Analysis

Fascinating shark photo exhibition this month in Wageningen

The exhibition features images from some of the world's best underwater photographers

The International Shark Photo Exhibition opened on Monday 11 June 2007 at Wageningen University and continues until the end of the month before touring other venues in the Netherlands.

As delegates from many countries debated conservation measures for sharks and many other species in The Hague, an impressive photo exhibition showing the beauty of sharks opened at the University of Wageningen.

Organised by Shark Alliance member, Protect the Sharks, the shark photo exhibition was put together by Geert Droppers, a keen diver and shark enthusiast, and displays fantastic photographs of a number of sharks from around the world.

Droppers opened the event with a talk in which he gave an insight into what it is like to dive with sharks, how they behave, and how disproportionate our fear is compared to the numbers of shark attacks per year.

The reality is that these fearsome predators kill an average of four people worldwide every year (1), while humans kill up to one hundred million sharks annually. For the Asian fin trade alone, from 26 to 73 million sharks are estimated to be killed each year.

Irene Kingma from Coral Reef Care (also a member group of the Shark Alliance) is a marine biologist who spoke about the special biological features of sharks that make them such fascinating creatures.

In general, sharks grow slowly, mature late and produce few young over long lifetimes, which means that their populations tend to increase at extremely low rates. The result is that they are exceptionally vulnerable to overfishing, and very slow to recover once depleted.

But despite the mounting evidence of shark over-fishing and depletion, few countries restrict shark fishing. In European waters, dramatic declines have been documented for a wide range of species – from sedentary coastal sharks to dogfish of the deep sea, from large, bottom-dwelling skates to swift-moving sharks that roam the open ocean. One-third of assessed European sharks qualify for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Uta Bellion, director of the Shark Alliance outlined the fisheries and trade situation regarding sharks and the policy challenges that have to be met today in order to achieve effective conservation of sharks.

The Shark Alliance is calling on the EU to close the loopholes in the EU shark finning regulation and to adopt a European plan of action for sharks to include precautionary limits on the catch of sharks based on scientific advice, as well as protection for endangered species, reduction of bycatch, recovery plans for depleted species and management plans for others. 

Second event

The opening was following by a second event on Monday, 18 June introduced by Wim van der Voort, who presented a fascinating slideshow of macro underwater images. Irene Kingma went on to give a lecture about global warming and the status of  coral reefs, followed by an underwater photography workshop organised by divers from Dutch diveclub 'Silent World'. Geert Droppers rounded off the evening with some stunning shark video footage taken in the Bahamas. 

Notes: 

(1) Fish Story's New Reality Is That Man Bites Shark
It's 4 of Us a Year, Millions of Them, 27 May 2007, Washington Post

(2) Sharks at risk: Scientists label EU shark finning ban ineffective and call for major change
Shark Alliance press release, 17 May 2007

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