Updates and Opportunities

Hi everyone,

With the lengthening days, as always, there’s a shortage of time – things are getting busy in the upcoming summer months!  I just want to take this opportunity to plug a few things that are happening and if you’re interested, please come along and offer a helping hand!

First things first, on this upcoming Sunday, 14 November 2010 at 9:00am, the White Shark Conservation Trust’s Mystery Ride, a charity motorbike ride being held on the North Shore.  For more details, visit the link posted.  Yours truly will be there as well, so come stop by and say hello, offer some support or make a donation!   If you have a bike and would like to join in on the ride, it costs $20 to register.  Please contact Bruce Goorney at the link posted above.  All proceeds will be going to the White Shark Conservation Trust, in support of conserving and protecting the white shark, educating the public about the white shark, and of course spreading the love among like-minded people.

Secondly, I’d like to plug Sustainable Coastlines, a non-profit organisation whose founders I had the opportunity to meet recently.  Sustainable Coastlines works to support communities in keeping their coastal environments clean, develop sustainable environmental practices and support coastal cleanup efforts to positively impact the environment, raise awareness and of course leave the coasts a little cleaner than they were when we found them.  Sustainable Coastlines is participating in the Love Your Coast event, which is a series of coastal cleanups that are happening across New Zealand.  On Monday, 6 December 2010, a cleanup is scheduled for Rangitoto Island.  Other cleanups are scheduled throughout the rest of that week in Wellington, Christchurch, and Te Tai o Poutini (West Coast).  Visit the posted links for more details.  I highly recommend checking out Sustainable Coastlines, as they are a pretty large, well organised outfit and they offer a lot of opportunities for getting involved, especially anyone who is concerned for environmental welfare.

November is looking to be an incredibly busy month, with several more dive courses starting and therefore a lot more work to do, but I hope to post again soon with some rather exciting news – watch this space.

-Diverkat

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International Cleanup Day Results – Job Well Done!

Recycled 2009 Banner - we practise what we preach!

Once again, Project AWARE‘s International Cleanup Day was a smashing success! This past Saturday, 25 September 2010 we tackled Mission Bay Beach’s shores for our beach and underwater cleanup.  Volunteers, divers and non-divers alike, showed up to help us collect about 12 kilograms of rubbish from the beach and the ocean.  And again, the most numerous bits of trash left behind were cigarette butts and drink bottle caps/lids.  Food wrappers and containers were the next most prevalent, indicating that in the more populous areas, individuals littering is the biggest issue we need to tackle – as well as getting food shops and food suppliers to use more biodegradable materials when packaging food and/or handing out utensils.

And once again, more than half of the volume we picked up was recyclable material.

Bearing that in mind, my suggestion for trying to curb this behaviour?  Why, yes, as always, education! If we tirelessly continue to educate ourselves, our kids, our friends, loved ones, colleagues, et cetera about the need to dispose of/recycle our trash responsibly, we can help stop thousands (yes, thousands) of tonnes of garbage from polluting our seas.  Last year on International Cleanup Day 2009, 220,000 kgs of debris were removed from the ocean alone (see Project AWARE’s global data here).  This was what was collected in one day.  Also, getting involved in being part of the solution – as our wonderful volunteers from NIWA, Global Dive, the White Shark Conservation Trust and my own dear (unaffiliated) friends did – helps raise awareness among the general public too, and of course reminds us to be responsible with disposing of our own rubbish.

Another bright moment from Saturday, other than the intermittent sun showing its face once in a while, was the chance to meet with Sam, Camden and Simon from Sustainable Coastlines, a charity organisation based in Tirau, Waikato.  Sustainable Coastlines takes a holistic approach to developing solutions for keeping our coasts clean and working with communities and individuals to implement solutions throughout New Zealand.  I am hoping to meet with these guys again soon – I’m looking forward to working with them toward a common goal, and gain some insight into what projects they are planning – and see if I can help.

Some photos from the day are below.   Thanks again to all of you who helped out, I am so grateful for the support shown and I am proud of the efforts you all put forth!  And of course, a big thank you to Global Dive for sponsoring the materials and the barbecue on the day!

-Diverkat

Divers getting kitted up for the underwater search

Bruce and Zoe sweep the west end of the beach

Francois and Juliet team up

Harry is all smiles - before he realised he'd be in 3m of water!

