Monday, January 12, 2009

Deadliest creatures in the world - sharks aren't so bad!

According to ACA Ninemsn, Sharks cause an average of only 4 deaths a year!

Surprisingly, #1 deadliest creature was the mosquito which transfers disease to over 70 million people each year and claim more than two million lives per year.

The slideshow can be viewed here

Saturday, January 10, 2009

To stop shark finning in NSW, fisherman need new skills

When I see a headline about the 'dramatic increase in shark finning in NSW' - I am in disbelief. It seems naive to associate this barbaric act to just developing countries because greed can affect anyone in the human race.

This rationale is the only one I can make to put into perspective that fisherman in NSW are simply going about their everyday lives to make money to feed their families. However, the truth is that local fisherman are diversifying into the shark fin market because it is one of the most lucrative areas in the fishing industry to make money.

According to the SMH, 'shark fishers can earn as much as $100 a kilogram' for this prized ingredient. In doing so, local fisherman have been putting earnings before mother nature and threatening endangered species (such as the grey nurse) which live along the NSW coastline.

Despite trying to regulate this illegal practice, the NSW Department of Primary Industries will impose fines of up to $220,000 to 'fishers who are found to have harmed a threatened species' but I would pose the question of - Why they do not consider reinvesting revenue from fines into an education program?

The program would aim to up skill fisherman to make money from other avenues than shark finning or perhaps give them a new set skills to move away from the hardship of the commercial fishing industry. The objective is to allow fisherman to still provide for their families through another means of income which is honest and does not interfere with endangered species which have existed for over 400 million years.

Source: SMH
Image: Australia customs service

Friday, January 9, 2009

Shark Attacks Vs Population growth

According to statistics, the number of shark attacks in Australia have been in decline since the 1970's but fatalities related to attacks have increased.

source © International Shark Attack File Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida

An updated list of shark attacks which occur in Australia can be found in the shark attack file

Source: Florida Museum of Natural History

Friday, January 2, 2009

Little emperors could solve the marketing dilemma for the demand of shark fin soup

I have been wondering if perhaps the communication strategy overseas has been too anglo-saxon in its approach to convince the primary audience - when you consider that the consumption of shark fin soup goes back to the Song and Qing dynasty, some 2200 years ago.

Shark fin soup has become so affordable and historical, that Asians feel they are entitled to consume this once imperial exclusive soup all the time. However, the message is not that Asian do not have right to eat whatever they want but the message that is not getting through is that Asians are being ignorant over the effects of eating this bowl of soup.

Past campaigns, appear to have focused on celebrities declaring that they will no longer not eat it, with the hope that people will agree too but Asians just do not think this way. Their attitude to this was best illustrated by the same way the papers in China ignored Yao Ming's declaration about his view on shark fin soup.

I believe the way forward is to influence the next generation of shark fin soup consumers, the little emperors. By educating the little emperors to see that there may not be sharks in the world if adults continue to order shark fin soup. Allow pester power to be the strategy while maintaining a strong position with the government to pressure restaurants to take it off menus.

Image source: 18.8kg Baby in Jilin, China

Greedy Australian/New Zealand Fisherman

Sadly, the trade for shark fining is still strong in Australia.

According to confidential Department of Primary Industries(DPI)government documents, shark finning in Australia is up 500 per cent - despite the fact that it is actually illegal in Australia to catch and kill sharks simply for their fins(their bodies must be used and can end up as fertiliser on farms or in fish and chip meals). As usual, the 'rapidly rising demand across Asia for for the delicacy' is to blame for this increase.

At the same time the DPI are struggling to enforce a quota for the number of sharks caught or monitor the actual figures and types of shark species killed in NSW.

Even in New Zealand, local fisherman film this poor little sharky with its fins evidently carved off.

The short term profit for local fisherman is a long term loss for marine life, it just puzzles me how they can not understand this. There are too many legislative loopholes and illegal fishing vessels filled with greedy fisherman, Chinese restaurants in Australia need to take it off the menus.

Source: CDNN

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Finally - a documentary which raises the awareness of the cruelty of the fining process contributing to the extinction of sharks.

This documentary released last year has won 31 International Awards, is filmed by Canadian Rod Sterwart. An experienced diver and underwater photographer (so jealous), Sterwart set out to film a documentary on the declining shark population but instead uncovered an underground Sharkfining operation in Costa Rica operated by the taiwanese mafia.

There is a interview transcript featured on the website Sharkwater site with an opinion I strongly agree with - no one wants to save sharks, people are afraid of them. So very true when you consider the number of times a news coverage of a dangerous shark makes headlines and by doing so play off people's fears.

The trailer looks bloody awesome - better see where I get my hands on this DVD

What has been done so far to stop sharks from becoming soup?

There have been some great campaigns overseas about spreading the message to those who consume or sell of shark fin soup and to make the public aware about the inhumane practice of shark finning.

Here are a few good examples:

1. A wedding card
This is the best time to educate old and young about how this traditional cuisine is sourced from unsustainable fishing practices. This card produced by WildAid is for display at a wedding table alongside the banquet menu.

2. Documentaries/Movies
Videos show how this barbaric act is played out at sea with many close ups of how damaging killing off sharks species are to the marine ecosystem. The most publicized release across the US last year was SHARKWATER but there are many others.

Sharks: Stewards of the Reef (Documentary)

There are also over 60 videos on YouTube featuring the keywords 'shark finning' - watch and share one today!

3. Use of celebrities to raise awareness
Getting celebrity endorsement usually works well as a form of communication to the public in Western society. However, this has not been the case. When NBA basketballer Yao Ming pledged to 'never eat sharkfin soup again' at a Beijing news conference held by WildAid, it was reported by the International Herald Tribute that The Chinese news media mostly ignored Yao's stance. The official Communist newspaper, The People's Daily.

The below video features director Ang Lee.

Other celebrities in the Chinese community to raise awareness to their motherland include (athletic trainer) Zhou Jihong, (Diver)Li Ting, (PingPonger) Zhang Yining, (Olympian) Li Ning and (Pop Star) Liu Huan.

4. Send an e-Card
I like the tag line for this e-Card 'some issues are just black + white'. Simple click on this image to send this e-card on.

5. High profile restaurants dropping shark fin soup from their menus

2003 - Singapore and Thai Airlines drop shark fin soup from their menus

2005 - Hong Kong Disneyland drops the soup from its wedding banquet menu after repeated protests by environmentalist activists and a petition signed by 600 school children. There is a great email written to the Disney Executives about this controversy available here

In the same year, Hong Kong University also banned the serving of shark fin dishes.

In 2008, the Prestigious Michelin award winning Chinese restaurant 'Hakkasan' in London drops shark fin from the menu, after serving it for the last seven years. Following the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and UK-based charity Bite Back campaign targeting Chinese restaurants in London that still place shark fin products on their menus.

In September, Shangri-La Abu Dahbi removed it from their menus with the hotel group considering removal across its other restaurant menus - I hope this will be worldwide.

Sadly, none of these messages have been promoted in Australia where Chinese restaurants and wedding banquet menus still feature the cuisine.