Thursday, June 14, 2012


So CITES doesn't give a damn about Sharks.
Yes, maybe - and now what?

What about removing the infamous Dr. Giam?
Let me be crystal clear about this: he's an asshole and getting rid of him would certainly be a good thing. The Sea Shepherd petition focuses on Giam's conflict of interest and the org has accumulated a body of evidence that you can review here.
But just to play the devil's advocate: is being biased reason enough for dismissal - and if so, what about the pro-Shark NGOs like Pew or the WWF that are admitted to the sessions of the animals committee and that are clearly equally biased, only this time in favor of the good cause?
And provided one had the better arguments: wouldn't debating Giam be more credible?

And anyway, will Giam's dismissal save Sharks?
Frankly, I am not at all convinced it would, and this is why.

CITES is not primarily about conservation.
The T stands for Trade, and the treaty is about how to trade wildlife once it has been deemed sufficiently endangered to warrant its listing onto one of its appendices. The decision for that listing is not within the authority of any committee, let alone a person like Giam: instead, all such decisions are being taken by the parties, ie the countries that have signed the treaty. Furthermore, only a party can propose that such a listing be considered and a vote be taken, this at a formal so-called meeting of the Conference of the Parties, or CoP, the paramount decision-making body of CITES.
So far, zero Sharks have ever been proposed for a full trading ban under Appendix I.
The Only Elasmobranchs listed there are the Sawfishes, whereas only three Sharks are listed for regulated trade under Appendix II. Other Sharks have been proposed for listing under Appendix II but have failed (and in 2007) to reach the required 2/3 majority of votes in favor.

And the infamous animals committee?
It travels, meets, deliberates and pontificates and is supposed to advise the parties - and contrary to what is being asserted, it very much "cares" about Sharks, only not in the way we would like it to!
The transcripts appear to show that whereas there have been a lot of discussions, there is certainly no consensus, and that some of the Asian countries are clearly opposing having any further Shark species listed, to the point that China even appears to favor a review (= de-listing?) of the Basking Shark, Whale Shark and Great White!
And you may also want to read this that makes a lot of sense!

And now what?

The next meeting of the CoP is less than one year away.
So far, only two proposals for listing Sharks have been submitted:
Better than nothing - but is that good enough?
I fear that as long as Pretoma continues to report a glaring disregard of the laws by Costa Rica's fisheries agency, I remain rather skeptical about the Costarican proposal - and then there's of course this.
And Europe? I'm frankly not much impressed, Appendix III just means a lot of paper pushing and no real protection.
And then there's the USA that is still pondering whether to even do anything; and after all the frothy activism and resounding defeat last time, it very much appears that this time around, nobody will even bother to propose to list the Northern Bluefin, let alone its critically endangered Southern cousin!

Yes the global economy continues to suck and it really looks like it's gonna be Realpolitik all over again!
Hardly the right backdrop for attaining the enthusiastic support of 67% of the votes - and if I had to venture a prediction, the final result will be even worse than last time!

Which brings me straight back to this post!
Remember the outrage and remember the ensuing discussions?
To paraphrase Alex the Sharkman
But... Will the lesson be learned or will this disaster just be "forgotten", only to be repeated again when the time comes?

Indeed, that is precisely the question!
  • Have the Shark conservationists met, are they coordinating their efforts and pooling their resources, and are they going to be sending their best, most seasoned negotiators to represent the whole Shark conservation movement - or are we going to see yet again the same convention tourism by yet again the same motley uncoordinated naïve and clueless group of amateurs who will pay themselves a trip to Pattaya in order to protest, pontificate and vociferate?

  • Do we a have a champion, ie a country in favor of Shark conservation that is already vigorously, and ruthlessly lobbying in favor of Shark conservation in order to counteract what Japan, Inc. and possibly others are undoubtedly already perpetrating once again - or will the pro-ban countries and conservationists once again be ambushed by a fait accompli that has been orchestrated long before the meeting?
Anybody taking bets?
And if the answer to the above is negative: is this even a cause worth spending so much time, energy and money on, or should those resources not rather be prioritized in favor of more successful strategies?
Yes it always boils down to the same old questions!

And the good news?
I just happen to believe that CITES is the wrong body to deal with fisheries issues.
Like possibly Alex, I believe that in reality, it is the countries and the RFMOs that dispose of the relevant local know-how, and that it is them who ultimately carry the responsibility of protecting their fish stocks.
And there, things look much better: since the ignominious Doha conference, several countries and states have enacted Shark fishing and trading bans, and some RFMOs have also protected some species of Shark.

Think global, act local
Nowhere is this more true than in Shark conservation.


OfficetoOcean said...

