Interview: Shark Allies

Sharks are not only one of the world’s most fascinating and deadliest creatures, but they are also among the most endangered ones. The fishing industry is killing more than 100 million sharks each year. If this trend is about to continue, it will lead to the extinction of some shark species.

Fortunately, nonprofit organizations like Shark Allies are fighting against the overfishing of sharks and rays. In 2010, the organizational founder, Stefanie Brendl, worked with Hawaii State Senator Clayton Hee to bring to passage the first shark fin trade ban in the world.

I asked Stefanie Brendl a couple of questions about her mission, the current state of the shark hunting industry and her future plans.

ReadingSavesLives: Why and how did you start Shark Allies? Can you tell us about the early days of this project?

Stefanie Brendl: I started Shark Allies in 2007 in Hawaii. I was diving with sharks every day for my dive business Hawaii Shark Encounters and realized that there was much to be done for the conservation and protection of sharks.

In the early days I focused on education during trips and by visiting schools to give presentations. It quickly became clear that research and education alone is not enough to help sharks. Much of shark conservation takes place in government buildings, so I decided to get myself educated on policy and advocacy.

RsL: What or who are the biggest threats to sharks? (Specific group, organization, pollution, …)

Brendl: The biggest damage is done by the commercial fishing industry, and in some locations also the recreational fishers. The market for fins, meat, squalene and other products – this includes targeted fishing, bycatch or unintended/accidental catch, creates the incentive to keep taking sharks. Also general overfishing and degradation of reefs creates a loss of habitat. If there are no fish, there will be no sharks.

RsL: What setbacks and successes have you experienced since the founding of Shark Allies?

Brendl: We have had lots of successes. The Hawaii shark fin bill was the first of its kind and set in motion a wave of similar laws across the Pacific and the United States. We haven’t had any major setbacks, but mostly just tedious delays, such as when the Florida bill needed to be reintroduced in the second year. Other limitations are usually directly related to not being able to raise funds. There is an unlimited amount of work to be done, and we have strategies for many campaigns, but it would require a much bigger work force to tackle it all.

RsL: Can you talk a little bit about the Hawaii bill of 2010 to ban shark fin trading?

Brendl: Rather than legislating the act of finning, which is very difficult to enforce, the Hawaii bill tackled the issue with a different approach – to deal with the product, the shark fins, and the trade of the product, rather than making more fishing rules or arguing animal cruelty. Making shark fins essentially contraband, and therefore making the law highly enforceable.

We had no idea that we would actually succeed. The initial intention was to move things as far along as possible, and then build on whatever ground we had gained, but to our great surprise, the bill gained more and more support and we got it passed.

RsL: What is the current state of the shark finning industry?

Brendl: While the consumption of shark fin soup has gone down by a high degree in China and Hong Kong, it has gone up in many other Asian countries. The demand in the US used to be quite high (mostly in cities), but this has been curbed by the State fin bans. The international trade of fins is not being dealt with so the traders continue to find new avenues to transport and sell shark fins. Many countries are also reluctant to put more effective measures into place because of the fear of economic losses to fishermen, or due to corruption. Shark fishing continues at an unsustainable rate around the world.

RsL: Sharks are known for their rather negative reputation unlike dolphins and whales. Do you think their threatening demeanor makes it more difficult for you to convince people to fight for their protection?

Brendl: Sometimes. More and more people are understanding that natural balance is important. While they may not like sharks, they don’t necessarily want to get rid of them anymore. Much has changed in the last 20 years. The support for shark conservation doesn’t come from the public, it comes from government agencies, NGOs, donors etc., so whether the negative public image has an impact is at this point disputable.

It’s a lack of government action to protect species, get rid of harmful fisheries and their subsidies and the lack of funding available for shark conservation and advocacy.
In the nations where most sharks are consumed in products such as shark fin soup, the lack of protection is not due to fear of sharks or because of a negative image. It’s because the soup is a status symbol.

The energy for shark conservation projects is constantly drained because most donors have their favorite animals or they are now focusing on Climate change issues or other charities.

Extinction Soup. A documentary about the international trade of shark fins. Director Philip Waller, 2017. (c) Shark Allies.

RsL: What are some facts about sharks that could change people’s opinion about them in a positive way?

Brendl: There are many. You can find those on our website. Most importantly is the fact that, whether you like them or not, sharks are important to our ocean’s health. So if you would like to have healthy fish populations, reefs, food security in the future and a functioning ocean world, you have to support sharks.

RsL: You started a charity campaign for your organization via Streamlabs Charity. What made you decide to use a streaming platform for your nonprofit and what has been your experience so far?

Brendl: I don’t know too much about it, but one member contacted me and suggested I should set up a charity profile so he can fundraise. So far we have had only a few small fundraisers.

RsL: How else do you finance your endeavors?

Brendl: Events, donations, merchandise sales, grants.

RsL: What are Shark Allies’ plans for the future? What can we expect?

Brendl: We continue to work on the 4 pillars as outlined on the site:

1. Overfishing and the fin trade
2. Shark Products (squalene in Vaccines and cosmetics, shark meat, souvenirs etc)
3. Protection the habitat (MPAs, Shark Sanctuaries, Policy)
4. Changing the way we value sharks (Entertainment industry, media, tourism)

Plus all the awareness and education that goes along with each campaign.

RsL: Thank you very much for your answers!


