Marine conservationists have renewed calls for an outright ban on shark fins in Australia.
Earlier this month a Queensland recreational fisherman was fined $7,750 after being caught with 3,206 shark fins suspected of being destined for the black market.
It is believed to be Australia’s largest ever haul of illegal shark fins.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) says it’s time for Australia to end its involvement in the international shark fin trade and is also calling for tougher penalties for those who illegally harvest shark fins in the country.
AMCS marine campaigner Tooni Mahto says current penalties don’t serve as a deterrent because shark fins have such a high value.
‘So the incentive is still out there for others to do the same,’ she says.
‘Shark fin soup is available on pretty much any Chinese restaurant menu. It may not be advertised on menus but the availability of shark fin soup is still there in restaurants.
‘If you go to Chinatown in Sydney and Melbourne you can see the very big shark fins with a $1,000 price tag, and you can also buy jars of smaller, cheaper shark fins for up to $700 to $800.’
The high price tag reflects the cultural value of shark fins, which have traditionally been served by the Chinese at special functions to show the wealth of the host and respect for their guests.
As the Chinese middle class has expanded, so has the demand for shark fins which has grown around 5 per cent a year since the mid-‘90s.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has determined that approximately a third of open ocean sharks are currently threatened with extinction.
Mahto says the international shark fin trade is responsible for the decline in many shark populations, especially species with large fins such as great whites and whale sharks.
‘It can be traced directly back to the shark fin trade,’ she says.
The Queensland fisherman’s crime and subsequent conviction has raised questions about the extent of illegal shark fishing in Australia. He was one of three fisherman arrested after a raid on their Maryborough fishing shack in April last year after a public tip-off about illegal mud crabs.
Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol district manager Greg Bowness says the discovery of so many shark fins surprised the authorities but believes it’s an unusual case and doesn’t point to a bigger problem – but Mahto isn’t convinced.
“My feeling is that it suggests there is more activity going on that we simply don’t know about,” she says.
In the Maryborough case, authorities could not determine whether the shark fins were to be sold locally or on the overseas market, nor how the shark fins were harvested.
Live shark finning, the practice of cutting fins from live sharks and dumping their bodies, is illegal in all jurisdictions in Australia, but marine conservationists have accused Australia of being complicit in the cruel trade by allowing imports of shark fins that cannot be traced to their source.
Data for shark fin imports to Australia has only been available for the past couple of years. Australia imported 23 tonnes in 2013 and 18 tonnes in 2014.
Mahto says it’s highly likely those imports include fins harvested from live sharks.
“Shark fin can be traded from one port to another before it is imported to Australia so it’s really hard to know if we’re importing shark fin from countries like India and Indonesia that still allow live shark finning,” she says.
“If we’re importing shark fins from such countries then we’re still supporting that practice, albeit not around our own shores.”
NSW Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi believes most shark fin imports to Australia are harvested from live sharks.
Last month Faruqi introduced a private members bill into the NSW Parliament seeking to amend the Food Act to make it an offence to possess, sell, prepare or process shark fins or any shark fin derivative.
“It would basically ban any shark fin soup being served in restaurants,” says Faruqi.
The Greens MP says there is strong community support for such a ban, but the numbers in parliament are uncertain.
“There are discussions going on about when the bill might be debated and how much support we might have, so we’re building on that and hopefully the government will come on board with majority community opinion.”
Her ultimate aim is an Australia-wide ban on shark fin imports.
“NSW can lead this action by showing that something can be done at a state level. Other states can follow, and hopefully we can push the Australian government to look into the ban of the possession, sale, and trade of shark fin in Australia,” she says.
As well as importing shark fins, Australia also exports them. Between 2011 and 2012 Australia exported 178 tonnes, but in recent years the export market has declined.
In 2013 there were no shark fin exports, and in 2014 just one tonne was exported.
The AMCS doesn’t believe the drop in exports means fewer sharks are being killed in Australian waters. The organisation suspects fins are being stockpiled until prices improve.
The recent drop in demand for shark fins is being attributed to effective public campaigns and a corruption crackdown in China.
“It does look like there has been some impact from public education campaigns using high profile figures like Hollywood actors and Chinese celebrities to change people’s behaviour,” says Mahto.
“But the Chinese government also has a big anti-corruption drive. Shark fin has been banned from being served at public political events and that seems to have had a real impact on the price of shark fins and as a knock-on effect the international trade.”
The AMCS has a long running campaign for an outright ban on shark fins in Australia. Mahto says such a ban would provide absolute certainty that Australia is not importing shark fins from countries that still allow live finning.
