Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Year!/ Further Poaching Evidence in the Southern Ocean

Happy New Year one and all! Greetings and welcome to 2015 everybody. I hope you all had a wonderful New Year's Eve and Day. I'm going to dive right on in and fill you all in on what I have planned for the year 2015. First for the minor things. Expect to see a new blog layout coming in the near future. I've been using the same layout since I did my final operation so I think some change is in order. Perhaps brighten some things up a bit.... Perhaps not. Wait and see on that I guess is the best thing I can say. At the very least expect a new background soon. Keep watch because I plan on playing around with some other things on here too soon! Another little fun thing that I am going to be doing this year is a Shark of the Month blog. Basically these will be educational blogs about a specific species of shark. I'll be doing on of those blogs once a month. I'll try to include some videos, pictures, fun facts, and of course conservation information on top of all the other information I'll be putting out there about these 12 individual species (yes I have most of them done already).

Now for the bigger news. In the past this blog has focused on the following animals...
Sharks
Dolphins
Whales
Manta Rays
Bluefin Tuna
For this year I will be doing something a tad different. The overall focus of this blog will remain on sharks, but I am going to be expanding the manta rays to all species of ray including the endangered sawfish. I will be cutting back a little bit on the marine mammal portion of the blog and expanding the bluefin tuna portion to encompass overfishing in general. I guess you could say the rundown of the blog for 2015 will look something like this...

Sharks
Rays
Overfishing
Dolphins
Whales

I know many of you that read this blog are avid dolphin and whale lovers and I am as well. However, I feel that more attention needs to be brought to the other animals that live in the seas. While dolphins and whales are being exploited, there is no denying that sharks, rays, and many species of bony fish are being exploited far more. I want to make it clear to everyone though that I am not abandoning the marine mammals. There will still be plenty to talk about with them! So with all that being said I will now set the stage for the first blog of 2015!

2014 came to an end with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in hot pursuit of the illegal toothfish vessel "Thunder" in the Southern Ocean. From Christmas day through December 30th, the conservation group's second vessel, "Sam Simon" came across a massive illegal gillnet in the Southern Ocean that is believed to belong to the "Thunder". The net that was pulled from the sea is roughly 15 and a half MILES long. Inside the net was over 200 toothfish and a variety of bycatch that included jellyfishes, rays, crabs, and grenadiers (the fish not a person throwing grenades).
Veterinarian, Colette Harmsen and Biologist, Bia Figueiredo find eggs in a deceased female toothfish. Photo: Jeff Wirth
Many of the toothfish were female as seen by the eggs above (Photo Credit: Sea Shepherd)

 I cannot stress enough how destructive this method of fishing is. The Southern Ocean is a world that we know so little about. Even less so than the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian which we know nothing about either in reality. We have very little clue as to what the status of any fish is down there and in a very short period of time, members of a variety of species were caught in these nets and died. You may think to yourself "gill netting is a very old style of fishing so it can't be that bad". Well if that is your mentality consider this.

For example. Go back to before engines were invented in the United States. Colonists and Native Americans would use small gillnets to catch fish to feed their families. Since the nets were nowhere near 15 miles long, bycatch was very limited as was the potential catch. Now though, these massive nets collect a large amount of targeted catch and bycatch. So much in fact that in 1992, the United Nations banned the use of gillnets in International Waters and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources banned the use of gillnets in the Southern Ocean in 2004. This practice is banned for a very good reason. It can have devastating effects on the ecosystems in which they are used. This overfishing of the Antarctic toothfishes will eventually have a huge impact not only on the fish themselves, but the legal fishermen who catch them when and how they are supposed to. There are people that depend on these fish and soon they may not be able to as long as these poachers are allowed to freely scoop up as many fish as they see fit.

Sea Shepherd continues to tail the "Thunder" in the Southern Ocean. They have effectively shutdown one illegal toothfish operation with still no response from Australia, New Zealand, or France. It continues to be a true shame that these countries that are in the area refuse to bring these poachers to justice even as the evidence against them continues to mount. One would think that other fishery collapses around the world due to overfishing would give these governments a clue as to what could very well happen in the Southern Ocean.... Perhaps someday it will... More to come on this story from the Southern Ocean as Sea Shepherd continues doing what the governments of the world should be doing in Operation: Ice Fish.

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