The 1000 Kids, One Message! project brought together shark loving kids and a distinguished list of ocean heroes in Hong Kong to make a special pledge.
“I am the future! I won’t eat shark fins!”
It’s hoped that the children’s message from the hot zone of the shark fin trade will echo loud and clear through national and international media, as nation after nation bans the brutal and unsustainable practice of shark finning.
The underlying premise of the project is clear – children are the future. The Ocean Geographic Society is calling on kids around the world to step up as the next generation of young ambassadors for sharks.
Kids attending this event have been officially named Shark Ambassadors. Kids have the initiative and passion to save sharks from extinction and are the ocean’s best hope.
“Sharks are beautiful animals and if you’re lucky enough to see lots of them that means that you’re in a healthy ocean,” says Dr. Sylvia Earle. “You should be afraid if you are in the ocean and don’t see sharks. That means the ocean is in trouble, and if the ocean is in trouble we’re in trouble.”
That evening, Rolex in collaboration with Ocean Geographic Society (OceanNEnvironment), Cyberport and the Energy Saving and Environment Concern Alliance (ESECA), presented “An Unforgettable Evening,” celebrating the mystique of the underwater world through photos and films.
With a focus on Antarctica, the tropical oceans, marine animals and climate change issues, featured appearances included oceanographer extraordinaire Dr. Sylvia Earle, founder of Energy Saving Concern Alliance Elizabeth Quat, and renowned photographers David Doubilet, Jennifer Hayes and Michael AW. Read more about the dynamic team of ocean luminaries who took part in this event here.
Funds raised at these events will go to Ocean Geographic’s Shark Campaign.
The Bahamas is the latest in a string of countries that are putting shark conservation at the top of the priority list. The Bahamas have converted 243,244 square miles of the country’s waters into a shark sanctuary, prohibiting any commercial fishing of the animals.
“2011 is fast becoming the year of the shark,” said Jill Hepp, manager of global shark conservation for the Pew Environment Group in a press release. It certainly feels that way after all the news lately of more countries recognizing the importance of sharks — just last week Honduras announced its new shark sanctuary, and before that was the Maldives in 2010 and Palau in 2009. It’s no small wonder, as studies have shown how much more valuable to an economy sharks are when they’re alive than when they’re fished.
According to the press release, “The Bahamian sanctuary was created by adding an amendment to the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act (Chapter 244) to prohibit commercial shark fishing along with the sale, importation and export of shark products.”
“Today’s announcement permanently protects more than 40 shark species in Bahamian waters,” states Hepp. “We applaud the people and government of The Bahamas for being bold leaders in marine conservation.”
With the Bahamas declaring nearly a quarter million square miles a sanctuary for shark, the total is up to 926, 645 square miles of ocean where commercial shark fishing is prohibited. It’s wonderful news — but only if the bans are enforced. This part of the equation is more difficult than creating the sanctuary itself. Illegal shark catches are unfortunately all too common, and with demand for shark fins still high in the world market, countries instituting bans on commercial fishing will have to put in the effort to ensure the bans are followed.
It was a rare rainy June day in San Francisco as I crossed the San Rafael Bridge to meet The Shark Bus headed for Sacramento. Supporters of AB 376 were on our way on the Capitol to stand up for sharks and against the sale of shark fins in California. But ours was a small group compared to the well financed opposition bussed up from Chinatown.
The fight has pitted influential Chinese American politicians against one another and Chinese traders and restaurant owners have spent large sums of money to hire lobbyists to oppose a ban. Busloads of Chinatown residents descended on the Capitol, saying that a ban would violate cultural custom. In fact, the folks we spoke with didn’t seem to care much, it seemed that most were just along for the ride.
Last April, Assembly members Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) and Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) introduced AB 376 at the California Academy of Science – proposing to make it illegal to sell, trade or distribute shark fins in California, which is one of the largest markets for fins outside of Asia.
Houston Rockets basketball star Yao Ming has joined other celebrities, such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Scarlett Johansson, in public support of a ban. “Remember, when the buying stops, the killing can too,” says Ming in this riveting video.
Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Sunnyvale), a sponsor of the bill, said he “grew up on shark fin soup,” only lately to realize that “Anything that is unhealthy, that the culture is practicing, we should stop doing it. We used to bind women’s feet, and that was unhealthy for the woman.”
Scientists say the fin trade has contributed to the catastrophic declines of shark populations worldwide, threatening to disrupt ocean ecosystems and encouraging the proliferation of other predators, which diminishes stocks of fish for human consumption. Experts from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and The California Academy of Science are in strong support of the bill, and increased protection for sharks worldwide.
Shark finning has taken a horrifying toll on sharks, many species of which are now facing extinction. As much as 90% of the world’s sharks are already gone, and overfishing is the main culprit, with up to 100 million shark deaths each year. The practice is inherently cruel. Sharks are usually finned and thrown overboard alive. Unable to swim, they sink to the bottom to die a slow agonizing death.
Shark fin soup is strictly a luxury taste. Costing as much as $80 a serving in restaurants, it has been a Chinese delicacy for hundreds of years and often is served at weddings and banquets. It is a status symbol, considered to have medicinal properties, and its defenders see its consumption as a cultural right. Listen to what ‘Her Deepness’ Sylvia Earle has to say about what ‘luxury tastes’ are doing to our entire ocean planet, Click Here for her full BBC Interview.
But a growing number of Asian-Americans support AB 376. The Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance, for example, is a coalition of Asian Americans artists, scholars, environmentalists, elected officials, and community leaders who support a ban on the sale of shark fins. According to this group, thousands of years of eastern philosophy emphasize living in harmony with nature — not destroying it to make soup.
And a group of young Asian activists have started a ‘Sharkfin Photomob.’ ‘It’s not racist to love sharks’ is their motto, and their quickly growing website of supporters has been impossible for legislators to ignore.
Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) have proposed amendments to allow the sale of fins from sharks that are legally fished in California waters and the importation of fins that can be certified as having been sustainably harvested.
A compromise may be difficult to defend and enforce. To ban the sale of imported fins while allowing the sale of California fins would violate international trade rules. In addition, when you allow some but not all fins, it becomes impossible to enforce.
The bill passed the Assembly last month, 65-8, but is having more difficulty in the Senate. Tuesday, in a packed hearing room, the bill passed the Senate Natural Resources & Water Committee 7-0, but only after Fong agreed to work with opponents to amend the bill before it goes before the Senate Appropriations Committee. It is not expected to reach the full Senate before August.
Hawaii and Washington state have already passed shark fin bans, and President Obama earlier this year signed federal legislation tightening a ban on shark finning in U.S. waters.
Its important that we not lose momentum now in California. Its going to take a continued push to get AB 376 through the Senate, so please keep the pressure up by writing and calling your Senators – it really does make a difference!
The most important calls to make for now are to the Appropriations Committee. The hearing date is 7/11/11.
Sea Stewards hosts World Ocean Day to celebrate sharks and a healthy ocean, with help from our friends at The Sea Turtle Restoration Project, Team Fishfinders, Coare, The Farallones Marine Sanctuary & The Cordell Banks Marine Sanctuary.
This is a pivotal week in California as our senate votes on AB 376, California’s ban against the sale of sharkfins. In the face of heavy lobbying by some members of the Asian Community who feel that such a ban targets their traditions, we hope that the senate appreciates the bigger picture – that protecting sharks is critical for healthy ocean ecosystems!