Thursday, August 14, 2014

Famous on Shark Week

No, I've never actually been on Shark Week. And yes, there are other shark conservationists who get more print than me. But I'm having my own 15 minutes of fame during Shark Week this year.

I talked to NPR earlier in the week about about a restaurant serving mako tacos. Nearly every shark that interacts with fishing gear is threatened or near threatened with extinction, including makos which are assessed as "Vulnerable" by the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. I thought I'd be clever and compare the conservation status of makos to other species. I could have used lions, cheetahs, or elephants, but went with polar bears. "But you wouldn't want to eat polar bear tacos," he says.

I have a second quote later in the story:
Catches of most other shark species are at all-time lows, according to Villagomez. He says this is not because of decreasing demand but decreasing shark numbers. "We've hit 'peak shark,' " he jokes.
The first quote was later picked up in stories in Jezebel and DailyDot. 13 quoted words total. Fame rules.

I'm also quoted in a story from Smithsonian Magazine today:
"Sharks are worth more alive," says Angelo Villagomez, manager of the Pew Charitable Trusts' global shark conservation campaign. "Sharks are fished because they have value in fisheries, but a lot of tropical island locations, especially holiday destinations, have found that they can get a lot more out of their resources with dive tourism."

"Not only should [tourists] be conscious that the divers are operating under best practices, but they should think about spending their money in countries that are taking the time to protect their sharks and other animals," Villagomez says. Choose to visit a place with a dedicated shark sanctuary, which means that the country has taken policy measures to ensure shark conservation. Villagomez suggests taking a trip to Palau, which became the first place in the world to create a shark sanctuary in 2009. Tourists who swim with sharks within the sanctuary pay a number of taxes, which are funneled back into conservation and the local economy. The high fees also help control the number of tourists. "It’s not perfect, but they’re taking steps in the right direction," Villagomez says.

I bet you didn't know that I moonlighted as a Palau tour promoter, did you?  And although it has nothing to do with Shark Week, Ambrose Bennett mentioned me in one of his rants this week.  Now that's real fame!

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