Monday, March 11, 2013

The Bold and the Beautiful: Great Hammerhead Sharks

With my knees planted firmly in the white sand bottom, I watched as 6 great hammerhead sharks cruised around. It is a remarkable experience to encounter a solitary animal, but absolutely indescribable to witness 6 of these magnificent creatures in such close proximity. By far, one of the most amazing moments I have ever had. I am still having difficulty wrapping my head around it.

As they swim past they are bold, moving towards the bait, but show no aggression or agitation with divers. We are strangers in their world; on borrowed air and time in hopes of spending as much time as possible watching glide effortlessly through the water. I am sure our awe is not reciprocated as I imagine they are wondering what these bubble blowing, loud and awkward creatures are.

Meanwhile, across the globe in Bangkok, Thailand, people are gathered for the 16th Conference of the Parties to debate further protection of animals by CITES. Great hammerheads were a part of that debate, listed because of the similarity of their fins to the proposed scalloped hammerhead. Today the initial protection of the animals to be listed on Appendix II passed and the aftershock has been felt across the globe. This is a groundbreaking step in shark conservation and hopefully the momentum will continue for more species and for more restriction. This vote can still be overturned on Thursday’s plenary vote, but is a giant leap in the right direction.

There were some very powerful campaigns launched in favor of protecting these incredible animals and they prove that our voices will be heard and we can all make a difference. The Shark Defenders sent Shark Stanley around the world with the help of 10,000 supporters from 135 countries. PEW, Shark Savers and Project Aware were also instrumental in spreading the word and encouraging people to speak up on behalf of sharks.

A listing on Appendix II will mean strictly controlled permits will be required to export fins from not only the 3 species of hammerheads, but also of porbeagle sharks and oceanic white tips. Manta rays also saw approval, making it a “jawsome,” day for elasmobranchs.

Fingers, toes and fins crossed for Thursday’s vote.

Let’s make officially make 2013 The Year of the Great Hammerhead!

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