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jbonehoss

Finning on the Front Line

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Hello,

 

We just got back from a fantastic trip to Raja Ampat. Unfortunately we also got a glimpse of the dark underbelly of shark fishing as well.

 

Our travels took us to spend the week with Andrew Miners who is building a conservation and dive destination on Batbitim island in southern Raja Ampat. As part of his work there he has leased all fishing rights in a 200km area. This is really fantastic news as he looks to create a first line of defense and conservation. The plan is to develop official enforcement of the area to protect the reef and fish stocks which should translate to some fantastic diving.

 

[One thing to note at this point, in contrast to the huge schools of fish we found, is the serious depletion of sharks in these waters. Over the course of our week stay with daily diving we only managed to see 1 small blacktip from the boat and 1 small whitetip on a remote reef. Every shark is precious as they will all be needed to re-populate the waters]

 

On the way back from a dive we passed by a lagoon and spotted a small fishing boat floating suspiciously. We circled around and approached to find the fisherman at the boat and on the small deck were shark fins drying in the sun. The surprise of the discovery was quickly overwhelmed by what we saw next. Looking down into the water, we could see a pile of shark corpses dumped right underneath the boat – these guys had just finished!

 

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We quickly got out all our camera equipment (video and stills) and proceeded to “shock and awe†them with all the photos and footage we took above and below the water. We also boarded and Andrew Miners (who owns all the fishing rights and has been in the region for quite some time) educated them about how this is no longer allowed and they must leave. I think we were a pretty convincing crew.

 

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One problem is that there is nothing officially illegal about what they were doing. The only protection we have against this activity is the fishing rights that Andrew has purchased and that he and the local villages will enforce. In fact, during questioning these fishermen produced a license they had purchased for "1 month of shark fishing" for a grand total of about 30 US dollars.

 

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So, 1 small boat with 8 dead sharks…not really much out of the 100 million slaughtered each year. Does it make a difference? I hope it does. One of the things I saw was that this boat was serviced by a number of smaller canoes. 3 canoes supported by this larger craft which will be out on the water for 1 full month. It seems quite likely that this larger boat is simply feeding a “mother shipâ€. My hope is that in 10 years time we can return and see 20 live sharks instead of 2 with 8 finned. I really think we can make a big local impact.

 

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Wetpixeler Shawn (shawnh) was there also and got some video footage – hopefully we’ll get him to post a clip here. Also, if anybody wants to use these images for any (positive) conservation reasons just let me know and I can provide hi-res versions as well.

 

-- Justin

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wow ... i am speechless

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yep sad as it is... they are trying to feed their families.

 

Got to target the buyers so there is no longer a market for these guys to do that.l..

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Vey sad indeed... B)

Yes there are probably just trying to survive.

 

Best way to stop it is to try and kill the market for it.

Spread the word that shark fins makes your willy shrink and is full of harmfull toxins.

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While I'm all for shutting down demand for fins, it's also very important to shut down the fishermen. In economics, where there's no demand, there isn't supply. Unfortunately, let's be honest here, demand will always be there. So the focus can't be on just reducing demand but also choking supply. Once it gets more difficult, even though some will get through, overall demand would shift to something else cheaper. Ok obviously drugs is the obvious example and I mean the hardcore stuff like heroin and cocaine. It's never going to disappear through law enforcement and demand will likely never end... but it's of a low enough % that it's "acceptable".

So if we can strip supply to where sharks fin soup costs like diamonds, and make it illegal to fish then sharks have a chance. Otherwise we're going to just witness another species extinction (all due to human activity).

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Great report. Thanks for sharing the photos, will come in handy the next time someone else says that finning never takes place

 

Cheers,

 

Tony

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Oh man .. I just did a long post .. about the economics of this .. basically the point was Drew .. I don't think that supply choking will work. It very rarely does on goods like this. Shark Fin is almost a snob good, except it is a cultural snob good which is worse.

 

Supply choking will create more illegal ways to get the goods to the people. At least with it in the open right now we can see how much damage it does. The reason drug fighting will never win is there is no real numbers on exactly how much and what is happening. You can slow it .. but you can't stop it. It's like the boy with his fingers in the dam, you can keep pluggin supply holes but eventually another one will spring up.

