Thursday, June 2, 2011

Adding Science to the Shark Fin Debate - California

I have been watching with some fascination as the shark fin ban legislation in San Francisco unfolds.

Without a doubt shark fin sales must cease or at least slow down dramatically if sharks are to survive the next 40 years.

It's that critical an issue.

But as thorny as that is on conservation side to get across, so are the cultural nuances of this debate that have split the Asian community in half.

When I posted about this early on I was quickly mobbed by mostly white conservationists who loudly and vigorously declared that this was a "conservation issue" and not a "cultural one."

And yet, the issue of Asian culture remains a sticky thorn creating some major angst with many within the Asian community.

That's why I was heartened to see this article by Michael Gardner talking pure science and the metrics of shark fins in California. As it turns out there's a way to DNA sequence shark fin that will allow us to understand the trade in a manner that takes culture out of the debate and replace it with "critical species."

In such a sensitive environment legislation that bans any food source, no matter how grim, and specific to one culture, should be handled without any inkling of culture clash. It's a tall order.

That's where DNA sequencing cuts through the debate and lays out in stark reality what sharks are at San Francisco tables, and if these sharks are in fact endangered or not.

I understand that many leading this push could care less about DNA. The overarch here is to stop all shark fin sales, no matter where they come from, or how they land on tables. It's a noble goal, but like all goals, nuance, strategy, and long term metrics for success must be part of the equation.

I think DNA should play a bigger role as this debate lands eventually in China, which, as we all know is the ultimate long term target of this multi-national effort to save sharks.

Kudos to Scripps Institution of Oceanography graduate student Dominque Cano-Stocco for her work with DNA and shark fins. In science there's reals answers that often cut though the mistrust generated by efforts that, like it or not, involve culture.

Patric Douglas CEO

Cabo san Lucas Shark Munch 2011

Pete Thomas has the scoop on a 300 pound sushi shark buffet in Cabo this week.

Seeing shark "on predation" is perhaps one of the most awe inspiring moments you can witness, for Tyson Seeliger of Houston, Texas, aboard the Great Escape Jr, this event was one of a kind.

"This tuna never dove but stayed up on the surface the whole time," Tracy Ehrenberg, the Pisces general manager, said in a report posted on the company blog. "After another two hours they had the fish 20 feet from the boat, when it was attacked by four pilot [or silky] sharks. They ripped into it, devouring it in large bites, as Tyson frantically reeled as fast as he could to try to save his sushi."