Saturday, April 30, 2011

At the Intersection of Science and Shark Tourism - Pure Poetry

One of the reasons we read the Deep Sea News blog almost religiously is because of reports from the field like the following.

Penned with passion, colorful description, and a deep scientific understanding this is about as good as it gets.

Read Inside the Outside this weekend. It's a first person report on incredible whale shark gatherings (400 animals) at the Afuera in Mexico a site only recently discovered by teams of researchers from Project Domino, Georgia Aquarium, the Smithsonian and Mote Marine Lab

You'll soon find yourself wanting to join the ranks of researchers or booking a flight to Isla Mujeres to make your way there.

Kudos to Para Sight for the article, like we said, this is as good as it gets.

Friday, April 29, 2011

USVI Shark Bite Charters - It Gets Worse

Thanks to Dan Holstein on Facebook who uncovered the true horror of local dive shop/shark hunter Shark Bite Charters out of St.Johns USVI.

It would seem the gregarious local owner has discovered the mother load of regional Tiger sharks off the shores of the USVI and is now in the process of killing as many as he can get his hands on, then proudly posting videos of his conquests online.

In the many years I was diving in the USVI we never saw a Tiger shark, if this is a newer phenomenon or not, either way it is shocking.

While the rest of the planet moves in lockstep to try and save dwindling shark populations with the Bahamas serving as a prime example of first rate shark management and tourism opportunities with sharks, the discovery of an operation like this is both disheartening and tragic.

Let's see if there's some local dive shops who can do something about this ongoing slaughter.

Update: Don't try posting anything on their Facebook page, to date over 300 posters have made their opinions known, Shark Bite Charters is deleting any post that is critical of their operation.

USVI Tiger Kill - Rare and Sad

Having lived in and been diving the USVI (US Virgin Islands) and BVI for many years I can attest that sharks are just not part of the eco system in this Lesser Antilles chain as elsewhere in the world.

Finding a juvenile Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) in these waters is an exceptional and very rare event. Which makes the following video so sad to watch.

As a commercial shark diving operator I am frankly stunned at the treatment of this animal and the 1970's approach to filming and documenting sharks underwater. The death of this animal was unnecessary, ignorant, and a stark waste of a magnificent resource.

Ironically on exactly the same day this animal was being killed I was in the Bahamas with a Brazilian film crew (without cages) documenting the Tigers of Tiger Beach for an upcoming documentary about these wonderful animals.

We still have a long way to go to change minds and attitudes towards sharks:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sharks and DNA Zip Codes - Hope?

An international team of scientists, led by the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, has used DNA to determine that groups of dusky sharks (Carcharhinus obscurus) and copper sharks (Carcharhinus brachyurus) living in different coastal regions across the globe are separate populations of each species. Both are large apex predators that are heavily exploited for the shark fin trade, which claims tens of millions of animals every year to produce the Asian delicacy, shark fin soup.

Many of these species are declining as a result of this fishing pressure for their fins.

DNA research projects were conducted by a collaborative international team of scientists from the United States, Australia, South America, Asia, New Zealand and southern Africa. The scientists collectively analyzed part of the mitochondrial DNA in nearly 400 sharks sampled from all over the globe.

This research was funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts through a grant to the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University. Sequence data were collected in the Field Museum's Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution, operated with support from the Pritzker Foundation. Additional sequence data were collected at the Guy Harvey Research Institute with operational funds and a grant from the Save Our Seas Foundation. Funding was also provided by the Turner Fellowship Program and the Tinker Foundation.



For more information on "Global phylogeography of the dusky shark, Carcharhinus obscurus: implications for fisheries management and monitoring the shark fin trade," visit here.



For more information on "Phylogeography of the copper shark (Carcharhinus brachyurus) in the southern hemisphere: implications for the conservation of a coastal apex predator," visit here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tiger Beach Shark Expeditions 2011 - Trip Report

Look up the world "enthusiastic" in the dictionary and you'll see an image of Magnus Greenacre from New York.

We got to meet him and his two dive buddies, Matt Todd and Kathryn Deveraux earlier this month in the Bahamas for some quality time with sharks.

As Magnus wrote this week:

This was one of those perfect trips when weather, sharks, and the company of some fine shark divers conspire to deliver a memorable adventure.



To say this was a trip of a lifetime would just not do it justice. After opening my eyes on a dreary Monday morning to find myself in a fuzzy walled cube, I decided that it was time to take a trip that I will remember forever: Shark Diving.



I found Sharkdiver.com, emailed Pat, and within 10 minutes already had a response....the rest is history.


Day one, we woke up to a fully cooked breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes, banana bread and all the coffee a worn out Manhattan Workaholic could desire......oh, and 4 tiger sharks ominously circling the boat. The team gave us the full run down and before we knew it we were surrounded by Lemon and Tiger Sharks. The only way one can truly appreciate a sharks beauty is to be in the water with them. As exciting as day 1 was, there were six more days to follow of equal awe and amazement.



I hope my pictures speak volumes of the six days that followed...



It’s been a week since I returned home from my trip with Pat and Sharkdiver.com and I am already planning my next shark adventure.


