SHARKPROJECT will inform at “boot” – Hall 3 Aisle A Stand 37

(c) SHARKPROJECT / F. Kremer-Obrock

Extinction is forever – we are fighting for the animal shark next to a precise reproduction of a Megalodon’s impressive dentition.

The ancient shark has died out only a few million years ago. Nowadays, humans still continue trying everything possible to also have descendant species extinct soon. And after that we will be the next species going extinct. Unless we rapidly rethink.
For 2015, we have dedicated our organization in particular to the fight against the popular technique of the fishing industry, which is the so-called “long lining”: More than 20.000 baiting hooks, distributed over more than a 100 km long line, are towed behind a ship and indiscriminately impale anything in the circumference; fishes, sea mammals, turtles, waterfowls, sharks.

(c) SHARKPROJECT / F. Kremer-Obrock

(c) SHARKPROJECT / F. Kremer-Obrock

We are very pleased and looking forward to present this and other topics at the world’s largest watersports trade fair “boot” in Düsseldorf, Germany, in January (17.-25.). SHARKPROJECT is located in the Diving Hall (Hall 3) at the center of aisle A, stand 37, and of course on the show stage as well. Again, there will also be a contest as well as opportunities to participate and to discuss with our officers, management, campaigners and experts.

Update Azores Campaign October 2014 – It continues

Langleinen-Hai (c) Michael Weberberger

Obviously they think on the Azores that SHARKPROJECT comes by once in a while, shouts around, and disappears again.

No, we’re on the scene:
And again the Spanish unload at the harbour of Horta.

(c) Anja Weberberger

(c) Anja Weberberger

This time documented by our loyal supporters Anja and Michael Weberberger. They had taken pictures of unloading processes for us in summer 2013. The Siempre Juan Luis with origin harbour Vigo/Spain unloaded again, mostly blue sharks and some mako sharks at September 19th 2014. This vessel is an often “guest” at Horta, like the Amel La Guardia (as documented by Gerald Nowak on June 26th), and the Manuel Alba as documented by our campaigners Friederike and Meik Obrock on July 27th.

(c) Michael Weberberger

(c) Michael Weberberger

From far away (but still visible) Anja and Michael confirm that the sharks are much smaller as in the years before. Their photos speak for them selves as well as the pocture from the dives at Condor Banks (the protected nature Reserve): The outcome of long lining is visible in the nature reserves. Some of the victims escape from their human hunters!

When does this madness stop! We keep in touch.

(Pics (c) SHARKPROJECT, Anja Weberberger, Michael Weberberger; Text: Friederike Kremer-Obrock)

Status Azores Campaign 2014 – “They are getting smaller and smaller …”

(c) Friederike Kremer-Obrock

STATUS AZORES CAMPAIGN 2014 – “THEY ARE GETTING SMALLER AND SMALLER …”
On 23 September 2014

The SHARKPROJECT campaigners Friederike Kremer-Obrock and Meik Obrock have recently returned from the Azores – with shocking and depressing information:

“In the summer of 2012 SHARKPROJECT documented for the first time the shark landings in the port of Horta on the Azorean island of Faial. There blue and Mako sharks are still loaded onto overseas containers by Spanish fishermen, bound for the Spanish mainland. These fishermen have an official license to catch swordfish, but their “by-catch” is made up of up to 95% sharks.

OFFICIAL CIRCLES CONFIRM ON ENQUIRY IN HORTA THAT 2 800 TONS OF SHARK ARE LANDED EACH YEAR. WE OURSELVES CALCULATE FROM THE DATA AVAILABLE TO US THAT THE NUMBER COULD BE AS MUCH AS 5 000 TONS OF SHARK PER YEAR. IN THE ENTIRE NORTH ATLANTIC THE SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE LONG LINE FISHING BOATS CATCH AN ANNUAL AVERAGE OF 60 000 TONS OF BLUE AND MAKO SHARK (ICCAT).

Gegenüberstellung Fotos 2012 / 2013 (c) Gerald Nowak, Anja Webersberger, Christine Gstöttner

Gegenüberstellung Fotos 2012 / 2013
(c) Gerald Nowak, Anja Webersberger, Christine Gstöttner

In July 2013 a new EU law came into force banning the practice of finning once and for all. Since then the fishermen must land the sharks with their fins still attached. In a meeting with the local government on the Azores in July 2013 we were told that the new EU law would mean financial ruin for one third of Spanish fishermen. At the same time we were assured that there was no finning carried out on these boats and our attention was directed to the now more elaborate storage of the sharks in the chillers on board. Warnings of economic ruin seem to have been proved accurate: In 2014, according to our local sources, far fewer Spanish ships landed sharks in the port of Horta. The floating fish factories in the channel between Faial and Pico also appear to have disappeared.

