Squalene vs Squalane - pay attention on your next buying!

Are you aware that your daily moisturizer might contain shark?

According to a study performed by Bloom Association in 2015, about 3 to 6 million deep sea sharks are killed annually for their liver oil. Squalene is a substance derived from shark liver oil that acts as both a moisturizer and an emollient (an ingredient that traps moisture into your skin).

The cosmetic industry targets endangered species like the common Portuguese dogfish (Centroscymnus coelolepis) and the leafscale gulper shark (Centrophorus squamosus). These are deep sea species who often have high longevity and fewer opportunities to reproduce which makes them especially vulnerable to exploitation.

Despite having made a commitment in 2008 to replace shark squalene for olive or sugarcane based options in their cosmetics some popular brands still haven’t removed this ingredient from their production lines. This product is usually found in creams, tonics and serums but can also be found in lipstick or foundation. 

So next time you are buying cosmetics be sure to check the label for either squalene or squalane as you might be contributing to an industry that harms endangered species.

By Catarina Abril.

THOUGHTFUL SHARKS ----- by Ila France Porcher ----- Part III/III

Long term study of the behaviour of individual sharks has shown that they are not just acting on instinct. Not only are they thinking and highly intelligent—they are likely conscious too. So here is a review of how their actions reveal some of their mental states.

 

Decision Making

Occasionally reef sharks would flip on their backs to wriggle in the sand, presumably to scratch or to free themselves of parasites. On other occasions, a shark would turn to whip the side of its body against a sand bank. The floor of the lagoon was made up of sand interspersed with reef flats and coral, and the sharks invariably chose only sandy places for such manoeuvres. 

Sometimes a shark carefully positioned himself to use a smooth, flat surface of dead coral on which to rub himself. Apparently, he had intentionally surveyed the environment and chosen a suitable structure to use. He must have held a mental image in mind of what he wanted, and referred to it while looking for a formation of the right shape.

Though this may not seem to be very impressive in terms of thinking in sharks, the availability of surfaces to use in this way does not mean that the animal will realize how they can be of benefit. For example, mynah birds (Acridotheres tristis), and junglefowl (Gallus gallus), the wild ancestor of domestic chickens, both spend much of their time foraging for insects on the ground, and both have strong feet for walking. However, mynah birds have not discovered that they can use their feet to help them uncover these insects, while junglefowl do so instinctively.

I was lucky to witness a clear decision made by two sharks, between two possible choices. One day near my study area, I saw the fins of many sharks slicing the surface, and found a spawning event underwater. Sharks were gliding among the clouds of dancing fish, occasionally snapping one up. Two blackfins came over when they saw me, and returned from time to time to circle me over a fifteen minute period. When I left and travelled another kilometre into the lagoon in my kayak, these two sharks followed from the spawning site. 

They decided to follow me even though they had not seen me for several months, and they made the choice that was based on a mental reference—a thought or memory—that sometimes I brought food. Yet, they were already in a situation in which they could see, hear, and smell food, moving in a stimulating way, and I had not fed them in that location before. This decision to leave, based on a memory many months old, indicated that they must have made such memories, and referred to them, a clear act of cognition that indicates consciousness.

Communication

I could not see evidence of communication between sharks except through body language. Yet occasionally, companions acted in concert, leaving the other sharks, and swimming in formation to perform a specific act together. How they communicated the decision to do this was not clear, but likely body language played a role.

In his book, The Secret Life of Sharks, Professor Peter Klimley described how great white sharks ritualize their conflict when a seal that one of them has killed comes under dispute. Each slaps the water at an angle with its tail, and the shark who raises the most water and blasts it farthest wins the prey. For this ritual to be effective, each shark must view its opponent’s gesture as a communication, and understand it, since the winner gets the seal without a fight, which could badly hurt both sharks.

Scheduling

Sharks often passed the same place at the same time repeatedly. One young visiting male passed by my observation post about five meters to the right, between ten and fifteen minutes after sunset each night for several weeks. Each time, he saw me and came for a closer look, then turned and went on his way. 

Another rare visitor’s first four visits, though months apart, occurred precisely at the moment that the sun touched the horizon, four days before the dark of the moon. 

Intrigued, when one of the residents who had habitually met me on my arrival in the lagoon, began coming instead at the end of the feeding session and missing out on the food, I kept careful track of the time of her return. For reasons known only to her, she had suddenly begun to spend her days in the ocean. Over a period of many months, she returned about ten minutes before sunset, night after night. Sometimes, she still met me when I arrived at the study site, yet other times, I saw her return from the sea when it was nearly dark and pass in the distance without coming to the feeding session.

Besides illustrating a remarkable ability to follow a daily schedule, and yet be flexible about it, her actions indicated that she had not become dependent on my weekly feeding sessions, though she had known about them since she had been a juvenile.

The sharks seemed to have no trouble catching a fish when they wished to, and often came to the feeding sessions only to socialize. Resident sharks routinely left for months at a time, and visitors did not remain in the area because of the food. Though many came to my feeding site at the proper time, their long-term schedules were unaffected by the few scraps I provided once a week to facilitate my observations.

Social Learning

The resident sharks learned in time that the fish-scraps I brought to the feeding sessions were in the back of my kayak. Though this species has not been documented breaching the surface to eat or to look around, these sharks found that the food could be accessed by leaping from the water, and leaning towards the boat, while snapping at whatever they could locate. The sound of their jaws snapping shut made loud clapping sounds, and some of the kayak’s straps were cut, punctured and sliced by their sharp little teeth. 

This behaviour pattern was a new foraging technique they had discovered, that was initiated by one or two sharks and instantaneously copied by the others present. They used it from then on. This discovery happened twice, in different locations, under different circumstances, with different groups of sharks, and is an example of social learning, which is basic to the development of culture.

Under normal circumstances, the space above the surface is not something that these sharks would have reason to consider. But they were presented with an artificial situation in which I came from above the surface and returned there, and so did the food in which they were interested. They would doubtless have stored memories about the surface from the occasions, particularly when they were small, when they swam through it or up against it while chasing a fish, though it is unlikely they could have formed more than a vague impression that there was a space above, from such brief events. Yet, their behaviour suggested that they were aware of a volume above the surface in which things could exist, and from which I came and went.

A question in cognition is whether an animal knows that something continues to exist when he or she can no longer see it. An object apparently ceases to exist for dogs, for example, when it disappears from view. So few people would agree that sharks could understand that I was in my kayak, even when I had just left their company and climbed into it. Yet they were aware. Indeed, the many ways that sharks took advantage of the opportunity to hide beyond visual range, strongly suggests that they understood very well the idea that something continues to exist, in spite of being out of their view.