LINKS:

Shark Allies Website

Shark Allies Twitter

Shark Allies Instagram

Shark Allies Streamlabs Charity

Interview: Streamlabs Charity

Image via Streamlabs Charity Blog © 2021 Streamlabs. All Rights Reserved

Playing video games online via streaming platforms like Twitch or Youtube has surged in popularity. Twitch alone has about 10-15 million active users daily. In the past few years, video game streaming has also taken a more generous and philanthropic direction – combining playfulness with altruism.

One of the forerunners of the streaming industry is Streamlabs. The company offers several different software tools, which help content creators with their designs and operational tasks. Streamlabs Charity is one of their newer online services, but already supports 775 charities. In 2020, the platform raised $4.6 million for different charity organizations.

I asked Eric Freytag, Communications Manager of Streamlabs Charity, a few questions about their fundraising platform and what creators should know before they decide to enter the world of charity streaming.

ReadingSavesLives: Since when do you work for Streamlabs Charity and what brought you to the platform?

Eric Freytag: I’ve worked at Streamlabs since 2017 back when it was a pretty small startup, so I’ve gotten to help build a bunch of really fun projects like our theme library, mobile app, slobs remote control app, Safe Mode, and of course Streamlabs Charity.

RsL: Who came up with the idea of a charity platform for streamers?

Freytag: All the credit for this goes to streamers themselves. Charity has always been closely associated with the streaming community; the amount of generosity in the gaming community is incredible. We saw that streamers were already running charity streams using our tipping platform but also that they had to use workarounds and third-party technology to make it happen, so building a new platform with everything streamers need to run a successful charity stream was just a logical next step for us.

RsL: What criteria do nonprofit organizations and streamers have to meet to participate at Streamlabs Charity? (E.g.: number of followers, team affiliation, OBS, 501(c)(3), …)

Freytag: All charities on the platform do need to be registered nonprofit organizations. So they do all need to have charitable EIN (Employer Identification Number) status in the United States, or a similar charity number in their respective countries. They also need to have a website in good standing, and their account needs to be created from an email address that matches that web domain. We welcome charities of all sizes though, so there’s no minimum requirement for followers or anything like that.

RsL: How do you prevent scammers?

Freytag: For every charity that joins the platform, we verify that their charity number is valid and good standing as listed on official government websites. We also audit their website to make sure that the work they do complies with our terms and conditions (no violence, no hate speech, etc.), and we verify that every account holder is in fact a member of the charity. We also validate that their paypal account matches the domain of the charity’s website, and get written authorization from the point of contact listed on the charity’s website.

RsL: Is Streamlabs Charity also usable for people living outside of the USA?

Freytag: Absolutely! We have charities from many different countries, and donors from all over the world as well.

RsL: Can you tell us some common mistakes nonprofits and streamers are committing on Streamlabs Charity?

Freytag: If I could make one recommendation to all charities, it would be to get to know the streaming community. Spend some time watching streams, interacting with streamers, and participating as much as possible. This is how relationships are formed, and the best way to meet streamers that will be excited about helping your mission.

Also, make a special event out of your charity stream. Come up with milestones, giveaways, items to auction, and other fun ways to interact with your viewers to involve them in the event and get them excited about participating. A little planning goes a long way.

RsL: What other advice would you give someone, who wants to become a charity streamer?

Freytag: Before you start the charity stream, learn as much as you can about the charity you’re fundraising for. These nonprofits are doing incredible work for amazing causes, and if you can authentically and enthusiastically share that with your viewers, they’ll be much more passionate about fundraising with you.

Depending on what game you play when you stream, you probably have some down time when you’re in the lobby waiting for the next game to start. Times like that are great moments to share all the reasons you’re excited about the charity, and why all the reasons they could really use some support.

RsL: Why should someone choose Streamlabs Charity over other fundraising platforms like Tiltify?

Freytag: No matter what platform you use, you should be proud of the contribution you’re making. Some of my favorite features of Streamlabs Charity are:


⦁ Our Timed Giveaway overlay widget, which allows your donors to automatically enter a giveaway during a certain period of time, and randomly selects a winner when the time expires


⦁ Our Milestones overlay widget, which automatically tracks and completes your milestones in real time, directly from your broadcast software


⦁ Our Teams feature, built for collaborative fundraising that lets you display alerts for your entire team or individually


⦁ The fact that we’re 100% free for charities, donors, and streamers. Streamlabs Charity is itself a charitable platform; we have no monetization of any kind from the platform so that we can help streamers and donors maximize their fundraising efforts.

RsL: Does Streamlabs Charity work on different platforms like Youtube or Twitch equally well or are there some technical distinctions to be considered?

Freytag: Absolutely! Regardless of the platform you’re on, you’ll have access to our full suite of tools.

RsL: What is the relationship/cooperation with other streaming platforms like?

Freytag: We have a bunch of friends and allies at Twitch and Youtube, and we all help each other out to make it as easy as possible for streamers to fundraise for great causes.

RsL: What are Streamlabs Charity’s plans for the rest of 2021 and beyond? What can we expect?

Freytag: We have a dedicated team of designers and developers that are focused full-time on this platform, so you can definitely expect it to be improving and growing daily. We also love feedback, so if there are specific features that streamers think would be helpful, please let us know any time by emailing support@streamlabs.com.

Thank you very much for your answers!


LINKS:

Streamlabs Charity

Streamlabs Twitter

Streamlabs Twitch

Streamlabs Youtube

Streamlabs Blog