Monday, 31 August 2015

Shark Week: The Opening Ceremony

It's that time of year again, we are getting excited for Sharks and Rays and celebrating them with our second annual Scuba Junkie Shark Week!!

The aim of this week is to raise awareness of the unfortunate amount of threats that face our much loved elasmobranch friends. Through community involvement activities, presentations and fun and games we hope to change the 'shark attack' perception of of these hugely misunderstood creatures. Being at the centre of the coral triangle and  being so close to one of the last places where schooling hammerheads can be seen whilst diving, Scuba Junkie is situated in one of the best places to raise awareness!

The first day of this much anticipated week saw the arrival of Green Semporna and WWF to aid with shark conservation activities with SMK Mabul and Project SHA. Over the past few years we have developed a close working relationship with both of these companies. Green Semporna is a non-profit organisation that works closely with the local community. They aim to promote conservation and environmental efforts in Semporna and the surrounding islands. Their work is incredible and they continue to amaze us with their passion and hard work.

The atmosphere of the resort was buzzing as children from around the island descended on the beach. They were then brought up to the resort and Green Semporna gave an insightful presentation on Shark Conservation in Bahasa Malaysia for the kids. Education is key in shark conservation, having children gain an understanding of why sharks are important and why they should be protected is crucial to making a change. We hope that by involving kids of Mabul in our Shark Week we can promote shark protection and help create a generation that truly care about our oceans.

As divers came back from their first dive it was time for customers to get involved. We held a huge beach clean. Staff, interns and guests all got involved, as well as SMK Mabul and Project SHA, in removing debris from the beach. We collected  a lot of rubbish which we shall remove from the island. Beach and reef cleans are a huge part of our Shark Week as marine debris is a problem for all underwater critters. We hugely appreciate all of the effort everyone put it. In the heat it is a sweaty and smelly job, but it is one that makes an immediate impact.

The evening saw the official opening ceremony. Steve Ashby, one of the managers of the Mabul Beach Resort started the evening introducing everyone to what Shark Week is about - raising awareness and changing perception of sharks. He talked about how conservation efforts have been at the heart of Scuba Junkie since it opened.

We then had a presentation from David McGuire from Shark Stewards. The aim of Shark Stewards is to protect the ocean through the preservation of the apex predators. David's presentation gave a wealth of information. Having started diving in California with Great White Sharks, David has worked hard over the years to fight to the shark fin trade. David spoke about the origins of shark fin soup and how the industry has grown. Shark fin soup originated in China, it was created by the Sung Dynasty 986AD. Originally it was a show of affluence, only the wealthy could afford such a dish and it was a demonstration of power. Such a small percentage of the population could afford it didn't create a problem. However, since the 1990s affluence in China has massively increased and more and more people have been able to afford this dish. It is now a huge dish worldwide and the shark fin trade is decimating shark populations. The shark finning trade may be closer to home that you would like to think. Countries in Europe are amongst some of the highest in levels of shark fin trade. 

Tens of millions of sharks a year are killed for their fins - and their death is not fast. To save space on their boats many fishermen will cut the fins off the shark whilst it is still alive. They will then throw the body overboard and the shark drowns.  

While people fear sharks there are only 5 fatal shark attacks a year. To put this into perspective Jellyfish kill 40 people a year, bath tubs claim the lives of 348 people a year, and 13 people a year are killed by vending machines. 

The first day of our Shark Week was a successful one! We look forward to what the rest of the week brings. 

Facts about Coral Cat Sharks:

  • A small slender shark with cat-like eyes 
  • It has a very distinctive mottled pattern on its body
  • Little is known about the biology of this small shark
  • It is widely distributed, but often it is just its tail that is spotted poking out of the corals. 
  • It lays eggs rather than giving birth to young 
  • It is listed as 'Near Threatened' on the IUCN Red List. 

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