March 31 , 2014
Challenge to California’s Shark Finning Law
by s.e. smith
California’s sharks are safe for now, at least,
since a federal court dismissed a suit filed by the
shark finning industry in an attempt to overturn
California’s groundbreaking 2011 legislation
This practice, in which fins are removed from live
sharks who are thrown back into the water to die, is
brutal, inhumane, and unnecessary — and it would
seem that the federal district court agrees. The
dismissal marks the latest in a long line of blows
against attempts to turn back the clock on
California’s finning regulations.
The story starts with the legislation in 2011, which
prohibited not just finning, but also possessing,
handling, selling, trading and other financial
activities related to shark fins. Initially, the
federal government opposed the law, fearing that it
might interfere with national marine fisheries
management, but it ultimately came around,
harmonizing federal law (which prohibits finning but
not other practices) with the state law. As in other
areas of the law, California was allowed to have a
more stringent standard than the federal law
required (as, for example, with emissions laws for
Shark finning industry members immediately opposed
the law, and they were joined by Asian-American
advocacy groups who claimed the law was
discriminatory in nature because it targeted a
traditional practice. This required careful
consideration and review, as federal courts take
such accusations very seriously. However, these
groups withdrew their suit in February after a very
large shark fin bust in San Francisco, clearly
fearing that it wouldn’t be successful.
The other suit still remained, however. In
deliberations, the federal court determined that the
law served an important function in conserving
California sharks and protecting human health and
welfare. In addition, the court felt the law was not
inconsistent with federal law, and could be allowed
to stand without interfering with the function of
federal jurisdiction over marine fisheries and
marine animal protection. The court’s decision was
counted as a win by conservation groups concerned
with the dwindling number of sharks worldwide.
This law sets an important precedent for other
states, which could use it as model legislation to
restrict the ownership, sale, trade and use of shark
fins within their borders as well. In California,
conservationists argued, while federal law made
finning itself illegal, it was perfectly legal to
own fins. This created a situation where there was
still a legal market for the delicacy, which created
openings for fins exported from elsewhere as well as
a black market in illegally taken fins. California’s
law tightens up the net, making the oceans that much
safer for sharks.
Laws like this can be tricky, as they definitely do
have a disparate racial impact — shark fin soup is a
delicacy in the Chinese community, and thus Chinese
people are most likely to be affected by the law.
The court determined it was constitutional on the
basis that the impact was not intentional, but it
does raise an important question: can the Chinese
community come up with a palatable humane
alternative to shark fins so they can carry on
traditional recipes and ways of living?
30 , 2014
stop sharks attacking humans?
By: Helen Scales of BBC NEWS
Sharks have patrolled the oceans for at least 400
million years and evolved into a huge range of
There are deep sea lantern sharks that glow in the
dark, wobbegong sharks that grow shaggy beards, and
majestic, plankton-sifting whale sharks - the
biggest fish in the sea.
Nevertheless, when many people think of these
animals, one thing comes to mind: shark attacks.
As a beachgoer, diver or surfer your chances of
encountering a shark, let alone being killed by one,
are in fact incredibly slim; lightning strikes, bee
stings and car accidents all pose far more of a
threat than sharks.
In reality, people kill millions more sharks than
sharks kill people.
A quarter of all shark species, and their relatives
the rays, are threatened with extinction, according
to a recent report from the International Union for
the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The main threat to sharks is overfishing and in
greatest peril are the largest species.
But a controversial cull of sharks was recently
ordered in Western Australia following a spate of
Scientists are now looking at other approaches to
deal with the shark attack issue.
Prof Shaun Collin is leading a University of Western
Australia (UWA) team of neurobiologists who are
learning to think like sharks.
"We're trying to tread this very fine line of
protecting both humans and sharks at the same time,"
Prof Collin told the BBC World Service programme
By studying shark brains and shark senses, the team
is developing and testing various non-lethal
repellents. The aim is to manipulate the sharks'
finely-tuned senses in ways that discourage them
from approaching and attacking people.
One of these is a "shark-proof" wetsuit designed to
make people look like poisonous, black and white
banded sea snakes, something that many sharks tend
The stripy wetsuit was first thought up years ago by
marine biologist Walter Starck. Now a detailed
understanding of shark vision is helping the UWA
team to bring this idea up to date.
Nathan Hart, assistant professor at UWA, explained
to me that sharks don't see as well as humans.
"We've made sure that the size of the bands can be
detected by a shark from a certain distance," he
Tests of the new wetsuit design are currently
underway. This involves wrapping the fabric around a
barrel filled with dead fish and watching how sharks
respond to it in the wild.
It is still early days, but so far, Nathan told me,
the results have been encouraging.
"Based on what we know about the sensory systems of
sharks, they should reduce your risk to some
extent," he says.
"Just like a seatbelt in a car, it doesn't reduce
your risk to zero; it's a matter of reducing your
risk by a certain amount and by as much as
possible," he adds.
As well as trying to protect individual swimmers,
another tactic is to make certain areas out of
bounds to sharks.
"We can try and define areas on the beaches where
people are confident they can go and swim," says Dr
Bubble curtains could be deployed to keep sharks
away from popular beaches.
The idea is to lay perforated hosepipes across the
seabed and pump air through them and create a plume
of bubbles that sharks may decide not to swim
Sharks can see and hear the bubbles and also feel
them with their lateral line, a system of sense
organs many fish have.
"It's a system of what's known as 'distant touch';
it detects vibrations and very low-frequency sound
in the water," Nathan explained.
Early tests showed that tiger sharks eventually
pluck up the courage to cross a barrier of bubbles,
suggesting they have the ability to learn.
Eugenie Clark, a veteran marine biologist at the
Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida, pioneered studies
of shark learning back in the 1950s.
