How every diver can help with shark conservation.

I have to share DaSharks latest blog. It is actually a guest blog by Ian Campbell that talks about protecting sharks and how you can help.


Shark research, management & conservation intelligentsia meeting in Townsville, see below
 
Introduction by DaSharks:
 
Are you intrigued? :)

Here goes.
Ian Campbell is currently working for WWF’s Global Shark and Ray Initiative running the sustainable management component. He is also a Shark diver and a member of the SRMR management team.
From NGOs to the public and private sector, Ian has over 20 years’ experience in fisheries policy, ecology and fishery management working extensively within both the UK and internationally. Previous employment has included overseeing the reform of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy for the Pew Charitable Trusts, fisheries observer on blue-fin tuna vessels, inshore fisheries management and as a commercial diver in the offshore sector.
Ian holds a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Marine Biology from Heriot-Watt University and a Master degree in Environmental Science from the University of Strathclyde.

This is an important initiative.
Having just returned from a meeting with major stakeholders, see at top, I've asked him whether he wouldn't mind submitting a guest post presenting it to the wider public.
Here is Ian's post.
Shark divers – An underused resource?

Everyone who is even remotely interested in sharks (and rays, don’t forget these charismatic shark pancakes of wonder) is abundantly aware of the pressures they are facing.
Fishing pressure, habitat loss, unsustainable consumption, or even fanciful claims of being “evolved for extinction” everywhere you look they are under the cosh. The pressure that sharks are under have probably best been summed up by the 2014 paper (and here - notice the part about research and data collection?) led by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group which concludes that almost a quarter of all sharks and rays (over 1,000 species assessed) are faced with the very real threat of extinction. Remember, this is not the claims of an environmental NGO, but an independent assessment of the current state of shark and ray populations by 128 experts from 35 different countries. Here’s a simple chart highlighting the different levels of threat.


As you can see, despite what you may hear from some campaigns, not all sharks are threatened, and some are in worse shape than others, but, for WWF, one of the biggest areas of concern is the shaded grey area on the left side of that chart. From all the 1,042 species assessed, 487 are “data deficient”.

Basically, virtually nothing is known about almost half of all sharks and rays.
Effective management and designing plans to reduce mortality is virtually impossible when faced with this lack of basic understanding. Imagine trying to balance your budget without knowing how much money you have in your account to start with, or the amount of interest you are receiving or paying out.

There are a number of conservation initiatives out there which lay claims to conserving sharks, from finning bans to fin trade bans (there’s a difference), from sanctuaries to species protections and from policies to plans. Some of these are more useful than others, but if any of them are to be truly effectual then one thing is key to them all: DATA!

Without a basic understanding of shark and ray populations both around the coast and in offshore waters, then making decisions for the long-term survival of these species is little more than a best guess. Yet there are a multitude of areas rich in information, but not necessarily being channeled in the right direction.

Divers, fishermen, market traders, even shark and ray researchers produce data every day, yet it is surprising how little of it actually makes its way to ministerial departments or independent bodies to assist with informed decisions for conservation. WWF are seeking to bridge this gap. We are developing a project in collaboration with some of the world’s leading shark researchers to create standard methodologies to maximize the benefits from untapped resources.

In 1999, the Food and Agriculture Organisation produced guidelines for countries to undertake a step-by-step process to developing long-term, sustainable shark management plans (known as National Plans of Action, NPOA).
This process seems relatively simple. Firstly, collect data on sharks and rays in the form of a Shark Assessment Report. Then use this data to develop your NPOA. While this does sound simple, and has been done in places like Australia, the EU and NZ (to varying degrees of vigour), the Pacific Islands have had to get by using the limited resources at their disposal. There are some NPOAs currently in existence in the region, such as the Cook Islands and Samoa. Other countries have draft versions waiting government endorsement, such Fiji and Tonga, while some countries such as Palau want to declare shark sanctuaries. These efforts for conservation & long-term planning are great, although all of these measures have one oversight in common. They are built on a lack of data. None of the countries have produced Shark Assessment Reports, so cannot fully know the issues within their territorial waters. This is not the fault of the Pacific Islands, gathering data can be time consuming for departments with limited resources, and the analysis requires specific technical expertise. Organizations such as the FFA and SPC are providing a great service, although their remit extends way beyond just looking at sharks.

