Friday, May 28, 2010

Hawaii: First in USA to ban possession of shark fins


May 28, 2010: Hawaii has become the first state in the nation to ban the sale, possession and distribution of shark fins.

Today Governor Linda Lingle of Hawaii signed the bill prohibiting the possession, sale, trade or distribution of shark fins, an ingredient in expensive shark fin soup served in Asian restaurants.

The Act, which takes effect July 1, 2010, gives restaurants in Hawaii until July 2011 to dispose of stocks of shark fins. Thereafter, those in violation of the Act will face fines ranging to $15,000 for a first offense. A second offense provides for fines from $15,000 to $35,000, and shark fins, commercial marine licenses, vessels, fishing equipment, or other property involved in the violation will be subject to seizure and forfeiture. Penalties for a third offense provides for fines from $35,000 to $50,000, seizure and forfeiture as above, plus a year in jail. The Act has teeth!

The Shark Research Institute is asking other states and the federal government to follow suit with similar legislation modeled after the Hawaii bill.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cocos Island - Organizational Meeting, Tuesday, May 2010

The rain teamed throughout the night,  the cool permeated the camp and was a relief to the constant intense heat.  The pounding sound on the roof was fabulous and lulled me to sleep.

As per our schedule breakfast at 6:30 AM rice and beans and a great cup of Costa Rica coffee. Everyone scrambled down the hill for the morning meeting and the rain abated.

Geiner Golphin called the meeting to order at 7:29 AM
A surprise guest appeared, but he seemed unprepared and had little to contribute:)
The rain required enhanced efforts to protecting some current construction projects. Three casitas are currently roofless and a crew worked into the night to reinforce plastic protective roofs.

The patrolling crew found six fishing boats within the Cocos Island border.  No longlines were confiscated and the boats fled the park.

At 2 PM there will be a movement of a few team members from the Wafer Bay facility to Chatam.  This will provide a bit of relief to the Chatam Bay team who live without electricity and many other conveniences enjoyed by the main hub in Wafer Bay.

A new group of park personnel and volunteers will arrive in the beginning of June.  A set of duties, tasks, as well as an updated orientation package must be prepared before their arrival.  This job was delegated.

The next vessel leaving Cocos Island (UnderSea Hunter) will return to Costa Rica.  Park personal must use this opportunity to transport some of the non- biodegradable materials on this vessel.

Tonight our resident scientist will deliver a presentation  "Investigation of Island Animals" 6:30 PM - Everyone is eager to attend!

Preparations are being made for the upcoming visit and reinspection by the UNESCO team.  We all want to make sure National Park Cocos Island is best positioned to be retained as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A team was assigned the task of testing a new batch of cement to see if it will hold up against the rigors of Cocos Island climate.  If so, it will be used in several future Cocos project, including the construction of a new mooring to be used by patrol boats.

In July, there is space for RACSA personnel - they are needed to come to the island to help strengthen the communication infrastructure (especially in Chatham)

There isn't an antennae that reaches all the parts of the island. It is vital that there is a reliable system that allows park personnel, and collaborating organizations to communicate with each other from anywhere on the island.  Park personnel are researching ways to acquire this vital tool.
Regarding administration in San Jose, best to route all questions through Golfin or other people so that the message is always correct and official.

Quote of the Day: Preocupate mas por tu caracter que por tu reputacion. Tu caracter es lo que realmente eres, mientras que tu reputacion es solo lo que los demas piensan que eres. " Worry more about your character that your reputation.  Your character is who you are, your reputation is merely who other believe you are.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cocos Island Waterfall - Then and Now

Cocos Island - Hike to Wafer Bay Waterfall

The stay on Cocos Island is going much to fast.  I need to take a bit of time to explore the waterfall and other sites.  We will be back on the boat and diving in two days.  The hike to the local waterfall is spectacular!

Cocos Island National Park, Costa Rica - Monday Morning 7:30 AM Meeting -

Monday Morning - 7:30 AM Meeting - Cocos Island National Park, Costa Rica

Open by Geiner Golphin Monday, May 17, 2010

Today a park boat will visit the live-aboard dive vessel Argos. While there, they will deliver a safety presentation to the guests and pick-up supplies the Undersea Hunter Group generously transported from the mainland.

