Sunday, April 27, 2014

Mako Mania Shark Kill Tournament Slated for Late June

Well everyone that time is nearing once again when fisherman from New York, New Jersey, etc will all meet in Point Pleasant Beach New Jersey and embark on an epic journey to kill shortfin mako sharks. What an amazing tournament it looks to be following another year where virtually the only sharks caught were juveniles. Yes this year's Mako Mania looks to be the one where the big one is once again caught! Okay now that I got that sarcasm out of the way.... Yes ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls the Mako Mania Tournament will once again take place this June. Last year I, along with a couple members of a institution that will remain nameless (in case they do not want it mentioned now since the tournament is upcoming again and we may do something again) went to the weigh in of the tournament and took photos, video, and notes on the animals that were being brought in. As a quick review...

None of the sharks brought in were really large at all given the species. Shortfin makos can weigh well over 800lbs and the largest I saw was just 375lbs. There was absolutely no respect for the animals as their bodies were strung up, often times slamming their heads against the docks along the way. There was a wedding that further showed a lack of respect for these animals by doing this... Before you think that this is disrespectful, I did not get the duck face photos or the mocking.

The whole thing took place at Clarks Landing in Point Pleasant Beach. It was a grim sight to say the least, but the photos, videos, and information we obtained has gone a long way in getting people to become aware of this barbaric tournament. At the very least, Point Pleasant should strongly consider changing this tournament to a catch and release tournament. Yes people eat makos, I understand that, but when babies and juveniles are the ones largely being killed, the future of the mako is brought into question. There is no reason that the fisherman can bring these animals up to the boat, get an official length and other stats on the shark, and let it go. Obviously a tournament official or volunteer would need to be on the boat, but who cares? Save a few sharks and still get your thrill.

So when is this tournament going to take place this year? June 21 and 22nd. The weigh in will be at Crystal Point Marina in Point Pleasant. This year I have an idea of things I'd like to do, but time will tell if I'll be able to do what I'd like to do. What is that you ask? I cannot say right now, but it's certainly more than what I did last year. Worst comes to worst I will again venture to the weigh in to photograph, record, and document the tournament weigh in. One way or another. I will be there.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

West Australian Shark Slaughter Continues to be 100% Ineffective

Greetings everyone, it has been too long. I apologize for that. I mentioned in my last blog that I wasn't sure how much I was going to be able to do blogwise due to my clinicals going on on top of work. Let me just say that it has been pretty much nonstop for me over here, but just because I have had literally zero time off doesn't mean I have lost touch or lost sight of what is going on in the world. So with that being said, let us return to West Australia where the bloody shark cull aka a tiger shark holocaust has continued to cost the lives of many tiger sharks and strangely enough no great whites. Now though pretty frightening news has surfaced that threatens the lives of hundreds more. The West Australian Government has applied to extend the cull for another three years. As is the case this year, the 72 drum lines would be in play from November through April over the course of the next three years. The application however has come under scrutiny by the West Australian EPA who will be conducting an investigation into the cull to see just how needed it really is.

As was the case back when the whole bloody slaughter started, the answer to the EPA's question is that this cull is completely unessesary. If anything has been proven over the last several months it is that great whites are not simply prowling just off the beaches of West Australia. Looking at the cathes again, nearly every shark caught was a tiger shark. Three "sharks" for some reason went unidentified, but rumors have swirrled that one of these was actually a baby dolphin while others were undersized sharks that should have been released, but weren't. Not one mention of a great white being caught. In fact, until recenty no great whites had even been seen. So if these animals are not going around and killing people, why try to kill them. Yes there have been shark attacks since this cull started. No proof has come out at all as to which species of shark was responsible for any of them. So why does that make it ok to countinue blaming sharks that more and more look innocent and try to exend the cull for another three years? It's a large question that I cannot truly answer, but I can offer possibilities on.

