Outdoors, action, adventure

Category: Shark finning

Tiger shark leaves Aquarium of the Pacific; white shark doing well at Monterey Bay Aquarium

A young white shark swims past a young visitor to Monterey Bay Aquarium's Outer Bay exhibit.

If you're planning to visit the new tiger shark at the Aquarium of the Pacific, you'll be interested to learn that the juvenile apex predator was transported from the Long Beach facility's Shark Lagoon to a different facility.

According to an Aquarium of the Pacific spokeswoman, the 5-foot-long female tiger shark -- the only captive tiger shark on the U.S. mainland -- had outgrown her exhibit area. The new facility apparently wishes to remain anonymous.

Meanwhile, the young great white shark on display at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is feeding heartily on mackerel and salmon while serving its role of getting visitors to the Outer Bay exhibit interested in sharks and shark conservation.

"The only downside is that she prefers staying in the bottom portion of the exhibit and often near the back wall -- not making big, impressive passes by the main Outer Bay window upstairs (though she occasionally swims past)," aquarium spokesman Ken Peterson said via e-mail. "We're hoping she'll be with us for several months." 

The seaside facility has tagged and released its three previous captive sharks after stays that varied in length -- the record was 200 days. The predators are then tracked, and data are collected from tags as part of a collaborative program designed to learn more about white shark movements and habits.

The aquarium's SeaNotes blog has lots of information about the resident white shark and sharks in general, including a link that everyone interested in conserving sharks should visit, as it enables citizens to take action in support of legislation that would help bring an end to the cruel practice of shark-finning.

Millions of sharks are killed each year merely for their fins, to satisfy a powerful demand for shark-fin soup. It's said to be a delicacy, but there's undeniably something fishy about the process.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: A young white shark swims past a young visitor to Monterey Bay Aquarium's Outer Bay exhibit. Credit: Randy Wilder / Monterey Bay Aquarium

New great white shark haunt to be revealed with conservation in mind

Check out the white shark video to try to determine the location: (a) Guadalupe Island; (b) South Africa; (c) South Australia; (d) Farallon Islands; or (e) none of the above?

The answer is "e."

It's a newly discovered white shark aggregation site and news of its existence is sure to pique the interest of scientists and documentary teams.

An announcement regarding the site will be made this weekend by Shark Divers, a company that used to be in the commercial cage-diving business but now specializes in working with film and television crews.

For now, its code name is Oceana and Shark Divers CEO Patric Douglas, who labels it the most exciting white shark site discovery since Mexico's Guadalupe Island in 2001, would only confirm that it's a very remote island in the Southern Ocean.

Douglas said a limited number of crews will begin visiting the location early next year and that it remains unclear whether a commercial cage-diving operation will be established.

Cage-diving operations are beneficial in that they allow the general public to develop a better understanding and appreciation of the embattled apex predators. But they can also be harmful to sharks--especially those that accidentally get caught between cage bars--and some charge that chumming habituates the sharks.

Because aggregation sites are so few, they do need to be protected and diving operations need to be regulated. "These sites need to be protected with everything we've got," Douglas said. "Now that the site is known, we've  got to get the public behind it so the local government can say 'Yes, we need to turn this into a special place.' "

--Pete Thomas

Video courtesy of Shark Divers

Sharks swim into spotlight at Aquarium of the Pacific

Bonnethead shark At a time when days are getting warmer and more people are venturing into the ocean, sharks are swimming silently into the spotlight.

The remarkable predators, which are so notorious yet so misunderstood -- and sadly embattled because of overfishing --will be featured at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach during what is billed as "Shark Summer."

The waterfront facility has added new species of sharks and rays and will offer an array of programs, including a lecture series that begins Thursday night with Chris Lowe, who runs the Shark Lab at Cal State Long Beach, dispelling myths and misconceptions. That talk, from one of Outposts' favorite shark sources, is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The cost is $8 or $4 for members, and free for students with valid ID. To RSVP, call (562) 590-3100.

Shark Summer officially begins Friday and runs through Sept. 7. On Sunday nights, the aquarium will remain open until 10 p.m. On Sundays in July, it will feature free Discovery Channel "Shark Week" screenings on the front lawn. On July 17, a "Feed a  Shark" program begins. It will enable members of the public an opportunity to feed sharks from a platform above the Tropical Reef Habitat exhibit.

There's much more, and it's hoped that people will come away with an appreciation of all sharks, large and small. Among my favorite aquarium residents is the sand tiger shark pictured below. Despite their fearsome appearance, these sharks pose little or no threat to humans and feed mostly on small fish, rays, other sharks and crustaceans.

