Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Poaching in a Shark Sanctuary!

And talking of different Shark Sanctuaries.

Read this.
Whereas yours truly has always supported them as stop-gap measures, my pal Patric has always been a staunch, and vocal skeptic of the effectiveness of Shark Sanctuaries; and I must congratulate him for having made the personal effort and come up with clear evidence for poaching in the Marshalls and beyond.

But is the system broken like he asserts?
Dunno - and neither does he!

As always, it's a matter of nuance.
Shark poaching does not automatically invalidate a Sanctuary.
The way I see it, the aim of the Sanctuary legislation is not Shark preservation but Shark conservation - and where I'm coming from, conservation does not consist in preserving every last individual but instead, aims at preserving populations, or species.
And this I believe is being achieved by keeping mortality below sustainable levels.

Granted, others may differ - but that's how I see it.
And when it comes to the Marshalls and for the matter, to most if not all of those Sanctuaries, we simply do not have the hard data to make a final judgement about their effectiveness as conservation tools. 

But of course we can make educated guesses.
Looking at the list by Pew, I suspect that French Polynesia and New Caledonia "work" because of strong French monitoring and enforcement; and the Bahamas and some other Caribbean ones may benefit from the economic importance of Shark tourism and the fact that there was never a noticeable commercial Shark fishery there in the first place. The others are certainly a mixed bag, from likely suspect in Honduras, the Cooks, Western Samoa and definitely the Maldives, to "difficult" in Micronesia where the Marshals and Palau are probably the "best" and the FSM with its shredded Mantas the worst.
But again, this is merely guesswork - and one would really hope that Pew will one day step up and provide some scientific evidence for what has been successful, and what has not, as they should!

Long story short?
Despite of the preferences of the professional Shark people, this is the real world where in many developing countries, western-style science-based fisheries management will remain wishful thinking for a very long time indeed; and there, Shark Sanctuaries may be one viable quick-fix solution, this very much in line with the precautionary principle. Yes there are certainly other strategic approaches - but from what I can discern, they will once again take a lot of time to fully implement.

I ask, do we really have that time?
And if the answer is, probably not, should we maybe consider abandoning the current entrenched ideological positions in favor of practical solutions = short term prohibition that can later be eased in favor of management?

C'mon people.
Aren't we ultimately all working towards the same goal = shouldn't the tribalism, money and recognition only be of secondary importance?

Just asking!


Patric Douglas said...

Thanks Mike,

To be clear Nuclear Sharks wasn't designed as a show about IUU (Disco wouldn't have bought it). We were tagging sharks to understand how they repopulated after 23 nuclear detonations and 65+ wider radioactive fallout events. Grey reefs are not known to make big pelagic style deepwater movements so that was our primary focus.

The discovery of IUU took 7 months of dogged, daily, data crunching and it was a big surprise. Especially the Phillipines connection.

As I said many years ago:

"SINO's are the looming Act Two for shark conservation. Getting a politician to make promises for the environment is a time honored tradition. Getting that same politician or his or her successor to follow through with hard and fast enforcement is where the rubber meets the road.

That rubber will cost millions of dollars to the shark conservation movement who have managed thus far to get Sanctuaries declared at a pace that has been stunning to watch. It has also been a relatively cheap affair, conservation light, with dollars spent verses sanctuary acres created part of the ongoing equation.

Where enforcement monies, infrastructure, and boots on the ground will come from for these newly created sanctuaries anyone knows.

Before another country declares a Sanctuary for Sharks we should be looking at how we are going to manage the millions of remote acres we already have locked away in countries that have a long track record of SINO.

It's where we have to focus in the next decade and it all starts with dollars and a plan."

I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment that sanctuaries hopefully preserve just enough sharks they can sustain a population.

Unfortunately, they are being sold to the public as a different animal, and to the small island nations with few enforcement dollars in a similar manner.

Is that system broken? Yes. I would like to see a next generation of oceans drone enforcement put in place, and for the NGO's with the millions step up to get enforcement done. It's not rocket science, it's action.

Hopefully our show opens up a wider conversation about IUU and sanctuaries. But, if you ask me, it will be business as usual because we are talking about boots on the ground sustained activity with a high dollar price tag, something up until now the NGO's (yes PEW) who are pushing sanctuaries have steadfastly refused to do.

On a side note, once you get out there and meet the fishermen, hear the stories, look at their videos (they all have gopro) you begin to understand how bad it is. This is a global business first and foremost, the goal is to make money. We should be disrupting that business model if we want to effect change.

Sanctuaries will be effective when we create "vessel insecurity" within these wonderful set aside regions of the planet. In desperation some have resorted to burning IUU vessels.

An estimated 55% of our entire sample group was lost to IUU. Is that sustainable? Who knows, until we talked Disco into purchasing the tags no one had done any shark science there since 1955.



DaShark said...

To be fair, some of the NGOs are already invested in developing novel hi-tech monitoring solutions
Pew's Ocean Legacy Project has developed Eyes on the Seas and CI is availing itself of Oceana's Global Fishing Watch - and yes, note the bloody duplication of efforts once again...

But trying to monitor thousands of fishing vessels across squillions of acres, to then try and apprehend any wrongdoers is obviously very much needles and haystacks.

Personally, I'd like to see a much improved focus on the traders.
That's where all that seafood ultimately aggregates, and they are comparatively few, are based on land and cannot hide. It is they who reap the biggest benefits and it is also they who ultimately determine what the fishermen target.
Like I said a long time ago, they should be held accountable not only for the sustainability but also for the legality of their merchandise, and this by reversing the burden of proof and asking for independent certification.

It it can be done in the diamond trade it can be done here - or not? :)

Patric Douglas said...

It all comes down to money and boots on the ground projects, doesn't it? BTW great idea of yours!

Give me a million dollars and I will give you back 10/100K projects that combat IUU now, not tomorrow, and not after the release of a white paper or some luminary conference filled with gloomy stats delivered in colorful fonts.

Project Eyes on Seas relies on AIS vessel tracking data. It's an opt in system. But what happens when you turn off AIS? You get a Ghost Fishing Vessel which is the current state of fishing, one flick of one switch and you can go anywhere and do anything.

Worse yet, you can buy an AIS cheat device for $100. This tells satellites that you are a different vessel many miles away from where you really are, how does the PEW system filter that?

Not saying that vastly better situational awareness isn't a good thing, it is, but like you pointed out there are layers and layers we can apply to make life far more "interesting" for the bad guys.

In the time it took the write this 75,000 pounds of illegal fish were taken from the world's oceans.

We don't have time to beta test small projects, or throw out breathless press releases about laudable Ten Year Goals, we have just enough time to get going and "do". I would hate to be the generation that lost all the tasty fish because we didn't do enough sooner.

I have always been a fan of "doing".

DaShark said...

I have always been a fan of "doing".

Yup you have! :)
And I got no doubt that something is already cooking... right?
Looking forward to the unveil!

Patric Douglas said...

Money and boots on the ground...I just keep saying that like a and boots on the ground...;)