Underwatertimes.com News Service - February 7, 2010 18:04 EST

The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education, known more commonly by its acronym "COARE", announced today, along with partner organizations Sea Stewards and WildAid, that two new shark conservation efforts would be launched at events this weekend.

As part of the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival at Theater 39, the Shark Stewardship Program includes shark films and advocacy for sustainability. Shark conservation films will be screened on Saturday morning beginning at 10:00am, and a panel discussion with sustainable industry experts will follow at 12:15pm, at the Aquarium of the Bay.

"Sea Stewards is promoting our new Shark Sanctuary San Francisco Initiative at this event," said Sea Stewards Director David McGuire. "We are urging our leadership to ensure that shark products are sourced from sustainable fisheries or are removed from the menus and shelves of San Francisco. Shark populations are threatened worldwide by unsustainable fisheries and consumptive practices. With our partners, we are asking consumers and purveyors to choose healthy alternatives to shark fin and other shark products." Recent studies have used DNA to show that some of the shark fins used for soup are taken from endangered species.

Shark fin soup, a dish traditionally served at Chinese weddings and banquets, has grown in popularity, increasing consumer demand for shark fins. However, dwindling shark populations worldwide are suffering as millions of sharks are killed every month, many for their fins alone. "The consumption of shark fin soup increases dramatically this time of year," said Christopher Chin, COARE's Executive Director. "Many people believe that eating the soup at the beginning of the lunar new year will ensure prosperity in the months to come."

On Sunday, 07 February, from 11:00am-3:00pm, COARE and WildAid will be holding their second "Sharks in the Park" event at Portsmouth Square in Chinatown, this year joined by Sea Stewards, to raise awareness of the need for shark conservation. The event will include a large, life-sized inflatable white shark, the petition for "Shark Sanctuary San Francisco," and information about sharks and sustainability in both English and Chinese. "This is going to be even more successful than last year," said Chin. "We've planned this to coincide with the Flower Fair and other celebrations preceding Chinese New Year, and we expect to get a lot of attention, especially with our new messages."

Both COARE and WildAid work closely with the Chinese community to promote conservation in culturally appropriate ways. "We have observed that a number of well-intentioned shark conservation efforts have failed to persuade their intended audience, and sometimes even alienated those they meant to engage, because they failed to account for language and cultural differences," said Richard Nelson, one of COARE's directors. "Our program takes both language and culture into consideration, and works with communities to decrease the demand for products that are harmful to sharks and the ocean."

In an effort to extend important messages to key audiences, COARE recently translated its Shark Safe website (www.sharksafe.org) into several languages, including Chinese. "We're particularly proud of and excited about the Chinese version of our website, said Chin. "The need for shark conservation is a global issue, so our efforts need to transcend international borders, cultural differences, and language barriers."

At Sunday's event, COARE and WildAid will begin utilizing new Chinese language messages which call attention to the mercury found in shark products. Developed in collaboration with members of the Chinese community, these new signs are designed to catch attention. "Not everyone is moved by the conservation argument," said Chin, "but almost everyone's ears perk up when we start talking about mercury and health."

For more information about the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival, visit http://oceanfilmfest.org

For more information about Sharks in the Park, visit http://www.coare.org/events

About COARE The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education, Inc. (COARE) is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Its purpose is to study our oceans and increase public awareness of the earth's marine environment through educational programs and outreach. COARE seeks to enlighten people, young and old, to the plight of the oceans, to change the way they think and act, and to encourage them to create positive and lasting change.

About Sea Stewards Sea Stewards is an organization dedicated to creating and distributing "Media for a healthy ocean." They comprise expedition filmmakers, specializing in underwater and land-based conservation films, PSAs, and web content to communicate ocean stories.

About WildAid WildAid is the only organization that focuses on reducing the demand for endangered species products by specifically targeting consumers with engaging public service announcements and education initiatives. In the same way multinational corporations employ celebrities and athletes to promote their products, WildAid enlists popular Chinese and western celebrities to dissuade consumers from buying endangered species products with innovative multimedia campaigns. Their "When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too" message has secured over $100 million of media sponsorship and editorial coverage and reaches 1 billion worldwide.