Conclusion

Sharks have exquisitely coordinated senses, and their behaviour indicated that they used this sensory input alertly to make moment-to-moment decisions, and respond flexibly and appropriately to changing circumstances. They remembered the events in their lives, and referred to these memories in decision making. They were curious, but cautious, and learned quickly. Their versatile behaviour, individual differences, and different ways of handling various circumstances, were not indicative of a set of stimulus / response reactions.

I have observed sharks underwater in the Bahamas, including bull and tiger sharks, and found that their behaviour was remarkably similar to the behaviour of the requiem sharks I had known in Polynesia. This is to be expected since sharks have been evolving for four hundred twenty million years, and many species travel widely and are found around the globe. The essential qualities that sharks evolved to be so successful would already have developed in the ancestral forms, before they evolved into modern species occupying the ecological niches we know today. 

Though fish may seem primitive when looking down on them from the altitude of Homo sapiens, in fact they are highly complex and evolved life forms. And no brain is simple, as anyone who has observed the activities of a spider will appreciate.

Ila France Porcher, Shark Behaviour Specialist and SEI Board member, author of The True Nature of Sharks.

 

THOUGHTFUL SHARKS ----- by Ila France Porcher ----- Part II/III

Long term study of the behaviour of individual sharks has shown that they are not just acting on instinct. Not only are they thinking and highly intelligent—they are likely conscious too. So here is a review of how their actions reveal some of their mental states.





Memory and Learning

Learning plays an important role in the lives of sharks, as has been well documented. Learning is closely involved with memory, and the sharks I knew showed an ability to remember events far back in time. Familiar sharks recognized me in the lagoon as much as two years after their last meeting with me, and their behaviour, of greeting and travelling with me, was unchanged.

Like people, different sharks had different rates of learning. For example, among those who accompanied me most often, one of them never learned to take a treat I threw for her, while only a few caught on immediately without practice.

Hiding

Often a shy shark who appeared briefly in visual range would suddenly pass close behind me, but dart away if I turned and saw her—she had come to look without being seen. Sharks easily understood the direction in which a person was looking. In other ways, too, they showed that they were aware of whether or not they could be seen. When I was with another person, for example, they would swiftly approach for a closer look when we raised our heads above the surface to talk.

Once I was swimming with my step-son, and he climbed on a dead coral structure to look around above the surface. The shark who was accompanying us swam over to sniff his legs, and with his head above the surface, the boy never saw her. 

Sharks also surprised me by swimming between my face and hands when I was drawing their dorsal fins for identification purposes; this never happened when I was paying attention to them. One unusual shark passed me nearly every time I went to the lagoon, drifting by from left to right, always and only when I was looking the other way. She did this for eight months before relaxing her vigilance and moving around me more freely.

Always on the alert, the sharks used their awareness of whether or not a person could see them to their advantage. 

Therefore, it is not surprising that you never see the shark who bites you. As with other predators, it is best to face them, and pay attention to them when you are with them. But, that said, shark bites are very rare. Sharks were the only wild animal with which I was in intimate contact for many years, and who never bit me, either through accident or irritation. 

I eventually concluded that sharks have an inborn inhibition against biting companions, or others of their own species. This is well known among species that have evolved dangerous weapons, though not in humans, the only large predator who invented, and did not evolve, its weapons. During fights, for example, no wolf or dog will bite another who rolls on his back in submission, but humans will kill people who are begging for mercy.

Attention, Curiosity and Observation

The sharks were very curious, and investigated anything new. If a coconut floated across the surface, one would notice and rise to sniff it, followed by the others. They would often follow me for long distances, sometimes for hours, while remaining hidden beyond visual range. From time to time I checked to see who was with me by suddenly stopping, whereon they came into view and I could check their identities. It was surprising that they would remain concentrated on one thing for such a long time.

Sometimes unexpected events revealed patterns I might not otherwise have seen. When one of the sharks became ill, each evening I tried a different tactic to give him a piece of food in which antibiotics were inserted. The other sharks seemed to anticipate each of my attempts, and their actions made it very difficult for me to medicate him. One of the tactics they used after several nights of missing out on this piece of food, was to wait beyond visual range. When the time came to medicate the sick shark, and I went to the kayak and threw his chunk of food into the water, seven sharks, whom I thought had left an hour earlier, soared in, and the fastest one snatched the treat in mid water. 

Since they had been out of view, they had based their decision to act on a signal they had heard. They had understood the sounds of me getting the treat and throwing it, and their actions were effective, because one of them did get the food! This example shows their ability to predict something that might occur in the future, and to concentrate on it. Cognition is indicated because they must have held a mental representation of possible food coming, the signal that would trigger its imminent arrival, and what they planned to do when it came.

It often seemed that the sharks tried to be one step ahead of me. In long-evolved predators who catch swift and evasive fish for a living, the strategy of watching and waiting, and trying to predict from past experience what the prey would do next, could well have been selected for. 

Self-awareness

Cognitive ethologist Donald R. Griffin pointed out that when an animal hid itself from view, it was demonstrating self awareness. He described how Lance A. Olsen had reported that grizzly bears sought places from which they could watch hunters while remaining hidden. Other observers had reported too, that bears tried to avoid leaving tracks. The researchers concluded that these bears were aware of being present and observable, as well as creating effects―their tracks―through their movements, which could be seen by others. The sharks’ habitual way of remaining concealed beyond visual limit until an opportunistic moment, or approaching from behind to avoid being seen, is in the same category of behaviour, and indicates that they are aware of being present and observable.

This is the reason why the so called ‘shark counts’ that divers are asked to participate in, have no scientific validity. Since sharks are either attracted to divers or avoid them, the numbers of sharks seen by divers are not representative of the true numbers on the reef. Where sharks are habituated to divers and come to see them, such counts may give the impression that there are many sharks, when actually, their numbers are few. 

Further, once the information is published, the sharks are vulnerable to being fished for their fins.



Ila France Porcher, Shark Behaviour Specialist and SEI Board member,

author of The True Nature of Sharks

 

THOUGHTFUL SHARKS ----- by Ila France Porcher ----- Part I/III

Long term study of the behaviour of individual sharks has shown that they are not just acting on instinct. Not only are they thinking and highly intelligent—they are likely conscious too. So here is a review of how their actions reveal some of their mental states.

 

The usual methods for studying sharks are through tagging and dissection rather than through observing their actions underwater. However, direct observation of the actions of many individuals is the method, termed “ethology,” normally used to study wild animals on land. So over a period of fifteen years, I searched out and observed the reef sharks on different islands in the South Pacific and for seven years studied the population of blackfins intensively as individuals. By recording their actions I was able to access a dimension of their lives that had not previously been documented. My records ultimately included 581 individuals and I could recognize 300 different sharks on sight.