So here is where WWF are stepping in.
As mentioned, we are collaborating with shark expertise far and wide to develop our shark ‘Rapid Assessment Tool-kit’ (or shark RAT). The main function of this is to design ways to collect and analyze data on coastal and pelagic sharks that can then be used to produce a Shark Assessment Report. The very basic baseline data in this report can in turn used by governments to develop conservation strategies that are then based on some sort of understanding.

Where is this data going to come from?
Well, there are a lot of sources we will be exploring from genetic and socioeconomic surveys at landing sites to extensive underwater video surveys, but one untapped goldmine is the information collected by divers. In Fiji, there is the Great Fiji Shark Count which is starting to produce comparable info. At present, this isn’t incorporated into management plans, so it’s high time it is.

There are also other things dedicated shark divers can be doing.
Ever been on a surface interval that seems to go on for ages? Sat at the bar for the post-dive drinks to talk about what you saw? How about these hours are spent helping screen underwater video footage that shows what happens at your dive site when no-one is in the water? Pretty much every diver would be able to recognise whether a shark or ray was in shot, and a huge number would even be able to say what species it was. Collecting and screening this type of data would take a massive burden off an already overstretched ministry or fisheries/shark specialist.

Obviously, we are well aware of the multitude of challenges that lay ahead for the project to be fully successful, and some methodologies that may look good on the page may fail spectacularly when introduced to the real world. But we have to try. Improved management for sharks and rays is the only thing that is going to directly reduce mortality. Not shark fin soup campaigns, or putting all your eggs into “ending finning” and certainly not cavorting in swimwear near sharks.

Last week WWF held a 3 day workshop where 12 of the best minds in their respective fields (I’m not including myself, I just took notes and provided the tea and coffee) provided input and direction.
As well as academic researchers from the fields of genetics, citizen science and eco-tourism, we had input from FFA, SPC and SPREP. Everyone we have spoken to has been enthusiastic and willing to support us. The people in attendance will now provide advice and recommendations to the project. Professor Colin Simpfendorfer, the co-chair of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group also gave us a name, although how serious he was is up for debate. WWF now convenes the Pacific Rapid Assessment Tool-kit Scientific Advisory Committee, or PRAT-SAC. Maybe the first thing we need to work on is the name?

The project is embryonic and there is a lot of hard work ahead, but with a little direction, continued enthusiasm and, more importantly, collaboration, then slowly we’ll restore the balance for sharks and rays

DaShark: Here's to that - thanks buddy, appreciate!

Thanks indeed! I hope all of you will join in this effort to conserve our shark populations. And here you were, thinking you're just having fun, when you're diving with sharks.

Let's go shark diving!

Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver
 
About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Bull sharks in Fiji

We are going to Fiji in May, to dive with the bull sharks in the Shark Reef Marine Reserve. DaShark has posted this video by Howard Hall, who has just been diving there last week.



The Bulls of BAD from Howard Hall on Vimeo.

Come join us and experience these sharks up close and personal. Call us at 855.987.4275 or 619.887.4275 email staff@sharkdiver.com


Let's go shark diving.

Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Working with Fishermen to Save Sharks

The shark conservation and fishing communities are often at odds over protecting our sharks. Guy Harvey is making an effort to bring these two groups together. During the current Cayman Islands International Fishing Tournament, he is teaming up with the participants to help tag oceanic white tip sharks.

source

Cayman 27 writes: "Dozens of fishermen are getting in on the conservation act by helping to tag sharks. Conservationist Dr. Guy Harvey is teaming up with participants of the Cayman Islands International Fishing Tournament, embarking on one of the largest shark tagging and research projects ever undertaken in the Caribbean.
Dr. Harvey’s team will learn more about the oceanic white tip shark. “They are very valuable to the eco-system and to science,” he says.
By aligning with local fishing tournaments in 2013, as well as this year he believes fishermen are becoming more aware of the shark’s worth. “We used the fishing fleet to catch sharks for us and we pay them to hold the sharks until the chase boat [gets] there there to take the sharks from them because they’re giving up time for us,” explained Mr. Harvey."

I know, a lot of conservationists don't like fishing tournaments and even oppose actions like these by Guy Harvey. They think this is glorifying the killing of sharks and argue that there is post release mortality. I have to admit,  I'm not a big fan of catch and release shark fishing myself, but think about it this way. What is better? Going to a shark fishing tournament and protesting, maybe even hurling some insults at the fishermen, questioning their morals and character, like many people like to do, or do what Guy Harvey is doing? 


Just like the Shark Free Marina initiative that was created by Shark Diver, Harvey is working together with the fishermen in these tournaments. He raises their awareness of the conservation concerns and gets them interested and involved in protecting the sharks

"Cayman 27's" article states:  “For every shark that you get and call in; that we successfully tag and release [fishermen] will receive CI$500 in cash,” said CIB Marketing Manager, Matthew Leslie. 

And the partnership is working says Dr. Harvey, by the fishermen getting to see the animals in their offshore habitat, he says anglers are practicing preservation.

We always have to ask ourselves this question. Do we care more about the principle that we should not catch or kill any sharks, or do we want to save sharks. By protesting and vilifying the fishermen, we will not save one shark! By working with them, promoting catch and release, (even with all the problems associated with that), getting them to help with tagging and making em aware, we actually save sharks.

Every journey starts with a first step. We are never going to accomplish our goal of saving the sharks, the oceans, if we are not willing to work together.

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Shark sighting in Portugal

Congratulations to the algarvedailynews! You managed to cover a shark sighting near shore without sensationalism, with a simple "Mystery shark spotted near Tavira" headline.

In the article you go on to explaine exactly what happened.

As the build up to the swimming season starts with beaches being prepared and concession soon to open, a reminder that 'we are not alone' when bathing was evident in the waters near Tavira.
A shark at least two metres long was spotted by fishermen on the jetty close to the beaches at the entrance of the river Gilão.

Photo Michael Correia - Correio da Manhã

The shark clearly was in distress and was disorientated, swimming around in the shallow waters.
After an hour the shark headed back out to sea with its identity a mystery as, despite being observed by many fishermen, nobody could identify the species.
The Tavira shark was not a Hammerhead, a species which can come close to the shore but normally feeds at least a mile out mainly on sardines, tuna and mackerel and only when the water is warmer at 20 degrees or more.
In 2013 a three metre shark was spotted close in to the shore near the fortress at Sagres, again the species could not be acertained.
Along Portugal’s coast there are dozens of shark species, the majority of which stay offshore and deep down, venturing closer to the surface only when hunting for fish or looking for a mate.
There is an abundance of sharks in Portuguese waters, a sign of a healthy marine environment, but no recorded incident of anyone being attacked as sharks prefer eating fish of which there are plentiful supplies.

Kudos for reporting a shark sighting without sensationalism and resorting to the use of monster, beast or killer. You informed your readers, without scaring them. Your action shows that covering a shark sighting can be done in an informative manner and no scary headlines. I hope that other media outlets will take note. 

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver 

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Jaws, lemon shark



About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Shark Attacks And The Media

"Shark Attacks Are So Unlikely, But So Fascinating" is the title of an article in Popular Science.

Wow, a non sensationalistic headline dealing with shark attacks. Good job! 

George Burgess, a shark researcher and curator of the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) writes a good article on how and why the media covers shark attacks. I don't always agree with him, but think this article gives some good insights into the psychology of shark attacks and how they get covered.

