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Marine Life & Conservation

Recent updates about the Shark situation in South East Asia



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.


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?


 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.


Hunting Lionfish Safely and Responsibly in Curaçao




Curaçao, a picturesque island in the southern Caribbean, is not only renowned for its stunning beaches and vibrant culture but also for its commitment to preserving its marine ecosystems. One of the key threats to these delicate ecosystems is the invasive lionfish. To combat this menace, responsible hunting practices are crucial.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly in Curaçao, including the use of pole spears (the only legal method in Curaçao). We will provide you with the top 10 safe hunting practices, including the use of a Zookeeper. We will also address what to do if you are stung by a lionfish and emphasize the importance of consulting with local experts before embarking on your lionfish hunting adventure.

Why Safe and Responsible Lionfish Hunting is Important

Lionfish (Pterois spp.) are native to the Indo-Pacific region but have become invasive predators in the Caribbean, including the waters surrounding Curaçao. Their voracious appetite for native fish species and rapid reproduction rates poses a severe threat to the delicate balance of marine ecosystems in the region. The introduction of lionfish has led to a decline in native fish populations and the degradation of coral reefs.

To counteract the lionfish invasion, responsible hunting practices are essential. Hunting lionfish can help control their population and protect the native marine life of Curaçao’s waters. However, it is imperative to follow safe and responsible hunting techniques to minimize the impact on the environment and ensure the safety of both divers and the marine ecosystem.

Understanding the Pole Spear

In Curaçao, the only legal method for hunting lionfish is using a pole spear. It’s important to note that a pole spear is distinct from other spearfishing equipment, such as a Hawaiian sling or a spear gun with a trigger mechanism. The use of Hawaiian slings or spear guns with triggers is illegal in Curaçao for lionfish hunting due to safety and conservation concerns.


A pole spear consists of a long, slender pole with a pointed tip, often made of stainless steel or fiberglass, designed for precision and accuracy. Unlike a trigger-based spear gun, a pole spear requires the diver to manually draw back on a rubber band then release towards the target, providing a more controlled and selective approach to hunting.

How to Hunt Lionfish Using a Pole Spear Responsibly

When using a pole spear to hunt lionfish, it’s crucial to do so responsibly to ensure the safety of both the diver and the marine environment. Here are some essential guidelines on how to hunt lionfish using a pole spear responsibly:

  1. Safety First: Always prioritize safety when diving and hunting. Ensure you have the necessary training and experience for hunting lionfish. Consider the Lionfish Scuba Dive Experience offered by Ocean Encounters. This opportunity allows participants to learn under the expert guidance of local scuba diving professionals.
  2. Check Regulations: Familiarize yourself with local regulations and restrictions related to lionfish hunting in Curaçao. Respect no-take zones and marine protected areas.
  3. Target Only Lionfish: Use your pole spear exclusively for lionfish hunting. Do not attempt to spear any other species, as this can harm the fragile ecosystem.
  4. Aim for Precision: Approach your target lionfish carefully and aim for a precise shot to minimize the risk of injuring other marine life or damaging the coral reef.
  5. Use a Zookeeper: A Zookeeper is a specialized container designed to safely store and transport lionfish after capture. It prevents the lionfish’s venomous spines from causing harm and keeps them secure during the dive.
  6. Respect Lionfish Anatomy: Target the head of the lionfish and stay away from its venomous spines. Aim for a clean and humane kill to minimize suffering.
  7. Avoid Overhunting: Do not overhunt lionfish in a single dive. Limit the number of lionfish you catch to what you can safely handle and process.
  8. Practice Good Buoyancy: Maintain excellent buoyancy control to avoid inadvertently damaging the reef or stirring up sediment, which can harm marine life.
  9. Dispose Responsibly: Once you’ve caught lionfish, carefully place them in your Zookeeper. Do not release them back into the water, as they are invasive and harmful to the ecosystem.
  10. Report Your Catch: If applicable, report your lionfish catch to local authorities or organizations involved in lionfish management to contribute to data collection efforts.

