When asked what my favourite species of shark is, I struggle to answer. They’re all so interesting in their own ways (even you, goblin shark!), so I tend to go with whichever one I happen to be looking at at the time. Recently I’ve become particularly enamoured with oceanic whitetips. I’ve always found them visually striking – I like the rounded edges to their fins, their colouration, and their elegance. And I really love the imagery of their own personal pilot fish fan club that sometimes almost completely engulfs them. I plan to paint an oceanic whitetip soon so I figured I’d practice with some sketches.
Oceanic whitetip sharks are one of the species whose addition to CITES will be voted on in March (see my post about Shark Defenders’ awesome petition here!). The United States actually co-sponsored the proposal to list them, and this week said it would support all of the shark and ray proposals at the upcoming Conference of the Parties – fantastic news for these threatened animals. Oceanic whitetips are at particular risk due to fishing pressure: Their fins are especially valued but their meat is not (the case for many sharks, sadly), meaning that when they do fall victim to bycatch (or are targeted) their fins are removed but the body is dumped at sea, meaning exact numbers of catches are extremely difficult to obtain and regulate. Studies that have been done indicate a 99% decline of populations in the Gulf of Mexico – similar trends have been seen in the northwest Atlantic and the Pacific. More information on this species, as well as the others up for vote in a matter of weeks and the latest developments, can be found on PEW Environment Group’s utterly brilliant coverage of CITES CoP 16. And if you’d like to join Shark Defenders’ efforts to show support for listing them, one of Shark Stanley’s friends is the lovely Waqi Whitetip!
In other shark conservation news, a couple of weeks ago the Ocean Artists Society released its first video project, Artists United for Sharks: Saving Sharks. My whale shark painting “Entourage” is featured (I apologise for my rather dreadful narration), and it’s truly an honour to be alongside such an astounding collection of artists. Very much looking forward to our future endeavours!