Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Part One!

Shark pic of the Year!

So there.
2011 is slowly petering out, the shop is closed so that the staff can enjoy a well deserved rest and I’ve got some spare time on my hand – so brace yourselves for a lengthy recap of 2011!
You have been warned!

This time, it’s not gonna be about BAD.
Thanks to our clients that have once again visited us in record numbers, we did very well indeed – and so did Shark Reef where biodiversity continues to increase and where once again, we recorded a record number of Bulls - and it ain’t over yet: from what we can already see now, we will very likely witness a further increase in 2012!
As of September 1st, we are also completely carbon neutral after having sponsored the planting of 330,000 mangroves, very likely a world first – and again, this is just an intermediate step as we’re currently planting more in order to offset the carbon footprint of our clients!
Finally, we’ve again met some wonderful new people, many of which researchers, and are involved in several ground-breaking projects that will hopefully come to fruition next year.
Keep watching this space!

But as I said, this post is not about us.
2011 has been an exceptional year for global Shark conservation and outreach. It has also seen the continuation of the usual shenanigans.

And without further ado – 2011 as seen by DaShark!

The Good

This is the easy part.

But lemme first tell you where I’m coming from here.
The way I see it, the only metrics for effective Shark conservation is that less Sharks are being killed, full stop. The rest is just fluff and we shall talk about it later.

Having now been involved in Shark conservation for close to a decade and having seen the varying success of various approaches, I remain firmly of the opinion that regardless of the anger at seeing the all-pervasive global slaughter of Sharks, the only winning strategy when advocating Shark conservation is to remain strictly fact-based, pragmatic and willing to compromise.
Successful conservation is always the result of negotiations where we are asking others to enact pro-Shark legislation - and whereas sometimes popular support (and thus petitions) may help, the arguments must never the less be rock solid. Never forget that legislation can as easily be repealed – and it will if the arguments supporting it are proven to have been fraudulent!

By the same token and very much like the science it is based upon, Shark conservation remains always in flux and is evolving rapidly based on the latest science but also on the success (and the failings) of the latest conservation initiatives.
As an example, legislation has evolved massively in 2011 as the forces of evil have shown considerable cunning in exploiting loopholes and otherwise circumventing the law, and as it has become painfully evident that the best legislation will always remain completely toothless unless it gets adequately enforced. The latter requires considerable resources for capacity building, monitoring and prosecution that must be an integral component of any such initiative in developing countries.

And one last thought.
As the global recession is far from over, 2011 has seen a further shrinking of the resources available to research and conservation. With that in mind and because the Shark fin industry is supply limited, we need to prioritize our resources and invest them where the Sharks are being killed - and yes, like an old broken record, I'm repeating myself - and will continue to do so, over and over again!

Anyway, here is the list.

  • Most impressive Shark Conservation Org: The Pew Environment Group's Global Shark Campaign.

    I must confess that for once, I’m quite at a loss of positive attributes here. I was going to painstakingly try and enumerate the many achievements but thankfully, they have done so themselves. Far from the huge bureaucratic overhead of the established NGOs, this is but a tiny group: but its members are smart, dedicated and extremely hard working individuals who know how get the job done and who like in the real world, operate under a strict regime of deliverables, deadlines and accountability. And no, they don't achieve their success by throwing money at the problems as some of their pathetic detractors claim, but by being solution-oriented, strictly science-based, pragmatic and diplomatic - and thus widely accepted as valuable expert interlocutors by the powers that be.
    The strategy has been to concentrate on the supply side by successfully advocating changes in fisheries policies at national, regional and global levels.
    This is how you do it – which of course begs the question, what have all the other, bigger, more established and more vocal orgs been doing all these years!

