Friday, August 23, 2013

Shark Savers and WildAid - Merger!

Boy oh boy.
I've been asked to write something constructive - but to be perfectly frank, I don't quite know where I stand on this.
So bear with me - it's gonna be what it's gonna be.

So there - the cat is finally out of the bag.
Shark Savers and WildAid have announced that they are merging pending ratification by the relevant authorities. This is the official announcement by Shark Savers, this is the official announcement by WildAid, and these are some further explanations and reflections by Michael Skoletsky.
The merged org will be called WildAid.

Prima vista, this is obviously a good thing.
There are way too many orgs in Shark conservation, and pooling one's resources is certainly the rational thing to do. Shark Savers and WildAid have a long and successful history of cooperation, latest of which the brilliant Manta Ray of Hope project and subsequent stellar advocacy at CITES - so judging by those metrics alone, the future looks bright indeed. I'm also really, really happy to learn that Michael, DaMary and Sam are joining the new org as they are all friends with a terrific track record.

And yet I am saddened.
Ever since the eviction of Andersen and all her crazy BS, I've been a staunch supporter of Shark Savers' agenda of pragmatic and science based conservation initiatives and messaging.

WildAid, not so much.
Check out this interview with Tod Bensen.

This is of course compelling stuff.
And there is certainly a need to curb demand.
Indeed, if you look at the 2000 numbers (click on the graph), finning accounts for 908 tons of the 1411 tons of caught Sharks that were not discarded, making it 64% or roughly 63 million Sharks of which we can state that they were caught for their fins alone. Then of course there is an additional albeit unknown number among the IUU and FAO number - and judging from what we learn about what is happening now in the W/C Pacific, those trends do not appear to have been much reversed.
So once again, judging by those metrics alone WA's principal focus is certainly legit.

I also understand the part about the need to be a niche player.
And still, for me, this is just too uni-dimensional. I won't bother you with the usual ranting about the fact that "Sharks" are not Rhinos and neither all endangered, nor apex predators nor keystone species, or about supply limited fisheries and sustainability, let alone certified Shark fins - just read the links if you care, or don't. The real world is way more nuanced, and so must be the different conservation strategies.
What I will however say is that Shark Savers has a broader scope and that I like that - so here's to WildAid becoming more broadly involved as a result of the merger!

And then, there's the messaging.
Shark Savers has it down to an art, both on their website that is easy to read and navigate, and brimming with excellent content, and on their stellar Facebook page where Sam is doing an excellent, commendable job. WildAid's website is frankly optically rather shocking, and their FB is a mish-mash of different causes that will not equally appeal to all the Shark people.
So here's to a better website and to a dedicated Shark FB page!

Long story short?
One will need to see where this is going.
The merger can result in a better, better funded, more broadly based and generally much improved organization and as long as it appears to be heading that way, it still has my full support and Godspeed to everybody involved.
And if not, not.

To be continued no doubt!

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