Monday, April 27, 2015

Amazing!

I've been diving with the great white sharks at Isla Guadalupe for 13 years now. Over time, I've come to marvel at the healing ability of the sharks, the mysteries of their migration, their distinctly different personalities and most of all, and this is what blows my mind, the fact that I can go to Guadalupe and know that I will see, not just any great white shark, but a particular individual great white shark.


Great white sharks are not resident to any given location, like say a clown fish, where you know that if you go to that particular spot, you're going to see that individual fish. The great white sharks that we see at Guadalupe are a highly migratory species that travel thousands of miles and typically return to the island each year. (every other year for adult females)

So here's the way I look at it. Say you live in a town or city, but I don't have your address. If I just come into your town at random and hang out, I may never run into you at all. With these sharks, I look at the great wide ocean and know that I can find "Bite Face," "Jaques" or "Bruce" and have been able to do so, consistently, for 13 years. Others, like our friend on the left, "Quetzalcoatl,"(OK I didn't name him) take a prolonged vacation of 8 years and return. "Where have you been, buddy?"

The fact that these world travelers (I mean, who doesn't want to vacation in Hawaii) return to Guadalupe Island, each season makes this Island a very important place, not just for us shark divers, but for the species itself. I'm happy to say that Mexico has declared the Island a biosphere; roughly the equivalent of a national park in  the U.S.  I want to applaud Mexico for taking that step in protecting the Island and the great white sharks that visit there annually.

The Island itself is a marvel of its own. There are many native species of plants that only exist on Guadalupe Island and it is a nesting ground for many migratory birds like the Albatross.

Guadalupe is over 4000 feet high at it's highest spot and creates its own weather pattern. The island blocks the clouds and we usually have bright sunny skies above us, even if it's cloudy all around us.

The clouds cascading over the mountains create an amazing backdrop for our shark divers and make for some memorable pictures.

You can join us on one of our expeditions and meet these shark yourself. We have a few openings left for this year and are already booking for 2016. For more information visit http://www.sharkdiver.com/dive-packages/great-white-shark-diving/ or call us at 619.887.4275. Email staff@sharkdiver.com

Let's go shark diving!

Cheers,

Martin Graf
CEO
Shark Diver


About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at sharkoperations@gmail.com

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Shark "Documentary" causing problems in New Zealand

Shark diving in New Zealand has been in trouble for a while. The local Paua divers at Stewart Island are claiming that the shark diving activity is causing white sharks to change their behavior and are trying to get it banned.


The Inquisitor writes. "Aggressive Great White Shark! Behavioral Changes’ Spur Proposed Diving Ban In New Zealand " 

The behavior of great white sharks around New Zealand’s Stewart Island has notably changed, according to local Paua divers, prompting authorities to call for a ban on local shark diving in light of the increasingly aggressive predators."

According to them "NZ First MP Clayton Mitchell noted the frequency with which great whites were being observed by local fishermen, asserting that the sharks are seen every day. He alleged that this amounted to a change in the sharks’ behavior, raising fears among the local Paua divers who make their living in the shark-infested waters.

“They are very, very concerned about their safety. It’s not a matter of if there’s an incident, but when and how often,” he noted. “Those close encounters are happening more frequently, to the point where on a daily basis when people are going out there and dropping a fishing line into the ocean, sharks are coming up. That’s behavioral change.”

Entire article here:
 
I'm always amazed that fishermen blame shark diving, which uses some attractant (chum) and small hang-baits (tuna heads) are for "feeding" the sharks and thus making them associate boats with food. They themselves are feeding the sharks (unintentionally) with entire fish. A struggling fish, hooked on a line attracts predators and since they are on a line and not able to swim away, an easy meal for the sharks. Wouldn't it make sense that the fishermen themselves are at least as much to blame for that association?
 

We know that when it comes to sharks, reason usually goes out the window and people argue mostly emotionally. As shark conservationists, we have to take that into consideration and need to be careful not to fuel their fear. And therein lies the problem. The need for some individuals, who claim to be conservationist, to make themselves look like superheros by doing all kinds of stupid stuff with those sharks and making it public, plays right into the hands of those who blame us for their behavior changes.

