Sharks: The new whales…. Have all but disappeared from from our periphery

cropped-yellow-fin-tuna-school3

Has anyone noticed the quiet on the shark front? I have. Its disquieting! Its loud! Its noticeable!

Just months ago in New Zealand the media was awash with shark stories… Let alone globally, where we were guaranteed a daily tidbit of shark conservation news that might include:

  • An update on the Pacific MPA/shark sanctuary race;
  • An exposé of a company that indulges in the commerce of shark products;
  • A exposé of a restaurant somewhere selling shark fin soup; or more common
  • An eNGO inspired account on the practice of shark finning.

But lately there has been very little.

As a cause célèbre are sharks succumbing to the plight of the whales?

We all remember when it was all… Save the Whales, Save the Whales, Save the Whales… And then all of a sudden the chorus stopped! Are the whales all good now? 

I don’t think so!… The truth of the matter is, that in today’s world of soundbytes and instant noodles… Whales, as a viable news item and as a cause célèbre simply hit its carrying capacity as far as the public ‘giving a shit’ goes. As a result, both the media and eNGOS simply moved on to other causes that captured the short attention span of the multitudes, and provided better financial benefit…

The plight of the whales remains the same. The only difference is that now the print media has stopped bringing their plight to our table tops every morning at breakfast, or to our TVs every evening on the news… without that daily input, there can be not output, at least from the lethargic public. 

Keep Calm and Save the Whales! Source: http://ichooseyoupikachuu.tumblr.com/post/36021744412

Keep Calm and Save the Whales!
Source: http://ichooseyoupikachuu.tumblr.com/post/36021744412

And now it seems as though Sharks are going the same way…?

Sharks up until very recently have been an issue that has aroused widespread controversy and heated public debate. We saw the rise  of a vociferous anti-finning polemic that up until very recently had provided the media with the feeding frenzy of articles and anecdotes it needed. But it seems that this has ceased to be.

Oceanic white tip shark

UNDER THREAT: Under threat: According to the Forum Fisheries Agency, oceanic white tip shark numbers are being driven ‘to the point of irreversible harm’ by fishing in the waters between New Zealand and Tonga.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/8171830/Taiwanese-fishing-boats-a-threat-to-killer-sharks

