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cecil the lion's killer identified

Cecil the lion’s killer revealed as American dentist

senseless death of cecil the lionCecil the lion, the most famous creature in one of Zimbabwe’s national parks, was killed by an American hunter who has boasted about shooting a menagerie of animals with his bow and arrow, The Telegraph revealed. Walter James Palmer is believed to have paid around $55,000 to shoot and kill the much-loved lion with a bow and arrow. The animal was shot on July 1 in Hwange National Park. Two independent sources have confirmed the hunter’s identity to the paper, which has also seen a copy of the relevant hunting permit.

Although this is not related to sharks, the horrific story speaks to the senseless trophy hunting that plagues many of the planets most magnificent creatures. What is the psychology behind this? How is it not seen as completely sociopathic and criminal?

Since the identity of the hunter was revealed as Dr. Walt Palmer, a Minnesota dentist, public backlash has dealt him a stiff blow. Within hours of the Telegraph report, the dentists website went offline and Yelp saw over 750 One Star reviews for his dental practice.

DR. PALMER is a horrible human. Do not fund his hobby to kill these animals for a sport. He is a criminal poacher. $$55,000 paid to kill a beautiful lion. Do not support this blood thirsty evil man! -Yelp Reviewer

cecil the lion national icon

Cecil the Lion was a national treasure of Zimbabwe

Senseless sport killing like this simply cannot be tolerated. It’s a horrible trait of some people and should seriously be criminalized. While his website was noted to say the the good doctor spends his free time away from the office “observing and photographing wildlife” he is off murdering them. Cecil was not his first victim, but hopefully will be his last.

dentist kills white rhino

Walt Palmer has traveled the globe paying large sums to hunt and kill magnificent animals


?In the aftermath of the social media and press coverage of this story, several airlines have decided to ban the shipping of hunting trophies.  So far, American, Delta, United Airlines and Air Canada have pledged to stop transporting trophy animals.  The global shipping giant, UPS, however has stated that they base their policies on US and international laws, not public opinion, so are expected to still allow the transport of trophy hunts. ?

Source: Cecil the lion’s killer revealed as American dentist – Telegraph

toxic mako shark fishing

Scientific Paper: Toxic Sharks

toxic mako shark fishing

Back in June 2013, fisherman caught an enormous female shortfin mako shark off Huntington Beach, California.  The small group of fisherman were filming for Outdoor Channel reality television show, ‘Jim Shockey’s The Professionals’.  Many had wondered why the shark wasn’t simply released.  After the film and photos were over, the animal was donated to a scientific research group, and their findings were just published in the July issue of the Journal of Fish Biology.


In June 2013, a record-breaking female Isurus oxyrinchus (total length 373 cm, mass 600 kg) was captured by rod and reel off Huntington Beach, California, where it was subsequently donated to research and provided a rare opportunity to collect the first data for a female I. oxyrinchus of this size. Counts of vertebral band pairs estimate the shark to have been c. 22 years old, depending upon assumptions of band-pair deposition rates, and the distended uteri and spent ovaries indicated that this shark had recently given birth. The stomach contained a c.4 year-old female California sea lion Zalophus californianus that confirmed the high trophic position of this large I. oxyrinchus, which was corroborated with the high levels of measured contaminants and tissue isotope analyses.

mako shark fishing toxicThe study determined that there were very high levels of a number of contaminants in the shark. After analyzing the liver, DDT levels were found to be 100 times the legal limit of consumption allowed by the EPA.  PCBs were over 250 times the legal limit.  Mercury, 45 times the legal limit for women and children to eat it.  Both PCBs (a substance used in the manufacturing of electronics) and DDT (a pesticide) were outlawed back in the 1970s because of their known toxicity.  Unfortunately, so much of those chemicals made it into the water that they have accumulated in the seabed.

Larger predators, such as sharks, end up having higher levels of these toxins due to bioaccumulation. While the smaller fish end up having some of the chemicals present, the larger animals that continually eat these smaller fish end up having much higher levels as a result.  In addition, some of the toxins are passed to their offspring, perpetuating the problem.

We often hear these trophy hunts disguised as providing large quantities of food for families, communities, even indigent populations.  Hopefully, studies like this will help to educate the public and lead to more animals being released alive back into the wild. There’s simply no good reason to kill and land an impressive shark like this.

smuggling loophole for shark fin

EU loophole allows precious shark fins to be smuggled into the UK

shark fin smuggling loophole

It’s pretty scary to know that this is a major way that restaurants are obtaining shark fins for the menus.