Thanks again to Pat and his Crew for a life long memory, story, and friendship.



Image by Josh Friedman

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hey We're Famous...and Being Ripped Off!

The worlds largest shark jaw goes on auction in a few weeks, and the good folks over at Heritage Auctions decided to "troll the internet" for images featuring sharks for their sales PSA.

One of those images belongs to writer and photographer Jim Cornfield, who shot an amazing two shot of our divers in 2009 with the vessel Horizon in the foreground at Isla Guadalupe.

A closer look reveals the background video shot by Richard Theiss from RTSea Productions who spent almost four years with Shark Diver at Isla Guadalupe carefully documenting the sharks here for his award winning documentary Island of the Great White Sharks.

Sigh.

Fijian divers urge for stop of shark finning - Well done!

When Mike, aka Da Shark, dives into the news he doesn't not bother with "small things," he swims right into the middle of "epic issues."

Case in point an article that made nationwide news in China this week, taking the message to the people:

Fijian Divers have called for stopping shark finning in the island nation to save the reefs, local media FijiLive website reported here Tuesday.



Mike Neuman, Director of the Beqa Adventures Divers made the call after conservationists found that local fishermen are engaging in the illegal practice of shark finning, says the report.



"Like our mangroves, the reefs protect our coastline and their demise will lead to coastal erosion and flooding, especially during cyclones but also as the sea level rises due to Global warming," Neuman was quoted as saying.



Neuman said sharks play important roles in local marine ecosystems and were worth more alive than dead. "As an example, it has been observed that where there are reef sharks, the parrot fish that feed on coral cannot stay in one location for long but need to remain on the move. This prevents them from over- exploiting the corals."



The principal reason why tourists visit Fiji is because of Fiji's intact marine habitats, Neuman further explained, adding "be it for simply enjoying our beaches or for engaging in a plethora of water activities. If we destroy our oceans we risk loosing countless jobs and 55 percent of our GDP."



"This is simply not a risk the country can afford" and there have been instances in which local fishermen had targeted sharks specifically for their fins, he stressed. "Finning is just a particular harvesting technique that consists in cutting off the fins, often while the shark is still alive, and discarding the carcasses."



According to Neuman, fish stocks can recover if the reefs are being subsequently protected but sharks are very slow breeders and stocks will very likely not recover once they have been wiped out.



"As to the value of sharks for dive tourism, we have calculated that a single shark on our shark dive contributes 30,000 Fiji dollars (16,600 U.S. dollars) to the local economy annually, or 600,000 Fiji dollars (330,000 U.S. dollars) during its lifetime this compares to a few hundred dollars for its value when dead," he said.



A report by Pacific Scoop in 2009 stated that shark fins in Fiji can only fetch 50 U.S. dollars for 500 grams, while elsewhere the shark fins can cost 400 to 800 U.S. dollars a kilo depending on the size and species of the shark.



Article here.

The Creepy World of Necrotic Dissemination

Ever wonder what happens to your mortal remains when you perish at sea?

For a team of researchers nothing but a several ton dead whale could answer that gruesome question. For the record we'll stay with the option of bring frozen in Corbonite and leave all the squishy, bitey, and flat out horrific deep sea critters behind.

Hat Tip Deep Sea News for the video find:

Punta Gorda, Florida, lands 2011 Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge Tournament and Festival

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - The Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge Tournament and Festival returns to Southwest Florida by making its Punta Gorda, Fla., debut May 13 - 15, 2011, at Laishley Park. The tournament, hosted by Laishley Crab House (www.laishleycrabhouse.com), combines the allure of competitive big-game sport fishing with cutting-edge science, practical conservation principles and informative entertainment. It is quickly becoming an industry leader and model for the next generation of shark-release tournaments. Teams will be competing for $15,000 in cash and prizes as they fish Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico.


The Ultimate Shark Challenge festival at Laishley Park on Saturday and Sunday will complement the competition by broadcasting highlights on digital displays. Event sponsors will conduct product demonstrations and giveaways and a wide variety of merchant vendors and unique attractions, such as Mote's Mobile Aquarium, will be on display, along with shark-centric exhibits, interactive demonstrations and delicious food and cold beverages.



Admission into this family-friendly festival is free.



Guy Harvey, world-renowned marine artist, conservationist and tournament partner, will make a personal appearance during the weekend to meet with fans and promote the tournament's shared mission.



"The Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge Tournament and Festival will be a uniquely exciting event for participants, spectators and everyone who cares about the future of our oceans," Harvey said.



Teams will have the option of entering a two-day elimination competition with either two or three anglers. A dozen shark species are eligible for points, but finding and catching them aren't the only challenges teams will face. To qualify, eligible sharks must meet a minimum total length of five feet.



Sharks will be measured in the water using a device custom-designed and provided by the USC before they are research tagged by the team and released back to the wild. In some cases, candidate specimens may be outfitted with a satellite tracking tag. An observer professionally trained and certified by USC staff and the Mote Center for Shark Research in species identification, tournament rules and proper tagging and release procedures will also be placed on board each team vessel.