Only weeks ago stories like the following featured prominently in the media:
  • Shark fin soup still on offer (New Zealand Herald – 14 March 2013) Shark-fin soup is available at many of Auckland’s Chinese restaurants despite a determined environmental campaign to ban the collection of fins.Delegates at the triennial Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Bangkok voted on Monday to regulate the trade in shark species that have been threatened because of the demand for their fins for the soup.More than two dozen species of shark are officially endangered and more than 100 others considered threatened or vulnerable. A study in the journal Marine Policy raised concerns about shark welfare and sustainability and claimed more than 100 million sharks were slaughtered each year. Conservationists say the practice of “finning”, where fins are sliced from live sharks and the rest of the bleeding fish is dumped back into the sea to die a slow death, is inhumane.
  • Study exposes world’s slaughter of sharks (New Zealand Herald – 04 March 2013) Sharks are being slaughtered at an unsustainable rate, with a new study showing 100 million are killed a year […] Sharks are caught for meat, liver oil, cartilage – and especially their fins. Several nations have banned shark finning but the researchers found no drop in the numbers of dead sharks, many of which are dumped at sea after their fins have been hacked off. “Their numbers are crashing,” said Elizabeth Wilson of the Pew Global Shark Conservation campaign. “We are now the predators.” Conservation charities including World Wildlife Fund are lobbying hard for this Cites meeting, the first since 2010, to take decisive action on the illicit wildlife trade, with rhinos and elephants also under threat. The British Border Force’s specialist Cites team finds illegal items “every day“.
  • Plan to save feared predator delves into murky waters (New Zealand Herald – 26 Feb 2013) Conservationists say our lack of protection measures – sharks could be finned alive until four years ago – is a source of global embarrassment but the fishing industry argues the debate has been clouded by emotion […] Basking sharks, which are now protected by law, were believed to be killed by set nets and long-line tuna and hoki fisheries. Some of them had their fins sliced off by New Zealand and foreign trawlers while their carcasses were disposed of. The fins were exported to Asia for use in a mostly tasteless, but popular broth. This controversial finning practice is under increasing scrutiny in New Zealand, with more than 100 countries including the United States and the United Kingdom moving to, or considering, a “fins-naturally-attached” policy.
  • Frugality drive dents shark fin sales (New Zealand Herald – 21 Feb 2013) During last week’s Lunar New Year holiday, sales of shark fin soup plunged 70 per cent, the [Chinese] ministry [of Commerce] said. Sales of abalone and bird’s nest soup fell 40 per cent and makers of expensive liquor have seen sales weaken.
  • Mary Sewell: Speak up NZ – ban shark finning (New Zealand Herald – 07 Feb 2013) Staying silent on our poor record of conservation dooms New Zealand’s pure image to future ridicule […] A “National Plan of Action for Sharks” is currently being prepared by the Ministry of Primary Industries, with public consultation expected at the end of March. Read the material on the website (http://www.nzsharkalliance.org.nz) and let the Government know what you think.
  • Taiwanese fishing boats a threat to killer sharks (stuff.co.nz – 31 Jan 2013) Fishing paid in shark fins are causing a decline in two threatened species of shark in the waters near New Zealand’s maritime boundary with Tonga. The Tongan Government recently signed a deal with Ngatai Marine Enterprises Ltd to bring in 22 Taiwanese boats crewed by Indonesians. The boats use the same semi-slave labour system made infamous in New Zealand waters. Poorly paid, the crews suffer human rights abuses and appalling conditions on old vessels.
  • Shelley Bridgeman: What do you think about shark fin soup? (New Zealand Herald – 31 Jan 2013) “Shark finning, where the fins are removed and the body dumped overboard, is illegal in Europe, Australia, the US and Canada. The United Nations is currently seeking an international ban. But here in New Zealand, the fishing industry is free to cut off the fins of over 112 species of sharks found in our waters.”
  • Pupils act to stop cruelty to sharks (Dominion Post – 5 Dec 2012) A Pinehaven School classroom study about the cruelty of shark finning and its continued allowance in New Zealand waters will see Rimutaka MP Chris Hipkins carry the message to Parliament. On Friday, Mr Hipkins was presented with a 100-signature petition and more than 20 individual letters from concerned year 5 and 6 students […] Shark finning is when fishermen cut the fins off sharks and throw the rest of the shark...
  • Shark Finning Stance a Stain on Our Global Reputation (stuff.co.nz – 04 Dec 2012) Imagine you’re out fishing. You haul in a whopper fish. You kill it, slice off 2 per cent of its body, and throw the other 98 per cent into the sea. Imagine the fish species has undergone a massive population decline and its long-term survival is under question. Now imagine this is happening somewhere in the world every two seconds.
  • Shark finning – a national disgrace (stuff.co.nz – 23 Oct 2012) New Zealand claims to have a world-leading sustainable fishery, yet the way we treat sharks is nothing short of barbaric and is rapidly becoming an international embarrassment. Sharks are some of the ocean’s most ancient creatures and have existed in our marine environment for more than 400 million years. They are apex predators, and the health of a shark population can in fact determine the health of the populations of fish that we like to eat. Rather than us being terrified of sharks, if sharks could indeed feel fear, they should be extremely frightened of us – since the horrific practice of shark finning is sending a range of species toward extinction.
  • Cheng’s Chinese Restaurant Timaru shark fin (Timaru Herald – 20 Aug 2011) A Timaru restaurant has been removed from a shark advocate group’s “wall of shame” after removing shark fin soup from its menu. The Australian Anti Shark Finning Alliance (TAASFA) has added a New Zealand “wall of shame” to its website, listing 10 New Zealand restaurants, including Cheng’s Chinese Restaurant, which it states sell shark fin products, and therefore are the reason shark finning takes place.”Without demand for shark fin, 200,000 sharks would not be slaughtered every single day,” the Australian website states.
  • Shark fin out of vogue (Food-Wine. stuff.co.nz – 1 Apr 2009) Shark fin soup is no longer the flavour of the moment among young Asian restaurant-goers. Singaporean groom Han Songguang even took his campaign to stop consumption of one of Asia’s top delicacies to a new level when he placed postcards of a dead shark on each guest’s seat at his own wedding banquet. Instead of shark’s fin soup, a must at many ethnic Chinese wedding banquets, Han offered his guests lobster soup.
  • Mutilated sharks found still alive (Dominion Post – 01 Jan 2009) The Conservation Department has condemned the cruel practice of live shark finning after around 30 sand sharks – some still alive – were found dumped in waters off Nelson […] It is legal to catch sharks for their fins in New Zealand though under the Animal Welfare Act they must be dead when thrown overboard […] Shark-finning – the fins are cut off for the Asian delicacy shark fin soup – is thought to have caused falling shark numbers in the waters around New Zealand. There have been previous calls to ban shark-finning [in New Zealand].
  • Fins cut, live sharks tossed back (stuff.co.nz – 01 Jan 2009) Sharks are being caught in the Nelson region and illegally thrown back alive with their fins removed. Department of Conservation Abel Tasman ranger Stu Houston said he came across a fishing boat in park waters on Tuesday, which had caught about 29 1m sand sharks and cut off their fins, throwing the mutilated sharks over the side. Some of the sharks were still alive.
  • Shark ‘finning’ condemned (Nelson Mail – 1 Jan 2009) Catching sharks for their fins and discarding the rest of the fish is “abhorrent” and is not condoned by the industry, fishing representatives say. In New Zealand, sharks can be legally caught and their fins removed, but the fish must be killed before being thrown back into the water. Mr Saunders-Loder said he did not know the details of the Abel Tasman incident but he felt that the sharks would have been bycatch. There were several shark species, and some were part of the quota management system while others were not, he said. Large numbers of dogfish and rig were caught in the region but were landed whole, with many different parts of the shark used.
  • Foodies sign pledge against shark fin soup (stuff.co.nz – 26 Aug 2008) Some of the country’s best-known foodies have signed a pledge to help stop shark finning. Shark finning involves cutting off the high-priced fins of sharks and dumping the rest of the body at sea. While the practice is illegal in many countries, it is still permitted in New Zealand waters, said Forest and Bird which has drafted the pledge. Signatories promise to not eat, make or serve shark fin soup, and either avoid restaurants which have shark fin soup on the menu or raise the issue with them if. They must also not catch sharks just for their fins and support a law change to make shark finning illegal in New Zealand.