“That’s an important conservation outcome,” she says, “but it’s also a very public statement that Australia does not support the inhumane trade and it’s recognition that the value of sharks is in keeping ecosystems healthy rather than being served up as soup.”
Diving with…. Luke Inman, Cortez Expeditions
In this ongoing series, we speak to the people who run dive centres, resorts and liveaboards from around the world about their businesses and the diving they have to offer…
What is your name?
What is the name of your business?
What is your role within the business?
Owner/Operator & PADI Course Director, Trimix IT
How long has the business operated for?
How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?
Diving since 1993, Professional Diver since 1996, Instructor Trainer since 2001.
PADI Course Director
PADI Tec Trimix Instructor Trainer
Divers Alert Network (DAN) IT
TDI · IANTD · RAID Technical Instructor
HSE Commercial Diver Part III
What is your favorite type of diving?
All Diving! Love teaching Open Water all the way through to Divemaster and Instructor course, but my absolute favourite is diving with Sea Lions in La Paz. Like jumping into a bath tub with Labrador puppies.
If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?
We have an exclusive adventure boutique, we offer Scuba training from basic open water through to technical diving. We are the only 5 Star PADI IDC Dive Center in La Paz and teach PADI courses to instructor level.
We offer DAN & TDI courses, support for film crews, scientists and CCR divers.
We are renowned for our expeditions, photo & video workshops. We keep our boat to a maximum of 4 or 6 divers ensuring your experience and interactions are intimate and breath taking.
We have Fourth Element & Apeks equipment in our rental fleet and we include computers.
We pride ourselves is being a sustainability leader. Ensuring no single use plastic is used on our boat and our dive practices have no negative effect on the environment. Read about us on Trip Advisor. Cortez Expeditions are the experts on The Sea of Cortez. With over 20 years of experience living and working in La Paz, Cortez Expeditions are not just the exclusive boutique dive centre, they are the chosen expedition leaders and logistic experts for institutions like The BBC Natural History Unit, Netflix, Disney, National Geographic Society & Television.
In 2018 we provided production support for Netflix “Our Planet”. In 2019 and 2020 Cortez Expeditions completed the safety and logistics for The BBC’s upcoming Planet Earth 3 Series and National Geographic America Series.
What is your favorite dive in your location and why?
Los Islotes the sea lion colony. This is the main reason many scuba divers visit La Paz. We are proud at Cortez Expeditions to be able to say we “wrote the book on Los Islotes”. Our owner and course director Luke Inman published the award winning book “Los Islotes – The Jewel of Espritu Santo”.
Los Islotes is the jewel of the protected area and marine reserve. There are very few locations in the world so close to a big city that allow for wild animal interactions like Los Islotes.
What types of diving are available in your location?
We teach everything from open water to instructor and tec diving with hypoxic trimix. There is something for everyone, but we are most famous for the big stuff…large pelagics that hang out at sea mounts and in open ocean like the mobulas.
What do you find most rewarding about your current role?
Being a mentor and teacher, I enjoy training all people, giving back to the ocean and to the community. My goal as a teacher is to have students eclipse my achievements. I want students to be better than me.
What is your favorite underwater creature?
Can I give you a top five? Sea Lion, Orca, Octopus, Giant Manta, Sea Otter.
Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?
We are in the process of becoming a Career Development Center for PADI and will be offering nitrox in all our dives and courses.
As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?
Like any tourism business the effect of COVID has reduced us down to 10-20% capacity.
Is your center involved in any environmental work?
We don’t like the expression “Eco-Tourism”, too many business use the term and in reality they are simply not eco orientated. We strive to be constantly sustainable in our practices. It is always evolving.
Since our inception 8 years ago, donating our time and resources has become an important part of our strategy to be active in our community. We constantly endeavour to ensure we are improving and ensuring our practices are sustainable.
We decided the best way to enrich our community was to give back doing what we do best. We do diver training very well. We are currently the number one listed PADI dive centre on Trip Advisor, we complete more recreational, technical and professional certification than any other dive centre in La Paz.
Every October we open our Scholarship Program. The program is open to local undergraduate and post graduates in La Paz that need scuba training to complete their Tourism or Scientific Studies.
The application process will be from 1st October to 31 January 2021. With awards being given in First Quarter of 2021.
There are Six Scholarships available for 2021.
