Sunday, September 30, 2012

Post BLUE Film Festival News: new shark species in the Philippines

First off, my apologies to my readers for being a bit derelict in my duties as contributor to this blog.  I have spent the past week at the BLUE Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Event in Monterey, CA and there was so much taking place there - regarding ocean conservation, wildlife/ocean film making and, of course, a full slate of films - that keeping up with my posts became a challenge, to say the least.

However, meeting up with old and new colleagues provides me with a considerable amount of material to work with so you can expect some interesting posts over the next few weeks that include interviews with ocean conservation notables like Dr. Sylvia Earle (, Fabien Cousteau (, Dr. David Guggenheim (the "Ocean Doctor"), Christopher Chin ( Saver), and more.

One short item that caught my eye today was a news article that helps highlight the importance of protecting marine areas because we often do not know the full range of biodiversity that can exist in a specific area.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported on a recently discovered new species of shark in a well-traveled area of the Philippines called the Verde Island Passage Marine Corridor (VIPMC).  It is a body of water that is well-traveled by both ships and migratory species and so responsible management of the VIPMC is important to ensure that human activity does not adversely impact what is proving to be a marine ecosystem rich in biodiversity.

The newly discovered shark is referred to locally as a "bubble shark" and appears to be a close relative of the swell shark.  As a California diver, I am very familiar with swell sharks.  They are smaller, bottom-dwelling sharks with the unusual ability in take in a large quantity of water and therefore "swell up" as a defensive mechanism (the swelling allows it to be lodged tightly on crevices or cavities in the reef, making it difficult to grab onto by any larger predator.

The shark was actually discovered in 2011 by scientists conducting a broad investigation of various sites in and around the Philippines as part of a California Academy of Sciences expedition.  Several new species were uncovered in the process and the results, which are now being released, show that the Philippines may be one of the richest areas in marine biodiversity.  New species allow researchers to better combat the argument of "so what" when it comes to the need to preserve and protect our aquatic natural resources.  We are still finding new species and the more we learn, the better we can understand the wide range of biodiversity inter-relationships and what can happen on a broad scale when human activities negatively impact those relationships. 

"[A new species is important] because when you sell conservation to people, especially people who are not really interested or who do not really care, they need something else, like, why is it important?" said Vera Horigue of Australia's James Cook University. "It's really helpful to get people to become interested, because you can show just how special the place is by the uniqueness of the species found in it. It promotes the area; thus, funds pour in." 

Source: AsiaOne News 

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