Monday, March 31, 2008

Global Warming-Sea Critters Pissed

It has happened again. Sea critters that are "not going to take it anymore" and have decided to jump into boats full of people!

This whole thing started almost two years ago with the now infamous news story of a Marlin impaling a fisherman.

At that time people called us crazy for suggesting that this was some kind of global warming protest on behalf of the pissed sea critters. A quick look at the past few months in the news...and who's crazy now?

1. Great White leaps aboard boat full of Germans (video)

2. Shark jumps into boat full of kids (story)

3. Eagle Ray jumps into boat killing woman (story)

4. Another Marlin jumps into boat almost kills fisherman (video)

It's a jumping critter epidemic, people. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Drunks, 9mm Pistols, and Saltwater Crocs!

We love Australia. Where else can to get a story about drunken swimmers, cops with big guns, add in a 13 foot Saltwater Croc and call that the local news?

Australia-that's where!

Home to more critters that bite, sting, tear, infect, rip and maim, this country has it all. While cops in the good old USA have guns to shoot bad guys, Australians have them to keep all those critters we mentioned at bay:

First Class Constable Sean Stanley, from Alyangula Police station on Groote Eylandt, has been labelled a hero in his community -- and worldwide -- after he drew his Glock automatic pistol and shot at a 4m saltie about to attack a drunk.

But in an interview with the Northern Territory News last night he remained modest, saying "any NT Police officer would have done the same''.

And that's despite the fact Const Stanley called the man, who was trying to swim out to a baited croc trap about 70m offshore, an "idiot''.

He said the dramatic ordeal, which left him shouting out in panic at the man to "get out of the f...... water'', brought back memories of croc attack victim Russell Harris, who was taken when snorkelling at Picnic Beach on the islandin 2005.

Southern California White Shark Sightings

If it's April that can only mean two things here in California:

1. Spring
2. Great white sharks

Every year (just about now) the local media in Southern California runs with several stories about great whites on beach and near surfers with the Grunion Run and San Onofre beach being the prime site.

This week was par for the course:

"Tom Larkin is convinced that a shark jolted his surfboard and left what looks like a bite mark on the back end while he waited for a wave in the waters near Bolsa Chica State Beach earlier this month. After paddling in as his damaged surfboard took on water, the 26-year-old stock analyst from Manhattan Beach said he proceeded to freak out in the parking lot. I don't know what else it could have been."

But Huntington Beach lifeguards dismiss the reports as hogwash -- even though great whites have been spotted in the area in years past..looks like some Huntington Beach lifeguards will be looking for another job when the first video surfaces.

Panama Manta Expedition 2009

The Manta Network is conducting its first exploratory expedition to Panama. There are several reports and sightings of manta and mobula rays in the area. This will be our first opportunity to conduct detailed research in Panama.

On board the 100-foot Lost Coast Explorer we will investigate the area surrounding the Coiba National Park. The park is a new World Heritage site and is one of the largest marine parks in the world. Coiba is at the center of the park and is Panama's largest island. It is also home to the second-largest coral reef in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The waters are filled with very large fish and mammals including humpbacks whales, dolphins, orcas, whale sharks, manta rays, rooster fish, amber jack, big snappers, three kinds of marlin, moray eels, and white-tip, hammerhead, and tiger sharks. Sharks and mantas are especially common, and sea turtles are seen regularly.

You are invited to participate as a research assistant and aid our scientists in the collection of important data that will lead to effective manta protection. We plan to deploy our underwater video camera on manta cleaning stations as well as conduct photo identification field work.

We are offering a 6 day/7 night expedition to Coiba on the Lost Coast Explorer. The departure date is April 5 from Panama City returning April 11, 2008. The expedition cost is $3,295 plus airfare. The trip will be led by Robert Aston and Lynn Jaye.

The Manta Network is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and therefore the cost of the trip is IRS tax-deductible.

Only a limited number of research assistant spaces are being offered and these will sell out quickly. To book your space contact Robert Aston via email at: robert@mantas.org

Friday, March 28, 2008

Balancing Media-Bahamas Shark Attack

The media grabbed last months unfortunate shark attack in the Bahamas and chewed on it with a ferocity reserved only for Michael Viks vast Pit Bull Empire. It was, for a time, the shark story that would not go away.

Additionally, anyone during that month with a shark film to flog, pictures to sell, and anti-shark diving websites to promote did the same. The word "Circus" came to mind.

Once again the media is running with this story just in time for the spring dive charter season from the Red Sea to the Caribbean. What makes this story interesting is the reporting balance that is attempted here. This is the first time we have seen a story that even tries to take a look at the nuances involved in this highly charged issue.

The headline's a grabber, but the body has some interesting points both pro and con. It would be nice to see more of this kind of reporting and less of the rest.

In the end it will be up to the Bahamian Government and not the dive operations or even paying divers to decide how much liability they will be willing to accept in the name of cage-less big predator encounters.

Swimming with sharks: is it ever safe?

The death of an Austrian tourist bitten during an organised shark-safari dive off the Bahamas has reignited arguments about the safety of such pursuits.

Markus Groh, a 49-year-old lawyer from Vienna, was one of 10 scuba divers aboard the MV Shear Water, a charter boat operating from West Palm Beach, Florida, which embarked on a shark-safari expedition on February 24.

He was bitten on the left leg by a bull shark and taken by a US Coastguard helicopter to a hospital in Florida, 60 miles away. The Miami-Dade County medical examiner found that he had died from loss of blood.

According to an eyewitness, Groh was diving north of Great Isaac Cay, an uninhabited islet in the Bahamas, where sharks had been lured by plastic crates filled with fish heads and scraps placed near the reef by the Shear Water crew. On these dives large sharks and divers are in close proximity, and the divers do not use a safety cage. The attraction is that photographers get action shots of rarely seen predatory species including tiger sharks, bull sharks and great hammerheads.

Immediately after being bitten, Groh was taken to the surface by a dive guide and given first aid on the dive boat. Air evacuation was carried out within the hour but, in spite of clotting agents being applied to the wound, Groh bled to death.

Jim Abernethy’s Scuba Adventures, which operates the Shear Water vessel, is well known for its shark safaris to the Bahamas from Florida, where shark-feeding was banned in 2001. The Scuba Adventures’ website warns that “shark diving is a potentially dangerous activity”, and that the sharks will be attracted by “chumming the water with fish and fish parts to ensure the best results. Consequently, there will be food in the water at the same time as divers.”

Following the fatality, the Bahamas Diving Association said it had issued a letter discouraging dive operators from open-water diving without a cage with 10 species of potentially dangerous sharks - including tiger sharks, bull sharks and hammerhead sharks. This seems disingenuous given that most of these species have rarely been proven to prey on humans. Cage diving is not the same experience, and is usually only carried out with great white sharks whose behaviour is less predictable.

Shark-feeding is not illegal in the Bahamas and several local dive operators have, for many years, been safely conducting what are commonly known as “shark rodeos”, where dive guides feed sharks. I have taken part in numerous such dives, which are extremely exciting and a valuable opportunity for divers to study sharks at close range with experienced dive leaders.

However, most organised shark dives do not allow ''free chumming’’ where fish parts are scattered from a boat in advance to attract sharks. Some operators use a “chumsickle” a frozen block of fish scraps that thaws slowly underwater allowing very limited amounts of food to be released in front of the sharks. Others distribute bait, which is handled only by a shark wrangler in a protective suit who distributes it intermittently among the sharks a safe distance from the watching divers.

