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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.

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Preserving Paradise: Seacology’s Island Conservation Mission

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Islands are not just pieces of land surrounded by water; they are sanctuaries of biodiversity, cradles of unique cultures, and vital components of our planet’s ecological balance. However, these paradises face numerous threats ranging from habitat destruction to climate change. Recognizing the urgency of protecting these fragile ecosystems, Seacology has emerged as a beacon of hope, championing the preservation of island habitats worldwide while empowering local communities. In this article, we are diving into Seacology’s mission, its global impact, and its generous support for key conservation initiatives in Curaçao.

The Seacology Story:

Seacology, founded in 1991 by Dr. Paul Alan Cox (American ethnobotanist), operates on a simple yet powerful principle: conservation through collaboration. Unlike traditional conservation organizations, Seacology adopts a community-driven approach, partnering directly with island communities to address their needs while safeguarding precious ecosystems.

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At the heart of Seacology’s philosophy lies the belief that sustainable conservation can only be achieved by empowering those who depend on the natural resources of their islands. By working hand in hand with local stakeholders, Seacology fosters a sense of ownership and stewardship, ensuring long-term protection for vital habitats.

A Global Impact of Seacology

Since its inception, Seacology has made remarkable strides in protecting island ecosystems across the globe. Through innovative projects and strategic partnerships, the organization has conserved millions of acres of marine and terrestrial habitat, spanning more than 60 countries.

What sets Seacology apart is its holistic approach, which integrates conservation efforts with community development initiatives. By providing tangible benefits such as clean water, education, and healthcare, Seacology incentivizes local communities to actively participate in conservation efforts, forging a sustainable path towards coexistence with nature.

Curaçao: A Jewel in the Caribbean Crown

Located in the crystalline waters of the Southern Caribbean Sea, Curaçao boasts stunning coral reefs, lush mangroves, and vibrant marine life. However, like many island nations, Curaçao faces a myriad of challenges including overfishing, habitat degradation, and climate change impacts.

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In 2024, Seacology’s commitment to island conservation took center stage in Curaçao, where the organization provided generous support for three key initiatives: Reef Renewal Curaçao, Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao, and the Queen Conch Hatchery. Additionally, Seacology provided additional funding to advance sustainable fishing practices through educational programs.

Reef Renewal Curaçao

Coral reefs are the lifeblood of marine ecosystems, supporting a quarter of all marine species despite occupying less than 1% of the ocean floor. However, these invaluable ecosystems are under siege from rising sea temperatures, pollution, and destructive fishing practices.

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Reef Renewal Curaçao, a flagship project supported by Seacology, aims to reverse the decline of coral reefs by implementing innovative coral propagation and restoration techniques. By engaging local communities in reef restoration efforts, Seacology is optimistic that their support will enable Reef Renewal Curaçao to continue their important work revitalizingd amaged ecosystems and fostering a sense of stewardship among residents.

Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao

For millions of years, sea turtles have roamed the world’s oceans, serving as keystone species and indicators of ecosystem health. Yet, these ancient mariners face numerous threats including habitat loss, poaching, and accidental capture in fishing gear.

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In collaboration with Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao, Seacology is supporting their efforts to protect Curaçao’s sea turtle populations through research, monitoring, and community outreach. By raising awareness about the importance of sea turtles and implementing measures to mitigate threats, Seacology is aiding Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao to safeguard these iconic creatures for future generations to admire.

The Queen Conch Hatchery

Conch, revered for their succulent meat and ornate shells, are a cultural and culinary staple in many island communities. However, unregulated harvesting has led to depleted populations, jeopardizing both ecological balance and traditional livelihoods.

In Curaçao, Seacology’s support for the Queen Conch Hatchery initiative aims to conserve dwindling conch populations through captive breeding and sustainable harvesting practices. By collaborating with local fishermen and authorities, Seacology is helping to ensure that conch populations thrive while preserving cultural traditions and supporting coastal communities.

The project “Conquer the Future” is investigating the mortality and growth of Queen Conch juveniles, cultured at Curacao Sea Aquarium, after they have been outplanted in the wild. These experiments with small numbers of Queen Conch will take place in both Curaçao (Spanish Water) and Bonaire (Lac Bay). WWF-Dutch Caribbean is the main sponsor of this project, Seacology is the co-sponsor.

