[Coral-List] sustainable shark cartilage ? RE: Shark finning in eBay

Douglas Fenner douglasfenner at yahoo.com
Tue May 10 05:07:55 EDT 2011

I took a look at the trailers, and at the short bit of text the site gives about the film.  I also looked at the trailer for the Sharkwater film that Steve Mussman pointed to.  However, I haven't been able to see either full length film.

     There is quite a bit of science on sharks of course.  The trailers and website for Thesharkcon don't give any of the science or point to any of it, to back up their claims.  Shark fishermen are of course making money catching sharks, and not happy that regulations have restricted them to the point that some are out of business (small businesses have high failure rates, and it is surely never pleasant).  They were still catching sharks, so to them it surely looks unjustified to restrict fishing.  But you can continue to have good catches even as a fish stock declines and becomes overfished, that is just what happened with Canadian cod.  This can happen because fishers often get better equipment and get better at catching the fish over time, which compensates for the fewer fish so they can keep catching fish.  Fisheries scientists often do "research fishing" in which they fish in exactly the same way over the years, and in that situation a
 decreasing stock shows up in decreasing catches.  So for commercial fishers, their catch can be deceiving.
     An important aspect is that there are hundreds of species of sharks.  Different species have a wide variety of adult sizes from tiny cookie-cutter sharks to 60 ton whale sharks, and some aspects of their biology also have some variations, such as diet.  The populations of each species are separate, and each species can be in a very different situation.  Some are widespread, some are only found in a small area, some live on reefs, others are pelagic, some deepwater, some cold water, etc etc.  So there is no single answer to the question "are sharks overfished."  There is a different answer for each species.  If you look on the IUCN Red List website (www.iucnredlist.org), and search for sharks, you will see they have information on some 240 species of sharks, and they vary all the way from "least concern" to "endangered" to "critically endangered" to "extinct in the wild."  You will see that most species are not in much trouble, but a few
 are in deep trouble.  That information is different from whether they are overfished.  For one thing, fishing is only one of a variety of possible causes for declines that could threaten a species.  For another, a species could be overfished without being endangered.  If a species has declined to less than about 1/3 of it's unfished biomass due to fishing, it would be overfished.  That's not enough to put it in the endangered category.  But if it is in the endangered category and fishing is the cause, it would be very overfished.
      Sharks do have quite a lot of biological features in common, of course, that's why we group them together.  One of those features is that they produce relatively few, large, offspring.  Most have live birth, a few lay eggs.  One of the consequences of producing only a few offspring is that the potential of rapid recovery of a species from depleted populations is low.  Reef sharks typically produce 1-4 pups, and some have pups only every two years.  Compare that to a large bony reef fish, which can produce hundreds of thousands if not millions of eggs each year.  Because of their reproductive biology, they are widely recognized to not be able to withstand much fishing pressure at all.  While in theory it is possible to have a sustainable shark fishery, it is questionable as to whether there are actually any in existence.  At the very least it is very difficult, because fishing pressure has to be very low.

      To determine if a species is overfished is a highly technical, expensive process, which requires a lot of biological information on a species and experts to analyze the information using statistical fisheries models.  Most fished species have never had such a "stock assessment" done, though they are done fairly frequently for major industrial fishing species such as tuna, cod, etc.  Note that even when they are done, sometimes a species gets into trouble before the problem is detected, such as Canadian cod.  Canada lost a billion dollar plus fishery for cod, and decades later they still haven't recovered.  The stakes are very high for such species.  

