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Marine Life & Conservation

Recent updates about the Shark situation in South East Asia

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As we all know an approximate number of 100 million sharks are killed every year to support the demand for shark fin soup, mainly from countries in South East Asia.

In China the growing middle class are craving to eat this dish which was classified as a traditional wedding treat and served at state banquets; however, many Chinese hotels like Shangri-La has recently banned the soup  from their regular menu and many other high class restaurants in the neighboring countries are following suit.

BAD NEWS

Last week terrible news came from one of Hong Kong´s conservationists groups –  a whale shark factory was found that processed over 600 Whale Sharks annually. These giant animals are hunted not only because of their valuable fins but also for their liver. A shark liver can be a third of the size of a sharks body and the oil is an essential ingredient in the preparation of cosmetics like lipsticks and creams.

Alex Hofford and Paul Hilton of WildLifeRisk, the conservationists group that discovered the factory, said:

How these harmless creatures, these gentle giants of the deep, can be slaughtered on such an industrial scale is beyond belief, and all for human vanity; lipsticks, face creams, health supplements, shark fin soup restaurants. We firmly believe the trade must stop, and it must stop now, or else these animals will eventually face extinction.”

When resources run scarce, old battles resurface; China is again debating with surrounding countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei over South China Sea fishing rights.

China has imposed a new law that bans foreign vessels in “Beijing claimed areas” and the Philippines has said this is illegal and a serious threat to the peace in the area, since China claims almost the entire South China Sea as their own. The Philippines has tried to arbitrate under the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea) to make Chinas claim illegal.

Chinese official sources said “the fisheries conservation regulations had been issued and published by China since the 1980s. There was no reaction from the Philippines then and yet these are the very same rules that are being attacked today.”

To be continued….

In other areas in the Philippines, Marine Biologists are criticizing fisherman over their new method of making money; they are “hand feeding” whale sharks in order to attract tourists.

This practice has become highly popular, and since sightings of these giants is practically guaranteed, the fishermen can earn a lot more money and spend less time working too.

The Marine biologists claim this practice disturbs the whale shark’s natural behavior and increases disease and parasites, and they are conducting a study to observe the change over time.

These kind of stories where conservation only takes place when there is a demand or monetary interest will unfortunately become more common in the future.

But isn’t it better to have the whale shark hand fed than in whale shark fin soup?

GOOD NEWS

 Indonesia has created the country’s first shark and manta ray sanctuary. Created at the beginning of 2013 and based in Raja Ampat, it’s the first in the Coral Triangle. 6 months later, Komodo with it´s 7,000 sq km has also joined other areas of Indonesia to protect its sharks and rays.

Indonesia is an important country because it’s one of the world’s biggest fisher and exporter of sharks, so the sanctuaries are extremely vital for the area and a good sign of a will to save wildlife for tourism (as sharks  and rays  bring in more for money alive then dead).

The Sultanate of Brunei has become the first Asian country to ban shark finning, effective from January 2014. Routine checks on establishments will be conducted to ensure the ban is followed.

The Sultan Hassanai Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah has banned the catch and landing of all shark species from the waters of Brunei Darussalam, as well as shark fin sales in the domestic market, and the importation and trade of shark products.

This is a law that has not even been achieved in countries like the United States, so for an Asian country this is very progressive.

Shark meat used to be sold at the market at very cheap prices, only the fins are more expensive and most of the times already sold before reaching the market.

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Photos taken before the implementation of the law for shark Finnning, Fish market,  Jerudong , Brunei Darussalam  in December 2013.

Neighboring areas to Brunei like Northern Sabah are trying to follow the steps of Brunei, but the Southern region of Sarawak is far from acknowledging this law. The general manager of the Protected Areas and Biodiversity Conservation Division Oswald Braken Tisen said recently:

“Not all sharks are protected species, and selling of shark’s fin and consuming it is still not against the law.”

The Shark experts’ opinions are unanimous: “Laws to restrict trade will mean little unless there are total bans on fishing.

After checking up on how the new law about shark protection is affecting the fish market in Jerudong in Brunei Darussalam, I attach these two pictures from the 6th of February.

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Sharks are still openly displayed on the counter, some still with their fins, and some guitar fish without fins. I have tried to reach the Ministry´s fisheries for a comment but they are still busy with Chinese New Year celebration and are proving difficult to reach.

I’ll try again next week….

Sylvia Jagerroos is a specialist in marine conservation and has spent the last two years working in the Maldives, a Country threatened by climate change and where the marine environment is directly linked to sustainable fisheries, renewable energy sources, tourism and a proper waste management system.