Chumming for sharks has attracted controversy in several parts of the world, including South Africa, where some experts argue that great white sharks are learning to associate the sound of boat engines and shark cages with the presence of food. However, with sharks increasingly endangered, and large specimens of most species becoming rarer, scuba divers are prepared to pay a lot to see them. The British company Divequest charges about £3,000 for a week-long shark expedition on Shear Water. The company aims to “maximise time spent in the water and in front of big sharks, as close as you want...”

American media reports of the attack have questioned the wisdom of divers getting into the water with large sharks, especially bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas), which are widely regarded as among the most aggressive species. It was a bull shark that bit Erich Ritter, the shark expert, in the Bahamas in 2002, when he was making a documentary about how unlikely sharks were to bite a human.

Nevertheless, most divers would argue that the death of one diver, however sad, is statistically insignificant when set against the number of safe encounters between divers and sharks. The International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida records, on average, fewer than 200 attacks a year worldwide, of which less than five per cent involve divers. By comparison, pet dogs account for almost 1,000 admissions a day to hospitals in the United States alone.

“People should be free to engage in activities that have a perceived risk,” said Simon Rogerson, editor of the British Sub Aqua Club magazine Dive. “If we restrict shark diving, then we would have to argue that deep diving or cave diving should also be forbidden. There are many things that divers do that are more dangerous than diving with big sharks.”

John Bantin, chief correspondent for Diver magazine, is equally reluctant to warn divers off shark encounters. “It’s easy to be wise after an accident,” he said. “Sharks are wild creatures with a degree of unpredictability, just like lions or buffalo. People get killed on safari but we don’t try to ban bushwalking following accidents that occur where professionals are leading tours.”

We continue to find sharks the most fascinating of sea creatures. I, for one, am in awe of them, and will always try to see them underwater. No creature has their grace or pure power and there is an undeniable thrill in meeting one. In their element, they are our superiors - and that is precisely why we are excited to see them.

Thanks to recreational divers, we understand that most sharks choose to avoid humans most of the time. Occasionally, there is a misunderstanding and someone gets bitten - but very rarely preyed upon. Markus Groh was not foolish to be in the water near sharks. With the evidence available, it seems he was just unlucky.

Solicitations-Better Than Credit Card Offers

Like you the crew here at Shark Diver probably gets about 50 offers a week from a wide range of companies.

The credit card companies are the worst, when you think that a deforested area the size of Rhode Island gets harvested every year just to present glossy credit offers to you...makes you wonder.

This offer came in today via email (at least they save a tree on the front end) for a fee, this company will feature your companies adventures in book form and mail it to you.

Naturally we hit "delete" but saved the cool image, looks like one of Rodney Foxes images from back in the late 80's-vintage stuff.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Shark Diving Media-791,575 And Counting

Almost 6 months ago the good folks at 689 Design, one of the coolest L.A Branding outfits out there, added this piece of video eye candy to You Tube. The idea was to see how niche video candy would work to a broader audience if you wrapped it up professionally.

The results for us here at Shark Diver have been simply amazing. Video eye candy works.

Here's the video once again. By the end of this week we'll be at 800,000 viewers and by the end of this year sitting at 1.2 million:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Aussie Croc Troubles-Crikey!

If you have travel around the world like we have you get to see some interesting places like Cairns, Australia. What makes this lush, green, tropical eden unique is that almost every single plant, animal, insect, and marine life will kill you-if given half a chance.

We're not kidding. In the ocean you have Stinger Jellies along with several varieties of sea snakes, on land you have red ants, black ants, mamba snakes, fruit bats, and of course the salt water crocs-which are absolutely everywhere and will even come out of the sink if you leave the water running long enough.

Do not take our word for it, here's a video of a saltie that made it into an anti stinger jelly net and freaked a local swimmer out last week. You have vacation choices people, we suggest going to Cairns with a baseball bat, a 7mm wet suit for day and night wear, and some anti stinger sauce, you'll know the stuff when you smell it.

Aside from that Cairns is a wonderful place:

California Salmon-Going, Going...

If you have followed the somewhat stunning news over the past few weeks, no, not that Hillary Clinton lied about coming under sniper fire in Bosnia, the California Salmon disaster.

Now we have so called experts all vying for a chance to determine why 89% of all salmon stocks have vanished this year.

No one knows the real reasons for the rapid decline but we do know the following:

1. Salmon fishing (both commercial and non commercial) in California is a multi million dollar industry.

2. Salmon populations tell of the overall health of the Pacific Ocean as salmon consume the same feed stock as seals, whales, and dolphins.

2. This eco disaster has long term consequences for the entire California region.

Here's the latest salmon return data from NOAA as you can see it's bad news, compounded by more bad news. What you are looking at is at least a ten year problem if the salmon ever return.

Monday, March 24, 2008

MSNBC-End of the World Adventures?

MSNBC came up with a travel article today. It's always nice to see great journalism at work. Of course we are kidding, this is your classic "End of the World" reportage that gets eyeballs (got ours) and needs to be addressed.

"No one knows why random things like ray attacks and zip-line snaps happen. You would need a mathematician — or a theologian — to wager a guess. Why are more people taking their chances on vacation, even when you take chance out of the equation? The answer, say experts, is we don’t know danger when we see it anymore. We can’t tell the difference being brave and being stupid."

Which leads us in the dive community to the timely discussion about assumed risk and what is a "safe" wild animal encounter or not. That discussion is being had right now in the Bahamas and we'll know soon where it leads. In the meantime this latest event has provided media fodder for the likes of MSNBC as they chew out more doomsday articles that in turn provide great copy for sites like the Cyber Diver Network.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

"Mambo" Creator Dead at 89

While this has absolutely nothing to to with sharks or shark diving
it is with some sadness that the world lost Israel "Cachao" Lopez this week due to complications from kidney failure.

Who was "Cachao" Lopez?

In the world of latin music this man was a titan, creating the mambo sound and launching a generation of latin music that survives to this day. If you are a fan of Cuban music this week was a tough one. Play on Cachao, play on!

Cuban-born jazz musician Israel "Cachao" Lopez, credited with inventing the mambo, has died in Miami at the age of 89.

The bassist and composer left Cuba for the US in the early 1960s and continued to perform until his final months. The mambo emerged from his improvisational work with his late brother, multi-instrumentalist Orestes Lopez, in the late 1930s.

A family spokesman said Lopez died with his relatives around him.

He had fallen ill in the past week and died at Coral Gable Hospital, the spokesman added.

White Sharks Vacation Desination? Mexico!

It would seem that vacation planning to Mexico is not just limited to Canadians, Europeans and Americans...white sharks love the sun too. Image hat tip DBtechno

Recently released white shark pup from the Monterey Bay Aquarium has made it all the way down the coast to Baja in record time, just six weeks. A similar track was made by a previously released white shark-with the tracking tag coming off the animals side prior to entering the Sea of Cortez.


(03-22) Chronicle -- One of California's best wildlife stories of the year, tracking the coastal adventures of a young great white shark, took a stunning twist in the past week.

The shark was released in February from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and in six weeks has already swum past the southern tip of Baja at Cabo San Lucas and is heading south to the Mexican mainland. That is a distance of roughly 1,200 miles covered in 44 days, according to electronic reports, an average of nearly 27 miles per day - and that's if the shark is swimming in a straight line, an unlikely event. That is the fastest a shark has been documented migrating south from Monterey to Baja, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

This past winter, more than 650,000 people saw the young great white shark during its 162-day stay at the aquarium.

Another twist is that the public can track the shark's position online, where its movements are updated and mapped. Check it out at: las.pfeg.noaa.gov/TOPP_recent/index.html.

