epic tiger shark diving expeditions
plastic ocean pollution

Bahamas to ban plastic and styrofoam

A new task force has been created in the Bahamas to ban all single use plastics and styrofoam by 2020. This includes things like plastic bags, straws, food utensils, and the ubiquitous styrofoam takeout containers.

The task force is made up of The Ministry of Tourism, The Ministry of Health, The Ministry of Finance, The Customs Department, The University of The Bahamas, The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Federation (BCCEC), The Bahamas Plastic Movement, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Atlantis Paradise Island and Baha Mar Ltd.

The Bahamas will join a growing list of over 40 countries that have already, or are in the process of banning these products. Such bans are critical to reducing waste and pollution. Typically used for only 15 minutes, these items take between 500 – 1000 years to break down in land fills. In addition, they have created a dire situation of ocean pollution. It affects the health of animals, humans, and the environment.

Questions & Answers

  • Why is a Single-Use Plastics and Styrofoam Ban important to The Bahamas?

Plastic and Styrofoam waste affects human health, animals, and the environment. The overuse of plastics and Styrofoam has resulted in the widespread pollution and contamination of our environment that threatens our marine and terrestrial biodiversity. Often found scattered as litter throughout our communities and left on public beaches particularly after holiday festivities, plastic and Styrofoam litter diminishes the beauty of our islands which attracts millions of tourists annually. At the current rate of plastic pollution, The Bahamas Plastic Movement estimates that it could cause The Bahamas up to $8.5 million in tourism losses annually; a lost we cannot afford!

  • When will the ban be in effect?

The Ministry of Environment and Housing created a taskforce comprising of The Ministry of Tourism, The Ministry of Health, The Ministry of Finance, The Customs Department, The University of The Bahamas, The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Federation (BCCEC), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Atlantis Paradise Island and Baha Mar Ltd., to advance an inclusive national campaign to phase out single-use plastics such as plastic bags, straws, food utensils and Styrofoam containers by 2020.

  • What is the timeline for the phased ban?

The Ministry of Environment and Housing will embark on nation-wide public consultation and education campaign. Public input from these meetings will be used to develop a manageable phase-out plan with the target deadline of January 1st, 2020.

  • What does this project mean for the management of the New Providence Landfill and RFP Process?

Due to our isolated archipelago nature, condensed populations and tourist dominated economy, we are challenged with finding effective solutions to solid waste management. Rethinking solid waste management, this ban provides an opportunity to reduce plastic and Styrofoam waste sent to landfills which although used for approximately 15 minutes, take between 500 and 1000 years to break down. This is the first step towards developing a national waste management strategy for The Bahamas.

  • How will this ban impact food and retail outlets?

The Ministry of Environment and Housing will conduct two rounds of public consultations with retail outlets, restaurants, and hotels. Feedback gathered will assist the Ministry in developing an alternative list that meets the demand and needs of businesses.

  • Will the government reduce duty and Value Added Tax?

Customs and Finance have representatives on the Task Force and we are working with them to outline the correct protocol to reduce taxes on approved alternatives and to improve incentives for business operations. During the first round of consultations, we will be asking for the public input on proposed incentive options and approved product alternatives.

  • Will the public be involved in this process?

There will be two rounds of public consultations. The first round is projected to start at the end of April with businesses operations, environmental groups and town hall meetings.

Family Island consultations first round will start mid-June and during the summer the team will conduct a Summer Camp Crawl to engage students during the break.

At the end of the first round, we will compile all recommendations for alternatives and incentives and have a comprehensive piece of legislation for final comments.

  • When can we expect to see any legislation for this ban?

Without any unforeseen setbacks, our target deadline is the end of August after we have completed all first round consultations.

plastic ocean pollution
image used under Creative Commons: MichaelisScientists
ups bans shark fins

Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act Passes U.S. House

Shark lovers in the US are thankful for the vote on the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act in Congress this past week, in time for the Thanksgiving holiday!

The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act

The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (H.R. 737) passes the House this past week.  The goal is eliminating the sale, purchase, and possession of shark fins in the United States. The bill was Introduced by Representatives Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (I-MP) and Michael McCaul (R-TX) and passed by a vote of 310-107.

