CITES CoP16: Tomorrow the shark proposals. . .
I remember a conversation with a dear friend, Einer Hinnov, many years ago. At the time, he was working with NATO and was a lead scientist at Tokamak, Princeton’s Plasma Physics Lab. I asked him when he thought Tokamak would achieve nuclear fusion. He replied, “We will eventually, but I probably won’t see it; we have a long way to go and so it won’t be in my lifetime.” At the time, it seemed the timeline for shark conservation was going to be similar. Back then, more than 22 years ago, sharks were considered trash fish − bycatch. Only the fin trade, then much smaller than today, considered sharks of value, and then only for their fins. Initially, we tried to enlist the support of colleagues, but trained in fisheries management, most considered sharks of minimal value. To the general public – thanks to Jaws – sharks were dangerous predators to be eradicated. It was only a handful of divers and a few colleagues at the Explorers Club who appreciated how vital sharks are to a healty ocean ecosystem.
For a long time it felt as if Shark Research was shouting in the wind. Foundations weren’t interested in our research: “We don’t fund hazardous research, sharks are dangerous and someone may be seriously injured or killed”. When we began taking sport divers on our research expeditions, we couldn’t get insurance for the same reason.
But gradually, the perceptions started to change. Funds became available for research, and many of the large conservation organizations began looking at sharks and formed marine divisions. Over the years, NGOs were formed to raise public awareness about the plight of sharks and the need to conserve them. We are hopeful the sharks will win additional protection tomorrow, and special thanks are due to the underwater photographers and filmmakers who provided images and films for materials we presented to the delegates: David Doubilet, Vince Canabal, Bill Fisher, Jennifer Hayes, Jupp Kerckerinck, Andy Murch, Joe Romeiro, Mike Rutzen, Marty Snyderman, and Paul Spielvogel.
It is heartwarming that so many wonderful, passionate, caring individuals recognize the value of sharks. Einer never saw Tokamak achieve fusion, but I am so very grateful to see sharks appreciated in my lifetime!
I've pasted below the Fact Sheets SRI is distributing to delegates: