Sunday, 21 December 2008

Alibaba Ceases Trade in Shark Fins

Press release

December 21, 2008
In Honour of The Year of the Shark,
Alibaba Ends its Trade in Shark Fins

The International Year of the Shark gets off to a good start on January 1, 2009, as on-line trading giant, Alibaba, ceases its trade in shark fins.

The company has been in negotiations regarding the issue for the past year, since shark advocate Brain W. Darvell brought the problem to their attention. Urging Alibaba to cease the trade, which poses a major threat to the survival of the targeted shark species, has been one of the prime projects of The Shark Group.

As a result of the information they provided, and the numbers of organizations concerned by the company's involvement in the shark fin trade, Alibaba made the group-wide decision to disallow shark fins, and shark fin products, on any of their trading sites. They have encouraged their users to report incidences of shark fin trading, saying that perpetrators would be "suitably punished.”

The company's decision gives a strong message to others that ethical concerns prohibit the participation in the wasteful practice of shark finning, which is one of the most dangerous threats to sharks at this time.

I have been assured by the company that the intention is that all group websites will be shark fin-free on January 1st, 2009. Essentially, the decision that was made for Taobao applies to the whole of the company,” Darvell explained.

While the development brings a ray of hope for shark conservation, The Shark Group remains concerned that the trade could resurface in other forms, and that demand for shark fin soup is still high.


Online trade in shark fins accounts for a significant portion of total fins traded, with a number of suppliers claiming to be able to supply in excess of 2 tonnes per month (around 50,000 sharks).

The Shark Group was founded by Alex Buttigieg as an Internet platform from which shark advocates could tackle specific threats to sharks. From convincing Discovery Channel to promote shark conservation, to negotiating with Alibaba regarding their trade in shark fins, the group launched the Let Sharks Live Internet think tank and declared the International Year of the Shark in 2009 which has attracted support from all corners of the globe. One of its main objectives is to convince the consumers of shark fin soup that shark finning is unsustainable.

Shark Finning is the practise of taking sharks with nets or long-lining, hauling them on board, slashing off their fins and tails, and throwing the rest of the animal away to die slowly. Over 100 million sharks are slaughtered yearly to satisfy the demand for shark fin soup, and on-line trade represents only a portion. Open markets exist in many parts of Asia.

Friday, 28 November 2008

2009: The International Year of the Shark


The Let Sharks Live Network
November 29th, 2008


As the hands of the clock approach midnight for sharks, organizations working for their protection have joined forces in a global communication network named Let Sharks Live, and declared 2009 The International Year of the Shark. The motion aims to raise global awareness of their imminent extinction and the oceanic crisis at hand.

Recent findings of the Global Shark Assessment indicate that at current rates of decline, extinction of the most threatened species of shark is forecast in 10 to 15 years. In large regions, species that were once numerous have fallen to 1% of their original numbers, in a massacre comparable to that of the buffalo on the North American plains 200 years ago, but on a much larger scale. For example, in the Mediterranean Sea there is a 97 to 99.5% decline in shark numbers. Studies of oceanic sharks estimate 80 to 90% of heavily fished species are gone. Yet these intelligent animals, also called the “Wolves of the Sea” are still fished intensively, and finned, usually while still alive, for shark fin soup.

“The oceans have evolved over hundreds of millions of years with sharks as apex predators, so their loss will destroy oceanic health.” Ila France Porcher, founder of the think tank network, explains.

Some of the issues to be addressed include:
● Convincing the consumers of shark fin soup that shark finning is unsustainable and that the dish must be made using a substitute for the shark fins. Shark fin soup is a tasteless delicacy whose main use in the Far
East is to display high social status. If there is no market, the slaughter will cease.
● Educating the public regarding the true nature of sharks and their threatened status, to counter the effects of shark attack hysteria, as spread by the mass media, and which for years has posed a serious barrier to their protection.
● Obtaining protection for threatened species
● Solving the problem of the slaughter resulting from the use of shark nets and drum lines, used to protect beaches in some areas
● Reducing bycatch losses, and the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) limits defined in fisheries law
● Promoting marine protected areas, and enforcing protection of sharks within existing ones.
● Persuading shark fishermen to practise tag and release only, rather than killing the sharks they fish.

The threats sharks face in this modern world of human domination are daunting. The enormous scale of commercial longline fishing and bycatch,
the methodical massacre for shark fin soup, habitat loss and destruction, particularly of nursery areas, pollution, and a variety of smaller operations that have great impact taken together, are the main threats to the future of sharks.

