Getting Involved: Basking Shark Scotland Tours

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By Brinkley Dinsmore

Cetorhinus maximus  is known by many names—sun-fish, bone shark, elephant shark, sail-fish, hoe-mother—but most commonly as the basking shark. This name is derived from their seasonal behavior of floating along the surface of the water, ‘basking’ in the sun, enormous mouths open wide for feeding. They don’t call them gentle giants just because they’re one of three species of plankton-eating sharks —these fish are the second largest fish in the world, sometimes reaching 12m in length. And where are these massive, passive sharks to be found when summer rolls around?  According to Shane Wasik, “the Western Isles of Scotland could be one of the most important international hotspots for them.”

Shane is the owner and operator of Basking Shark Scotland, a IMCC3 Basking Shark Scotland Logogroup dedicated not only to leading boat tours that allow people to see these amazing animals in person, but also to responsible practices concerning wildlife tourism.

Historically the basking shark has been targeted, because of it’s size and slow speed, for its valuable leather, meat, and liver oil. In the UK they now flourish under full protection, recently granted in 1998 under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). Similar full protection has been granted in Malta, New Zealand, and parts of the United States, and the species has partial protection under CITES.

Nevertheless, their commercial value has led to over-exploitation and severe depletion of populations. Demand for basking shark products is still high in Asia, where the fins are used in soup and cartilage is an ingredient of traditional Chinese medicine. The continued need to protect these animals has resulted in compelling conservation efforts that have seen growing interest in the last several years, in part because of operations like Basking Shark Scotland.

If you find yourself heading to Scotland this summer, it would be a perfect time to take a tour and get involved, as Shane tells us that “Seasonally in summer months they arrive in big numbers, attracted by rich plankton and possibly for mating. Truly an ocean wanderer, some tagged sharks from the area have travelled as far as the Canary Islands and crossed the Atlantic reaching a depth of over 1200m.” The migratory habits of these sharks make scientific study of them difficult, and as always, conservation work is not yet finished.

Shane and his crew consciously contribute to the responsible study of and development of interest in these animals. Shane explains why, saying that as the basking shark is “already protected in UK waters, given the sharks massive migrations it’s of great importance that the sharks have full international protection due their low fecundity rate.  During our Basking Shark trips numerous data is recorded so that continuous monitoring of the population can be undertaken and fed back to both Scottish and internationally based scientists.”

Interested in getting more involved in the conservation of these enigmatic wonders of the ocean? Shane’s Basking Shark Scotland is offering reduced rates on basking shark outings for IMCC3 delegates.  For more information and to take advantage of this opportunity, visit the IMCC3 Discounted Activities page.

 —Brinkley Dinsmore graduated in May 2014 from George Mason University, where she studied English and Biology. She is the Communications Intern for IMCC3 and plans to stay involved in the world of conservation communication. 

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The Benefits of Attendance: IMCC3

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by Edd Hind

 

Without the International Marine Conservation Congresses (IMCC), I very much doubt I would be where I am today, professionally. At the first IMCC in 2009, I learned from experts in my field the methodology that would become central to my doctoral research. Two and a half years ago at IMCC2 in downtown Victoria, British Columbia, I shared sustainable seafood and locally brewed beer with a group of strangers who are now trusted collaborators. It’s as a result of these experiences that I think the IMCC is one of the “must attend” marine conservation conferences. The board members of the Marine Section of the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) have been putting their heads together over the last week to state why they too believe that IMCC3 should be your “must attend” conference this year. Here’s what they had to say:

  • IMCC has a history of getting people with different experience levels and areas of expertise together to exchange ideas for the benefit of all involved. Alongside many interactive workshops and symposia, IMCC3 already has many student events scheduled.
  • Some of the best theories or ideas in science have come out because of a couple of strangers, or even friends, getting together over a coffee or a beer. The second IMCC had nine scheduled social events, and IMCC3 will provide similar opportunities.
  • Over five days, you will be exposed to a flood of new ideas, hypotheses, methods/techniques, analyses and findings—any scientists that say that’s not valuable might as well burn all their books, disconnect their computers from the internet, and go back to the middle ages while they’re at it!
  • The program will include workshops and courses that teach tangible skills, such as software, applications, and communication. Many marine scientists and managers have learned how to communicate with the media and use packages like Marxan at previous IMCCs. In Glasgow, there will be opportunities not only to develop your social media and GIS skills, but to apply those skills to causes you care about. You’ll have the opportunity to rescue marine mammals!
  • Conferences are perfect places to network for funding and research contacts. The previous IMCCs have attracted more than 1200 delegates per meeting. That’s a lot of opportunities to connect!
  • Remember, astronauts are the only scientists that work well in a vacuum. There will be no astronauts or vacuums at IMCC3!

