April 30, 2010
Hammerhead Shark Fins - Too Delicious for the Shark's Own Good
by Mahmood Shivji
In 2006, Dr. Shelley Clarke of Imperial College, UK, in collaboration with the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University in Florida conducted the first quantitative assessment of the number of sharks being killed by surveying fin markets. As part of this pioneering study, they estimated that 1.5 to 4 million hammerhead sharks are killed per year by commercial fishers just to satisfy the demands of the international fin trade! And these staggering figures are conservative because they only account for the three large hammerhead species (great, scalloped and smooth hammerheads) of the nine known species, and don't include the many hammerheads killed that don't end up in the fin markets. The actual number of hammerhead sharks killed worldwide is undoubtedly larger.
What accounts for this large-scale slaughter of one of the ocean's most charismatic and evolutionarily distinctive creatures? It's ironic that although hammerhead shark meat is considered of very low food quality in most commercial markets, their fins fetch amongst the highest prices in the world fin trade. Depending on the species, average wholesale prices for hammerhead shark fins range from U.S. $88-135 per kilogram of unprocessed fins - that's 2-4 times more than the price of fresh tuna fillets in most U.S. grocery stores!
As you might imagine, this high market value for hammerhead shark fins has created enormous economic incentives to exploit them. The three large hammerhead species are distributed in tropical to temperate waters worldwide, and the absence of fisheries management by most nations, has resulted in their severe overfishing globally. The data shows that even in U.S waters where some management is practiced, hammerhead populations have declined over 80%! It makes the population status and future outlook for hammerheads in most parts of their range pretty dire.
These overfishing concerns resulted in the U.S. and Palau co-sponsoring a proposal to the March 2010 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to list all three large hammerheads on Appendix II of the international treaty. This listing would have triggered strong restrictions to international trade in fins from these species, reducing the economic incentives to continue unabated, ecologically damaging overfishing. Unfortunately, Japan and its allied countries were strongly opposed to such a listing and launched a major effort to defeat the proposal. In the final analysis even though the majority of nations voted in support of the listing, the measure failed because it did not receive the two-thirds vote required for adoption (final vote was 75 in support, 45 against and 14 abstentions).
With the failure of the listing proposal to be adopted by CITES, unregulated fishing and trade in fins will continue with the real risk that hammerhead populations in many parts of their range will be extirpated or at the very least reduced to the point of ecological extinction. This will not only add another significant disruption to the proper working of our ocean ecosystems, but is also ethically deplorable.
So what's to be done now to try and conserve hammerhead sharks? The Guy Harvey Research Institute scientists and their collaborators from the Save Our Seas Foundation are working quickly to collect scientific data on the population status of hammerhead sharks worldwide, and develop rapid DNA forensics tools that can be used to track the origin of fins in the market to their geographic origins. This information is essential to bolster the case (get more supporting votes) for international trade restrictions at the next CITES meeting, and for supporting implementation of protective fishery regulations for hammerhead sharks by individual countries.
Thank you for your continued support of the conservation research and policy initiatives that are being worked on to prevent these amazing and unique sharks from being commercially overfished into oblivion.
For a complete list of our other featured blog posts and to see the full line of Guy Harvey Sportswear, please visit: www.guyharveysportswear.com
April 22, 2010
Why Angler Access Is Critical
By Bill Shedd
On April 16-17, 2010 the Administrator of NOAA Dr. Jane Lubchenco and Eric Schwaab head of NMFS hosted the Saltwater Recreational Fishing Summit in Alexandria, Virginia. Over 100 leaders from the recreational fishing community attended to convey the needs of our community to our government officials. Success or failure of this effort can only be determined over time by future actions of NOAA and NMFS. As the Chairman of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) Government Affairs Committee and Co-Chair of the International Gamefish Association (IGFA) Fisheries and Conservation Committee, I was asked to speak on the importance of Angler Access. The following are those remarks:
"Public access to the public marine resource is critical for both practical and emotional reasons. On the practical side is the loss of opportunity caused by restricting access, which is greater than meets the eye. Closed areas typically target the best habitat locations. That is where the fish are, so that is where fishermen need to be to catch them. Leaving for example even 95% of a given area open and preventing access in the other 5% that contains the good habitat can easily reduce fishing success by 50%, 60%, 70% or more. If you don't understand fish and fishing 5% is no big deal. If you are an angler you understand that it can mean the difference between success and failure.
When we lose access, the resource suffers because it loses its most important supporters. Anglers contributed over $604 million in 2009 for fishing license fees and an additional over $700 million in excise taxes on fishing tackle and motor boat fuels. These monies provide the backbone of funding for fishery resource management efforts in the states. Over the last half century anglers have contributed over $30 billion to resource management. What group will replace those dollars if the unintended consequence of restricting access causes anglers to stop fishing and buying licenses and fishing tackle? If anglers are forced off the water who will replace that data source for catch, biological and economic information?