Jonas getting ready for the dive

Andreas, Alex and Kate on land duty

Sharkilage – an unsustainable product from a “sustainable” business

Today, it was brought to my attention by Bruce Goorney of the White Shark Conservation Trust that Good Health, a New Zealand owned and based natural supplement/naturopathy company sell two shark-based ingredient products: Sharkilage and Squalene.  Sharkilage is, as you can guess from the hybridised name, shark cartilage.  The description on the website states “Shark fin has been highly prized by some cultures for many years.”  Which is true, but it was not really prized for its health benefits – shark fin soup is mainly prized for its status-giving properties.  Shark fin soup is a sign of affluence, holds no nutritional value, has no flavour, and most health benefits that are quoted (many claim it has cancer-fighting properties) have been shown to be insignificant.

Chondroitin is a naturally occurring glycosaminoglycan, or GAG, a large molecule that is essential in building connective tissues in the body. Chondroitin sulfate, while administered with glucosamine, has been shown in some studies to slow (but not prevent or reverse) the degeneration of joint cartilage in humans – however whether or not there is any pain relief is still contested.  Chondroitin is found naturally in all sorts of intra-skeletal animals (including humans) and can be sourced from bovine cartilage as well as shark cartilage, or synthetically produced – therefore there is no need to obtain it from shark cartilage.

Shark liver oil benefits are less hocum; claims that shark liver oil has cancer-fighting abilities have undergone much testing and there may be some benefit to using the active organic compound, squalene.  However it is important to note that squalene can be derived from plant sources as well, such as olives or wheat germ, therefore there is no need to source squalene from shark liver.

Good Health’s environmental policy claims they “employ environmentally sustainable practices in our business.” As I have mentioned in previous posts, shark fishing/finning is not an environmentally sustainable practice.  Low fecundity rates coupled with slow rates of maturation means that sharks take longer to have offspring, and have fewer – so replenishing their populations takes a much longer time than say, tuna, who mature in 4-6 years and have numerous offspring.  The white shark, for example, takes about 15 years to reach sexual maturity, gestation is 11 months, and as intrauterine cannibalism is a common phenomenon in white sharks, only a few pups are birthed.  There is no doubt that we are fishing sharks at a much faster rate than they can replace their populations, which is the very definition of un-sustainability.

I have been living in New Zealand for over 3 years now, and I have made it my home.  I consider myself, for all intents and purposes, a Kiwi.  I want to support kiwi-owned businesses and purchase kiwi-made or kiwi-grown products, and I do.  But this company demonstrates exactly the problem I’ve noticed in this great country: with the undeserved “green reputation” that New Zealand seems to have overseas, there is a great margin of disconnect with individual kiwis, and kiwi-owned businesses alike.  Good Health, for example, spout the sustainability of their products, yet they indirectly promote one of the most unsustainable fishing practices in the world.  This cognitive dissonance is not rare, I’ve seen it in the New Zealand government’s behaviour at the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen last year as well, I see it in the lack of recycling facilities and campaigns at home, and I see it every time I pick up rubbish off the side of the road or a beach.  There is a trend here in NZ, a lack of foresight when it comes to environmental sustainability – and that needs to change.  But that I think is for another post, and begins at an individual level as I’ve said before.

I want to make this clear: I do not for a moment think that the people at Good Health are promoting the use and sale of shark products out of malice; I think there is simply a lack of knowledge about shark products, how they are sourced, and how they impact the environment.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: the best way to combat this is through education. I cannot state that enough.

Therefore, in the light of educating those who may not be aware of the damaging effects that come from sourcing certain ingredients, I have written a letter – one that I am posting below, and sending on to salesnz@goodhealth.co.nz.  I encourage you to do the same, my friends, and by all means use my letter if you want, or write your own.  I’d love to hear whether or not anyone gets a response – and I will certainly let you know if I get one.

-Diverkat

_______________________________________________

Dear Messrs Dave and Brian Blanchard,

As a fellow New Zealander who proudly supports Kiwi businesses, I am shocked and disappointed in the disconnect between your environmental policy and the unsustainability of the main ingredients, shark cartilage (or chondroitin) and shark liver oil, in your products Sharkilage and Squalene.

Your environmental policy as stated on your website says:

”Good Health believes every New Zealand business should do its best to preserve New Zealand’s clean, green reputation and we accept our share of responsibility for the environment.

For this reason our endeavours to employ environmentally sustainable practices in our business.”

Sharks are slow-growing apex predators, and their reproduction rates are substantially lower than those of other apex predator fish.  Apex predator populations are of vital importance to the health and welfare of marine ecosystems, and they are not fished in sustainable or ethical methods.  An estimated 70 – 100 million sharks are killed each year for their fins, and shark populations have been estimated to have declined by nearly 90% in the past three decades.