    • Under EU rules, travellers are able to bring back 20kg of dried shark fin in their luggage under the same personal allowance rule that covers tobacco and alcohol.
    • An investigation by the charity, Bite-Back, suggests shark fins arriving in the UK through this personal allowance loophole allows travellers to sell their customs allowance for as much £3,500 to restaurants.
    • The 20kg allowance is enough to make 705 bowls of soup.

There is simply no other foodstuff on the list of personal imports that compares to the sharkfin loophole in terms of quantity and value.  It is estimated that 20kg of shark fin is worth well of $5,000 USD on the black market.  Clearly, 20kg could never be assumed for personal use only.  This loophole allows for a virtually unregulated shark fin trade.


Bite-Back Shark and Marine Conservation has prepared an online petition accumulating signatures to help shut down this loophole.  Please take 30 seconds to add your signature to the list!  You can find the petition on Care 2’s website.

shark fins for soup

Source: EU loophole allows precious shark fins to be smuggled into the UK | Nature | News | Daily Express

shark fin trade

Shark Fin Trade Now Extinct in Texas!

More great news from Texas!  We recently reported on our blog from June 1st that the proposed shark fin ban flew through the Texas Senate with an overwhelming 24-7 vote.  The final stage in the legislation was for Texas state governor, Greg Abbott to sign the bill into law, which just happened on June 20, 2015!

While only the tenth state in the nation to enact such a law, the implications here are huge.  Texas has seen a 240% increase in the state’s fin trade since 2010 after other states put similar laws in place.  California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Oregon and Washington have all banned the trade of shark fins.

Despite the fact that the practice of shark finning is illegal in the US, there is no federal legislation that prohibits the trade of shark fins through the country.  Many unsustainable foreign fisheries utilize the US in the export of fins to Asia.  They exploit nations where the inhumane practice is unregulated, or unenforced.

Texas is now the first Gulf Coast state in the nation to ban participation in the shark fin trade.  We hope other states will follow the lead and that eventually the United States will be a hostile environment for the shark fin trade all together.

Heres a map (data from 2013) showing the dollar value of shark fin exports from the US:

us shark fin exports map

Please urge your local representatives to consider similar legislation in your state!

great hammerhead shark

Great Hammerhead Sharks: Killing for Sport

A large and very pregnant, great hammerhead shark was recently killed by a group of fisherman in Destin Florida, aboard the boat Phoenix.  The catch occurred greater than 3 miles offshore so current legislation to protect against this was irrelevant.  This shows how ineffective the current protections can be.

Here’s a video of the shark being cut open at the dock and 33 pups removed from her womb.  The sharks fins and jaw have already been removed in the video.

Warning: Graphic Content

Great  Hammerhead sharks are listed as endangered on the IUCN (International Union on the Conservation of Nature) and currently protected in Florida waters.

Many in the shark community are already aware that these sharks are extremely vulnerable to stress and often die as a result of fighting on a fishing line.  This is especially true of pregnant females.  Because of this, current research on great hammerheads has changed practice and no longer relies on hook and line to study the animals.  The researchers in Bimini are swimming alongside the great hammerheads and using a pole spear in insert tracking tags.

There has been quite a backlash against the fishing boat after they described their trophy on social media pages.  The charter boat said that they would have released the shark, but it died in the long battle.  This, to me, was an unnecessary death of 34 great hammerhead sharks, currently endangered.  If a charter boat is going to go out and fish animals for sport, they should know the impact they are having.  They should have known that this hammerhead was extremely unlikely to survive and the line should have been cut immediately.

It’s unfortunate to see an event like this and know that this is a sport, all for a trophy or photo.  While commercial fishing efforts have the biggest impact on the current decline of shark populations worldwide, this trophy hunting behavior/sport is even more upsetting.

killing great hammerhead sharks

If you’d like to dive with great hammerhead sharks, sign up with a reputable operator and see the animals swimming healthy and free in the natural environment.

shark fin ban

Shark Fin Ban likely in Texas

shark fin ban

Texas shows support to ban shark fins

Great news on the political front in Texas.  The shark fin bill, #HB1579 flew through the Senate with a 27 – 4 vote, according to a Texas newspaper.  The bill was sponsored by Texas Democrat Eddie Lucio III and strongly supported by Senator Eddie Lucio, his father.  This new legislation makes anything relating to the sale and purchase of shark fins or any products that come from shark fins a criminal offense.

