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.