Shark finning itself is an unethical and unregulated practice – shark meat is often laden with high mercury levels (like other slow-growing marine animals), and holds little market value.  The most common finning method is to land the shark onto the boat, cut off all of its fins, and toss the carcass back into the water.  This does not necessarily kill the shark.  The shark can take up to five days to die by either starvation or asphyxiation (as it cannot swim to pass oxygenated water through its gills).  Other times the shark can be eaten alive by other sharks.  The whole process is extremely wasteful and very inhumane.

Encouraging shark fishing/finning through the promotion and sale of shark cartilage and shark liver oil is irresponsible business practice at best, and disingenuous to your environmental policy.  I encourage you to remove these products from your online store and encourage your suppliers to remove these products from their shelves, and reinstate the integrity of your environmental policy.

Both chondroitin and squalene can be obtained from more sustainable sources – chondroitin can be found in bovine cartilage or synthetically produced, and squalene can be found in olives, wheat germ and other plant sources.  Please consider using more sustainable sources for your products in order to be consistent with your policy.

I will be sharing this information with everyone I know and discourage them from using your products until a change is made.  If you do remove Sharkilage and Squalene from your line of products, I will happily and proudly support your Kiwi business once again.

Shark talk… and some Diving!

Well, last night’s WSCT presentation at Diveshack was a great success – we raised $281.00 in donations, so a big THANK YOU is in order to the club members, and especially to Aaron and Hayden, Diveshack’s Brains and Brawn rulers extraordinaire.  That money will be going toward purchasing tracking tags for DoC’s white shark research, so once again, thank you ALL for your generosity – and for letting Bruce and I rave on and on about sharks!  Definitely one of my favourite things to to.

And also, our lovely Dive Mistress is organising day dives out to the Poor Knights on Saturday, 26 June and Sunday, 27 June with our dear friends Noel and Jo from Yukon Charters.  Contact Dive Mistress at dive.mistress.nz@gmail.com for details if you’re available, and let her know if you can come diving with us!!!

White Shark Conservation Trust Presentation Tonight!

Hello all!

This is extremely last minute, but tonight, Bruce Goorney, trustee of the White Shark Conservation Trust, is doing a presentation on the White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) and what the Trust is doing in terms of conservation, research and fundraising.  The talk is happening at Diveshack, at 349 Dominion Road, Mt Eden, at 7pm.  Come along and meet other divers, find out what the WSCT is getting up to, and learn about what you can do to help us raise awareness about the plight of sharks.  Hope to see you all there!

I am a nice shark. Not a mindless eating machine. (copyright Disney)

-Diverkat

Dolphins for dinner… Not for me, thanks.

Water isn't supposed to be red.

Water isn't supposed to be red.

Yesterday, 1 September 2009, marked the first day of drive dolphin hunting in Taiji, in which thousands of dolphins will be killed for their meat, and a select few will be sold for an outrageous price and chosen to live in captivity in various marine parks.  Dolphin meat has high levels of mercury and methyl mercury, and is not considered fit for human consumption; but it is being sold for just that all the same.  A documentary called The Cove was recently released, exposing the inhumane methods of the Taiji fishermen and those who support them, who are involved in this lucritive business.  The documentary gives a new meaning to the phrase ‘investigative journalism’ and has won several film festival awards.  I highly recommend seeing it if you can.

The Cove Team

The team that uncovered the dark side of Taiji, using spy tactics and camouflaged recording equipment.

The cove at Taiji is well protected from prying eyes; tarps, barbed wire, “KEEP OUT” signs and tight security make it nearly impossible for anyone to get in.  The team that infiltrated the cove did so at great personal risk, and the lucrative business they uncovered was terrifying.

Here is a list of facts about the dolphin drive hunt, which is supported by  the international dolphinarium industry – it’s the easiest way for them to obtain ‘show-worthy’ dolphins for commercial use and entertainment, such as captive dolphin shows and “Swim with Dolphins” programs offered in many tourist venues throughout Japan and some other countries.

Again, this all comes down to money – those who are in need of it, like the local fishermen who depend on the dolphin drive for their livelihoods, and those who perpetuate the wrongdoings by using their money to get what they want, at great cost to the environment, to the health and well-being of wild creatures, and to the health and well-being of the humans who are unknowingly consuming dangerous toxins contained in their food.  Personally, I don’t think we can fault the locals who are depending on that income to survive.  But the locals are not hauling in the riches; the people controlling the operations are.  Those who are willing to pay top dollar to pillage the oceans for a few ‘pretty’ animals and exploit them for the entertainment of others are the driving force behind this disgusting practice.

There are simple things we can do.  If you are in New Zealand, you can copy and paste the following letter into an email to the Japanese Embassy, at japan.emb@eoj.org.nz.  If you are not in NZ, you can locate your local Japanese embassy using a google search – the embassies all have their contact information available online.

