November 19, 2022

Celebrate CITES shark protection – but the work continues

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In September 2020, I had the view of a lifetime: an elusive thresher shark – one of the most unique and shy sharks in the world – trailed my boat’s wake, following me from a safe distance behind while trying (I suppose) to figure out what I was. I watched as its bright blue tail – which is as long as the shark’s entire body – broke the surface. It looked like a wizard’s wand – radiant and incredibly powerful.

 

Scientists estimate that the thresher shark is so strong, when whipping its tail to stun prey, the shock wave it creates can split water into separate hydrogen and oxygen molecules!
So when I saw this thresher, I deeply felt I was in the presence of greatness. One of our planet’s true wonders. And yet, when I speak with audiences about my adventure, I often find that people misunderstand sharks. They ask how many I saw in my 71 days at sea – and often cringe while asking, perhaps fearing the very idea of asking about sharks. And the answer is scary: I saw only 3 sharks, including the thresher.

 

Shark populations have declined over 70% in the last 50 years, and 37% or more are threatened with extinction. Which is why it’s so important that CITES just took action to protect sharks. The new agreement signed this week covers 90% of sharks who are hunted for their fins. This is a landmark moment – and while enforcement is another hurdle – it’s genuine progress, protecting sharks who are traded.

 

But it doesn’t cover all sharks. In fact, Australian beaches commonly kill sharks under a misguided practice of using nets and baited hooks to catch and kill sharks that come “too close” to land. Not only does the scientific community oppose the practice, but it doesn’t even work. First, it indiscriminately kill all wildlife, including endangered turtles, seals, whales and dolphins. And, as proven by the Australian government’s own records, secured by Envoy Film, the practice actually *attracts* sharks to beaches: sharks are drawn to the baited hooks – and that in turn draws in more sharks to eat those who are already hooked. It’s tragic – and since it’s not a “commercial trade” practice, it can continue in the face of the new CITES protection.

 

I invite you to follow @envoyfilm and support the movement for #netsoutnow. Together, let’s continue taking the stand for sharks worldwide. Our oceans need them, and we need our oceans.