Saga of Goldilox: A great white shark tagged by scientists and named "Goldilox" has swum 5,441 miles and is now roaming off, yep, San Francisco, likely looking for something to take a bite out of. They get hungry, you know. Check it out at topp.or

Thursday, March 20, 2008

South African Chew Toys

Here at the Shark Diver office we have a Rotweiller called Sierra who just loves her chew toys.

In South Africa they have taken the chew toy to a higher art form. Sent in via Andrea R who's buddies caught chew toy mania off the coast of Gansbaii last week. As always, the shark diving is good. One question-what do they put on those things, crazy glue?

Shark Diver in the News

One of our divers from 2007 got published in the local news. As a shark diving company we never really understand how profound our adventures are to people until we read about from their first hand accounts. Any way you slice it Isla Guadalupe delivers time and time again.

By Steve Hutchings

I saw Jaws when I was 11 years old, after which I was so petrified of the water I wouldn’t go in the bathtub for a year.

This is one of many thoughts swimming through my head as I step off the stern of the MV Islander and onto the top of a cage suspended three metres below the surface of shark-infested waters.

Our dive master, Luke Tipple, hands me my mouthpiece, from which I’ll be breathing surface-supplied air. I insert the mouthpiece and grab my underwater camera. Then, with a deep breath, I slide into the cage below.

There are four of us in the cage, off the coast of Baja, California.

Although I swam with reef sharks in Thailand three years ago, we’re all rookie shark divers in these waters, having endured several months of comments like “shark bait!” from our peers, united by our desire – and each of us having plopped down $3,000 US with San Diego-based Shark Diver – to experience the oft-vilified, yet enigmatic great white shark.

We move around the cage for the first five minutes, searching for any signs of a great white shark. Scores of mackerel cloud our view, attracted to the two tunas that the crew set out to attract the sharks.

Then, amidst the fish below our cage, I see a shark. He’s smaller than I anticipated. About two metres long, he propels himself with slow, side-to-side movements of his tail. I crouch down to watch, mesmerized as he disappears from sight.

Several more sharks appear sporadically over the next 10 minutes, before disappearing for half an hour. We’re beginning to think we’ve seen our last shark on this dive.

Tipple taps the other cage with a metal bar, indicating the end of the hour-long dive. I watch as the divers in the other cage ascend and wait for a new set of four divers to replace them. Nothing.

I climb out of our cage, and when I reach the surface, Tipple, in his Australian accent, says “Steve, mate, do me a favour and go back under. There are sharks all around you and it’s too dangerous to come up.”

I panic, thinking there are too many sharks around the boat for our crew to handle and that the situation has deteriorated to dangerous.

I let go of the ladder and fall back into the cage, dragged down by the 40-pound diving belt, and land on my rear end. I’m still struggling to get off my backside, when a large female shark swims past our cage, two metres in front of us.

The other three divers clamour to get their cameras in position. I’m still trying to get on my feet. That’s when I see another shark, swimming directly toward me. My heart races as his snout gets bigger, and closer.

Just as I’m convinced he’s going to attack our cage, at less than a metre away, he veers to his right and swims past me, and I notice something about him that I’ve never seen in any pictures of a Great white shark before – there is a purple ring around his pupil. We stare at each other, eye to eye, until he’s past our cage and disappears into the background.

I just made eye contact with a Great white shark.

Such was our first dive at Guadalupe Island, off Baja California, about 300 kilometres south of San Diego, on a five-day, live-aboard diving expedition arranged by Shark Diver.

Great Whites congregate off Guadalupe between August and December each year. The sharks seen here are resident sharks.

Much like the resident orcas off Vancouver Island, marine biologists have named about 60 of the estimated 200 sharks that come here.

Chica, Bruce and the ever-popular Shredder are some of the well-known sharks at Guadalupe, the latter being a favourite of many divers for his consistency and his aggressive attitude.

On a subsequent dive he veered towards a male diver in the cage, who retreated backward.

A female diver later recounted that she watched Shredder’s pupil following the male diver as he swam past the cage, seemingly pleased that he intimidated the man.

I guess boys will be boys, no matter what the species.

Steve Hutchings is a Victoria-based Communications professional with a hefty dose of adventure travel in his blood.

Eagle Ray Kills Boater-Florida

Karma has a few things to say about this latest and very bizarre accident in Florida. Expect to see George Burgess quoted somewhere in the next 24hrs.

MIAMI (Reuters) - An eagle ray leaped onto a boat off the Florida Keys on Thursday and stabbed a woman with its barb, knocking her to the deck and killing her, a Florida wildlife investigator said.

"It's a bizarre accident," said Jorge Pino, an agent with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The woman and her family were aboard a boat in the Atlantic Ocean, off the city of Marathon in the Florida Keys, he said.

"A large ray jumped out of the water and collided with the victim and somehow the barb penetrated some part of her body, which caused her to fall back and hit her head on some portion of the vessel," Pino said. "We don't know exactly which one of those things caused her death."

Local media said the animal's barb had impaled the woman through the neck.

Eagle rays are common in warm or tropical waters and are often seen near coral reefs. The spotted creatures can grow to more than 8 feet across and have two to six short, venomous barbs near the base of their whip-like tails, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History's Web site.

The rays often swim near the water's surface and can leap out, especially when pursued, but are generally shy of humans.

"All rays leap out of the water from time to time but certainly to see one collide with a vessel is extremely unusual,"

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

King Diamond Incident-Overturned

What started in 2002 as one of the biggest hauls of shark fins in US waters and known in the eco community as the King Diamond Two Incident has ended this week in US courts with a stunning court reversal:

SAN DIEGO, 2002-Authorities seized a Hawaii-based fishing vessel with at least 12 tons of illegally harvested shark fins on board, the Coast Guard said yesterday.

The 82-foot King Diamond II, with a five-member crew, was stopped and searched about 350 miles southeast of Acapulco, Mexico, and towed to San Diego.

The crew of the Kind Diamond II, based in Honolulu, is suspected of buying shark fins from other fishing vessels while at sea in violation of a U.S. law adopted in 2000.

"Wasteful fishing practices can lead to devastation of vital living marine resources and economic hardship," said Dale Jones, the chief of law enforcement for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The ship was stopped by a U.S. Navy ship and searched by a Coast Guard law enforcement detachment on Aug. 13. It was towed to San Diego on Friday by a Coast Guard cutter.

Agents from the fisheries service were trying to determine the exact amount of shark fin stored in the hold, and the amount could be as high as 35 tons, said Paul Ortiz, a senior enforcement attorney for the fisheries service.

Today a San Francisco appeals court judge overturned the earlier ruling in a stunning upset for eco groups and law enforement, opening the way for a counter lawsuit by the shark finners against NOAA, the US Navy, and others involved with the original seizure :

The company, Tai Loong Hong Marine Products Ltd., in the summer of 2002 chartered an American cargo ship that picked up the 32 tons of shark fins from 20 other vessels on the high seas. The company's plan was to deliver the fins to Guatemala. U.S. Coast Guard officials boarded the ship, escorted it to San Diego and sought to confiscate the cargo, valued at $619,000, on the ground that the law had been violated. But the appeals court said the law doesn't give notice that a cargo ship would be considered a fishing vessel aiding in shark finning.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sean Van Sommeran-"Shark Bloviator" Extreme

You have to love this guy or hate him. When Sean Van Sommeran of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation has something to say...he can usually find someone who'll listen to him.

