Monday, November 30, 2009

Indian Whale Shark Tourism?

Kudos to Tata Chemicals and Wildlife Trust of India for their tourism initiative.

Sustainable shark tourism is a viable bridge solution to lasting shark conservation:

If everything falls in place, Gujarat coast may emerge as tourist spot for watching whale sharks. Foreign experts have taken up a research project to study feasibility of developing whale shark eco-tourism in the state. The research programme is being undertaken under "Whale Shark Conservation Campaign" jointly carried out by Tata Chemicals Ltd, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the forrest department of Gujarat.

Complete Story

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Alex "Sharkman" Buttigieg - Happy Birthday!

Long before the world of shark conservation had a million faces, and long before people even cared about sharks, there was Alex.

With his quirky and unique website and unbridled passion for sharks, Alex has been a mainstay of the shark conservation world.

Today was his birthday and we wanted to wish him a very best of days!

Your passion for sharks has inspired more people then you will ever know.

Australia's Tourism "Shark Holocaust"

Australia's Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries, Tim Mulherin, believes in anti shark programs for tourism.

This week it was announced Australia's long standing drum line program had successfully killed 500 breeding aged animals from 14 foot Great whites to 12 foot Tigers.

All in the name of tourism and "incident free beaches."

"Any size shark can cause serious injury or death if they attack. However, sharks more than 2m long are particularly dangerous and are more likely to cause fatal injuries, he said."

Drum lines and shark nets are a surprising 1960's answer to shark attacks worldwide and indiscriminately destroy regional populations of sharks and assorted by catch from dolphins to turtles.

Sadly there are viable options for regional governments that would work to preserve shark populations.

This blog proposed viable "human netting options"
many months ago along with a first alert tagging program.

In the end it is up to regional efforts lead by local stakeholders to effect conservation change.

Until the public is made aware of the abject waste of top predators in their waters the killing will continue and future shark generation will continue to decline.

It would seem that sharks in Australia just cannot seem to get a break. An ecological disaster in the making since 1963.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Shark Cowboy - Liar or Looney?

November was a not a good month for shark researchers and extreme media gaffs.

From the Farallones to Australia and now Richard Fitzpatrick the perception of qualified shark research is being modified by a few within the community who have chosen to seek the media limelight.

"Riding a tiger shark is awesome, said Mr Fitzpatrick, who left Cairns this week on a diving expedition tagging sharks in the Coral Sea."

Richard Fitzpatrick represents a new and startling brand of shark researcher, those that do extreme things with animals and use research data to justify their actions, leading many to question the work being done.

"He admits most people think he is either "a liar or a loony" when he tells them he lassoes sharks for a living."

Like commercial shark diving, invasive shark research practices are under scrutiny. There are some who might argue that "the ends justify the means" with invasive shark research.

We maintain reality television shows and basic stunt work with sharks have no place within shark research community and media gaffs like this week with Richard Fitzpatrick only lower the bar for others who perceive shark research as a hybrid entertainment entity.

Shark Cowboy, Liar or Loony?

To Mr. Fitzpatrick and those who would emulate him, we would suggest the answer to that question might be both.

Invasive shark researchers seek media at their own peril, this weeks offering once again delivers a black eye to the entire effort.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Kiwis Prepare for 1000 Years of Mojito Ice

A titanic iceberg some 500 meters wide, 50 meters tall, and 350 meters thick, containing enough fresh ice to power 11.9 billion Mojitos is barreling down on the New Zealand coast this week.

Loose from the Ross ice shelf in 2001 the unprecedented iceberg has members of the New Zealand cabinet rushing to emergency meetings with Cuban trade ministers to complete an ice deal with the tiny Caribbean nation, home of the tasty and iconic alcoholic beverage "The Mojito."

Said one staffer from Hon Tim Grosers office, "The Minister of Trade and Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Associate Minister of Climate Change Issues are working round the clock to sell this iceberg to Cuba who, since 1997, have been under a US ice embargo."

The deal gets softer each day as the iceberg comes in contact with warmer waters.

The following Underwater Onion is brought to you by Shark Diver. Always drink Mojitos as responsibly as you can.

Happy Thanksgiving. Go Lions!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Shark Diving Outside the Boundries

Recently I was at dinner in San Francisco with a group of friends and the topic of "the most exciting moment" came up. Being the owner of a shark diving company I have a few of these stories on tap, but none compare to Karly Stanley's submarine.

In 2005 I met Karl in Roatan, Honduras and enjoyed an evening with him at close to 2000' in the company of titanic sized six gill sharks. We had roped pigs heads to the side of the vessel and were being dragged down slope and into the abyss by a particularly large female.

That was in the early days, when the very idea of attracting huge sharks from the crushing deep seemed like an impossible endeavour.

The additional bonus is that Karls submarine was hand built by him, making the complete experience one that I have treasured my whole life.

Karls adventures would, eventually, grab the attention of filmmakers and television folks. This clip is from a unique documentary about Karl and his operation now available on Amazon.

Real animal adventures are harder to come by these days and I go to bed at night knowing that guys like Karl keep the flame alive and well, offering for the rest of us, by sheer force of genius and personality, the chance to enjoy an encounter with deepwater giants:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Whale Sharks - The Holbox Papers

In depth industry papers on shark tourism are a must read. Isla Holbox in Mexico has rapidly become a test bed for sustainable tourism with sharks. A new paper is now out.

Tourism Abstract

The whale shark, Rhincodon typus, is the world's largest fish and forms predictable seasonal aggregations at several locations worldwide, which has led to an explosion in whale shark tourism since the early 1990’s. Since 2002, Holbox has established itself as a gateway to the largest known predictable aggregations of whale sharks in the world. It has also experienced the largest growth in terms of visitation and number of licensed tour operators creating an industry worth approximately US$2.72 million in 2008. This rapid growth, along with the whale shark’s listing on the IUCN’s Red List of Endangered Species has led to concerns of the industry’s sustainability in the long-term.

