Competition For Belgian Youth Condemns The Overfishing Of Sharks

The Belgian not-for-profit organization Sea First Foundation is launching a national campaign which centers around a competition for youth aging 15 - 20 years old and is designed to raise public awareness about the overfishing of sharks.

SFF SHARK PROJECT
Competition for Belgian youth condemns the overfishing of sharks

ANTWERP: The Belgian not-for-profit organization Sea First Foundation (SFF) is launching a national campaign - 'The Shark Project' - which centers around a competition for youth aging 15 - 20 years old and is designed to raise public awareness about the rapid loss of sharks caused by overfishing.

Beginning March 31 and extending through the end of 2012, the contest challenges participants to organize and execute a team-driven project that will inform their community of the plight of sharks.

An electronic information package was made available on the project website to assist contestants, creativity is encouraged and the scope of ideas is limitless.

The Shark Project will also target schools across Belgium. Teachers of upper secondary levels are encouraged to discuss the urgent shark conservation concerns with their classes and SFF staff is available upon educators' requests to present a free two-hour lesson on sharks and their plight.

The SFF board will judge the projects based on creative originality, professionalism, and capacity to raise awareness and the grand prize winners will be offered a fully-catered, week-long marine life experience in Florida.

This study trip will include a visit to a local shelter for sea turtles, snorkeling in the world-famous Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, interacting with wild dolphins, and participating in the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program of the University of Miami.

During this academic excursion, the students will assist scientific researchers with both the collection of shark blood samples and various body measurements, as well as with affixing satellite transmitters on two tiger, hammerhead or bull sharks.

The transmitters will enable to track the animals on the Internet for up to one year, providing important information about their movements, behaviors, and other biological and ecological factors.

"We believe it is important to inform Belgian citizens of the European Union's involvement in the trade of sharks, as EU fisheries are responsible for no less than a third of global shark catches," says campaign manager, Katrien Vandevelde.

"We decided to conduct this campaign now in support of the European Commission's current proposal to close the loopholes in the EU shark finning ban. European waters are home to 130 species of sharks and rays and about 30% of these species are threatened with extinction."

"The study trip allows us to broaden the scope of attention from sharks to other marine life and to present marine ecosystems in their totality. Due to the fact that Belgium has only a very small coastal strip, people here tend to think that what is happening in the oceans is not important to them," explains Dos Winkel, world-renowned marine photographer and Founder of the Sea First Foundation.

"The intensive experience with the beautiful but vulnerable underwater world will undoubtedly instill in these young people a feeling of responsibility toward the sea. They will become our ocean ambassadors, as they will have witnessed the importance of healthy seas from up close".

Prizes will also be awarded to other successful teams, including DVDs and books about sharks, entrance tickets to the aquarium, snorkel equipment, and dive trainings.

An English summary of the project can be found at http://www.reddehaai.be/engels/eng_index.php

BACKGROUND:

1.) Sharks are hunted for their meat, skin, teeth and livers - but especially for their fins, which are considered a delicacy in Asian cultures. The large profits made on the shark fin market have resulted in severe overfishing of shark populations, with several tens of millions of the fish caught yearly.

2.) The current EU legislation governing shark fishing is very weak and contains several loopholes. To prevent finning (the wasteful practice of slicing off a shark's fins and discarding the body at sea) from continuing unabated and unpunished, the European Commission moved to prohibit the removal of shark fins at sea without exception on 21 November, 2011. Their proposal also aims to set science-based, precautionary catch limits and to provide special protection for endangered shark species.

3.) The not-for-profit organization Sea First Foundation (SFF) Belgium (www.seafirst.be) was founded in June 2010, upon the initiative of marine photographer Dos Winkel, as a result of his deep concern for the dire conditions of the world's oceans.

4.) SFF aims to educate Belgian citizens - primarily young people - about the ocean and marine life, and to make them aware of the importance of healthy seas. SFF provides interactive lessons about the ocean and its residents to primary and secondary schools, and also presents presentations at colleges, universities, municipalities, companies and interested organisations. The NGO also organizes exhibitions and events in Belgium as part of the annual World Ocean Day (8 June) and European Shark Week. It runs campaigns such as the Tuna-Free Restaurant campaign, and others like the Shark Project. SFF has also published several books, including "What's the Catch with Fish", "De huilende zee" (currently only available in Dutch), and "Non*Fish*A*Licious" (currently only available in Dutch, but with an English version underway). Its documentary, "Sea the truth", was produced with the support of the Nicolaas G. Pierson Foundation and was screened at the European Parliament in Brussels on 31 May 2011.

CONTACT:
Katrien Vandevelde, Campaign Manager
katrienvandevelde@seafirst.be
+32-473-39 51 30

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Categories: Animal Rights

Tags: competition, contests, florida, overfishing, Sea First Foundation, SFF, shark, shark project


About Sea First Foundation

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Katrien Vandevelde
Press Contact, Sea First Foundation
Sea First Foundation
Hooghuis 39
Bradford, NH 3221
Belgium