Today, the New Zealand Herald is reporting that a local group of Paua divers is using footage from a shark week "documentary" to claim that shark diving is to blame for sharks associating boats and humans with food.  They write: "Footage has emerged of the terrifying moment a 6m great white shark lunged at a dinghy carrying an international film crew off Stewart Island.
Two people were on the inflatable craft filming for documentary Lair of the Megashark, which screened on Discovery Channel last year, when they had the frightening encounter." source


video

In this video that was put online, you can see the filmmakers put a hang-bait right by the boat to attract the shark. When the shark goes after it, they make it seem like it was going after the boat itself. Stuff like that doesn't help to spread the message that great white sharks are not mindless killers.

 This "documentary" is of course by none other than renowned "shark porn" producers ABC4 and Jeff Kurr. 
 
Jeff Kurr is making statements like this: I’ve been wondering about why the sharks in New Zealand are so much more aggressive. and I can’t think of many things more eerie than descending into this inky blackness and being surrounded by three, four, six, eight massive great white sharks. That’s pretty scary stuff. source

So he's making a statement of fact, white sharks in New Zealand are more aggressive than in other places. What an "expert"! (sharkasm intended) Him saying that it's pretty scary stuff to be surrounded by sharks isn't exactly easing the fears of those Paua divers. Of course the titles of their "documentaries" "Lair of the megashark" and "Fins of Fury" doesn't help either.

There are many studies that dispute that shark diving will cause the sharks to attack boats, but like anything having to do with sharks, hysteria and opinions seem to trump facts. When these "experts" and self proclaimed "shark whisperers" fuel that hysteria just to get ratings for their shows, or further their superhero image, they hurt the cause severely.

The bottom line is this, if we as an industry don't speak out against these kinds of shows and actively participate by allowing them to film this stuff off our vessels, we hurt not only conservation, but our own businesses. The operators in New Zealand have been finding that out the hard way.

I have stated this before. You may have mixed feelings about shark diving, but one thing is clear. At Guadalupe Island we have been chasing off poachers in the past. If for some reason the cage diving there gets shut down, there will be nobody looking out for the sharks and the poachers will have free reign.


So let's go shark diving! But let's do it legally, responsibly, safely and in a way that portrays the sharks as what they really are, awesome predators, to be respected but not to be feared!

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver 


About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Surfer critically injured by shark off southern Australia; witness reports large great white

 FOX news has this headline today "Surfer critically injured by shark off southern Australia; witness reports large great white"
 
The following is what they report:


I have to say, that I'm usually not a big fan of how the media reports any shark related incident. Take the "Jaws Attack" headline in the UK we talked about yesterday and you can see how sensationalistic the media tends to cover anything shark related.

I like not being described as a mindless killer!

Big kudos to FOX news for reporting an actual incident, where a surfer got seriously hurt by a shark and cover it without any sensationalism.  Maybe the 20 foot size is a bit exaggerated, but people tend to perceive sharks a larger than they actually are. They even pointed out the fact that sharks are common off Australia's beaches and attacks are rare.

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver


About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Giant Shark scare in the UK

In another stellar piece of journalism (sharkasm) intended, the Daily Star writes "Jaws attack: Terror after GIANT SHARKS spotted circling the coast of England"

Wow, someone got attacked by a giant shark! Did they survive? What kind of a shark was it?
The article states: "HOLIDAYMAKERS have been placed on alert as huge sharks hit British shores thanks to the recent hot weather.

Still, no mention of what happened. So what the heck is going on?



OK, we are getting somewhere. Here is what happened: "The basking sharks, which can grow up to 26ft long, have been spotted off beaches in many of the country's holiday hotspots.
As if that wasn't terrifying enough – thousands of jellyfish have also been spotted in the waves."

The caption for the picture below read: "HORROR: The terrifying sharks – which can grow up to 26ft – have started circling shallow water around the UK [AK Wildlife Cruises]"
 
source

Wait, did I miss something? Where is the attack? What is terrifying about a basking shark?
The article goes on to say: "Ross Wheeler of AK Wildlife Cruises in Falmouth, Cornwall, captured incredible footage of the first sighting of a shark in UK waters."We had two basking sharks – our first for the season – thousands of barrel jellyfish, 11 common dolphin and five harbour porpoise" he said."

Ah, I see. They are describing some people going on a wildlife cruise and encountering a completely harmless basking shark. The "reporter" mistakenly wrote the wrong headline. He really meant to say: "Tourists are excited about encountering gentle giant" or "Lucky tourists encounter gentle giant and friendly dolphins off the UK coast". Easy mistake to make (sharkasm) intended.

Later on the article correctly mentions: "But the sighting isn't likely to mean a repeat of horrific scenes from 1975 thriller Jaws - the basking sharks are harmless but have been lured to the Cornish coastline earlier than normal.
They swim around with their gaping jaws open to swallow tiny plankton, their main food source."