IMCC3 is being held in Glasgow, Scotland, from 14-18 August 2014. More details about the meeting can be found at the conferences dedicated website.  I’m looking forward to seeing you there so we can share ideas over a wee dram of coffee or world-class whisky!

 

Edd Hind is a resident lecturer for the School for Field Studies. He is a member of the IMCC3 Communications Committee.

Plenary Focus: Dr. Elliott Norse Emphasizes Big Ideas & Large-Scale Initiative

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by Samantha Oester 

Dr. Elliott Norse, marine conservation scientist and policy , will be featured as a plenary speaker at the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress in August 2014. (Photo courtesy of Marine Conservation Institute)

Dr. Elliott Norse, marine conservation scientist and policy , will be featured as a plenary speaker at the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress in August 2014.
(Photo courtesy of Marine Conservation Institute)

Dr. Elliott Norse said it has taken several decades of academic training, research and career experience to learn to “save the diversity of life in a perilous, complex, anthropocentric world.” His history includes a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California and a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Iowa, as well as work at the US Environmental Protection Agency, White House Council on Environmental Quality, Ecological Society of America, The Wilderness Society and Ocean Conservancy. He founded the Marine Conservation Institute in 1996, where he is currently Chief Scientist. He is considered an expert in marine biology, marine conservation, environmental policy and conservation strategy.

Norse will be speaking at the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC3) in a speech titled, “A RAM-sized vision to save the world’s marine species.” This talk is in honor of his late friend and colleague Dr. Ransom A Myers. Norse explained that marine life is more imperiled than when he began as a marine scientist, that “ignorance and short-sightedness are our worst enemies,” and that working together is far more effective in saving the world’s oceans. “To succeed we need to go big, regional, at very least, or global, to win enduring conservation for the world’s oceans,” Norse declared. “We won’t get many chances. We need to be smart enough to get it right the first time. That’s why I’ve synthesized all I’ve learned in my career to talk with IMCC3 participants about the most important thing we will ever do: create the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES), the oceans’ in situ equivalent of the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, to be the safety net for the Earth’s marine life.”

Norse is lauded as one of the world’s top marine conservation scientists. He is a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation and was President of the Society for Conservation Biology’s Marine Section. He received the Nancy Foster Award for Habitat Conservation from the National Marine Fisheries Service and was named Brooklyn College 2008 Distinguished Alumnus. Additionally, he was awarded the 2012 Chairman’s Medal from the Seattle Aquarium.

Norse emphasized the importance of effective working relationships and is appreciative of the invitation to speak at IMCC in honor of Myers. Norse stated, “I feel deeply honored to be chosen as the Ransom A. Myers Memorial Lecturer to old friends and new friends at IMCC3. I hope RAM’s vision and the vision in this talk will inspire [everyone] to contribute to saving marine life, as we, marine conservation scientists, are uniquely equipped to do.”

IMCC3 is honored to have Norse close the conference’s main scientific program.

Norse will be featured as an IMCC3 plenary speaker on 18 August 2014 at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow as the Dr. Ransom A. Myers Memorial Lecturer. Myers (1952-2007) was a world-renowned marine conservation scientist who was cited in Fortune magazine as one of the world’s ten people to watch for working to develop new and better ways to husband the wealth beneath the sea. He was known for his outward passion for marine conservation and his big ideas, projects and initiatives.

Follow Marine Conservation Institute on Twitter @savingoceans.

Samantha Oester is Communications Chair for IMCC3. She can be reached at soester@gmu.edu for information on the IMCC3 Plenary Speakers and other facets of the Congress.