European shark week 2011
We want to say a big thank you to our supporters during European Shark Week (ESW). The week was a huge success and we managed to gather over 100 signatures towards the Make the Push Shark Alliance petition that aims to close the loopholes in the current EU legislation on shark finning. We also received newspaper coverage from the Reading Post and the Reading Chronicle, and later in the week were invited to speak on BBC Radio Berkshire where we managed to promote our own Sharks on the EDGE campaign, and discuss some of the issues affecting sharks.
A major goal of the Sharks on the EDGE campaign is to raise awareness and dispel some of the myths surrounding sharks by engaging the public through education and by giving talks on the subject matter. The film Sharkwater produced by marine conservationist Rob Stewart was the ideal way to achieve this goal due to the film’s phenomenal success since its release in 2007. It was Rob Stewart’s incredible journey to discover why shark populations were declining all over the world that unearthed the lucrative market for shark-fins and opened up the shark-finning debate. The film has won over 30 International awards and has done more for shark conservation than any legislation, treaty or action plan. Key breakthroughs include a screening of the film in 2010 in Hong Kong, the main distribution centre for the trade in shark-fins and in Taiwan, a major shark-fin nation, a law came into effect that prohibits fishermen from finning at sea and discarding the bodies overboard (currently Taiwan is the only Asian nation to have any anti-shark-fin legislation, but it’s a step in the right direction).
On Monday 17th October, we held the first screening of Sharkwater at the Cape of Good Hope in Oxford. We were really pleased with the turn out and it led to an interesting debate afterwards! We managed to get several signatures for the Make the Push petition on behalf of Shark Alliance and also signed up a few much needed volunteers.
On Wednesday 19th October, we held our second event during ESW and our first in Reading. The venue was Bills Cafe and while we had slightly fewer attendees it was another great success resulting in some excellent questions and plenty more signatures for the petition! The staff at Bills were friendly, helpful and accomodating, and we would like to extend a big thank you to the Manager.
On Friday 21st October 21st, we were interviewed on BBC Radio Berkshire by Suzanne Courtney (sitting in for Sarah Walker). We discussed an array of topics including: going back to university as mature students, what led us to set up Ocean Focus and the reasons behind our first campaign, Sharks on the EDGE.
We also held our final screening of Sharkwater at The Global Cafe (RISC) in Reading later that evening. After a few technical issues, the event was another huge success. On the back of this screening a request was made to show the film again in the New Year.
During the week we talked a lot about the supply and demand of the shark fin trade. The majority of the demand is coming from Asia (as mentioned above) and as a result people in the West, including the UK, often feel powerless to change something that is happening half way across the world. While we aware of shark-fin soup being available in China town, London, we were less aware of its availability elsewhere in the UK. However, during ESW it was brought to our attention that a few local Chinese restaurants were selling shark fin soup plus many more throughout the UK. This prompted us to contact Bite-Back, an organisation committed to make Britain’s retailers shark-free. Bite-Back has been challenging the restaurant trade for over 5 years and convincing UK shark fin soup retailers to remove the dish from their menu. If you would like to support the Bite-Back restaurant campaign, please click here.