Photo: Shark week: straight from the shark's mouth

(Credit: Ecology Action Centre)

Special guest column by Hector the Blue Shark, spokes-shark for the Ecology Action Centre's Marine Program in Halifax, NS.

Shark Week is here! While I like all the attention I get this week — you can find me on social media ranting at the latest Could-Megalon-Really-Exist?, No-It-Definitely-Couldn't, But-We-Are-Going-To-Mislead-The-Heck-Outta-You-Anyway Shark Week special — I'd like to talk about things that hit a bit closer to home: some of the real problems sharks face in Atlantic Canada.

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I'm a blue shark (Prionace glauca for you science nerds) who spends most of his time in the waters around Atlantic Canada, not the friendliest place for a shark. You see, Atlantic Canada is home to a longline swordfish fishery that comes at a high price. For every swordfish caught, up to five sharks are caught as bycatch. More blue sharks, like me, are caught than any other shark species.

Another big problem for me is shark finning, the practice of removing and keeping our fins while dumping our bodies overboard. Terrible stuff and illegal in Canada, but you could be doing more. In some areas, like Atlantic Canada, sharks are brought in with their bodies and fins separated — imagine! Canada needs a 'fins naturally attached rule' (fishers must only be allowed to bring in sharks with fins naturally attached to their bodies) if it really wants to stop shark finning once and for all.

My biggest problem, though, is bycatch, especially in that awful longline swordfish fishery. They're catching tens-of- thousands of us sharks every year and throwing us back dead into the ocean. This fishery isn't properly monitored and with very few observers, we don't know how much damage is happening. And the kicker? This fishery is certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, despite all the endangered and threatened species it picks up along the way.

My relatives, the Porbeagle sharks, in particular have suffered from being caught as bycatch. Until very recently there was even a fishery in Atlantic Canada just for this endangered shark. This fishery has since been closed (and I like to think I had some hand in it) but the populations of porbeagle shark haven't seen a significant improvement (PDF) since they were designated an endangered species a decade ago. While Atlantic provinces have pushed to ban keeping these sharks, Canada has been one of the few countries to stand in the way of this ban.

So, my Canadian friends, with all the cool shark photos and facts that will be flying around this week, I'm hoping this sheds some light on serious issues that Canada's sharks are facing. I'll be the first to admit that sharks are cool as heck, so why not make Canada a safer place for us? Tell your friends and be sure to follow me on Twitter to learn how you can help. Happy Shark Week!

Hector is a blue shark who spends a lot of his time in the waters around Nova Scotia. He likes squids, harpoon swordfishers and the internet. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook where he entertains followers even though he has no fingers for typing.

(Modified from the original post at Small Scales blog)

August 14, 2014

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