Casually factual when talking about commercial shark diving and always controversial when talking about anything else:

From Santa Cruz Live:

With PSRF set to present its annual shark report this Tuesday at the Santa Cruz Surfrider Foundation’s monthly meeting, now seemed like an appropriate time to catch up with Van Sommeran on some the latest news regarding shark research and shark activity in our local waters…

So Sean, when we’re talking about sharks in the Monterey Bay region, are we primarily talking about great white sharks?

That’s where a lot of people’s interests gravitate toward, just because it’s the big, heavy one. But I spend as much time with other, less grandiose species: leopard sharks, guitar fish. They’re not going to overturn the boat or anything, but I spend a lot of time with those animals too.

A few years ago there was a lot of controversy over shark diving tours chumming the waters and using surfboards as lures to attract white sharks. Surfers were concerned that these tour groups were actually teaching sharks to associate the silhouette of a surfboard with food? Were their concerns valid?

They weren’t just floating surfboards in an effort to get the animal up to the surface where it could be seen, but actually putting a wetsuit stuffed with fish on top of it. It wasn’t just about seeing the animal. It was also like, ‘now watch this!’ It wouldn’t be accepted with other species of protected animals, let alone a big potentially dangerous shark. And we could see people surfing from where they did this stuff. A lot of us were members of Surfrider Foundation anyway. So the Surfrider Foundation actually filed the lawsuit that spurred the Marine Sanctuary (Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary) to impose the restrictions that are still in place (against shark cage diving).

The Farallones are less protected to a degree, but there still is no feeding the sharks or using bait allowed. They can still dunk cages in the water. They’re not supposed to chum. There’s little enforcement, but I think most of them don’t. It’s not needed. What’s interesting about the Farallones is there are these big elephant seal predations where the sharks eat these seals. Natural behavior can often times be more interesting than anything you can draw up, so I think they’ve come to the realization that they can just sit by and watch what normally happens without provoking the shark to slam into the cage and all that stuff. They can still sell their $1,100 dollar tickets. Our position is simply that we want to try and remove the hazardous aspects of the industry. We think that shark viewing should be just like bear watching or orca watching or whale watching. It should be enough to see the animal in its environment. To have it come up and “almost get you” is just stupid.

But, in your opinion, did surfers have a legitimate concern?

Yeah, I think so. One of the most basic tenets of wildlife care is “don’t feed the animals.” It’s just like feeding a stray dog, or pigeons, they’ll keep coming back. You can even get a plant to lean toward light and/or water. It’s just the most basic thing: Any animal is going to gravitate towards what it needs. It’s been demonstrated with reef sharks and with white sharks as well that if you repetitively feed the animal in a restricted particular location, they’ll learn to look for that. So we’ve always been strong proponents of limited baiting and no feeding whatsoever. And certainly no deliberate provocations. A lot of the cage diving trips involve getting the sharks to hit the cage or getting the shark to take the bait out of a guy’s hand, just this escalating dangerous proximity that we don’t see as a viable recreational pastime.

What will you be focusing on in your presentation Tuesday?

Well Todd Endris (Monterey Bay surfer who survived an attack from a great white shark at Marina State Beach on August 28, 2007) got injured by a shark off Marina, so we’ll be talking about that. There’s a myth out there that dolphins saved him. There’s an old fable that dolphins will protect people from sharks and can beat up sharks. Because the dolphins were there just prior to (Endris) getting hit and then while he was getting hit there were still dolphins nearby jumping out of the water and stuff–and he didn’t die, like 99 percent of the people who get bitten by sharks don’t die–but because there were dolphins there this time (Endris) was presuming they were the reason (he was saved). I’m glad he’s ok. But one of the potentially alarming aspects of that story was that a lot of people I talked to afterwards were saying, “Oh, that’s cool that dolphins will protect you. So if I see dolphins then I’ll just paddle closer to them and I’ll be safe.” And it’s like “No, no, no.”

Yeah, I’ve been told before that if you see dolphins in the lineup it’s a good sign that sharks aren’t in the vicinity and that sharks are afraid of dolphins because they can gang up on them in pods and will actually ram sharks from all sides. Not true?

No. Dolphins can beat up and don’t have any problem with most species of sharks, but there are also several species that dolphins show up in their stomachs all the time, including great whites. In the Mediterranean one of their primary food items is dolphins and tunas. In fact, our contention is that when you see birds diving and lots of porpoises near shore and stuff, that’s when you don’t want to be in the water. The Bay is kind of like this big revolving Serengeti Plain out there and every once in a while it touches the shore, right? So you don’t want to go swimming out in the middle of that. If there’s any time that there is a likelihood of a big predator being out there—it’s not likely to bite you, but if you’re concerned about that kind of thing—it’s when there’s tons of food there. It’s very likely that the shark was shadowing that group of dolphins anyway and that’s what brought it in the lineup.

So if you see dolphins in the lineup is that actually a bad sign that sharks might also be in the vicinity?

The whole shark attack equation is something that needs to be kind of downplayed. You don’t have to hype it up. If you look at it statistically, there have been just over 100 attacks (on people) on the west coast since the 1920s, so it really is less than lightning strikes. It’s a very rare instance. The proximity of humans and sharks in the water is much greater than a lot of people realize. The good news is that they don’t often bite humans. Now people don’t often get hit by lightning either, but you can have conditions like rainstorms and lightning storms where you can increase your chances. You know, you run out with an aluminum golf club onto a golf course during a thunderstorm…The same thing applies to sharks. I wouldn’t say (dolphins) are bad news. But don’t enter the water, and because you see dolphins, think that you’re going to be protected.

I’ve always recommended not surfing or swimming near “bird whirls,” where the birds and the fish are real close to shore and you’ll have seals and sea lions and porpoises and dolphins and thresher sharks and all kinds of stuff feeding in there. These events are also called “bait boils” or “bait balls,” there are various terms for them. Most of the activity is happening offshore, but every once in a while they move near shore, and that’s when the sharks can be near shore.

What else can surfers do to reduce the risk of a shark attack?

It’s pretty basic. Always surf with a buddy. You don’t have to–I don’t always do that–but when people do surf alone they should come to terms with the fact that a lot of things could go wrong. That’s one of your basic precautions whether your surfing, diving, whatever. The ocean can be a hostile environment, wildlife aside. Pay attention to your surroundings and watch the animals around you and see how they react. I’ve heard so many stories about people surfing up the coast surrounded by birds and harbor seals and all of a sudden all three harbor seals dive into the water all at once. The surfer gets a weird vibe and decides to paddle in and then later sees a shark at the surface eating something, probably one of the seals. If you’re concerned with it, there’s ways to minimize your potential of being the one person who gets hit every year.

Should surfers be wary about surfing at rivermouths?

Yes. But, again, a lot of the rivermouths tend to be factors for wildlife. So it’s just the tip of the food chain there. Seasonal occurrences of fish runs bring the marine mammals, which again bring those big sharks.

According to superstition among many Northern California surfers, late summer and fall, especially “Sharktober,” are the most dangerous times of the year for shark attacks? Is there any scientific basis to this notion?

There’s a little bit of statistical evidence. And just in horse sense, that’s when the waves get good, so there are a lot of surfers in the water. I’d say it has most to do with the fact that that’s when the elephants seals are starting to come ashore to mate and to molt. Not all white sharks eat elephant seals, only the bigger, heavier adults eat those seals. So when those elephant seals come in from the open ocean there’s a certain segment of the adult white shark population that comes to shore with them.