  • Most improved Shark Conservation Org: Shark Savers

    Shark Savers continues to evolve and I like where it is going, the more as I’m good friends with several of the people involved, some of which for a very long time indeed. 2011 has seen a long overdue consolidation at the top where the org is now being steered by intelligent, pragmatic and solution-oriented individuals, resulting in solid Shark conservation successes. Case in point: this year's Florida Shark protection measures where they have played a preeminent role, the stellar project Manta Ray of Hope, see below, and much along the lines of think global act local, this recent victory in the Midwest (bravo Penny!).

  • Most promising new marine Conservation Org: One World One Ocean

    This is a brand new undertaking and there is thus no track record except for a stellar PSA.
    But I like the people, the pragmatic message and the mission and look forward to many successes in the years to come. The principal difference to other media-based initiatives: no personal self promotion but above all, a long term track record of getting the message across – meaning distribution distribution distribution!

  • Most impressive individual Shark Advocate: Stefanie Brendl

    The victim of an appalling and by no means resolved witch hunt in Hawaii (check on the oldest posts), Stefanie has not given up but instead, completely re-invented herself and become one of the most respected global Shark advocates in the process. Following their ground breaking Shark fin ban in Hawaii, she and Senator Clayton Hee have successfully expanded the concept to several US territories and states. Their approach has been quiet, rational, pragmatic and science-based diplomacy instead of activist clamoring. Passionate, goal-oriented and doggedly determined, Stefanie gets the job done whilst operating in the background and leaving the limelight to others – deservedly and alas, very much not so, see Part Two.
    So here’s to Stefanie, heroine of Sharks!

  • Most impressive Shark Conservation Achievement: Bahamas Shark Sanctuary

    Who would have thought!
    Having previously talked to literally scores of insiders about the need to protect the Sharks there, everybody was telling me that getting meaningful conservation enacted in the Bahamas was strictly mission impossible – and then Pew and the BNT (and yes: many others did help) managed to pull it off without any notable hiccups in a matter of mere months! This is a massive achievement and a testament to the quality and effectiveness of the approach by Pew and it cannot be applauded enough!

  • Best new Elasmobranch Conservation Initiative: Manta Ray of Hope

    Although not directly an initiative by Shark Savers (or is it?), it is very much associated with them. Once again, kudos for a brilliant, important and timely project!

  • Best Shark Conservation Resources: Reports by Pew

    Once the clear niche of Oceana of which I used to be a fan but where I am increasingly becoming critical, the reports authored by Pew are a meticulously researched treasure trove of hard facts, always up-to date science and pragmatic solutions – the latter very much setting them apart from the widespread whining and lamenting! A must-read for anybody wanting to stay abreast of modern, solution-oriented Shark conservation!

  • Best Outreach in Shark Research: Neil Hammerschlag and the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program

    This is how you do it.
    This is simply brilliant outreach via blog, Facebook, video and undoubtedly many more outlets, showing that Shark research can be fascinating, fun, hip and young. I remain concerned by those SPOT tags and only time will tell whether the data will somehow justify the invasive methods – but all-in-all, I really do like the people and the energy and am impressed by the passion and also by the willingness to tackle some of the more controversial aspects of Shark research.
    Well done!

  • Best Shark Conservation print Media: Juliet Eilperin

    Juliet’s contribution to catapulting Shark conservation into the mainstream media has been invaluable. Extremely well informed and (frustratingly) balanced, she continues to crank out stellar pro-Shark pieces that directly counteract the appalling hype by the tabloids.

  • Best Shark Conservation television programs: CNN

    Bravo and thank you CNN for having embraced the cause of Shark conservation with frequent, balanced and always interesting programming!

  • Best Nature Programming: BBC

    Who else – the measure of all documentary work, the one and only, the best of the best, forever emulated and forever unrivaled and unmatched!
    Need I elaborate? I sure hope not!

  • Best Shark Conservation Movie: Sanctuary: The Last Stand for Sharks

    So far, it appears that it has only been shown to select audiences in the Bahamas. Funded by Pew and (I believe) produced by Shawn, it combines great visuals with strict scientific data. I’ve seen it at DEMA and it is my hope that there will be a less Bahamas-centric director’s cut for viewing by a larger audience.
    Great job Shawn, I'm actually quite impressed!