An electrician will be visiting the island this week. The three small volunteer casitas will be wired. A request was made that any other electrical problems / request be compiled on a list so the electrician can attend to these tasks during his stay.

The problem of plastic accumulation on the island was discussed. Huge amounts of plastics are recovered from the long lines confiscated from poachers. These materials must remain in park custody until a trial is held. This can take years. Meanwhile all the material accumulates on the island. No solution was reached.

All organic refuse generated by volunteers is composted. A short discussion about this workflow was discussed.

Work detail to clean and organize the bodega/storage shed was dispatched.

The radio for the patrol boat was fixed. This communication tool was housed in a fiberglass box. Drilling holes and releasing the heat generated by the electronics seems to have done the trick. There is only one boat radio for this patrol boat and in cases of poaching confrontation it is essential that this tool is up and running.

Meeting ended with a thought for the day

La vida es muy peligrosa.
No por las personas que hacen el mal, si no por las que se sientan a ver lo que pasa.
Albert Einstein.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cocos Island - Sunday

The island team works every day. Breakfast is at 6:30 AM "en punto." A general overview meeting, attended by all, follows at 7:30 AM. At this meeting Geiner Golfin, the Cocos Island manager discusses all the projects to be executed, coordinates times, and allows exchange for suggestions and questions. The meeting takes place at the edge of Wafer Bay and usually lasts 30 -40 minutes. Then the teams disperse.

There is a biologist on the island who is studying the invasive and endemic species. He departs daily and spends times counting animals in a variety of transects. There is also using motion sensor cameras strategically located around the island to monitor activity.

Huge efforts are focused on maintaining and fixing equipment. Human error, humidity, and the saline conditions of the island are brutal on the minimal equipment the team uses to combat the finning and poaching around the island. While on the island we have been considering novel ways to get equipment fixed in a time efficient way. We are also interested in examining the frequency of equipment failure due to human error to see if training programs and proactive care schedules could help lower this number.

While the island has an infirmary, there isn't a consistent medical presence onhand for emergencies. We are hoping to create a 24/7 video consultation option for emergency situations.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cocos Island - On Site Status Report

So much has changed at Cocos Island over the last 20 years, and so much has remained the same.

The small, three room park station remains standing; add on facilities has tripled the size of the structure. Generous donations have equipped the park guards with a few computers and Internet capabilities. The hydroelectric power of one of the Chatam Bay streams powers the volunteer efforts.

White terns, or “holy spirit terns” are once again beginning their nesting process. After choosing a mate each pair is seen fluttering around the island in their own choreographed flight pattern. Set against the sheer cliffs of Cocos Island, this performance is truly breathtaking.

Underwater Cocos remains one of the final refuges for sharks and other marine megafauna. During a single 60-minute dive, visitors are likely to find white tip sharks, marble rays, schooling scalloped hammerheads, immense schools of jacks and many other impressive underwater inhabitants. Unfortunately miles of fishing line can also be seen choking the underwater rock substrate; theses lines are punctuated by large hooks and often decaying sharks and other park inhabitants.

Diligent efforts continue to stop the constant poaching that plague the island. Despite all advances and generous donations of boats, radios and other tools, a poaching truce within the park borders still seems out of reach. There are two fundamental problems contributing to this situation.

1. Costa Rican law mandates a 24-hour window in which official papers must be filed, in person for any poaching infraction. Logistically this is impossible since the crossing takes 36 hours.
2. Funding for Cocos Island is run through a complicated series of government entities nested in the Costa Rican government. A very small percentage of donated money actually reach in situ park personnel. A broken propeller today, will render a boat unusable. A requisition for a new part may take weeks and often months. During this period, the boat sits and the poachers are unrivaled.

Both of these points can be easily changed. We are now working on solutions. Suggestions are welcome and encouraged. Stay tuned over the next few days for Cocos Island updates.

Georgienne Bradley
Executive Director
Imaging Foundation