"Our goal is to see the retreat of these magnificent animals from extinction's horizon."

For further information, please contact:
Ila France Porcher, (

Monday, 1 September 2008

Kiss the Great White Shark Good-bye

Tahiti is right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, one of the most isolated islands in the world. The dolphins here are increasing in numbers, and all of them are perfect. None have new scars inflicted by shark's teeth anymore, because the oceanic sharks are almost gone. If they are so depleted here, they must be even more depleted elsewhere too.

When a commodity becomes scarce, it becomes very valuable, as is seen with ivory, tiger parts, shark fins and so forth.

As the white shark goes down to extinction, its jaws, teeth, and other parts, will become so rare that collectors will try to get one. Princes in white marble palaces in obscure parts of the world, with a taste to display the biggest tiger skin, the most interesting gorilla hand, the biggest elephant tusks, the most curled rams horns, and so forth, will hear of a new treasure, the jaws of the famous sea monster, soon to disappear. And he'll send out his minions to get one.

Illegal wildlife smuggling is estimated to bring in five billion US dollars annually, roughly a quarter of the global wildlife trade.

I used to be idealistic about humankind changing, but power comes down through money, and the big corporations who are profiting by the destruction of the environment have not changed.

At least, not enough.

There is no excuse: the recently publicized oceanic ecological crisis has been reported for years, by the United Nations, Worldwatch Institute, which monitors world-wide conditions, and others.

All ecological systems are in some sort of crisis, other factors affecting the planetary biosphere, including many that were unforeseen, have appeared.

Examples are: the emergence of new diseases, the failure of antibiotics, and the potential of the ocean currents to change quickly and bring on a sudden climatic crisis. In addition, resources are at their limit--wood, water, metals, forests, soil--and the manufacture of materials has polluted the land, air, groundwater, ocean and living systems. Then there is the hole in the ozone layer, and the catastrophic rate of extinction.

Anyone reading this message has 500 chemicals in their bodies that didn't exist a hundred years ago. (Its easy to look over the literature to check out the details).

We thought that science, that pure method of finding out the truth, would solve all problems. But now it basically serves the consumer dollar, and it has not become the dominant mode of thinking of those in power, in spite of the promise it held once, in spite of the many pleasures and toys with which it has pampered us, particularly, for the last hundred years.

Predicting the future is a tricky matter, but can be done to a degree, always remembering that imponderables can change the order of events, delay, or speed things up. All one has to do is closely follow the trends of the past, and extrapolate them through the present and into the future. As extinctions have been accelerating in the past, for example, we can expect them to continue into the future. As people were worried about over-packaging thirty years ago, now we have a problem with materials running short, yet things are more hyperpackaged than ever.

Science has so far failed to find any life anywhere else, or even another remotely habitable place. Nothing but zillions of light-years of unimaginable cold and dark surround us, yet look what we're doing with the Eden we had.

For sharks, children of eternity, another eternity must pass again before they could ever reappear. Alas.

Try to think of something more purely evil than a species, who methodically kills off the other species sharing its planet. (Jesus said, "By their works , you shall know them.")

But we think we're so great, the greatest, the only one (!) made in the image of God.

Monday, 26 May 2008

A Logo for The Year of the Sharks

Me and my friends are trying to get the year 2009 or 2010 officially designated as Shark Year. We are inviting all other shark protection organizations to network together with us in order to use it to draw as much attention to the plight of sharks as we can.

Here is the logo that I finally got designed for our use. Note that the shark is not showing its teeth--sharks rarely do, yet are usually depicted that way--and that the logo can be used with or without words--the image speaks for itself, of sharks under the protection of people.

The Sharks' Habitat

The sharks I study are the female and juvenile blackfin reef sharks who live in the lagoon, within the protective arms of the barrier reef. The males live in the ocean on its outer slope, which shelves off gently, in rolling ridges, to finally fall away into the abyss.

This is how the reef appears underwater, on a good day, of course! Days when it is calm enough to photograph a wave breaking upon the reef are rare. Sharks often cross over the reef between the ocean and the lagoon when the depth of water allows; the two essentially divided populations of males and females do visit back and forth, but the juveniles remain within the protection of their shallow water habitat, in regions of thick coral, in the lagoon.

Across the Barrier Reef

Some marine animals are accidentally swept and battered over the reef, to drift, exhausted, on the other side.