 

Controlling exportation better may work .. but we already know it comes from 3rd world countries where it is easier to get away with it.

 

Maybe green peace had it right when they mercury poisened what was it 20 tonnes or something of Shark Fins in Costa Rica destioned for china. Mercury already exists in shark fins so kinda clever. Costa Rica has laws to soften shark finning (fins must be attached to bodies) but no one cotrols it. I am sure though that the poisoning hurt their demand !

 

I don't think there is a realistic way of stopping this as the world is not united enough and quite frankly we humans are stupid enough to like killing. Wars are still prevolent in our world and while they are killing of sharks will be a minor blip on the radar.

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I agree with Giles and disagree with Drew, I think that decreasing supply will only increase the prices and make ilegal fishing even more profitable. The only way to stop it is by decreasing the demand, but unfortunately I don't see how we can change millions...

 

Education is a great first step, but I think it will only start working for the next generation. Laws are another, but the leader of the "free" world instated the politics of "I do what I want and I don't care what others think", so it will be hard to change anything in that front too.

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Giles, my point is you can't stop it, but you can make it unsavory for the lawabiding fishermen, which tend to outnumber the illegal. That gives much needed stress relief off the shark population.

The fact is that demand is only going to increase as wealth spreads in China and South East Asia. Neither is any asian government going to outlaw sharks finning. In fact, the Thai government announced a few years back that that mercury levels in sharks fin soup were not elevated. Then you have poster boy Giam who claims CITES is the only source when they are not monitoring shark populations at all and rely and data given by various environmental groups to define endangered species. Demand is not supressable this generation by any means. I frequently visit South East Asia and I can tell you for every person who says sharks finning is bad, I can find 15 who say WGAF, I want to eat it!

So choking supply at a local level is the only way to give the shark population a chance to breathe. It'll be easier to do that than changing almost a billion people who have no inclination on environmental preservation as of yet. The mercury poisoning route or anything like that only creates animousity to the cause.

Protecting whatever healthy populations of sharks is about all that can be done now.

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I agree with your points Drew, but I have to say that sharks are one of the most difficult species to protect. They move a lot, very often crossing country lines, and their populations consist of entire oceans. So, protecting the sharks of Hawaii doesn't do much to save a circumtropical species...

 

With high demand and high prices, sharks will be heavily fished somewhere (legally or not) and that will have great effects on the species as a whole.

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Luiz,

If we agree that we will not surpress demand much for the current generation and 100million sharks are disappearing a year (actually declining each year because crashing numbers) what other course of action is their. I am i hearing you correctly that we shouldn't bother trying to manage the only aspect we can right now. Do you have any idea what Cocos and Galapagos would be like if there was no action being taken on supply...there would be NO sharks vs fewer sharks.

 

One can protect sharks regionally and make a BIG impact by proving them a sactuary to live, feed, bread and bear young, while buying more time for longer term demand side measures to take hold. Many species or sharks (whale sharks, hammerheads, silky's, sand tiger, reef, etc) are known to aggregate in mass numbers in certain locations and certain times of the year. Also, many sharks return to the same locations to breed and give birth (sanctuaries, estuaries, etc). In all of these circumstances, sharks are far more vulnerable to mass poplution impact in such locations than when they are just crusing the seas. In addition, many species of sharks spend most of their lives in one area(reef sharks, coastal tiger and lemon sharks, bull sharks and other "coastal" sharks). Again protection in certain areas provides them safety 90% of the time and exposure (though far more distributed) 10% of the time.

 

Based on the above, i think we have great examples of supply side regulatin(though often not even supported by many locals vested in fisheries) having a very positive impact (Galapagos, Cocos, Donsol, Malpelo, N. Corolina, Bahamas, to name a few). Sure these places are still under assualt but count the number of sharks in these locations when you dive vs other locations. I travel the world filming sharks and i can say unequivacally that i see far more sharks in areas they are protected than otherwise (like 10 to 1). I have a hard time believing this is just chance.

