polar bear

International protection increased for 31 species

The so called ‘Shark COP’ – or the 11th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) (COP11) – concluded yesterday in Quito, Ecuador. The result is that 31 species have been given greater international protection including 21 species of sharks and rays. The conference was the largest ever for the Convention with over 900 delegates attending the 6 day conference. Government officials, NGO’s, academics and media people swarmed around the conference location as species were subject to intense scrutiny before being placed on either Appendix I or Appendix II of the convention. The conference was termed the Shark COP…

Historic day as sharks and manta rays receive UN protection

On Sunday 14th September, five species of sharks and two manta ray species will receive protection under the United Nation’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) when formal measures to regulate their international trade come into effect. The five sharks and two manta rays species include Scalloped Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna lewini), Great Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna mokarran), Smooth Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna zygaena), Oceanic Whitetip Shark (Carcharinus longimanus), Porbeagle Shark (Lamna nasus) and manta rays Manta spp. All the sharks except Porbeagle are caught for their fins, which are exported to East Asia, especially Hong Kong, where they are the key ingredient in sharks-fin soup,…

Whale sharks bring in $10 million a year to the Maldives

One of the classic dive locations in the world is producing more income for the Maldives than previously thought. The whale shark population at South Ari atoll Marine Protected Area attracts an incredible 77,000 visitors each year and they spend US$9.4 million a year. The whale shark population at  South Ari is one of the few whale shark locations in the year where divers can be sure of experiencing these massive but gentle fish. The population is a resident year-round one and this small group of sharks account for nearly half of all Maldive shark tourism spend. The value of shark tourism to the Maldives has always been assumed to be high but…

Sharks are more polluted than polar bears

Polar bears are well-known to store many deadly pollutants in their fat. They store chemicals such as PCB’s from the food that they eat. Being at the top of the food chain leads them to have high concentrations of toxins. New research indicates that polar bears are no longer some of the most polluted species in the Arctic. The Greenland shark is even more contaminated. While PCB contamination of the ecosystem in the Arctic is beginning to ease following the banning of the chemical 30 years ago new pollutants – especially those used in fire-retardants – are becoming more widespread in the region. The new pollutants are also accumulated throughout…

Shark fin trade crashes by 90% in China

The export of shark fins from Hong Kong to China has crashed by 90% in just a year. Following the new austerity of the Chinese leadership, increasing changes in taste among the young and pressure from campaign groups the trade in shark fins is shrinking rapidly. Official government figures analysed by the WWF-China show that in 2012 1.2 million kilogrammes of shark fin was exported to mainland China but last year the figure had dropped to just 113,974 kilogrammes. Mainland China dropped from being Hong Kong’s number one re-export market to fourth position. The overall market though has not seen such a big drop. The total amount of shark fins…

600 threatened whale sharks killed each year at Chinese slaughterhouse

600 threatened whale sharks killed each year at Chinese slaughterhouse

Hong Kong environmental group Wildlife At Risk has just released a report on a whale shark slaughterhouse in China’s southeastern Zhejiang Province. A 4 year investigation has revealed that 600 whale sharks are killed there each year. The whale shark is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The factory is located at Pu Qi township, near Wenzhou and at least 600 whale sharks are killed each year to be processed into fish oil health supplements. In a joint-statement released today, Alex Hofford and Paul Hilton of WildLifeRisk said: “We went to Pu Qi three times in the last three years, and on each occasion the scale of the…

A quarter of all ray and shark species heading for extinction

A new survey has revealed the impact of over-fishing on sharks and rays. While local surveys have regularly been undertaken the latest one was the first to look at it from a global perspective. The results indicate a quarter of all shark and ray species are heading to extinction in the next few decades and just a third of species are considered safe from over-fishing. The survey was conducted by The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s) Shark Specialist Group (SSG), co-chaired by Nick Dulvy, a Simon Fraser University (SFU) Canada Research Chair in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation in British Columbia. “We now know that many species of sharks…

Shark finners change tactics

In order for shark-finners to continue to get as many fins on board their fishing boats and still remain within the law the finners have changed their tactics. Rather than just cut off the fins at sea they are stripping the shark body of the bulk of its flesh and returning the fins to shore barely just attached to a skeleton. The new tactic is being used as more countries ban the practise of finning at sea and require fins to be landed that are still ‘naturally attached to the body’. By stripping the shark body of the bulk of its meat the finners are able to store many more shark fins on board their boats. The new…

India to ban shark fining at sea

Indian central government Minister of State for Environment & Forests Jayanthi Natarajan has announced that the central government is to support a policy that will eradicate finning of sharks at sea. The new policy will allow wildlife enforcement officer to identify sharks landed which is difficult to do when just the fin remains. Up to 60 shark and ray species have been identified by conservationists in Indian waters and 10 of these species are highly protected under the Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. These highly protected sharks and rays are threatened with illegal fishing and poaching. Enforcement officers at landing sites are not able to determine the species of shark or…

Fewer than 1,000 Great White sharks remain in South Africa

South Africa is thought to be home to the world’s largest population of Great White sharks. The species is one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring of the shark family. A new survey though highlights just how at risk the Great White shark is. The survey estimates just 908 are still swimming around the coast of South Africa. The survey used photo-id of shark fins and the DARWIN programme to identify sharks from large numbers of photographs. The photos came from Gansbaai, South Africa which was used because it attracts a large aggregation of sharks from around the South African coast. It was the first time that photo id was…

Is Bali about to ban shark fishing?

