As we near the end of the year, we would like to thank you for supporting our work and enabling significant progress for shark and manta conservation in 2013. While the victories were real, it requires more hard work and your continued support to build upon these achievements and produce a lasting impact on shark and manta populations.
Shark Savers is very close to completing its merger with WildAid, a Charity Navigator 4-star charity and our long-term partner. Our first manifestation of the shark fin campaign was side-by-side with WildAid in China; combining resources again for the Manta Ray of Hope campaign. Our merger will intensify the momentum towards a lasting decline in the shark fin and mobulid gill plate trades, allowing shark and manta populations to recover.
Our campaign to stop shark fin soup consumption:
Click above to watch video
WildAid has been running media campaigns in China, ground zero for shark fin soup, for more than 10 years. We partnered in 2009-2010 to produce a television message with former NBA star Yao Ming (right) that aired more than 2,000 times on CCTV, China's largest television network, that was accompanied by a website and over 1,000 billboards in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. WildAid messages reach hundreds of millions of television viewers across China. Total value of donated media in China surpassed $130 million in 2012.
I'm FINished with Fins, Shark Savers' campaign to curb consumption of shark fin soup, launched in April 2012 in Singapore. I'm FINished makes rejection of shark fin soup socially acceptable, after research indicated that many people wanted to stop eating shark fin soup but felt social pressure to continue to serve or eat it. Until recently, Shark Savers focused this campaign on the three big trading hubs for shark fin: Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
Now, we have combined the momentum and magnetism of I'm FINished with Fins and WildAid's formidable network of media, government, and business relationships in China to enable the campaign to effectively reach the shark-fin consuming communities of China and Southeast Asia.
Click above to view Asia website
The campaign features poignant black & white photos of hundreds of celebrity ambassadors blocking his or her mouth, a sign of rejecting the soup.
I'm FINished with FINs is reverberating among consumers through social media and major television networks: China's CCTV, National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo Wild (our major media partner); Hong Kong's TVB, ATV, i-Cable, and RTHK; Singapore's MediaCorp, and MioVideo/SingTe; and Malaysia's MediaPrima, RedBerry, and Astro.
Through a partnership with China's Sina Weibo social media platform, WildAid's China facing website allows supporters to upload their own photographs, in the I'm FINished hands-over-mouth style, as a pixel in a mosaic image of a shark. As a result, hundreds of thousands of supporters posted a photo or comment in just the first few weeks.
Achievements for the Shark Fin Soup Campaign:
Click above to view China website
- The Chinese government announced that it would ban shark fin from all state banquets within three years, a response to the campaign and calls from the National People's Congress.
- The Hong Kong Government pledged to stop consumption of shark fins at official entertainment functions as part of an effort to adopt sustainability-conscious food consumption, spurred on by efforts by us and other organizations.
- Shark Fin trade and consumption is plummeting: Reports in China, Hong Kong, and Singapore indicate the shark fin trade has declined by as much as 50% in the past year, partially attributing this change to awareness campaigns by environmental groups.
- Awareness campaigns result in people declining shark fin soup, according to an August 2013 survey by iResearch:
- 85% of respondents in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chengdu stopped eating shark fin soup in the last 3 years.
- Awareness campaigns were the biggest reason why they stopped.
- 91% think the Chinese government should impose a ban on all shark fin trade to help save shark species.
- Shark fin prices in Tanjung Luar (the largest fishing village in Lombok, Indonesia) are down 80% since 2007. ($36/kg in 2013 vs. $178/kg in 2007) [Paul Hilton, Aug 2013].
Protecting Manta and Mobula Rays
Manta Ray of Hope (MROH) exposes the rapidly escalating threat to manta and mobula rays and works to ensure the long-term conservation of these extremely vulnerable animals. It is a collaborative initiative by WildAid, Shark Savers, and The Manta Trust, with additional scientists, researchers, national and international organizations, and dive operators.
2013 Achievements for Manta Ray of Hope
Our original, global, and comprehensive research report, Manta Ray of Hope: The Global Threat to Manta and Mobula Rays, and media campaigns resulted in:
- Delegates to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) voted to protect both manta ray species in March 2013. In addition to providing critical data from Manta Ray of Hope investigations to the proposal to include manta rays on CITES Appendix II, the Manta Ray of Hope team supported sponsor countries and helped to win more votes for protecting manta rays through our research, films, and events leading up to and at CITES.