This could be seen as a positive development. However, as so often, you have to look closer to get to the truth of the matter: the sharks, despite keeping their fins attached, are no less effectively stored. This begs the question as to why it is suddenly no longer lucrative for one third of all fishermen. On the contrary: did finning continue until July 2013 in order to export the much more expensive fins to Asia?

Gegenüberstellung Fotos 2014

Gegenüberstellung Fotos 2014
(c) Friederike Kremer-Obrock

This year, then, as we (as always unannounced) did our research on site, we noticed the following: on 28 July 2014 the Manuel Alba, sailing under a Spanish flag with the home port of Vigo, landed about 90 tons of fish, predominantly shark, in the port of Horta. On the surface this appeared to be the same story as in the past. Once more it took 16 hours to transfer the load from the boat straight into the overseas container. When you look a bit closer, however, you find some significant differences. For one thing, the crew now consists mainly of Philippinos, who work on these boats for a pittance, supposedly to reduce the wage costs of the owner.

FOR ANOTHER THING, IT WAS SMALLER, YOUNGER SHARKS THAT WERE BEING UNLOADED. WHILE IN 2012 IT WAS MOSTLY ADULT BLUE SHARKS AND VERY LARGE MAKO SHARKS THAT WERE UNLOADED, NOW IT IS PRIMARILY YOUNG SPECIMENS HANGING FROM THE CRANE’S HOOK. THEY ARE GETTING SMALLER AND SMALLER …

Other than that, things have stayed the same: the “by-catch” is still 95% blue and Mako sharks. The hunting grounds are off the coast of Newfoundland (Canada). On enquiry we were told to our alarm that it’s no longer worth their while fishing in the waters around the Azores as the sharks there are too small, and there aren’t enough of them.

When you think that, according to current studies from the Marine Institute of the University of Lisbon, the breeding grounds for the blue sharks and various other protected species of shark such as the Hammerhead are located in the waters of the Azores, and that studies show that these animals go from the area around the Azores through the entire North Atlantic, then alarm bells should be ringing with all concerned.

Bewegungen Blauhaie Nord-Atlantik Studie August 2014

Bewegungen Blauhaie Nord-Atlantik Studie August 2014

The fact is that diving centres are also complaining about a significant drop in shark numbers, even in protected areas such as the Condor Banks. In 2011/12 divers on the Condor Banks would be surrounded by between five and ten sharks, and even over a dozen in peak times, whereas in 2013 this had dropped to an average of three to four sharks. In 2014 you were lucky to see a couple of these animals per dive, and usually just one. The diving centres are sounding the alarm, as dive tourism is a lucrative source of income for the islanders in the summer months.

TO DATE THE AZORES HAS BEEN CONSIDERED THE SHARK DIVING SPOT ON EUROPE’S DOORSTEP. IF THIS TREND CONTINUES, THIS ACCOLADE COULD BE A THING OF THE PAST.

The call made by SHARKPROJECT for a large marine protection area around the Azores, which would only be accessible to sustainable local fishing outfits, has not yet got anywhere. We are constantly being approached by local fishermen who say that something has to be done to stop the shark landings.

(c) Friederike Kremer-Obrock

(c) Friederike Kremer-Obrock

It must be pointed out that on the Azores there is virtually no “shark” to be found on the menus of local restaurants. Shark does indeed feature on the menu of some tourist restaurants: if the local fishermen catch the odd shark it doesn’t go to waste. But there is no specific local shark fishing on the Azores, with one exception: shark can be found in supermarkets throughout Sao Miguel. The local catch statistics indicate a very small increase in the shark catch during 2011-13, which is really quite insignificant compared to the overall figures. Only the local deep sea long line fishermen represent a serious problem for the eco-system of the Azores, which needs a long term solution.

We asked the local government in the person of the Regional Director of Maritime Affairs on Faial for an official position on the current situation, but we have yet to receive any answers to our questions.

Some very important questions remain unanswered: we would like to have known whether and to what extent the landings in the port of Horta have reduced since July 2013. We would also have been interested to know what the local government is planning to do about the extinction of the blue and Mako sharks. Does it even see these species as endangered? Does it consider that the tourism image of the Azores is damaged by the shark landings in Horta?