It’s conventionally understood that the season is October through January. But we see activity in September and this time of year as well. We saw our last shark on February 16, two of them actually. But there’s evidence of bitten seals year round, so there’s a year-round presence. The best statistical spike I can find was in fall of 1993 when over thirty otters washed up bitten right around Año Nuevo Island. If you look at just that spike, something happened in October, and I think it was the arrival of a fleet of sharks. They’ll aggregate as opposed to congregate. They don’t travel around as a school. But like fishing boats, they’ll all wind up at certain hot spots to get food.


What are researchers learning about the migratory patterns of sharks?

Basically all the conventional wisdom about white sharks off the coast of California was proven wrong in the year 2000/2001. White sharks were thought to be coastal. And it was our theory as early as 1996 that they were in fact open water and deep-ocean and periodically hitting the coast. The year 2000 was when we put the satellite transmitters on white sharks (at Año Nuevo Island). We put on four transmitters in the year 2000 and ours popped off near Hawaii. It was really a revelation. These sharks were in fact open-ocean, deep sea animals.

Late summer to early winter is the peak time for white sharks returning to our coastal waters. Late winter and spring is when many go off into the deep Pacific. And there’s a lot of variability. Some of these animals will show up late season, a lot of them will show up at the beginning of the season. There are animals arriving in October of 07 that we are still seeing around as late as the middle of last month. There’s some that have gone and left and some that have been there the whole time. So they’re spending four months or more at some of these locations. And then the sharks that go out to Hawaii once they leave here will stay there for three to four months and then come back.

How many shark attacks were there on the California coast in 2007?

It depends on how you want to classify a “shark attack.” In terms of injuries, just the one on Todd Endris at Marina Beach. I don’t know of any other injury from a shark attack last year along the whole California coast.

Have there been any documented shark attacks or incidents between human and shark in California so far in 2008?

I haven’t heard of anything from 2008. The ass end of an elephant seal washed up at the reserve (Año Nuevo) recently, but no sighting of the shark. And then a harbor porpoise was supposed to have washed up near Four Mile within the last three weeks in February. But no eye witness accounts of chases out of the water or anything like that.

Are you seeing any trends as far as shark attacks on people?

There’s a perceived increase. It’s kind of an urban myth that I’ve been hearing since the late 80s. Statistics are rising but if you look at it in totality you’ll see that crime, boating accidents, people falling off coastal cliffs, etc. are all rising. And it’s a product of increased human traffic, period. There’s more people surfing, more surf schools, more people buying scuba gear. There are more water sports like kite surfing and tow surfing. There’s just more people in the water and more people from coming all over to use the coastal waters. And with more crowding there’s increased traffic in formerly isolated and remote areas.

But if you ignore all the little anecdotal accounts of, “Bob saw one off Trestles Tuesday,” and just look at the number of people bitten and injured from shark attacks, there are scarcely over 100 attacks documented since the 1920s. Attacks are rare, injuries are even rarer, fatalities are extremely rare, and consumption is almost unheard of. If you consider how many people are coming in and out of the water on a daily basis, it is just one of the rarest things that could happen.

There’s nothing to suggest (sharks) are actually looking to eat people. I believe that a lot of those attacks on humans are exploratory. I don’t think that it’s a case of mistaken identity, like some have posed, because usually when they hit a seal it’s with tremendous force. So even if it was by accident guys would be much more injured than they are if the shark thought they were a seal. That’s my impression. Usually the rate of closure is relatively slow compared to what we see in the violent hits on seals where the sharks are flying out of the water.

If you see the animal that’s actually good news, because if it was going to attack you, you wouldn’t see the shark until it’s on you. When a shark is at the surface, typically it’s tracking something, trying to pick up a scent. If the shark presents itself to you it’s not looking for you, it’s looking for something else.

Revillagigedo Islands-Eco News You May Never Hear

This is probably one eco news story you will not hear due to the sensitive nature of it. We can give you some of the details, the rest you'll have to ask the vessels owner and crew. When it comes to saving wildlife, sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. In the case of this crew and divers, they all deserve awards:

"On March 2, 2008, an 80-foot fishing vessel was seized within the Bio-Sphere of the Socorro's. It was carrying an estimated 3½ tons of sharks, along with 8 giant Pacific manta rays. A professional video and still photography team documented the entire capture and seizure of the vessel. Close-up images of the fishing vessel’s roof show hundreds of shark fins drying. Under the direction of the commander of the Mexican Navy’s interceptor vessel, an underwater film crew documented the contents of a set gillnet that had been deployed in 140 feet of water. Fourteen sharks and one dolphin were found in the fisherman’s net––all caught in flagrant violation of the law".

This is the part of the story that might not ever see the light of day. The seizure was at the behest of a dive boat in the area. They saw, they acted, and today illegal fishermen are in jail. It's an amazing story.

Here's how you can help. The divers on board are putting together a documentary to help save this pristine site from further decimation...all they need is quick funding here's the email we got please contact Earl Richmond if you want to help:

Dear Friends,

The tactic we are taking is to put the evidence of the illegal fishing practice in the hands of those in Mexico who are in a position to influence and bring about change.

Fortunately, we are well connected with variety of influential Mexican businessmen and government officials, some who share our compassion for preservation. At this point, we have a far better chance of making a positive long-term impact through the conservation management officials then we do by creating a media spectacle. It’s not about pointing fingers; it’s about education and informed decision-making.

I am looking using this seizure of an illegal fishing vessel as a positive step in securing the preservation of Revillagigedo Archipelago. We’ll start here, and if that is not enough then we will pursue additional channels to bring the problem of enforcement to light. The images are very powerful, the evidence is completely documented, it needs only be presented in the appropriate manner.

We are in the process to secure funding through our 501(c)(3) non-profit World of Oceans entity, allowing us to move quickly in producing a documentary that encompasses the uniqueness of the Revillagigedo Islands as a one-of-a-kind region for a variety of large pelagic species, and the immediate need for enforcement of this preserve.

Sincerely,
Earl Richmond

Earl Richmond
Producer/President
Richmond Productions, Inc.
earl@richmondproductions.com
www.richmondproductions.com
Phone: 805-688-2718

Places You Never Want To Be Without A BIC Pen

While this next item has nothing to do with sharks and shark diving we did find it buried in a series of articles about sharks in Antarctica.

While the rest of the planet goes about it's business a small and decidedly crazy group of researchers and hard core die hards make a living on this last outpost of mankind.

How crazy are they? Click this video to find out:

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Salmon Disaster-Water for Veggies

Almost 4 years ago myself and a few friends drove 120 miles north of the Bay Area to protest the massive diversion of water from historic salmon runs on the West coast.

At the time California was in the middle of a continuing drought, and the best minds out there were locked in an epic battle about water rights. The agricultural community demanded that water be released to them to save crops. The eco community knew that dropping water levels would raise the water temps for spawning salmon, thus cutting off oxygen, and allowing parasites to run rampant decimating the runs.

Sadly, the eco community lost this battle and as we drove up to the Trinity and Eel rivers we could smell the dying, dead and rotting salmon that lined the banks from miles away. These last great runs of spawners were absolutely decimated that summer, never having had a chance to pass the "biological torch" on to the next generation.

Today, due to short sighted politicians and poor planning we are looking at a near total failure of the salmon runs in both California and Oregon. The reasons for this failure range from ocean up wellings to water diversions and habitat loss. On look at those rivers a few years ago and we knew this was the beginning of the end. If you cut a gene pool and population down by 40-60%- you open that population up to all manner of natural disasters that they cannot recover from.

This was preventable, and no one knows when these salmon will come back...if ever.

There's no protest email to sign, or quick action to take to save the salmon this time. The damage is done, and by the looks of things it is on an ecological scale that will forever change "water politics" on the West coast.