  • Best Shark Picture: this one, featured at the top!

  • Best Shark Dance: David Shiffman

    Nobody and i mean Nobody! comes even close to David’s beautifully choreographed species-specific routines combining his dazzling footwork with exquisite artistic expression, period! Here’s to the Fred Astaire of Shark conservation - and frugal fashionista to boot!

  • Most promising Shark Conservation Newcomers, ex aequo: Madi Pip Stewart, Christine Shepard, David Diley

    The common denominator: passion and a lot of talent.
    But as always, this is only the beginning. Having witnessed how other promising talents have quickly succumbed to the temptations of fame and money, or just simply lost interest, only time will tell whether these are mere blips or whether we are witnessing the start of careers that could be remarkable indeed.
    So far so great!

  • Best Shark News Website: Shark Year Magazine

    It may well be an old hat but having only discovered it recently, it's new to me. Shark Year Magazine impresses by being exhaustive in covering all aspects of Shark news from fishing to strikes to the latest science.

  • Best Shark Info Website: Elasmodiver

    Andy Murch’s Shark website is truly a treasure trove of information, often interspersed with personal and intelligent observations by the author who proves to be a true Shark expert – and this for once in a positive sense!

  • Best Shark Blog: Underwater Thrills

    How could it be any different!
    His is the other watchdog blog and like this scribe, Patric does not shun to dabble in controversy of which there is plenty – especially if you got no patience for bullshit! The difference being, where I regularly get outraged and start firing broadsides, he retains his composure and dissects sarcastically, something which is both way more effective and also, way nastier! Whereas we sometimes disagree vehemently, we are united by the fact that we get called names by very much the same people, something I carry as a badge of honor – as I suspect does he!

  • Best Marine Science Blog: Southern Fried Science

    In all honesty, this is likely the last year where I would assign the honors to them. I sense that the boyz are growing up and being kept increasingly busy pursuing their professional careers. Blogging is excruciatingly time consuming and requires staying on the ball, something very few can afford once they enter the daily treadmill. But for 2011, SFS has continued to be my very favorite marine blog, this largely to the epic posts mentioned below.

  • Best Blog Posts on Shark-related Issue: WhySharksMatter on the Junior Controversy.

    I must say, David’s two posts here and here, and especially, the ensuing epic threads and moderation by both David and Andrew have been nothing short of stellar. This is a brilliant exercise in investigative journalism shining a cold spotlight on the Californian GW research scene - more in Part Two.

  • Best Shark Facebook Pages, ex aequo: Shark Defenders and Shark Savers

    There is now a legion of Shark conservation Facebook pages and making a choice has been difficult. My personal criterion: whether or not they allow the Shark whacks to post their ramblings – and both these pages do thankfully not but instead, they are regularly updated and feature interesting news and causes worth pursuing.

  • Most deserved Accolades: Doc becoming a featured Nat Geo Explorer

    Whereas it is quite impossible to overstate Doc’s contribution to Shark research and Shark conservation, I believe that his true legacy will be that he has found the time to educate and mentor a whole new generation of brilliant and equally passionate Shark researchers who are truly among the crème de la crème in their field.
So, have I already managed to piss somebody off like usual?
Wait til you see Part Two! :)


Angelo Villagomez said...

I hereby challenge that scientist-in-training down in Miami to a dance off!!!

DaShark said...

Camera running I hope!

And the prize - Neil's orange Crocs?

WhySharksMatter said...

Challenge accepted, Angelo. I used to be a competitive line dancer and have won informal dance-offs on behalf of the United States in the Bahamas, Caymans, and Australia. I doubt Neil would give up his orange crocs though.

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

Aww thanks Mike, methinks that award should be shared equally, your blog is a gold standard has been since its inception and hopefully will be for years to come.