Good shark and ray conservation news


This video is called Jonathan Bird’s Blue World: Shark Biology.

From Wildlife Extra:

Five new species of shark and two manta ray species now protected under CITES

Protection begins this week for five more shark species and two manta ray species designated under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) that was agreed at a conference of 178 governments in Bangkok in March 2013.

There were a number of technical issues associated with the listing, such as enforcement agencies learning how to identify products in trade, especially the fins that are usually traded in dried form, and so the Parties were given an 18- month period to prepare for the introduction of CITES requirements.

Any trade in oceanic white tip shark, porbeagle, scalloped hammerhead shark, smooth hammerhead shark, great hammerhead shark, and manta ray products is now to be restricted via national regulations to “avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival.”

Their commercial trade must be strictly regulated and the species can only be exported or taken from national and international waters when the exporting / fishing country certifies they were legally sourced and that the overall level of exports does not threaten the species.

Many shark and both manta ray species have suffered drastic population declines in recent years due to commercial fishing, mainly to feed demand in China.

An estimated 100 million sharks are killed every year, with fins from up to 73 million used for shark fin soup.

Some shark populations have declined by up to 98 per cent in the past 15 years, and nearly one-third of pelagic (those that inhabit the open sea) shark species are considered threatened by the IUCN’s Red List.

Secretary-General of CITES, John E Scanlon said: “Regulating international trade in these shark species is critical to their survival.

“Implementation will involve some challenges to ensure that this trade is legal, sustainable and traceable, and this will include practical issues such as identifying the fins and meat that are in trade.

“But by working together we can and will do it.”

Work is also being done in China to reduce the demand for these endangered marine animals, spearheaded by conservation charity WildAid in conjunction with Shark Savers, the Manta Trust and SOS – Save Our Species.

The manta effort kicks off this month with 100 billboards throughout Guangzhou, with the message “eating Peng Yu Sai [the Chinese name for manta products] leads to species extinction”. It will soon also include a new video to be broadcast on Chinese television.

Guangdong TV, a Cantonese language network, has produced a five-part segment for the news about the conservation issues facing manta and mobula, as well as the risks to public health as the gills from manta and mobula are being falsely marketed as a health tonic.

It takes eight to 10 years for a manta to mature sexually and a female manta may give birth to only one pup every two to five years. Due to this slow reproduction they cannot sustain even modest fishing levels.

WildAid argues that mantas are worth far more alive to local communities than dead. In 2013, the total sale of manta and devil ray gills in Guangzhou was estimated at $30 million, with most of the financial benefit going to the distribution channel rather than fishermen.

In contrast, coastal communities can benefit greatly from sustainable ecotourism around manta ray watching, which attracts more than an estimated US $140 million per year, globally.

Bluefin tuna in Greenland waters


This video is called Superfish Bluefin Tuna.

From the Technical University of Denmark:

Bluefin tuna found hunting for mackerel in East Greenland waters

Sep 05, 2014

On a warm summer day in August 2012, Greenlandic fishermen and biologists caught an unusual catch while conducting an exploratory fishery for mackerel.

Three large bluefin tuna, each weighing ca. 100 kg, were among the several tonnes of mackerel that were caught that summer. The presence of bluefin tuna in waters near Greenland is a very rare event, and there are no other scientific reports of its presence so far north as the Denmark Strait. The most recent report of its occurrence near Greenland was a stranding in 1900 in the southwesternmost tip of Greenland at Qaqortoq (formerly known as Julianehåb).

Bluefin tuna usually search for prey in areas where surface temperatures are warmer than 11 C. However, because temperatures in August 2012 in the Denmark Strait were so warm, and because one of its favorite prey species, mackerel, had already expanded its range into the region, it is likely that bluefin tuna has expanded or is presently expanding its habitat to more northerly regions,” explains professor Brian MacKenzie, who together with senior scientist Mark Payne, senior scientist Jesper Boje (both from DTU Aqua), senior scientist Jacob Højer (Danish Meteorological Institute) and Department Head Helle Siegstad (Greenland Nature Institute, GNI), has been investigating the reasons why bluefin tuna and its summer dining menu are on the way to more northerly regions than usual.

The investigation, which was conducted as part of the EU projects Euro-Basin and NACLIM at the Centers for Ocean Life and Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, has been published in the August 2014 issue of the peer-reviewed scientific journal Global Change Biology.

Disappearance from Danish waters

The reason why Brian MacKenzie and his colleagues initially became interested in these tuna bycatches was to document changes in its migration behaviour and distributional range, and how these are being influenced by climate change and the abundances of both bluefin tuna themselves and their prey.