This study was initiated to understand the sustainability of Holbox’s whale shark tourism industry from a social and economic perspective. Tour participants were surveyed regarding their overall satisfaction with their experience, as well as their knowledge of, and compliance with, the interaction regulations. Eighty-five percent of participants were day tourists from mass tourism destinations like Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Approximately thirty percent of the economic gain from the activity is derived off the Island, while on-Island income goes dominantly to two large vertically-integrated operators who are able to bring in visitors directly from the mainland.

Overall, participants experienced high levels of satisfaction but found crowding to be a problem with thirty-three percent dissatisfied with the number of boats. Furthermore, the language barrier between the guides and the tourists resulted in a misunderstanding of the interaction regulations in place to protect the whale sharks and tourists and resulted in a high level of contact with the sharks. The outputs of this study will help inform the future sustainability of the industry, as this relies not only on a returning, healthy population of whale sharks, but also on a satisfied customer base.

Link to report.

“Almost 90 % of sharks have been wiped out“

Science fact or fiction?

This morning over at the Conservation Bytes blog the discussion about Greenwashing and Blackwashing and an in depth look at both.

What happens when conservation groups make wild claims about the state of the world s natural resources?

Almost 90 % of sharks have been wiped out. I immediately distanced myself from them. This is a blatant lie and terrible over-exaggeration. Ninety per cent of sharks HAVE NOT been wiped out. Some localised depletions have occurred, and not one single sharks species has been recorded going extinct since records began. While I agree the world has a serious shark problem, saying outrageous things like this will only serve to weaken your cause. My advice to any green group is to get your facts straight and avoid the sensationlist game – you won’t win it, and you probably won’t be successful in doing anything beneficial for the species you purport to save."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sea Shepherd - Whale Defense Meat Grinder?

We're not sure if anyone stopped for a minute during the "1 Million dollar big check moment" with Sea Shepherd last month to really think about the acquisition of their high speed Earthrace vessel.

Renamed the Ady Gil and painted a nice black, the self styled eco warriors from Sea Shepherd have been touting this ship as their new weapon against Japanese whaling.

All we noticed were the two giant propellers at the back of the vessel that to us looked like big trouble for whales.

With a top speed of 45 knots the renamed Ady Gil credits at least one very serious collision with "submerged debris" during her life at sea.

"Shortly after leaving Palau on day 34, Earthrace struck submerged debris which sheared two blades off the port propeller and bent the drive shaft. This necessitated a return to Palau in order to assess the damage and remove the prop."

The propellers are German-designed, carbon propellers that are 36 inches in diameter.

To date Sea Shepherd have not provided "propeller shrouding" for these whirling Ginsu Knives of the Antarctic and intend on putting this vessel in between Japans harpoon vessels and the whales. Propeller shrouding would protect whales from these extreme blades while still allowing this vessel to "close intercept" with the animals and Japanese whalers.

Did Sea Shepherd or anyone in the eco media stop to think about this?

Clearly, in the rush to congratulate yet another futile season of reality television, no one did.

100 Million Sharks - The Question

Editors Note: Unfortunately this blog post was the result of an online scam by a group of questionable filmmakers pushing a new film called "The Shark Con." Blog reader "Ethan" also contacted other Blue Bloggers with this film clip. He is not an actual blog reader but part of the effort to get free promotion for the film.

The premise of the film is to feature a few marginal and discredited anti shark people in a documentary to enrage the shark conservation movement so people will buy your film. In essence "manufacturing dissent" to sell a film.

This blog does not buy into callous attempts to promote and sell manufactured shark conservation films. We're in the business of real and lasting conservation change. If you want manufactured eco dissent there's always Whale Wars on Animal Planet, and if we say so, they do a much better job.

Original Post

Thanks to blog reader Ethan for sending this in. The conservation question of 100 million sharks killed each year is a lingering one. The number 100 million appeared at least five years ago and is taken for granted as the defacto number of dead shark each and every year.

This number is the backbone to the entire shark conservation movement - 100 million.

But what if science does not back up the numbers?

What if only 25 million sharks are killed each year?

Some have questioned the actual number, others are now making videos:

Free Gaffing Makos - Mumbling Excuses - Shepherd Smith

Shepherd Smith. Looking like a warmed over corpse and wearing too much pancake makeup proceeds to "interview" one of the crew members who allegedly free gaffed a Mako shark this summer in Florida.

Allegedly? Almost certainly? You decide.

Listen carefully to the tale this guy spins up about how they caught the shark, released the shark, "got a hook in it," and then dragged it home. If this was a court of law this guy would be behind bars for "inconsistent story telling."

Unfortunately, he is happily doing FOX News interviews with good old Shepard, who seems more than happy to promote the untimely and most certainly unsportsmanlike catch of a breeding aged Mako shark.

We hear tell Shepherd also hunts ducks with Patriot Missile batteries on loan from the Defense Department.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

That's one small step for sharks...

Senate Committee Passes Bill to End Shark Finning in U.S.

WASHINGTON, November 19, 2009 - Oceana commends the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee today for passing the Shark Conservation Act of 2009.

"Shark management in the U.S. has suffered for long enough," said Beth Lowell, federal policy director at Oceana. "It's time to enact this shark finning bill into law."

The Act would require all sharks caught in U.S. waters to be landed whole with their fins still attached. This would put an end to shark finning, the wasteful process of cutting off the fins and discarding the carcass at sea.

Landing sharks with their fins still attached allows for better enforcement and data collection for stock assessments and quota monitoring. The Act would also close a loophole that allows the transfer of fins at sea as a way to get around current law. Additionally, the bill would allow the United States to take action against countries whose shark finning restrictions are not as strenuous.

