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Endangered Devil Ray Landings in Turkey Denounced

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Conservation Groups Call On Mediterranean Officials to Better Enforce Protections

Conservation groups are calling for answers and action in relation to the landing in Turkey of 30 Giant Devil Rays in contravention of Mediterranean agreements to protect the Endangered species. The groups are asking Turkish and regional fisheries authorities about the national gaps that allowed the take, and the regulatory steps that will be taken to prevent a reoccurrence.

“This egregious take of exceptionally vulnerable Giant Devil Rays flies in the face of multiple well-founded policies aimed at strictly protecting the species,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International, a project of The Ocean Foundation. “Governments worldwide have agreed to safeguard this and closely related rays through several international treaties, but it’s fair to say that the devil is in the details — or, more specifically, in how individual countries live up to such commitments.”

According to March 11 Turkish news reports, fishermen caught the rays unexpectedly and landed them in the port of Izmir with plans to export the meat to Greece. Under a 2012 measure adopted by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), however, landing and selling this species is banned. The measure applies to all shark and ray species listed under a special protocol of the Barcelona Convention. Turkey and Greece are Parties to both the GFCM and the Barcelona Convention.

“We are deeply concerned that this blatant ignorance or disregard of binding measures runs counter to GFCM reports that implementation of the 2012 shark and ray measure has progressed well, including in Turkey and Greece,” said Ali Hood, Conservation Director for the Shark Trust. “We will press both Turkish Authorities and the GFCM to immediately address troubling gaps, as part of an ongoing campaign to ensure compliance with the measures that are essential for the recovery of the Mediterranean’s beleaguered sharks and rays.”

All nine Devil Ray species are listed under Appendix I & II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) as well as Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Species on CMS Appendix I are meant to be strictly protected. New CITES obligations to track and restrict international Devil Ray trade to sustainable levels take effect April 4, 2017. Greece is a Party to both of these global treaties while Turkey is a member of CITES, but not CMS.

“Divers are especially fond of Devil and closely related Manta Rays, and we have fought hard to win them protections under wildlife treaties,” noted Ania Budziak, Associate Director for Project AWARE. “We are especially eager to see the CITES listings come into force in the coming weeks, as they are key to preventing Devil Ray trade from contributing to further population declines, and could help to remove the incentive to land rays that are caught incidentally in fisheries targeting other species.”

The conservation groups are also looking to a June GFCM Compliance Meeting and a newly released IUCN Global Conservation Strategy for Devil and Manta Rays as key avenues for addressing policy deficiencies.

Julia Lawson, lead author on the Strategy said, “In outlining a path toward effective conservation of Devil and Manta Rays, we’ve prioritized the adoption of best practices for carefully releasing them from fishing nets, to maximize their chances for surviving accidental capture. Such techniques have been developed for the Pacific and should be applied in the Mediterranean to boost the effectiveness of protections for these gentle giants.”

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Shark Advocates International is a project of The Ocean Foundation dedicated to science-based conservation of sharks and rays.

The Shark Trust is a UK charity working to safeguard the future of sharks through positive change.

Focused on sharks in peril and marine debris, Project AWARE is a growing movement of scuba divers protecting the ocean planet – one dive at a time.

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Frontline workers honoured with free dive trip to Yap

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The remote island of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia is among the few places in the world that remains free of Covid-19 thanks to its ocean border and a strict travel ban that has kept its residents safe.

Nonetheless, Yap has been affected, too. As one of the world’s premier, award-winning destinations for divers, this paradisiacal location in the western Pacific Ocean has had no outside visitors to its rich shores and reef for nearly a year. But while there may be no virus, the island hasn’t been cut off from the economic impact experienced around the globe.

Manta Ray Bay Resort and Yap Divers by A. Tareg

That didn’t stop Bill Acker, CEO and founder of the Manta Ray Bay Resort and Yap Divers, from doing something, though.

Last March, soon after the island went into lockdown, Bill began to realize the effect of the virus on daily life beyond the island. “Yes, we are closed, have no divers, had to send our employees home and prepare for difficult times,” he said. “But we’re lucky in that we have, for the most part, avoided the human suffering and death this pandemic has caused.”

Thinking about the problems faced by his family business, they paled when he compared them to those endured by the healthcare workers who have been fighting selflessly around the clock for months on end for the well-being and lives of others.

“One evening, while checking the news online, I saw pictures of frontline workers who were tending to desperately ill and dying people when families and friends could not be with their loved ones. It was heartbreaking,” he added.

The next day, a meeting was held with the resort’s staff and Bill invited suggestions for ways they could do something to honor healthcare workers. The result was the idea to award twenty divers who are working on the frontline to save other’s lives during this pandemic while risking their own, with a free week at the resort.

Manta ray, Manta birostris, gliding over a cleaning station in M’il Channel, Yap, Micronesia by David Fleetham

Divers around the world who had been guests at Manta Ray Bay in the past were invited to submit the names of candidates for the award by December 31, 2020. “We received nominations for 126 individuals from as far away as Germany, the U.S., Australia and Canada,” he said. “It was not easy choosing the winners but our committee of staff members took on the job and selected the 20 finalists.”

“While trying to choose the people to reward for their hard work during this Covid-19 crisis,” Bill added, “by reading the nominations we saw that every one of the nominees was doing things above and beyond the call of duty. Sadly, we don’t have the finances to offer over 100 free weeks in Yap, but we do want to recognize the contributions all of them are making to our world. So, we are offering the rest of the nominees a free week of diving in Yap which includes room, hotel tax, airport transfers, breakfast, diving and Wi-Fi.  The only requirement is that they travel with at least three other people and stay in two rooms or more.”

“We do not yet know when Yap will open its borders,” said Bill, “but when it does, we will welcome these important guests to Yap to relax and dive with the manta rays and the other beautiful denizens of the ocean surrounding our island home. They are the true heroes of this devastating, historic time and we look forward to honoring them with a well-deserved dive vacation.”

Watch out for our exclusive trip report from a healthcare worker from the UK who is one of the 20 to have been awarded this amazing dive trip!

For more information on Manta Ray Bay and Yap Divers visit their website by clicking here.

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Dive Training Blogs

Dream Dive Locker Build Out. Part I: Demolition (Watch Video)

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It’s finally here! Time to start building the greatest dive locker the world has ever seen! Part I: Demolition! #dreamdivelocker

This is the first of a series of videos showing the evolution of building out my dream dive locker. My dream dive locker needs to be dive gear drying and storage, dry storage, workshop, office, editing suite, You Tube studio and classroom. That’s a lot of functions for a small space!

The first step is planning out the space and demolishing the laminate flooring. Then I taped up the walls to get a feel for the space. We have a lot of work to do!

But finally we will have a purpose built space to house all of our dive equipment! Subscribe to our channel to follow our progress! 

Thanks for watching, Team!

James


Subscribe here: http://bit.ly/DiversReady

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Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk to book your spot!

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