epic tiger shark diving expeditions
whale shark endangered

Whale Sharks now considered Endangered by IUCN

The IUCN have announced that whale sharks are sliding towards ‪#‎extinction‬. The worlds largest fish, is now listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (previously listed as Vulnerable).

Major Threats

IUCN threat categories endangered

Major contemporary threats to Whale Sharks include fisheries catches, bycatch in nets, and vessel strikes. Other threats affect Whale Shark on local or regional scales.

Whale Sharks are presently fished in several locations. In southern China, large-scale commercial take of Whale Sharks appears to be increasing (Li et al. 2012). Although Whale Sharks are not necessarily targeted, they are routinely captured and retained when sighted (Li et al. 2012). A small-scale opportunistic fishery for Whale Sharks is also present in Oman (D. Robinson, pers. comm).

Whale Sharks have previously been targeted in large-scale fisheries from India, the Philippines and Taiwan, with hundreds of sharks caught annually in each country until species-level protections were implemented (Rowat and Brooks 2012). A smaller directed fishery occurred in the Maldives until Whale Sharks were protected in 1995 (Anderson and Ahmed 1993). Broader-scale subpopulation reduction caused by these fisheries was raised as a possible driver of declining sightings in Thailand (Theberge and Dearden 2006) and Western Australia (Bradshaw et al. 2008). Occasional directed catch or bycatch of Whale Sharks has been documented from many of their range states, particularly where large-mesh gillnets are in common use (Rowat and Brooks 2012).

Tuna are often associated with Whale Sharks, and tuna purse-seine fisheries often use Whale Sharks as an indicator of tuna presence, even setting nets around the sharks (Capietto et al. 2014). Direct mortality in purse-seine fisheries appears to generally be low, recorded as 0.91% (one of 107) and 2.56% (one of 38) of sharks where fate was reported by observers in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, respectively (Capietto et al. 2014). However, estimated mortality rates in the Western Central Pacific purse-seine fishery were higher: 12% for 2007–2009 and 5% in 2010. This extrapolated to a total mortality of 56 sharks in 2009 and 19 in 2010 (Harley et al. 2013). Observer reports on release condition from this region from 2010–2014 were generally consistent, with 50–60% of encircled sharks released alive, 5–10% dying and 30–40% of status unknown (Clarke 2015). Assuming a poor outcome for the latter category, potential mortalities in 2014 range from a minimum of 11 to 42, with a higher number possible depending on longer-term survival of the sharks released alive (Clarke 2015). Available data on the number of Whale Sharks caught are likely to underestimate total catch (Clarke 2015). The longer-term survivorship of Whale Sharks released from nets has not been examined at this stage. Common release practices, such as being lifted or towed by the caudal peduncle, are likely to cause stress, injury and possibly death to the sharks.

Shipping lanes, where they are placed close to Whale Shark feeding areas, can create a serious risk of vessel strikes. Whale Sharks routinely feed at the surface (Motta et al. 2010, Gleiss et al. 2013), and propeller injuries are commonly recorded during monitoring programs (Rowat et al. 2006, Speed et al. 2008, Fox et al. 2013). While mortality events are seldom reported in the contemporary scientific literature, they were often noted from slower-moving vessels in the past (Gudger 1941). It is likely that fast-moving, large ships do not register or report impacts, and as Whale Sharks will typically sink upon death, these are unlikely to be documented (Speed et al. 2008). Areas where Whale Sharks appear to be at particular risk include the Mesoamerican reef countries in the Western Caribbean (Graham 2007, R. de la Parra-Venegas pers. comm.) and Gulf states (D. Robinson pers. comm.), where a high frequency of serious propeller injuries are observed during monitoring.

Inappropriate tourism may be an indirect threat to Whale Shark in some circumstances (for example from interference, crowding or provisioning). Marine pollution events occurring in Whale Shark hotspots, such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 (Hoffmayer et al. 2005, McKinney et al. 2012), may result in mortality or displacement from preferred habitats. These more local threats, as well as potential future concerns such as climate change impacts (Sequiera et al. 2014), should be closely monitored.

Read more about the Whale Shark on the IUNC’s website

whale sharks endangered

Read about Protecting Oceanic Whitetip Sharks

Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act of 2016.

Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act of 2016

Very proud of the 5 US senators for proposing the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act of 2016.  Cory Booker (D, NJ), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), John McCain (R-AZ), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) hope to eliminate the selling of shark fins in every state in the nation.

Sharks are one of the ocean’s apex predators, meaning they control the rest of the food chain and countless interactions in the blue abyss. They regulate populations, as well as provide economic value for humans, like tourist boating trips. 

There are currently 11 states (TX, DE, HI, IL, MA, MD, NY, OR, RI, CA, WA) as well as the territories of American Somoa, Guam, and the North Mariana Islands that have implemented a ban.