"Finning is threatening shark populations worldwide," said Elizabeth Griffin, marine scientist at Oceana. "The U.S. should be a leader in helping to solve the problem of shark finning."

The Act was introduced by Senator John Kerry (D-MA) in April. Similar legislation (H.R. 81), introduced by Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), passed the House of Representatives in March.

ABOUT SHARKS:

Sharks have been swimming the world's oceans since before the age of the dinosaur, but today some species face extinction. Each year, commercial fishing kills more than 100 million sharks worldwide - including tens of millions for just their fins. Sharks are especially vulnerable to pressure from human activities because of their slow growth and low reproductive potential.

Sharks can be found in almost every ocean and play a vital role in maintaining the health of the oceans. Many shark populations have declined to levels where they are unable to perform their roles as top predators in the ecosystem, causing drastic and possibly irreversible damage to the oceans. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, more than half of the highly migratory shark species are now considered overexploited or depleted.

For more information about Oceana's campaign to safeguard sharks, please visit www.oceana.org/sharks.

Oceana campaigns to protect and restore the world's oceans. Our teams of marine scientists, economists, lawyers and advocates win specific and concrete policy changes to reduce pollution and to prevent the irreversible collapse of fish populations, marine mammals and other sea life. Global in scope and dedicated to conservation, Oceana has campaigners based in North America, Europe and South America. For more information, please visit www.Oceana.org.

Guadalupe Island PSA - RTSea Productions

The commercial shark diving industry knows that exposing the public to sharks leads to conservation. It is a fact, and to those that would dispute this fact, to those few who only see sharks through the myopic lens of fear, we present to following PSA by RTSea Productions.

Now seen on Google Oceans:


Maldives Whale Shark Research Q and A

Frontline research with Whale Sharks is critical and none more so than at remote sites like the Maldives.

Enter the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program.

We featured these guys and their terrific outreach website earlier this year as a template for other research sites interested in well networked and well defined public access sites.

This week we stumbled across a Q and A with team members about their work and the need for shark research in the Maldives.

A very good read.

Shark Skin Tech and Fluid Dynamics

It is well known that sharks, after millions of years of evolution, have developed a remarkable skin that all but allows them to "slip" though the oceans.

For the folks who study fluid dynamics natures millions year old testing lab is a case for reverse engineering.

Armed with $200,000 in grants from the National Science Foundation, the NASA Alabama Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research and the Lindbergh Foundation, researcher Amy Lang continues research on what designers of aircraft and underwater vehicles could learn by imitating nature's design of shark skins.

Lang is collaborating with Dr. Phil Motta, professor of integrative biology from the University of South Florida, and Dr. Robert Hueter, director of shark research for Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla.

Complete Story

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Farallones - "Striped Bass and Dentistry?"

When does the disastrous hooking of a great white shark and the application of industrial bolt cutters to "save it" get referred to as a "dental procedure" or catching a "striped bass?"

Only in the ongoing and increasingly strange world of shark research and reality television shows, where science and professional PR teams race to promote and then save a 10 week production for National Geographic Television.

We have been covering this story from the beginning, when a team of researchers announced they were going to SPOT tag white sharks at the Farallone islands. SPOT tagging involves the catching of 10-17 foot white sharks with hooks, landing them on platforms where the full weight of the animal slowly crushes internal organs, and then drilling electronic packages into their dorsal fins.

The SPOT tag method is extremely controversial for many obvious reasons. I have been supportive of it under the proviso that it is done by "well funded research professionals."

The team, lead by Dr. Michael Domeier from Marine CSI have also been the lead researchers at Isla Guadalupe for many years applying standard non invasive sat tags on a large segment of the population. His work with those animals remains untarnished, and important work.

Dr.Domeier recently changed to SPOT tagging with apparent success at the Isla Guadalupe site claiming 15-17 animals tagged there - and this is where the entire effort begins to go sideways.

Domeiers work at Isla Guadalupe was done without apparent Mexican oversight, not so at the Farallones which had an observer on hand. What she witnessed set off shock waves within the entire shark community.

The Farallones effort was a disaster for the first shark tagged and this opened the question for many who decry SPOT tagging, who, exactly, is involved in this effort?

The answers to me were shocking, and I am now firmly in the camp demanding answers for both the Farallones and now Isla Guadalupe as well (see image).

As it turns out the entire effort is in conflict of interest. The vessel used to transport Dr.Domeiers staff, members of the team who actually hook the sharks, and the people who fund this work are also a reality television production house, Fischer Productions.

The conflict of interest reared its ugly head when the Farallones shark was badly hooked.

Admittedly for the production company that was just about to launch a massive media push for its 10 week reality television show about this "research" complete with a Hollywood actor as a member of the crew, the Farallones sharks disaster was for them a media disaster first and foremost.

Subsequent interviews with both Dr.Domeier and Maria Brown who is the Farallones Sanctuary Manager have shown that this is also a media disaster for them as well. Responses to questions about SPOT tagging procedures to both of these individual were met with offhand remarks about the seriousness of this method.

Maria Brown likened SPOT tagging, after witnessing it first hand, to "minor dental procedures," and Dr.Domeier "to catching striped bass." Maria Brown allowed this research to continue even after the first shark was badly mauled in the effort. According to many she should have halted the entire production after the first day.

As a well worn media guy it is evident to me these responses come from either callous disregard for the entire process or a carefully planned team response to downplay the issue of SPOT tagging for the public. I highly doubt these people are callous, so can only come to the conclusion they got very bad media advice.

Conflict of interest compounded by what looks like a healthy dose of good old fashioned CYA.

Both Brown and Domeier realize that the reality television crew, who also act as the complete enablers, from the hooks, to the funding, leave questions open to the sanctity of this hybrid brand of shark research and both are scrambling to downplay a disastrously hooked shark within a national marine sanctuary, off a coastline that banned all shark fishing 15 years ago.