Their complex behaviour soon showed that the sharks were using reasoning, rather than reacting automatically to their environment as had been assumed. Cognition, the process of knowing through thinking, is the term used for thinking in animals. An animal shows that it is using cognition, rather than trial and error, when it must have referred to a mental representation in order to act as it did. Many life forms, including invertebrates, are increasingly found to be using cognition in their daily lives, and cognition in fish has been well studied.

 

Vigilance

Wild animals are always vigilant, always on the look-out for danger, and sharks are no different. Whenever anything was different about my visit, whether it was in a different place or at a different time, their behaviour became more cautious. 

All of the species of sharks I observed use the visual limit to conceal themselves. Once out of sight, they continue to pay attention from beyond visual range, by listening and through their lateral line sense. Occasionally they pass into view to look. If the shark is interested enough, its approaches bring it closer each time. Some species, such as tigers, pass above the object of their interest—for example a diver—while others tend to approach horizontally. 

In the case of blackfin reef sharks, the approach becomes more direct with each repetition and the shark turns away at a more acute angle each time. Its closest approach may bring it up to the diver’s mask before it turns away. This close approach is occasionally done very fast in order to intimidate, for example when the shark is trying to force a spear fisherman to give up his fish, however, the sharks who came to know me best would perform it slowly, one after another, when I first arrived, as if it were a sort of greeting.

The older female sharks, which are the largest individuals, were the most shy. Elderly blackfins would often linger out of visual range, making few passes into view and never coming close, while excited bands of males coming into the shallows to mate after sunset would zoom straight up to me on first meeting. 

Other species tended to approach by making repeated passes in a straight line, coming closer to the diver each time, but rarely closer than two metres. 

On the few occasions that I brought another person with me, the sharks sometimes vanished beyond visual range when the visitor appeared underwater. Many minutes would pass before they came back and they would arrive in long lines led by the boldest among them. In single file they would glide straight up to the stranger, after which they milled around and if I had brought food, they would not eat. 

This behaviour demonstrated their alertness to changes, and their ability to make quick decisions based on unexpected findings. Memories of events that can be called upon for decision-making are calleddeclarative memories,and are considered to be evidence that the animal is conscious.

Fishermen who complain that shark feeding dives cause sharks to harass them have failed to understand this crucial point―sharks easily discern the difference between a shark feeding event and a spear fisherman. It is the fishermen themselves who attract sharks, by holding dying fish underwater and trailing scent. 

 

Knowing Others as Individuals

Individual differences marked each shark’s behaviour. Each one had a unique pattern of roaming, under the dual influences of the lunar phase and the reproductive cycle. Some were nearly always present in their home ranges, while others travelled for months at a time. Individual sharks demonstrated different rates of learning, and they varied greatly in their responses to different situations. They had complex social lives and their behaviour was flexible depending on the circumstances.

The sharks recognized each other as individuals, which is the prerequisite for the complex social lives in which cognition is most evident. Blackfins travelled widely, and tended to go with preferred companions. At times they joined with others residing in the regions they passed through. There was always excitement when travellers and residents met, and since they are not territorial, there was no aggression. They would follow each other and swim side by side for long periods, often in a state of excitement, before the companions moved on. 

Companions were individuals of the same gender, and usually the same age as well. Some sharks usually travelled alone, some always with the same companion, and others changed companions. Due to the circular paths in which they move, they repeatedly crossed each others’ scent trails, and thus remained in loose contact as they roamed, together, yet not usually within visual range.

As far as I was able to determine, such friends came from the same region. The reef sharks were acquainted with the other individuals whose home ranges overlapped theirs and their travelling companions were usually neighbours at home. 

Bonnethead sharks, too, have been shown to recognize each other as individuals, and at least some species of sharks and rays choose their mates, providing further scientific evidence that individuals know each other.

 

Ila France Porcher, Shark Behaviour Specialist and SEI Board member,

author of The True Nature of Sharks

 

WHAT'S THE REAL MEANING OF THE MSC BLUE LABEL?

How can a fishery killing threatened animals every day as bycatch be certified as sustainable?

Is it really credible there's any sustainable shark fishing?

 

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) fishery certification refers to seafood coming from fisheries that have been certified by the MSC Fisheries Standard, allegedly a science-based set of requirements for sustainable fishing. The certification can be seen as a blue sticker on seafood packaging. However, analysis of how MSC certification is being implemented in Canada reveals several problematic findings.

Even with certification requirements meant to bring fisheries up to MSC’s “global best practice level”, analysis made by several international non-governmental organisations found little change to fishery practices on the water to directly improve their impacts on habitat, non-target species and ecosystem function.

The Fiji albacore and yellowfin tuna longline fishery was certified by the MSC in 2011 and is still certified today. The Figure 1 is taken from the initial assessment of the fishery in 2011. Longlines have their share of bycatch, but when 69% of sharks caught are being finned for profit it seems like more than just bycatch! The number of different species caught is also very large. Blue, Oceanic Whitetip, Shortfin Mako and Silky Sharks are all listed as threatened/ near-threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Here, what we find shocking is the use of the language “escaped” for the 14 sharks that were freed. Escaped certainly implies that they intend to catch these sharks rather than attempt to set free any bycatch. This is a quote from the initial assessment:

"Blue sharks are the most common shark species in this fishery. They are not specifically targeted, but if retrieved dead are likely to be finned and retained. Observer data suggests that 90% of blue sharks are released alive, but this may not hold true in the case of unobserved trips"

Of course, this quote doesn’t make sense at all looking at the table. Another quote from the initial assessment:

"One key consideration is the fate of the shark catch. As will be discussed later in this section, sharks are not a targeted commercial catch - shark gear is banned on these boats, no wire traces are used, the hooks are circular hooks and the fishing depth beyond most the portion of the water column inhabited by most pelagic sharks. However there is an inevitable bycatch and the first question at this point is as to whether they could be considered as retained or bycatch (discarded) species."

Then another quote from the 2017 re-assessment of the fishery which contradicts the initial:

Piovano and Gilman (2016) report that on-board observers recorded the use of ‘shark lines’ in more than half of observed sets in 2011 (59% of sets monitored), while in the next 2 years it dropped to about 1% (0.8% in 2012 and 1.1% in 2013).”

So the initial assessment says shark gear was banned on boats however the 2017 assessment admits the use of “shark lines” in the past.

In 2015 (Figure 2) it looks like an improvement. 57 sharks retained rather than 578 in 2011. However, 2049 sharks caught and discarded! Discarded is also strange language, giving no indication to the state of the shark. Sounds like a lot of sharks are still dying! One thing they did improve on was stating the rule that if sharks are retained it must be with fins attached, but if so many sharks are still dying why is this fishery certified? We believe the consumers of MSC certified seafood do not expect this many fatalities of threatened species with their food, do they?

How can a fishery killing threatened animals every day as bycatch be certified as sustainable?

