Ocean groups seek shark-fin sales ban

Florida and federal law prohibits “shark-finning at sea” but a March case from the Florida Keys seems to prove the practice continues.

A shrimp boat stopped at sea about 20 miles north of Key West reportedly reportedly carried between 60 and 80 shark fins, but no other product from the oceanic predator. Investigation into the case continues.

Harvesting some shark species is legal. However, catching a shark solely to remove its fins — considered an Asian delicacy — and throwing the rest of the shark off the boat and back into the water is banned under state and federal law. Live sharks returned to the water without their fins have no chance to survive.

“A person may not possess in or on the waters of [Florida] a shark fin that has been separated from a shark or land a separated shark fin,” says Florida law.

Once a shark is landed, the fins may be legally taken and sold.

The Florida Legislature this year passed SB 884 that increases penalties for shark-finning, but lawmakers dropped the main point of North Florida state Sen. Travis Hutson’s sponsored bill: Banning the sale or distribution of shark fins.

The Oceana conservation organization and the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) have launched campaigns to ban the sale of shark fins.

“To protect sharks, we need to end the demand for shark fins,” said Lora Snyder of Oceana. “Shark-finning is cruel and wasteful and it’s putting some shark species at risk of extinction.”

A California congressman, Rep. Ed Royce (R), in March introduced H.R. 1456, the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2017. The bill remains alive and is awaiting committee action.

“The United States can set an example for the rest of the world by shutting down its market for shark fins, which are often harvested by leaving these animals to die a slow and painful death at the bottom of the ocean,” Royce said in a statement. “The bipartisan Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act is needed to eradicate shark-finning for good.”

DEMA, which hosts the world’s largest diving trade show this November in Orlando, urged its member businesses to tell congressional representatives to back Royce’s bill.

“Your business and the recreational diving industry are made stronger by divers’ ability to see these creatures in the wild,” DEMA advised.

“Fins from as many as 73 million sharks end up in the global market every year, and more than 70 percent of the most common shark species involved with the fin trade are considered at high or very high risk of extinction,” DEMA says.

“Shark watchers spend an estimated $314 million on shark eco-tourism every year, and researchers expect that to double to $780 million in 20 years,” Oceana said in a report. “According to a recent study, sharks are the top species U.S. scuba divers want to see, and they will pay $35 extra per dive to see a shark.”

Galaxy S8 unboxing with sharks

Because there isn’t enough madness in the world already, T-Mobile has teamed up with Samsung to do an underwater Galaxy S8 unboxing video surrounded by sharks. The video features T-Mobile Product Manager Desmond “Des” Smith unboxing and attempting to provide an overview of the Galaxy S8 while in full scuba gear.

Of course, the promo isn’t really concerned with delivering a coherent explanation of the product, but rather showing it off in a high-octane environment. It does, however, manage to effectively highlight one new aspect of the Galaxy S8 — its underwater video recording capabilities.

Historically, it has been recommended that even water-resistant smartphones aren’t operated underwater. Sony also released an underwater unboxing video for its Xperia Z3, only to later warn users against this. On its “water and dust protection” support page, Sony states: “Do not use the device to take photos while performing any type of activity underwater, including diving or snorkeling.”

This function appears to be fully operational on the Galaxy S8, however.

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Of course, Samsung probably isn’t worried about people taking this unboxing video too seriously, but it does firmly indicate to customers that the S8 and S8 Plus can be used underwater. Maybe not in a shark-infested ocean, but perhaps in a swimming pool or river.

The IP68 certification that the S8 and S8 Plus have means that the devices will survive in 1.5 metres of water for 30 minutes. That said, this generally applies to fresh water — Samsung has instructions for what to do if its IP68-rated devices are exposed to any other liquid. Despite the promo, I still wouldn’t advise using Samsung’s phones in salt water.



Value of Keeping Sharks Alive


How much is a shark worth? That might sound like a strange question. To conservationists, biologists (like Ocean Ramsey) or people who love the ocean, it might be impossible to quantify the value of such a magnificent creature. For fishers around the world, the answer is probably more straightforward. But one thing is now clear: sharks are worth much more alive than dead in the state of Florida.