     The Sharkwater web site says that NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service of NOAA, which is in the US Commerce Dept) closed shark fisheries putting fishermen out of work.  The final decision is made by NMFS, but the regulation itself is drawn up by a Regional Fisheries Council, and then NMFS approves unless there is something that contradicts law or policy.  Fisheries Councils have a majority of fishermen on them (Okey, 2003), so they actually are a voice for fishermen , and their meetings are public and the public can provide all the comments they want.  They must, however, draw up regulations based on scientific stock assessments, and the best available science.  That is because that is specified in the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Act, which is the applicable law passed by Congress.  If they don't, NMFS won't approve the regulation.  So it is a pretty good bet that the regulation the SharkCon website talks about, was based on the best
 available science, which was most likely a full stock assessment.  I don't know which species of shark that was.
     That said, no one knows exactly how many individuals of any fish species there are, or exactly what their biomass is.  Neither scientists nor fishermen know, and likely will never know exactly.  Fishermen sometimes say that the science is not certain and there is no proof that the species is overfished.  That is true (well, the science is not totally certain, but it can be quite strong).  However, if you wait for proof, you will never get that, and so you will never restrict fishing (which is likely the goal of the fishermen) and the stock if it is being overfished will decline and become in an overfished state and maybe even collapsed (usually it is said to be collapsed at 10% or less of the original biomass).  The result is then fishermen will be able to catch little, and to get the stock to recover, the fishery must be closed for a long period.  Net result is that the fishermen loose more by allowing the stock to collapse than they
 would if fishing were restricted earlier.  The most that can be sustainably harvested of a species is called the "Maximum sustainable yield" and when fishing is more than that it is called overfishing (because then stocks decline and catches decline).  Allowing overfishing does not do the fisherman any good in the long run.  Of course, it is a human trait that we value immediate gratification much more than delayed gratification, so there is often pressure from the fishermen to catch more now even though scientists say that means they will catch much less later on, and over the long haul will hurt the fishermen.  Fisheries managers try to manage for the long haul and the good of everybody over the long haul, but their decisions can be very unpopular with fishers.  The need to regulate fishing based on the best available scientific information (even though it is not perfect and not absolute proof) is why the Magnuson-Stevens Act also specifies that
 the precautionary principle will be used.  If there is evidence a species may be in trouble, and that is the best evidence, you reduce fishing pressure as a precautionary measure, until such time as better evidence shows that the species is not in trouble.  But it is hard to actually do this in practice, since there is so much political pressure against taking any precautionary action.

       The TheSharkCon website has some written info that suggests the movie may have more information.  The Sharkwater trailer has a different message but no more reference to scientific sources, but then you don't expect that in a very short trailer.  Unfortunately, the issues are complicated, and the public is more interested in sensational images than scientific information, which is not surprising perhaps, given how technical and complicated it is and thus ununderstandable to the public.  I notice on TheSharkCon website they have a drawing showing a fisherman and a sharkwatching tourist hanging upsidedown beside a shark, and someone in a suit giving a bag of money to someone who looks like a scientist.  They appear to be making the claim in the video that conservation groups have to have a cause to raise money, and the image suggests that they buy scientists off with money to produce research to show that sharks are overfished when they
 actually aren't.  (One fisherman also says he's surprised no on has "gone postal" about this.)  Fishery scientists are usually not funded by conservation NGO's, though people in NGO's surely have opinions and are vocal.  (Most fisheries scientists are employed by government or academia, I believe.)  The TheSharkCon people aren't likely to point out that fishers have their opinions because they make money catching and killing sharks, and that the fisheries lobby is a significant power.

     Some references for further reading:
Baum, J.K., Myers, R.A.  2004.  Shifting baselines and the decline of pelagic sharks in the Gulf of Mexico.  Ecology Letters 7: 135-145.   (the most common two species have declined by 99% and 90%)

Myers, R.A. and Worm, B.  2003.  Rapid worldwide depletion of predatory fish communities.  Nature 423: 280-283.  (the conclusions of this study were controversial, and they are talking about tuna as well as sharks)

Myers, R.A. et al.  2007.  Cascading effects of the loss of apex predatory sharks from a coastal ocean.  Science 315: 1846-1850.

Robbins W.D. et al.  2006. Ongoing collapse of coral-reef shark populations.  Current Biology 16: 2314-2319.