So the reporter actually knew that there was no attack and the sharks are harmless plankton eaters, which of course didn't stop him from making up a completely fictitious and sensationalistic headline. It's not like the sharks don't have it hard enough already, with overfishing and being killed for their fins. I really wish the media would stop making it worse by portraying even the most harmless sharks as terrifying monsters.

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver 


 
About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Revolution, a film by Rob Stewart

Rob Stewart's film Revolution is premiering on the web today. Check out the trailer below.





 Revolution

Revolution is a feature documentary about opening your eyes, changing the world and fighting for something. A true life adventure following director Rob Stewart in the follow up to his hit Sharkwater, Revolution is an epic adventure into the evolution of life on earth and the revolution to save us.
Discovering that there’s more in jeopardy than sharks, Stewart uncovers a grave secret threatening our own survival as a species, and embarks on a life-threatening adventure through 4 years and 15 countries into the greatest battle ever waged.
Bringing you some of the most incredible wildlife spectacles ever recorded, audiences are brought face to face with sharks and cuddly lemurs, into the microscopic world of the pygmy seahorse, and on the hunt with the deadly flamboyant cuttlefish. From the coral reefs in Papua New Guinea to the rain forests in Madagascar, Stewart reveals that our fate is tied to even the smallest of creatures.
Through it all, Stewart’s journey reveals a massive opportunity, as activists and individuals all over the world are winning the battle to save the ecosystems we depend on for survival. Presenting the most important information on human survival and inspiring people all over the world to fight for life, Revolution is essential viewing for everyone. Startling, beautiful, and provocative, Revolution inspires audiences across the globe to join the biggest movement in history that’s rising to the challenge of saving our world.
Revolution premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and has already gone on to win ten awards, including the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Atlantic Film Festival, Most Popular Environmental Film Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Victoria Film Festival and the Social Justice Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.


Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Conservation done right. BAD is good!

Today, on Earth Day, as we are getting ready for our Fiji trip, to dive with bull sharks at the Beqa Shark Reef Marine Reserve, we get some news about why we love that place so much. It's not just because they have some of the best shark diving in the world.
5 years ago, DaShark started "Mangroves for Fiji" in order for Beqa Adventure Divers "BAD" (It really means "Bad Ass Divers") and other Fiji businesses to become carbon neutral. 

Whether it is their dive operation or their commitment to conservation, everything they do is a cut above. No wonder they describe themselves as a conservation project masquerading as a dive shop. You may remember, that it was also they who were instrumental in creating the first marine national park in Fiji.


Mangroves for Fiji  just released their website, "Mangroves for Fiji" where businesses can sign up to become carbon neutral. You can check out and like their Facebook page.


Projects Abroad, who is planting those mangroves on "BAD's" behalf has some exciting volunteer opportunities for you to help with their shark conservation program. Check here for details. I can tell you from personal experience, volunteering with them is a blast. You couldn't possibly have more fun, doing something for the environment, than working with Projects Abroad in Fiji. I had a blast, trying to tag some bull shark with them last year.


Shark Diver is proud to partner with "BAD" for our bull shark expedition in May. You can also book your shark dive with "BAD" for anytime of the year through us. Call us at 855.987.4275 or email staff@sharkdiver.com for more info.
I can't wait to travel to Fiji next month and see the progress they have made first hand.

Have a great Earth Day!

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver
About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Friday, April 17, 2015

How every diver can help with shark conservation.

I have to share DaSharks latest blog. It is actually a guest blog by Ian Campbell that talks about protecting sharks and how you can help.


Shark research, management & conservation intelligentsia meeting in Townsville, see below
 
Introduction by DaSharks:
 
Are you intrigued? :)

Here goes.
Ian Campbell is currently working for WWF’s Global Shark and Ray Initiative running the sustainable management component. He is also a Shark diver and a member of the SRMR management team.
From NGOs to the public and private sector, Ian has over 20 years’ experience in fisheries policy, ecology and fishery management working extensively within both the UK and internationally. Previous employment has included overseeing the reform of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy for the Pew Charitable Trusts, fisheries observer on blue-fin tuna vessels, inshore fisheries management and as a commercial diver in the offshore sector.
Ian holds a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Marine Biology from Heriot-Watt University and a Master degree in Environmental Science from the University of Strathclyde.

This is an important initiative.
Having just returned from a meeting with major stakeholders, see at top, I've asked him whether he wouldn't mind submitting a guest post presenting it to the wider public.
Here is Ian's post.
Shark divers – An underused resource?