We are left with many unanswered questions and images that like the one featured in this post that claim to be from Isla Guadalupe and Dr.Domeiers SPOT tagging work, which may or may not feature a broken tail fin.

I want to see the answer to the basic question of "what happened to the first badly hooked shark at the Farallones?" I am calling for independent review of all data from this animal and independent monitoring of this shark for one full year.

The animals that Dr.Domeier are SPOT tagging are not juveniles they are breeding adults, the cream of the entire western pacific population. These animals deserve to be treated with as much deference and respect as any marine mammal. We would not SPOT tag a killer whale within a national marine sanctuary and have the work partially done by actors from L.A.

This work is anything but "dental procedures and striped bass fishing."

Proof of life, and long term independent monitoring. Is to too much to ask?

Not for the great white shark. Let's get the data flowing.

Cheers,
Patric Douglas CEO
www.sharkdiver.com
www.sharkdivers.com
www.sharkdivers.blogspot.com
www.guadalupefund.org
www.islandofthegreatwhiteshark.com
415.235.9410

Monday, November 16, 2009

Farallones - ABC News Investigates Tagging Disaster

ABC News I Team investigated the ethics of invasive tagging techniques and the controversy surrounding an extreme white shark tagging mishap at the Farallones. The event was documented by a reality television crew who also fund the research and provide the logistical support for the capture of white sharks.

As far as we know this is the first time in white shark research history that reality television film crews also act as quasi research team members and research funding sources.

We covered our thoughts on this matter in a previous post.

ABC I Team blog coverage post/read comments.






Sympathy For the Devil?

The number one rule of shark conservation science should be "do no harm."

The second rule should be "and that includes reality television shows in the name of science."

I am not sure when conservationists and researchers decided to join reality television shows, but now it has happened little good has come of it.

Case in point.

As blow back for a seriously mishandled shark tagging effort at the Farallone islands continues to cause upset and anger within the shark community here in the Bay Area, a simply titanic media wave complete with PR agencies and live interviews on all major news networks pushes what is touted to be a 10 week reality television series about hooking great white sharks for science.

The show even has an actor from L.A in a supporting role.

Is this science?

Perhaps it is, and then again perhaps it is a for profit production masquerading as science.

The conflict of interest here is the reality television crew are also the crew members who hook the sharks, and fund the tagging research. A new and some say chilling departure from standard research models unencumbered by the addition of 24/7 embedded film crews.

The fact remains that this team made a complete hash of a recent tagged shark, so bad in fact that industrial bolt cutters had to be employed to cut a hook (a copy now proudly displayed on television junkets) through the sharks gills to remove only a fraction of it from the animal. The rest was left embedded inside the shark..

The team, film crew, and PR machine all claim this animal is "still alive and well," few if any within the shark community believe them. Tonight the first reality episode airs to a primed and waiting public. In the end it will be up to them to decide if hooking white sharks for science is a reality television show they want to follow or not.

As for the magnificent shark that tonight either lies dead at the bottom of the ocean or continues to live with 60% of "the largest hook ever made" still embedded in its throat, the answer to that basic question is self evident.

We would like to officially demand that Fischer Productions and Dr. Michael Domeier take the time, about as much as they have spent promoting their reality television production, to provide "proof of life" for this shark and long term "independent monitoring" of the animal.

It is the least they could do, and it is the right thing to do.

Cheers,
Patric Douglas CEO
www.sharkdiver.com
www.sharkdivers.com
www.sharkdivers.blogspot.com
www.guadalupefund.org
www.islandofthegreatwhiteshark.com
415.235.9410

Pacific Islands Regional Plan of Action (PI-RPOA)

The announcement of the Pacific Islands Regional Plan of Action on Sharks sounds like a good idea, but as they say "the devil is in the details."

While this plan of action "tips a hat" towards shark fining as a regional issue along management of shark stocks, it fails to look at sustainable shark tourism options that generate per shark, thousands of dollars to local and regional economies.

Shark tourism is a viable bridge solution to successful shark conservation and management.

Where local inhabitants adopt "safe and sane" shark tourism, sharks, reefs and surrounding areas flourish:

The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) today launched the Pacific Islands Regional Plan of Action (PI-RPOA) on Sharks.

At least 80 species of sharks and rays occur within the Pacific Islands region. Around half of these species are considered to be highly migratory, therefore fishing impacts upon them must be internationally managed. Due to their low productivity and long life span, these species are particularly vulnerable to overexploitation. Sharks and rays are also of cultural significance to many Pacific Island communities.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ensenada Fish Market - Mexico's White Sharks

This week I was in Ensenada, Mexico for a series of meetings with government officials. With me was long time business associate and friend, Greg Grivetto, owner of Horizon Charters.

For the past four years we have been documenting white sharks taken off the coast of Enseneda and sold a swordfish and marlin for 50-75 peso per kilo at local markets.

Most of the sharks taken are "Young of the Year," usually less then 6 feet in length and taken, according to local fishermen, not far off the coast.

This week we quickly spotted another shark that had just arrived fresh off the boats for processing. It was a 6 foot female.

The local fishermen here are not the bad guys in this yearly drama. In fact they could be shark conservations best assets, as they and they alone know where these animals are found, at what depth, water temperatures, and even seasonal numbers.

What these animals represent is a treasure trove of basic data from DNA sampling, stomach contents, to sex ratios.

All that is needed is the desire to gather the data. As I told Greg who was snapping images of this weeks sad take, "Right now all these animals represent are carcass, when they could even in death be telling us the story of their short lives until this point."

During our short sampling effort this shark represents the 17th animal we have documented here.

The Good News

I sent this image along with a few others to John O'Sullivan from Monterey Bay AQ, who quickly forwarded them on to Dr.Oscar Sosa in Ensenada. The interest was electric, and if all goes well these animals just might be able to tell us the rich and important "back story" missing from this weeks catch.

