What caused Kelly Slater to so radically change his views about sharks?
Or perhaps he did not change his views after all.
In 2014, Kelly was quoted in the Australian media saying in response to Premier Colin Barnett's plan to kill sharks in Western Australia:
"I think it's kind of silly. Humans want to control everything. We try to control (beach) erosion, we try to control sharks … we just try to control everything on this earth and it's just crazy. We kill 100 million sharks a year or something crazy to make (shark fin) soup. We throw them back finless and dying. It's like we've lost all feeling for other creatures on some level and I think that's kind of sad. If I got eaten by a shark, I'd be honoured."
So when I heard that Kelly had sent an Instagram message to the notorious shark-killing advocate Jeremy Flores on Reunion Island, my first reaction was disbelief. It had to be fake news. The message was in contradiction of everything that Kelly had ever said about sharks.
In his message to Flores on social media, Kelly said:
And of course Flores took that message as ammunition to go on the offensive against conservationists including Sea Shepherd and myself personally.
I don't think that Kelly anticipated the tsunami of a response from both sides of this issue. The shark kill advocates were elated and quickly took to social media to thump their chest for bringing Kelly over to the what marine conservationist see as the "dark side." Many shark advocates reacted with anger and accusations. The nature of the internet is immediately unforgiving by millions of people who tend to react with instantaneous condemnation without verification of the facts.
I don't think that Kelly anticipated that his words would ignite violence on Reunion or that the next day would see a fire bomb attack on the offices of the marine reserve because one of the goals of some of the shark haters on the island is to shut down the marine reserve and to reopen fishing including shark hunting.
I don't think that Kelly anticipated the death threats against Jean Bernard Galves, the representative of Sea Shepherd on Reunion Island, and the collective NGO's advocating the end of the cull and the protection of the marine reserve.
Nor could he have anticipated the extreme hate directed at any person who defends sharks as this posting by surfer Christophe Fontaine to the Association de Sauvegarde des requins, illustrates:
"All my friends died in a shark attack. You won. Now we are going to burn everything to the ground to avoid more young to die because of your bullshit. The Marine Reserve already got hit and if they have not understood it's their children who we will burn. The prefect's children too. They want to kill us. Then we will kill.
"Dude, I don't know if you understood the message. People like you allowed my friends to die eaten. Whether you get it or not, we don't give fuck. You come here, we'll kill you. We'll kill your children, your family and we'll piss on your grave and the one of your dear ones. Cause that is what you have been doing to us since the beginning.
"Also send the message to the 2 little Zoreil (people from France) walking around with Sea Shepherd t-shirts in Boucan, provoking us that we will feed them to sharks. Let them all sue us. We went to Court, it did not protect us from death. It won't protect you either. It's your turn."
I don't think that Kelly anticipated the wave of anger and feelings of betrayal his words would spawn and the ire of so many of his admirers and fans directed towards him on social media.
Inadvertently, Kelly handed them the confidence to unleash their hateful accusations and to fuel their violent rhetoric.
At first, I was disappointed, but not angry with Kelly. He is a dedicated ocean conservationist and he has spoken out against shark culling for years so it was a shock for me to hear that he actually said what he reportedly said.
Kelly is a compassionate man and he was reacting to the death of a young surfer and I believe that was his initial gut reaction to the tragedy. I don't believe that this statement negates the incredible efforts Kelly made over the years to raise awareness of what we as a species are doing to destroy biodiversity in the sea.
I did reach out to him and he responded that he was indeed sympathetic to the surfers who have died there, that the incidents of shark attacks are greater there than any other place on the planet and that although he opposes culling of sharks in general he believes that Reunion is a unique situation because of the number of shark attacks.
His response to me gave me some insight as to where he is was coming from. The pain of losing friends and family, the suffering from shark inflicted wounds are things that provoke anger and a desire for revenge or as in Kelly's case, a desire to find some solution.
There is no doubt that this is a highly emotional issue—the death of so many surfers in a relatively short time in one particular place. I think Kelly reacted intuitively to these tragedies and because he felt that the situation at Reunion was unique and unusual.
It is indeed clear to me that Kelly did not anticipate the backlash. He sent me this message yesterday:
"I would like to address my comment about the recent bull shark attack in Reunion Island. I did not think my words through. It is easy to get emotional given the recent history with sharks that the local community has suffered, especially when young lives are lost. However, killing anything in hopes of a solution is not in line with my philosophies about life and I don't believe are a long term fix to an ongoing problem. This is a good time to put energy and intelligence into finding a solution that works for everyone ... utilizing technology, science and human emotion. I know a solution can be found that works for all parties. I'll continue to learn about and put energy towards efforts to defend and protect our oceans.
