The ocean today is at a crisis point; global warming, pollution and land reclamation are already destroying the fragile balance of the sea. When we add to that the destructive effects of over fishing and mismanagement of fish stocks the scientific community agree, we may well witness the total collapse of the oceans ecosystem within our lifetime.
Life in the ocean is all tied into a fragile but robust system called a food chain. Imagine it like a pyramid built of layers called trophic levels. The first and largest trophic level consists of algaes and phytoplankton and bacteria. As we move up the trophic pyramid we encounter various animals from the very small fish and corals to the very large predators and ultimately end up at the top trophic level which is dominated by sharks.
For hundreds of millions of years this amazingly complicated web has self regulated and remained stable, that is until we developed fishing techniques that exceed the sustainable fishing levels. Currently on a worldwide scale almost every species of fish which is caught for commercial or and recreational purposes is fished beyond a sustainable level. Of most concern to us is the shark.
A healthy ocean needs sharks. They regulate populations of other large predatory fish and create stability in the food web. Without sharks in the ocean it is likely that in a very short time the food web would collapse from the top down, resulting in an ocean depleted of fish and human nourishment. In a very real sense the measure of our healthy ocean is the presence of sharks, and in that case we are in serious trouble.
Commercial fishing fleets are currently responsible for between 60 and 100 million shark deaths per year. Many shark species have declined in numbers by 90%. There are currently over 150 species of shark listed on the IUCN’s Red List as near threatened or worse. Over 40 of these are considered at serious risk including the great hammerhead, oceanic white tip, grey nurse, the great white, Caribbean reef shark, leopard shark and the tiger shark, just to name a few familiar examples.
While action certainly needs to be taken on a global scale the fight to save our oceans needs to take place in your own backyard. In 2008 the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration reported ½ million sharks killed for recreational purposes, most of these were large sharks and most likely of breeding age. The vast majority of the anglers responsible for this catch are private boat owners and charter fishing boats.
The Shark Friendly Marinas Initiative aims to severely reduce shark mortality along the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf coasts by prohibiting the landing of any shark at participating marinas. This initiative stands to save tens of thousands of sharks per year as well as set a new global standard for responsible management of our oceans' resources.
Here’s the bottom line: with this initiative, fisherman will no longer be allowed to bring sharks into a Shark-Friendly Marina for any photographic or trophy display purposes or for any cleaning or processing of the shark for fins, meat, jaws, or any other by-product.
Participating marinas will encourage those fishermen who are determined to fish for sharks to exercise safe catch-and-release techniques. While not as definitive as an outright ban on shark fishing, the acceptance of catch-and-release fishing techniques represents an incremental step in protecting valuable marine resources, with the intent that the long-term cumulative effect of the Shark Friendly Marina Initiative will ultimately make shark fishing less attractive as an activity.
Puerto Del Rey is proud to join the Shark Free Marina Program. Since acquiring the Marina in 2013, the new administration, Putnam Bridge Funding, has made its commitment to the environment one of its top priorities, including work to improve the surrounding waters and eco-systems in the Marina area. Puerto Del Rey has a strong fishing community as part of its boating clientele, and the Marina understands that it is important to connect its recreational fishermenwith groups such as Shark Free Marina, in order to educate and fight against declining shark populations, which are an important component to the ecosystems that makeup our oceans. The Marina has already committed to the protection of the billfish species, by ensuring its annual billfish tournament is conducted as a catch-and-release format, in order to protect the billfish species in Puerto Rico. Puerto Del Rey is excited to begin its latest endeavor with its partnership with Shark Free Marina in order to extend this work to protect shark species.
Puerto Del Rey will support the Shark Free Marina initiative by implementing various new regulations as part of the Marina’s overall green-friendly strategies. First, the Marina will make specific amendments to its Harbor Regulations by including a rule which prohibits fisherman from landing any shark at our Marina, including the extension of this rule to the commercial fishermen’s docks. Management has already spoken to the spokesperson of the commercial fishermen’s group and we agreed that they will not be fishing or catching shark. The Marina will ensure that any new client that brings his or her vessel to Puerto Del Rey is advised of the rule when signing a vessel space license agreement. Further, in order to educate the Marina’s current clients, Puerto Del Rey plans to host environmental talks with its clients and the local communities to raise awareness about the importance of protecting this species. The Marina will host these educational activities in coordination with the organization “Pesca, Playa, y Ambiente”, a local group which works to promote the conservation of our environment through education.