Representative Lucio told The Humane Society of the United States that “sharks are the top predators in our water and serve a vital purpose within that ecosystem.  Shark finning is an inhumane act banned on the Federal level, but we have to make sure Texas is not encouraging that illegal act by restricting what can be done with those fins.”  The conservation organization, Oceana, estimates that half of the shark fin trade passing through the United States goes through Texas.

The final step in passing this legislation is the signature of the bill by Texas Governor Greg Abbot.  If signed, Texas will join California, Oregon, Hawaii, Delaware, Washington, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York, where the trade of shark fins is already outlawed.

Most shark fins are destined for Asia, where they are the highly valued main ingredient in shark fin soup.  Here, they also have a variety of other uses, such as in traditional medicines.  To meet the high demand for shark fins, the cruel practice of shark finning has evolved where sharks are pulled from the ocean on baited hooks, stripped of the fins while still alive, and thrown back into the ocean where, unable to swim, they will drown.  This allows the shark finning boats to reserve their cargo space for only the valuable fins. 

To read the full bill, #HB1579, visit the Texas Legislature Online.


Support the Shark Fin Ban

shark fin trade

Philippines may put an end to Shark Fin Soup

shark fin tradeMANILA, Philippines — Shark fin soup and other dishes from sharks and rays may soon disappear from the menu in restaurants and banquets if a bill pending at the House of Representatives becomes a law.

House Bill 5206 or the Sharks and Ray Conservation Act bans catching, selling, purchasing, possessing, transporting, importing, and exporting of all sharks and rays in the country.

The bill also prohibits the harming or killing sharks and rays in the course of catching other species of fish. Sharks and rays which are accidentally included in the catch in the course of catching other species will be immediately released unharmed to the sea, according to the bill.

To eliminate the demand that result in the massive killing of sharks and rays, the selling and serving of shark’s fin soup and all food menu with sharks and rays by-products shall be prohibited.

In line with the objectives of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, states should conserve, protect and sustain the management of the country’s sharks and ray population.

“The State shall ensure the maintenance of ecological balance and marine biodiversity for the benefit of present and future generation of Filipinos,” the measure said.

According to the bill, killing, destroying, or inflicting injury on sharks and rays will be punished with a fine of P100,000 to P1 million or imprisonment of a minimum of six years to 12 years.

Transporting, importing, and exporting sharks and rays and their by-products and derivatives will be penalized with a fine of P30,000 to P300,000, while catching, selling, or possessing such will be fined with P50,000 to P500,000.

It has been approved on third and final reading at the House of Representatives.

Humane Society for protecting sharks and rays

Sharks & Rays – New Protections

The Humane Society International helps to implement new protections for Sharks and Rays

CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora granted historic new protections to 5 species of shark this past September. They include the Oceanic Whitetip Shark, Porbeagle, and three species of Hammerhead (scalloped, smooth, and great). Now, in response to this protection, agents have the daunting task of picking out these fins from the mountains of fins that are unloaded off ships or prepared for flights.

The Humane Society International has helped organized workshops around the world so that experts and agents may get together to formulate a plan for enforcement. So far, they have taken place in Brazil, Senegal, India, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, with Colombia scheduled next month.

Humane Society for protecting sharks and rays

Demian Chapman, an assistant professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences has been a leader at these workshops. Demian was recently awarded the 2014 Fellowship in Marine Science from PEW.

“Many shark species, including those listed on CITES, simply can’t keep up with the current rate of exploitation and demand. “Protective measures must be scaled up significantly and enforced in order to avoid further depletion and the possible extirpation of some shark populations in our lifetime.” -Demian Chapman

We’re proud to have worked with Demian during his ongoing research on Cat Island with the Oceanic Whitetip Sharks. Much of his groundbreaking work has offered new insights in the species and helped push for their protection. He is truly an advocate for sharks and conducts his research in the least invasive ways currently possible.

Humane Society International

Tens of millions of sharks are killed annually to meet the demand for shark fin soup—an unsustainable rate that is driving some populations to near-extinction. Many are killed by the cruel practice of finning, in which fishermen cut the fins off a live shark, then dump the animal back into the water to die slowly.