Sincerely, Kelly Slater"
Sea Shepherd wants to work with Kelly and with anyone on Reunion who wants to find a real solution to these attacks. Kelly wants to work with us, with the surfers and with the scientists to find a solution.
I believe that the surfers on the island, if they truly wish to find a solution must understand that culling does not work, it has never worked and the remedy must be a restoration of the marine ecology, the encouragement of the return of reef sharks, the increase in marine biodiversity and until these solutions can be found these beaches must be closed until restoration is completed. The defense against bull sharks is a healthy population of reef sharks and a rich diversity of fish populations in a well enforced marine reserve.
So I do not see the point of condemning Kelly for expressing his sincere feelings with regard to the human fatalities. He is human, he is extremely close to the surfing community and what he said, he said from the point of view of a man and a surfer who cares about the lives of people who share his passion for the waves.
And we should make no mistake in believing for one moment that this man does not care about the ocean, about biodiversity and about the atrocities committed. I know Kelly, he cares, he cares deeply.
I am looking at the positive side of this controversy. Perhaps what Kelly said was not okay on the surface but it brought to light the reality that this is a very misunderstood situation and the only solution must be an objective scientific review with real ecologically based solutions. A cull is not one of these solutions.
The situation at Reunion has been caused by humans. Pollution, overfishing, negligence and a refusal to use plain old common sense backed up by some serious understanding of ocean ecology. And as Kelly has often said in the past, culling simply does not work.
U.S. surfer Mike Coots, who lost a leg in a shark attack agrees that culling is not the answer. "I think culling a species is fundamentally wrong: Science has shown that it doesn't work," he said. "It actually can make the situation worse. I think we need to focus more on coexistence between humans and sharks."
During the latter half of the twentieth century, shark culling was carried out in an attempt to make the waters of Hawaii safer. From 1959 to 1976, the state of Hawaii culled 4,668 sharks. The Hawaii Institute for Marine Biology and the state's Department of Land and Natural Resources concluded that culling was "ineffective" because the incidence of shark attack numbers remained the same.
The Reunion islanders have overfished the area and the reef sharks that once held that territory were wiped out, not by bull sharks as Jeremy Flores falsely claims but by fishermen. With the reef sharks removed, the bull sharks moved in.
And herein lies the problem. Not only does shark culling not work, it actually contributes to the environment where bull sharks are more aggressive and thus more dangerous.
More than 200 sharks have been killed already around the island and this onslaught of vengeance not only took out bull sharks but many tiger sharks as well and tiger sharks have not killed any surfers. How many more do they wish to kill? Are they talking 100 percent eradication? Because complete eradication is the only way to guarantee safety for surfers.
Is extinction of the bull shark the price the surfers demand in return for enjoying their sport?
This is what happens. A shark kills a human. In revenge numerous sharks are slaughtered and instead of solving their problem their actions have intensified it.
Why is it that the highest incidence of shark attacks in the world happen where shark culling is practiced? Specifically Reunion, Queensland and Western Australia.
And the reason for this is that the removal of sharks from their established territory creates a vacuum and thus an invite for replacement sharks and these replacement sharks are seeking to establish the vacant territory as their own and this makes them far more aggressive than the sharks they replaced. Culling creates a black hole and it will draw in replacement bull sharks from Madagascar resulting in more aggressive shark attacks and more mass killings of sharks. It's a vicious circle of shark culling and attacks on humans.
Kill them and the door opens for new replacements and the only logical outcome of such a radical scheme is complete and utter eradication and that is something that Kelly Slater absolutely does not endorse.
Stirred up by Jeremy Flores and his cohorts, the Journal de l'Ile de La Reunion has called Sea Shepherd and all the scientists and NGO's opposing a cull as "NAZI's animal rights fanatics" and claim that we are responsible for the deaths of the surfers because we oppose a shark massacre. From our point of view the cause of these frequent attacks is the culling itself and thus Flores and the government of France are very much complicit in the circumstances that have seen 20 attacks since 2011 of which eight attacks were fatal.
What Sea Shepherd has been advocating is a strong marine reserve that will allow the reef sharks to return so that the ecological balance can be restored. Towards this end, the beaches where shark attacks occur should be closed to the public.
Kelly has assured me that he supports this approach.
Let's take a closer look at the victims.
