The SCCT (Registerd Charity Number 1121609) is devoted to the necessity for raising world-wide awareness of the need for the conservation of sharks and coral reef health. The concentration is on an active programme to increase the awareness of the problems and encourage political and diplomatic change.
Are we witnessing a gradual process leading inexorably to the total demise of sharks on our coral reefs? Throughout the world sharks are under such intense attack by Man that their numbers have declined to the point where certain species are now threatened with extinction.
The situation in the Red Sea is critical and some areas that were until recently renowned for their richly productive reefs, replete with fish of all sizes, including sharks, have been transformed into desolate habitats where both the coral-reef fish and their primitive predators have been wiped out.
Meanwhile the general public is still being fed the misleading old line that the seas are full of man-eating sharks and we must protect ourselves at all costs from them.
The fact is that the demise of the sharks will affect the whole eco-system and sea creatures such as oysters, clams and scallops will disappear.
The Caribbean As a result of over-fishing and the massive depletion of shark numbers, there has been an increase in algae blooms which, in turn, have stifled coral polyps reproduction. The effect of this cascade is to halt the reproduction of the reef and blanching the existing coral. This has resulted in a 'desertification' of the reef bio-diversity.
The Sea of Cortez Human over- predation of the hammerhead shark has resulted in an exponential explosion in the number of Humboldt squid. Whilst local fishermen have capitalised on this temporary 'bonanza', the squid prey sea-bed dwelling species are being cleaned out at an unsustainable rate. In February 2008, Govenor Arnold Scnwartzeniger announced the demise of the scallop industry on the California coastline
The Atlantic (Eastern Seaboard of the USA) Similar human over-predation of a variety of shark species has had a cascade effect to the point of destroying a 100-year old scallop industry. Oyster and clam stocks are equally affected to the point of permanent non-recovery.
The Pacific Many coral reef-dependent communities are sorely tempted to take advantage of the ever-burgeoning market for sharks fin soup. It seems most likely that the practice of 'finning' (cutting off sharks fins and disposing of the remains) is still rife. In gaining some understanding of their situation it is important to understand that several months money-equivalent can be gained from one fin !! The temptation to reject the more traditionally-derived sustainability and conservation practices must be overwhelming in some Pacific Island communities.
The Red Sea The reef bio-diversity in the Northern section of the Red Sea is gradually showing progressive signs of 'desertification' as a result of shark depletion and the 'cascade' effect. There is an increase in shark fishing which is believed to be directed towards the supply of fins for the Far East sharks fin soup market.
Sharks fin Soup The demand for sharks fin soup is ever-burgeoning. It must represent a huge factor in the finning practice. Increasingly, international fishing fleets no longer regard the accidental catch of sharks as a 'bi-product' to their primary catch target, but keep the shark for it's ever-increasing commercial value. Indeed, there are now a number of shark-targetted commercial fishing sorties. The practice of 'long-lining' (trailing up to 80 km of baited fishing hooks with a fairly extended 'soak time') is also contributing substantially to the predation of the shark. The practice of 'finning', whilst banned in some sea areas, is still widely practiced and is by no means confined to the Pacific. Recent articles produced by UNEP-related bodies have highlighted an increasing commercial trade in shark meat.
Comment We believe that these facts must present an overwhelming case for the establishment of internationally-spread 'Marine Conservation Areas' or Reserves where the natural bio-diversity 'cycle' is allowed to flourish and protected by stringent maritime law. In the absence of such Reserves, the outcome could well be increasing poverty to Pacific Island communities and a loss of sea food variety to the more developed western nations. Oysters, clams and scallops are just some of the species immediately under pressure in the oceans - - - it is quite possible to foresee some subspecies of fish beginning to target the lobster as part of their prey !! Whilst it is possible to argue for an increase in maritime farming, the source of their 'breeding stock' could well dry up !!
The Shark and Coral Conservation Trust (SCCT) Aim
To promote for the benefit of the public the conservation, protection and improvement of the physical and natural environment of sharks and coral reef eco-systems and marine biological diversity.
The 'enabling objectives' of the SCCT
1. To attract sufficient funding, scientific and media support to facilitate a research and education programme which will serve to realign UNEP priorities towards top priority for shark conservation.
2. To assist with the organisation, funding and constitution of media-supported research expeditions (1) to areas of the world most critically affected by the depletion/deterioration 'cascade' effect.
3. To maintain 'lobby pressure' on diplomatic and political authorities until the UNEP (United Nations Enviroment Programme) priorities are changed (to an upgrade of shark conservation).
4. To ensure that the rate of human predation of shark species never exceeds the capacity of that species to reproduce - - in other words to ensure shark sustainability (some local human predation may be necessary for reef-dependent community survival).
5. To encourage and support scientific research programmes which have the effect of proving the shark depletion/coral reef deterioration 'cascade' linkage.