Another reason angler access is critical is that it helps support an important economic contribution. The 13 million saltwater anglers in the US generate 533,000 jobs and contribute $82.2 Billion to the nation's economy. Most important for the resource, this economic benefit is generated by taking only 3% of the US harvest while the commercial sector takes the other 97% and at the same time provides fewer jobs. A major frustration in our community is that there seems to be a growing trend of not recognizing these important angler contributions to the economy and the resource. Recent evidence of this trend can be seen by what is now transpiring in California with excessive no fishing zones, it can be seen by President Obama's draft report of the national ocean policy, and can be seen by draconian fishery management measures under Magnuson-Stevens. We are not the enemy of the resource. We are its most important supporters and that should be recognized. NOAA needs to follow the lead of the Department of Interior by recognizing the benefits & value of the recreational fishing community and give us access priority with ocean policy.
Earlier I mentioned that to understand the angler access issue you also need to understand the emotional and personal factor. While it is true that we must catch fish to have a valuable fishing experience, fishing is about the family. It is a relationship activity passed down typically from father or grandfather to son or daughter. Everybody in this room who fishes can think not only of the moment, but the exact spot where you had a memorable fishing experience with a family member or friend. Right now where you sit take a second to think about it. I see some smiles. That means many of you can already see that spot in your mind. To the rest of the world that location may not be so different from another, but to you it is part of your experiences and part of your quality of life.
I understand first hand this emotional issue with access restrictions. I live in Laguna Beach California where the environmentalists are on pace to eliminate all fishing (even catch and release) for 5 of the 7 miles of my cities' coast line from the shore out to about 3 miles. This stretch is the best habitat in all of Orange County. I fish and dive 30-40 days a year from my kayak right in the middle of the area that is about to be closed. When the environmentalists tell me it is no big deal you can just go fish someplace else, I think of the spot where my son caught his first legal halibut. I think of hundreds of other memories and all I can do other then scream in frustration is to simply shake my head and walk away knowing I can't make them understand because their experience with the ocean is so different than mine. Theirs comes mainly from reading books or looking at maps, photos or TV. Mine comes from real on the water experiences which translates into memories I cherish.
The vast majority of anglers are not against all closures. What we are against is restricting our access without a significant proven fishery benefit to overcome our personal loss and the loss to the resource and the economy. We are against closures put in place without proper data to support them and without considering the socioeconomic consequences. The ocean is a public resource and the fishing public deserves to receive the highest priority for its future use.
April 15, 2010
The Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge Tournament Series
The Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge Tournament Series Catch and Release Shark Tournament Hailed as a Model for Sport Fishing Enthusiasts and Marine Conservationists
The Tournament Series will be an all-release shark fishing tournament off the Southwest Florida coast, beginning with a qualifying round April 30 - May 2 at Burnt Store Marina in Lee County and concluding with a Grand Championship Finale May 21-23 at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota County. The grand prize, based on fifteen, two-man team entries, is $10,000 with additional payouts through fifth place. Incentives will also be offered for a variety of bonuses, including largest shark and recaptured tags. The entire competition will be filmed for network broadcast.
To reduce landing times, innovative competitive guidelines require the use of heavy conventional tackle (no spinning reels), an 80 pound minimum line class and inline, non-stainless steel circle hooks. There is a five-foot minimum length for all qualifying species, which include: shortfin mako, tiger, great hammer, scalloped hammer, dusky, sand tiger, bull, lemon, sandbar, spinner, blacktip and nurse sharks. All animals will be measured in the water and identified by anglers at boat side before being tagged, either conventionally or with satellite tracking tags. Tail snares and other special equipment will be used for angler and animal safety, as well as for the expedient handling and release of sharks.
"For the first time, what we call a 'love 'em and leave 'em' shark tournament will be transformed into a true spectator sport," said Sean Paxton. He and his brother, Brooks, known as the Shark Brothers, are tournament directors and architects of the event's unique format. Along with Co-Director and Associate Producer, Captain Robert Moore, they state, "Our shared vision for this tournament is to effectively combine the goals of sport, science and conservation, while giving participants and spectators the most exciting, entertaining and educational shark-infested, multimedia spectacle found anywhere on the planet."
In 2009, the Paxtons, and Robert E. Hueter, Ph D., Director of Mote Marine Laboratory's Center for Shark Research (CSR), teamed up with renowned marine wildlife artist, scientist and conservationist, Dr. Guy Harvey to present this innovative competitive event designed to serve as a model for responsible sport fishing and conservation.
"The Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge Tournament Series will be a uniquely exciting event for participants, spectators and everyone who cares about the future of our oceans," Guy Harvey said.
Joining tournament directors, Mote and Guy Harvey in this ambitious effort are partners and supporters: Ray Judah, Lee County Commissioner; Luke Tipple, Director of Shark-Free Marinas Initiative; Florida Gulf Coast University and other advocates of effective environmental stewardship.
Dr. Robert Hueter, director of Mote's Center for Shark Research, will oversee the scientific aspects of the tournament. In addition to using standard tagging methods, some of the sharks will be outfitted with satellite tags in a cooperative effort with Lee County and the Florida Gulf Coast University so researchers and the general public can track their movements immediately after release.
