Shark case you haven't heard

Shark Stanley…in case you haven’t heard

Shark Stanley is the big kahuna on the Yale F&ES campus these days. This finned celebrity has grown out of two of our students’ effort to bring the globally urgent issue of shark and ray conservation to the forefront of the hearts of minds of decision-makers everywhere, especially those at the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).

F&ES students Leah Meth and Onon Bayasgalan (both MEM ’13) are the masterminds behind the idea of embodying marine species–sharks and rays–as an innovative means of lobbying for their protection under CITES. 

Their approach, which integrates ecological literacy, policy acumen, and social media savvy, features two major tactics. First, Meth and F&ES classmate Ben Goldfarb, have authored a picture book (appropriate for children and adults alike), illustrated with watercolors by New Haven artist, Daniel Yagmin Jr. Preview the book here! 

Their other tactic is the digital dissemination of Stanley’s official portrait, as well as that of Stanley’s three salty sidekicks– shark and manta ray species for which Meth and Bayasgalan are lobbying for CITES listing. In lieu of a plain-vanilla online petition, these images are photo ops–that is, interactive petitions by which supporters submit photographs of themselves posing with Shark Stanley and/or one of his friends. These photographs Meth and Bayasgalan aggregate and keep records on. So far, thousands of supporters from 105 countries have “signed on”–that’s about 60% of the 177 countries that are signatories to CITES.

The creativity of Meth and Bayasgalan’s campaign is striking and, we daresay, unprecedented in the conservation world, as well as in policy more broadly. Before their March trip to Bangkok to lobby CITES on behalf of Stanley and his friends, Meth and Bayasgalan aim to collect at least 20 supporters’ photos from each of the 177 CITES signatory nations.

If you want to add your voice of support, please visit the Shark Defenders website, the organization that Meth and Bayasgalan are using as a platform for this effort. Post a photo of yourself with one of the downloadable images by uploading to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram tagged with@SharkDefenders, #SharkStanley, and the country where you live (i.e. #USA, #Fiji, #Brazil, etc). Also, please email your photos to for the organization’s running tally!

On campus, join us this coming week for a four-day event on the international trade and conservation of sharks, aptly entitled Shark Week. The line-up for this series of events is below.

Tuesday, Feb. 12, 7:00pm — 8:30 pm, Sharkwater (2006) Film Screening, Burke Auditorium: Set in the most shark-rich waters of our planet, Sharkwater, a documentary by Rob Stewart, debunks many popular myths about sharks and demonstrates the threats to their survival.

Friday, Feb. 15, 1:00 pm — 5:30 pm, From Ocean to Plate: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the International Trade & Conservation of Sharks and Marine Species, Burke Auditorium: Speaker series featuring eight luminaries from the fields of marine biology, ecology, conservation, the arts and humanities, and the sustainable seafood movement, followed by an evening reception.

Dr. Barbara A. Block, marine physiologist and ecologist, Stanford University – “Sushi and Satellites: Tracking Sharks and Tunas Across the Blue Serengeti”

Dr. Paul Anderson, Research Scientist, Mystic Aquarium – “The Ecology of Top-Level Predators Demands Ecosystem Conservation”

Dr. Demian Chapman, shark biologist, Stony Brook University – “Wildlife Forensics and the Shark Fin Trade”

Dr. Susan Lieberman, Director of International Policy, Pew Environment Group – “Sharks: CITES and the Global Policy Agenda”

David Doubilet, underwater photographer, National Geographic Magazine – “Photography: The Language of Conservation”

James Prosek, artist, naturalist and author – “Ocean Fishes: An artist’s observations on how we depict, name and order nature”

Krishna Thompson, shark attack survivor and conservation advocate – “My Story”

Barton Seaver, National Geographic Fellow and chef dedicated to sustainable seafood

…And on Friday, from 5:30-6:15, the book’s official launch!

Image: a small subset of Shark Stanley and friends’ supporters

 Anandi van Diepen is a first-year Master of Environmental Science student working in the area of environmental health inequality.