In the Unlikely Event of a Lionfish Sting

While lionfish stings are rare, it’s essential to know how to respond if you or someone you are diving with is stung. Lionfish have venomous spines that can cause pain, swelling, and even more severe reactions in some cases. Here’s how to respond to a lionfish sting:

  1. Signal for Help: Notify your diving buddy or group immediately if you are stung.
  2. Remove Spines: If the spines are still embedded in the skin, carefully remove them with tweezers or a clean, sterile tool. Be cautious not to break the spines, as this can release more venom.
  3. Clean the Wound: Rinse the affected area with warm water to help alleviate pain and reduce the risk of infection.
  4. Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help with pain and swelling. However, if you experience severe symptoms, seek medical attention promptly.
  5. Seek Medical Help: If the pain and swelling worsen or if you have an allergic reaction to the venom, seek medical assistance immediately.

Consult Local Lionfish Experts

Before embarking on a lionfish hunting adventure in Curaçao, it’s crucial to consult with local and responsible dive shops or organizations dedicated to lionfish management, such as Lionfish Caribbean.


These experts can provide valuable insights, tips, and up-to-date information on how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly, hunting locations, safety measures, and environmental conservation efforts.

Start Planning your Next Caribbean Adventure

Knowing how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly in Curaçao is not just an exciting underwater activity but also a crucial step in protecting the island’s marine ecosystems. By using a pole spear and adhering to the top 10 safe hunting practices, including the use of a Zookeeper, you can contribute to the control of the invasive lionfish population while preserving the delicate balance of Curaçao’s underwater world.

Remember that safety should always be your top priority when diving and hunting lionfish. In the unlikely event of a lionfish sting, knowing how to respond can make all the difference. By consulting with local experts and following ethical and legal guidelines, you can enjoy a rewarding and responsible lionfish hunting experience while safeguarding the beauty of Curaçao’s marine environment for generations to come. Please always dive safely and responsibly, and together, we can make a positive impact on Curaçao’s underwater world while learning how to hunt lionfish effectively.

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The life of a Great White Shark



Great White Shark

The great white shark, known scientifically as Carcharodon carcharias, embodies the apex predator of the ocean. This majestic creature’s life is a testament to survival, adaptability, and the intricate balance of the marine ecosystem.

Born in the waters off coastal regions, a great white shark begins its life as a pup within the safety of nurseries, typically found in warm, shallow waters. The pups, measuring around 5 feet in length at birth, are immediately equipped with an innate instinct for survival.

Great White Shark

As they grow, great whites embark on a journey, venturing into deeper and cooler waters, often covering vast distances across the ocean. These apex predators are perfectly adapted hunters, relying on their impressive senses to detect prey. Their acute sense of smell, aided by specialized sensory organs known as ampullae of Lorenzini, helps detect the faintest traces of blood in the water from several miles away.

Feeding primarily on seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals, great whites are known for their powerful jaws lined with rows of razor-sharp teeth. Their hunting techniques often involve stealth, utilizing their streamlined bodies to approach prey from below and striking with incredible speed and force.

Great White Shark

Despite their fearsome reputation, great whites play a crucial role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems. As top predators, they help regulate the population of prey species, preventing overpopulation that could disrupt the balance of the food chain.

Reproduction among great white sharks is a slow and careful process. Females reach sexual maturity between 12 and 18 years of age, while males mature earlier, around 9 to 10 years old. Mating occurs through complex courtship rituals, with females giving birth to a small number of live pups after a gestation period of about 12 to 18 months.

Great White Shark

However, the life of a great white shark is not without challenges. Human activities, including overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction, pose significant threats to their population. Additionally, despite their formidable presence, great whites are vulnerable and face dangers from entanglement in fishing gear and accidental bycatch.

Despite these challenges, great white sharks continue to inspire awe and fascination among scientists and nature enthusiasts. Their presence in the ocean serves as a reminder of the delicate balance and interconnectedness of marine life, emphasizing the need for conservation efforts to protect these magnificent creatures for future generations to admire and study.

Want to learn more about sharks? Visit The Shark Trust website:


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