Sharks are one of the ocean’s apex predators, meaning they control the rest of the food chain and countless interactions in the blue abyss. They regulate populations, as well as provide economic value for humans, like tourist boating trips.

“Every year, it is estimated that over 70 million sharks end up in the global shark fin trade, and fining is pushing some species of sharks to the brink of extinction,” Senator Booker said. “With this bipartisan measure, America can become a global leader by shutting down the domestic market for shark fins. Sharks play a pivotal role in marine ecosystems, and we must do more to protect them.”

If the act is approved, it will remove the United States contribution of shark fins to the global market, lowering demand and hopefully creating a lull in finning. It will also allow for stronger enforcement of the “no finning” ban in the United States and put the country in a stronger position to advocate internationally for abolishing the fin trade in other countries.

Please take 60 seconds to electronically sign this letter to congress through Oceana’s website.

Letter to Congress

Dear Members of Congress:

I am writing to urge you to support the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act of 2016, which would prohibit the sale and trade of shark fins in the United States. Sharks have been on our planet for over 420 million years – 200 million years before dinosaurs walked the Earth. Although sharks have survived major mass extinction events, human activities including overfishing, bycatch and the demand for shark fins now pose the greatest threat to their survival.

In fact, every year, fins from up to 73 million sharks enter the global shark fin trade. Many of these sharks have been finned. Shark finning involves cutting the fins off the body of the shark and saving them for sale, while dumping the body of the shark back into the sea to drown, bleed to death or be eaten alive. This cruel, wasteful practice puts many shark species at risk of extinction.

Although the practice of shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters, the United States still participates in the shark fin trade. Shark fins continue to be imported into the United States either from countries that do not have similar shark finning restrictions, from sharks finned on the high seas, or from illegal shark finning in U.S. waters. Since 2010, the United States has imported fins from 11 countries, five of which do not have any type of finning ban.

Many of the sharks targeted for their fins have long lifespans, mature slowly, and produce relatively few young, making them especially vulnerable to overexploitation and population loss. In fact, more than 70 percent of the most common species in the fin trade are at a high or very high risk of extinction. Due to the difficulty in identifying shark species based on detached and processed fins, it is easy for threatened species to end up in the shark fin market.

What is equally troubling is that the trade data reported to the FAO does not match NOAA’s own fin data. For example, between 2000 and 2011, NOAA reported that, on average, the United States imported 75,000 pounds of fins every year, yet the total number reported as having been exported to the U.S. by the exporting countries was a staggering 580,000 pounds —more than seven times NOAA’s amount!

The Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act, introduced by Senator Booker (D-NJ), Senator Capito (R-WV), Representative Sablan (D-MP) and Representative Royce (R-CA) would create a nationwide prohibition on the trade of shark fins, therefore reinforcing the status of the United States as a leader in shark conservation.

Eleven states and three territories already have passed bills to ban the trade of shark fins—Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, California, Illinois, Maryland, Delaware, New York, Massachusetts, Texas, Rhode Island, Guam, the North Mariana Islands and American Samoa. A number of leading companies have also banned the selling and shipment of shark fin products, including GrubHub, Amazon, Disney, UPS, American Airlines and Hilton Worldwide. Please join them by supporting the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act.


Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act of 2016.

Source: 5 US senators take a stand for sharks – Business Insider


Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act of 2016.

Here’s another side to the story: The Shark Fin Ban That Should Be Banned

pew bnt shark conservation bahamas

Caribbean Shark Conservation Symposium

From the BNT

The Bahamas National Trust Co-hosts Caribbean Shark Conservation Symposium: Expanded regional shark protections discussed during meeting

The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) joined the Government of St. Maarten, St. Maarten Nature Foundation, and The Pew Charitable Trusts as hosts of the Caribbean Shark Conservation Symposium, which took place from Tuesday, June 13 through Thursday, June 16. The gathering of Caribbean island government officials, environmental NGOs, and global shark conservation experts was coordinated to discuss the future of shark conservation in the region.

As the first Caribbean country to establish a shark sanctuary and a leader in the region, the voice of the The Bahamas was represented at the meeting by Eric Carey, Executive Director of BMT.

Carey said: “The Bahamas National Trust has been promoting shark conservation for many years. Our efforts to secure the longline ban nearly 30 years ago, presented an incredible opportunity to protect intact shark populations. Our being asked to cohost this meeting is a clear indication that the actions taken by The Bahamas to protect our sharks, has distinguished us as a leader in ocean conservation in the Caribbean. BNT is proud to have played a part in this.”

Also in attendance was Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson, who has been supportive of establishing regional shark protections throughout the Caribbean, and cohosted a similar meeting in Bimini, The Bahamas in 2015.