Advancing Sustainable Fishing Practices

Fishing is an integral part of Curaçao’s economy and culture, but unsustainable practices have led to overfishing and the depletion of key fish species. Recognizing the need for change, Seacology has provided a grant to the Federation of Cooperative Production (FKUP) to support innovative educational programs aimed at promoting sustainable fishing practices.

Through this initiative, Seacology hopes to instill a sense of environmental stewardship among local fishers. The educational programs focus on teaching sustainable fishing techniques, such as selective gear use, seasonal restrictions, and size limits, which help protect juvenile fish and allow populations to recover. Additionally, the programs emphasize the importance of marine conservation, the impact of overfishing on the ecosystem, and the benefits of sustainable practices for future generations.

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By supporting the FKUP, Seacology is helping to ensure that local fishers have the knowledge and resources to adopt sustainable practices. This not only helps preserve fish stocks and marine biodiversity but also secures the livelihoods of fishing communities in the long term.

WWF-Dutch Caribbean supported in 2023 the first round of the sustainable fishing training organized by FKUP in Curaçao. Due to lack of budget at WWF-DC, FKUP has been looking for another sponsor for this training. They found Seacology to fund more training.

A Beacon of Hope for Island Conservation

In a world grappling with environmental crises, Seacology stands as a shining example of what can be achieved through passion, perseverance, and partnership. By empowering island communities, Seacology not only protects precious ecosystems but also enriches lives and preserves cultural heritage.

As we navigate the uncertain waters of the 21st century, organizations like Seacology remind us that the fate of our planet lies in our hands. Through collective action and unwavering dedication, we can safeguard the treasures of our islands and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

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Summer means it’s time to go ‘Fertilizer-Free for Manatees’ to protect Florida’s waterways

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Nutrient pollution poses a significant threat to Florida’s delicate ecosystem, leading to harmful algal blooms in both coastal and inland waters

Summer is here, and Save the Manatee® Club is excited to share our Fertilizer-Free for Manatees™ campaign. The campaign aims to underscore that while addressing the overall problem requires a multifaceted approach, the actions of each Florida resident can make a big difference for the health of our waterways.

Starting June 1 and running through September 30, this initiative aims to encourage Florida residents to take a pledge to be fertilizer-free, thereby reducing their contribution to nutrient pollution in the state’s waterways.

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What is Nutrient Pollution?

Nutrient pollution refers to the presence of excess nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, in water bodies. These nutrients often come from agricultural runoff, wastewater, and the use of fertilizers on lawns and landscapes. While nutrients are essential for plant growth, an overabundance can lead to significant environmental problems.

How Does Nutrient Pollution Cause Harm?

Nutrient pollution poses a significant threat to Florida’s delicate ecosystem, leading to harmful algal blooms (HABs) in both coastal and inland waters. The Indian River Lagoon, a critical habitat for manatees, has been particularly affected, with devastating algal blooms causing the loss of native seagrass. Seagrass is essential for manatees as it is their primary food source. When seagrass is lost, manatees are at risk of starvation. Tragically, this has resulted in the starvation and death of numerous imperiled manatees since 2020.

Furthermore, the occurrence of red tide, a natural phenomenon characterized by the proliferation of toxic algae, can be exacerbated by excessive nitrogen and phosphorus inputs from human sources such as fertilizer and wastewater. Red tide not only affects marine life but can also cause respiratory issues in humans and economic losses for coastal communities.

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Photo: David Schrichte

In pledging to be Fertilizer-Free for Manatees, Floridians commit to:

  • Avoid fertilizer use on lawns and landscapes
  • Conserve water by irrigating only when necessary
  • Keep grass clipping out of streets, waterbodies, and swales
  • Learn about Florida-Friendly Landscaping to protect waterway

“Human nutrient pollution from various sources has been a major driver of the harmful algal blooms that have led to a catastrophic number of manatee deaths in recent years,” said Patrick Rose, Aquatic Biologist and Executive Director of Save the Manatee Club. “The Fertilizer-Free for Manatees campaign aims to educate the public about how their individual actions, which may seem small, can have a cumulative healing effect on the overall health of our Florida waterways. Together, we can all take steps at home to protect imperiled manatees and their essential habitat.”

For more information on the “Fertilizer-Free for Manatees™” campaign and how you can get involved, please visit fertilizerfree.org.

Save the Manatee Club, established in 1981 by the late renowned singer-songwriter, author, and entrepreneur Jimmy Buffett, along with the late former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, is dedicated to safeguarding manatees and preserving their aquatic habitat. For more information about manatees and the Club’s efforts, visit savethemanatee.org or call 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).

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