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Shawn,

 

I am not saying that we should not protect sharks locally (especially more sedentary species like the nurse and lemon sharks) or not protect aggregations, I firmly believe we should. What I am saying is that local protection is not the more effective way to save these species. The best would be reducing the demand. Local protection is a mitigating measure that can be prejudicial in the long run. Will it protect local populations? Yes. Will it protect the species? Probably not because individuals will move in and out of those populations and be fished elsewhere.

 

All of the locations that you mention where you see more sharks were protected because they had shark (and other fish) aggregations, that's why you see more sharks in those locations now, not because populations are growing there, but because they have always been large there. There is strong evidence indicating that populations are declining even in protected areas. Why? Because, as I said above, sharks are being fished elsewhere and they reproduce very slowly. In other words, populations in places like Cocos and the Galapagos rely not only in local reproduction but also in imigration for their long-term maintenance.

 

Local protection can be prejudicial in the long run because it can and often does provide a false sense of wide protection. There are many fishermen for example along the coasts of Colombia and Peru saying that there is no need to protect sharks there because they are already protected at areas like the Galapagos and Cocos. Local protection will only be effective in sharks if they are protected along their entire ranges, with strict quotas and enforcement, and I think this is much more difficult to reach than reductions in the demand through education programs. The only problem is convincing the Asian market that they are doing something wrong...

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Luiz,

Yes...big yes...if we can convince the consumers. Sadly, it will take a long time to convince a billion folks not to consume these creatures when that is what they are aspiring to. My point is not that local protection is a permanent solution by any means. Ultimately demand must be reduced drastically...i am a big fan of that. But, it will take several generations to achieve that and the shark populations just don't have that much time. With Justin, i saw just 2 sharks in the entire week in an area that used to boil with sharks. I know this because i have a friend who was there before the finning took off...he said the sharks were everywhere then. Now they are all but gone. Though sharks may migrate, they don't seem to be migrating to Raja much anymore...so something locally must have had a major impact.

 

What local protection does is buy us time to deal with demand. Take for example the Bald Eagle in the US. Without laws and enforcement, it would be extict today. How about the Mantas in Kona. Should we not protect them. Mantas are pelagic and your mantas disappear regularly for long stints. Most return but some do not, victims of nature, fishing or whatever. I hear from most folks in Kona that since protection was introduced, the population has actually started increasing. I would Not call this a natural aggregation point as folks rarely see groups of mantas on the big island excpept for the kona night dive. Sharks and rays share much in common...i think there is a model here to consider.

 

Again, if I could snap my fingers and turn of desire for shark fin, i would. I also spend a good chunk of my own change each year supporting causes such as Wild Aid that are aggressively targeting demand in Asia. That being said, i also recognize the significant value of field protection to buy time.

 

I am involved with a group called WildAid. They are intesively active in addressing the shark finning epedemic. To qoute them:

"In describing WildAid as the new face of environmentalism, the New York Times Magazine called our approach 'aggressive, but economically comprehensive.' Our programs disrupt the trade at every level by reducing poaching, targeting illegal traders and smugglers, and drastically lowering consumer demand for endangered species parts and products."

Very clearly we must hit this issue at all levels and hit it aggressively. To ignore demand or supply is fundamentally flawed. Like the nature vs. nurture arguement, a balanced perspective is the most reasonable vs extremes.

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Definitely sounds like we need to hit both levels. To globally (long term) improve shark population we must correct the demand side of the equation, to locally (short term) improve shark populations we must attack the supply side.

 

A couple items that put out big red flags for me that suggest we should act locally:

1) The area discribed in the trip could very realistically be patrolled - very effectively

2) The shark license is only 30 bucks! The local economy is seeing very little of the shark fin money - they could easily replace this with the much greater sums of money that comes with tourism in a healthy reef ecosystem

3) The fishermen are almost completely uneducated on the topic. They really have almost no idea that what they are doing is anything other than simply "fishing". Education can make a huge difference - when I was reviewing the photos on my laptop some other local villagers saw the pictures and called all their friends over in horror and were discussing is very excitedly. It turns out that these folks worked at the local pearl farm and had learned quite a bit about how damaging these activities are in the long run. These locals are now environmental advocates because they see the damage of finning and reef destruction and are very proud to protect what is truly theirs.

 

Anyway - when you run into this face to face I cannot imagine any course but education, communication, and action. You certainly can't just motor past and wish the world was different.