Cheers,
Patric Douglas CEO
www.sharkdiver.com
www.sharkdivers.com
www.sharkdivers.blogspot.com
www.guadalupefund.org
www.islandofthegreatwhiteshark.com
415.235.9410

Friday, November 13, 2009

Evaluating Online "Teasers"

Earlier this year this blog and a few others within the industry commented as a seemingly anti-industry "professional hit piece" aired on You Tube.

Called "Shark Divers" the piece had all the elements of ugly shark media at a time where two of the industries top shark encounters sites Isla Guadalupe and Hawaii are under siege by government agencies and a pervasive anti-shark diving lobby. This was not what the industry needed or asked for.

This week over at the Paxton Brothers blog an in depth second look at this piece. As it turns out what aired this spring was an "online teaser." The full film now called "Shark Business" is 50 minutes of pretty good story telling. The risks vs rewards are a fine balancing act this piece manages to convey - all wrapped up in a tense assortment of clips and scripting that unfortunately are what sell to networks.

You can read the Paxton's take on it here.

You can watch "Shark Business" here.

Deepwater Fish Caught on Tape

Fact is, if you drop any kind of bio mass over the side of a vessel in deep water chances are something "very strange" will feast on its mortal remains.

I discovered this first hand in Honduras where titanic sized six gill sharks cruise up from deep water to join a small submarine at 2000'.

The sharks were a thrill but the forearm sized pink isopods that crawled all over the pigs heads we had dropped down ripping quarter sized chunks of flesh off them really surprised me (metal note: do not drown in any body of water).

This morning the BBC revealed more "critters from the deep" as cameras caught a unique species of fish feasting at 24,800 feet.

Fascinating reading and some great video too.

Cheers,
Patric Douglas CEO
www.sharkdiver.com
www.sharkdivers.com
www.sharkdivers.blogspot.com
www.guadalupefund.org
www.islandofthegreatwhiteshark.com
415.235.9410

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Farallones Tagging Mishap - RTSea Productions

However you want to characterise last weeks tagging incident at the Farallone Islands many within the shark community have unanswered questions.

RTSea Productions added their voice and overall assessment yesterday:

Controversy is now dogging the white shark tagging efforts of Dr. Michael Domeier of the Marine Conservation Science Institute. The SPOT (smart positioning or temperature) tagging began in Isla Guadalupe under the eyes of a film crew for a National Geographic Channel program to air on the 19th. It involves a technique whereby the shark is hooked and reeled on board, aerated with a water hose, while the crew literally drills and bolts a satellite transmitting tag to the shark's dorsal fin.

This is a rather elaborate tagging technique that has generated much concern within the shark conservation community (click here for prior posting about the Isla Guadalupe taggings, and here are two from other sites: click here and here).

Now, Dr. Domeier has moved northward to the Farallon Islands and, with the approval of Maria Brown, superintendent for the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, has been tagging sharks there but with less than optimal success. Apparently, one shark swallowed the hook deep into its throat causing the bait's float to become lodged in the shark's jaws, thereby blocking access for the aerating water hose and requiring the cutting of the hook by working straight through the shark's gills. All in all a disaster in humane animal treatment as far as I'm concerned.

While there are concerns about the stresses this type of tagging places on the shark, there is also the question as to the need for more data acquired in the Northern California area. Dr. Barbara Block of Stanford, Dr. Pete Klimley of UC Davis, and others have amassed a considerable body of data that tracks the migratory patterns of these animals. They and their colleagues just recently issued a detailed report that can be viewed in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, published online on 11/04/09 in the Biological Sciences section ("Philopatry and migration of Pacific white sharks").

I always felt that this particular tagging technique was a more elaborate mousetrap than necessary. Now its efficacy has become controversial, the California data may ultimately be redundant, and the National Marine Sanctuary must defend a decision to allow catching a protected species in a manner that would most likely not be allowed for, say, a protected marine mammal.

Too many questions, too much controversy. . .

Read article in Bay area bohemian.com.

Monday, November 9, 2009

SSACN Searches for Shark Officer

The Scottish Shark Tagging Programme is delighted to announce they have been awarded a funding package worth £52,000 to help support their data gathering on species of sharks, skates and rays found in Scottish waters, many of which are at risk.

The funding has been offered by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Argyll and the Islands LEADER Programme and will be used to employ a Shark Project Officer who will work with SSACN to further develop the Scottish Shark Tagging Programme (SSTP – www.tagsharks.com) whose objectives are to :

  • Record data on shark, skate and ray species
  • Increase public awareness
  • Highlight the need for species protection
  • Encourage use of “codes of best practice”
  • Showcase conservation methods and efforts

Project Director Ian Burrett "SSACN has long campaigned for programmes aimed at regenerating the stocks of Scotland’s sharks; unfortunately the government and fisheries managers say they are unable to act as they say they lack the necessary scientific data and have no programme in place to gather it."

“Thanks to our funding partners and the many anglers who support our efforts, we shall be gathering that data for them.”

Tagging is the only non-destructive means of gathering the necessary data. It will be undertaken by volunteer sea anglers – fishing from the shore, kayaks or boats – who will catch, tag and release various shark, skate and ray species, either as part of their normal fishing trips or during major tagging events coordinated by the Shark Project Officer and SSACN.

The duties of the Shark Project Officer will also include arranging training workshops for anglers and raising awareness of Scottish sharks, skates and rays by liaising with fishermen, and visiting schools in Argyll.

Jane Dodd, SNH Marine Project Officer for Argyll and Stirling said: “We are hoping to recruit a dynamic project officer to lead this exciting project. Someone with project management skills and at least an interest in sea angling and a willingness to do some boat based field work. Quite an unusual range of skills to be found in a single person but we have our fingers crossed that he or she is out there!