- The Global Economic Impact of Manta Ray Watching Tourism, a peer-reviewed study produced by the MROH team, was published in PlosONE journal. The study demonstrates the high value of mantas as a revenue-attracting tourism resource, capable of providing long-term, sustainable economic benefits to communities in manta range states and justifying manta ray protection.
- Support for implementation of CITES protections for mantas and sharks. In close collaboration with international and national organizations, we are assisting countries with implementation of the new CoP16 CITES listings for manta and shark species. We contributed to supporting documentation and produced a local media campaign, which are making unprecedented progress towards implementing manta ray protection in Indonesia, the country responsible for close to half of manta fisheries worldwide.
Marine Protection and Shark Sanctuaries
Shark Savers Shark Sanctuary Program will soon be part of WildAid's Marine Protection Program. WildAid developed and implements an enforcement model for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that supports the entire law enforcement chain: detection, interception, prosecution, and the sentencing of lawbreakers. We also support the creation of regional shark and ray sanctuaries that bring eco-tourism value to local communities to replace fishing of vulnerable species.
2013 Achievements for Marine Protection
WildAid designs and implements concrete initiatives in MPAs that stop illegal fishing, prevent the introduction of invasive species and support biodiversity. In 2013:
- Galapagos National Park, Ecuador: Installed surveillance radar and video cameras at three key ports in Gal�pagos. These additional sensors help authorities enforce regulations of fishing, tourism, and maritime trafficking. WildAid also delivered the final blueprints for a comprehensive biosecure maritime cargo system to guide Ecuador's $35m investment to stop introduction of invasive species.
- Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve, Belize: Designed a control and vigilance system for the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve that combines strategic placement of vigilance posts, a robust VHF marine radio network, and the incorporation of fishers as local enforcement agents.
- Indonesia: We contributed to the successful conversion of the 2010 Bupati decree of the Raja Ampat Shark and Ray Sanctuary into law. We continue to support Indonesian NGO Misool Baseftin Foundation and the Misool Eco Resort in Raja Ampat with enforcement of its 1,220 sq km no-take protected area, resulting in biomass increases of over 260% and the return of several shark species over the past six years. Elsewhere in Indonesia, we are working to establish new regional sanctuaries and the establishment of national protections for vulnerable species.
SharksCount seeks to close an important data gap, enabling divers to act as "citizen scientists for sharks". Over time, logging sightings provides essential information about the status of sharks, locally, with the potential of improving protections.
2013 Achievements for SharksCount
- Continued support of and partnership with 'THE GREAT FIJI SHARK COUNT' - the first nationwide count of sharks in the world; including our Adopt-A-Bull Shark Initiative to support citizen science for sharks, internationally.
- Launch of 'THE GREAT GILI SHARK COUNT' (Gili Islands, Indonesia) with Gili Shark Foundation and Gili Eco Trust with data collection during October.
- Shark-awareness events and activities: Development of and training in regional shark ID sheets and logging sightings, for adventure travelers in Galapagos with our eco-tourism partners, Contiki and Treadright Foundation, with Celine Cousteau.
- Florida: compiled and analyzed two-years of 'citizen science' shark data. With University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science's Masters of Professional Science Program.
We need your continued support more than ever.
Our programs enjoyed strong traction in the past year, but the onslaught against shark and manta populations will continue without your help.
There is no question that our shark fin soup campaign educated and motivated people throughout Asia to stop eating the soup. The shark fin trade is in a serious slump as a result. Our campaign is now reaching a crescendo with hundreds of celebrities and hundreds of thousands of supporters, most of whom joined the effort in the past few months. This campaign must be sustained to make the initial results permanent.
While we achieved new protections for several shark and manta species at CITES, true success will only be had with new protections in the range states. We are focusing efforts in Indonesia, the world's largest shark fishery and one of the two largest manta fisheries. Progress is visible there to a degree never expected, but this will be a long fight.
Donating to the shark, manta, and marine protection programs of WildAid/Shark Savers is a good conservation investment.
Our campaigns to stop consumption of shark fin and manta gills in Asia are heavily leveraged by our receipt of millions of dollars of donated media placement. Our efforts to curb supply through our manta and marine protection programs are highly focused to achieve measurable results to preserve vulnerable shark and manta populations and their habitats.
By donating, you will help us educate consumers, protect sharks and mantas, and expand marine programs.
We thank you for your support.
With best regards and wishes for a great holiday season,
Michael Skoletsky and the WildAid/Shark Savers team