"Sharks are incredibly unlikely to bite you. They’re even less likely to kill you. However, we remain fascinated with their ability--and occasional proclivity--to do just that. With so many things more likely to harm us, why do we pay such rapt attention when sharks make headlines?


People need to understand more fully that when we enter the sea, it’s a wilderness experience. We’re eco-tourists and are not owed the right to be 100% safe. That’s what fascinates us about sharks: There’s an innate concern in our psyches about not wanting to get eaten. Almost every other animal on earth has to worry about getting eaten night and day. As humans, we rarely have that concern. People hold sharks in awe as one of the rare species that reminds us we’re still potentially part of a food chain.

You’re much more likely to be injured or die during your evening run than in a shark attack, but don’t expect to turn on the Discovery Channel and see Sneaker Week. For better or worse, we’re hard-wired to pay attention to creatures that can eat us--even if they rarely do."

I think he hit the nail on the head. In addition to what he mentions, I also believe that for humans to go into the ocean is innately uncomfortable. We are not in our natural environment. There are so many perceived dangers, real or not. We are fascinated by what we may encounter, but also weary of the unknown.



Most people are probably overestimating the chances of getting killed by a shark and who can blame them, with the way we are bombarded with sensationalistic coverage of anything shark related. In 2014, there were zero fatal shark attacks in the entire US!

"There wasn’t a single fatality in the entire country last year and only three worldwide." source

We always talk about what kills more people than sharks, but have you ever thought about what kills fewer? What kills humans, but at a rate of fewer than  10-12, or as last year, fewer than 3 annually in the entire world? There may be something, but I haven't come up with an answer yet.


A lot of people will argue, that there are more fatalities on land, because the number of  people who go  into the ocean is far lower than the number of people who stay on land and even the people who are going into the water, spend much more time on land as well. 

OK, so let's look at the risks of going into the ocean and what you have to be aware of. 

According to the CDC "From 2005-2009, there were an average of 3,533 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States — about ten deaths per day. An additional 347 people died each year from drowning in boating-related incidents.2"

Gerry Burgess puts this in perspective. To put that into perspective, more people die from drowning every day in this country than were killed by sharks in ten years.

I hope the government of Western Australia is paying attention to this. Their budget for shark mitigation is $22 million. source  If they would spend that much money on additional lifeguards and life saving equipment instead, they could probably save a lot more lives than with that ill advised shark cull program.


Burgess goes on to explain why the number of annual fatalities has gone up slightly, but the actual rate has gone down.

When you think of how much time we spend in the water, it’s amazing how innocuous shark and human interaction is. When the ISAF began in the 1950s, scientists were concerned primarily with shark attacks after ships and aircraft went down at sea.

A lot has changed since then. There are a lot more of us on earth today than there were back then and there will be even more tomorrow. Aquatic recreation has never been more popular. More people are kayaking, surfing, diving and paddleboarding.

More time in the water means more time to interface with sharks.

It’s partly a generational change. When my parents took a young me to the beach, my mother would lie on the sand and work on her suntan, never going in the water. My dad might have gone in once a day to cool off. Nowadays, if I’m at the beach, I might be boogie boarding or skin diving. Most of us are spending a lot more hours in the water than did our parents and our activities are inadvertently provocative. That creates ample opportunities for sharks and humans to get together.

This article in Popular Science should be mandatory reading for any journalist covering shark related stories. But of course, like Burgess points out, who would watch "Sneaker week". Unfortunately the news is a business and headlines are designed to catch our attention. Like it or not, we are all guilty of it. Like we wrote about here. What headline are you going to pay attention to. "Shark trying to bite through steel cage!" or "Shark bumps into cage"?

Enjoy your time in the ocean this summer and remember to watch out for rip currents and swim near a lifeguard. If you happen to see a shark, consider yourself lucky.

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.
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