Friday, November 6, 2009

Spanish Fisheries Confederation - Sharks

The Spanish Fisheries Confederation (CEPESCA) will ask the European Commission (EC) to put forth international conservation and management measures for a variety of species of shark, among them, the thresher and the hammerhead.

It is hoped that the measures are proposed in the next annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which will be held in Recife, Brazil, from 6 to 15 November.

Last September, Spain prohibited the capture of thresher sharks and scalloped hammerhead sharks – in an effort to protect both vulnerable species.

According to the norm, Spanish fishing ships are not be able to catch, transfer, land or commercialise these sharks in any of the fishing-grounds they target.

“In written documents sent as much to the Spanish Administration as to EC Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg, CEPESCA insists on the need for the European Commission to chair the ICCAT session on the necessary initiatives for the protection of the most vulnerable species of sharks and in the setting of the most adequate management measures for the establishment of responsible and sustainable fishing,” the Confederation indicated in a statement.

Complete Story.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tagging Disaster at Farallons - Foul Hooked Media

For the past few days we have been receiving an ongoing series of emails and phone calls from a variety of sources concerning an invasive SPOT tagging effort at the Farallon islands.

There was an apparent "tagging accident" this week covered in graphic detail by Bohemian Magazine.

SPOT tagging is a white hot issue within both the commercial shark diving community and shark research community. The SPOT tagging technique employs crews to catch white sharks with large hooks and to drill tracking tags into their dorsal fins.

A person identified as "Chris Fischer, owner Mothership Ocean, Expedition Leader," has been refuting and then negating the seriousness of the alleged tagging accident by responding to question asked of him by posters at this blog:

"On the anchor at the Islands now. Happy to report in that the first shark has pinged in 4 times and seems to be doing well. The second shark has also pinged in. Both are still in the area."

"We hooked two sharks this week. We were concerned about the first shark because the hook was a little deep. It was in the back of it's mouth, not gut hooked. We were able to cut the hook in half so it could roll out backwards, and left a part of it in the shark."

The Making Of Media Disasters

This is a classic example of a media disaster in the making for the tagging team at the Farallons and one that could be addressed by getting ahead of the negative and extremely graphic media that is surfacing around this incident.

Two issues need to be addressed immediately.

1. The full extent of the tagging mishap. Images, video, and a full accounting of this event as it transpired with nothing held back.

2. The role film and television productions had in this event if any.

The event was witnessed, photographed, and video taped by multiple sources so it cannot be hidden or downplayed. At stake is the reputation of a well known shark researcher and National Geographic television show about this teams tagging work set to air Nov 16, 9pm Est/Pacific.

The tagged shark is said to be "doing well" by this team. With the abject lack of transparency about the mishap to date we're now asking for "proof of life" to be added to the media list with the inclusion of a recent tracking map of all animals tagged including the first one.

This data should be independently verified by resident shark researchers from TOPP.

In a moment of media foresight this week we pointed to the unprofessional image of this group "high fiving and smiling" around a grounded shark at Isla Guadalupe and suggested "in the end these images will dog your continuing efforts for years to come."

Shark researchers have as much responsibility for media handling as any group that interacts with charismatic mega fauna and in the case of the team at the Farallons doubly so. We're not the only ones to point this out see also Mark Harding has a point.

Media transparency surrounding this event is critical for the sake of continued research with white sharks and for the public perception of invasive techniques for animal science.

Philopatry and migration of Pacific white sharks

Fascinating reading coming from The Proceedings of The Royal Society this week (click on image) with tracking/DNA data from a multi year effort at the Farallons, Point Reyes and Ano Nuevo off the coast of California.

Paper Highlights

"Hawaii is likely to be an important foraging area for white sharks. Extensive use of waters surrounding the Hawaiian island archipelago in winter and spring was evident from 13 satellite tag records (22% of tags with offshore tracks) and five acoustic tags (10% of 2006 and 2007 deployments) detected opportunistically by receivers stationed near the islands of Oahu and Hawaii (together comprising six males, six females and six unsexed individuals) (figure 1). The most precise geopositions and acoustic records from Hawaii included Argos endpoint transmissions (n = 8) with location errors of 150 m s.d. (Teo et al. 2004) and acoustic tags detected at fixed locations (n = 5). These occurred in slope and near shore waters along the entire 3000 km archipelago from the big island of Hawaii extending through the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to Laysan Island and Midway Atoll (electronic supplementary material, figure S2). While this distribution includes areas with colonies of endangered monk seals (Baker et al. 2007), detailed dive records from four recovered satellite tags (three females and one unsexed; three separate years) indicated that the dominant behaviour, when not transiting (Weng et al. 2007), was a precise diel vertical migration, between the surface and 600 m, consistent with foraging within the deep scattering layer community (Shepard et al. 2006) (electronic supplementary material, figure S3)."

Read study here.

Sharksafe.org Adds Multilingual Support

Certification Program Uses Chinese and French Versions
to Raise Awareness of Shark Conservation.


Oakland, Califonia - November 2009 -- The Center for
Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education, known more
commonly by its acronym "COARE", announced today the
availability of multilingual resources for its Shark
Safe certification program.

The website, www.sharksafe.org, which allows both
consumers and businesses to learn more about the Shark
Safe certification program, is now available in several
languages, including Chinese and French.

Using an easily recognizable logo to distinguish
participating establishments, the Shark Safe program
offers certification to qualifying restaurants and
select businesses that demonstrate a measured commitment
to shark conservation. Now available in several
languages, the website is expected to reach and
influence an even greater audience.

"The need for shark conservation is a global issue, so
our efforts need to transcend international borders,
cultural differences, and language barriers," said
Christopher Chin, COARE's Executive Director.

"We're particularly proud of and excited about the
Chinese version of our website," said Chin. "The vast
majority of sharks that are killed are taken for their
fins, which end up in shark fin soup - a delicacy
entrenched in Chinese culture and tradition."