One possibility remains just pure ignorance. The West Australian Government still truly believes that this cull is making beaches safer. Out of the targeted three species, the bull, tiger, and great white, only tiger sharks have been confirmed. Tiger sharks are also the least threatning out of the three and have not been responsible for a human fatality in West Australia in roughly 40 years. So the question with them is why are they even on the list. Clearly if they were that dangerous there would be far more shark attacks in West Australia if the number caught is any indication. The danger of this cull still has nothing to do with the sharks themselves, but rather the people who insist on baiting them close to shore. They are intentionally trying to pull these animals close to shore by placing the drumlines where they do. The shark smells food close to shore so it moves inland. That shark gets caught and shot and bleeds all over. That blood goes into the ocean and attracts more sharks. It's a vicious cycle. Yes they are killing the sharks which is what they want, but what is the excuse going to be when the shark decided it'd rather investigate what all the splashing is a short distance from where it smells the food? What happens when someone inevitably gets hurt? Will the government seek to extend it's program and continue denying that the cull is a bad idea overall? Probably. The problems will only grow from there.

Another possibilty is that this whole thing is out of an irrational fear. For some reason the West Australian Government blames sharks for a decreased tourist population. Yes, you read that right. That sounds like something out of World War I when Americans believed that Germany actually had trained sharks to patrol the East coast and pick off random bathers. Sounds a little silly doesn't it? Look at the state of the global economoy and tell me just how easy it is to afford extravagant vacations. Sure for some it's easy, but for many it's not. Sharks have literally nothing to do with a decrease in tourism in West Australia and frankly, if the only thing to do is go in the ocean there, then I personally don't see a reason to vacation there anyway. The fear that these animal have somehow paralyzed people into staying away from West Australia is simply ludacrious. 

Whatever the reason, there is no true excuse for this... Warning... Graphic images ahead...

Photo: a 3+m tiger shot 4 times at  Mullaloo

Photo: No words :(

All of the above photos are from Donna Martin and West Australians for Shark Conservation on Facebook

I guess you can come up with many conclusions as to why this cull is truly taking place, but as it winds down for the season, several things remains clear. The majority of people are against it, conservationists are not going to stop fighting it until it does stop, and each shark that this cull kills is further endangering species of shark that are currently threatened with extinction. The tiger shark is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN's Red List. That is just one small step below the Vulnerable status of the protected (except in West Australia) great white. The bull shark is also Near Threatened. Systematically trying to wipe out as many as possible will cause dramatic and devastating damage to the populations of those sharks in West Australia and the entire ecosystem around them. Until the West Australian Government sees this truth they will continue to be the ones literally trying to destroy their own oceans in an attempt to somehow make beaches safer. Also... Don't forget this...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

In the Ocean or in a Soup? Where Do Sharks Belong

Greetings everyone. I hope all is well with you all. Tonight I will be doing my obligatory shark blog that I do at the start of each and every campaign that I have done. The purpose of this blog is to provide some background on shark finning and long line fishing as it pertains to sharks. Many, many people do not have a clue as to what is going on in the world of sharks, so at the start of each campaign I like to do an educational blog to fill anyone in on what is going on in the world around them who may not know the truth. I'll throw the warning out there ahead of time. This blog will contain graphic images. There is no way I can fully get people to understand what is going on with these animals without literally showing the truth. So with that being said, allow me to expose the truth as to what is going on in the world of sharks.

People all over the world fear them, revere them, admire them, respect them, hate them, love them, want to kill them, and even worship them. Sounds like an awful amount of way to look at a type of animal doesn't it? Well these are all ways that people around the world look at sharks. Today I'll be focusing in on those who fear, hate, and want to kill these animals. Lets start with the people who fear these animals. Just like anything else in life, the fear has to come from something. For example, a person gets stung by a bee and has an allergic reaction. That person could very well now be afraid of bees due to what he or she knows will happen to him/her if they get stung again. Another example, as a child a creepy clown comes up and scares you half to death. Well, you could very well have a fear of clowns as a result of a clown scaring the life out of you. What do these have to do with sharks you may ask. The answer is nothing, but now ask where do so many people's fear of sharks come from. I can answer that in one ever so famous word. Media. From movies, to t.v. shows, to videogames, and even to print, sharks have been made out to be monsters.

This has been true since sharks made worldwide news for the first time during the 1916 shark attacks in New Jersey. News reports suggested that Germany had trained sharks to patrol the east coast of the United States and attack unsuspecting bathers. That is not a joke by the way, that is what people of the time were seriously led to believe. Since then we have literally tons of examples as to how the media has affected people's views on sharks. One of the most famous of them goes by the name of Jaws.