A new, independent report commissioned by Oceana found that live sharks provide significant economic benefits to the state of Florida. Divers and tourists travel from around the world to see sharks in person, supporting a tourism industry that depends on healthy animals.

Given the global threats to survival of sharks and the key roles they play both in nature and in some coastal economies, the report commissioned by Oceana, and research by others, highlights the need for Congress to pass the proposed Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act to enact a nationwide ban on the trade of shark fins.

The bill, introduced by Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Gregorio Sablan (I-MP), would remove the United States from the global shark fin market, which is driven primarily by the demand for shark fin soup in Asia.

Just like their vital role in maritime ecosystems, sharks live at the center of a financial network that generates both economic revenue and growth. But the potential value of a shark ends abruptly once it has been killed. A creature that could live for decades as a driver of economic growth is instead reduced to the sale price of its meat or fins.

As detailed in the report commissioned by Oceana, shark-driven tourism is booming in the state of Florida. Direct expenditures like boat rentals, food and lodging for shark-encounter dives totaled roughly $220 million and supported over 3,700 jobs in 2016. In contrast, the shark fishery in Florida generated only $960,000 in commercial landings in 2015. In fact, the value of live sharks in Florida significantly overshadowed the value of shark fin exports from the entire United States, which totaled little more than $1 million in 2015. In the long run, sharks can simply generate more revenue when alive and swimming in Florida waters than killed and sold for their fins.

The shark diving industry is popular in other states, including North Carolina and Rhode Island. Operators also work off the coast of California, with shark diving excursions available in San Diego and San Francisco. Ensuring healthy shark populations will help local businesses in these economies as well.

Another recent study conducted in the Bahamas demonstrated similar results: Sharks and rays helped create about 1.3 percent of Bahama’s Gross Domestic Product in 2014. Driven mainly by the shark diving industry, sharks and their relatives generate a total of $113.8 million in revenues each year for the Bahamas. Similarly, Fiji and the Maldives earn $42.2 and $38.6 million per year, respectively, from their shark diving industries.

In addition to their economic value, sharks are essential for healthy oceans. While some are apex predators, all sharks play a crucial part in regulating and maintaining balance in marine ecosystems through their places in the food chain. This role is threatened, however, because sharks are all too easily overfished. Some species are slow-growing and long-lived. They reproduce late in life and have few offspring compared to other fish. These factors make these species prone to overexploitation, and populations can take a long time to recover once they’ve declined.

A major threat to sharks comes from the demand for shark fins, which creates an incentive for shark finning – a brutal practice where a shark’s fins are cut off and its body discarded at sea, where it can drown, bleed to death or be eaten alive by other fish. Fins from as many as 73 million sharks end up in the global shark fin trade every year. And though the act of shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters, shark fins continue to be bought and sold in many parts of the United States.

Eleven U.S. states, plus the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and Guam, have already banned the sale or trade of most shark fins. But when these products are banned in one state, the market simply shifts to a new location.

In 2013, for instance, no shark fins were exported out of Savannah, Georgia. But after Texas began cracking down on the trade, the market shifted, and Savannah became the number one U.S. city for shark fin exports. The U.S. also continues to import fins, including from countries with no finning bans in place. In the end, only a national fin ban will stop the buying and selling of shark fin products throughout the U.S.

It may seem crude to ask, “How much is a shark worth?” But the importance of sharks to Florida’s economy demonstrates the tangible impact these animals have in the U.S., making the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act a necessary step to protect them. Together, we can make the U.S. a global leader in shark conservation and continue to enjoy the economic and environmental value that sharks bring to our seas.

Andrew Sharpless has led Oceana since 2003 as its Chief Executive Officer. Louis Bacon is the Chief Executive Officer of Moore Capital Management and Founder and chairman of The Moore Charitable Foundation.

Co-authored by Louis Bacon, Chief Executive Officer of Moore Capital Management and Founder and chairman of The Moore Charitable Foundation

© Oceana/Jason ArnoldOn March 16, 2016, Oceana went shark tagging off the coast of Miami, Florida with Dr. Austin Gallagher and Beneath the Waves.



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