Hueter has built specific scientific objectives into the tournament and collaborative research project. Anticipated results include:
- Documentation of shark species composition, relative abundance and size/sex data
- Migratory behavior and stock identification data from conventional tagging studies
- Post-release survivorship estimates
- Identification of shark critical habitats, including nursery ground
Teams participating in the Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge will be trained to conventionally tag all qualifying sharks over 5 feet in length to earn points.
One priority in this project will be to satellite-tag certain candidate species including large female great hammerheads (Sphyrna mokarran) which are found in the tournament region in April-May, often pregnant. The pupping grounds for this species in the eastern Gulf of Mexico are relatively unknown, and satellite tags on these large sharks will help to elucidate the location of these critical habitats. Once the shark is measured and scored by the competing anglers, it will be handed off to the research team who will place a satellite tag and release the fish.
For all event details and contact information, visit:
Photos provided by: The Shark Brothers & Captain Robert Moore
March 29, 2010
What Marlin See
by Peter B Wright
Among the questions I get asked the most, two of the most frequent are: "What colors do you prefer in marlin lures?" or "Can marlin see color?"
Answer number one is "I don't really care" - which is only partially true. I tend to prefer colors that I can see. I like colors that allow me to quickly see the lure when I glance back at the baits. Red catches my eye and so does white. Purple isn't bad, and an orange and black combo is quickly picked up by my eye when I look back at the lure spread.
I also like colors that remind me of something that actually exists in the world of marlin food stuff. Blue and white reminds me of flying fish. Both purple, and a combo of red, white, and blue look a lot like the color I see when I get a side view of skip jack tuna surfing down the waves. Yellow and green is the color of small dolphin fish and some of the scad mackerel that most bill fish regularly snack on. I have had great success on chocolate or reddish brown lures that look to me like squid and stay down and DON'T make a bubble trail. I think it doesn't really matter.
The answer to the second question is "No one really knows." We have a few ways of making educated guesses but there is still some argument among the top bill fish scientists about what bill fish can see.
There is no doubt that some fish (including tuna) have excellent color vision. The rainbow hued reef fish species that divers and snorkelers revel in should have color vision - Why else would they be colored like that? - and they do. They live near the surface where all the colors of the spectrum still exist and use color displays for a wide range of behavior including mating, species recognition, and territorial defense.
Bill fish cannot be kept alive in a confined space. We can only look at their eyes and compare them to the eyes of other species: fish, mammals, or reptiles and compare the physiology. From sophisticated experiments on other animals we know which types of cells are necessary to see color. Marlin eyes are mainly lacking in the types of cells known as "cone" cells needed for color vision.
Scientists can also analyze the chemicals present in the specialized cells that send the signals to the brain. Marlin retinal cells have a high proportion of the photo active chemicals known from other species to respond to the wave lengths of light in the part of the spectrum we call blue but have little of the chemicals for other colors. The inference has been that marlin see mainly shades of blue (the only color left at extreme depths), but can't distinguish between other colors and are "color blind". A new study by an Australian researcher indicates that marlin might have some limited ability to perceive color.
The only CERTAIN thing about lure color is that if the lure does not first attract a fisherman it will not get used. If it does not get used it will not get bitten. No marlin, anywhere in the world, has ever stolen a lure from a tackle shop or out of a tackle drawer.
I once brought in a particularly ugly, over skirted, all white with rust stains, lure, that ran like an old rag that a client had asked me to put out. When asked why, I said, "it didn't run very well as it had too many skirts."
"I've already weighed one over 1,000 pounds and another over 900 pounds on that lure" was the hurt reply at my rejection of his favorite lure. Needless to say I put it back out and left it out!!!
March 22, 2010
How Fast Can Dolphin Fish Grow?
by Bill Shedd
Dolphin fish, also known as mahi mahi or dorado, are abundant worldwide and are the most often caught offshore gamefish. They are prized not only for their table fare, but also for their acrobatics during the fight, and for their neon colors that range from vibrant greens to blues to yellows. Nobody captures the dorado's movements and colors like Guy Harvey does as evidenced by his painting titled "Bull Dolphin" where an excited mahi mahi is all lit up while chasing a school of flying fish.
Mahi mahi are known to be short lived and fast growing, but you will be surprised to know just exactly how fast they are capable of growing. My father Milt Shedd was the co-founder of SeaWorld Inc. where he served as its Board Chairman from 1964 until he retired in 1985. One of his early responsibilities was to coordinate the collection of fish for SeaWorld. On one trip he caught a number of small dorado weighing about 1.5 lbs. He put them in an exhibit of schooling fish that contained anchovies and sardines. The dolphin must have thought this tank was the dinner table, as food swam by them at all times.
One big bull dolphin lived for 18 months and when it died there was no guessing of its weight as it was taken from the tank to a scale. For years I have asked people including seasoned anglers, captains and marine biologists how much they thought the dolphin weighed after 18 months in the tank. Not once has anybody guessed high enough. In 18 months the 1.5 lb mahi mahi grew to an amazing 68 lbs.
While they can't grow that fast in the wild where food is not so easily available and where they would have to burn more calories catching it, this does prove just how fast a dorado is capable of growing.