Mote Marine Laboratory's Center for Shark Research staff is USC's chief science and research partner, and will oversee those aspects of the tournament, including all tagging operations. Hammerhead and bull sharks will be the focus of the satellite tagging efforts, but other species, such as tiger sharks, may be tagged. Tags are designed to transmit location and other valuable information about the shark's travels. Once satellite tags are deployed, the public will be able to follow these sharks' travels online.



Additional information about the 2011 Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge Tournament and Festival including team registration, sponsorship opportunities and festival vendor inquiries, can be found on the event's website www.UltimateSharkChallenge.com.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Oxygen Depletion and Sharks - The Myth

Like Da Shark I recently watched a series of shark conservation videos featuring filmmaker Jonathan Ali Khan in Sharkquest Arabia.

Great stuff for the most part and compelling watching, except for one glaring factoid that gets pasted into the film and almost ruins the message.

Folks, if we lose all the oceans sharks we will not run out of the worlds Oxygen.

Seriously.

How this factoid ever got into the broad based conservation messaging for sharks remains a mystery. Call it a case of too many shark centric people wanting to save sharks and not checking in with their facts or even bothering to question the obvious.

But check we must, otherwise those who regurgitate said factoids look like conservation village idiots when up against those in power who can effect change and who may be slightly more informed.

Let's do away with this unsupported line of reason as the facts about shark conservation are horrific and compelling enough without the addition of Fox News style gotcha shark headlines:

With 92% of our living biosphere being aquatic, almost 80% of our planet’s air is generated by the algae and microscopic phytoplankton that are found in the sea. Many thousands of fish species and other marine organisms feed on phytoplankton and algae. Sharks on the other hand prey on the fish that feed on plankton; right up through to the top of the food chain. So if we remove the sharks, as we are systematically doing at an unsustainable rate of over 70 million sharks a year, then it leaves the plankton feeders free of predation and free to gobble up the main source of our planet’s main oxygen supply!

Therefore, it is in our interest to maintain a healthy source of oxygen and air, if we want to keep on breathing!


And watch this film, like we said aside from this small part, it is a tribute to sharks and the entire team should be congratulated:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

At Large with Nat Geo - Scott Cassel, Richard Theiss, and Steve Blair

Three of the smartest natural history guys on television right now tackle the Humbolt Squids of Baja on National Geograhic Television this week:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

It's a Wrap - Bahamas and Beyond 2011

We're done with filming, productions, lights, action, and sharks this month.

For now it's time to sit back and enjoy a few frosty beers, feel the sand between our toes and get back to the office to plan the next round of challenging shark projects.

Blogging on this space will commence soon. A quick look around the shark-o-sphere reveals that we have missed much, who knew the Farallones would be such a hot topic?

Here's looking forward to getting back to strong Internet and daily news. Not looking forward to wearing shoes or clothes without salt and sand in them, part of this lifestyle is the beachy-ness of it all.

Is that even a word?

Bah - pass the Kalik boys, here's to a successful few weeks in the company of some fine people!

Friday, April 15, 2011

On Site at Sharkville - Alas Poor Yorick

Unfortunately this is not a return to blogging just yet. Just a short "blog tweet" or "Bleet" to say that all's well with our special projects this year.

It's been an amazing three weeks in paradise with our A-list crew of dive safety guys, actors, and more.

To describe the sharks and the delicate dance we have been working with over the past few days can be summed up in one word, "magic".

Now it's back out to our sharks and another amazing few days.

For me and the past 10 years of diving with sharks this entire month has been a pinnacle time at sea in the company of animals I have come to respect and love. It has been the culmination of years of knowing top notch people and gathering that tribe to pull off the extraordinary.

Let's go shark diving!

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

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Too busy to blog? Fear and Pestilence next?

For many, not having a daily dose of Underwater Thrills is one of the sure signs of the oncoming Apocalypse and to you we say thanks.

You, loyal fan, are one of 27,000+ who join us each week to celebrate all things sharky. And it is because of you we have blogged from remote places, airplanes, bus depots, and even the back of camper vans in New Zealand in an effort to keep the flow of pithy shark news coming.

It's been a lot of fun knowing that because of technology we could keep doing what we do and keep you informed.

A source of pride really.

Sadly, this is one of those rare times where technology, time, and distance will prohibit us from bringing you the world of sharks, news, science and re-posts from our merry band of Blue Bloggers.

Which is where we will send you over the next many days as we get "too busy to blog". But fear not readers, we will recap all of what was missed in a stunning orgy of blogging "recapping-ness" when we get back from some of our long awaited special projects with sharks.

For your consideration while we're gone:

UnderwaterTimes.com - The Grandaddy of underwater news

Southern Fried Science - Upstart ocean science cornucopia daily, and now 30% better!

OceanicDreams - Wolf's private site for grumps, bumps, and great shark images

Deep Sea News - You like cephalopods? Well, do ya?

Outdoors, action and adventure - One mans voyage from mainstream into cool stream media

The Dorsal Fin - Shark News without the sensationalism - Sez it all right there don't it?

The Best Shark Dive in the World! - Warning, extreme, well thought views and news only

RTSea Blog: keeping an eye on Nature - What the hell? He's out too?

See you all when we get back, and stay informed.