Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Sad Truth About Shark Protection

Greetings once again to all. As you might have guessed, tonight's blog will focus largely on sharks. At the end though I will do an update on Sea Shepherd's Operation No Compromise as big news on that broke yesterday and very early this morning.

Throughout the world sharks are getting more and more protection. The world now sees more shark sanctuaries in it now than it ever has before. There are bills going through state governments seeking a ban of the sale of shark fin soup. Entire countries have began to weed the soup out and thus the demand for shark fin soup has, very slowly mind you, slowed down. I am not ready to say that the demand has decreased by a large number, but it is a start. Last year, several hotels in Beijing stopped serving shark fin soup. The fact that any location in China was willing to do this is a step forward. Taiwan has seen itself become the first nation is Asia to ban shark finning. That is a good step forward. All of these are great things, however the numbers are still horrendous. Over 70 million sharks are finned every year. Some estimates of sharks finned exceed 100 million. That means possibly over 100 million sharks are killed every year as no shark that is finned can survive. Part of the problem right now is implementation of the laws and bans on shark finning. Simply put, the Ocean is a massive, massive place. Shark finning has been illegal in the United States for quite a while, yet every year sharks wash up or are found with their fins cut off. In Mozambique, Africa, where white shark protection is supposed to be very strict, this happens...

What you have in this photo is some locals who caught a immature female white shark and are in the process of finning it. Note that this took place right on the beach, not on a boat somewhere offshore. Now I am not going to go off a crazy rant about how law enforcement needs to find these guys, shoot them all, and throw them into the Ocean. Frankly, I have no idea how they were able to do this in daylight on a beach and not get caught. The point in me sharing this photo right now is to get the point across that just because sharks have protection in places, it doesn't mean they are 100% protected. Sharks are taken out of designated shark sanctuaries as well and meet the same fate as this young white did. Always remember, poachers are no different on the Ocean than they are in the jungle hunting tigers. As amazing as it is to see so many nations stepping up their game in regards to shark protection, the sad truth is that the number of sharks being killed is really not moving much as a result of these protections. Over 70 million killed every years is still way too high of a number for a slow reproducing animal like a shark to survive for very long.

With the demand of shark fin soup being so high, it really makes one wonder, well how much is a shark worth if it's fins can make a bowl of soup that sells for over $100 USD? The answer is next to nothing. Shark fins are very valuable, however shark meat is not, which is why nearly all sharks that are finned are tossed back into the Ocean. So with that being said... Here is some interesting numbers... This shark...
The grey reef shark is worth about $100 dead (largely fins). This same shark, if left alive, can make the tourism industry 1.9 million dollars alone in one year!!!! That is a huge chunk of change compared to how much this shark is worth dead. So what I am getting at here is that financially, sharks are worth more alive than dead, it's as simple as that. Many nations are seeing this and are trying to protect them the best they can. Again, the Ocean is a massive place and many small nations, and larger ones for that matter, simply cannot enforce the laws all that well. Thus the focus remains on China. If China were to ever do something about shark finning, the shark fin trade would fall apart. It sounds highly improbable, but things are starting to move in China and even the Chinese Government is starting to see the dangers that shark fin soup cause. Education is the greatest weapon we have. I've been typing blogs on sharks now for quite some time and that is the main point I've always made. So if someone has an answer to this question, please explain. The entire world can gain so much economically from sharks over a long, long time of tourism. Sure, shark fin soup can make a lot of money, but only for a short time. Once these animals are gone, the world will have to deal with the collapse of shark tourism, shark fishing, the Oceanic food chain, and inevitably, the land food chain as well. It is up to the common people to do their part as well. Governments can only do so much. The more people who see acts such as finning a white shark on the beach and report it, the stronger the protection is. The less people report these actions, the more people are going to think they can get away with it. Again, education is key!

Onto topic number 2. As depressing as the above topic was and as sad as that picture of the white shark being finned is, there is some good news from the bottom of the world. Shortly after midnight last night, Sea Shepherd located the factory ship of the Japanese Whaling Fleet. The Bob Barker is pursuing the Nisshan Maru and just 2 miles behind her is the Japanese Security ship Shonan Maru No.2. Elsewhere, the speed ship Brigitte Bardot intercepted one of the Japanese harpoon vessels, the Yushin Maru No.3.
The Yushin Maru No 3 from the Brigitte Barker
Photo: Sea Shepherd
So far the Bardot has chased the Yushin some 400 miles from where she originally intercepted her. Sea Shepherd, for the first time was able to catch the whaling fleet before a single harpoon was fired. Meaning, not one whale has been killed in the Southern Ocean so far. All four Sea Shepherd vessels have enough fuel to last until the end of the whaling season. This means that Sea Shepherd will continue to pursue and disrupt the illegal whaling activities until they return to Japan.The first victory of the Whale Wars of 2013 goes to Sea Shepherd! February 1st will mark a blood free January, the month in which is usually the peak of the whaling season!

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