The last attack took place at the exit of a river on the east coast after heavy rains. The river carried a great deal of waste into the muddy water. The rains had modified the bottoms of the mouth of the river, creating a "perfect" wave. Tempting indeed, but the fishermen of the area had repeatedly warned the surfers of the enormous shark risk, well known to be aggravated by the rains. Swimming was forbidden and signs were posted, although many of the signs had been vandalized. The man who died was a former shark lookout and fully aware of the risks. Nonetheless, he chose to take the risk.
A statement from his family said:
"Our family does not want the death of Alex to be used to justify this or that act. Nor do we wish that one accuses wild animals for the death of Alex. Alex was a great enthusiast and was fully aware of the risks he was taking."
The incident in April 2015 involved a 13-year old boy. The day before a shark look-out system had been set up, but on that day the look-outs were not deployed due to poor visibility and poor sea conditions. The training session was canceled. Despite the ban on surfing, the boy and some of his comrades decided to surf. They were perhaps confident because of the installation a few hundred meters away of a drum line 12 days before. This shark line had been installed against the advice of scientists. They warned of the risk of baiting near beaches.
Currently 15 scientists from the Marine Reserve Science Council—despite enormous state pressure and the constant threats and insults—unanimously said that it was dangerous to bait near surfers and drum lines should not be installed in the reserve and near the beaches.
This entire situation has been created by human activity due to overfishing, elimination of reef sharks, pollution, and the dumping of sewage, fish guts and animal offal. Regular heavy rains have compounded the problem and it has already been proven that culling does not work, but instead contributes to more occurrences.
Flores and his group of shark killing advocates are trying to cast the scientists and conservationist like myself and Sea Shepherd as people-haters, willing to sacrifice young people to save the sharks.
In reality, we are trying to stop the shark attacks by working to restore the ecological integrity of the area with the Reunion Island Natural Marine Reserve. Yes, we want to save the sharks but in doing so we see this effort as saving human lives as well. It is not a question of either sharks or humans, for us it is a question of protecting both the lives of humans and sharks.
What Flores is advocating is simply not okay.
I was a surfer in California and Hawaii in my younger days in the '60s and '70s and I have always viewed surfing as a near religious experience which is one of the reasons that I hold Kelly Slater in such high regard. All surfers should be ambassadors for life in the sea and in fact Kelly has and continues to be an incredible advocate, educator and role model for young people around the globe.
As a surfer I was always aware of the risks, from being dashed onto a coral reef to almost breaking my neck at Makapuu Beach, but I always viewed the risk of a shark attack as the least of my worries. This is not to say there is no risk, but that it was an acceptable risk because on average about five people die annually from a shark attack and considering the tens of millions of people who enter the ocean every day, that is an extremely small percentage.
In fact, it is more dangerous to play golf because more golfers die every year than surfers from everything from bee stings to being struck by lightening.
As Kelly Slater once said himself, "If you're afraid of sharks, stay out of the ocean."
That is a sentiment he still holds today. Nothing has changed.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Zahida Sherman
Cooking has always intimidated me. As a child, I would anxiously peer into the kitchen as my mother prepared Christmas dinner for our family.
Falling in Love With Food All Over Again<p>Slowly, through my most intimate relationships with friends and partners, I began to see the beauty — and rewards — of cooking.</p><p>I got tired of giving in to defeat and always bringing chips or paper products to social gatherings. I started asking my mom to send me her Christmas and Thanksgiving recipes. I even volunteered to host Thanksgiving dinner at my place.</p><p>Each time I heard my loved ones sing the praises of the foods I prepared for them, I felt a tinge more confident that I could carry out our traditions my way.</p><p>In reaching out to other relatives for their favorite recipes, I learned that they had a little help of their own. They didn't rely solely on their ancestral cooking instincts. They turned to Black chefs for guidance.</p><p>These 7 cookbooks by Black chefs have inspired my family and fed us in nutrients, joy, and spiritual sustenance. They're also helping me overcome my personal fears of cooking.</p>
Get CookingWhether you're in recovery from cooking fears like me, or are just looking to expand your culinary confidence with dishes honoring Black heritage, these Black chefs are here to support you on your journey.Turn on some music, give yourself permission to make mistakes, and throw down for yourself or your loved ones. Glorious flavors await you.
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By Tara Lohan
The conclusion to decades of work to remove a dam on the Middle Fork Nooksack River east of Bellingham, Washington began with a bang yesterday as crews breached the dam with a carefully planned detonation. This explosive denouement is also a beginning.