I am by no means going to get into the plot of this book and movie, but I will say that since it's release, it has given literally millions of people a fear and wrong impression of sharks. From Jaws other movies such as Deep Blue Sea, Open Water, Sharknado, and countless others have come out giving people the wrong idea of sharks. Discovery Channel's Shark Week has also driven more people to have an unneeded fear of these animals as opposed to an understanding of them. After all, it is blood that sells these days and not education. Whenever there is a shark attack in the world, the International media goes berserk. Regardless as to where it took place, the incident is usually in the news all over the world, leading more people to fear these animals. In reality though the fear that is being instilled is nothing more than a massive misunderstanding.

The next time you see a news report, tv show, movie, etc about sharks killing people keep these statistics taken directly from the International Shark Attack File in mind. They will give you a much more realistic view on just how at risk you really are when it comes to shark attacks.

From 1959-2010 a total of 26 people died after being bitten by a shark. In that same time span, 1,970 people were killed from lightning strikes.

From 2001-2010 a total of 10 people died after being bitten by a shark. In that same time span, 263 people were killed from being bitten by a dog.

Odds of drowning and other beach-related fatalities: 1 in 2 million. Odds of being killed by a shark: 0 in 264.1 million. Odds of being attacked by a shark: 1 in 11.5 million.

Those are just a couple of the statistics that are incredibly real. You would never really know about them if you just listen to what the media says. That fear is what keeps the interest of sharks in the media alive and well. If people were more educated on these animals and just how not dangerous they are, I believe we wouldn't hear about them biting people at all.

Now for the main point of the blog now that I have once again trashed the media on this topic, and in the process probably annoyed someone lets look at why people kill sharks. Fear is certainly one reason. I clearly explained where I believe a lot of that fear comes from, but now lets dive deeper. Here is the number one reason in the world that people are killing sharks...

The pictures say it all. The number one reason that sharks are being killed is for their fins. Really what it can be boiled down to is that sharks are being slaughtered for money. The real scary thing is the scale that sharks are being killed on. In a 2013 study, it was concluded that roughly 100,000,000 sharks are being killed every year. That is not a made up number folks. That is just how large of a scale this problem is. It is known as shark finning and it is a major, major problem in our world. Shark finning is an incredibly cruel practice that is going on every day, even in some of your front yards or back yards(if you live right on the ocean of course). Shark finning is well... This...

If the pictures do not tell the tale, shark finning is the process of catching a shark, cutting off it's fins, and then usually throwing the often times still living shark back into the sea where it will die from either drowning (yes sharks can drown), starvation, blood loss, or from being eaten by other animals. No shark that is finned can survive for long. Often times shark finning goes hand in hand with long line fishing. Long line fishing is a style of fishing that involves deploying fishing lines that can reach up to 100 miles in length. Every few feet there are baited hooks that are meant to catch tuna and other large game fish. The problem with this style of fishing is that it is 100% indiscriminate. It not only catches it's targeted catch, but other animals including seals, dolphins, turtles, sharks, and a wide variety of sea birds are often times caught on the hooks or entangled in the lines. Since the lines are so long, they are not checked often and usually the animals that are hooked die before the fishermen get back to them. When sharks are caught, it is rare that they are released healthy and alive. Most of the time they are dragged onto the boats (dead or alive), finned, and tossed back to sea (dead or alive).

The sole reason that this practice exists is due to the existence of a soup known as shark fin soup. To give you an idea just how much this soup means to some people, it usually goes for about $100 USD. You read that right. 100 dollars for a bowl of soup. The fins themselves sell for an extreme amount of money as well. For example, it is not uncommon for whale shark fins to sell for over $10,000 USD. Yes. Ten thousand dollars for one fin. The demand for fins is what is driving the prices of the fins through the roof and is what helps to make shark finning appealing to many people. Yet this practice cannot go on for long. Sharks are very slow to reproduce and some species as a direct result to this practice have seen their populations drop by over 90%. Every year, fewer and fewer sharks are being caught and it is not because there are less fishermen. These animals need our help  and while many countries have really started to step up to protect sharks, others such as Australia, would rather commit an all out war against them. We simply cannot allow sharks to vanish from this Earth. This is not a theory as to what will happen if sharks vanish. if they do, the world as we know it will be gone. Just like life on land, life in the sea lives in a very gentle balance. The food chain is designed so the apex predators reproduce slowly and keep their own populations in check while also helping to control the lower level animals. Take away that top link and the entire thing will crumble.