Ward-Page, C.A. et al  2010.  Large-scale absence of sharks on reefs in the Greater-Caribbean: A footprint of human pressures.  PLoS One 5

Jackson, JBC et al 2001.  Historical overfishing and the recent collapse of coastal ecosystems.  Science 293:  629-638.

Okey, T. A.   2003.  Membership of the eight
Regional Fishery Management Councils in the United States: are special interests
over-represented?  Marine Policy 27:

Rosenberg, A.A.  2003.  Managing to the margins: the overexploitation of fisheries.  Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 1: 102-106.

Worm, B., Hilborn, R. et al  2009.  Rebuilding global fisheries.  Science 325: 578-584.

Pauly, D. et al 2002.  Towards sustainability in world fisheries.  Nature 418: 689-695.

Pauly, D.  2009..  Beyond duplicity and ignorance in global fisheries.  Scientia Marina 73:: 215-224.

D.  2009.  The largest reef fish species were
gone most places in the worldeven
before scientists knew about it.

Cheers,  Doug

Douglas Fenner
Coral Reef Monitoring Ecologist
Dept Marine & Wildlife Resources
American Samoa

Mailing address:
PO Box 3730
Pago Pago, AS 96799

work phone 684  633 4456

Report sees sharper sea rise from Arctic melt.

The ice of Greenland and the rest of the Arctic is melting faster than expected and could help raise global sea levels by as much as 5 feet this century, dramatically higher than earlier projections, an authoritative international assessment says.


From: Abdullah Habibi <abd.habibi at gmail.com>
To: Sarah Frias-Torres <sfrias_torres at hotmail.com>
Cc: coral list <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>; barry.russell at nt.gov.au
Sent: Saturday, May 7, 2011 6:52 AM
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] sustainable shark cartilage ? RE: Shark finning in eBay

It is really interested to see that there are many concerns raised on the
issue of shark conservation.

I recently just received this posting from my colleague, about an indie film
titled "the shark con" (http://www.youtube..com/watch?v=_Z8MTFvg-TQ) and its
website is in www.*thesharkcon*.com.

have you guys heard it? any response on this, there in US?

Regards, Habib

On 7 May 2011 03:56, Sarah Frias-Torres <sfrias_torres at hotmail.com> wrote:

> If anyone is interested....I just called the phone number
> 1-888-505-GATEThis is for "Seagate", a company based in Southern California
> who are the manufacturers of the shark fin products posted in eBay.Upon
> request, the lady answering the phone said their shark fins come from "a
> sustainable blue shark fishery off the California coast".Here
 is the
> information in their web sitehttp://
> www.seagateproducts.com/shark-cartilage.html
> Of course, until someone goes out there and checks the claims, we won't
> know for sure. I'm not a shark expert, but I doubt there is any sustainable
> fishery on sharks.
> Sarah Frias-Torres, Ph.D. Schmidt Ocean Institute Postdoctoral FellowOcean
> Research & Conservation Association (ORCA) 1420 Seaway Drive, Fort Pierce,
> Florida 34949 USA Tel (772) 467-1600http://www.teamorca.orghttp://
> independent.academia.edu/SarahFriasTorres
> > Date: Fri, 6 May 2011 14:52:55 -0400
> > From: reefball at reefball.com
> > To: Barry.Russell at nt.gov.au
> > CC: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> > Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Shark finning in eBay
> >
> > I contacted the lister on Ebay and got this response, "
> > *Dear Reef Ball Foundation,*
> >
> > Hello,
> >
> > Thank you for contacting VitaminLife.
> > We apologize but we are a retailer and do not make the products. We
> > recommend you contact the manufacturer directly.
> >
> > Seagate
> > PHONE:
> > 1-888-505-GATE -- Toll Free
> > (1-888-505-4283)"
> >
> > Anyone else have any success with this?
> >
> >
> > Thanks,
> >
> > Todd R Barber
> > Chairman, Reef Ball Foundation
> > 3305 Edwards Court
> > Greenville, NC 27858
> > 252-353-9094 (Direct)
> > 941-720-7549 (Cell & Goggle Voice)
> > toddbarber Skype
> >
> > www,reefball.org (Reef Ball Foundation)
> > www.artificialreefs.org (Designed Artificial Reefs)
> > www.reefbeach.com (Reefs for Beach Erosion)
> > www.eternalreefs.com (Memorial Reefs)
> > www.reefball.com (Reef Ball Foundation)
> >
> >
> >
> > On Thu, May 5, 2011 at
 11:34 PM, Barry Russell <Barry.Russell at nt.gov.au
> >wrote:
> >
> > > In response to Sarah's information on the sale of sharkfin cartilage
> > >  products on ebay, the company manufacturing this is Seagate Products,
> a
> > > San Diego
> > >  Company: http://www.seagateproducts.com/shark-fin-cartilage.html
> > >
> > > They claim to have "been processing shark fins and shark cartilage for
> > > human
> > >  consumption since 1981." Seems like they have not heard nor have any
> real
> > >  understanding of the global threats to sharks through the shark fin
> > > industry.
> > >  Except in Hawaii and Washington State it is perfectly legal to sell
> shark
> > > 
 fin products in the US.  If you really want to help ban shark products
> in
> > >  the US see this website:
> > >
> > >
> http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/calabasas-join-hawaii-in-banning-shark-fin-products/
> > >
> > >
> > > Dr Barry Russell
> > > Curator Emeritus of Fishes
> > > Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
> > > PO Box 4646 Darwin
> > > NT 0801
> > > Australia
> > > Email: barry.russell at nt.gov.au
> > >
> > > Focal Point
> > > IUCN Snappers Seabreams and Grunts Red List Authority
> > > Adjunct Senior Research Fellow
> > > School of Environmental and Life Sciences
> > > Charles Darwin University
> > >
 Arafura Timor Research Facility
> > > 23 Ellengowan Drive
> > > Brinkin, NT 0810
> > > Phone: 61-8 89209241
> > > Mobile: 0404045229
> > > Web: http://www.atrf.org.au/
> > > If you are not the intended recipient of this message, any use,
> disclosure
> > >  or copying of the message or any attachments is unauthorised.. If you
> have
> > >  received this message in error, please advise the sender. No
> > > representation is
> > >  given that attached files are free from viruses or other defects.
> Scanning
> > >  for viruses is recommended
> > >
> > > -----Original Message-----
> > > From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> > >  [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Sarah
> > > Frias-Torres
> > > Sent: Thursday, 5 May 2011 11:18 PM
> > > To: coral list
> > > Subject: [Coral-List] Shark finning in eBay
> > >
> > >
> > > [Apologies for cross-postings]I'm not sure if this is relevant to
> > >  Coral-List, as managed by a US-government institution, but...
> > > In eBay, if you type "shark fin" and go to "Dietary products" you find
> two
> > >  posts selling shark fin cartillage. This comes directly from shark
> > >  finning.Here is the
> > > 
> > >
> health-beauty.shop.ebay.com/Dietary-Supplements-Nutrition-/19259/i.html?_nkw=shark+fin&_catref=1&_dmpt=Motors_Car_Truck_Parts_Accessories&_fln=1&_trksid=p3286.c0.m282to
> > >  the shark biologists in this list, folks in conservation groups or
> those
> > >  with eBay accounts, would they please contact eBay and let them know
> why
> > >  selling shark fin products is so wrong, and ask to have the posts
> > > deleted?Thanks
> > >
> > > Sarah Frias-Torres, Ph.D. Schmidt Ocean Institute Postdoctoral
> FellowOcean
> > >  Research & Conservation Association (ORCA) 1420 Seaway Drive, Fort
> Pierce,
> > >  Florida 34949 USA Tel (772)
> > >  467-1600http://www.teamorca.orghttp://
> > > independent.academia.edu/SarahFriasTorres
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > _______________________________________________
> > > Coral-List mailing list
> > > Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> > > http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
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> > > Coral-List mailing list
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> > >
> >
> > >
> > _______________________________________________
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