There are hints that a new shark and manta ray sanctuary is about to be formed at Bali. Last month the underwater paradise of Raja Ampat in West Papua, Indonesia banned the fishing of sharks and rays in it’s coral reefs and set up a shark sanctuary – the first in the so called Coral Triangle of South East Asia. Now there are hints that Bali is about to follow suit and ban shark fishing from it’s waters. A report in the Jakarta Post published today covered the campaign by Conservation International (Indonesia) to get the Bali provincial government to establish a shark sanctuary. The campaign was started in 2011…

Sharks set to get boost from CITES

Sharks across the world are under threat thanks to shark fin soup. Often the sharks are caught as a profitable by-catch but as only the fins are valuable the rest of the shark is dumped overboard. The trade is international in scope and there is little control. CoP16 though offers some hope for the future. The Convention in Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) Secretariat is advising that member states in next months Convention of Parties (CoP) meeting moves a number of shark species onto the Appendix II listing. This will help to ensure that international co-operation can be used to reduce overfishing and over-exploitation of the fish. If member states…

More than just a holiday snap

Those quick holiday photos could prove to be more important than just happy memories. scientists are asking people to submit their pictures of sharks to a web site so they can use them to study the animals. If you are heading to the Maldives on holiday this year don’t forget to take a photo of any sharks you see. Researchers from Imperial College London have studied the quality of holiday photos and have concluded that publicly submitted images are good enough to be used in surveys and shark research. Tim Davies of Imperial’s Department of Life Sciences is the lead author on a study published in Wildlife Research, the first…

Europe closes shark-finning loophole

The European Parliament has today voted to close a loophole in its fisheries legislation that could help its fight to protect rapidly declining shark populations. Until today there were exceptions in fisheries legislation that allowed vessels though special permits to do finning at sea as long as the shark bodies were landed. It was difficult to monitor the permits as the vessel owners could land the fins in one port and the bodies in another. The vote today has ended this practice and all fins must be landed at a port still ‘naturally attached’ to a shark body. This effectively ends the ability of EU registered vessels from undertaking any finning…

Whitetip shark populations declining by 17% a year

New research released today by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)  in New Caledonia demonstrates the frightening impact on shark populations that shark fin soup is having. The results of a study of 15 years of landing catches published in Conservation Biology shows that the worst affected shark species the white-tip shark has declined by an average of 17% a year over that time. The research was carried out by a team headed by Dr. Shelley Clarke and it looked at the catch rates of  blue, mako, and oceanic whitetip sharks from the Pacific Ocean. The team also looked at the size of the oceanic whitetip and silky sharks…

Shark finning set to be banned in Europe

Fisheries ministers from the EU countries have just finished a meeting over the future direction of EU fisheries policy. While a lot of attention has been put at the wasteful practise of discards the practise of shark finning was also discussed and is set to be banned by the EU. Shark finning is the practise of removing the fins of sharks at sea and discarding the bulk of the body overboard. The sharks are often finned and dumped while still alive and will suffer a long and painful death. The EU currently allows some boats to operate shark finning at sea but it is highly regulated. EU permits allow sharks to be finned at sea. The permits…

Keep feeding the sharks

Keep feeding the sharks

Divers will travel the world to get to good locations to dive with sharks. It can be big money too. Some dive operators will feed an area to attract sharks for their clients but it’s a controversial practice. In some regions such as Florida the baiting for sharks have been banned while in other regions it’s accepted by local authorities. It is a controversial practise though among marine conservationists. Will feeding sharks with ‘chum’ – ground up fish that is used as food – change the behaviour of sharks and interfere with their natural feeding and foraging behaviour? [pullquote]Not only did we discover that ecotourism provisioning did not affect tiger shark behavior, we found that…

Is 5% too much to save the sharks?

Shark finning is decimating shark populations across the world. The sharks are caught then the fins removed and the sharks – sometimes still alive but fatally wounded – are thrown back overboard. Some countries have regulations limiting the amount of bodiless fins that can be landed, but is it enough? Many counties, including the UK and other EU countries allow detached fins to be landed as long as the weight of the fins do not exceed 5% of the bodyweight of landed sharks. It is meant to allow processing of the sharks to take place aboard ships. The bodies of the sharks are still meant to be bought ashore rather…

Shark attack deaths double as tourists seek new adventures

Shark attack deaths double as tourists seek new adventures

A study by the University of Florida has revealed that 2011 saw a doubling of people killed by shark attacks compared with 2010. The mortality rate of shark attacks outside the United States has also surged from an average of 7% over the last 10 years to more than 25% in 2011. Number of people killed by sharks in 2011 was 12. The jump in mortality rates support this as these remote areas are not set up to deal with injuries from shark attacks. One of the report authors,  George Burgess, an ichthyologist from the University of Florida, highlights the cases of three areas not normally associated with shark attacks. The researchers suggest…