SHARKPROJECT DEMANDS THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A 200-NAUTICAL MILE PROTECTION ZONE AROUND THE AZORES – BUT HOW REALISTIC IS THIS FROM A POLITICAL POINT OF VIEW? AFTER ALL, THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT THIS PROTECTION ZONE WILL HAPPEN EVENTUALLY AS IT IS THE ONLY WAY TO PROTECT THE NORTH ATLANTIC’S “SHARK NURSERY” IN THE LONG TERM.

(c) Friederike Kremer-Obrock

(c) Friederike Kremer-Obrock

In the meantime we have clarified the answer to the question about who actually eats the sharks that are landed in Europe’s ports: We do!

Demand for shark’s fins in Asia is (fortunately) in decline. The European demand for shark, on the other hand, is rising steadily. The shark’s fins that are exported to Asia only make up 5% of the body; 95% of the animal, namely the flesh, is not even exported outside Europe, but instead is consumed here, including in Germany.

We Europeans consume this shark meat in various forms: as fish and chips, as ‘conger eel’ or ‘rock salmon’, as ‘Schillerlocke’, as shark steaks in the Mongolian restaurant around the corner or (a fact that is often forgotten) as the basis of artificially produced fish products and dietary supplements.

ASIA HAS LONG CEASED TO BE OUR MAIN FOCUS OF ATTENTION – EUROPE IS INCREASINGLY TAKING CENTRE STAGE. IN SPAIN, ITALY, FRANCE, ENGLAND AND ROMANIA SHARK IS BEING EATEN MORE FREQUENTLY – AND THE SAME IS TRUE FOR US IN GERMANY.

A counter argument that needs to come into play here is that shark meat is highly contaminated with methyl mercury, and the same is true for swordfish and the popular tuna.

But back to the Azores one more time:
When it comes to its waters, the Azores continues to present an outward image of clean eco-tourism. The green islands have an increasingly stringent approach to waste separation. In front of every house in Flores there is a row of yellow, green, blue and black containers; a recycling plant is up and running. From 2016 there is an ambitious plan for the islands to be entirely reliant on renewable energy for their electricity. A large hydro-electric power station is already under construction.

Plastikumgang Horta 2014 (c) Meik Obrock

Plastikumgang Horta 2014 (c) Meik Obrock

However this is all in sharp contrast to the behaviour of inhabitants, especially when it comes to plastic consumption: plastic bags are given away freely in the supermarkets. You can sometimes count up to twenty individual plastic bags in a single supermarket trolley. And these bags don’t always find their way into sustainable recycling but all too often take a “short cut” into nature and the local waters. However, this should come to an end from 2015: plastic bags will be charged for, according to plans drawn up by the local government, so that this consumption will hopefully go down.

Porto Pim / Horta 2014 (c) Friederike Kremer-Obrock

Porto Pim / Horta 2014
(c) Friederike Kremer-Obrock

It just remains to hope that these environmental concerns will finally drop below the water line and into the seas around the Azores; that the local government will finally realise how important a healthy ocean is, both economically and ecologically. A consistent level of protection for the shark stocks of the Azores is essential for the entire eco-system of the North Atlantic.

IT IS FIVE TO 12, EVEN IF NOT EVERYONE HAS REALISED THAT YET.”

 

Pictures (c) SHARKPROJECT / Friederike Kremer-Obrock, Meik Obrock, Gerald Nowak, Anja Webersberger, Christine Gstöttner, Plos.One

To whom we may concern…

On December 2nd, we received the following E-Mail from Randall Arauz, PRETOMA, Costa Rica:

As in any democracy, there is a division of powers.  Such is the case in Costa Rica.
Not unique to our country, is the fact that fishery policy is established by the industry.  This holds true in every country in the world, and the establishment of fishery policy by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations.  Thus, even if a President has the political will to carry out a task, a unilateral totalitarian decision can not be taken.  Laws have to be changed and created, and then of course, they must be implemented.

