— free diving, fishing, surfing and now working to gather information and spread education about the most misunderstood creatures of the sea. Today, as you’ll find on his website, Winram holds a number of unusual job titles: Shark Publicist, Ocean Environmentalist, Underwater Model, Photographer and Videographer.
— swimming towards, then away from the shark, as it did the same. This was a turning point in Winram's understanding of sharks. This experience didn’t make sense with what he had learned and read in books, and he couldn’t find studies that described this type of behavior. At once, he became committed to learning more about shark behavior.
Between 26–73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins, which are used to meet the exploding demand for shark fin soup. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature defines shark finning as “the removal and retention of shark fins and the discard at sea of the rest of the carcass.” The demand for shark fin soup has increased so much that shark finning can be found worldwide. Without regulation, the near valueless carcass of the shark is thrown overboard, only utilizing about 2-5 percent of the shark's body.
Although shark fin soup has been a popular Chinese entrée for years because of its association with prestige and privilege, many people are pledging to help protect sharks (see, APAOHA Background.pdf) and honor even older tenets of Asian philosophy that emphasize the importance of harmony between nature and humanity. Concerned individuals across Asia — from China and Taiwan to Singapore and Hong Kong — have formed shark protection groups to highlight the plight of sharks. A growing number of governments have outlawed removal of shark fins from shark bodies on board fishing vessels. Some governments and businesses in the Pacific region have pledged not to serve shark fin soup at government functions, business meetings or celebratory banquets. A number of globally recognized Asian chefs support making celebratory soup from shark fin alternatives.
As Winram’s gorgeous, dramatic photos portray, there is a lot more to sharks than Hollywood stereotypes convey. Sharks are powerful and fascinating, but the truth is, their populations are in danger because of human behavior. Because sharks mature very late, have few young, and are long-lived, they are particularly in danger of overexploitation. Last Friday, the Guardian highlighted a report released by the Pew Environment Group describing their plight and the need for immediately improving shark conservation.
Fortunately, concerned citizens, businesses, and decision makers are standing up for a simple change that could mean the survival of these powerful creatures.