The History<p>The Middle Fork Nooksack drains glacier-fed headwater streams that run off the icy summit of 10,778-foot Mt. Baker. The Middle Fork joins the North Fork and then the mainstem of the Nooksack River, which travels to Bellingham Bay and Puget Sound. The entire Nooksack watershed stretches 830 square miles across Washington and into British Columbia.</p>
A Plan Comes Together<p>The Middle Fork dam is not a pool dam built for water storage. Much of the time, water flows over the top until dam operators drop a floodgate to divert water to new locations. That water travels about 14 miles through tunnel and pipeline to Mirror Lake, then Anderson Creek, and to Lake Whatcom before finally being delivered to residents' taps.</p><p>Before removing the dam, engineers had to move the water intake 700 feet upstream and situate it at an elevation that still enabled city water withdrawals throughout the year, regardless of flow conditions.</p><p>They also needed to make sure that the rushing water didn't sweep up fish and accidentally send them through the water-supply system.</p><p>"The solution required a fairly complex design in the intake structure, including a fish exit pipe out of that structure to put fish back into the river in a way that meets current environmental permit standards," explains LaCroix.</p>
Project layout for the removal of the Middle Fork Nooksack diversion dam and rebuilding of water intake. City of Bellingham<p>Despite the cost and the work, she says, being able to continue to meet their municipal water obligations while opening up habitat for threatened species has been a win-win.</p><p>"I think there's a lot of benefits to having a dam removal versus fish passage — the main one being that you get a free-flowing river that can be a dynamic ecosystem and change over time," she says. "A static fish ladder just can't provide that same level of ecosystem benefit."</p>
Restoration Success<p>Despite local authorities' championing dam removal on the Middle Fork, the project has largely flown under the radar, overshadowed in the Pacific Northwest by heated discussions about a much larger potential project — removing <a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/feds-reject-removal-of-4-snake-river-dams-in-key-report/" target="_blank">four federal hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River</a>, a major tributary of the Columbia River.</p><p>Proponents of dam removal there see it as the best chance for recovering threatened salmon populations, including Chinook, which could help starving Southern Resident killer whales. Those dams also provide irrigation water, barge navigation and hydropower, so there's been more pushback against removal efforts.</p><p>Previous dam removals around the country, however, have proved successful at aiding fish recovery and river restoration.</p><p>Most notably the 1999 demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/edwards-dam-removal/" target="_blank">Edwards Dam on Maine's Kennebec River</a> restored the annual run of alewives, a type of herring essential to the food web. The fish run has gone from zero to 5 million in the two decades since dam removal. Blueback herring, striped bass, sturgeon and shad have also extended their reach. And the resurgence has brought back osprey, bald eagles and other wildlife, too.</p><p>The overwhelming success of river restoration on the Kennebec helped to spur a nationwide dam removal movement that's now seen 1,200 dams come down since 1999. Last year a record <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/conservation-resource/a-record-26-states-removed-dams-in-2019/" target="_blank">90 dams</a> were removed in 26 states, including <a href="https://therevelator.org/cleveland-forest-dam-removal/" target="_blank">20 dams in California's Cleveland National Forest</a>.</p>
Spider excavators remove on dam on San Juan Creek in California's Cleveland National Forest. Julie Donnell, USFS<p>The results have been seen in the Pacific Northwest, as well, which boasts the largest dam removal thus far in the country. In 2011 and 2014, the demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/elwha-dam-removal/" target="_blank">two dams</a> on Elwha River, which runs through Washington's Olympic National Park, opened up 70 miles of habitat that had been blocked for a century. Scientists have started seeing all five species of salmon native to the river coming back, particularly Chinook and coho. Bull trout, they've observed, have increased in size since the dams were removal.</p>
Benefits on the Middle Fork Nooksack<p>McEwan hopes to see a similar outcome on the Middle Fork.</p><p>Like the Elwha the Middle Fork Nooksack is a relatively pristine river with little development, and dam removal is expected to provide a big boost to fish. The additional miles of spawning habitat are important, but so is the temperature of that water.</p><p>The dam removal will open access to cold upstream waters, which are ideal for salmon and getting harder to come by as climate change warms waters and reduces mountain runoff.</p><p>"This is really great for the climate change resiliency for these species," says McEwan.</p><p>Steelhead will get back 45% of their historic habitat in the river, and scientists expect Chinook populations to increase in abundance by 31%.</p><p>That <em>could</em> help Southern Resident killer whales.</p><p>"When you get to the ocean, it's a little bit of a black box in terms of what you can model and say definitively is going to help, but more fish is better for orcas," McEwan says.</p><p>Upstream habitat will see benefits, too.</p><p>Oceangoing fish like salmon enrich their bodies with carbon and nitrogen while at sea. When they return to their natal rivers to spawn and die, the marine-derived nutrients they carry back upriver become important food and fertilizer for both riverine and terrestrial ecosystems — aiding everything from trees to birds to bears.</p><p>"Once the fish start making their way back, it will start changing the whole ecological system," says Delgado.</p><p><span></span>But any ecological benefit from salmon restoration, either in the ocean or the upper watershed, won't be immediate.<br></p><p>"The population of salmon on the Middle Fork is so low that we expect it's going to take quite a while to rebound," she says. "But the big picture is that what's good for salmon is good for the region — our history and our destiny are intricately intertwined."</p><p>After decades of work, that process of restoration has finally begun.</p>
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By Katie Howell
A new tool called The Food Systems Dashboard aims to save decision makers time and energy by painting a complete picture of a country's food system. Created by the Johns Hopkins' Alliance for a Healthier World, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Dashboard compiles food systems data from over 35 sources and offers it as a public good.