“Sharks have existed for hundreds of millions of years on this planet, and yet these remarkable apex predators now face one of the biggest threats to their survival because of the demand for their fins. More than a quarter of shark species and their relatives are at risk of extinction.

“Passing legislation to clamp down on the global shark fin trade is essential if we are going to protect sharks and maintain functioning marine ecosystems. We are grateful to Representatives Sablan and McCaul for their steadfast leadership and urge the Senate to quickly pass the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act so that it can be signed into law.” 

Animal Welfare Institute President Cathy Liss

This is not the first measure the US Congress has decided on related to shark conservation and shark finning. In 2000, lawmakers passed the Shark Finning Prohibition Act. This banned the possession of shark fins in U.S. waters absent the rest of the shark’s body. Congress later passed the Shark Conservation Act in 2010. All fishermen in U.S. waters were required to bring sharks ashore whole, with fins attached.

The Bahamas is already a shark sanctuary. There is no shark fishing of any kind allowed. This makes our Bahamas Shark Diving some of the best in the world!

Read about Obama Creates First Marine Park in Atlantic.

shark sanctuary

Protecting Shark Populations: Shark Sanctuaries

In 2009, Palau became the first nation in the world to establish a national shark sanctuary. There are now 17 shark sanctuaries around the globe where sharks are seen for their value in the ocean environment. In general, shark sanctuaries prevent:

  • commercial fishing of any sharks
  • retention of sharks caught as bycatch
  • possession, trade, and sale of any shark or shark product

The Bahamas established it’s shark sanctuary in 2011, covering all territorial waters of the island nation. In total, it’s an area of nearly 243 thousand square miles.

bahamas shark sanctuary

The Bahamas established it’s shark sanctuary in 2011, covering all territorial waters of the island nation. In total, it’s an area of nearly 243 thousand square miles.

In 2015, nations and territories in the western Pacific Ocean joined together to create the world’s first regional shark sanctuary in Micronesia. Together, this sanctuary protects 7.5 million square miles (19.4 million square kilometers) of ocean !

Because of the role that sharks play in maintaining ocean health, protecting them with sanctuaries provides ecosystem, environmental, cultural, and economic benefits.

The PEW Charitable Trusts

Read and download the Shark Sanctuaries of the World PDF from PEW

diving with caribbean reef sharks

Shark Diving Tourism in Malaysia – Publication

Shark-diving tourism as a financing mechanism for shark conservation strategies in Malaysia

As seen in many other instances, this new publication serves to identify the monetary value of sharks to a local community through tourism.  Studies like these were instrumental in many locations, including the Bahamas, being declared as shark sanctuaries.  Here’s the information on the recent publication looking at shark diving tourism in Malaysia.

ABSTRACT

This study estimated the economic value of the shark-diving industry in Semporna, the most popular diving destination of Malaysia, by surveying the expenditures of diving tourists and dive operators through the region. A willingness-to-pay survey was also used to estimate the potential of the industry as a financing mechanism for enforcement and management of a hypothetical shark sanctuary. The study showed that in 2012, shark-diving tourism provided direct revenues in excess of USD 9.8 million to the Semporna district. These economic benefits had a flow-on effect, generating more than USD 2 million in direct taxes to the government and USD 1.4 million in salaries to the community. A contingent valuation analysis indicated that implementation of a fee paid by divers could generate over USD 2 million for management and enforcement of a shark sanctuary each year. These findings suggest that shark diving is an important contributor to the economy of the Semporna region that could be used as a mechanism to assist financial resourcing for management and conservation strategies.

Shark Diving Tourism

If you would like to read more information on this particular study, click on the link here!

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.  Have you ever been diving in a shark sanctuary?

diving with caribbean reef sharks

Read about Bahamas Shark Tourism Survey

bahamas shark sanctuary

Bahamas Shark Sanctuary – advancing shark conservation

The Bahamas shark sanctuary was created in July of 2011 by adding an amendment to the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act (Chapter 244). The amendment created shark protections throughout all the territorial waters of the Bahamas, over 650,000 square kilometers of ocean. It was a major win for sharks, who already benefit from the long-line ban of 1992. The Bahamas has long history of valuing sharks, recognizing the large amount of revenue through shark specific ecotourism. Here’s what the amendment says:

  1.  Citation.

These Regulations, which amend the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Regulations, may be cited as the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) (Amendment) Regulations, 2011.

