Sharks: Worth More Alive than Dead?

Silky Shark in the Galapagos

The fields of economics and shark conservation seem to clash in the field of “shark fin soup,” but what about the recurring benefits sharks can generate through ecotourism?

My latest Sage Magazine article explores the possibility of “sustainable shark fin soup” and analyzes the economic benefits of shark diving and snorkeling worldwide. While both can be profitable endeavors, we have to accept that demand for shark fin soup is not going away anytime soon. How can we balance harvest and conservation goals for sharks worldwide? Individual tradable quotas, better enforcement and management of shark stocks, and marine reserves are just a few of the possible solutions offered in this article.

Paying Their Way: Why Sharks Are Worth More Alive

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To Your Inner Ocean Explorer

Dear Inner Ocean Explorers,

As a child, you read tales of an undersea world, with charismatic whales, lurking sharks, and an abundance of colorful and strange fish. In your sleep you could hear the gentle pitch and roll of the ocean waves as they struck the shoreline. You dreamt of swimming with the mermaids accompanied by an escort of gregarious dolphins.

You thought, maybe, one day, you would study these creatures. Maybe you would join Jacques Cousteau on his latest underwater expedition. Maybe you would leave on a ship, spending your days at sea. Maybe you would even study marine biology at some coastal university.

I once dreamt these dreams too, sometimes I still do. My childhood memories are filled with finding fascinating creatures in the tide pools of the northeast, seeing friendly sea otters in Monterey Bay, and watching humpback whales majestically breach off of Cape Cod. I was certain I would be a marine biologist, or maybe a Diplomat.

But, like many of you reading this, I didn’t go to the university to study marine biology. Instead, the career of diplomacy seemed to dictate my future. I spent three years studying policy and economics. I didn’t think it would ever be possible to integrate my studies and my passion for the sea.

I was never so wrong.

Sparked by the recent BP Oil Disaster, I was intrigued by management issues of marine resources, from fisheries to whale watching. I explored these issues during six months of study in Argentina, travelling to a coastal town in Patagonia to talk with locals about their environmental problems.

Whale breaching off of El Doradillo

In Patagonia, the salty sea breeze filled my senses. The surrounding desert landscape belied the bounty of life that sought refuge on that small peninsula – penguins, killer whales, elephant seals, and southern right whales. In one adventure, I found myself sitting on the beach, eating a piece of pizza, and in the company of southern right whales less than 100 feet away! They rolled and frolicked in the shallows, exposing their entire length. In the far distance, whenever the wind picked up and stirred the otherwise calm waters, they breached and leapt out of the water in a spectacle that outshone any SeaWorld performance.

Bottazzi Whale Watch - Puerto Piramides, Argentina

Then the pieces began coming together – I found that I could use economics and policy to better protect our oceans. I worked with local environmental non-profits in New Orleans, and I started scuba diving.

Since then, it’s been a salty adventure, full of economic theory, policy writing, reading, and, of course, undersea adventures.

Everyone finds their inner ocean explorer in his or her own way. Your inner ocean explorer is hiding in watching ocean documentaries, in participating in environmental campaigns with just a photograph to help protect sharks, in choosing the seafood you eat wisely (and learning why), and in using reusable bags over plastic.

In each of us there is a childhood ocean explorer and a gnawing curiosity to dive into the ocean, to feel the salt water against our skin, and to befriend a sea turtle.

My blog invites you to let this inner ocean explorer reach out and discover the underwater world. My photographs and videos will show what you may not have the time (for now) to see for yourself. My discussions will do their best to convey scientific information on marine conservation in an engaging and open manner.

It’s never too late to start diving, to start caring, to start learning. I hope this platform will offer a starting place to inspire you to learn more, and to get involved in these issues.

We all have our priorities and goals for the New Year. As I strive to write a better blog, I encourage you to find your inner ocean explorer.

I invite your questions, your curiosities, and your thirst to learn more.

All that remains is a question:

What’s stopping you from releasing your inner ocean explorer?

Diving with a Whale Shark in the Galapagos

Rowing for Revolution: An Interview with Roz Savage

Roz Savage, ocean explorer, rower, and advocate

Each year, Yale University welcomes a small group of exceptional “global leaders” into the Yale World Fellows program. Among 2012 enrollment was Roz Savage, an impressive woman from England who left her job, her house, and her routine life to pursue a life of adventure and environmental advocacy.

She has single-handedly rowed across all the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans to raise awareness on plastics in the oceans.

I had the opportunity to interview her, and learn from her experience, this past November. The interview was recently published on Yale’s Sage Magazine, where you can read it here.

“I’m a real believer in following your curiosity and seeing where it leads you.”