The scholarships are as follows:
- PADI Open Water through to PADI Rescue
- Technical Diver Training
- Divemaster Training
We will choose two candidates for each Scholarship (Male and Female)
Applicants must meet the prerequisites to enrol on the respective courses. The other prerequisites are:
- Be a legal resident of Mexico (Mexican or with legal immigration status)
- Be 18 years old
- Currently studying at UABCS, CICIMAR, CIBNOR
- Prove Scuba Diving is essential to their studies – Tourism, Marine Research
- Be in the final part of studies.
How do you see the SCUBA / Freediving / snorkeling industry overall? What changes would you make?
Where do I start….? LOL that is a big question!
I see the industry is making some good choices in becoming more sustainable, but it is slow.
The industry needs to start being more business-like and pay its staff a living wage.
We strive and ensure all our staff are paid a good wage to make diving a sensible and good option to other careers.
We need to see more women in diving. Women make better divers than men for a number of reasons.
I would like to see every dive agency ensure every student receives a course quality questionnaire. Once the student has completed the quality questionnaire the certification is issued, not before.
Diving is not a volume business, it is service and training based. For some reason many business owners price structure is based on volume. We need to base pricing on our time and effort.
What would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?
We have small groups and Sea lions…….
Where can our visitors find out more about your business?
Mantis Sub: The world’s first production 3D/360-VR underwater housing
Mantis Sub opens the realm of 3D production to professional underwater VR producers. To date, underwater VR cameras and housings have been either monoscopic, or the price and size of a new car. The producers of the NZVR Project wanted an alternative that could meet demanding professional production standards, offer 3D stereoscopy, and do it in a compact, affordable, robust housing that was good to 90 metres.
An early decision to leverage the performance, reliability and huge feature set of Insta360’s Pro2 camera set the course.
“It made perfect sense to use the Pro2 camera,” says James Frankham, publisher of New Zealand Geographic and director of the NZVR Project. “We had already been using it for our drone footage, and the interface, control app and workflow offered quick and elegant solutions to an excruciatingly complex technology. It offers 8k 3D production with a log format, and means that users can deploy the same camera in terrestrial and marine environments. In the end, it was a no-brainer.”
The distinctive hexagonal geometry of the housing grew out of the desire for an uninterrupted 360-degree view with clean zenith and nadir. Even the latches are recessed into the anodised aluminium body, resulting in a perfect stitch.
The camera can be switched on and controlled using capacitive-touch buttons on the body, or connected via a waterproof ethernet bulkhead to provide control and livestreaming via the Insta360 app. (On the surface, operators can use wifi/bluetooth for configuration and control as usual.) There are additional ports for a hydrophone, a vacuum valve, and numerous threaded mounts for attaching lighting, tripods and other production rigging.
“This is a camera designed by VR professionals for VR professionals,” says Frankham. “We understand the production community wants robust, capable tools that are good value, reliable and extensible.”
From the stable of Insta360’s professional range, the high degree of control allows producers to finely control the camera’s response to difficult underwater conditions, add artificial lighting and ISO-limit the exposure for clean blacks when shooting in dark environments, at night or in caves.
The Mantis Sub already has a product variation in the Mantis Spray—a weatherproof housing designed to provide 3D-360 coverage aboard foiling AC75 Americas Cup yachts. Rather than submersion it had to resist sheets of spray and the rigours of sailing at speeds approaching 100 km/h while delivering uninterrupted VR footage to the world. A powerful, filtered fan was required to keep the unit cool inside the housing. It’s available in lightweight nylon or anodised aluminium.
“With the acceleration of virtual reality technology, the advent of 3D stereoscopy, and the desire to create visceral experiences in the marine realm, these housings have an important place in the way we cover extreme sports and the underwater world. I can’t wait to see what producers can do with them.”
Development was funded by New Zealand Geographic and Global Dive—a technical diving outfitter also based in New Zealand. Global Dive will be the international distributor and first point of contact for sales and service of the products, says director Andrew Simpson.
“Global Dive is proud to be involved in this product development, and brings considerable sales and service experience to the partnership, from an extensive international network of dive professionals to the meticulous in-house service crew to assemble the products and offer uncompromising after-sales support.”
For more information visit the website by clicking here.
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Sharks Bay Umbi Diving Village is a Bedouin-owned resort with stunning views and a lovely private beach. It is ideal for divers as everything is onsite including the resort's jetty, dive centre and house reef. The warm hospitality makes for a diving holiday like no other. There is an excellent seafood restaurent and beach bar onsite, and with the enormous diversity of the Sharm El Sheikh dive sites and the surrounding areas of the South Sinai, there really is something for every level of diver to enjoy.More Less
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