During the meeting, four Caribbean governments committed to help reverse this trend by fully protecting sharks in their waters. St. Maarten and the Cayman Islands announced that their economic zones (EEZs) are completely closed to commercial shark fishing. Additionally, Curacao announced that they will establish legislation this year that will protect sharks in their waters, and Grenada is considering measures that would safeguard sharks within the country’s EEZ. Together, the two new sanctuaries cover a total of 119,631 square kilometers and raise the total number of Caribbean sanctuaries to seven.

The findings of a study of the economic impact of sharks on The Bahamas’ tourism industry were also released at the meeting. Lead investigator, Dr. Edward Brooks from the Cape Eleuthera Institute, was in attendance to discuss the study, which found that sharks generate US$113 million annually in direct expenditure and value added through tourism to the Bahamian economy.

Brooks said: “The results of our study illustrate the importance of the ongoing stewardship of sharks and rays demonstrated by The Bahamian Government over the last 25 years, for which they are now reaping the economic rewards. However, despite the actions of The Bahamas and the other Caribbean nations who protect sharks within their waters, more work is needed on a regional basis in order to effectively manage many of these economically important species which call the entire North West Atlantic and Caribbean home.”

Sharks play a vital role in the Caribbean, both to the health of the ocean and to a countless number of people whose livelihoods are directly connected to these animals. With at least 100 million sharks killed each year, establishing additional meaningful and lasting protections in the Caribbean will ensure a healthy shark population for future generations.

pew bnt shark conservation bahamas

shark fin protest

Cathay Pacific bans shipments of shark fin

Cathay Pacific statement on shark's fin carriage

22 Jun 2016

Cathay Pacific has a long standing commitment to play our role in a more sustainable world. We were one of the first airlines in the world to raise the awareness of the unsustainability of the global shark trade.

The airline has not approved any shipments for shark’s fin for the past year since we instituted a policy agreed with two highly respected international shark conservation agencies. The policy states that any request for shipment of shark or shark products must be assessed by an external panel of acknowledged experts.

Based on our procedure for assessing whether shark products are sustainably sourced, we have rejected all 15 shipment requests for shark-related products in the last 12 months.

We understand the community’s desire to promote responsible and sustainable marine sourcing practices, and this remains important to Cathay Pacific’s overall sustainable development goals.

Therefore, on the issue of shark’s fin, with immediate effect we are happy to agree to ban the carriage.  We will continue to review this practice, as we do all our sustainable development policies.

shark fin protest

Alex Hofford, a wildlife campaigner for WildAid said: “A responsible corporate like Cathay Pacific should never be seen to be a link in the supply chain for a criminal trade. That’s why we are so happy that Cathay has done the right thing by no longer carry any shark fin or shark products. Shipping sharks by air is not just an issue of sustainability, but ethics and legality.”

Source: Cathay Pacific bans shipments of shark fin amid pressure from conservation groups | Hong Kong Free Press

smalltooth sawfish

Endangered Oceans: Smalltooth Sawfish

The smalltooth sawfish is one of the most unique shark species found in warm tropical waters. It has been on the endangered species list since 2003 because of drastic reductions in their population. Unlike other shark populations decimated by the shark finning industry, this species is threatened primarily through habitat destruction and bycatch.

Here’s a video put together by NOAA:

Video Transcript

Sawfish are large shark-like rays that are found in tropical and subtropical seas, rivers, and creeks, and can grow to 15 feet.

It gets its name from its long, saw-like nose called a rostrum which is lined with modified scales that look like teeth, 22-29 on each side.

It uses its “saw” packed with electro-sensitive organs and teeth to locate, stun, and kill prey.

And although it’s been around for over 50 million years, it is now endangered.

Two major threats exist for this species: bycatch in various fisheries, and loss of juvenile habitat.

Its toothed rostrum can easily become entangled in fishing lines and nets.

Young sawfish use shallow habitats that are lined with mangrove forests, as important nursery areas. Many such habitats have been displaced by concrete seawalls  or lost entirely due to development of the waterfront.

The smalltooth sawfish was listed as endangered in 2003.  NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service has worked to develop and implement a recovery plan for the species.  The major steps for recovery include: reducing bycatch in fisheries, protecting important habitats, and educating the public.

Guidelines were also developed for fishermen to safely handle and release any sawfish they might catch.

Today, NOAA Fisheries continues to study this species. Through this research, they hope to help develop the next steps in conservation and management that will save this endangered species. You can help bring them back from the brink of extinction by protecting shoreline habitats and reporting sawfish sightings or encounters to the International Sawfish Encounter Database.

smalltooth sawfish shark research

Image ID: fish1952, NOAA’s Fisheries Collection
Location: Atlantic Ocean

Check out Ocean Today by NOAA for more great information.

global shark sanctuaries map

New Shark Sanctuaries announced in the Caribbean

Exciting news this week as four new shark sanctuaries were announced for the Caribbean!  Both St. Maarten and the Cayman Islands decided to completely close their exclusive economic zones to commercial shark fishing.  The islands of Curacao and Grenada have also announced that they will follow suit and create legislation later this year to protect sharks in those regions.

