Shark populations everywhere are impacted by fisheries, both directly as target species, often for their fins, and indirectly as bycatch – the unintended catch of non-target species. So choosing not to eat shark fin soup is only the first step. Choosing to purchase sustainably sourced seafood, with limited bycatch, can also help sharks.
Seafood Watch produces a smart phone app and downloadable, regional pocket guides for the U.S. so everyone can have access to information for making the best choices in buying seafood. Click here for the app, which is also available in Canada via iTunes or Oceanwise.
Also, consider reducing the amount of seafood you consume if you are concerned about mercury in fish. You can calculate your mercury intake here.
Shark ecotourism is good for local economies and can be very good for shark conservation, making the animals worth more alive than dead. If you are already a shark diver, you can focus your 2016 adventures on countries that are promoting sustainable shark diving and have established shark sanctuaries — the Bahamas and Palau, for example. Avoid countries that are not protecting their sharks — Costa Rica, for example. Do some online research and make a few inquiries before choosing a shark diving operator to assure that they 1) have a solid safety record, and 2) are affiliated with reputable and effective conservation and/or research.
You can learn more about the value of shark ecotourism via Shark Savers.
Our oceans are choking in disposable, single-use plastics. In large pieces they pose ingestion and entanglement hazards to marine life everywhere. Additionally, the large pieces breaks down into smaller pieces and as “plastic plankton” accumulate in the ocean food chain. All of this plastic comes from us on land.
In 2016, start to refuse single-use plastics: Ask for drinks without straws, refuse a plastic bag for just one or two items, use cloth shopping bags for more items and use glass mason jars for food storage. For those plastic items you do end up with, try to re-use them. For example, many stores that still supply plastic shopping bags will now take them back and re-use them. The plastic containers that large yogurts come in can be rinsed out and re-used as free “Tupperware”. And finally, for those plastic items you can’t reduce or re-use, recycle.
With the Internet, it is easier than ever to stay connected with issues we care about, but it is also easy to get overwhelmed with too much content. Pick two or three sources of trusted information and follow those via social media; for example, Shark Savers and WildAid both have solid and consistent conservation content via Facebook and Twitter. Then if specific issues interest you, do more detailed fact-finding. There are good open-source sites for primary information such as Google Scholar and PLoS, the “Public Library of Science” Share what you’ve learned with your community, family, and friends.
Before donating or volunteering your valuable time in support of sharks, check that the group or organization is effective. Ask them what their goals are and how they are achieving those goals. Do they align with yours? And, finally, check that they are fiscally transparent and sound. You can do that via such tools at Charity Navigator.
Being an informed consumer can have a positive impact on our oceans and sharks. What we do to the oceans as a whole starts with each of us. Let’s have a happy and healthy 2016, for the sharks and our oceans!