I don't have the answers but if Giam is replaced (or encouraged to step down) does anyone believe that would solve a single thing? The issue would still exist and would still be perpetuated by a Giam MkII.

I wish I did have the answers but I don't and as well meaning as that petition is, do I think it will make a single bit of difference? No. If it did, who would regulate the changes within CITES, Sea Shepherd?!

I can't really add a great deal other than agreeing with what you say totally and I can't help but think this is just another way for some new names to jostle for the shafts of limelight bouncing off Paul Watson...Maybe I'm being overly cynical.

The Sharkman said...

I too do not have the answers but what we already know is that CITES Secretariat: Mr John Scanlon seems to be on our side. He has been pushing for the "Conflict of Interest" issue since he took over, but it has continued to be rejected.

As for the rest of the issues.... I am not aware of any other proposals at the moment. As already said, it would be better to focus our energy on our home fronts.

Peace and health to all.

OfficetoOcean said...

"As for the rest of the issues.... I am not aware of any other proposals at the moment. As already said, it would be better to focus our energy on our home fronts."

Yeah I agree with that. Just to clarify as well, "that petition" I mention is the Sea Shepherd one as opposed to any others out there doing the rounds.

Hope you're feeling better as well Alex :)

DaShark said...

It's not that complicated, really.

The metrics for investing resources into Shark conservation must be that there is a strong case that those investments will ultimately result in less Sharks being killed - correct?

So if there is a realistic hope that going to the CITES conference will result in a listing for those Sharks, then by all means those people should attend.
But they should have a common strategy, pool the resources and send only the most qualified - and this after having spent the next year lobbying the parties.

Or else, it's just gonna be the usual junket on donor money with the purpose of sippy champagny, rubbing shoulders with friends and foes, and proffering the usual statements to the media whilst pretending to be achieving something.

We shall be watching shall we not!

OfficetoOcean said...

Like almost every problem, the solution is relatively simple until people and money are thrown into the mix. I completely agree, a crack team of the shark conservation world's elite going to CITES with the financial backing of powerful orgs and concrete facts would be quite something, but ould you imagine the process of assembling that crack team?! Could the world handle that many shattered egos?

I will most certainly be watching with my expectations and hopes as low as they usually are.

I am being swallowed whole by my cynicism at the moment :D

DaShark said...

Welcome to the club buddy! :)

The Sharkman said...

"I completely agree, a crack team of the shark conservation world's elite going to CITES with the financial backing of powerful orgs and concrete facts would be quite something, but ould you imagine the process of assembling that crack team?! Could the world handle that many shattered egos?"

I very much doubt that this would ever happen. None of the Big named orgs would go for it.

When I originally initiated The "The International Year of the Shark - 2009" many of them did not even respond to our invitation let alone join in..... but later on when they saw the impact, some claimed to have been part of it!!

DaShark said...

Well Alex...

I agree, chances for that are slim indeed!

But is this acceptable?
Will the donors simply continue to accept the duplication of efforts and the ego wars, and the resulting squandering of resources?

In the end, this is about accountability.
As I said, we shall be watching - and we shall certainly call out those folks who continue to pursue those failed strategies!

Gary Stokes said...

I think the first thing you all need to look at is the complexity of the situation. All the evidence is there, you have just been too lazy or otherwise too occupied in your own ego driven campaigns to see it!
"If Dr Giam is removed or replaced, does anyone believe that will solve a single thing?", is probably the dumbest statement yet. If you look at what and who Dr Giam represents then you will understand the answer to that question. It's not about a bloody petition. A petition is merely a tool for us to use for the media to gauge how many people are interested. In a conflict of interest case which is hard to get support behind, 10,000 is a pretty good number! The shark fin industry have been 10 years ahead of you all. They put him in place and know that so long as they have someone inside lobbying, whatever you all do outside is completely irrelevant, and this shows in the protection results over the past 10 years, zero!
Why is Dr Giam so key, he is the longest serving member of CITES...why? Well he always goes for the Alternate Member role. Never the Chairman's role, everyone wants that. He goes for the position no-one wants but gets him a place at the table!
He can then lobby within CITES to the people who make a difference!
When it comes to the CoP meetings that are where the decisions are made by COUNTRIES....he has that covered too. He is a representative of SMS (Species Management Specialists) who prepare the "Influential" voting guide for all the CoP meetings. Quite easy really! So for all of you that believe that removing Dr Giam will amount to nothing, I really think you need to do your home work! Even the CITES secretariat knows this, hence why they have tried to get Conflict of Interest in place. But guess who was on the working group for that....hmm Dr Giam.
Carry on doing what you feel will make a difference, and we'll keep on with our somewhat boring fight against Dr Giam. If it's that irrelevant for him to be replaced it doesn't matter anyway. I'm not in this for the ego at all, I don't give a shit. I just want to see a massive change for the sharks.
Keep feeding your sharks in Beqa Lagoon, and making money from it, I never want to take that away from anyone. But don't have the audacity to have a go at me for taking on someone within CITES, and just stand there on the sidelines claiming to be a conservationist for sharks but critiquing us for actually doing something!

