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Northwest Atlantic Fishing Countries Take Action for Sharks

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  • Cuba & Norway Help US & EU Win Stronger Finning Ban Despite Japan’s Objection

  • Greenland Sharks Get Spotlight While Skates Remain At-Risk

In a rare vote, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) has adopted a proposal for a stronger shark finning ban by an overwhelming margin, despite objections from Japan. The European Union and the United States have proposed for several years that NAFO strengthen its ban on shark “finning” (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea) by prohibiting the removal of shark fins at sea. This year, the proposal was for the first time co-sponsored by Norway and the host country of Cuba, and gained new, outspoken support from Canada and Iceland. A similar ban was adopted by the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission in 2014, but other regional fisheries bodies have yet to accept such change.

“We are elated that North Atlantic fishing countries have taken a strong stand against shark finning and are leading the way toward adoption of best practice rules to prevent it globally,” said Sonja Fordham of Shark Advocates International. “We are deeply grateful to Cuba, our host country, for introducing the finning ban measure at this year’s meeting, and bringing it over the finish line at last.”

NAFO banned finning in 2005, but allows fins to be removed at sea, as long as the fin-to-carcass weight ratio does not exceed 5%. Using ratios has proved difficult for enforcing finning bans, while “fins-attached” landing rules are widely recognized as best practice. The US and EU are expected to re-introduce a fins-attached proposal at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) meeting in November.

This year’s NAFO meeting marks a dramatic policy change for Canada and Korea, who helped defeat the “fins-attached” measure in 2015. Overall, nine NAFO Parties voted “yes” on the proposal, Japan voted “no,” and Russia abstained.

“We are thrilled that Canada has — at long last – joined the chorus of countries supporting this cornerstone of responsible shark fisheries management,” said Katie Schleit of Ecology Action Centre. “We are grateful for their enthusiastic support and hopeful that this new, national policy means that Canada will now join 30 other countries cosponsoring stronger finning bans and other safeguards for sharks at ICCAT.”

NAFO Parties also requested of their Scientific Council management advice for the Greenland shark, the subject of widespread media coverage and conservation concern last month after scientists reported the species can live 400 years. Parties also took steps that should result in better information on the other species of sharks and skates taken as “bycatch” in fisheries targeting other fish species: a mandate for collecting data on a haul-by-haul basis, and the development of shark and skate species identification guides for observers.

For the annual skate catch limit, however, NAFO Parties kept the status quo of 7,000t. NAFO scientists recommend catches not exceed 4,700t and report little rebuilding for the target species (thorny skate aka starry skate) after more than a decade of NAFO management. Thorny skate is listed by IUCN as threatened.

“We are grateful to the EU and US for taking a strong stand on more enforceable finning bans, thereby leading the charge to minimize waste of sharks,” said Ali Hood of Shark Trust. “At the same time, we are deeply disappointed that no NAFO Parties stepped up as champions for closely related skates. As a result, quotas once again exceed scientific advice, leaving these vulnerable species at risk for further depletion.”

NAFO Contracting Parties include Canada, Cuba, Denmark (in respect to the Faroe Islands & Greenland), the European Union, France (in respect to Saint Pierre et Miquelon), Iceland, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway, Russian Federation, Ukraine, and the US.  NAFO Parties develop international management measures for Northwest Atlantic fish (except salmon, tunas/marlins, and sedentary species).

Photo: www.frogfishphotography.com

Jeff Goodman is the Editor-at-Large for Scubaverse.com with responsibility for conservation and underwater videography. Jeff is an award-winning TV wildlife and underwater cameraman and film maker who lives in Cornwall, UK. With over 10,000 dives to his credit he has dived in many different environments around the world.

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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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