"With an estimated 1.3 billion native speakers, Chinese
is, by far, the most widely spoken language on the
planet, and we are thrilled to be able to extend our
message to such a key audience," said Pete Wang, one of
COARE's volunteer translators.

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


The mission of the Shark Safe certification program is
to protect oceanic ecosystems by encouraging practices
that do not negatively impact shark populations.
"Sharks are one of our oceans’ top predators, keeping
the entire ecosystem in check, but shark populations
have declined dramatically over the last few decades as
a result of human greed and lack of understanding,"
said Chin. "If people knew more about these animals,
they would want to protect them."

As a conservation based website, www.sharksafe.org also
offers information about the plight of sharks and about
the need for their conservation. As further development
of the website continues, it will serve as a portal for
consumers to locate certified Shark Safe establishments
quickly and easily.

COARE began development of its Shark Safe program in
early-2007, seeking to protect sharks by raising
awareness of threats to shark populations and by
reducing the demand for shark products. In July of
2007, Jim Toomey, the artist behind the popular
syndicated cartoon Sherman's Lagoon, joined the effort
and helped form the Shark Safe logo in use today.
"Sharks have resided in a dark corner of our mythology
for thousands of years, which is partly the reason why
saving this vital animal from extinction will require a
special effort," said Toomey.

About COARE

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

COARE, Shark Safe, and the Shark Safe logo are
trademarks of The Center for Oceanic Awareness,
Research, and Education, Inc. All other company names
or marks mentioned herein are those of their respective
owners.

Media Contact
Jennifer Bowyer, media@coare.org, +1-510-495-7875

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Farallons White Sharks, Research and Duplicity of Effort

There's a small brush war going on right now between two white shark tagging teams at the Farallon islands off the coast of San Francisco.

We covered it obliquely this week.

After some consideration I have come to ask the question "why are we re-tagging a large number of animals at the Farallons?"

Since 2000 a team comprised of the PRBO, U.C Davis and Stanford University or TOPPS have set close to 179 sat tags in animals in and around the Farallons. For the most part this effort has been a resounding success and with over eight years at this site the TOPPS team would be considered "resident researchers."

So when ambitious plans for a much more invasive tagging technique (spot tags) were unveiled by a completely new tagging team, who had little to no experience with the white sharks at the Farallon islands, many became curious, some became outraged.

We became curious this week as well. We support any and all white shark research as long as it is done by well funded professionals with real and lasting research goals. But the question remains, with over 179 sat tags in place and well defined movement patterns established what data could the introduction of more tracking and movement tags deliver?

Additionally, if new data could be acquired, why was the TOPPS team not intimately involved?

Unanswered question for now as this new team, with NOAA's blessings, continues to set a new series of invasive tags at the islands this week.

Cheers,
Patric Douglas CEO
www.sharkdiver.com
www.sharkdivers.com
www.sharkdivers.blogspot.com
www.guadalupefund.org
www.islandofthegreatwhiteshark.com
415.235.9410

White Sharks San Francisco Bay?

Recent white shark tagging data has delivered a bombshell, white sharks visit San Francisco Bay.

From 2000-8 a team of researchers from U.C Davis and Stanford have been tagging white sharks in and around the Farallons and Point Reyes Seashore.

The very in depth story was covered today in the Mercury News and for white shark folks is a must read.

The other bombshell, not mentioned in this article was additional data showing Farallons white sharks off the coasts of Oahu's North Shore.

Confirmation of one of the commercial shark diving industries greatest white shark encounters back in 2007.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Oceans" That's French for "Beautiful"

What began five years ago as an undersea voyage to document the blue earth will be on screens January 27th - and those that live on the earth part will never be the same again.

Oceans a film by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud will be the defining underwater film of the decade.

The interactive website is a must see, and for those of you lucky enough to see the film release in January just remember we told you so.

Kudos to magnificent blue films.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Blue Bloggers Welcome Sean Paxton

"Juggling sharks, chainsaws and bowling balls is a personal metaphor adopted for my life and all the opportunity and challenge that makes it worthwhile. In reality, sharks do consume large portions of my time and energy, but it's the connected totality of the world's wild parts that fuels a passion for their long-term sustainability. Dull moments be damned. Here's a stout cocktail of adventure and wildlife; of risk and reward, and an exploration of how it all ties together in some of the strangest ways imaginable. If so much of this wasn't from personal experience, I probably wouldn't believe me, either."

Thus introduced, welcome to the newest addition of the Blue Blogosphere - Sean Paxton

Who are the Blue Bloggers?

As I have come to know them they are thinkers, innovators, trend setters, and conservation gurus. They are those who see things in all shades and beyond the horizon, they are the ones who shape current conservation issues, and sometimes move mountains.

For those who have not yet met the Blue Bloggers, you'll see their work in the shaping of ideas and conservation thought, in new websites, new media direction, and changes in old behavior.

The conservation world needs independent and controversial thoughts, smart ideas and conservation direction.

This is Sean Paxton.

If you were hoping for a dull assortment of "daily blarf", this blog is not for you. If you were hoping for something that challenges, enrages, and inspires, you came to the right place.

Sit back. Set your amps to 11 and please ensure your seat back tables are in the upright position...welcome to SeanPaxton.com

Shark Survivability 0% To 80%

A very large percentage of "shark fishermen" are in fact "accidental fishermen" - like these fine examples from New Jersey.

After watching this video shark conservation folks can do two things:

1. Get angry and rail at all shark fishermen.

2. Produce the tools for shark survivability.

A series of well placed informational videos highlighting catch and release techniques with real sharks would "educate fishermen" how to save sharks. The fishermen in this video unknowing killed this animal. They just lacked any clear idea how to deal with a shark, from gaffing, to hook removal.