-- Pete Thomas

Sand Tiger Shark

 Upper photo: Bonnethead shark. Credit: Andrew Reitsma

Lower photo: Sand tiger shark. Credit: Robin Riggs

Shark fin availability lessens on China-based website

In this undated photo, a group of hammerhead sharks swim in the waters surrounding the Pacific islet of Malpelo, a Colombian wildlife sanctuary.

Efforts to halt the open sale of shark fins on a global-marketplace website seem to be paying off.

Shark Diver reports that attempts to purchase shark fins on Alibaba.com earlier this week were met with less success than previously. Of the 10 sellers contacted, only two responded.  This is a decline from early January when Shark Diver, using its company name and doing nothing covert, contacted 11 sellers via the website and received responses from nine that fins could be purchased, even though the site stated these sales were going to be removed. 

"Closing down the channels of commerce is the trick," said Shark Diver CEO Patric Douglas. "This is a good first step, and I'm cautiously optimistic that they get it."

"Given where they [Alibaba.com] were to where they are now is a victory. It all starts with one," added Douglas. "This is like a million army ants taking down an elephant, but as one domino falls, we move on to the next." Other websites that Douglas referred to as alleged shark-fin selling points are TradeKey.com and ecplaza.net.

"Finning" is the practice of slicing the fins off of live sharks then throwing their bodies overboard, where they sink to the ocean floor and die.

All sharks are at risk, with the larger fins commanding a higher price. Fins from basking sharks can fetch as much as 1,000% more due to the size, for display in store windows. There has been a huge loss of West Coast blue sharks reported in California, and it was not until recent tagging revealed that these sharks were migrating seasonally to Japan and back, though many never did make the trip back.

--Kelly Burgess

Photo: In this undated photo, hammerhead sharks swim in the waters surrounding the Pacific islet of Malpelo, a Colombian wildlife sanctuary. Credit: Yves Lefebre/Associated Press

Shark fins removed from 'front window' of China-based website, but apparently still available to buyers

Shark divers

As suspected by conservation groups and subtly alluded to Thursday on Outposts, sharks around the world probably are no safer than they were before Alibaba.com, on Jan. 1, stopped allowing the open sale of shark fins on its global marketplace website.

That's because some wholesalers, while they can no longer list shark fins on the site, apparently are still selling them on request to interested buyers.

Shark fins, you may recall, are the key ingredient for shark-fin soup. Fins are obtained by fishermen who net and haul sharks aboard, slice off their fins, and discard the writhing sharks, which sink and slowly die.

It is perhaps the most disgusting form of fishing on the planet -- yet, demand for shark-fin soup remains high in many parts of the world.

Outposts salutes Shark Diver for exposing the loophole in Alibaba's new guidelines.

Shark Diver, during the first week of January, claims to have posed as three different buyers asking for 11,000 pounds of shark fins from 11 sellers. Nine reportedly responded positively, and the other two did not respond. Shark Diver, a commercial shark-diving company, sourced 88,000 pounds of shark fins.

"This is not in anyway an eco win," said Patric Douglas, CEO of Shark Diver. "They just took the shark fins out of the front window."

Guess it did seem too good to be true.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo of lemon shark courtesy of Christie Fisher via Shark Diver

Shark fin sales halted on website

A shark is entangled in a gill net near the Revillagigedo Islands off the coast of Mexico.

Outposts congratulates each of the many groups that pressured the China-based global Internet marketplace, Alibaba.com, to cease allowing the sale of shark fins.

For years, Alibaba endorsed the wholesale slaughter of sharks and the brutal practice of finning live sharks at sea, by offering shark fins, which are used to make shark fin soup, to be listed for sale on its site.

Dozens of companies from around the world sold shark fins, a sad testament to the popularity of a dish that is especially regarded throughout Asia. Anyone could purchase the product in bulk.

Alibaba ceased allowing the sale of shark fins on Jan. 1. This was regarded by many as a major victory for shark conservation because most species of sharks are considered to be in jeopardy.

However, optimism remains guarded because the demand for shark fins remains high, so the fishing effort, presumably, has not diminished.

I visited Alibaba's site this morning and typed "shark fins" in the keyword field, and all that came up were material products with "shark fin" titles. That's good.

However, I typed in "shark meat" and "shark" and found about a dozen companies peddling shark meat in some form or another. My guess is that some of these companies can also provide fins, even if they're not listed.

Still, the end to an openly advertised sale of  shark fins is positive news. Here's hoping for more in 2009.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: A shark is entangled in a gill net near the Revillagigedo Islands off the coast of Mexico. Credit: Terry Maas


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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.