Nicknamed "The Shark Lady", Dr Clark trained captive
sharks to press targets with their snouts and ring
bells for a food reward. She showed for the first
time that sharks can learn and remember things.
Eugenie told me about the time she took a trained
baby nurse shark as a gift for the Crown Prince of
Japan who shared her fascination with fish.
"The airline gave me an extra seat for the shark.
Most people didn't know, he was such a tiny thing he
was less than two feet long. But he never made a
mistake," says Eugenie.
Recently, I witnessed for myself the capacity sharks
have to learn and in particular that they can learn
not to attack people.
I went diving off the Pacific island of Fiji and saw
my first bull sharks, notorious as one of the most
aggressive shark species.
Locals from Beqa Adventure Divers have trained a
population of around 100 bull sharks to approach a
diver, one-by-one, and gently take a chunk of fish
offered to them by hand.
The sharks have learned how to behave if they want
"They know us very well," Fijian divemaster Papa
told me before I jumped in the water. "That's the
good thing, they know what's going on."
Preparing for the dive, I wasn't exactly sure how I
would react to seeing these giant predators. But as
soon as I got down beneath the waves my nerves
evaporated and I saw just how graceful and calm bull
sharks can be.
There was no safety cage or any sort of repellent
and I never felt in any kind of danger.
As well as helping to shift the sharks' bad
reputation as insatiable killers, the Fijian divers
are showing that a live shark in the water is worth
far more than a dead one.
In Fiji and elsewhere around the world, sharks are
under immense pressure from the demand in Asia for
shark fin soup.
Back in Western Australia, the shark cull continues
amid beachside protests.
The problem has been an abnormal high in shark
attacks, with seven fatalities over the last three
years compared with 20 in the last century.
The response of the Western Australia government has
been to lay baited hooks offshore from popular
beaches. Any great white, tiger and bull sharks that
are caught and are larger than 3m long are shot and
dumped at sea.
One opponent of the cull is shark attack survivor
Rodney Fox. Fifty years ago he suffered a horrific
attack from a great white in South Australia but
since then has become a dedicated shark advocate.
"We just have to learn how to live with the sharks
and not just kill them from fear," he told me.
He thinks killing sharks deliberately is an
unscientific and irrational strategy to try to
reduce the attack rate.
But Western Australia's government says the cull is
in place to protect swimmers and surfers. Premier
Colin Barnett has said: "The West Australian
government is absolutely confident that the policy
in place is the right policy and we intend to
An open letter from more than 100 scientists has
urged Mr Barnett to reconsider the cull,
highlighting its environmental impact and the low
chance of catching the individual sharks responsible
for the attacks.
"Every scientist that I've heard of and talked to
all agree that it's not the thing to do," says Mr
26 , 2014
Florida student two-hour ride and stars in YouTube
A hammerhead shark dragged a college student in his
kayak up the Atlantic coast for a two-hour "South
Florida sleigh ride" that the kayaker taped with a
head-mounted camera and posted on YouTube.
Adam Fisk, 22, posted a five-minute clip of his
adventure titled "Lone Man Gets Towed for Miles in
Kayak by 11 Foot Hammerhead Shark."
At one point, Fisk dunked the camera into the water
and recorded the shark swimming ahead of the kayak.
A student at Florida Atlantic University, Fisk set
out in a kayak on Sunday with several poles to go
fishing before the shark took his bait near Boynton
"I threw my bait out and went to reel my other one
in so I wouldn't get tangled, and I just had time to
pick up the rod before the other one already got
picked up by that hammer," Fisk wrote on the YouTube
"It must have been sitting right under me and I had
Fisk is a member of Team Rebel Fishing, a group of
extreme anglers, according to its website. The group
estimated Fisk was dragged by the shark for 12
Fisk declined to comment on Wednesday.
He wrote online that the shark took him out to sea
and around in circles, ending in Lake Worth,
"Hooked a hammerhead in 50ft of water and got drug
out to 250ft," Fisk posted in his Facebook account
of the ride under the headline, "I took a South
Florida sleigh ride today and I aint talkin Santa
March 25 , 2014
survivor Bethany Hamilton wins pro surf contest at
By Nadine Kalinauskas , Yahoo!
When Bethany Hamilton was 13 years old, she lost her
left arm in a shark attack.
The Kauai surfer returned to the water one month
later, still determined to become a pro surfer.
Hamilton told her story at numerous speaking
engagement around the world. She got involved with a
variety charities and launched a foundation, Friends
of Bethany, that supports shark-attack survivors and
amputees. And she kept surfing.
Her 2004 biography, titled Soul Surfer, was adapted
into a movie.
Last year, she married Christian youth minister Adam
And now, at the age of 24, Hamilton is making
headlines for winning a notable pro surf
competition, her first win in nearly a decade.
Last Thursday, Hamilton earned top spot at an event
at the Banzai Pipeline, a surf reef off the North
Shore of Oahu, one of the world's most renowned
"I usually lose so this was great," Hamilton said,
according to the TransWorld Surf website. "In my
first heat I got a little barrel and I wasn't even
expecting it but I always keep my eye out because
you never know out here and I kind of tucked in and
I made it out and that was a pleasant surprise."
Grind TV reported that Hamilton was given no special
assistance or privileges at the competition and
still clearly defeated her competitors in the 4- to
5-foot waves at the 2014 Surf-n-Sea Pipeline Women's
"So stoked I won the #WomensPipePro today! It feels
good to surf & compete well; & take the win!"
Hamilton wrote on Facebook.
Hamilton told Outside magazine that she hopes her
win will help people see her as a good surfer, not
just a surfer with a disability.
"A lot of people just don't know I can surf," she
She took home $2,000 for the win and was given the
Banzai Sushi award for the best tube ride.