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Marine Life & Conservation

Calls for Marine Stewardship Council to raise bar on shark finning

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A recent report criticises the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for failing in its stated ‘zero tolerance’ approach to shark finning and calls for urgent reform.

Shark populations globally are on the brink of collapse under fishing pressure: an estimated 63—273 million sharks are killed each year and numbers of oceanic sharks have dropped by 71% since 1970. A major driver of this unsustainable exploitation is the existence of a lucrative global shark fin trade. Shark finning is illegal across many jurisdictions but bans vary in their effectiveness and enforcement and the practice continues across the ocean, including in MSC-certified fisheries.

This report analyses existing approaches used to enact finning bans, concluding that it is now well-established that the most effective means of banning shark finning is by requiring that all sharks must be landed with Fins Naturally Attached (FNA). Dr. Iris Ziegler of Sharkproject International said:

“Shark finning is a practice which, by its nature, takes place under the radar. The incidences we are aware of may be just the tip of the iceberg. It is absolutely crucial that fisheries require Fins Naturally Attached. This is the only effective means of eliminating shark finning as it closes loopholes and provides the strongest possible foundation for detecting incidences and removing bad actors from fisheries: if monitoring detects fins on board, it is immediately clear that a breach has taken place and sanctions can be imposed.”

An FNA policy is in place in 19 of the world’s 43 foremost shark fishing nations, and is a requirement in jurisdictions including the United Kingdom, United States, European Union, Canada, Costa Rica, South Africa and Brazil. In contrast, this report criticises the MSC, one of the world’s leading seafood sustainability eco-labelling schemes, for failing to fully implement the ban on shark finning it had announced in 2011. The authors are also concerned that MSC has failed to implement a Fins Naturally Attached policy for all certified fisheries that interact with sharks, despite clear global sustainability trends and multiple calls from stakeholders in the decade since the announcement.

Susan Millward, Marine Program Director, Animal Welfare Institute said:

“Fins Naturally Attached is no longer merely ‘best practice’ but increasingly a bare minimum expectation for sustainable fisheries management. It is truly shocking that instead of taking the lead and driving global action against shark finning, the Marine Stewardship Council instead lags more than a decade behind the cutting-edge. MSC may claim to have ‘zero tolerance’ towards shark finning but this rhetoric is not yet matched by its requirements.”

As the MSC continues its five-yearly Fisheries Standard Review with the publication of a potentially revised Standard scheduled for next year, this report concludes by providing recommended actions. The report strongly urges MSC to revise its Standard such that:

• Evidence of shark finning must preclude a fishery upfront from entering the MSC certification process.
• Any fishery interacting with sharks must, as a prerequisite, have a Fins Naturally Attached policy with no exemptions in place at the time of certification.
• Based on objectively verifiable criteria, the risk of finning occurring needs to be assessed and the extent of monitoring and surveillance required for that fishery should be defined according to risk categories (low, medium, high)

Katie Woodroffe of Shark Guardian said:

“It is time for the MSC to listen to stakeholders and seize the opportunity of the Fisheries Standard Review to raise the bar by requiring Fins Naturally Attached as a prerequisite for certification – with no exemptions! In the face of mass extinction, we need to be doing everything in our power to stamp out the horrific practice of shark finning. Fleets around the world have successfully implemented Fins Naturally Attached and demonstrated it to be a feasible and effective solution. There is absolutely no reason why fisheries which have been MSC-certified, or which aspire to certification, should not follow suit.”

For more information on the work of Shark Guardian visit their website by clicking here.

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

Marine Life & Conservation

Meet Parpal Dumplin – Norfolk’s very own purple sea sponge named by local child

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Ten years ago, in 2011, a new sponge species was identified in the North Norfolk chalk beds by Seasearch volunteer divers. In January 2021, the Marine Conservation Society’s Agents of Change project invited children in the Norfolk area to name the purple sponge.