Marine Life & Conservation

Jeff chats to… Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust about the Big Shark Pledge (Watch Video)

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In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust UK about the Big Shark Pledge.

The Big Shark Pledge aims to build one of the biggest campaigning communities in the history of shark conservation. To put pressure on governments and fisheries. And make the positive changes required to safeguard awesome sharks and rays.

Find out more at: www.bigsharkpledge.org and www.sharktrust.org.


Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Marine Conservation Society to take legal action over ocean sewage spills

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The Marine Conservation Society is announcing joining as co-claimant in a legal case against the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to protect English seas from sewage dumping.  

The legal case seeks to compel the Government to rewrite its Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan 2022, impose tighter deadlines on water companies and redevelop the Plan to effectively apply to coastal waters which are, currently, almost entirely excluded.  

Sandy Luk, Marine Conservation Society CEOUntreated sewage is being pumped into our seas for hundreds of thousands of hours each year; putting people, planet and wildlife at risk. 

We’ve tried tirelessly to influence the UK Government on what needs to be done, but their Plan to address this deluge of pollution entering our seas is still unacceptable. We owe it to our members, supporters and coastal communities to act, which is why we’ve joined as co-claimants on this case. We’re out of options. Our seas deserve better.”  

Launched and funded by the Good Law Project, the Marine Conservation Society will stand as co-claimants on the case with Richard Haward’s Oysters, and surfer and activist, Hugo Tagholm. 

Before reaching this point, the charity responded to a government consultation in March 2022 and met with DEFRA to express concern. In August 2022, the charity wrote an open letter to DEFRA outlining the ways in which the proposed Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan fails to protect the environment and public health from dumping raw sewage into the sea. However, the Plan hasn’t been amended and still fails to adequately address water companies’ excessive reliance on storm overflows and the harm their heavy use causes to our ocean. 

The plan virtually excludes most coastal waters (except for bathing waters) either directly or indirectly, with some types of Marine Protected Areas and shellfish waters totally excluded. 600 storm overflows are not covered at all by the Plan and will continue to – completely legally – be able to dump uncontrolled amounts of sewage directly into English seas and beaches. What’s more, the Plan lacks all urgency – with long-term targets set for 2050, and the earliest, most urgent targets not to be met until 2035.  

Meanwhile, Marine Conservation Society analysis finds that raw sewage is pouring into the ocean at an alarming rate. In total, there are at least 1,651 storm overflows within 1km of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in England. These overflows spilt untreated sewage 41,068 times in 2021. Of these, almost half the overflows spilt more than 10 times in 2021, with an average of 48 spills for each of those overflows. Overall, in 2021, sewage poured into Marine Protected Areas for a total of 263,654 hours. 

According to DEFRA’s own latest assessments, only 19% of estuaries and and 45% of coastal waters are at ‘good ecological status’, with none meeting ‘good chemical status’, and three quarters (75%) of shellfish waters failing to meet water quality standards. 

Rachel Wyatt, Policy & Advocacy Manager for Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation SocietyUntreated sewage contains a cocktail of bacteria, viruses, harmful chemicals, and microplastics. It’s nearly impossible to remove microplastics and ‘forever chemicals’ once in the environment. Due to their persistence, with every discharge, these pollutants will continue to increase, meaning eventually they will pass – or may have already passed – a threshold of harm.”  

In addition, it’s not just invisible toxins that are causing problems. In September this year at the charity’s annual Great British Beach Clean, sewage related pollution, such as wet wipes and sanitary products, were found on 73% of the beaches surveyed across England.  

A new DEFRA report, Ocean Literacy in England and Wales, shows that 85% of people say marine protection is personally important to them. Yet this is being ignored. 

Emma Dearnaley, Legal Director at the Good Law Project, said: “The Marine Conservation Society is at the forefront of tackling the ocean emergency and standing up for coastal communities impacted by climate change and pollution. We are delighted to have them on board as a co-claimant. 

“Good Law Project will work closely with the claimants, including the Marine Conservation Society, to put forward the case for more ambitious and urgent measures to reduce sewage discharges by water companies. These sewage spills are threatening human health, biodiverse marine life and the fishing industry. We believe that taking legal action now is vital to help safeguard our coastal waters for generations to come”. 

If the case is won, the Marine Conservation Society hopes to see the UK Government amend its Plan so that it meets the DEFRA Secretary of State’s legal obligations to protect the ocean and its inhabitants from raw sewage spills.   

For more visit the Marine Conservation Society website.

Header image credit: Natasha Ewins

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