JAMES GLANCY

In our se­ries about peo­ple with a pas­sion for a species, we ask TV pre­sen­ter and for­mer Royal Ma­rine James Glancy why he ad­mires the oceanic whitetip.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Viewpoint - JAMES GLANCY is di­rec­tor of con­ser­va­tion for the char­ity Vet­er­ans for Wildlife. He will present on Shark Week 2019, on the Discovery Chan­nel from 28 July.

Why are you cham­pi­oning this species?

Sharks have cap­ti­vated me since I was a child. Aged 14, I learnt to dive and en­coun­tered my first bull shark on a fam­ily hol­i­day in Florida. I’ve cho­sen the oceanic whitetip be­cause it is an amaz­ing fish that doesn’t have any cham­pi­ons. It used to be one of the most abun­dant shark species seen in deep wa­ter but has suf­fered huge de­clines. I’ve stud­ied whitetips for years and got in the wa­ter with them while pre­sent­ing a TV show in 2018.

What was it like to dive with oceanic whitetips?

Dur­ing film­ing, I spent 43 hours in the ocean – free div­ing in the day and in a net­ted alu­minium pen at night – to see how the sharks re­acted to peo­ple in the wa­ter. In the first five hours, 12 whitetips showed up. At night their be­hav­iour changed as they went into hunt­ing mode, bump­ing into the pen with their snouts but they didn’t try to bite. As preda­tors, they re­mind me of the way wolves or dogs act – on their own, they are unlikely to at­tack un­less they are ex­tremely hungry or ag­gra­vated but they are more dan­ger­ous when they work to­gether and a few con­fi­dent in­di­vid­u­als make the first move.

Does it de­serve its bad rep­u­ta­tion?

In the me­dia, oceanic whitetips are por­trayed as lone, mind­less killers and as one of the most dan­ger­ous shark species but

this is far from the truth. They are ac­tu­ally cau­tious, de­spite be­ing bold, and are in­tel­li­gent an­i­mals that rely on so­cial in­ter­ac­tion. These sharks are op­por­tunis­tic scav­engers.

Why is the whitetip in trou­ble?

Fish­ing pres­sure through­out its range is a huge threat to this highly mi­gra­tory species. It is caught in large num­bers as by­catch, in pelagic fish­eries, long­lines and gill nets. The rise in de­mand for shark-fin soup also makes them a prized target, be­cause they have beau­ti­ful, long fins – once caught, their carcass is of­ten dis­carded. In the North­west and West­ern Cen­tral At­lantic, enor­mous de­clines have been re­ported. In the Gulf of Mex­ico, it’s thought to have de­clined by 98 per cent over a 30-year pe­riod.

How can we save it?

We need to cre­ate larger ma­rine pro­tected ar­eas with proper en­force­ment; con­serve pop­u­la­tions by agree­ing on in­ter­na­tional reg­u­la­tion for sus­tain­able fish­ing poli­cies; ban gill nets and re­duce the use of long-line ves­sels and the amount they can catch. Ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple about how sharks are caught and where shark prod­ucts end up is also re­ally im­por­tant.

What ac­tion do you want?

Po­lit­i­cal will to give this species and other sharks bet­ter pro­tec­tion. These apex preda­tors need the same at­ten­tion as ele­phants, rhi­nos and pan­golins. On av­er­age, hu­mans kill 100 mil­lion sharks a year. When you com­pare this to about six doc­u­mented hu­man deaths a year from sharks, hu­mans are the threat, not sharks. Jo Price

S Whitetips are por­trayed as lone, mind­less killers but this is far from the truth. T

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