Everyone who is even remotely interested in sharks (and rays, don’t forget these charismatic shark pancakes of wonder) is abundantly aware of the pressures they are facing.
Fishing pressure, habitat loss, unsustainable consumption, or even fanciful claims of being “evolved for extinction” everywhere you look they are under the cosh. The pressure that sharks are under have probably best been summed up by the 2014 paper (and here - notice the part about research and data collection?) led by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group which concludes that almost a quarter of all sharks and rays (over 1,000 species assessed) are faced with the very real threat of extinction. Remember, this is not the claims of an environmental NGO, but an independent assessment of the current state of shark and ray populations by 128 experts from 35 different countries. Here’s a simple chart highlighting the different levels of threat.


As you can see, despite what you may hear from some campaigns, not all sharks are threatened, and some are in worse shape than others, but, for WWF, one of the biggest areas of concern is the shaded grey area on the left side of that chart. From all the 1,042 species assessed, 487 are “data deficient”.

Basically, virtually nothing is known about almost half of all sharks and rays.
Effective management and designing plans to reduce mortality is virtually impossible when faced with this lack of basic understanding. Imagine trying to balance your budget without knowing how much money you have in your account to start with, or the amount of interest you are receiving or paying out.

There are a number of conservation initiatives out there which lay claims to conserving sharks, from finning bans to fin trade bans (there’s a difference), from sanctuaries to species protections and from policies to plans. Some of these are more useful than others, but if any of them are to be truly effectual then one thing is key to them all: DATA!

Without a basic understanding of shark and ray populations both around the coast and in offshore waters, then making decisions for the long-term survival of these species is little more than a best guess. Yet there are a multitude of areas rich in information, but not necessarily being channeled in the right direction.

Divers, fishermen, market traders, even shark and ray researchers produce data every day, yet it is surprising how little of it actually makes its way to ministerial departments or independent bodies to assist with informed decisions for conservation. WWF are seeking to bridge this gap. We are developing a project in collaboration with some of the world’s leading shark researchers to create standard methodologies to maximize the benefits from untapped resources.

In 1999, the Food and Agriculture Organisation produced guidelines for countries to undertake a step-by-step process to developing long-term, sustainable shark management plans (known as National Plans of Action, NPOA).
This process seems relatively simple. Firstly, collect data on sharks and rays in the form of a Shark Assessment Report. Then use this data to develop your NPOA. While this does sound simple, and has been done in places like Australia, the EU and NZ (to varying degrees of vigour), the Pacific Islands have had to get by using the limited resources at their disposal. There are some NPOAs currently in existence in the region, such as the Cook Islands and Samoa. Other countries have draft versions waiting government endorsement, such Fiji and Tonga, while some countries such as Palau want to declare shark sanctuaries. These efforts for conservation & long-term planning are great, although all of these measures have one oversight in common. They are built on a lack of data. None of the countries have produced Shark Assessment Reports, so cannot fully know the issues within their territorial waters. This is not the fault of the Pacific Islands, gathering data can be time consuming for departments with limited resources, and the analysis requires specific technical expertise. Organizations such as the FFA and SPC are providing a great service, although their remit extends way beyond just looking at sharks.

So here is where WWF are stepping in.
As mentioned, we are collaborating with shark expertise far and wide to develop our shark ‘Rapid Assessment Tool-kit’ (or shark RAT). The main function of this is to design ways to collect and analyze data on coastal and pelagic sharks that can then be used to produce a Shark Assessment Report. The very basic baseline data in this report can in turn used by governments to develop conservation strategies that are then based on some sort of understanding.

Where is this data going to come from?
Well, there are a lot of sources we will be exploring from genetic and socioeconomic surveys at landing sites to extensive underwater video surveys, but one untapped goldmine is the information collected by divers. In Fiji, there is the Great Fiji Shark Count which is starting to produce comparable info. At present, this isn’t incorporated into management plans, so it’s high time it is.

There are also other things dedicated shark divers can be doing.
Ever been on a surface interval that seems to go on for ages? Sat at the bar for the post-dive drinks to talk about what you saw? How about these hours are spent helping screen underwater video footage that shows what happens at your dive site when no-one is in the water? Pretty much every diver would be able to recognise whether a shark or ray was in shot, and a huge number would even be able to say what species it was. Collecting and screening this type of data would take a massive burden off an already overstretched ministry or fisheries/shark specialist.