“The scientific community does not have a solid understanding of the factors that affect the migrations and geographical distribution of bluefin tuna and many other migratory species, but new knowledge like this can potentially help explain the unsolved mystery of why bluefin tuna disappeared from waters near Denmark and in the Norwegian Sea during the 1960s, and especially when they might come back,” says Brian MacKenzie, noting that in addition to the appearance in Denmark Strait in 2012, Iceland and Norway have been allocated new fishing quotas (30 tonnes each) for the species in 2014.

“The new quota allocations are presumably because the species has begun to expand its northerly feeding areas farther north. If summer temperatures continue to increase during this century, and if both bluefin tuna and its prey species are managed in sustainable ways, then it is likely that bluefin tuna could become a regular summer visitor in east Greenland waters, at least as far north as the Denmark Strait,” states Brian MacKenzie.

One, two or many tuna

The Denmark Strait is normally a much colder area without warm-adapted species such as bluefin tuna. How many tuna were present in summer 2012 is unknown.

“The data we have available are too limited to estimate how many tuna came so far north, but because the species is a schooling species, with schools having ca. 10-100 individuals, and because the fishermen caught the three tuna in the same haul, it is likely there were many more present,” Brian MacKenzie said.

“We are planning further investigations to determine whether this new migration behaviour toward more northern waters could be the result of an increase in the total population of Bluefin tuna,” the DTU Aqua-professor stress.

“Regardless of whether the stock has increased or not, climate-related changes in distributions of commercial fish like these we have seen already for mackerel and herring will mean that international management authorities will need to develop new fishery and ecosystem management plans,” says co-author Helle Siegstad, Head of the Department for Fish and Shellfish, GNI.

“We have already seen during the past few years with the case of the expansion of mackerel and herring into waters near the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway and now Greenland how complicated the discussions between jurisdictions can become. It will be important in future that we can provide authorities with a solid scientific and data basis, on for example bluefin tuna, when they are making new fishery management decisions,” says Brian MacKenzie.

The study, which details in depth the data as well as discusses key questions relating to the migratory origins of the tuna caught in Greenland, will form part of a theme session topic at the ICES Annual Science Conference which kicks off on 15 September in the Spanish coastal city of A Coruña.

Spined loach feeding, video


This is a video about a spined loach feeding.

Diver Jos van Zijl made this video at night in the Netherlands.

Seahorse swimming in Oosterschelde estuary, video


Diver Corne Bolders from the Netherlands, who made this video, writes about it:

19 August 2014

Seahorse in the Oosterschelde (Netherlands)

During a night dive at the Bergse diepsluis I had a short but very special experience with this at least 15 cm [long] seahorse. In the light of my buddy (Rene Weterings)’s dive light I suddenly saw the silhouette appear. After about 15 minutes he was gone in the night just as quickly as he came. Unfortunately, the seahorse apparently is moving and we have [not] seen him anymore.

This is a short-snouted seahorse.

Mozambique reef sharks, new research


This video says about itself:

23 May 2014

In this new Shark Academy, Jonathan Bird explores the Gray Reef Shark, a small feisty shark that is one of the most common in the tropical Pacific. It’s also the species most well known for agonistic displays.

From Wildlife Extra:

New tagging scheme in Mozambique to study endangered grey reef sharks

Grey reef sharks appear to congregate around Vamizi Island to reproduce

Vamizi Island in Mozambique is launching a shark-tagging project to learn more about grey reef sharks.

This endangered species on the IUCN Red List is often seen on Vamizi’s reefs and is an important indicator of the health of the marine ecosystem.

In September 2014, a group of scientists will travel to Vamizi to assist freediving world record holder and IUCN Oceans Ambassador, William Winram, as he dives to fit satellite tags to 10 sharks.

Photographer and film-maker Mattias Klum will capture footage of the event to feature in a film he is producing on the marine eco-system that surrounds Vamizi.

In October, a further 20 sharks will be fitted with acoustic tags by marine scientists. The object of the project is to understand the sharks’ movements and breeding habits, providing invaluable information in the bid to protect them.

The grey reef shark tagging project is one of the first initiatives to be launched under a new partnership between Vamizi and the IUCN.

Large aggregations of up to 30 grey reef sharks have been witnessed between July and November at sites such as the Neptune’s Arm dive site.

All the sharks are mature females, suggesting that these aggregations may have something to do with reproduction.

This Vamizi aggregation is one of the very few known along the East Africa Coast, where shark populations are severely threatened.

By collecting data from tags fitted, the Vamizi-IUCN team will begin gathering the knowledge about their patterns of behaviour, feeding and reproduction that is needed to develop a strategy to protect them.

Known as the Vamizi ‘Big Five’ on the island, the grey reef shark, green turtle, giant grouper, bumphead parrotfish and Napoleon wrasse, all feature on the IUCN’s Red List of endangered species, and take refuge in Vamizi’s waters to feed and reproduce.

From early 2015, the project will be rolled out across several more of the most endangered species, including the populations of marine … hawksbill turtles that are frequent visitors to Vamizi’s reefs.