“People from all over the world come to our island to dive and snorkel with our marine wildlife, including sharks and rays,” said Irania Arrindell, St. Maarten’s minister of tourism, economic affairs, transport, and telecommunications. “St. Maarten’s shark sanctuary will help to ensure that our local shark populations exist for future generations and continue to benefit St. Maarten’s marine ecosystem and ecotourism.”

The new shark sanctuaries cover a total of 46,190 square miles (119,631 square kilometers)!  The total number of shark sanctuaries in the Caribbean is now seven!

    • Honduras (est. 2011)
    • The Bahamas (est. 2011)
    • British Virgin Islands (est. 2014)
    • Bonaire (est. 2105)
    • Saba (est. 2015)
    • Cayman Islands (est. 2016)
    • St. Maarten (est. 2016)

The total number of shark sanctuaries worldwide is now fourteen, covering 6 million square miles!  In addition to the seven Caribbean shark sanctuaries, the remaining seven are:

    • Palau (est. 2009)
    • Maldives (est. 2010)
    • Marshall Islands (est. 2011)
    • Cook Islands (est. 2012)
    • French Polynesia (est. 2012)
    • New Caledonia (est. 2013)
    • Federated States of Micronesia (est. 2015)

global shark sanctuaries map

“Establishing sanctuaries to protect all sharks makes clear that these top predators warrant the same status as other vulnerable marine wildlife that help attract ecotourism, such as turtles and whales.”

It is so crucial that the attitudes and opinions of people and governments change and recognize the important role sharks play in the ocean ecosystem.  Their protection is desperately needed to preserve a healthy ocean environment.

Take a look at the full press release from PEW here.

how deep is the ocean

Human Trash Reached The Deepest Part Of The Ocean

For now, scientists plan to continue to study and observe the impact of these chemicals on deep sea life. But just because our waste has landed in a place we will never see doesn’t mean we should ignore the problem.

As National Geographic suggests, there are plenty of things you can do right now to help stave off the effects of human waste on our world’s oceans including reducing your use of one-time use plastics (like straws, bottled water and coffee cup tops), avoid purchasing items that contribute to marine loss (such as coral jewelry and shark teeth), and by continuing to educate yourself on all the wonderful creatures who call the sea their home. 

Source: Humans Reached The Deepest Part Of The Ocean, But Not The Way You Think | GOOD

silky shark diving bahamas

Pew Commends Broad Global Support for Proposed Shark and Ray Protections

According to PEW’s website, silky sharks, bigeye thresher sharks, common thresher sharks, and pelagic thresher sharks are particularly vulnerable throughout their habitat. Whether it’s from targeted shark fisheries, by-catch, or the extreme levels of unregulated/illegal fishing, these species have suffered dramatic population declines, around 70%.

CITES is recognized globally as one of the most effective and best-enforced international conservation agreements. It provides protection to more than 30,000 species around the world and has been instrumental in preventing the extinction of many plants and animals.  Votes on the proposed listings for thresher and silky sharks and mobula rays will take place at the CITES meeting in Johannesburg in September.

Source: Pew Commends Broad Global Support for Proposed Shark and Ray Protections

shark fins for soup

Two Men Plead Guilty to Federal Shark Violations

Agents found 11 whole sharks located on the deck and a hidden compartment in the bow of the vessel that contained 12 large sacks of shark fins totaling 2,073 fins.  The bodies of the fins found in the sacks were not found on the vessel.

These two men were arrested back in 2012 when they were caught finning sharks, red handed. They just recently pled guilty to the charges and received their sentencing.

  • The pair were ordered to pay a fine to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) totaling $45,000.
  • The men were also placed on two years of probation and during which they agreed to not transfer any of their federal shark directed permits.
  • They also further agreed that if they are determined to be in violation of any provision of the Magnusson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act during this two-year period, they will surrender all of their federal shark directed permits for a period of nine months.
  • Lastly the men had their Louisiana state shark permits and set line licenses revoked for life.

Pretty light, we think. What about you? Should they have paid a heavier fine? Comment below.

Source: Two Men Plead Guilty to Federal Shark Violations | Shark Year Magazine

great white shark killed

Viral photos of decapitated shark prompt state investigation

Authorities are seeking any information that can help lead them to the people who committed this crime. Although this was initially reported to have occurred at Newport Beach pier, investigators cannot be certain this image was even from California.

Viral photographs of a decapitated shark that appeared on social media this week have sparked an investigation by authorities in Newport Beach, though wildlife officers said Wednesday it was unclear where and when the fish was mutilated.

Source: Viral photos of decapitated shark prompt state investigation