Obviously, we are well aware of the multitude of challenges that lay ahead for the project to be fully successful, and some methodologies that may look good on the page may fail spectacularly when introduced to the real world. But we have to try. Improved management for sharks and rays is the only thing that is going to directly reduce mortality. Not shark fin soup campaigns, or putting all your eggs into “ending finning” and certainly not cavorting in swimwear near sharks.

Last week WWF held a 3 day workshop where 12 of the best minds in their respective fields (I’m not including myself, I just took notes and provided the tea and coffee) provided input and direction.
As well as academic researchers from the fields of genetics, citizen science and eco-tourism, we had input from FFA, SPC and SPREP. Everyone we have spoken to has been enthusiastic and willing to support us. The people in attendance will now provide advice and recommendations to the project. Professor Colin Simpfendorfer, the co-chair of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group also gave us a name, although how serious he was is up for debate. WWF now convenes the Pacific Rapid Assessment Tool-kit Scientific Advisory Committee, or PRAT-SAC. Maybe the first thing we need to work on is the name?

The project is embryonic and there is a lot of hard work ahead, but with a little direction, continued enthusiasm and, more importantly, collaboration, then slowly we’ll restore the balance for sharks and rays

DaShark: Here's to that - thanks buddy, appreciate!

Thanks indeed! I hope all of you will join in this effort to conserve our shark populations. And here you were, thinking you're just having fun, when you're diving with sharks.

Let's go shark diving!

Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver
 
About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bull sharks in Fiji

We are going to Fiji in May, to dive with the bull sharks in the Shark Reef Marine Reserve. DaShark has posted this video by Howard Hall, who has just been diving there last week.



The Bulls of BAD from Howard Hall on Vimeo.

Come join us and experience these sharks up close and personal. Call us at 855.987.4275 or 619.887.4275 email staff@sharkdiver.com


Let's go shark diving.

Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Working with Fishermen to Save Sharks

The shark conservation and fishing communities are often at odds over protecting our sharks. Guy Harvey is making an effort to bring these two groups together. During the current Cayman Islands International Fishing Tournament, he is teaming up with the participants to help tag oceanic white tip sharks.

source

Cayman 27 writes: "Dozens of fishermen are getting in on the conservation act by helping to tag sharks. Conservationist Dr. Guy Harvey is teaming up with participants of the Cayman Islands International Fishing Tournament, embarking on one of the largest shark tagging and research projects ever undertaken in the Caribbean.
Dr. Harvey’s team will learn more about the oceanic white tip shark. “They are very valuable to the eco-system and to science,” he says.
By aligning with local fishing tournaments in 2013, as well as this year he believes fishermen are becoming more aware of the shark’s worth. “We used the fishing fleet to catch sharks for us and we pay them to hold the sharks until the chase boat [gets] there there to take the sharks from them because they’re giving up time for us,” explained Mr. Harvey."

I know, a lot of conservationists don't like fishing tournaments and even oppose actions like these by Guy Harvey. They think this is glorifying the killing of sharks and argue that there is post release mortality. I have to admit,  I'm not a big fan of catch and release shark fishing myself, but think about it this way. What is better? Going to a shark fishing tournament and protesting, maybe even hurling some insults at the fishermen, questioning their morals and character, like many people like to do, or do what Guy Harvey is doing? 

video

Just like the Shark Free Marina initiative that was created by Shark Diver, Harvey is working together with the fishermen in these tournaments. He raises their awareness of the conservation concerns and gets them interested and involved in protecting the sharks

"Cayman 27's" article states:  “For every shark that you get and call in; that we successfully tag and release [fishermen] will receive CI$500 in cash,” said CIB Marketing Manager, Matthew Leslie. 

And the partnership is working says Dr. Harvey, by the fishermen getting to see the animals in their offshore habitat, he says anglers are practicing preservation.

We always have to ask ourselves this question. Do we care more about the principle that we should not catch or kill any sharks, or do we want to save sharks. By protesting and vilifying the fishermen, we will not save one shark! By working with them, promoting catch and release, (even with all the problems associated with that), getting them to help with tagging and making em aware, we actually save sharks.

Every journey starts with a first step. We are never going to accomplish our goal of saving the sharks, the oceans, if we are not willing to work together.

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Shark sighting in Portugal

Congratulations to the algarvedailynews! You managed to cover a shark sighting near shore without sensationalism, with a simple "Mystery shark spotted near Tavira" headline.

In the article you go on to explaine exactly what happened.

