25 March 2010

Sharks fail to get CITES protection

The current round of talks between  Parties to the Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species, better known as CITES, has failed to produce any protection for 4 shark species - the porbeagle, spiny dogfish, scalloped hammerhead and oceanic whitetip. All the proposals put forward by the EU and the USA to protect these at risk species were voted out.

Sadly, this lack of protection means that these sharks, along with many other species of shark  will continue to be overfished for their meat and fins. Unbelievably, the numbers of the once common spiny dogfish have fallen by a massive 90 per cent or more. Heavily overfished for its meat (sold as rock salmon), this fish is now critically endangered. It is the slowest growing of  the sharks and has the longest gestation period, factors which mean that its numbers take a long time to recover. The rising demand for shark fins is threatening the hammerhead and oceanic whitetip sharks.

Ecoscene has an excellent selection of shark images such as the image of the spiny dogfish above. Check out our website www.ecoscene.com

5 March 2010


A new report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature gives some hope that more wild bison may be roaming free on the North American plains. Five hundred years ago, 30 to 50 million bison roamed North America from Mexico to Alaska. But in the 1800s, as European settlers moved across the continent, bison were slaughtered to near-extinction. Thanks to conservation efforts that started in the 1930s, it is estimated that today there are about 430,000 bison on the continent. Most of these are in commercial herds according to the IUCN report. Only 20,000 Plains Bison and 11,000 Wood Bison are wild, all in carefully managed conservation herds.

While there is no doubt that a growingly conservation-minded public would like more free-ranging bison, the main problem is finding sufficiently large areas of land to accommodate the wandering species. As the herds of wild bison in Yellowstone National Park in the United States grew, they encroached on grazing land for cattle, and in 2008 over 1,000 had to be slaughtered.

In Canada, there’s a proposal to introduce a breeding herd on the eastern slopes of the Rockies between Banff and Jasper National Parks. However, the plan is under review and nobody is expecting this to happen anytime soon.

Further south, in Waterton Lakes National Park, the plan for roaming bison was scuttled last year as there is not enough grassland to feed a herd in addition to the resident Elk. The initial breeding stock of Plains Bison, of which the bull photographed here is one, had to be culled so that there was sufficient grass in the adjacent paddock to feed the remainder.

Because of the 10,000-year-old relationship between First Nations and bison, there is a proposal to consult the Blackfoot community to see if undeveloped reserve land could once again become a home for wild bison.