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shawnh

National Geographic - Bahamas Sharks

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For those who may have missed it, the March issue of National Geographic has a wonderful article on sharks in the Bahamas. It is filled with good editorial, compelling images and a strong conservation message. Check out the article here:

http://www7.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/070...ure5/index.html

 

Many fortunate Wetpixel members have had the opportunity to dive with Jim Abernethy at famous sites such as Tiger Beach. If you have been, the images will bring back some great memories from those experiences.

 

Do we think that the story presents too much optimism? How does the ongoing sport fishing of big sharks such as great hammers and tigers impact the future for the sharks of the Bahamas? How about Bimini resort development and the destruction of mangroves? What is the true outlook for sharks in the Bahamas?

 

I for one am concerned...even though I so much want to be optimistic.

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The article gives a much more optimistic outlook for sharks than what is warranted. I found the title misleading given the destruction of lemon shark nursery area habitat ongoing in bimini. "Eden" is a bit much.

 

Hammerheads are probably more at risk than the tigers due to their life history patterns.

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I enjoyed the story and the pictures. I really liked the one of the lemon shark swimming through the mangrove roots. I am sorry to hear that they were overly optimistic in their portrayal. One or two issues ago they also had a very good article on mangroves, including the vast areas that have been destroyed in order to farm shrimp, and the role that mangroves play in protecting shorelines from natural disasters such as the Indian Ocean tsunami.

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Just speaking to Jim, he will tell you there has been a significant decrease in the number of sharks at the spots he visits over the years. I also find it a bit odd that they did not credit Jim at all for his knowledge in general, and his guidance on the shoot which was apparently done from his boat. As much as I enjoy National Geographic, they are still about appealing to the masses, selling magazines and not rocking the boat from an editorial standpoint.

Edited by loftus

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Hey guys.

 

Photographically, this article is a perfect example of an editor choosing images that not as great as the other images Brian has in his library from the Bahamas. He gave a presentation at the Boston Sea Rovers last weekend where he showed other images that, in my opinion, were better than the ones chosen for publication!

 

It was indeed a bit misleading, as the mangroves around Bimini are disappearing quickly due to development of the island.

 

Brian has a 38-page article on global fisheries that will be out in next month's Geographic. From the photos I've seen, it will be much less... optimistic than this article was.

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Hi:

 

Thanks for the comments regarding my recent story. The best estimate of the number of sharks killed annually worldwide is nearly 100 million. The majority of this is achieved through commercial long lining. The Bahamas has outlawed long lining and therefore, shark populations seem to be healtheir there than in many other locations around the planet. The story's title, "An Eden For Sharks," is somewhat subjective, however the combination of unique natural geography (great shark habitats) and the absence of long lining, make the Bahamas better than many other locations for these animals. They are certainly less threatened in the Bahamas than in most places in the sea. And the caption on the opening spread does state, "Persecuted around the globe, sharks enjoy safe haven in the Bahamas - at least for now."

 

Still, the text details many serious concerns for sharks here. In regards to Bimini, Dr. Samuel Gruber is quoted to say about the sharks, "They'll all be wiped out if the developers have their way." The text then goes on to explain how a series of MPAs on Bimini were cancelled and a resort is being built instead.

 

The article also discusses shark finning, shark fin soup as well as several species in serious decline. The closing paragraph states that "as developers make their way around the archipelago, shark habitat will continue to be whittled away. These big fish are magnificent in their own right and vital to the natural workings of this place." I don't believe this is an overly optimistic evaluation for sharks of the Bahamas.

 

I think these issues make it clear to readers that sharks are in serious trouble around the globe. By examining a location in which they might be doing somewhat better (the Bahamas), we attempt to raise awareness to problems worldwide on a broader scale.

 

Brian

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On the subject of longlining and sharks, the winner of this year's WWF Smart Gear competition may be onto something: using a magnet placed just above the baited hook to ward off certain shark species. Granted, fishers targeting sharks obviously won't use these things, but other fisheries that aren't after sharks (such as U.S. swordfish and tuna longline fisheries) may be able to reduce their shark bycatch by employing this gear modification. (The magnet could double as the sinker to keep the leader away from birds, too.) I was on a swordfish longliner out of California for 48 days, and saw a lot of blue sharks on that gear. None of them were landed, but it looked like many were dead after eight to 18 hours on the line. What a waste.

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Brian,

Thanks for your input on the article. I for one think you guys did an excellent job. As you point out, there was a lot of information in the article about the desperate situation of sharks. I also think that we have so little in the way of hope being communicated about sharks, that it is easy for folks to just throw up their hands and give up.

 

My multiple trips on the Shear Water have inspired hope in me. I am not blind to the fact that sharks are also under assualt in the bahamas. But the shear volume of large predatory sharks (tigers, great hammes, bulls, etc) in the Bahamas is like now other place i have seen. I can't help but feel that this place still has a chance. In so many places in the world, it is all but too late for shark populations...at least in my lifetime.

 

For me, this kind of hope can lead to greater action to protect the Bahamas. With greater protection, it can stand as an example to the world of how sharks can be worth more alive than dead. The Bahamas have the chance to prove "it can be done" to protect sharks profitiably.

 

Regardless, I really enjoyed the article and the photos. I look forward to seeing more in National Geographic on marine preservation issues.

 

Shawn

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