Sunday, February 17, 2008

Tiger Shark Killing in South Africa-Why it Matters

As the CEO of Shark Diver I was angry at the news of three adult Tiger deaths in a Marine Protected Area.

These killings at the hands of poor and uneducated fishermen are just one act in a play that's been happening in every ocean and off every shore of our planet right now (hat tip Derek Heasley image).

Sharks are the target and they are being harvested at a rate that may well see 90% of them erased forever from the oceans by 2040.

Shark diving eco-tour companies like ours are on the front line of this unfolding disaster. Already off the coast of California, Blue shark cage diving encounters are a thing of the past. Where once the waters teemed with fully grown and healthy animals, today a few small, underage animals might be encountered, and more often than not take hours to arrive if they do. This took less than 10 years to happen.

It is our belief that-safe- face to face encounters with these magnificent animals, and the animals hosted at aquariums, do more good for protection of sharks than almost any other program.

We have watched peoples perception change almost overnight once they have seen a Great White or Tiger in person. From careless man eater-to magnificent predator worthy of our protection. This is why the loss of these three animals from a Marine Protected Park is so important.

Parks that provide refuge for animals worldwide are fast becoming mini ARKS in a sea of human development and habitat destruction. They are necessary, and for the most part are underfunded and understaffed. While the good intentions of governments are there in the creation of these parks-the financial will is lacking to provide for the enforcement of rules and regulations.

I am not saying shark diving companies are the complete solution. Even within our industry some operations see sharks more as a Biological ATM Machine and less as an eco resource. The addition of shark science to eco tourism is a much stronger counter to the ongoing slaughter in places like Coco's and Socorro's and even Darwin and Wolf, Galapagos.

All of these areas proclaim protected status, but the will, and the enforcement once rules have been flagrantly broken remains the key to the future of sharks. What can you do?

Support local initiatives that support parks staff. NGO's are a good first start. In almost any park system you'll find a non profit NGO working to support the way the parks operate. Call it in. If you see sharks being harvested and or sold without permits, or molested or harmed, take action.

The future of sharks is up to us. It's not too late.

Patric Douglas CEO
Shark Diver