By Manuela Callari
It can grow to a maximum of six inches (16 centimeters), change color depending on mood and habitat, and, like all seahorses, the White's seahorse male gestates its young. But this tiny snouted fish is under threat.
Building an Ocean Seahorse Destination<p>Seahorses are found in tropical and temperate coastal water worldwide, but are most abundant around Australia, China and the Philippines. </p><p>Trade in the tiny creatures is strictly regulated because of their use in traditional medicine, aquariums and their sale as dried curios. But because they are poor swimmers and cannot easily move elsewhere, habitat loss is a particular threat for these curious animals. </p><p>Seahorses wrap their tails around seagrass and corals to avoid being carried away on currents. They use the habitat to spawn and hide from predators such as crabs, while also feeding on riches of plankton and small crustaceans living in the reef.</p><p><span></span>Where corals aren't available, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/aqc.1217" target="_blank">scientists</a> found seahorses taking up residence in fishing nets and old crab traps abandoned at the bottom of the ocean. </p>
Mixing With the Locals<p>Baby seahorse mortality is high in the wild because they are easily caught, so those bred in the protected environment of the aquarium weren't ready to be released into the wild until early May.</p><p>The team released 90 new arrivals into Sydney Harbor, placing some directly into the purpose-built hotels, and others onto a net that wild seahorses had already settled on.</p><p>Before setting them free, the researchers marked each young seahorse with a fluorescent tag with unique IDs inserted just beneath the skin to track how they get on in the different environments. </p><p>"The most exciting part was being able to put these animals into the wild and then go back a month later and still see them surviving and growing," said McCracken. </p><p>The seahorses will be old enough to mate and reproduce around October or November 2020. And researchers hope that by then, they will be able to breed with the wild population. </p>
Building a Global Seahorse Hotel Chain<p>With seahorses everywhere facing the loss of their coral reef homes, similar projects have sprung up in places like Greece and South Africa, home to the world's most endangered seahorse, the Knysna seahorse. </p><p>"The endangered South African seahorse is benefiting from something quite similar, even though it wasn't intentional," said Peter Teske, professor at the Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg.</p><p>In the South African <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322649251_An_endangered_seahorse_selectively_chooses_an_artificial_structure" target="_blank">case</a>, seahorses have bedded down in "Reno mattresses" — wire cages filled with rocks — that were used to build a new marina. Researchers from NGO Knysna Basin Project found the structures acted as a refuge for the animals.<span></span></p><p><span></span>While Teske describes the seahorse hotels as "a positive news story" and a great way to create public awareness of conservation, he added that establishing artificial habitats in some areas will only prevent the extinction of local populations.</p><p>"For a complete recovery, it is necessary to give the natural habitat a chance to regenerate," said the seahorse expert. </p>
Underwater Mascot<p>In Australia, the researchers hope the project could provide an opportunity to raise awareness not only of the plight of the Sydney seahorses but the other animals with which it shares its ocean habitat.</p><p>The waters around Sydney and the east coast are rich in biodiversity and include several threatened species like the weedy seadragon — a relative of the seahorse — and the grey nurse shark. Like the seahorse, they're also under pressure from pollution, ocean traffic and habitat loss through storms and coastal construction. </p><p>"It's a good thing to get people's support and interest. The seahorses are a useful vehicle to get people concerned if the harbor is in trouble," said David Booth, professor of marine ecology at the University of Technology Sydney who is also working on the project. </p><p>The hotels have become an attraction for divers hoping to catch a glimpse of these small but near mythical creatures. </p><p>"Everyone loves seahorses," added Booth, "they are so popular." </p>
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