The truth is that under this MSC called sustainable fishing, sharks, turtles, birds, whales and dolphins end up as bycatch in the nets daily. We believe that by certifying fisheries without considering their wider environmental impact and conduct, MSC undermines public confidence in its certification program. 

All potential consumers should be made aware of the fact that an MSC certification does not indicate the absence of shark or cetacean bycatch. Read the packaging to know how your seafood is caught. Longlines and trawlers often indicate large amounts of bycatch. 

Please share this, if you agree with us that nowadays there's no such thing as sustainable shark fishing, and if you think all the public should be aware of the real significance of the MSC Blue Label. MSC certifications are certainly not a bad thing. The MSC are providing an incentive for fisheries to strive towards sustainability and many certified fisheries are doing good work. The MSC however must stick to their second principle of minimising environmental impacts by refusing to certify fisheries with high levels of bycatch. If their standards slip, those certified fisheries who are fishing quite sustainably will be undermined and thecredibility of the certification will be compromised.

Sharks Educational Institute, 31st May, 2018 

THE MEANING OF SHARK PECTORAL FINS POSITIONS - Fundamentals 1

PECTORAL FINS' POSITIONS (Part I)

- Fundamentals of shark pectoral fins' positions -

When we see sharks, we are impressed, amazed, overwhelmed… and during first encounters, we never have the time or mindset to really observe behaviour details.

But with time and after several encounters – while still being amazed by diving with sharks – we will begin to see different things which we did not realise during the first encounters due to our astonishment…

This is a brief introduction into the meaning of pectoral fin positions. It will help you to know when a shark will turn and in which direction. Comprehending this behaviour will help you feel more comfortable when diving with sharks, it can help understanding a situation or it can be a great ”tool“ to take the picture you want… All in all, it is always good to know when and if a shark is going to turn or not. We will not discuss WHY a shark turns as this can have a multitude of reasons… but we will talk about when and how you can detect that it will turn.

As the title already indicates, it has something to do with the pectoral fins (breast fins). The pectoral fins can be defined as rudder and the tail fin as propeller. That means the shark steers with its pectoral fins.

Knowing that, it becomes very easy to predict a shark’s moves. If a shark wants to turn to its right, it simply pushes down its right pectoral fin (see picture 1), if it wants to turn left it pushes the left fin down. The lowering of a pectoral fin increases the lateral surface and creates a speed burst: yes, it’s all about physics. The lateral surface increase and the resulting speed burst on one side cause the shark to turn to the respective side.

Picture 1 …turning to its right – it is lowering its right pectoral fin

Hence, depending on the inclination of the pectoral fin, the shark’s turning circle will be smaller or larger. If the shark pushes its fin completely down (90° from starting position) the circle will be small, if the angle is smaller the circle will be respectively bigger. How fast the shark is veering depends on how quick it is lowering its fin and how fast it is swimming (depending on tail fin frequency). If it wants to veer quickly, the shark must increase its speed, create a quick speed burst with 2-3 or more rapid tail beats.

That means if we see a shark lowering one of its pectoral fins, we know now that it will veer in the respective direction. As described, that can happen quickly or slowly depending on the shark’s speed and the turning circle can be narrow or wide depending on the angle of the pectoral fin. Besides being used as rudder, the pectoral fins can also have other purposes!

When sharks are cruising, the pectoral fins are more or less used like wings, to stabilise and to counteract the slightly negative buoyancy (downforce). This is particularly the case when the shark does not use its tail fin for a short while. In these moments, the shark looks like it is flying, and the pectoral fins work as wings due to their morphology (slightly concave). The water stream has a longer way on the upper side of the fin because of its structure and so the water is accelerated on the upper side of the fin and ”sucks“ the shark upwards.

If sharks want to stop cruising because an object is suddenly in their way, they try to use the pectoral fins as brakes. Sharks are awfully bad in putting on brakes! To do so, they put up the pectoral fins (see picture 2) which will slow them down. However, sharks are not really able to stop short like bony fish are. So, if you are the suddenly appearing object in their way and they do not have the time to turn around anymore, they will crush into you…

But don´t panic…The shark is most probably more frightened by having crushed into you than you are… try to enjoy it!!!

Picture 2 …putting down the fins will probably lift the shark upwards

 

Pascal Gospodinov 

Email: info@shaksinstitute.org

Sharks Educational Institute, 29th March, 2018

THE MEANING OF SHARK PECTORAL FINS POSITIONS - Fundamentals 2

PECTORAL FINS' POSITIONS (Part II)

- The exception: the hammerhead sharks -

As we can see below, in Part I we discussed the fundamentals of pectoral fin positions. Pectoral fins used as rudder is a rule that applies to all species of sharks. But as we know, every rule has an exception. Here it is the genus of the hammerhead sharks (all species of the hammerheads).

Why are the hammerheads not using (or mostly not using) their pectoral fins as rudder?

Evolutionary speaking, hammerheads are the latest model… a very modern shark. 

Their appearance is very different from other sharks… Of course, we are talking about the hammer, which in the scientific world is called the hydrofoil. The hydrofoil or hammer is the new rudder, very sophisticated and more sensitive. Hammerheads are able to steer with very small movements of their heads. The bigger the hammer the better they can steer. Species with smaller hammers also use the pectoral fin for steering, but less than sharks without a hammer.

Please, see Pictures 1 and 2.

It is very difficult or even impossible to recognize when a hammerhead wants to turn… its pectoral fins will stay in the same position. 

The pectoral fins of hammerheads are used to stabilize, and they always have an angle of more or less 45° to a horizontal line.

In most publications about hammerheads, the hammer is described as an enlarged area that serves to accommodate more lorenzinian ampullae. Those lorenzinian ampullae are used as an electrosensitive organ, all sharks have them… but the greater amount in the hammer makes the hammerhead even more sensitive to electrical stimuli. Therefore, hammerheads are better in searching out buried prey in the sand and they are even able to use the magnetic field of the earth to navigate while migrating trough the pelagic areas of the oceans.

So, what is true? Is the hydrofoil a rudder or an upgraded electronic sensor?

The answer is simple: it is both. Evolution usually has more than just one reason to evolve an organ. Or the change of an organ or its morphology suddenly brings new advantages that eventually speed up the adaptation. The hydrofoil brings massive advantages! 

Perhaps we have not understood all of them yet and, maybe, we will never even understand all of them. 

 

Pascal Gospodinov 

Email:info@shaksinstitute.org

Sharks Educational Institute, 3rd April, 2018

THE MEANING OF SHARK PECTORAL FINS POSITIONS - Fundamentals 3

PECTORAL FINS' POSITIONS (Part III)

-Hunched back: a threat display or a feeling threatened display?-

First, we will discuss how sharks form a hunched back, talking about general appearance and then in a second part, we will try to shed light on what this hunch display might signify. 

The general appearance of the hunch display is lowered pectoral fins, an upward-pointing snout and the resulting hump and arrhythmic swimming motion.

In this case, both pectoral fins are lowered. Why? The reason is simple: the shark is preparing to be able to turn in every direction, because it probably does not know exactly which direction is going to be the safest option. The result of lowering both pectoral fins is an upward pointing snout… We discussed in part I that the pectoral fins are also used for counteracting the downforce. As there is no more counteraction when both pectoral fins are lowered, the shark will try to get more water under its belly to compensate for the missing fins. The result of the upward pointing snout is the hunchback which in turn causes the arrhythmic swimming motion. The entire hunch display is simply the result of both pectoral fins being lowered - not more, not less. And again: two lowered pectoral fins will enable the shark to turn both left or right.

As discussed in part I, lowered pectoral fins increase the lateral surface and enable the shark to turn. During the hunch display, the pectoral fins are usually lowered to the maximum to give the shark the possibility to make the turn as narrow as possible.

Sharks will show the hunch display when put under any kind of pressure; for example, if divers hassle them or in very closed environments or both…all kinds of scenarios are possible.

But let’s get back to our question as to what this display can signify?

The general assumption is that the hunch display is a threat display…

Why should an animal prepare itself to escape – because that is what the shark does in lowering its pectoral fins – if it wants to threaten, show dominance or aggression or even attack? It makes no sense. 

An animal that prepares to flee feels threatened. The shark feels stressed and is looking for an escape. At that point, it is up to the diver who is confronted with this kind of behaviour to react correctly and to relax the situation whilst giving the shark more space to manoeuvre and/or stop hassling it even if it was not on purpose… When sharks show the hunch display, they do it because they feel threatened and not as a sign of aggression, dominance or any kind of agonistic interaction.

There is one more scenario in which the pectoral fins are lowered, and the shark will show a hunched back. A scenario triggered by Remoras (Echeneis naucrates) a.k.a shark-suckers that attach themselves to sensory areas of the shark. The shark will try to force the Remoras to move away by shaking its body or bending its skin in the area where it feels the shark-suckers’ suction pressure. This bending and shaking can look very similar to the hunch display explained above… 

Back to the question from the beginning: ”Is the hunch display a threat display or a feeling threatened display? What would you say?

A behaviour is caused by a need. Why would a shark display a behaviour directed against a person when they never show this kind of behaviour towards other sharks? We were not part of their evolution, so how could a behaviour against humans have been formed in less than 100 years (the time span during which humans have been swimming in the oceans frequently). It is simply impossible…

As always, we are open for further explanations or discussions, so please feel free to send your questions, ideas, pros and contras about these articles.

 

Pascal Gospodinov

Email:info@shaksinstitute.org

Sharks Educational Institute, 21st April, 2018

LONE SHARKS - A curious Blue shark, Azores, Portugal. Credit: Luke Hasler

LONE SHARKS

Another beautiful, hot and sunny day in Lhaviyani Atoll in the Maldives and I’m sailing out on the Indian Ocean for a glorious morning scuba dive and what would come to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life. My father and I are in the capable hands of the local dive guide who has dived here for many years and isn’t unnerved easily. I’m itching to get into the water, more than usual this morning because I know here I have a good chance of seeing my first wild shark! 

We all plunge into the dream that is the underwater kingdom of the Maldives and are greeted by rich and diverse life. Green turtles, snapper and trigger fish roam above the coral while tuna shoot past and into the deep blue. We are riding the famous Kuredu express current, flying past the stunning reef when I saw her. Gliding past us with absolute elegance and perfect effortlessness, is the grey reef shark, at least 2 metres long! Her tail is whipped back and forth with remarkable fluidity, she is calm but definitely curious. She starts swimming directly towards me, with 

her eyes locked on mine. The feeling of making eye contact with such a prolific animal was breath-taking, as we shared a mutual interaction of curiosity towards each other. As she harmlessly moves on I have a lot to think about. I was influenced my whole life by the media and people around me that sharks were dangerous creatures to be feared, but of course once I replaced irrational judgement with a real experience I learned the truth. I changed fears for facts and realised a shark of course is not a man-eating villain like the media wants it to be, but an animal like any other that should be respected. Since that memorable day I became a dive guide, so I could show others the beauty of sharks and help diminish the general fear towards them. Then one day I realized, we are losing them. 

To most people sharks are unimportant and unappreciated. Due to the unfair bad reputation that sharks have acquired most famously from the film ‘Jaws’, sharks have almost unnoticeably reached a point where many shark species have a serious risk of extinction in the near future. Sharks are facing the greatest crisis of their 420 million year history and are overfished to the point that their global catch peaked in 2003. Divers talk of times when reef sharks would be a common sighting on many coral reefs, but not anymore and it is heart-breaking as a diver to see the evidence of decline of such an incredible animal with my own eyes. As time has passed, divers have come to accept that a shark sighting is not to be taken for granted and the fate of the missing sharks is not a pretty one. 

 

WHAT ARE THE THREATS TO SHARKS?

Overfishing, whether sharks are targeted or caught as bycatch, is the primary threat to sharks and most shark fisheries are poorly regulated. Recent global catch records indicate that, including illegal catches, approximately 100 million sharks are caught annually, with the demand for shark fin trade the key driver of these fisheries. 

 

SHARK FINNING 

Shark finning is the harvesting of shark fins while usually, the live carcass is discarded at sea to allow more fins to be stored on the boat. The fins are considered a delicacy and wealth status symbol in shark fin soup, a cultural treasure and established part of formal banquets dating back as far as 1368. This has made shark finning a multi-billion dollar industry with one pound of dried shark fin retailing at around US$300. Not only is the practice of de-finning a shark and leaving it to die slowly inhumane, it is extremely wasteful and unsustainable. 

Shark fin soup is not only a hazard to shark populations but also to human health. Like other large marine animals, meat from large sharks contains high levels of a compound called methylmercury which is toxic in high enough concentrations. In this way, consumption of large marine apex predators increases the risk of mercury poisoning, which can cause memory loss, tremors and insomnia and can also have a negative effect on the growth of an unborn baby’s brain and nervous system. 

A further impact of shark finning is the loss of sharks as a food staple for developing countries, as waters are invaded by large industrial foreign fishing vessels, threatening local sustainable fisheries. 130 countries export shark fins to Hong Kong, with Taiwan, Indonesia, UAE, Singapore and Japan contributing 50% of Hong Kong’s shark fin imports. Despite shark finning being prohibited in the United States since 2000, shark fin soup is still sold in U.S restaurants. 