The Feds are holding hearings-now the crises is real-and you can comment if you like here.

Patric Douglas CEO
www.sharkdiver.com
www.sharkdivers.com
www.guadalupefund.org
415.235.9410

Record Shark Taken-Eco Debate

Seems as if the good folks in Brisbane, Australia have their heads on right. Last week a record sized Bull shark was taken as part of a Muddy Water sportfishing competition.

Obviously from the comment blowback, even though these animals have been attributed to several deaths in the area, Australians like their underwater predators live, healthy, and living to see another day.

We would have to agree.

A RECORD-SIZED shark taken in a Brisbane River fishing competition has started a war of words over whether such an animal should be killed for sport.

Brisbane River Classic fishing competitor Terry Hessey caught the 2.9m bull shark at the mouth of the river in December and pictures posted on the internet have since fired up debate.Mr Hessey did not want to comment on the issue but fishing competition organiser Angus Gorrie said the angler usually released fish unharmed.

"Inevitably, there are some fatalities but about four in five sharks are released," he said.

Mr Gorrie said he believed the shark was the largest caught in the river. It was weighed but the scales registered to only 200kg.

Courier-Mail fishing columnist Dave Downie said it probably weighed 250kg to 300kg and was the largest he had seen. "I don't agree with something like that being killed for no reason. I'd rather see catch and release," Mr Downie said.

University of Queensland researcher Craig Franklin said it was wrong to take an animal merely for the thrill of a kill. Bull sharks were at the top of the food chain and their removal risked triggering a trickle-down effect which could upset the balance of species.

Mr Gorrie said he understood there was a trophy element to Mr Hessey's kill but most smaller bull sharks were taken for eating just as people ate bream or whiting.

His competition would in future cater for photographic entries so animals did not have to be killed and weighed.

CSIRO researcher Richard Pillans said the shark was female, 25 to 30 years old and appeared ready to give birth.

"It's a shame. An animal of that age is extremely important," he said.

"You've got a far greater chance of being killed in your car than by one of these."

The University of Florida international shark attack file recorded just four deaths from sharks world-wide in 2006.

Last year, 1616 Australians died in car accidents.

Mr Gorrie agreed, saying the shark's reputation was exaggerated as there were relatively few incidents. They were caught in summer but rarely seen in cooler months because they tended not to feed then.

Professor Franklin said the risk of attack was greatly lessened simply by not swimming in estuaries at dawn or dusk especially in summer.

"It's fantastic that Brisbane has a shark like that in its river," he said. "Sharks don't go out to target humans. We've got to learn to live with species like that."

Dr Pillans said the river had a population of 2000 to 5000 juveniles but the number of adults was unclear. In the US 95 per cent of bull sharks had been wiped out.

They gave birth to six to 13 pups at the mouth of the river after which the young swam to the upper reaches around College's Crossing.

Professor Franklin said bull sharks were one of the world's more unusual marine species in that they could live either in fresh or salt water.They were more often seen than other sharks simply because many cities were built on waterways.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Manta Network-Redux

This came in the mail today, thought we would pass it on:

As a leading dive industry member, I am sure you share my concern for the oceans and all their inhabitants. Not only do we depend on the ocean for our survival, but your livelihood is directly linked to its health. Its protection should be a primary concern of all those that enjoy its beauty, especially those in the dive industry.

The Manta Network was founded with a goal to engage the dive industry in the conservation and protection of manta and mobula rays. We invite you to become part of our Dive Industry Advocacy program. Your participation will have a significant impact on the protection of one of the ocean’s most magnificent creatures.

If you would like to become a dive industry manta advocate please respond to this email or register online by selecting “Industry Advocate below.”

We will send you a special package that will include information on how you and your staff can help. In the kit you will also find a counter display with literature to give to your customers. Please make sure you send your mailing address so we can quickly mail your kit.

You can start today by printing and displaying our announcement about our April manta expedition to Panama. See attachment.

We look forward to your support of our efforts to learn more about and to protect the remaining manta and mobula rays before it is too late. It would be a great pity if future generations of divers could not share our excitement about diving with the magnificent manta rays.

Yours truly,

Diane Wells
Dive Industry Liaison

P.S. Please take the time to respond today as this will be the only request we will send.

Register Online: [Industry Advocate]

Also see: [Panama Manta Expedition, April 5-11, 2008]

Monday, March 10, 2008

Giant Squids - Dosidicus Gigas - Killing Off Salmon?

Scott Cassell, one of the foremost authorities on the Giant Squid sent in this article today.

If you follow recent events off the shores of California and Oregon talk is squarely centered around the imploding salmon runs. In almost every major river and tributary salmon runs this season are off by almost 80%. That's a stunning statistic.

At the same time giant squid populations are surging up and down the coast and in areas where squids were once only sighted periodically.

What is happening out there?

"His years in the water with the animal has convinced Cassell that the West Coast squid population is booming. He speculates that the animal's increased numbers coincide with a drop in its predators, tuna and sharks, which are commercially hunted. Cassell isn't alone in his belief. The Pacific Fishery Management Council, which has authority to set restrictions on commercial and sport fishing, identified Humboldt squid as one of 46 possible reasons salmon are disappearing".

"Cassell said he believes the squid are preying on the salmon, although one study showed no evidence of that. Another theory suggests the voracious squid have disrupted the food chain, which is contributing to the salmon's decline."

Clearly something is happening off our coasts with salmon being the "canaries in the coal mine". The giant squid nexus seems plausible from a guy like Scott Cassell.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Island of The Great White Shark Documentary

ISLAND OF THE GREAT WHITE SHARK – UPCOMING SCREENINGS

“Island of the Great White Shark" - RTSea Production's recently completed documentary chronicling the great white sharks of Isla Guadalupe, Baja and the ongoing shark research taking place there, can be seen in upcoming screenings, with filmmaker Richard Theiss in attendance at the following aquariums:

March 30th - Aquarium of the Pacific "Divers Day", Long Beach, CA

May 5th - New England Aquarium, Boston, MA

June 18th - National Aquarium, Baltimore, MD

Stay tuned, more aquarium screenings are being scheduled and the film will be available on DVD shortly.

"A primal scene of unearthly beauty. Excitement and information pepper this film." - David McGuire, Sea Stewards

“Beautiful videography, good graphics and information.” - Dr. Bob Hueter, Mote Marine Center for Shark Research

"Richard Theiss has a unique ability to communicate science, conservation and entertainment." - Ania Budziak, PADI Project Aware Foundation

“We absolutely loved the film.” - Liz and Kevin Sullivan, Pacific Explorers Dive Club

Friday, March 7, 2008

Paul Watson Shot? Wait a Minute!

Something is not right about the latest action on the Southern Ocean. At hand claims and even a video showing what looks like a shot through a bullet proof vest worn by Sea Shepherd's Captain Paul Watson.

In this video he claims to have taken a direct round to the heart region. For all intents it looks like he has, with the bullet passing deeply into the vest only to be stopped dramatically by a shield he was wearing below the vest.

The media are having a field day with this.

Now let's break this one down.

1. The shooter, presumably firing from the Nisshin Maru, was in a concealed position when he fired that shot. Not one of the Sea Shepherd crew maintain they saw anyone with a rifle on board. So let's assume concealment as being out in the open would have given the shooter away.

2. Both the Nisshin Maru and the Sea Shepherd vessel were underway at the time and on moving seas. The shooter had to adjust not only for random waves and distance, but from a concealed position had to account for wind, also assuming that Watson was moving around as well at the time.