________________________________________________________

Dear Mr Toshihiro Takahashi,
 
I am writing to you to ensure you are aware that today (September 1, 2009) the waters and coves around Japan will once again run red with the blood of dolphins to fuel the marine park industry. After the few ‘show-worthy’ dolphins are captured, the hundreds, even thousands of dolphins not sentenced to a life of confinement will be slaughtered, and their poisonous meat sold to people and put into children’s school lunch programs.  
 The dolphins are killed in a secluded cove three hours south of Osaka.  The slaughter is hidden from public view with tarps and nets.  Access is blocked by steel gates, barbed wire, razor ribbon and guards.  The act is nothing short of barbaric, and the very fact that those involved go to great lengths to hide the slaughter from everyone shows that they know its barbaric and would be strongly opposed, not only by the rest of the world, but also by the Japanese people.

Japan officials and fishermen will then endanger their own people by selling this toxic dolphin meat to unsuspecting consumers.

“The dolphin drive brings dishonour to Japan and the world is watching.” 

イルカ追い込み猟が日本の恥です。世界が見てる


You can help.  Please help spread the word back to your contacts in Japan that this is not acceptable. 

Please help save these beautiful creatures and stop the few greedy people that are bringing dishonour to your name and country.

_________________________________________________________

Thanks for reading.  There are a few websites you can visit to get more information on dolphin drive hunts and conservation:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolphin_drive_hunting

http://www.savejapandolphins.org/educate.php

http://www.wdcs.org/

http://www.seashepherd.org

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it another thousand times: Best thing we can do is educate ourselves, and educate others. 

-Diverkat

Sharks continued…

As you can probably see, I’ve been having significant problems with running the powerpoint in the previous post.  Sometimes when war is waged over technology, technology wins… at least, it has in this case. 

So, in lieu of a fancy little powerpoint presentation, I’ll just have to admit defeat and put the information in blog form… not nearly as cool.

Carcharodon carcharias - White Shark

photo courtesy of Bruce Goorney, copyright 2009

On better, more interesting notes, I have had the express pleasure of meeting the trustees of the White Shark Conservation Trust at a private screening of Sharkwater last week. ***Side note: if you haven’t seen this documentary, you must. If you care about the future of our marine ecosystems and our own future, this doco will open your eyes.***

I picked Bruce’s brains for a bit to get more information on what they were doing in regards to the future of our chondrichthyan friends here in New Zealand. One of the current endeavours WSCT are working on is raising funds for the ongoing white shark conservation and research projects run by the New Zealand Department of Conservation and NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research).  The project itself  now has funding for the next 6 years, however this funding does not cover the crucial tags.  A PAT (pop-up satellite archival) tag is $6,000 and a SPOT (Single Position Only Tag) tag is $4,000.  These tags are tracked using satellite technology, so the position of the tagged shark is accurately and consistently monitored, and the data they will send back is vital information. I’m sure you’re all wondering: why is this so important?

As the old adage goes: knowledge is power. In order to help save a species, we must understand it, and learn as much as we can about it. So little is known about the white shark; the media and entertainment industries have made a fortune on promoting an ignorant and ill-informed caricature of the white shark (and sharks in general), labelling it as a mindless, human-killing machine. Simply put, research shows this to be unequivocally false. White sharks are around us much more often than we actually know – the majority of their time is spent at the surface – yet so few attacks happen. When they do, it isn’t a bloodthirsty, murderous animal coming for your jugular; white sharks bite out of curiosity, they don’t know what we are, and they don’t have hands to use in order to gain tactile information. They use their sensitive heads and mouths to understand what we are.  When people die (and they rarely do) from shark bites, the primary reason is loss of blood.

The research that WSCT is supporting is vital information to the migratory behaviour of white sharks and could possibly provide clues about their breeding behaviour as well. When we understand more about where they go, why, how, and where they breed, we’ll understand how we can better protect them. Please offer your support in any way you can; education and raising awareness are the cheapest (and some of the most effective) ways we can help the white shark. For those who feel inclined to give a little more, have a look on the White Shark Conservation Trust website or email Bruce or Kate at whitesharkconservationtrust@gmail.com for more information on donations, or helping out.

White Shark Conservation Trust

Mission:

To contribute to the worldwide conservation of the great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias.

To increase public awareness, dispel the myths about the great white shark and provide some hope for the species survival.

photo courtesy of Bruce Goorney, copyright 2009

photo courtesy of Bruce Goorney, copyright 2009

And now, on to conquer this ridiculous powerpoint presentation. I shall prevail.  Stay tuned for more educational resources on sharks and how we can do our part to protect them.

-Diverkat