David McGuire: “Shark Stewards”
By David McGuire
Thank you for the opportunity to share Shark Steward’s work in shark conservation and provide an update to your membership. I am impressed by the growth of the club and the activity since my first visit when I spoke in 2014.
At that time, we were high on our hard won victory passing the California Shark Fin Ban, but were in the midst of a legal challenge to the law that banned the sale and trade of shark fin in California. Two years ago, when I revisited, I was pleased to share that we survived that challenge to the California Supreme Court, and had led and assisted shark fin bans in 11 other US States. Although shark fin consumption has declined in the USA and even in China, the demand for their fins is still causing overfishing of many species, and shark populations are on the decline globally. We are continuing to advocate for strengthened trade restrictions in the USA through the newly re-introduced shark fin trade sales act (HR 737).
Over the past five years we have been working in Malaysia, number three globally in the shark fin trade. With local groups we have helped educate the public to reduce shark fin consumption and advocate for increased trade restriction and the creation of marine protected areas. Malaysian Borneo is the center of marine biodiversity, with hundreds of species of coral, fish, and approximately 70 species of sharks and rays, many endemic species. Working with local dive resorts we are advocating for increased shark protection and marine protected areas supported by dive ecotourism.
In 2018 we provided the government with a 105-page report with over 175 dive and fish market surveys and compiling other unpublished data on shark and ray catch and the fin trade, with recommendations on protecting sharks and habitat. With continued advocacy, we hope to convince the Malaysian government to save this region of sublime diving and diversity, reduce shark fin and manta ray consumption and trade and continue to staunch the flow of fins and manta gills to China.
This summer we will be in Sri Lanka at the Convention of the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) at the Coalition of the Parties (CoP18) to protect blue sharks, mako sharks and guitarfish under Appendix II. Blue sharks, once the most abundant pelagic shark globally are now the highest traded in the shark fin trade, estimated at 20 million each year. Driven by the shark fin trade, these sharks are disappearing and the ocean is suffering from the loss of apex predators.
I hope to return and share more victories for sharks and marine ecosystems with Aqua Tutus Diving Club, and appreciate the support your members have given Shark Stewards. I also hope to see you at the Ocean Film Festival with Shark Water Extinction on opening night, March 7, and shark films and a panel March 8 to be held at Cowell Theater, Fort Mason.