3. To make that one shot, and were not talking about a stationary book depository in Dallas, the odds are almost incalculable that the shooter got Waston directly over the heart with just one single round. It's a simply amazing shot.

Now for the real question, "why?"

Why would the Japanese government risk everything by trying to kill Captain Paul Watson?
Clearly had this shot killed Watson they would have lost everything they have worked for to date with the International Whaling Commission and with world opinion. Watson would have become a Whale Martyr and whaling as we know it would stop due to unprecedented pressure from outraged group worldwide. What was in it for Japan to even attempt to try and kill this extremely high profile whale activist in full sight of multiple cameras and witnesses?

They did use flash bang grenades and it was caught on tape, but the single shot?

Kevlar and Ballistic Vests

To penetrate a Kevlar or ballistic vest from a distance you need at least a 7.62 mm round. Obvious choices would be military rounds with some sort of armor piercing capability. That is assuming the shooter knew that Watson was wearing a bullet proof vest in the first place. Obviously from the penetration the shooter understood this, otherwise this kind of round would have passed through Watson and rattled around the ship.

The Point?

We'll be the first to say that what Japan is doing is wrong. Whaling should end. What Watson and Sea Shepherd have done with this claim is raise the credibility stakes of both sides to an absolute win or lose scenario.

Japan and Waston should call for an independent commission to look at both the vest and the recovered spent round to determine where it came from and what type of round it was. If it is proven that the round was fired by the Japanese they should be forced to end whaling. This was attempted murder, nothing more or less.

If Paul Watson made this story up, the credibility of Sea Shepherd will be forever lost, their status as a non profit should be pulled, and Sea Shepherd should go away.

Time will tell, but probably not the shooter in this case, whoever it was.

Whale Wars-Captain Paul Watson Claims to be Shot

Just when you thought this years Southern Whale hunt could not get any more dramatic, there's word today that Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd has been shot. He's unharmed...and talking to the media.

In fact there's also video.

What prompted the shooting, according to those on site, was a rotten butter attack by the crew of the Sea Shepherd upon the Japanese whale fleet...yes, a rotten butter attack.

One question, why was Paul Watson wearing a Kevlar vest in the first place?

CNN-Japanese whalers and anti-whaling activists clashed in the waters near Antarctica on Friday, with each side offering conflicting accounts of a confrontation with violent overtones.

The official said a whaling crew member threw a device that explodes with a warning bang to discourage the activists. The crew member threw the device after activists threw a foul-smelling acid found in rotten butter toward the whaling ship, the official said.

Watson was shot, the group said, and two others were injured. A 35-year-old from Australia hurt his hip trying to dodge a flash grenade, and a 33-year-old Australian received bruises after a flash grenade exploded near him.

An official the Japanese Fisheries Agency said the Sea Shepherd began throwing smelly chemicals toward the whaling vessel around 12:36 p.m. local time. About an hour later, the official said, a safety officer aboard the whaling vessel threw a ball that explodes to produce a warning bang.

"They might have mistaken that was a shooting sound," the official said. "We are not shooting a gun or anything at them."

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Wildlife Moment-Surprise!

27-year-old Israeli tourist Novon Mashiah almost discovered the hard way how far you can push a saltwater croc in Australia.

"One minute I was leaning over the boat teasing it for a picture. The next minute it burst out of the water with incredible speed ... its jaws fully open. I was shaking,'' he said.

Now, one might say this is Darwinism at play here, or is this something else?

With the rapid explosion of wild animal encounter shows like the Croc Hunter and others is the public being shown a side of wildlife encounters that eventually lead to events like these?

Island of the Great White Shark-Movie Review

David McGuire SharkStewards.com

When it comes to Great White sharks, there are few ambivalent opinions. Whether its the diver next to you or the guy from Oklahoma who has never seen the ocean, we are either repulsed or drawn magnetically towards these enigmatic predators. Since a minor percentage of people, even divers, ever encounter a shark in the wild; the media plays a pivotal role in our perception of the ocean’s apex predators.

Shark films beginning with the infamous Jaws have made dramatic ripples across the public psyche, generally to the detriment of the sharks themselves. However, even documentaries on the much celebrated Shark Week frequently prey upon our instinctual, but predominantly illogical fear of these perfect predators. As a documentarian who loves to swim with sharks, I have to admit my bias towards Carcharodon carcharias, and after watching the premiere of RTSEA Productions’ film Island of the Great White Sharks at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach CA, I am also guilty of another emotion: absolute envy.

As a northern Californian diver, the seemingly limitless visibility and glorious sunshine of the Mexican Isle Guadalupe are of obvious appeal, but the ultra tight and highly detailed shots of the Great whites clinches the deal: either you climb in the cage or watch this film to experience, and hopefully appreciate Great White Sharks. Shot entirely in high definition video by writer, producer and cinematographer Richard Theiss, the Island of the Great White Shark (IGWS) brings out the dramatic behavior of GWS themselves and the sheer thrill of the divers viewing the “King of the Seas,” up close and personal. Perhaps more importantly, the film features shark research and conservation at work, and bravely faces the tremendous teeth of threats facing sharks worldwide. Excellent graphics throughout the film help highlight the usefulness of tagging to understand the habits of the sharks, threats to their survival as a species, and occasional subtitling underscores the points for those of us too intrigued by the animals to be paying attention to the fact that it is sharks that are threatened, and we are the top predator of the ocean.

The clear water and close proximity of sharks reveals a remarkable amount of detail assisting in identification of individuals, distinguishing physical characteristics, including an incredible range of scarring from unknown sources. Indeed, one notable shark aptly titled Scarboard is tagged with an internal transmitter to collect depth and temperature and, several others are tracked using acoustic tags. Featuring notable shark scientist- UC Davis Professor Peter Klimley PhD, and young Mexican biologist Mauricio Hoyo Padilla, we see shark science at work. The scientists explore the mysterious world of these animals from movements to dinner habits, and the graphics help translate the arcane into the exalted, and at times the dismal future sharks face. Admirably, the filmmaker does not shy away from taking on the greatest threat to pelagic shark populations worldwide, the rising popularity of shark fin soup, creating a demand for shark fins, and supporting the practice of shark finning; the killing of sharks for just their fins. Kudos to the filmmaker and the Aquarium of the Pacific for not soft peddling this very serious issue that not only affects sharks, but the entire oceanic ecosystem of which they play an integral role. Sharks desperately need more films in this light.

Educational yes, but excitement and information pepper this independently produced film and if it weren’t for the subtle melodies scoring the film, one might subconsciously hear that familar tum tum, tum tum we associate with circling sharks. Those of us intrigued by the Man in the White Suit with the cold black eyes and perpetual grin will not be disappointed by a lack of teeth and predatory attack. Tight shots, in focus details and ghostly long shots abound, and the haunting music accompanying the encounters paint a primal scene of intrigue and unearthly beauty. This film shows sharks in their most glorious light, lazily swimming by, ignoring tasty tuna and then surprising shots of striking bait so fast and close the camera can barely follow. But it does, IGWS has one fantastic scene- so fast it requires a replay in slow mo - of the intrepid Hoyo Padilla gathering a tissue plug for DNA analysis as a shark snagged on an unhooked bait collides with the cage.

This is the rub: the footage and the film are collected (prudently) in a cage diving operation. Attracted by chum, and encouraged by fresh fish, divers inside submarine cages connected to the dive boat pay good money to safely experience shark diving. But is it safe for the sharks? Cage operators are under tight scrutiny these days, and for some operators, with good reason.

