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Marine Life & Conservation

Decimation of the Great White Shark

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The Great White Shark has survived an array of disasters during the last few million years, including several ice ages, which saw the extinction of many animals. Yet it is unlikely to survive its biggest threat to date… us. Some shark specialists believe they could be wiped out within the next decade. With the alarming decline in their numbers, this might be the last chance for people to see these incredible creatures without having to visit a museum.

Since the Great White Shark was listed on CITES Appendix II* at the 13th meeting of the Conference of Parties of CITES in Bankok, 2004, we have still seen massive drop in their numbers. Through research conducted by White Shark Africa’s students aboard vessels, we have seen the average number of individual Great White Shark sightings per boat trip drop from 4.56, to 2.75** and another recent study has discovered that only 219 Great White Sharks now exist in the waters off California***.

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The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) seem to have made an accurate prediction in September 2004 when they listed the Great White Shark among the ten species of animals and trees it believes will most likely become extinct. Shark finning, trophy hunting, the fishing trade, beach protection nets and ocean pollution all play a part in the decimation of these top level predators. Females do not reach reproductive age until at least 15 years of age, have a low reproductive rate with very small litters, and therefore cannot reproduce at the same rate as their decline.

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Despite their ferocious portrayal, the Great White Shark is a sociable character, often gentle and inquisitive, and even playful at times. They contribute massively to our ecosystems and with their deteriorating numbers we will see a direct impact to the entire planet. These top predators keep the marine ecosystems in balance with the prey they eat and if it is not held in check, the food source for several species of marine life disappears including microorganisms, which are essential for sustaining life.

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Christo Kruger, Director of White Shark Africa has worked with Great White Sharks for over 12 years though his passion stems back even longer and he is extremely concerned for their survival. “I’ve seen a dramatic drop in the number of sharks along the Western Cape coastline during my time working with them,” says Christo. “If things don’t change now, we will be responsible for the destruction of a species, though it may already be too late to change their future. I believe that we will be looking at the world’s oceans in 10 years time and it will almost be devoid of life.”

Several ways to get involved

 

  • Join one of White Shark Africa’s programs and learn more about these incredible creatures while viewing them in their natural environment.

 

  • Book a place on a viewing and cage diving trip, helping to ensure that the Great White Shark is worth more alive than dead.

 

  • Write to IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) to enforce the need for Great Whites to be relisted on their red list as ‘critically endangered’. They are currently classified as ‘vulnerable’.

 

  • Write to CITES to ask them to propose to move Great White Sharks to Appendix I*.

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To find out more, visit http://www.whitesharkafrica.com

  • * CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival. Appendix I lists species that are the most endangered.

 

  • ** Research comparison of data from January to June 2010 with January to June 2011 and average number of individual sightings calculated per trip.

 

 

  • *** Study conducted by Royal Society Biology Letters on Great White Sharks off Central California between 2006 and 2008.

Esther Jacobs is a shark conservationist, originally from Scotland, now living in South Africa working with sharks and other marine life. Esther works with Oceans Research, a marine research facility in Mossel Bay, South Africa. She also runs a shark conservation campaign called Keep Fin Alive, which features a handpuppet shark called Fin, who is on a mission to be photographed with as many people as possible holding a sign that says “I hugged a shark and I liked it… Keep Fin Alive”. He’s already been photographed with lots of celebrities and scientists. The ultimate goal of the campaign is to take a light-hearted approach to help change the common misconception of sharks and drive more attention to the problems of shark overfishing, finning, shark fishing tournaments, bycatch and longlining.

Marine Life & Conservation

Jeff chats to… Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust about the Big Shark Pledge (Watch Video)

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In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust UK about the Big Shark Pledge.

The Big Shark Pledge aims to build one of the biggest campaigning communities in the history of shark conservation. To put pressure on governments and fisheries. And make the positive changes required to safeguard awesome sharks and rays.

Find out more at: www.bigsharkpledge.org and www.sharktrust.org.


Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Marine Conservation Society to take legal action over ocean sewage spills

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The Marine Conservation Society is announcing joining as co-claimant in a legal case against the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to protect English seas from sewage dumping.  

The legal case seeks to compel the Government to rewrite its Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan 2022, impose tighter deadlines on water companies and redevelop the Plan to effectively apply to coastal waters which are, currently, almost entirely excluded.  

Sandy Luk, Marine Conservation Society CEOUntreated sewage is being pumped into our seas for hundreds of thousands of hours each year; putting people, planet and wildlife at risk. 

We’ve tried tirelessly to influence the UK Government on what needs to be done, but their Plan to address this deluge of pollution entering our seas is still unacceptable. We owe it to our members, supporters and coastal communities to act, which is why we’ve joined as co-claimants on this case. We’re out of options. Our seas deserve better.”  

Launched and funded by the Good Law Project, the Marine Conservation Society will stand as co-claimants on the case with Richard Haward’s Oysters, and surfer and activist, Hugo Tagholm. 

Before reaching this point, the charity responded to a government consultation in March 2022 and met with DEFRA to express concern. In August 2022, the charity wrote an open letter to DEFRA outlining the ways in which the proposed Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan fails to protect the environment and public health from dumping raw sewage into the sea. However, the Plan hasn’t been amended and still fails to adequately address water companies’ excessive reliance on storm overflows and the harm their heavy use causes to our ocean. 

The plan virtually excludes most coastal waters (except for bathing waters) either directly or indirectly, with some types of Marine Protected Areas and shellfish waters totally excluded. 600 storm overflows are not covered at all by the Plan and will continue to – completely legally – be able to dump uncontrolled amounts of sewage directly into English seas and beaches. What’s more, the Plan lacks all urgency – with long-term targets set for 2050, and the earliest, most urgent targets not to be met until 2035.  

Meanwhile, Marine Conservation Society analysis finds that raw sewage is pouring into the ocean at an alarming rate. In total, there are at least 1,651 storm overflows within 1km of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in England. These overflows spilt untreated sewage 41,068 times in 2021. Of these, almost half the overflows spilt more than 10 times in 2021, with an average of 48 spills for each of those overflows. Overall, in 2021, sewage poured into Marine Protected Areas for a total of 263,654 hours. 

According to DEFRA’s own latest assessments, only 19% of estuaries and and 45% of coastal waters are at ‘good ecological status’, with none meeting ‘good chemical status’, and three quarters (75%) of shellfish waters failing to meet water quality standards. 

Rachel Wyatt, Policy & Advocacy Manager for Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation SocietyUntreated sewage contains a cocktail of bacteria, viruses, harmful chemicals, and microplastics. It’s nearly impossible to remove microplastics and ‘forever chemicals’ once in the environment. Due to their persistence, with every discharge, these pollutants will continue to increase, meaning eventually they will pass – or may have already passed – a threshold of harm.”  

In addition, it’s not just invisible toxins that are causing problems. In September this year at the charity’s annual Great British Beach Clean, sewage related pollution, such as wet wipes and sanitary products, were found on 73% of the beaches surveyed across England.  

A new DEFRA report, Ocean Literacy in England and Wales, shows that 85% of people say marine protection is personally important to them. Yet this is being ignored. 

Emma Dearnaley, Legal Director at the Good Law Project, said: “The Marine Conservation Society is at the forefront of tackling the ocean emergency and standing up for coastal communities impacted by climate change and pollution. We are delighted to have them on board as a co-claimant. 

“Good Law Project will work closely with the claimants, including the Marine Conservation Society, to put forward the case for more ambitious and urgent measures to reduce sewage discharges by water companies. These sewage spills are threatening human health, biodiverse marine life and the fishing industry. We believe that taking legal action now is vital to help safeguard our coastal waters for generations to come”. 

If the case is won, the Marine Conservation Society hopes to see the UK Government amend its Plan so that it meets the DEFRA Secretary of State’s legal obligations to protect the ocean and its inhabitants from raw sewage spills.   

For more visit the Marine Conservation Society website.

Header image credit: Natasha Ewins

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