, print him up, cut him out, take a photo with him, and post it to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with the hashtag #SharkStanley. Want to take the greatest Shark Stanley photo of all time? Here are a few tips.

There's lots of good stuff in the pipeline for sharks this year, including lots of interesting science. And a lot of that science is going to be focused in the Caribbean islands where I'm working these days.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Rock N' Roll DC Half Marathon

I signed up for the Rock N' Roll DC Half Marathon about a week after I ran the Disney Marathon.  I had the momentum of my first marathon driving me forward and the endorphins blinding me to reality.  One unleart lession from the Richmond Half Marathon that I do not recover well.  It takes a lot of effort for me to get back into training.  That and I spent the entire month of February traveling in the Caribbean.  So heading into yesterday's half I had only trained three times: the Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday before the race.

Yesterday morning it was cold and raining.  What drives thousands of people to get up early in the morning only to experience the agony of physical exertion?  I set my alarm for six, but adrenaline woke me before my phone went off.  I showered, stretched, and dressed before jogging out into the dark to find the start line.

Runners huddled under whatever cover they could find.  I stayed dry in a Washington Nationals poncho.

My time from Richmond earned me a spot in corral 7 (out of about 30).  I knew I wasn't in 1:50 shape any more, so I found a spot near the back and hopped about to keep warm.

Disappointingly, the Rock N' Roll in the half included a lot of Ariana Grande.  She and Jesse J announced the start of my race.

What had started as a drizzle was now full on rain.  I didn't want to run in a plastic bag, so I discarded my poncho (like many of the runners).

My three training runs for this race were not great.  I was stiff and slow.  And that's how I felt right from the start.  Even so, the first mile was a breeze.  The second mile was a chore.  I stepped in my first puddle at mile three, soaking my right shoe right through.

The next three miles along a traffic free Rock Creek Parkway were my favorite part of the race.  I knew I wasn't going to earn a PR, but I was keeping a good pace and actually having a good time.

And then I came to the hill.

Just past mile 6 is a hill that takes the runners from the scenic Rock Creek Parkway up into the city.  Other runners started to blow by me as my heart pounded in the attempt to get my fat ass up that hill (did I mention I'd put 10 lbs back on since the marathon?).

At the top of the hill I fought back the urge to barf in front of the spectators and chugged down the road towards Colombia Heights.  From that point on, my goal was to finish.  Screw my pace.

The Washington Nationals mascots were giving out free flags just past mile 8.  I grabbed one and carried it for the remainder of the race.

A group of spectators were giving out free beer at mile 9.  I drank one.

Agony set in at mile 10.

A group of spectators were giving out free jello shots at mile 12. I ate one.  

I cruised over the finish line at 2:09:23.  It was 19 minutes off my PR, but I didn't care.  The conditions sucked and I didn't train.  I was under a 10 minute per mile pace.  I was happy.

In the finishers chute I collected my medal, tin foil blanket, banana, gatorade, and Power Bar, and then walked back towards the course to see if I could see any of my friends finish.  I saw Isabel cross the finish line and then realized I was freezing.

I could have gone straight for the Metro, but that would have meant wasting my free beer coupon.  So I drank my free Michelob Ultra and then stumbled towards the Metro.

The line was long and unmoving, so I decided to walk home.

About two blocks into my walk I called Edz to come pick me up.  She couldn't navigate the street closures, so I walked 16 blocks to just past where the police had closed the roads for the marathon (oh, bitter irony!).  Edz was parked on the side of the road.  I crawled into the car and she drove me home.

My clothes were completely soaked.  I undressed as soon as I got inside the apartment and defrosted my cold body in the bathtub.

And thus ended my second half marathon.  While slower, this one wasn't as daunting as the first.  I think I like this distance.  It's a lot more manageable than the marathon and I learned that you can run one with only three days of training.

Not sure what my next race will be.  I think I'd like to try a 10K.

For those of you that are interested (none of you, I assume?), here are my mile splits:

Mile Split Overall
1 9:01 9:01
2 8:30 17:31
3 8:47 26:19
4 8:53 35:12
5 9:01 44:13
6 9:22 53:36
7 10:48 1:04:25
8 9:54 1:14:20
9 10:15 1:24:35
10 11:40 1:36:15
11 10:57 1:47:12
12 11:32 1:58:45
13 9:46 2:08:31
Stretch 0:51 2:09:23