With an industry leader like, Guy Harvey, and the backing of the IGFA, these videos would do more for sport caught shark survivability then most efforts currently being promoted.

Education is the golden key to sport caught sharks.

As shark conservation folks why don't we lead this issue instead of reacting to it? Any takers?

Duncan Brake, Jillian Morris - Shark Free Marinas

The Shark Free Marinas Initiative concept was created by the tragic death of a 15 foot Tiger shark in the Bahamas. We have posted about the power of "One Shark" to become the ambassador for an entire species. To make that happen ordinary people need to be engaged to effect conservation change.

The Shark Free Marinas Initiative sought ways to stop the ongoing slaughter of breeding aged sharks worldwide without becoming entangled in the often byzantine bureaucracy of local governments.

The initiative also looked at ways of empowering locals to take charge of their own regions, to become involved and to become conservation minded.

Lastly, the initiative looked at ways that local business could become green and promote that as a business selling point.

Nowhere are the three main goals of the Shark Free Marinas Initiative more aptly displayed but in the Bahamas and Fiji. This week Duncan Brake and Jillian Morris from Oceanic Allstars, both regional ambassadors of the SFMI in the Bahamas, produced an outstanding PSA for both the SFMI and for Bimini Sands Resort - the very first Bahamian Marina to adopt the SFMI.

Weaving the SFMI concept together brilliantly as a sales and conservation PSA, Oceanic Allstars have shown themselves to be savvy marketers of solid conservation PSA's.

After discussions with Luke Tipple, the Director of the SFMI, it was decided to invite Oceanic Allstars as our official PSA source for our entire marina directory. Now all marinas seeking PSA's for their marketing and sales have a direct and proven source to produce those PSA's.

Kudos again to both Duncan and Jillian for their tireless work as a regional ambassadors.

The Shark Free Marinas Initiative is a "people powered conservation concept." Along with Stuart Gow and Da Shark in Fiji the SFMI has grown exponentially.

Guadalupe Island -Trip Report 2009

Editors Note: There are two kinds of people in this world, the dreamers and the rest. Kudos to Jen for being part of "the adventure clan."

Here's her story:

When I was 5, my aunt took me to see my first drive-in movie…Jaws. Now I know what you are thinking…that is way too scary of a movie to be taking a kid so young to, but that movie started it all for me. I have LOVED sharks ever since!!!

I wanted a shark cage just like Hooper’s and even a crappy boat like the Orca would do for my travels…but alas, I never got that shark cage that was on my Christmas list. So in creating my Bucket List, this is the first item - See a great white alive (preferably in the wild).

Flash forward to 2003…this is when I discover Patric and his wonderful company that takes people out to meet the magnificent white shark face to face in this magical place called Isla Guadalupe. I emailed Patric and asked him a few questions about the trip and he called me back and told me everything I needed to know and then some, in his made-for-radio voice. So I decided this was it, when I had the money and was ready to go, I was going with this guy!

Well in life things happen and priorities change and shark diving was put on the way back burner but was still going to happen someday.

So it is Monday, August 11, 2008 and I sit down at work to read my emails and one in particular catches my eye:

Hi Jennifer,

Congratulations you were drawn as our Grand Prize Winner for the Luke Tipple promotion. You have won the Dive with Great White Sharks at Guadalupe Island. I will send you out a pack in the next two weeks with all the information to book your trip, and connect you with SharkDiver.com so you can answer all your questions. (check out the SharkDiver.com website to get the general idea.) You do not need to be Scuba Certified for this trip.


I read the email over and over again in my head and then asked a co-worker to come read it and tell me what she thinks and she says, “it looks like you just won yourself a shark diving trip!” So I get on the phone to call my best friend, Nicole and I read the email to her and start crying, my lifelong dream is finally going to come true and it would be in September 2009!

I can’t say enough about Patric and the Horizon crew. Everyone was so nice and helpful from Aaron helping us with our weight belts to Mike being right there with a cold drink of water when we got out of the cages to Patric himself being kind enough to “Count” the sharks for us and Mark making sure that I never saw one piece of cilantro or raw onion on my plate! The whole crew was fantastic, the boat was clean and in order and the food was great. Martin, our dive master was very informative and extremely patient which came in handy when he was teaching me to clear my mask and regulator. I love the ocean and spend my summers snorkeling the southern California coast and this was my first time diving. It only took about 15 minutes to get the hang of breathing with the regulator and be comfortable in the cage and once the sharks arrived I forgot all about that regulator.

In the movies they always show sharks, whites in particular, with black, lifeless eyes, which does not help in them being feared but I can tell you that their eyes are far from lifeless. When a 15 foot great white swims 1 foot in front of your face you can see that it has a beautiful blue iris and as this shark swims past you can actually see it focusing on each diver.

They are very curious and cautious animals and whey they cruise past the cages you can’t help but look at them more as graceful than menacing. I was a shark lover long before this trip but seeing them in the wild has made me want to do more to help protect them and now I need to win the lottery so I can go on EVERY Sharkdiver.com trip EVERY season!

Yours in sharks,
Jen McCormick

Following Expedition Blogs - Mining Gems

If there's an expedition blue blog out there we're probably following it.

The facinating world of our oceans is at your desktop each and every day. You never know what will catch your interest.

This caught our interest.

From the blog Oceans Watch Expedition, this post is called Aid Meets Tradition:

Chris comments: here in Moussau the community is still very traditional. I was interested to see how the fishermen use coral stones to weight their hooks to get down to 30 m where the bigger fish are.

They tie a piece of coconut palm leaf around the stone then put the hook through the leaf. When the stone hits the bottom a sharp tug pulls the hook out of the leaf leaving an un-weighted hook on the bottom. The bait they use is a piece of condom!

The condoms are supplied to the communities free by a family planning NGO. All the fishermen we met used condoms as bait and are very grateful to the NGO for endless free lures!