Dead or Alive: The Promise of Tourism For Shark Conservation
When many people hear the words “shark” and “tourism” in the same sentence, the first thing they think of is how to avoid them. Unfortunately these people are missing the opportunity to witness and learn about one of nature’s truly astounding creatures. While shark attacks are real and many movies and media outlets capitalize on this fear (see Channel, Discovery), there are common sense ways to avoid danger and have a great experience while contributing to shark conservation efforts.
The real predator
According to the conservation group Oceana, an average of 4 people per year were killed by sharks and only 3 fatal attacks in the US from 2006 – 2010 (out of 179 total). Beachgoers are more than 3 times more likely to drown than to die from a shark attack. Compare that to the more than 25 million sharks killed by humans each year, and it becomes clear who is more dangerous.
Sharks, as top predators, are critically important to the health of the ocean. One of the biggest issues why many shark species are endangered is due to the international trade in shark fins, used as a delicacy in shark fin soup, consumed primarily in Asia. According to Shark Advocates International, they are also valued for their meat, hides, teeth, and livers. Due to the facts that sharks grow slowly, take a long time to reproduce, and give birth to small numbers of offspring, these fish are especially susceptible to human threats.
Tourism as a conservation tool
One strategy to help protect and research sharks that is gaining popularity is ecotourism. A recent study of sharks around Costa Rica’s Cocos Island estimated the value of a hammerhead shark to tourism at US $1.6 million each, compared to just under $200 it could bring if sold. A 2011 study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science had an even more dramatic difference, estimating a lifetime value of nearly US $2 million dollars for a reef shark in Palau vs. only $108 for sale in a fish market. Governments are starting to take notice of this economic value; countries including Australia, Palau, and the Cook Islands have recently created large new marine protected areas to protect sharks and other ocean life.
While diving to see sharks has its abstract value, many tour operators and volunteer organizations are taking advantage of shark tourism to directly benefit conservation. SEEtheWILD partner Sea Turtle Restoration Project has a unique trip for divers to the Cocos Island where people can help to tag hammerheads as part of a research program. In Belize, Earthwatch Institute has a volunteer program in Belize to study shark populations and the value of marine protected areas.
Another way that travelers can support shark research is by participating in the Whale Shark Photo ID Library. Anyone with underwater photos of whale sharks can upload them to this website for identification, helping to build this important resource for conservation efforts. Finally, some shark trips generate donations for conservation efforts, including this whale shark trip to Isla Mujeres (Mexico).
Playing it safe
For those who get sweaty at the mention of sharks, there are many ways to keep yourself safe when in the water with sharks. The easiest way to do that is to swim with the least threatening of sharks, the whale sharks. Though these giant fish can be 40 feet long and weigh 20 tons, they don’t have teeth and are not aggressive to humans. Also, by remaining calm around sharks and keeping your distance, you can minimize the risk of being around these fascinating creatures. If you are diving or snorkeling in areas where sharks live, ask your guide about what to expect and what species to look out for.
Check out SEEtheWILD’s shark conservation tours and volunteer programs:
Brad Nahill is a wildlife conservationist, writer, activist, and fundraiser. He is the Director & Co-Founder of SEEtheWILD, the world’s first non-profit wildife conservation travel website. To date, we have generated more than $300,000 for wildlife conservation and local communities and our volunteers have completed more than 1,000 work shifts at sea turtle conservation project. SEEtheWILD is a project of The Ocean Foundation. Follow SEEtheWILD on Facebook or Twitter.
October is Non-GMO Month – a great time to mull over myths and truths about genetically modified organisms so you can make an informed choice…for your health and the health of the planet. What are the impacts of GMOs on the environment? Over 80% of all GMOs are engineered for herbicide tolerance. As a result, use of herbicides has increased 15x since GMOs were introduced – herbicides that persist in the environment and harm wildlife. There are also GMO crops that produce a Bt toxin insecticide which may harm non-target insect populations such as butterflies and beneficial pest predators. The long-term inpact of GMOs are unknown, and once released into the environment these engineered organisms cannot be recalled.
We believer Mother Nature knows best. That’s why we source Non-GMO Project Verified ingredients for our chocolate. Look for in-store displays during October and celebrate your right to make an informed choice about the foods you eat.
-Sources: Non-GMO Project | Learn More , GMO Myths and Truths, and Non-GMO Project Communications Toolkit
Look for our Non-GMO Project Verified Natural Chocolate Halloween Treats on store shelves in October!
And find Endangered Species Chocolate in store displays throughout Non-GMO Month
Six months ago, SEE Turtles launched the Billion Baby Turtles Initiative with a goal of 50,000 hatchlings saved in 2013. After just six months, we’re excited to announce that we’ve saved more than 100,000 hatchlings! To celebrate, we are launching of our first School Fundraiser Contest. School classes (and clubs) will compete to save the most hatchlings by raising money for turtle conservation programs.
Winning classes will receive an Eco-Prize Pack that includes healthy snacks and green school supplies. One random teacher will win a spot on a sea turtle trip to Costa Rica and every class that raises at least $100 will earn prizes. Learn more about the contest and download a flyer to give to teachers here.
