Richard Branson: Don’t Turn Shark Encounter Into an Excuse to Kill More Sharks
In the aftermath of surfer Mick Fanning's encounter with a shark last week, there has rightly been widespread acclaim for the way the three-time world champion handled the terrifying incident. Julian Wilson, Mick's mentee and competitor, also richly deserves admiration and respect for bravely swimming to his aid. The way they have handled themselves in the aftermath has shown them to be true role models.
However, the coverage of this highly unusual event should not be used as an excuse to mount further campaigns to kill even more sharks. An estimated 100 million sharks are killed each year in commercial fisheries, mainly for their fins to be used in making shark fin soup. Around 30 percent of sharks are threatened with extinction, with a further quarter of sharks close to becoming threatened in the near future.
Shark attacks on humans are extremely rare. I have swum with many species of sharks on many occasions, including tiger sharks and great white sharks. I have always found it a remarkable, peaceful experience, and I wholeheartedly believe they have no interest in humans as food.
Shark Attack Survivors for Shark Conservation
This view is shared by an extraordinary group called Shark Attack Survivors for Shark Conservation, which has joined forces with The Pew Charitable Trusts to support efforts to restore and conserve the world's shark populations. It is led by Pew's Debbie Salamone, who herself is a shark attack survivor. As she told The Humane Society: “If a group like us can see the value in saving sharks, everyone should."
The group's members range from a Wall Street banker to a South African Paralympic swimmer and Australian navy diver, and many of them have lost limbs to sharks. Surfer Mike Coots, who lost a leg to a shark, continues to surf and has become a notable underwater photographer. Others include: Achmat Hassiem, Krishna Thompson, Chuck Anderson, Laurie Boyett, Kent Bonde, Scott Curatolo-Wagemann, Paul de Gelder, Al Brenneka, Mike Beach, Michelle "Micki" Glenn, Jonathan Kathrein and Eric Larsen. They all agree that sharks are a beautiful, vital part of the ocean ecosystem.
By removing sharks from reef ecosystems, which have been swimming there for 440 million years, the natural food web is broken. Fewer sharks in the ocean results in less healthy coral, and therefore fewer fish, which damages food security, hurts the health of the ocean and reduces tourism dollars too.
Because sharks grow slowly, mature late and have few offspring, it is not sustainable to manage them like other commercially-sought fish. They need strong protections to stop numbers dropping past the point of no return. The largely unregulated shark fin trade is the key driver of shark declines worldwide, with very few shark species subject to catch and trade controls, which are needed to properly protect them.
There have been conservation successes for sharks in recent years in securing commitments to creating sharks sanctuaries. In March of this year, the Federated States of Micronesia created the world's 10th shark sanctuary, joining together a massive area of the western Pacific Ocean as a huge regional sanctuary. In the Caribbean, similar moves are afoot with the Bahamas, Honduras and The British Virgin Islands waters declared protected, and momentum for action being taken in the Caymans, St Eustatius, Bonaire, Saba and Grenada, Sint Maarten in the Caribbean, and Samoa in the Pacific. I had the pleasure of joining a number of officials working to protect the Caribbean's sharks in February of this year and was really encouraged by their commitment and enthusiasm. However, far more needs to be done.
We need to introduce more shark sanctuaries, establish stronger global protections and tackle the demand for shark fin soup and other shark products. We absolutely do not need to kill more sharks.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.