 

COMMERCIAL FISHING 

Deep-sea trawlers and open ocean longline fisheries catch the largest quantity of sharks, with longline fisheries having the larger bycatch/target ratio. Sharks and rays contribute around 25% of the overall catch in U.S longline fisheries and 94% of total bycatch in commercial longline operations worldwide. Bycatch is the unintentional catch of a non-target species and is one of the greatest threats to marine fish populations, representing a major threat to around 70% of shark and ray species. The species-specific bycatch survival rates are also rarely considered in risk assessments even though bycatch numbers often exceed that of target catch. 

Although in some fishing operations fishermen will release sharks in an attempt to reduce mortality, not all sharks receive this mercy and even still, the post release mortality rates are not well known, but predicted to be high. A shark trapped in a deep- sea trawler surely has a very limited chance of survival, as most open ocean dwelling sharks must keep swimming to breath. Sharks use a lot of energy catching prey and fending off competition, so after expending even more energy fighting for survival on a line, sharks are vulnerable to mortal exhaustion when released. 

 

RECREATIONAL FISHING 

Some recreational fishers believe their practices have no effect on shark populations and should not be regulated however, there are more than 10 million saltwater recreational fishers estimated to be operating along in the U.S alone and around 93% of anglers surveyed have caught at least 1 shark. This has a significant impact on threatened fish species. In 2013, 14 and 15, more sharks were killed in the U.S by recreational anglers than by commercial fishers. Although this may be due to commercial fisheries failing to account for all shark killings, this still shows the number of sharks caught recreationally is worth considering. 

Large sharks are popular targets of Florida’s recreational anglers and some shark fishing organisations say they are committed to conservation, enforcing catch and release policies, but again this does not factor in the number of sharks killed by the strong physiological stress response from being fished. Due to the competitive aspect of game fishing, there are also cases of delaying release to measure the size of the catch, decreasing further the animal’s chance of survival. 

 

HIGH VULNERABILITY 

Sharks have a very long wait to reach sexual maturity. For example, a whale shark can take as long as 20 years before giving birth to up to 300 pups. The longer it takes for a shark to mature, the more likely it will be killed before reproducing. Also, 300 offspring is actually a very small amount for a fish, a ling can carry as many as 28,361,000 eggs in her ovaries. It then seems obvious that sharks cannot be harvested as if they were like any other fish. This also makes them slow to recover after shifts in mortality rates. Most vulnerable to catch by fishing fleets are species such as blue, mako and oceanic white-tip sharks, which roam the open oceans almost exclusively. These species are in further danger, because their relatively large size 

gives their fins a higher value and due to their long distance migration patterns, are difficult to protect, as local protection only protects a small area of its habitat. 

 

WHY ARE SHARKS IMPORTANT?

The conservation of sharks is necessary to recovering marine ecosystems. The ecological consequences of shark population decline vary but are usually major. 

Studies have suggested that reductions to the size of large shark populations can cause top-down trophic cascades, where the reduction of a predator population leads to a change in the abundance of prey populations, through direct and indirect effects. The behaviour and abundance of small sharks, rays, marine mammals and turtles can all be changed by the decline of large sharks. 

Being predators, sharks prey on fish that are easiest to catch. This removes the weakest genes from fish populations, maintaining their overall genetic fitness and increasing the resistance of a population to disease. Sharks also help to maintain biodiversity, by feeding on many different species, ensuring no species overpopulates and depletes the population of other species. 

Many divers travel across the world for great shark diving, generating annual revenues globally in the order of US%314 million and directly supports around 10,000 jobs. This provides an important socioeconomic benefit to many developing areas. 

 

WHAT ARE THE SOLUTIONS?

As a trading hub of shark fins, Hong Kong has an important duty to improve monitoring and regulation of the shark fin trade. The potential benefit of local management of Hong Kong’s shark fin trade cannot be ignored, as local management effectively means managing 50% of the global trade. 

In response to concerns regarding the decline of shark populations many countries have banned shark fishing in their waters in favour of promoting tourism, a much more sustainable income. Shark tourism is their conservation. This is something everyone can do to help. If the fantasy of man eating sharks can be replaced with more accurate perceptions, sharks have a better chance of gaining public support and better protection. 

Say no to shark fin soup and try to avoid trawler and longline caught fish. Most sharks are killed as either bycatch from fisheries or targeted by shark finning operators. You can help the sharks by not eating the extremely wasteful shark fin soup and by eating responsibly harvested sea food. Shark meat can also be found under the name rock salmon and has even been discovered in battered fish and chips, so it’s good to know where your fish is from! 

Further information:

> “Sharkwater” by Rob Stewart 

> Global economic value of shark ecotourism: implications for conservation by Cisneros- Montemayor AM et al. 

 

Adam Evans, SEI Marine Environmental Adviser

Email: adam@sharksinstitute.org 

Sharks Educational Institute, 27th November, 2017

Finding of a Longnose Velvet Dogfish (Centroselachus crepidater) on the intertidal zone of a small beach on the eastern coast of Gran Canaria in the Atlantic Ocean, Spain.

Amazing longnose velvet dogfish finding on Canary Islands

An amazing finding of a Longnose Velvet Dogfish (Centroselachus crepidater) this week in a small beach on the eastern coast of Gran Canaria, Spain.

Our friends from the Canary Islands Shark Alliance shared some pictures taken last Thursday the 13th April, by one of their followers and marine conservationists Angel Puga Rodriguez at the end of the day during a walk along the sand at the low tide. 

Both because of the characteristics of its biology and habitats, it is supposed that this shark was caught unintentionally in some fishery campaign and later discarded already dead directly into the sea. 

 

The Longnose Velvet Dogfish is a slender shark with a very long snout, a small mouth with encircling very long upper labial furrows and may possibly achieve 105 cm in length.

Usually, it can be found living near the bottom, with a large distribution from the Eastern Atlantic and Indo-Pacific Oceans to the South of Australia and New Zealand waters, in depths between 200 and 2080 m.

According to the IUCN, there's a lack of a seasonal pattern to reproduction, with females breeding throughout the year, which means that the gestation period is currently unknown. So, its annual fecundity is unknown. The productivity of this species appears to be very low, with age at maturity in Australia of 15 years at 64 cm (males) and 22 years at 82 cm (females), and a longevity of around 60 years.

These sharks are ovoviviparous having 4 to 8 young per litter that born with 28 to 35 cm long. It feeds mainly on fish and cephalopods. It's a shark species that would appear to feed clear of the seabed on benthopelagic organisms (Mauchline and Gordon 1983). Its flesh is high in mercury.

It is to believe that this finding that occurred on a Canarian beach during a low tide may be happened due to a discard from a vessel used on the increasing fishing pressure of deep water trawl grounds around the Canary Islands, or further between the archipelago and the Eastern Coast of Africa.

The shark founded by Angel is a female with the caudal fin cut that could be had approximately 90 to 100 cm as her total length.

