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New Zealand: Nicer to elves than sharks

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sharks

New Zealand makes a spectacular film set, but it’s not much fun if you’re a shark. This small country at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean is one of the strongholds of shark fishing and finning. Yes, I did say shark finning – that senseless, wasteful fishing method that most enlightened countries have abandoned… But not New Zealand*.

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New Zealand was exposed in a recent TRAFFIC report as being in the top ten countries for the slaughter and export of sharks. Many of those sharks are killed for their fins alone, and New Zealand is a major exporter of shark fins to Hong Kong and the biggest exporter of dried fins to the USA. The three main species of sharks finned in New Zealand – blue sharks, porbeagle sharks and short-finned mako sharks – are all listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Globally, 100 million sharks are killed by humans every year, many of them for their fins alone, and I’m ashamed to say New Zealand well and truly has blood on its hands.

Despite the growing list of countries and states around the world that have banned shark finning, the New Zealand Government still supports finning, and the New Zealand fishing industry is only too happy to make a bit of extra money from this gruesome practice as tuna stocks decline. This is allowed under the “National Plan of Action – Sharks” a document that was written in 2008 and makes only nods towards shark protection by requiring that sharks be killed before their fins are hacked off and their bodies dumped back into the sea. I am sure “thanks New Zealand for not torturing me first” is what those sharks are thinking from the sharky afterlife as their bodies slowly and silently sink to the ocean depths, killed for so little.

But there is hope. A few months ago, following a campaign calling on airlines to opt out of the shark fin trade, national airline Air New Zealand announced it would no longer transport sharks aboard its planes – something it admits it had done in the past. And in a month’s time, the New Zealand Government must make its five-yearly review of the National Plan of Action – Sharks. This is our chance to get shark finning banned once and for all in New Zealand waters. This opportunity only happens twice a decade, so we can’t afford to let this chance pass us by.

To succeed, Greenpeace and other NGOs have set up the New Zealand Shark Alliance to pressure the Government to adopt a shark finning ban through the recommended approach of requiring that any sharks caught be released back into the water, or landed with their fins naturally attached.

As a Pacific nation, New Zealand is woefully behind the times when it comes to shark conservation. Many small Pacific Island countries and territories have designated their waters as shark sanctuaries where no shark fishing or finning is allowed. For those countries the economic, cultural and ecological value of sharks far out weights the dollar value of their fins. If Nations like Palau, only 458 square kilometers in land area, can create a vast shark sanctuary of 621,600 square kilometers – you’d think the least New Zealand could do is ensure that Pacific sharks will not be at risk in their waters of being killed and hacked up for their fins alone.

Together, we can make sure this happens. Sign up here to register your support for a ban on shark finning, and we’ll send you a quick and easy submission form as soon as the Government announces its public consultation on shark laws.

* New Zealand: The country that loves to be liked, strives to keep its “clean, green” reputation, and advertises itself as 100% pure. It’s a valuable reputation founded on New Zealand’s stunning wilderness, diverse wildlife, and global nuclear free stance. In the eighties, it was all shiny and new – but now the rust has set in. As we know, rust comes from salt water. And New Zealand’s environmental reputation is being eaten away into rusty decay by what’s happening in our oceans. Whether it be opening up our coastline to risky deep sea oil drilling, handing out permission to suck up the seabed for iron sands or phosphate nodules, operating foreign-owned slave fishing ships, driving the world’s rarest dolphin ever-closer to extinction, or hacking the fins off sharks and dumping their bodies back in the sea – the way we are treating our oceans is more 100% plunder than 100% pure.

Karli Thomas is an Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace New Zealand. www.greenpeace.org

Marine Life & Conservation

Review: David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet

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Regular contributors, CJ & Mike from Bimble in the Blue, review the Netlix documentary: David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet

David Attenborough’s latest and arguably most important documentary to date is now showing on Netflix.  It is, in his own words, his “witness statement” of a unique life exploring and documenting the wonders of the natural world.

Attenborough looks back and realizes that the previously gradual changes he witnessed (animal species becoming harder to find and fewer wild spaces) have now become vastly more widespread and noticeable. As the human population increased, so has the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide, while the amount of wilderness has decreased.  His conclusion: human activity and man-made climate change have accelerated the pace of biodiversity loss.  This not only imperils the majority of natural habitats and creatures on Earth, but also the very future of humankind.

