While this isn’t an update about any art I’m currently working on (although I do have new prints available!), I wanted to use this space to highlight a unique project I feel quite strongly about.
Here’s what you need to know. Only ten species of sharks, rays and skates (elasmobranchs), out of many hundreds, are internationally protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) at this time: sawfish (7 species), whale sharks, basking sharks and great white sharks. It was recently proposed that ten more be considered for inclusion on Appendix II: scalloped, smooth, and great hammerheads, porbeagle and oceanic whitetip sharks, both manta ray species, and three species of river stingray. (Right now scalloped hammerheads are only protected under CITES Appendix III in Costa Rica, and porbeagle sharks in the European Union.) Overexploitation of these species has had particularly devastating effects on their populations; sightings of reef mantas in Mozambique alone have declined by about 86% in less than a decade. CITES is set to convene in Bangkok in March 2013 to vote on these proposals.
This is where Shark Stanley comes in. In the spirit of Flat Stanley – a character I encountered and posed with quite frequently working in public aquaria education – this very cute little hammerhead is traveling the world to find supporters of shark and manta ray conservation. He’s the brainchild of Shark Defenders, and the idea is to compile a kind of photographic petition to send to the governments voting at CITES in order to get their support. The goal is to find 50 celebrities and organisations to partner with Shark Stanley and collect at least 5000 photos from all 176 CITES member countries. Not only was the adorable illustration (by the incredibly talented Daniel Yagmin Jr.) difficult to resist and the idea inventive, but elasmobranch conservation is near and dear to my heart, especially when it comes to manta rays. I had to get involved, and had a particularly large friend help me express my support. Fingers crossed!
If you’d like to take part in Shark Stanley’s adventures too, check out the Shark Defenders Facebook page. Print the little guy out, take your photo, and share it via social media (or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org) using the hashtags #SharkStanley and that of your country of origin to spread the message!
Edit on 12/24/2012: I’m so very proud to be an official partner of Shark Stanley! Let’s get these precious elasmobranchs better international protection!