Contest sponsors include our lead partners Endangered Species Chocolate and Nature’s Path, as well as Klean Kanteen, who will match the first $1,000 in donations from schools and EcoTeach, who is providing the Costa Rica trip. Product sponsors that are providing free eco-friendly gifts for the winning classes are Koteli Bags, Zevia Natural Soda, SoyJoy, EcoLunchboxes, EVOL healthy burritos, Lundberg Family Farms, and Glass Dharma.
Every dollar raised through this contest will go to save at least one baby turtle at community-based conservation projects in Central America and Mexico. Billion Baby Turtles has now supported 9 conservation organizations working to save 4 species of sea turtles on 11 nesting beaches across Latin America.
One of the donations that help put us over the top is a close friend of SEE Turtles, Deborah Goldstein. Deborah is a member of our WildTribe, a trusted group of SEE Turtles advisors and ambassadors and won a contest last year to spend time at two turtle projects in Nicaragua that are supported by Billion Baby Turtles.
Deborah helped release hawksbill turtle hatchlings In Padre Ramos and then spent a week helping Paso Pacifico in La Flor Wildlife Refuge. “I have wanted to volunteer to save sea turtles for as long as I can remember,” said Deborah. “I had no idea how excited I’d be when I held my first hatchling. Or how happy I’d be to release hundreds of hatchlings in the estuary in Nicaragua. I felt like I was doing my part and I wanted to give back to the organization that helped make this opportunity possible.”
To help us reach a billion hatchlings saved, please visit BillionBabyTurtles.org.
Guest blogger, Brad Nahill, is a wildlife conservationist, writer, activist, and fundraiser. He is the Director & Co-Founder of SEEtheWILD, the world’s first non-profit wildife conservation travel website. To date, we have generated more than $300,000 for wildlife conservation and local communities and our volunteers have completed more than 1,000 work shifts at sea turtle conservation project. SEEtheWILD is a project of The Ocean Foundation. Follow SEEtheWILD on Facebook or Twitter.
Sea Otters at a Crossroads
“We have learned that if we are to preserve a healthy population of these small animals, if the tap-tapping of the sea otter is to remain an inspiring motif along our shores, it will demand more than foresight. It will require vision.” –Margaret Owings, Founder, Friends of the Sea Otter.
This year Friends of the Sea Otter (FSO) celebrates its 45th year of sea otter conservation. Throughout the history of the organization, FSO has dealt with many critical issues facing sea otters on their road to population recovery. Now is no different.
In California, “The No Otter Zone” is the primary focus. This issue, a two and half decade attempt to section a part of the ocean in southern California that excludes sea otters, is an ongoing effort. In January 2013, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) rendered a final decision to eliminate the “No-Otter Zone”, allowing sea otters to expand their range naturally into historically occupied waters they inhabited. This aims to help recover the population of sea otters in California. Prior to this FWS decision, a team of expert scientists had concluded that sea otters need to expand their range naturally into these areas to recover the population and not jeopardize its future existence.
In July 2013, a coalition of fishing groups filed a lawsuit that seeks to challenge the decision to end the “No-Otter Zone”. Friends of the Sea Otter, along with other conservation groups, and the representation of EarthJustice, have filed a motion to intervene in the case so that we may defend the decision by FWS. Throughout the years, FSO has used the judicial system to uphold protections for sea otters. And, we will do so again in order to protect sea otters.
Up north in Alaska, a very different situation is unfolding. The state of Alaska, its fishing industry, and elected officials are trying to turn back the clock on marine mammal conservation more than 40 years by advocating for the management of sea otters. How are they suggesting they do this? Their answer: by killing sea otters for the sake of small commercial interest groups.
All sea otters are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). This makes it illegal to hunt a sea otter or sell any products made from the body of a sea otter, unless the sea otter is harvested by an Alaskan Native for subsistence purposes. Alaskan Natives must sufficiently alter a sea otter pelt into some kind of traditional artifact or handicraft before selling anything made from a sea otter. It is currently illegal for anyone, including Alaskan Natives, to sell unaltered sea otter pelts to non-Alaskan Natives.
FWS has a proposal to clarify some terms under the MMPA and Friends of the Sea Otter is focusing on their clarification of “significantly altered”. The proposed revised definition for “significantly altered” raises some serious concerns. The definition of “significantly altered” is too broad and at odds with the MMPA and is being conducted without any environmental impact analysis. It isn’t as restrictive as it needs to be and could potentially result in blankets and rugs being made from sea otter pelts without “significantly altering” the pelt as is the intention of the MMPA. This would be devastating for sea otters.
In addition, this revision of the definition for “significantly altered” is being carried out under the pressure from fishing groups, who are under the impression that the sea otter population in Southeast Alaska is destroying fisheries. Equal pressure is mounting from state elected officials and the federal Alaska delegation to do something about a “growing” sea otter population. Open season on sea otters in Southeast Alaska could greatly impact the species and set a disturbing precedent. It would allow an increase in the hunting of a wildlife species in an effort to manage and protect industry, which in this case would be fisheries.
