Ten weeks ago, Project AWARE began the search for 100 Finathon Champions and we found you! In just ten weeks, 154 Finathon Champions, 40 teams and 50 children under the age of 10 raised nearly $50,000 by swimming to end finning. Thank you!
Together, you swam nearly 600km, shaved your heads, swam in shark costumes and organized other creative events to show your passion for shark protection. And all with one jawesome goal - swimming to end finning.
So how will your fundraising efforts help this big audacious goal? Your donations helps:
- Fight to stop finning
- Insist on full protections for Critically Endangered sharks
- Negotiate strong policies to ensure a brighter future for all sharks
To give you some background on how we intend to do this, I caught up with Ania Budziak, Associate Director of Science and Policy to find out more.
Q: The Finathon has swept the globe, raising awareness about sharks locally and internationally. Ania, can you explain how Project AWARE works to save sharks?
AB: Our overarching goal is to reverse the drastic declines of shark and ray populations worldwide. Your donations are critical to ensure the voice of scuba divers is heard and that tourism and recreational values of healthy shark and ray populations are highlighted where and when it matters most. Project AWARE is involved in key policy work to stop the overexploitation of sharks - the excessive directed fishing, bycatch and finning.
Together with our partners, AWARE is advocating for:
- Science based fishing limits for sharks and rays
- A precautionary approach to be taken when species information is lacking
- Full protections for endangered shark and ray species
- Shark finning bans – ending the unacceptable fishing practice where a shark’s fins are removed and its body is dumped at sea
The vast majority of shark fisheries are unregulated. So, enforceable and enforced regulations aimed at rebuilding and maintaining healthy shark and ray populations are at the core of our work to protect sharks.
Q: National and international policy work must be supported and complemented by local actions to be successful. How is Project AWARE helping local communities tackle the loss of sharks and rays?
AB: We’re helping communities make local conservation projects a reality by providing funding and support through Project AWARE’s Ocean Action Project. Last year, AWARE helped fund five Ocean Action Projects, three of these are focused on shark conservation – Project Momentum, Semporna Shark Sanctuary and the Galapagos Shark Community Project. The unifying aim of these projects is to help communities protect sharks and rays locally, raise awareness about the species and the threats they face and support individual actions to help ensure a bright future for these majestic and misunderstood species.
This September keep an eye on our website for news about for the Ocean Action Project 2013. You're encouraged to submit a project of your own and vote for your favorites. In addition, the AWARE Shark Conservation Course we’ve created helps scuba professionals and other shark advocates engage divers and non divers alike in shark conservation every day.
Q: Project AWARE supporters have contributed to some real victories. What’s next for sharks and AWARE?
AB: There is no question that the scuba divers’ voice has contributed like never before in helping protect sharks and rays over the past few years. You’ve donated, signed petitions and contacted your legal representatives. Thanks to your financial support and engagement, our small yet global team has a great record of accomplishments. To name the key ones, you’ve helped us and our partners to:
- Close the loopholes in the EU finning ban, thus banning all shark finning on board European Union registered vessels
- Secure international trade protections for 8 of the world’s most vulnerable sharks and rays under CITES
- Establish the largest network of Marine Protected Areas in in the world located in Australia
In addition to the Ocean Action Project, our shark work for the remainder of this year focuses on securing a loophole free US Shark Conservation Act and on making sure that the hard won marine park protections in Australia stay in place. I hope for good news here and looking forward to sharing those with you soon. In the meantime, countless thanks to every one of you for swimming to end finning!
Thanks Ania! Finathon fever swept the world this weekend with a record number of events and dive centres have pledged their involvement until the end of the year, thank you!To get involved or read about the latest Finathon champions visit www.finathon.org