Marinas on the east and west coasts of the United States are enthusiastically joining the Shark-Free Marinas Initiative (SFMI) to help conserve the world’s imperiled shark populations. Over 70 marinas have joined SFMI in the past week. There are currently over 200 marinas participating world-wide, including 164 in the U.S., 24 in Fiji, and 6 in Bahamas (http://sharkfreemarinas.com/members).
Organized as a cooperative by the Pegasus Foundation, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), SFMI aims to reduce shark mortality worldwide by discouraging the landing of sharks and encouraging catch-and-release of sharks in sport fishing, while rewarding forward-thinking marinas that participate in this program. Other supporting organizations include Mote Marine Laboratory, the Pew Environment Group, Fishpond, inc and the Fisheries Conservation Foundation.
The SFMI is a totally voluntary program that works in tandem with businesses, marinas and fishermen to increase the awareness of the need to protect our sharks and oceans. Marinas and businesses may join the program as either Shark-Free or Shark-Friendly: A Shark-Free Marina does not allow sharks to be killed and landed at its facility; a Shark-Friendly Marina discourages killing or landing of sharks and does not serve shark products or promote activities that intentionally harm sharks.
Sharks worldwide are being killed at an unsustainable rate. Tens of millions of sharks are killed every year in global fisheries and the fins of an estimated 26 million to 73 million sharks pass through the shark fin trade annually, mainly to make shark fin soup. In addition, the U.S. government estimates that recreational fishing kills an average of over 200,000 sharks along the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic coast annually.
World-renowned artist, angler and conservationist, Dr. Guy Harvey, is urging marinas to join SFMI. Dr. Harvey stated: “Shark populations worldwide have suffered severe declines due to over-fishing; Marinas can now do their part to help conserve these ecologically vital animals by joining the SFMI.”
“Recreational fishing in the U.S. has contributed to the serious historical decline in shark populations,” notes Dr. Robert Hueter, senior scientist and director, Mote Marine Laboratory’s National Center for Shark Research. “Sustaining these species is in the interest of recreational anglers as well as commercial fishermen and marine conservationists.”
Marinas are major players in the recreational fishing community and can help inform fishermen and reduce the number of sharks being killed by joining the SFMI and preventing dead sharks from being brought back to their docks. "Marinas are key to the success of this initiative in the United States,” says Luke Tipple, managing director of the SFMI.
Shark tournaments offer anglers thousands of dollars for landing sharks, but many anglers believe that there are greater rewards from catch-and-release efforts that help to preserve shark fisheries. SFMI is supportive of catch-and-release tournaments and promotes marine businesses. When asked to comment on SFMI and its tournament policy, Doug Olander, editor-in-chief, Sport Fishing Magazine agrees that shark kill tournaments send the wrong message. “I think hanging up dead sharks in a marina is wrong, but more important, I think it is just plain stupid.”
SFMI supporter John Land LeCoq, co-founder of well known outdoor apparel and fishing equipment retailer, Fishpond, inc stresses that “Sharks are the guardians of the ocean and play an essential part in the health of the ocean. Most anglers I know are very concerned about the status of sharks. I hope every marina joins this important program. ”
Dr. John Grandy, senior vice president of The Humane Society of the United States adds, “Only with more help from recreational anglers can we erase the misinformed notion that ‘the only good shark is a dead shark.’”
The Shark Free Marina Initiative unites the interests of recreational fishermen, the scientific community, conservation and animal protection, and commercial interests around the over-riding goal of saving the world’s sharks. The SFMI is a project of The Humane Society of United States.
The enthusiastic support of marinas for the Shark Free Marina Initiative is the most recent indication that shark protection is now accepted and expected throughout knowledgeable fishing communities, worldwide. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently announced it would protect four imperiled shark species (tiger sharks, and great, scalloped and smooth hammerheads) in Florida waters. Recently, Asia’s oldest hotel chain, The Peninsula Hotels, announced it would stop serving shark fin at all its hotels. And, Hawaii, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Washington, Oregon and California, have all passed legislation to prohibit the trade and sale of shark fins.
Dr. Harvey summarizes: “I encourage recreational fishermen everywhere to join with me and SFMI to help protect sharks and our oceans. Our world needs sharks.”
Well over 200,000 coastal sharks are killed each year by recreational fishermen in the US, largely along coast the southeastern US.
In 2009, close to 2,000 shortfin mako sharks were killed in recreational and commercial fisheries in the US, leading the National Marine Fisheries Service to declare that “overfishing” was occurring. Despite asking fishermen to voluntarily release them unharmed, tournaments targeting makos have continued.
The National Marine Fisheries Service has estimated that recreational shark fishing was largely responsible for a 50% decline in dusky sharks along the Gulf Coast.
Big money shark tournaments offer tens of thousands in top prizes but some, such as in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, pay side bets by fishermen netting $200,000 or more for a winner.
The Shark-Free Marina Initiative is a program of The Humane Society of the United States. It is strongly supported by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, Fishpond, inc., Mote Marine Laboratory, Oceanic Defense, The Fisheries Conservation Foundation, the Cape Eleuthera Institute, and the Pegasus Foundation.
SFMI has support from the following celebrity endorsers: Alec Baldwin; Nigel Barker; Steve Bartkowski; Elizabeth Berkley; Josh Madden; Bill Maher; Patrick McDonnell; Slash; and, Jim Toomey.
Kathryn Kullberg, Marine Wildlife Director, HSUS: 1-301-258-3109;