Following lockdown, the judges thought that this would be an ideal time for school children to bond, while using their creativity – with no constraints. From home schooling children to entire classes, the panel of expert judges received a fantastic response with suggestions including Norfolk Purplish Plum and Purple Stone Sticker. All entries were carefully considered by a panel of experts, looking at the creativity, suitability and usability of each name.

It was unanimously agreed that the sponge should be named Parpal Dumplin. The winning name was suggested by nine-year-old Sylvie from Langham Village School, “because the sponge is purple and it looks like a dumpling”. The panel particularly liked that the spelling gives the sponge a strong connection to Norfolk.

The panel of experts deciding on the name included: Catherine Leigh, Education Adviser at Norfolk Coast Partnership, Annabel Hill, Senior Education Officer at Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Jenny Lumb, Teacher at The Coastal Federation, Nick Acheson, President at Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists Society and Claire Goodwin, Research Scientist at Huntsman Marine Science Centre and internationally renowned sponge specialist. At the meeting, the panel was supported by Seasearch East Coordinator, Dawn Watson, who recognised this sponge as special over a decade ago.

Claire Goodwin, internationally renowned sponge specialist, says: “Dawn and Rob invited me to join a Seasearch survey of the east coast, including the Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds. Dawn introduced me to a purple sponge she had noticed on the chalk reefs. We took samples, and believe it to be a species new to science, in a sub-genus of sponges known as Hymedesmia (Stylopus).”

We need to look at specimens deposited in museums to understand how many different Hymedesmia (Stylopus) species exist in the UK and how they differ from this new species. The Agents of Change naming project has given the sponge a common name that we can use until it has a scientific one.  I loved seeing all the creative suggestions.

Sponges help to keep seawater clean by filter feeding, consuming tiny particles of food that float by. There are over 11,000 different species globally and our purple one is ‘encrusting’, meaning it adopts the shape of whatever it covers. It lives in Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds Marine Conservation Zone, a precious area of local seabed that needs to be taken care of.

Jenny Lumb, Teacher at The Coastal Federation, said: “Naming the purple sponge has been a fun way for children to find out about the fascinating life hidden beneath the waves. It’s amazing to be given the chance to name a species that scientists and divers will use for years to come! The children are so fortunate to have the MCZ on their doorstep. They had a great time on the beach discovering some of the life there, collecting litter and finding out about this special coastal area. I am sure the children will continue to enjoy and care for the coastal environment into the future.”

Catherine Leigh, Education Adviser from the Norfolk Coast Partnership said: “It was a pleasure to help decide on the sponge’s name from so many fantastic suggestions submitted and I hope it will inspire people to find out more about all the incredible inhabitants of this Marine Conservation Zone on our Norfolk coastline.”

Hilary Cox, Agents of Change Norfolk Coordinator, said: “Parpal Dumplin is a great choice by the decision panel of specialists:  a local Norfolk name for this newly found species in North Norfolk’s Marine Conservation Zone.”

Annabel Hill, Senior Education and Engagement Officer at Norfolk Wildlife Trust said: “Wonderful to be involved in the process of naming a new species of sponge, found in Norfolk from a range of fantastic creative names suggested by local school children”.

You can find out more about the purple sponge, and the search for its name, by watching this animation: The seabed is a fun place to be! http://youtu.be/A_LUb8OSfn0

For more information on the work of the Marine Conservation Society visit their website by clicking here.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Save the Sharks, Save the Planet (Watch Video)

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In 2020 Oyster Diving helped to train Toby Monteiro-Hourigan to become one of the youngest (12 years old) Master Scuba Divers ever. You can read his story here.

Toby has just completed this amazing ‘David Attenborough’ project video for his school on shark conservation. Please watch and share as it really is an eye opener in why we need to protect these incredible creatures.

Thanks to Toby and www.oysterdiving.com for letting us share this video.

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Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email john@thescubaplace.co.uk

www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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