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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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PADI meets with Maldivian Ministry to confirm protection of sharks

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Over recent weeks, there has been speculation about the possibility of the Maldivian government lifting the ban on shark fishing in the country’s waters. PADI®, and the dive industry at large, were instrumental in establishing these protections over a decade ago.

With concern for the continued protection of sharks in the Maldives, the PADI organisation and Project AWARE®, along with 200 concerned local and international stakeholders opposing the lifting of the shark fishing ban, called on the government to continue to enforce the legal protections of sharks. PADI staff met with Maldivian Ministry of Fisheries, Marine Resources, and Agriculture Zaha Waheed to reinforce the position of the dive community and critical role sharks play in dive tourism.

In those meetings, Minister Waheed assured PADI that the Ministry of Fisheries, Marine Resources, and Agriculture has no intentions to lift the ban on shark fishing. She affirmed that they remain committed to sustainable and responsible management of fisheries and marine resources in the Maldives. On 20 April 2021, the Ministry of Fisheries, Marine Resources, and Agriculture released a statement asserting that “the Maldives does not intend to permit a targeted shark fishery in the Maldives.”

“Sharks are a dominant force in dive tourism in the Maldives. We congratulate the Maldives’s commitment to their ongoing protection,” says Drew Richardson, President and CEO of PADI Worldwide. “The Maldives continues to lead by example, among the most progressive countries on this critical issue.”

There are currently 17 shark sanctuaries in the world; the first established in Palau in 2009 and others in popular dive destinations including French Polynesia, Honduras, The Bahamas and several others in the Caribbean. The Maldives shark sanctuary was established in 2010 and covers 916,000 km2 (353,000 square miles).

Tourism accounts for an estimated 25 percent of Maldives’ GDP (according to 2014 figures), with diving and snorkeling being the most popular tourism activity. Prior to the formation of the Maldivian sanctuary, shark fishing was worth US$0.7 million to the Maldives’ economy, compared to US$2.3 million from shark tourism. In 2018, the shark sanctuary increased dive-trip demand in the Maldives by 15 percent, raising an additional US$6 million. Consumer research indicates that any re-opening of a Maldives shark fishery could potentially decrease dive tourism demand by over 50 percent, which could result in a loss of US$24 million.

Sharks are some of the most endangered species in the ocean, with recent research showing that the global number of oceanic sharks has declined by 71 percent. Over a third of shark and ray species are threatened, facing an increased threat of extinction, primarily due to overfishing.  There are an estimated 600,000 shark watchers globally spending $314 million per year and directly supporting 10,000 jobs. Research indicates these figures are expected to rise as global tourism returns to pre-pandemic levels.

As part of its commitment to ocean conservation, PADI will continue to stand up for sharks and advocate for their protection. For more information on responsible shark tourism, read Project AWARE’s Guide to Best Practices. To learn more about PADI’s efforts and how you can join the community of PADI Torchbearers working to save the ocean, visit padi.com/conservation.

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Miscellaneous Blogs

The BiG Scuba Podcast… with Rosemary Lunn

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Ian and Gemma chat among themselves and are also are joined by well-known Dive Industry Professional Rosemary Lunn.

We talk about dive fitness and entering the CrossFit 2021 open games and being members of our local CrossFit Box. You can also listen to our new member of the team – Rosemary Lunn – answer some scuba diving questions.

Find out more about Rosemary at www.tumc.co.uk.


Find more podcast episodes and information at the new www.thebigscuba.com  website and on most social platforms @thebigscuba 

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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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