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I would so much enjoyed being on that mission...boy would that have felt good!

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You may not want to. Apparently the Chinese boats now have arms including submachine gun turrets.

An example of the pirates fighting back:

 

Navy involved in shoot-out

 

For the first time ever, the Mozambican navy has been involved in an exchange of fire on the high seas.

 

According to a report in "Mediafax" a navy patrol boat on 7 May intercepted a pirate fishing vessel near the Bazaruto archipelago, off the coast of the southern province of Inhambane.

 

But the pirate trawler was armed and opened fire on the patrol boat, injuring several of the Mozambican marines on board. Finding themselves outnumbered by the men on board the larger vessel, the crew of the patrol boat withdrew - but not before they had hit the communications tower of the pirate ship.

 

Unnamed witnesses from the Bazaruto National Park, cited by "Mediafax", said the inscriptions on the trawler were in Chinese characters.

 

One of the wounded marines was in a serious condition, and he was transferred to Inhambane provincial hospital.

 

On a RIB in open sea against a submachine turret, that's like being a sitting duck. Those submachine guns have a 1km effective range. RPG maybe 3-500m so you have to be in side the firing zone for over 1 minute to get within range for the RPG.

The boats they use are all the civilian dive boats carry the soldiers. Plus those chinese boats don't usually travel alone. It's not that easy to fight a superpower. :D

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Now it seems that we are all in the same page. Local protection is a temporary solution that helps but is relatively useless in the long term. If local protection is not accompanied by serious measures to reduce demand I have very little hope that we will save the sharks...

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Guys,

 

Drew is correct that the majority of people in Singapore (and the rest of Asia) don't necessarily perceive a problem with shark fin (or the overuse of most other natural resources). There are a few major contributing factors worth mentioning:

 

One is ignorance. The level of general education in Asia is still poor. Asia has become "developed" only in the past 50 years or so, and only in urban centers. The majority of people in Asia are not well educated, have not had a chance to travel significantly, and still place high priority on accumulating wealth (as opposed to ideals like protecting the planet). Consuming shark fin as a sign of wealth is plays right into this.

 

There is also a high degree of superstition. The number of well educated people in Asia who wholeheartedly believe in ghosts, spirits, magical powers, magic potions, spells, hexes, etc is astounding. Shark fin (like tiger paws, bear bile, etc) is something that some people believe provide magical powers to men (it's always men). It's very easy for merchants to prey on this mentality.

 

There's xenophobia. Many places in Asia were colonies of western countries. There's a certain degree of latent xenophobia. People like Giam play on this very well, by setting out the argument that "don't let white people tell you what to do".

 

There's tradition. Many people consume shark fin because their parents/ grandparents/ other relatives tell them to. Tradition and respect for family is important, and many people are not keen to offend their families.

 

There's a language problem. Most of the media/ press/ educational materials on shark fin and other similar issues are in English. Most speakers (me included) on these issues speak English. Unfortunately, most people in Asia don't speak, read or write English as a main language, even in "developed" places like Singapore.

 

All of these things have one thing in common — the need for more education.

 

On a positive note, I've been campaigning on shark fin for a decade in Singapore, and in that time, there's been a big change. Sure, the progress has been confined largely to the educated, English-speaking, relatively young, relatively affluent population, but discussion of these issues has become publicly acceptable. 10 years ago, the Straits Times ran an editorial essentially stating that there's no such thing as endangered wildlife, and that the shark fin issue was a big scam being perpetrated by white people with a desire to return to colonial occupation. You still get Giam spouting off from time to time, but not editorials like that from the national newspaper.

 

And kids are picking up the lessons very quickly, so there's definitely a lot to be positive about. In every school I've given talks to, the kids understand.

 

So I guess the bottom line is that yes, attitudes are still a huge problem, and education is the long-term solution. If we can help stop supply in the near term, it might help. There is a potential flip side to this though, as interviews with shark fin traders suggest that some are quite happy with the restrictions, as it drives prices up, and they're able to scare people into buying...on the notion that the big bad enviro-whackos are going to remove all shark fin from the market.