DaShark said...

My oh my Gary...
Your own ego driven campaigns?!?

So far, you appear to be very long on noise - and alas, very short on results.
Not very impressive is it.

But the proof as they say is in the pudding.
You carry on with your somewhat boring fight and with actually doing something; we carry on feeding Sharks for money and claiming to be conservationists - and let's then compare notes in one year's time, shall we.

OfficetoOcean said...

Gary I'm speechless, you really are as arrogant as you come across on Facebook.

Gary Stokes said...

The reason why I replied with the above comment is that there are too many “shark conservationists” just pouring out fluff and pretty pictures, and not doing a whole lot at all for the sharks. What wound me up was that were being criticized for taking the initiative to tackle Dr Giam and the Conflict of Interest within CITES, by people within the shark conservation movement. If my heated response offended some people I hereby apologize.
If these statements were by regular people, no problem, but by people within the shark movement its just plain negative. Anything by anyone, working to help the sharks I would have thought would be positive. The inter-group spats are just plain non-productive, and that's where the ego’s come into play that I mentioned. If all the energy used to fight between each other was channeled towards making a collective difference, we’d be so much further down the road. This is why when I started the petition, I wanted it to be a collective, rather than just SSCS and the support was astounding, 20 something organisations both big and small all behind one thing. This I see is the way forward, the different organisations are all different and our modus operandi may vary, but I believe they all have a place in the movement.
I’ve been working on Dr Giam for the past year, working with an investigator researching through all minutes of past meetings etc, rules of regs for CITES etc. It’s not the usual exciting campaigns that we may normally be known for, but SSCS do have many other campaigns that run, that may have equal the effects as those “televised”, but are rarely discussed. One would be the AIS system that just went operational in the Galapagos, covering the entire national park and enabling the park rangers to identify illegal boats entering their waters, so that they can arrest and confiscate.
Within CITES there is a massive underlying rot that permeates from Dr Giam, which is why it is so important to see the back of him. But more important is the Conflict of Interest provisos being put in place. We’ve received personal emails from both John Scanlon the Secretary General and recently the Chairman of the Animals Committee. They have both personally thanked us for bringing the matter to the forefront of discussions and have assured us that the matter is being taken very seriously. The personal feeling I get from them is that of relief, as John in particular has been trying to get Conflict of Interest in place since he took his position, but Giam and Co have blocked it each time.
I’ve also been approached by a leading Orangutan expert who has come forward and said he has files upon files of evidence on corrupt happening within CITES, but with no Conflict of Interest they are all irrelevant. Should they pass, he’ll take up all of these issues and hopefully he can better protect the orangutans. This has turned into something bigger than just the sharks. Without CITES functioning properly there will be little hope further down the line on a localized level.
If we look at whale sharks for example, they have Appendix 2 status (which personally I feel isn’t enough). But just by getting this, countries have been able to pass their own legislations to protect them. In the Philippines for example, they used to be hunted; now they are heavily policed and protected. This is why I couldn’t agree more that shark conservation needs to be handled on local levels, by locals and fisheries departments. But CITES needs to be fixed too.
I have dived with Beqa and in fact with you, Mike (though I doubt you’ll remember me, it was a long time back). After re-reading the comment above, I can see how it reads and it was never my intention to offend., so I again humbly apologize.
I hope that within a year (hopefully sooner) that you guys in Fiji get the complete sanctuary status. That’ll be great, and I hope that within a year we can get Dr Giam removed and CITES on the road to recovery.
That would spell a double win for the sharks.

DaShark said...

Apologies accepted Gary!

What you say makes perfect sense - my post was also not "against" the petition where I've posted links to all the relevant aspects; it was warning against another fiasco at next year's CITES conference for lack of proposals (!!!) and for lack of a coordinated game plan by the attending conservation orgs.

The debate among shark conservation activists?
It is necessary because too much of what is being said & done is just plain bullshit that ultimately undermines the legitimacy of those engaged in the hard and tedious work of affecting real change in a terribly complicated real world.

I'm of two minds about the SSCS.
You may have noticed my post about Operation Requiem where I praise the written announcement but blast the video - that's precisely the dichotomy of the org you represent, and I just happen to profoundly dislike the noisy side of it.
Where I come from, conservationists are invisible and shine through their achievements and not their announcements.

But that's just me & the public obviously love their heroes - legit & not so much!

Anyway, thanks for this, really - and best of luck to us all going forward!