This longnose dogfish shark C. crepidater is mainly caught as a bycatch species. The fact of the missing tail on this photographed specimen is probably due to the fact of having been discarded from a fishing trawl. It happens sometimes that parts of animals have to be cut to avoid other damages on the nets or on the target animals.

This dogfish Centroselachus crepidater is a quiet common but poorly studied shark that is classified on the Red List of Threatened Species of the IUCN as Least Concerned since 2003.

Besides it can be poisonous for human consumption, it has been largely targeted fished in Australia for its oil and flesh, where its meat could retail for up to Aus$12/kg. Its major threat still to be an increasing fishing pressure to the fact that since 2002 the South East Trawl Fishery in Australia had to prohibit landings of livers without the body carcass.

That's why finding such an animal laying on a beach in the Canary Islands represents at the same time a good sign and but also a sad news for the marine conservation.

 

Special thanks to:

Angel Puga Rodriguez, marine conservationist, Canary Islands Shark Alliance, Spain.

 

Fernando Reis, SEI Executive Director

Email: fernando@sharksinstitute.org

Sharks Educational Institute, 15th March 2017

 

Angel shark wounded.
She has been bitten two times during the attack.

The secret drama of an angel shark's life

By the end of February 2017, I received some extraordinary images of an angel shark that presented a large wound apparently caused by a strong bite from another predator. These images have been taken a Friday morning by my friend Volker Berbig from the dive centre 'Deep Blue Diving' in Fuerteventura, and the big question was obviously: What could have done that to this unlucky angel shark?

Let's start with the facts. The shark subjected to this investigation has been identified as a mature female angel shark (Squatina squatina) with a longitude of 160cm, showing a behaviour both of resting and swimming, that was registered at 10:30 a.m. over a sandy muck's bottom at 4 m deep, pretty close to the “house reef” of the 'Caleta de Fuste' Marina, in the East Coast of Fuerteventura, in the Canary Islands.

After having dedicated some time to a detailed analysis, and also after an enthusiastic discussion with my friend Pascal Gospodinov, involving a serious process of exchanged information, I believe we are now in conditions to share some interesting conclusions taken from the relevant data we have had.

Our first conclusion is related to the possible origin of the wound. Due to the size and type of teeth of the angel shark S. squatina species, it is possible to say, with total certainty, that this wound wasn’t made by a bite from any male during a mating encounter. First the angel shark's teeth are very small and secondly, they are very sharp which means also they are not able to cut skin and tissues in the way this female presented. Their type of teeth so sharped are used to hold not to cut.

Secondly, the wound presented by this female has clearly the form semi-elliptic of a kind of jaw. We also know that this shark species, the S. squatina, rarely approach themselves to the surface and doesn’t hunt by chasing their preys. Thus, we may also conclude for sure that this wound was not provoked by a propeller of any engine or boat.

Observing attentively it is perfectly clear that the angel shark has been bitten two times.

The first bite was the deepest one and has been used to cut off the pelvic fin, then the angel shark has wrestled and got free. This bite was made to kill. The wound edges look totally frayed. Therefore and contrary to my initial allegation, we think she was lucky, very lucky indeed. Nonetheless, the angel shark female has been seriously injured. She was caught by surprise. She was lying on the bottom and she didn’t get time enough to try an escape or swim away before the danger comes. This lets us believe that she was buried well undercover on any sandy bottom around the corner, maybe waiting for a prey or doing a large digestive rest period, when she was attacked.

Then, a second bite came from which we can still see the marks on the pectoral fin, probably used to try to hold on better the prey. This second time, the predator's teeth didn't go so deep and she was lucky to free a second time... With speed and all the power she had! The first bite went deeper because she was buried so her predator could bite so strongly and deeply.

We know that angel sharks use to like to stay hidden camouflaged under the sand. Their instinct and life experience taught them that despite the presented facts, being buried under the sand is the best way to escape from predators and to hunt their preys. That's no doubt a good place. But unfortunately, their predators should know it too.

We also know that hammerheads sharks’ main preys and nutrition consist of any type of animals who can be buried under the sand, such as crabs, several different fish’s species, and even diverse species of sharks and rays.

Hammerhead sharks are considered to be some of the most modern sharks' species we can observe nowadays. This means that they are species that had recently evolved to their actual shape. It is known that they have developed their hammers’ shape heads especially to being able to become better hunters on their preys. For that, “they” had developed a bigger area on their snouts to have larger spaces to position more Lorenzini ampullae (the sharks’ sensory organs that work as highly advanced electroreceptors).

This is why we believe that a hammerhead shark was looking for some preys under the sandy bottom the night previous to the sight of this angel shark and, felt her heart beating under the sand, so tried to hunt her as if it was any stingray or other small creature. The unsharpness of the wound presented speaks for a hammerhead.

It is known the hammerheads' species hunt sharks and rays, and that's sure they have enough powerful jaws to do that kind of bite's cutting. Obviously, predators know their preys quite good. If we consider the behaviour and all the environment around there are no doubt it was a hammerhead hunting for its dinner.

In the North Eastern Atlantic waters of Canary Islands, where this happened, the two most common species are the Smooth Hammerhead (Sphyrna zygaena) and the Scalloped Hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini). The S. lewini is a real deep water animal (who can go down to 280m), and the S. zygaena is living between 0 and 30m. Anyway, both species of those hammerheads go close inshore. Of course, this doesn't mean nothing, but we think more on a Smooth hammerhead (S. zygaena) as the predator who just “tasted” his dinner.

After studying some measurements of the bite and due to the longitude of this female, I am now able to declare that the most probable predator which has provoked that wound was a Smooth hammerhead (S. Zygaena) measuring between 2,25 and 2,85m length.

And one last thing... Despite the extraordinary deep wound this angel shark presents, we are inclined to think that she will survive. Sharks are really incredible creatures, perfectly evolved, and they are able to survive absolutely brutal things, and we always become astonished every time we learn more from them.

 

Special thanks to:

Volker Berbig, Executive Director at the Dive Centre Deep Blue Diving Fuerteventura, Canary Islands.

Pascal Gospodinov, Dipl. Biologe (and PHD Student) at SERC – Shark Education & Research Center in Pensacola, Florida, and Course Director Instructor at the Eric Ritter SharkSchool.

 

Fernando Reis, Email: sharksinstitute@gmail.com

Sharks Educational Institute, 1st March 2017

Last January and February 2017, 1,280kg of fins from hammerhead sharks and oceanic whitetip sharks – both listed as endangered species under C.I.T.E.S. – were uncovered in four containers from India, Egypt, Kenya and Peru at Kwai Chung terminal, in Hong Kong. (image courtesy © Normangee Star)

Group of NGOs question MSC standards

Latest facts about sharks

19. Mar, 2017

1,280kg of fins from hammerhead sharks and oceanic whitetip sharks – both listed as endangered species under C.I.T.E.S. – were uncovered in four containers from India, Egypt, Kenya and Peru at Kwai Chung terminal, in Hong Kong.