Join Friends of the Sea Otter
This is a critical time in sea otter conservation. FSO is determined to take on these issues and ensure the protection of the sea otter at all costs so that the future of these populations is around for people to delight in.
Article by guest blogger, Jim Curland, Advocacy Program Director and Frank Reynolds, Program Manager for Friends of the Sea Otter
Friends of the Sea Otter (FSO), founded in 1968, is an advocacy group dedicated to actively working with state and federal agencies, scientists, educators, and the public to maintain, increase and broaden the current protections for the sea otter, a species currently protected by state and federal laws and having two populations on the Endangered Species list.
#OtterESC for Sea Otter Awareness Week
Love sea otters as much as we do? Join Endangered Species Chocolate on Twitter during Sea Otter Awareness Week (Sept 22-28, 2013) to help generate a donation for Friends of the Sea Otter! Each tweet containing the image below and hashtag #OtterESC adds $1 to Endangered Species Chocolate’s $500 donation goal.
What do you do with the overstock of obsolete chocolate bar wrappers? When you’re an eco-minded company, you seek out ways to reuse them. While we keep our inventory tight to avoid waste, rare changes like ingredient updates, discontinuations, and design revisions leave us with wrappers to re-purpose. Some, we shred and use as recyclable packing material in our chocolate shipments. Others, we hand over to Ecoist to make into pretty purses full of purpose!
Ecoist handbags are made through a fair trade manufacturing partnership with artisans in Peru. Fair Trade is a manufacturing partnership that embraces: 1) fair wages to workers, 2) healthy working environments, 3) long term relationships with suppliers, and 4) respect for the local cultural identity. See how the artisans turn pre-consumer waste into environmentally conscious style! And icing on the cake – Ecoist plants a tree for each purse sold!
Enter to win one of 64 Ecoist purses, handcrafted from Endangered Species Chocolate bar wrappers! Add your name to our e-card list between August 5th – September 27th for a chance to win.
I love spending time with my friends but I hate planning parties. That, in a nutshell, is why throwing a S’more shindig is perfect for people like me. This easy-to-assemble party spread provides the food AND the entertainment, leaving little for the host to do but to join in the fun! And if Pinterest has taught me anything, it’s to mimic great ideas. Below are photos from my co-worker’s backyard S’more feast. Feel free to glean ideas for your own backyard bash!
THE PERFECT(LY EASY) S’MORE SOIREE
The key to a successful S’more soiree? A well-stocked ingredient table and a well-tended fire pit. Need a great graham? Look for Annie’s Organic Graham Crackers! Make it vegan with dark chocolate and this recipe!
Elevate the experience by offering an assortment of premium chocolates. Our host served up cherry and orange dark chocolate squares from Endangered Species Chocolate.
S’more making is a delicious art form!
These recipe cards serve to inspire.
Use these or come up with your own concoctions. Fun part? Naming them!
Clever touches like pine cone card holders make the table memorable and extra delicious. Speaking of delicious, you can purchase this bulk box of bite-sized chocolate squares from Endangered Species Chocolate.
So. Who’s ready to throw a party?
Share your s’more party ideas with us below.
Part of the territory of being an ESC employee is volunteering in the local Indianapolis community. Over the years ESC has volunteered at several Indy organizations including the Humane Society and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. Most recently ESC employees have been serving lunch at the Wheeler Mission, a shelter that helps the homeless population of Indianapolis.
While the company all ready gives back 10% of its net profits to its partners, it also believes that taking the time to reach-out locally is an important aspect of its overall mission to give back. Most recently ESC teamed-up with the Peace Learning Center to participate in the Indiana Service Challenge.
As part of the service challenge ESC worked on a project for Peace Learning Center’s Be the Change Workshop and Exhibit. ESC employee’s spent a sunny April afternoon away from their desks making a whale out of trash that the Peace Learning Center had collected to represent the types of things that have been found in a whale’s stomach. The hope is that the summer groups that visit the center that are primarily young schoolchildren, will see the whale project and have a better understanding of what happens to their trash when they don’t recycle or properly dispose it.
So how do you give back in your local community? We would love to hear from you and it may just spark some ideas for us!
Join people around the planet celebrate and honor the body of water which links us all! Visit World Oceans Day’s website to find an event in your area to connect you to saving the sea. Or set off on your own to make a difference; 5 Ways You Can Protect the Ocean, written by Brad Nahill, Co-Founder of SEE Turtles, can get you started Want more ways to help? Check out our post on ways you can protect the ocean while on your next beach visit.
THE TWEET FEED
- Hope they reach 4 R VeganAction certified bars when chocolate cravings strike! @Beyonce and Jay-Z Go Vegan via @grist http://t.co/avAhs42sWH
- Need a 2014 calendar? A @AWF_Official donation (which @BettyMWhite will match) scores you a 16-mo wildlife calendar http://t.co/tQgNIXFSJa
- Make a year-end $110 donation to @SEEturtles and receive a bag of ocean-friendly gifts to commemorate your support http://t.co/cv5teOwnlQ
- Elephants have a secret weapon against poachers - @BettyMWhite! The Golden Girl will match UR Dec @AWF_Official gift https://t.co/Vf0f9IYMI3