I have directed a shark campaign against shark finning since 2001, being one of the first Latin American organizations to address the problem.  True, Costa Rica was the hub for shark fins from Taiwanese fleets since 1998, when the country invited foriegn fleets to land in the privacy of their own private docks.  The Costa Rican Fishery Institute is ruled by a Board of Directors, among whose members are longliners with interests in the shark fin industry.  One of our first victories was the requirment to land fins-attached, we were the first country in the world to do so, but the regulation was impossible to implement while foreign boats were allowed to land their products in the ilegal privacy of their docks.  This has been a typical situation since we started our campaign in 2001. The executive branch wanting to implement shark finning regulations, and the fishery authoritiy protecting the interests of foreign fleets.  Changing this political arrangement requires changes in the law.

So, why do we think President Chinchilla deserves the award?  First and foremost, because she ordered the closure of the private docks on December 1 of 2010.  Pretoma had won a Constitutional Court order in January of 2006, ordering the closure of the private docks.  We asked former President Abel Pacheco (2002-2006) to implement the ruling, but he refused.  Throughout the next President’s term (Oscar Arias, 2006-2010) the State Comptrollership ordered the closure of the docks, and the Congressional Environment Committee also issued a recommendation for thier closure…but the economic and political power of the foreign fleets was too much.  Arias also refused to close the docks.  Our position back then was clear cut. As long as the foriegn fleets are allowed to land in the privacy of their own docks, no regulation will be efficient.  Recently after Laura Chinchilla took office, she ordered the closure of the private docks (December 1, 2010).

(c) La Nación

The efficiency of the measure was immediate.  No foreign boats landed for three months.  Then, in March of 2011 a boat was caught landing 2000 kilos of sharks without fins.  The tawianese Captain and company were fined for over $60K , but then came the question, what happened to the fins?  They were landed in the Nicaraguan port of San Juan del Sur, and then reimported into Costa Rica by land.  In April and May two more taiwanese boats were caught landing shark fins attached to spines.  The President of INCOPESCA was recently criminally charged by the Puntarenas prosecutor for allowing one of these landings.   No more landings of fins attached to spines have occurred, nor are on record.  The vast majority of the foreign fleet left Puntarenas and moved to other countries.  Privated docks are for sale.  However, it was now necessary to stop shark fin imports.

The shark fin imports case was exposed to the Costa Rican public through a full page add in the main newspaper, La Nación, in November of 2011.  We asked the President to close this loophole, and to foster the protection of hammerhead sharks in CITES.  By June of 2012, Costa Rica included hammerhead sharks in Appendix III of CITES (the first and only country in the world), by October of 2012 Costa Rica bannned shark fin imports, and by March of 2013 Costa Rica led the global process, together with Brazil and Honduras, to list hammerhead sharks under Appendix II of CITES.

Thus, we beleive the President deserves the award, because:

  • She ordered the closure of privated docks.
  • She ordered the ban on shark fin imports
  • Costa Rica spearheaded  the listing of hammerhead sharks in CITES with Honduras and Brazil.

Furthermore, Presidents in Democratic countries are clearly not dictators, they are under a lot of pressure from interest groups.  Since Costa Rica has the fundamental problem every other fishery nation has, and its that corporate interests dictate fishery policy, these decisions were not easy to take, and met with major political opposition, in spite of which the President stook to her guns.  To strengthen the implementation of marine conservation policy, she created the Vice Ministry of Oceans.  Costa Rica has always been in the front lines of the battle against shark finning.  We were the first nation to implement a fins attached policy against shark finning, which has been followed by the entire American continent, the European Economic Union and Australia.  We were the first and only nation to list hammerhead sharks under Appendix III, and led the process for an Appendix II listing.  Certainly, things could be better, but these are complicated political processes, change doesn’t come overnight.

We are currently campiagning for a reform of the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute, that would remove the Board of Directors and return the establshment of fishery policy to the public interest.  This reform requires the approval of the Congress.  Obviously, this propobal will face enormous opposition by the typicial corporate interests that have dictated fishery policy in Costa Rica forever.  We hope this award will strenghten Chinchilla’s position to foster this needed change, that a bill will be sent to the Congress to reform the fishery institute, and that a domino effect will follow in the region and the world, with more and more nations returning the establishment of their fishery policy to the public interest, where the best science available is used and the laws are respected.

PRETOMA will continue to obtain these reforms and turn Costa Rica into the global marine conservation leader it needs.  Organizations like Shark Project have been instrumental in supporting our efforts.  The Shark Enemy Award, granted to President Pacheco in 2006, cast a spot light on Costa Rica as a shark finning nation.  This current award to President Chinchilla casts another spotlight, but on a nation that is changing for the better.

Randall Arauz

 

Fotos (c) Randall Arauz / Pretoma / La Nación