In a recent email, Marie Levine, director of the Shark Research Institute, noted these items in the area of shark conservation:
- Honduras announced creation of 92,665-sq. mile shark sanctuary
- The Bahamas converted 243,244 sq. miles into a shark sanctuary
- The Marshall Islands, Guam and Palau created a region-wide, 2 million sq. mile shark sanctuary
- Chile banned shark finning in its waters
- ICCAT agreed to reduce fishing of shortfin mako sharks and porbeagle sharks
In the area of fisheries management in the U.S., Lee Crocket of the Pew Environment Group recently wrote of progress in the implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Though originally passed over 35 years ago, it has taken until today to get a workable system in place that combines the efforts of the National Marine Fisheries Service and the cooperation of the fishing industry. It's politics, so it takes time to get working policies in full force after years of back and forth between legislators and management officials and those people or industries adversely impacted, at least initially, by any policy decisions. In the long term, if fishery stocks are allowed to rebound then commercial fishing can continue at what management officials hope to be sustainable levels.
And there have been other signs of progress from Marine Protected Areas to simply increases in visitor attendance at conservation nature centers across the country. So while international efforts continue to address some of the larger issues, it would seem that interest on the general public level continues to grow.
However, we are a long ways away from breaking out the celebratory champagne. Conservation efforts can often seem like two steps forward and one step back. We must not allow the positive advances to make us complacent or lazy. I'm reminded of how the anti-whaling movement became; growing to where there was a worldwide moratorium. Then it began to fall off our priority list of pressing issues and, slowly over the years, several opposing nations bided their time and now we have whaling as a renewed hot button issue for conservationists once again.
And there are certainly other issues that need to be addressed. Acidification, climate change, and heavy metal pollution. After having spent considerable effort in making shark conservation a pressing issue in California's San Francisco Bay area, Sea Stewards is now helping to support other organizations regarding mercury levels in sea food (one typical serving of swordfish or tuna can deliver up to a month's worth of mercury based on current EPA data on "acceptable" levels).
So, we can enter the holidays feeling good over quantifiable progress in regulations and management that should benefit many marine species. But we have much more work to do and so it's time to celebrate and simultaneously roll up our sleeves and charge boldly into the new year.
Source: Shark Research Institute
Source: National Geographic Daily News
Source: Sea Stewards