From images of lush green landscapes we journey with him over time to revisit these places, now wastelands. One of the most haunting is the contrast between early footage of orangutans swinging through the rainforest, to recent images of an orangutan clinging onto a lone tree devoid of all but one branch in the wreckage of a deforested site. Attenborough then makes a statement that has stuck with me since watching “A Life On This Planet”: that though we undoubtably have an obligation to care for the natural world, it’s not just about saving other species.  It is about saving ourselves.  His drive and determination to advocate and spread this message as much as possible at the age of 94 is both impressive and humbling, yet Attenborough manages to make this serious subject an unexpectedly positive learning experience.

In the final chapter of the movie Attenborough turns from the bleak reality of the destruction of Earth’s biodiversity, and offers a lifeline of hope and positivity. We can, he tells us, reverse the damage we have caused, we can save our species and the wonders of the natural world, and it can be done with just a few conceptually simple actions.  It’s enough to enthuse even the most jaded and pessimistic of conservationists!  Attenborough has an amazing ability to awaken our love of the natural world and now he shows us our future is in our hands. It’s time to act.  But we must start now and it must be a united effort.

You don’t have to be a scuba diver to be impressed with the eloquence of David Attenborough’s words, or his powerful yet simple message. We are self-confessed Attenborough super fans, but I don’t think anyone could contest that this is a stunning 1 hour and 20 minutes of hard hitting brilliance. The film closes with the comment, “Who else needs to see it?” The answer is all of us.  We highly recommend this documentary to everyone. Put simply if you watch no other documentary this year, watch this one.

For more from CJ and Mike please visit their website here.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Review: My Octopus Teacher

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Regular contributors, CJ & Mike from Bimble in the Blue, review the Netflix documentary: My Octopus Teacher

My Octopus Teacher is the story of how filmmaker Craig Foster befriends a common octopus in the kelp forests off of the Cape Town coast.  Mike and I love to watch all things underwater and nature-based and so eagerly sat down to this documentary film, a new September arrival on Netflix.

Watch the trailer here:

After burning out at work Foster finds fascination and a deep connection with nature when spending time freediving at his favourite local spot.  In a sequence familiar to those who watched the “Green Seas” episode of Blue Planet 2, he comes across an octopus camouflaging itself with shells.  With his curiosity piqued, he begins to seek out the octopus on all of his dives, finding delight in its seemingly strange behaviours, learning what he can from the scientific literature and slowing working to gain the mollusc’s trust on his daily visits to her world.

My Octopus Teacher portrays a very anthropomorphised view of our subject and Foster’s relationship with her.  His conclusions tend to be more emotional than scientific and his eagerness to find similarities between himself and the octopus shows a great sentimentality.  However, you cannot help but be captivated by the incredible mutual curiosity and bond developing before you.  This relationship, and the stunning scenes of the kelp forest with its diverse inhabitants make for a deeply absorbing viewing experience.  There is some fantastic cephalopod behaviour, from the octopus adapting her hunting tactics for different prey, to strategies for outwitting predators and incredible colour and shape morphology.  Foster is also keen to point out how little we know about octopuses and that there is a great opportunity to learn something with every dive.

One of my favourite observations made by Foster at the end of the film is that by going into the water for liberation from daily life’s concerns and dramas, he realised how precious these wild places are.  As he starts to care about all the animals there, even the most minuscule, he comes to find that each one is both important and vulnerable.  Foster finds that his relationship with the octopus changes him and he feels a part of the kelp forest rather than just a visitor, an experience he then shares with his son.  To me Foster’s insight that we must connect with an environment in order to be truly motivated to protect it resonated very strongly.  For those fortunate enough to fall in love with our wilder environments and connect with them, seeing it mirrored in this documentary is quite moving.

Overall we very much enjoyed the film, especially the weird and wonderful behaviours caught on screen and the story as it unfolds.  Though our first reaction was one of pure jealousy (that Foster has such a stunning local dive spot and coastal property!) we soon moved past the envy and found My Octopus Teacher to be a very relaxing and enjoyable evening’s entertainment, which we highly recommend.

For more from CJ and Mike please visit their website here.

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