  1.  Insertion of new PART VA into the principal Regulations. 

The principal Regulations are amended by the insertion immediately after Regulation 36, of the new PART VA as follows-

PART VA

SHARK

36A. Prohibition on possessing, fishing for or landing shark or shark parts.

Subject to Regulation 36D, no person shall possess, fish for or land, any shark or shark parts with.in The Bahamas or within the Exclusive Fishery Zone ofThe Bahamas.

36B. Prohibition on the sale of shark, shark parts or shark products.

No person shall sell any shark, shark parts or shark products within The Bahamas or within the Exclusive Fishery Zone of The Bahamas.

36C. Prohibition on export or import of shark, shark parts or shark products.

Subject to Regulation 36D, no person shall export from, or import into, The Bahamas–

(a) any shark;
(b) shark parts; or
(c) shark products.

36D. Permit to fish for, possess or export any shark or shark parts for educational, scientific or research purposes.

(1) A person who wishes to fish for, have in his possession or export any shark or shark parts for educational, scientific or research purposes, shall apply to the Minister for a permit.
(2) An application made under paragraph (1), shall be made in the manner set out in Form 19A in the First Schedule.
(3) Where the Minister approves an application made under paragraph (1), he shall issue a permit as set out in Form 20A of the First Schedule, specifying the terms and conditions of the approval including the payment of fees as specified in the Third Schedule

36E. Catch and release of sharks.

A person who hooks or catches a shark while fishing shall promptly release the shark into the sea unharmed.”.

We’re obviously very excited to work in a sanctuary where sharks are protected and valued.  There’s certainly work to be done and as with any new regulations, it will take time and proper enforcement to effect change.

Bahamas Shark Sanctuary

bahamas shark sanctuary

tiger shark bahamas diving

Tiger Shark – Longest tagged tiger still reporting

Now transmitting for more that 1,240 days, “Andy” is the longest reporting tiger shark ever tagged.  Back in 2014, researchers from Nova Southeastern University’s Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) tagged the male tiger shark off the island of Bermuda.  Over the past three years, the shark has logged more than 37,500 miles with the last ping picked up on December 28, 2017.

“This amazing, nearly three and a half year track is revealing clear repeated patterns in the shark’s migrations between summer and winter,” reported Dr. Mahmood Shivji.   In the following video, you’ll see the entire track made since he was first tagged. Looks like Andy hasn’t made any stop offs at Tiger Beach, but has gotten close!

According to a paper published in the most recent ICES Journal of Marine Science by Shivji and his colleagues, tiger shark migrations are heavily influenced by a shark’s physical characteristics (i.e. size, age) and environmental variations (i.e. water temperature, prey availability). This study reveals not only the environmental factors driving these massive migrations by tiger sharks but also highlights how the different age groups behave. This information could prompt fisheries managers to reevaluate how best to protect this near-threatened species.

bahamas tiger beach shark diving

 

oceanic whitetip shark diving bahamas

Proposed Threatened Listing for the Oceanic Whitetip Shark

oceanic whitetip shark #1076

Summary

NMFS has completed a comprehensive status review under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus) in response to a petition from Defenders of Wildlife to list the species. Based on the best scientific and commercial information available, including the status review report (Young et al., 2016), and after taking into account efforts being made to protect the species, we have determined that the oceanic whitetip shark warrants listing as a threatened species. We conclude that the oceanic whitetip shark is likely to become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range within the foreseeable future. Any protective regulations determined to be necessary and advisable for the conservation of the species under ESA section 4(d) would be proposed in a subsequent Federal Register announcement. Should the proposed listing be finalized, we would also designate critical habitat for the species, to the maximum extent prudent and determinable. We solicit information to assist in this listing determination, the development of proposed protective regulations, and the designation of critical habitat in the event this proposed listing determination is finalized.