Not without controversy, certain cage operators have been charged with irresponsible attraction of sharks to areas and even harming the sharks themselves through over-stimulation. Some in the shark community dispute the rising popularity of “shark tourism”, e.g. cage diving in South Africa, Australia, Hawaii, California, and Mexico, claiming that the operations have deleterious effects on the ocean’s most noble predators. Lets face it, we all know that you pour blood in the water and the sharks will come, but it is how you handle the rest of the encounter that seems to make the difference.

This film features the company Shark Diver which conducts the cage operations at Isla Guadalupe, and interviews Shark Diver CEO Patric Douglas. An articulate advocate of sharks, and shark tourism, Douglas seems to take the business of shark conservation very seriously. Without the actual experience of diving in a cage first hand (but with the experience of diving with these sharks) the writer cannot speak directly, but on film, and by anecdote, this operation does appear to be as safe and well managed as can possibly occur while attracting predators within touching and photographic range. To their credit, Shark Diver and the owner/ operators of the vessels leading the tours; the MV Nautilus Explorer, MV Islander, MV Horizon and MV Ocean Odyssey along with DivingWithSharks.com are directly supporting the Mexican research program and working together to support the Guadalupe Island Conservation Fund.

The argument runs parallel to that of maintaining wild animals in zoos, or in this case aquariums: that people will love and want to protect what they are familiar with. If the enthusiasm expressed by the divers in the film (and the amazing footage obtained) is any judge, one hopes that the thrill of viewing these wild animals first-hand, or enjoying this compelling film will override any negative impacts of the operations. We clearly take home the message that the conservation efforts of the Mexican Government, the Shark Diver, and the researchers highlighted in this film are making serious efforts to protect and conserve Great White Sharks.

In this film we don’t just watch sharks, we learn about sharks.

Shark lovers who eagerly anticipate the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week are often disappointed by beautifully shot films lacking substance, or even capitalizing on the “man eating, killer” images as portrayed in the successful Jaws vein. Not so, Island of the Great White Shark, and Shark Week is where this film squarely belongs, on broadcast television where millions of viewers can learn to appreciate these amazing predators in a positive light, and how shark conservation needs public support.

The famous conservation biologist E.O. Wilson has offered the following explanation to our love/hate attraction to large predators: “We don’t just fear our predators, we are transfixed by them, prone to weave stories and fables and chatter endlessly about them, because fascination breeds preparedness and preparedness, survival. In a deeply tribal sense, we love our monsters.”

Films like this help us understand sharks, and with hope, reverse the perceptions of fear or hate, and help demystify the monster. Listed as threatened with extinction, lets hope we will learn to love the Great Whites Sharks before it is too late. The Island of the Great White Shark is a fin in the right direction.

For more information on Islands of the Great White Sharks and how to see the film go to www.rtsea.com.

China-Rare Rainmaker Fish

Last week a rare if not almost extinct fish was celebrated by local fishermen...and then promptly sold and eaten.

Turns out the swim bladder (not the whole fish) is worth it's weight in gold and this particular fish species called the Bahaba flavolabiata has not been seen in this region of China for almost 50 years.

The fisherman who caught this rare "Last of the Mohicans" is set to make almost 1 million Yuan or close to $150,000 US.

In April 2007, a fisherman in Zhanjiang City, Guangdong province, netted a 49-kg Chinese bahaba and sold to a restaurant for 580,000 yuan. The restaurant cooked the fish meat but has kept the dried fish maw (mouth), tagging it at 2 million yuan with words "not for sale."

It is into this environment that the worldwide shark fin market is pouring the oceans sharks into. With scarcity-pricing for rare animals used for just their maws, fins and swim bladders runs at all time highs.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Whale Vomit Gold Rush U.K

Gotta love the Brits. Last week two gents discovered gold on a local beach in the form of 110 pounds of Sperm Whale vomit, and they decided to keep it.

Turns out this disgusting substance called Ambergris is used in France (where else?) for rare perfumes.

Naturally we thought this was as nasty as it gets, grubbing around on a beach in search of greasy balls of whale vomit...that was until we discovered how much these guys stand to make off the stuff-$500,000 pounds, or in depressed American dollars a whopping $996.973.12!

Sean, from Penrhyndeudraeth (try saying this without loosing a tooth) in North Wales, said the pair were on the beach walking a dog at nearby Criccieth when they made their discovery.

"We just came across this white, like waxy lump. I said to Ian: 'It looks a bit like whale sick. He had never heard of anything like it," he said.

O.K, so maybe they have something there, and with the price of homes here in California hovering around $800,000, do not be surprised if you see one of the Shark Diver crew out on that beach in the near future. Too bad this story didn't hit on April 1st.

Hammerhead Central-The Cape

Turns out this week there's one place in the USA that has more Hammerheads per square inch than anywhere else...and you can blame Osama bin Laden for the fact you cannot go and see them.

One of the stranger rules of unintended consequences we have seen in a while.

9.11 = shark protections = more sharks.

"The discovery of Cape Canaveral's importance as a shark nursery could help shed new light on the global decline of the ocean's top predators. Scientists are desperate to know more about the lifecycles of large sharks such as hammerheads -- one of the most vulnerable species to dying on fishing lines. By identifying crucial nursery grounds, they hope to improve federal management of large coastal sharks."

Young hammerheads and other juvenile sharks got a de facto sanctuary when the Coast Guard closed off the ocean surrounding Kennedy Space Center after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

DEMA Bahamas Shark Event

DEMA (The Diving Equipment and Marketing Association) is deeply saddened by the recent events that lead to a diver's death after participating in a shark dive in the Bahamas last weekend. This tragic incident is an unusual occurrence, yet serves as a reminder of the importance of following guidelines put in place for specialty dives such as shark diving.

Shark diving has been practiced safely and successfully for the last 25 years without major incident. Guidelines were formalized in 2001 by the Global Interactive Marine Experiences Council in the "Florida Guidelines and Management Programs for Interactive Marine Experiences" which are available industry-wide. These guidelines include: safe environmental practices; staff training for interactive marine experiences; marine animal feeding practices; participant preparation and education; marine animal conservation efforts; safety considerations for interactive marine experiences; location of interactive marine experience program sites; risk management and awareness; establishing an emergency procedures plan; and appointing an administrative officer and safety officer for interactive marine experience programs.

DEMA strongly encourages dive operators to review their interactive marine experience practices to ensure their adherence to the guidelines that have been established to reduce the likelihood of an accident happening in the future. While any type of diving inherently involves some level of risk, pursuing safe, recreational diving experiences will greatly reduce that risk. This particular incident last weekend appears to have been an extreme form of the sport involving some of the more aggressive shark species.

For more information about interactive marine experiences, or to receive a copy of the safety guidelines, please contact DEMA at 858-616-6408.

DEMA, the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association, is an international organization dedicated to the promotion and growth of the recreational scuba diving and snorkeling industry. For more information on DEMA, call 858-616-6408 or visit www.dema.org

Monday, March 3, 2008

Mythbusters Set To Swim With Sharks

Each episode of the Discovery Channel show MythBusters takes on multiple myths and uses modern-day science to show what's real and what's fiction. One myth the MythBusters will investigate during the Shark Week episode they will shoot in the Bahamas next week will be the idea that magnets can control sharks' movements.

This drawing by MythBusters co-host Jamie Hyneman shows how he intends to examine the concept. Basically, he has designed a system where he will attach two electromagnets to a shark's nose and rig the system so that he can send tiny little electric pulses to the magnets to activate them. The idea is that if the magnet on the shark's left side is activated, it will turn right, and vice-versa. The shark will not be harmed during the experiment, which will be conducted under the supervision of a marine biologist.

Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET News.com