Learn more information here.

oceanic whitetip shark diving

Global Protection for the Oceanic Whitetip

Landmark conservation efforts went into effect for three species of sharks and all species of manta rays that start a long road to recovery for these decimated animal populations.

In March 2013, Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) added porbeagle and oceanic whitetip sharks, three species of hammerhead sharks (scalloped, great, and smooth), as well as all species of manta ray to CITES Appendix II. Appendix II-listed species can be traded, but only if the trade is legal and does not cause detriment to the species in the wild.

Under these new rules, international trade in sharks that are commercially exploited in large numbers, like the oceanic whitetip, will be regulated for the first time.

Implementing the regulations, of course, will be the major obstacle to truly protecting sharks, like the oceanic whitetip. However, this does reflect the crucial shift in thinking that is the first step towards true protection.

oceanic whitetip shark

Oceanic Whitetip Shark

Interested in diving with this rare shark species? Click here to learn more about our oceanic whitetip shark diving expeditions.

dusky shark rescue atlas

Dusky Shark Rescue

During this past Oceanic Whitetip Shark Diving season on Cat Island, the crew at Epic Diving successfully rescued a dusky shark in desperate need of help.

The crew and guests of our annual A Cotton Photo expedition were horrified to see a large male dusky shark arrive near the boat with a very deep wound around his head. The animal never got close that first day, but we were able to see a large rope, presumably discarded fishing gear, that was tightly wrapped around his neck, just behind the gills. He was rather skittish and would not approach any of the divers, so we never had a chance to intervene.

epic diving dusky shark rescue

Male dusky shark suffers deep wound from discarded fishing gear

On the very next day, we were all surprised that he returned to the boat. This day, his behavior was much different. He came very close to the group and it was quickly apparent just how significant his predicament was. Not only could we see how deeply the rope had dug into his skin, but one of his pectoral fins was pinned back, and the shark was incredibly skinny. He was a large male with a disproportionally huge head on his emaciated body.

Everyone agreed, we had to do something. This shark was dying a slow death. We worked slowly and cautiously to feed the shark a few bits of fish, we he gladly ate up. After realizing that he was approaching closely and confidently, we put our plan in motion to free him from the rope.

The guests were very courteous giving up there time in the water with 5 Oceanics and the dusky, so that we could attempt the rescue as safely as possible. Vincent and Debra Canabal, owners of Epic Diving, along with Amanda Cotton, the expedition leader, slipped back into the water with a few tools, and cameras. We used some more bait to lure the shark closer to us, as well as to distract him from our mission. We were all fearful that we’d only get one attempt at the rescue. If the shark felt pain or threat, he’d likely take off and we’d never seem him again.

As the shark came in, we managed to get right behind his head (and mouth) as he approached to bait. As gentle as possible, the rope was lifted from his flesh and a pair of Tripura shears made quick work to cut it off. While doing this, the shark rolled over completely epithelial a bit if thrashing, and spun right out if the rope.

At that same moment, all 5 oceanic whitetip sharks changed their behavior immediately. They simultaneously charged at the divers and dusky shark in a rather agitated way. Fortunately, the crew was able to keep the oceanics at bay and they won pent back to their normal, calm behavior just as quickly as they changed.

The dusky shark stayed with the group for another few hours and we all wished him well as the boat pulled away.

dusky shark rescue epic diving

Vincent Canabal, Debra Canabal, and Amanda Cotton just after freeing Atlas

Once back on the surface, we reAlized why the oceanics behavior changed so suddenly. The rope that was around his neck smelled worse than the chum we used and we believe the oceanics were simply trying to join the kill they likely thought we initiated. With the obviously wounded shark, the smell from the wound, and the rolling dusky, the oceanics must have thought we went in for the kill. As soon as they realized the dusky was fee, swimming better than before, they backed off.

It was a truly incredible and rewarding experience. Amanda Cotton gave Atlas his name, very fitting give the experience. We all hoped to see him again, but would have to wait nearly a month for that.

A few weeks after the incident, the crew was thrilled to see him come back up our chum slick. Atlas was back, and looked so much better. The top, deepest part, of the wound had almost completely closed and he he certainly gained weight. From that day on, he was a daily visitor to the boat, and let’s just say, we tried to fatten him up. He remained a reliable visitor for the rest of our season and we are anxious to see if he’ll be around next year.

Dusky Shark Rescue

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dusky shark rescue in scuba diving magazine

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