It is known that sharks are in big trouble around the world, with the populations of the most endangered species crashing by more than 90 percent.
Every day more and more transportation companies not to accept shark products on their cargos due to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
During last January and February 2017, the Hong Kong Customs authorities confiscated 1280kg of protected shark species fins.

26. Jan, 2017

A host of NGOs questions the validity of MSC blue label certification

This January 2017, the Sharks Educational Institute together with other 52 non-governmental organizations, co-signed a letter that was sent to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) expressing our concerns about its certification of fisheries with high levels of bycatch.

The MSC is an organisation that is supposed to sell a blue label on the market, which should serves consumers as a guide to responsible fish purchasing, and talks about sustainable fishing based on a flawed certification process for fisheries that involve the bycatch of chondrichthyans – sharks in particular – and cetaceans – a whales, dolphins and porpoises.

It is our view that many of the fisheries that have been assessed via the MSC certification process have not been subject to an adequate review of information available on bycatch of non-target species. Often the Conformity Assessment Body (CAB) involved in an assessment fails to provide a robust and consistent evidence base for bycaught and Endangered, Threatened and Protected (ETP) species.

There also appears to be a great deal of subjectivity in interpreting evidence and deciding on the severity of impacts of a given fishery, to the detriment of non-target species affected by that fishery. It is known that since more than a year ago the MSC has come under blistering criticism from several NGOs who is questioning the validity of their certification process for tuna, swordfish and other fishes.

As examples of certified fisheries or fisheries recommended for certification that has bycatch levels either worrisome or unacceptable, we have highlighted on this letter:

a) The Atlantic Canadian swordfish longline fishery: High levels of bycatch of endangered, vulnerable and near-threatened sharks, as well as endangered sea turtles. This fishery has a very high bycatch to target catch ratio, and the quantity of bycaught species can even exceed that of the target species;

b) The Antarctic krill fisheries: We claim in the letter that no annual or updated stock assessment exists for Antarctic krill and that concerns about data deficiency and ecosystem changes due to the effects of climate change were ignored through several successful certification applications;

c) The New Zealand orange roughy deep-sea bottom trawl fishery: This fishery was certified by MSC in December 2016 despite concerns raised about the unsustainability of orange roughy fish stocks, and the fact that there had been known under-reporting and dumping of fish species, including misreporting of orange roughy landing data;

d) The Gulf of Maine lobster fishery: “The CAB for this fishery has recommended certification despite the fact this fishery potentially impacts on several species of cetaceans listed by the United States as endangered such as the North Atlantic right whale, a species with an estimated population of 450 individuals;

e) The Spanish North and South Atlantic swordfish fishery: This fishery primarily targets blue, mako, hammerheads, porbeagle, and thresher sharks. The CAB acknowledged in its assessment that the possibility of the stock being overfished and overfishing occurring could not be ruled out;

f) The Northeastern Pacific Ocean purse seine yellowfin and skipjack tuna fishery: The CAB for this fishery has indicated its support for MSC certification, despite the fact it involves the deliberate setting of nets on dolphins.

The fact is that on the MSC called sustainable fishing sharks, turtles, birds, whales and dolphins end up as bycatch in the nets is hardly known. The consumers should be made aware of the fact that an MSC certification does not indicate the absence of shark and cetacean bycatch.

We believe that by certifying fisheries without considering their wider environmental impact and conduct, MSC undermines public confidence in its certification program.

Considering these facts, the Sharks Educational Institute, together with 52 others NGOs co-signatories, ask the MSC not to certify those fisheries with concerning levels of bycatch of that are still pending certification, and for the reassessment of the certifications of fisheries with practices, they deem questionable.

Thus, we also ask the MSC to clarify its standards so that it is not possible that unsustainable fisheries are certified, to include IUCN-listed fish species in the definition of ETP species in the MSC actual standard that already includes the amphibian, reptiles, birds and mammal species listed on the IUCN Redlist, and finally to address adequately all cumulative impacts -fishery and environmental - on target, bycatch and ETP species.

15. Nov, 2016

Why we should not eat shark products?

As top regulators of each marine ecosystems, sharks as other elasmobranchs are particularly susceptible to bioaccumulation, making them potential sentinel species of marine contamination due to the different persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and metal founded in their liver and muscles.

Shrimp bycatch from fisheries shrimp trawling technique.
(image courtesy © NOAA - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / Department of Commerce)

What is considered bycatch?

In fisheries, it is called Bycatch to the fishes and to all the marine life species that are caught unintentionally while a target species or target sizes of animals fishery campaign (e.g., tuna, shrimps, etc.).
In fact, bycatch is considered to strongly contribute to the fisheries resources decline and it is a significative part of the overfishing due to unintentional catch.
The captures classified as bycatch affects various vulnerable species groups including cetaceans and other marine mammals, seabirds, sea turtles and elasmobranchs (sharks and rays). These can be discarded directly into the sea, the most of the time unreported, or retained onboard and sold later.
This is what happens nowadays with many shark and ray species caught during longline fishery campaigns for tuna, swordfish, or during krill fishery, lobster fishery, and deep-sea bottom trawl fisheries.

(image © NOAA - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / Department of Commerce)

'Save Our Sharks From A Bowl Of Soup' - a shark conservationist campaign in Malaysia founded by Kirk Lee (image courtesy © Kirk Lee)

Shark Fin Soup

21. Nov, 2016

Why you should say no to Shark Fin Soup?

The increased demand for shark fins since the end of the last century has sharply increased the catch of sharks in all oceans.
The new purchasing power in some Asian countries has led many people from middle class to seek to imitate ancient ancestral customs at their more solemn ceremonies. The consumption of Shark's Fin Soup at wedding receptions, anniversaries, family or business celebrations has become a new threat to many sharks species.
When the demand for a given product increases, usually prices also rise and a chain effect of increased supply and consequent demand for raw materials is generated.

Discard the shark's body still alive into the sea after the fins cutting act (image courtesy © Humane Society International)

Shark finning

26. Nov, 2016

What is the finning?

Today, it is estimated that more than 100 million sharks are killed every year. Most of these kills are made only by their fins with the horrible practice of Finning and thus discarding the body to the sea to reserve more cargo space only for much more fins better paid than the rest of the shark flesh.
Shark finning is the act of cutting of the fins of a shark at sea and throwing the rest of the body away into the ocean waters. The shark usually stills alive and will die in a slowly agony. This cruel practice is prohibited in a lot of countries, but unfortunately it is not enough.
In Europe, countries like Spain, France and Portugal still on the top concerning the shark fishing and due to that are responsables for the erosion of a large part of the marine life in all the oceans of our planet.