 

Merry Christmas everyone

 

Cheers,

 

Tony

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Now it seems that we are all in the same page. Local protection is a temporary solution that helps but is relatively useless in the long term. If local protection is not accompanied by serious measures to reduce demand I have very little hope that we will save the sharks...

 

Luiz, I have NO hope for sharks as the present intake has depleted populations to 10% or less. If you believe the estimates, many species of shark have 10-20 years before being wiped out.

As Tony says, right now traders are getting pretty good prices on sharks. Singapore and Hong Kong are the 2 biggest traders of fins in the world, they'd love to restrict supply and raise prices. The consumers couldn't care less. I have to say that sharks fin consumers are educated but just don't care about the consequences. We've had enough awareness programs etc to reach them. In HK during the sea shepard campaign, demand for fins dropped for a few months then popped up again. It was chic to be PC on the "cause du jour". Then it's back to business as usual.

Still, doesn't mean I don't try to prevent another preventable extinction. My favorite argument is that it's 100million years old and past it's use by date. If it can't adapt to human fishing and reproduce faster, then it'll just be too bad but that's life on the planet. Wonderfully narrow views like that abound. :lol::D:D:(

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This is a great thread, all the poinient issues has been raised:

1) Demand is on the rise due increase of affluence in China

2) Its a honorable tradition that is generations old

3) Conservation is not a consideration for consumers

4) Like narcotics, the problem is demand, not supply

5) Changing the mindset of the youth is the only opportunity for change

 

I have witnessed first hand the effect of influencing the youth, albeit on a personal scale. We are close friends with a Cantonese family, the Cantonese are voracious consumers of exotic seafood. Once during a slideshow, their young son was frighted by a shark shot. I went on to explain how sharks are not scary, and brought him some books about sharks. About two years later we were dining out and the waiter suggested shark fins, before I could protest, the 7 year old demanded "NO Shark Fins"

 

I submit that an effective vehicle to affect the habits of the youth of China is to recruit Chinese pop & movie stars, and create cartoons to evangelize the message. For example if the producers of "Sharks Tales" made a Mandarin cartoon series. Having said all this, I am clueless as to how to instigate these actions, but a ground swell such as this forum might just be a place to start.

 

I also submit that developed countries like the US, Canada, and Australia should ban the sale of shark fins as an example to the rest of the world. This might be feasible in terms of reaching out to our legislative officials.

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I submit that an effective vehicle to affect the habits of the youth of China is to recruit Chinese pop & movie stars, and create cartoons to evangelize the message.

 

A little bit ago we had a thread running on Yao Ming's representation against shark finning: http://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=14624

 

It sounds like maybe this is not having as much success...anybody know if that is bearing fruit or having success? Has anything come of this?

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Depends on who you ask Justin. The Chinese papers shunned the story and it had little or no play in China. Of course, the Sharks Fin Association (of course there's one) were so ruffled they protested vehemently at Yao's interference in the business of other people.

Yao is not the first celebrity to go public. Academy Award winner Ang Li and a few pop stars including Jackie Chan have gone publicly to denounce sharks fin soup consumption and offer alternatives in WildAid Campaigns. Still they get no play in China because it's anti-chinese. The big boys in the politburo don't want it to stop cos they enjoy it too, especially in the new China, where the word "bling" is more apt than in LA. Sure big profile shunning of sharks fin soup by Disney and HK University help but aren't effective enough. Bordieu's Habitus is proven by the resistance of the chinese.

Even though finning is illegal in the US, boats are still being caught with fins only as cargo in US waters. Nothing short of a ban will work.

 

Here's an article about how globally pervasive this problem is:

 

Tribune article on sharks

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I sent theses guys and email an this is what they sent back..... :D

 

Dear Paul,

 

Thanks for your email.

 

 

 

Please be advised currently Basking Shark£¬Great white shark£¬Whale Shark are prohibited products on Alibaba, therefore they cannot be listed on Alibaba according to Alibaba Product Listing Policy. Our Product Listing Policy is based on the relative laws and regulations, you may refer here:

http://www.alibaba.com/trade/servlet/page/..._listing_policy.

 

Your understanding on this matter will be highly appreciated!

 

If you have any further question, please feel free to contact us.

 

 

 

Sincerely Yours,

Alibaba service team

Email: alibaba@alibaba-inc.com

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