Interestingly this very intense mono-dimensional shark narrative has been absent from New Zealand media for over a month now… But even abroad in other media the plight of the shark has been largely ignored over the past month….

CITES conference takes decisive action to halt decline of tropical timber,  sharks, manta rays and a wide range of other plants and animals http://www.pewenvironment.org/news-room/fact-sheets/cites-2013-porbeagle-shark-85899426386

CITES conference takes decisive action to halt decline of tropical timber,
sharks, manta rays and a wide range of other plants and animals
http://www.pewenvironment.org/news-room/fact-sheets/cites-2013-porbeagle-shark-85899426386

So what happened last month?

What happened in the last month (in New Zealand and abroad) that appeased the media, and diminished sharks as the lucrative cause célèbre for the eNGOs it obviously was?

Was it the announcement of Indonesia’s new shark and manta ray sanctuary?

“Indonesia has announced a new shark and manta ray sanctuary, the first to protect the species in the rich marine ecosystem of the Coral Triangle, known as the “Amazon of the ocean.” Environmentalists on Wednesday welcomed the creation of the 46,000-square-kilometer protection zone, in an area at risk from both overfishing and climate change.” (Jakarta Globe. 20 Feb 2013)

Nope!

Was the National Plan of Action for Sharks (NPOA Sharks) released by the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries?

In the next few months, the Ministry for Primary Industries will release a National Plan of Action for the protection of sharks in New Zealand waters.” It has not been released yet.

Nope!

So what did happen?…

Well it turns out that last month in Bangkok at the CITES COP Five shark species win protection against finning trade (the Guardian – 11 Mar 2013)

    • The oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus),
    • scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrma lewini),
    • great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran),
    • smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zigaena) and the
    • porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus)

According to the Guardian

Those fishing for oceanic whitetip, porbeagle and three species of hammerhead shark will now require strictly controlled permits to export the fins. The move is a landmark moment for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) because many previous attempts to protect marine species – including these sharks – have failed, largely due to opposition from Japan and China.”

A press release from the CITES COP 16 posits:

CITES conference takes decisive action to halt decline of tropical timber, sharks, manta rays and a wide range of other plants and animals 55 proposals accepted, 9 rejected and 6 withdrawn. Strong enforcement measures to fight wildlife crime also adopted […]

The meeting reached a climax today after an attempt to reopen the debate on these species in the closing Plenary was narrowly defeated. The Parties confirmed a decision made by one of the Conference’s Committees earlier in the week to include five commercially valuable shark species in Appendix II. The oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus), scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrma lewini), great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran), smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zigaena) and the porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus) are harvested in huge numbers for their valuable fins and, in some cases, meat. From now onwards, they will have to be traded with CITES permits and evidence will have to be provided that they are harvested sustainably and legally. These listings mark a milestone in the involvement of CITES in marine species.

although I hate to be so overtly cynical – it would appear that as a result of the addition of those five species to Appendix II of CITES all is good in the world of sharks… at least for awhile.

What’s my Point?

My point is this – Are these eNGO driven media campaigns this shallow?

Are they simply cause célèbre that burn burn burn ablaze, until the fuel is gone… and then they are no more?

It would seem this way wouldn’t it? But then why should I be surprised. We are talking about a world were it it doesn’t come quickly its not worth waiting for. Today’s world is a world of quick fixes and lightening legislation.

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One thought on “Sharks: The new whales…. Have all but disappeared from from our periphery

  1. Pingback: Shark sanctuary around New Caledonia | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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