Click the link for the full details on the proposed listing:  Federal Register :: Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Threatened Listing Determination for the Oceanic Whitetip Shark Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)

cites 2016 sharks and rays

CITES 2016 Update: Press Release

CITES 2016 shark protection

Press Release

Johannesburg, October 3, 2016 – In a highly anticipated Committee session today, proposals to list devil rays, thresher sharks, and the silky shark under CITES* were supported by more than the two-thirds of voting Parties required for adoption.  Conservationists are delighted yet mindful that Committee decisions must still be confirmed in the final CITES plenary session later this week.

“Assuming these decisions stand, this is a big win for all these species of sharks and rays as governments around the world will now have to act to reduce the overfishing that threatens them,” said Andy Cornish of the WWF.

Nine devil rays, the three thresher sharks, and the silky shark were proposed by a variety of countries for listing under CITES Appendix II, which would result in international trade restrictions to ensure exports are sustainable and legal.

“We are elated by the resounding support for safeguarding the devil rays, some of the oceans’ most vulnerable animals,” said Sonja Fordham of Shark Advocates International.

Ali Hood of the Shark Trust noted, “While we’re hopeful that this important decision for silky sharks will stand, we stress that complementary fishing limits are key to the effective conservation.”

“We are grateful that governments recognize the value of healthy thresher shark populations for both fisheries and tourism,” said Ania Budziak of Project AWARE.

CITES Parties will reconvene in Plenary to begin finalizing decisions on Tuesday.

“We urge governments to endorse the Committee decisions and put in place these vital international trade controls, as a matter of priority,” added Amie Brautigam of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Earlier in the meeting, Parties agreed steps aimed at improving the traceability of shark and ray products, which is fundamental to CITES implementation. Countries’ interventions reflected a growing recognition of the vital role CITES can play in shark and ray conservation by enhancing data, improving management, and ensuring sustainable international trade.

Project AWARE, Shark Advocates International, Shark Trust, TRAFFIC, Wildlife Conservation Society, and WWF are working in partnership to promote the ray and shark listing proposals, with support from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

*Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.

shark fin ban thresher

The Shark Fin Ban That Should Be Banned

Here’s a rather interesting and unexpected take on the proposed shark fin elimination act of 2016, currently co-sponsored by 7 US senators.  There are a number of shark scientists and conservationist that believe this bill, in it’s current form, is the wrong approach.

In a letter to Senator Bill Nelson, Bob Hueter, director of the Center for Shark Research at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida, outlines his objections. At best, it’s unnecessary, he says. At worst, it harms rather than helps shark populations.

The thinking here is that shark finning is already illegal in the United States.  Returning to shore with shark fins and no shark body means you’ll end up in court, for sure.  The “fins attached” policy is the gold standard to ensure that there is no finning taking place.

There are many sharks species that are completely legal to catch as of now.  When those sharks are brought in to shore, the meat is sold just like an other fish, in addition the the fins, liver oil, skin, etc.  The whole shark is used and nothing goes to waste.

The proposed ban would change that. The meat could still be eaten or sold, but any fins would have to be tossed overboard, thrown into the trash, or used for display or research purposes by a museum, college, or university, to avoid breaking the law. “It’s going in the opposite direction from the goal of any fishery,” says Hueter. That is, to “utilize as much as you can, and throw away as little as you have to.”

This would effectively eliminate Americans from the shark fin trade which would, in turn, just give more opportunity for other countries that fill the gap.  This would likely be countries that participate in the illegal fin trade.  Hueter also notes that when it comes to shark fins, the United States is a small drop in a vast ocean of trade; only three percent of the Asian imports hail from its waters. “Shutting down the US supply … will have no real impact on this market.”  This is unlike the ban of the sale of elephant ivory that took place in 2014.  At that time, the US was a major consumer of elephant ivory so the ban was effective at turning the tide.

In summary, it would seem that as long as it’s legal to catch sharks in the US, some feel that it would be extremely wasteful to not allow the sale of the fins from those same sharks.  It’s not shark finning if the entire shark is brought to market.  This bill will not ban catching sharks for commercial reasons.  It will just make the sale of the fins illegal.  Stopping any shark fins from being imported or exported to/from the US would have a much greater impact.

Here is Oceana’s video making the case for the passage of the bill:

Read the full text of the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act of 2016 here.
Read the full article in Hakai Magazine here: The Shark Fin Ban That Should Be Banned | Hakai Magazine