So to answer the question posed in the title of this blog. Sharks DO NOT belong in a bowl of soup. In fact shark fin soup has now been linked to several well known diseases including degenerative brain disease and Alzheimer's. To top it off, shark contains dangerously high levels of Mercury. In fact the FDA suggest that women and children avoid eating shark in general and strongly advise men to do the same. So not only is shark fin soup dangerous for the environment and our future, it is also extremely hazardous to our health. So what can be done? Spreading the word is by far the best weapon we have in the race to save sharks. The more people we can all warn about shark fin soup, shark finning, and the impacts that they do and will have on our oceans and lives, the better. The demand for shark fins has started to slowly decline as more and more people do become aware. China, considered the shark fin capital of the world, has even stepped up it's game to save sharks by banning shark fin soup from all government functions. Several hotel chains in China have also stopped the sale of the soup. It is not too late yet to save these animals. If China is willing to start changing their ways for the better, than we can certainly spread that feeling across the globe! It is our future. Do we want a world with sharks and healthy oceans or do we want one without sharks where the oceans are virtually giant algae beds devoid of life? If you would rather see the second choice then also be prepared for a world where life (yes even human) on land cannot exist either! Again, I am not being dramatic about this. The time to save sharks is now! Lets all do this together and show the world that we care about OUR future!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Huge News About the Future of Japan's Antarctic Whaling Program!

Greetings once again everyone. Just a few short days ago we celebrated the International Court's ruling which declared the Japanese Whaling Program in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary as a non scientific whaling program. I almost had to type a blog last night about the fact that it was starting to sound like Japan may go ahead and ignore the court ruling and continue with their whaling program. I had read several news articles stating that Japan would be seeking a way around the ruling to continue it's annual poaching campaign. Should the Japanese return to the whale sanctuary, Sea Shepherd vowed to also return in a much more vindicated fashion as the whaling fleet would officially be poaching. Well ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it has been confirmed that, for the first time in 25 years, there will be Antarctic whaling campaign!

While we in the United States slept, Japan came out and announced that in compliance with the court ruling they have officially cancelled the whale hunt in the Southern Ocean. Despite cancelling this hunt, Japan will continue it's whaling campaign in the North Pacific as well as their coastal whaling program which is not covered under the International Whaling Commission's moratorium on commercial whaling. Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, called the ruling "a pity". The only pity about this ruling is that these people are actually calling the ruling a pity. Now that Japan has canned the hunt for this year, there are two questions. When the time comes, will Japan send it's whaling fleet to the Southern Ocean anyway and use the ruling as a sort of smokescreen to try and sneak past Sea Shepherd? Will the Japanese seek a way to skirt around the court ruling and return to the Southern Ocean after this next season passes? Time will tell on both of those questions, but today is another day of celebration in the worlds of those who fight for the whales! So what is next for me then?

Personally, beyond this point (until the fall) I don't expect to be doing anymore blogs on the topic of Japanese whaling. On the whale front I will be focused on the Faroe Island whale slaughter. Japan does have a North Pacific whaling campaign that they do, but I am one person and simply cannot cover everything as once again, this is a shark first blog so my primary focus is on them. If more massive news comes out I will be sure to touch on it as I have done with these past two major pieces of news. So for now it is back to Operation Bleeding Seas II. In the spirit of the operation of exposing the horrors of what we do to animals, lets take a look at what the Japanese whaling fleet has been responsible of doing to the whales of the Southern Ocean over the past 25 years. Remember, some of these whales are Endangered Species and each one of these whales were illegally killed. Out of all the conservation groups in the world, only one has consistently ventured to the Southern Ocean to do the job that the Australian Government failed to do, uphold international law.

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It is beyond disturbing to know that people will literally travel thousands of miles to do something like this to an animal. There is no place for it in this world and hopefully this court ruling will spawn similar cases that eventually phase out commercial whaling for good. Thank you all for reading. Never forget that for 25 years in a row the Japanese whaling fleet were allowed to kill whales in a whale sanctuary with no recourse. Should they return they should be arrested and the ships confiscated. If the Australian Government fails again to step up should the Japanese return, Sea Shepherd will once again return as well to uphold international law.