Wednesday, March 02, 2011

David on Shark Conservation!

Great post by David, aka WhySharksMatter - again!
Please read it, and also, please read his post Shark Conservation: The problem, the goal, and how to get there!

You may have noticed that I left a rare comment on the latter.
I obviously stand by what I said there as it very much reflects what this blog has been advocating all along. Being intimately involved in Shark Conservation on the ground, I would however like to add a further caveat.

It's about the need to ensure adequate enforcement.
It's wonderful if some nations declare Shark sanctuaries and others enact better pro-Shark legislation - but for all of that to be deemed a conservation success, it must ultimately reduce the number of Sharks that are being killed. That will only happen if on top of enacting laws, those nations are in a position to enforce them.

Do we believe that to be the case?
Look no further than the situation of the Mediterranean Northern Bluefin fisheries, an excellent proxy for Sharks, and how it is being plagued by rampant cheating and considerable IUU . It's a total mess - and these are wealthy first world countries that one would assume have the means to do a much better job!
But of course, in that specific case, it's not only a matter of resources but of politics - and those are pretty much rotten!

Back to the Sharks.
The bulk of the slaughter does not happen in the first world, it happens offshore or in developing countries.
Even when they have the will to implement Shark protection laws, and an increasing number do, most of those countries largely lack the necessary resources for the implementation. Yes, it's about the money for personnel, computers, vessels, etc to secure the enforcement but also the successful prosecution of perpetrators - but it's also very much about capacity building in terms of training the people tasked with the enforcement, developing effective and efficient structures and procedures, combating corruption and advocating accountability, etc.
This is the short term strategy.

In the long run -and here I agree with David- we will have to develop and roll out awareness and education campaigns to create a national consensus in favor of sustainable livelihoods.
But that's of course the long term strategy - and when it comes to Sharks, we simply do not have that time and must focus on those urgent short term solutions first.

Right now, what I see is much legislation and much awareness.
Both are comparatively easy to achieve and above all, they are comparatively cheap and deliver highly visible and rapid results, making them ideal vehicles for NGOs and their continuous search for donor funding. Great marketing - but let there be no doubt that it's simply not good enough!

Let me repeat: the metrics for success is that less Sharks are being killed.
Yes enforcement is expensive and difficult, and achieving tangible result is bound to be tedious and slow.
But if we convince poor countries to enact pro-Shark laws but then walk away without giving the authorities the means to implement them, and thus task them with what is essentially mission impossible, we're at best naive and at worst, total hypocrites!
Please, think about it.

And then, there's this.
Are we putting into place safeguards to ensure that our achievements can and will not be reversed in some future legislative cycle?
Again, please think about it - but that's another story and the topic of a future post.


WhySharksMatter said...

Thanks for the link, Mike! You raise some good points. Any ideas on how to make them happen?

DaShark said...

I suspect that viable solutions will differ depending on location and specific conditions on the ground.

But in general terms, once we start, we gotta make a long term commitment, also in terms of providing funds as opposed to only sound bites and activism.

As an example, I like what I see in the Bahamas.
There, the Pew (who is essentially a potential donor) has aligned itself with the BNT who has excellent penetration both at the grassroots and government levels, with prominent Shark advocates and researchers like Guy Harvey, and with the tourism and diving industry who will ultimately profit from the protection and provide for jobs and also revenues for the Bahamian government.

That's smart and inclusive, and it also has all the ingredients for making this long term sustainable.

Concerning my other caveat, as I said, it will be the topic of a forthcoming post.