As the build up to the swimming season starts with beaches being prepared and concession soon to open, a reminder that 'we are not alone' when bathing was evident in the waters near Tavira.
A shark at least two metres long was spotted by fishermen on the jetty close to the beaches at the entrance of the river Gilão.

Photo Michael Correia - Correio da Manhã

The shark clearly was in distress and was disorientated, swimming around in the shallow waters.
After an hour the shark headed back out to sea with its identity a mystery as, despite being observed by many fishermen, nobody could identify the species.
The Tavira shark was not a Hammerhead, a species which can come close to the shore but normally feeds at least a mile out mainly on sardines, tuna and mackerel and only when the water is warmer at 20 degrees or more.
In 2013 a three metre shark was spotted close in to the shore near the fortress at Sagres, again the species could not be acertained.
Along Portugal’s coast there are dozens of shark species, the majority of which stay offshore and deep down, venturing closer to the surface only when hunting for fish or looking for a mate.
There is an abundance of sharks in Portuguese waters, a sign of a healthy marine environment, but no recorded incident of anyone being attacked as sharks prefer eating fish of which there are plentiful supplies.

Kudos for reporting a shark sighting without sensationalism and resorting to the use of monster, beast or killer. You informed your readers, without scaring them. Your action shows that covering a shark sighting can be done in an informative manner and no scary headlines. I hope that other media outlets will take note. 

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver 

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Jaws, lemon shark



About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Shark Attacks And The Media

"Shark Attacks Are So Unlikely, But So Fascinating" is the title of an article in Popular Science.

Wow, a non sensationalistic headline dealing with shark attacks. Good job! 

George Burgess, a shark researcher and curator of the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) writes a good article on how and why the media covers shark attacks. I don't always agree with him, but think this article gives some good insights into the psychology of shark attacks and how they get covered.

"Sharks are incredibly unlikely to bite you. They’re even less likely to kill you. However, we remain fascinated with their ability--and occasional proclivity--to do just that. With so many things more likely to harm us, why do we pay such rapt attention when sharks make headlines?


People need to understand more fully that when we enter the sea, it’s a wilderness experience. We’re eco-tourists and are not owed the right to be 100% safe. That’s what fascinates us about sharks: There’s an innate concern in our psyches about not wanting to get eaten. Almost every other animal on earth has to worry about getting eaten night and day. As humans, we rarely have that concern. People hold sharks in awe as one of the rare species that reminds us we’re still potentially part of a food chain.

You’re much more likely to be injured or die during your evening run than in a shark attack, but don’t expect to turn on the Discovery Channel and see Sneaker Week. For better or worse, we’re hard-wired to pay attention to creatures that can eat us--even if they rarely do."

I think he hit the nail on the head. In addition to what he mentions, I also believe that for humans to go into the ocean is innately uncomfortable. We are not in our natural environment. There are so many perceived dangers, real or not. We are fascinated by what we may encounter, but also weary of the unknown.



Most people are probably overestimating the chances of getting killed by a shark and who can blame them, with the way we are bombarded with sensationalistic coverage of anything shark related. In 2014, there were zero fatal shark attacks in the entire US!

"There wasn’t a single fatality in the entire country last year and only three worldwide." source

We always talk about what kills more people than sharks, but have you ever thought about what kills fewer? What kills humans, but at a rate of fewer than  10-12, or as last year, fewer than 3 annually in the entire world? There may be something, but I haven't come up with an answer yet.


A lot of people will argue, that there are more fatalities on land, because the number of  people who go  into the ocean is far lower than the number of people who stay on land and even the people who are going into the water, spend much more time on land as well. 

OK, so let's look at the risks of going into the ocean and what you have to be aware of. 

According to the CDC "From 2005-2009, there were an average of 3,533 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States — about ten deaths per day. An additional 347 people died each year from drowning in boating-related incidents.2"

Gerry Burgess puts this in perspective. To put that into perspective, more people die from drowning every day in this country than were killed by sharks in ten years.

I hope the government of Western Australia is paying attention to this. Their budget for shark mitigation is $22 million. source  If they would spend that much money on additional lifeguards and life saving equipment instead, they could probably save a lot more lives than with that ill advised shark cull program.


Burgess goes on to explain why the number of annual fatalities has gone up slightly, but the actual rate has gone down.

When you think of how much time we spend in the water, it’s amazing how innocuous shark and human interaction is. When the ISAF began in the 1950s, scientists were concerned primarily with shark attacks after ships and aircraft went down at sea.

A lot has changed since then. There are a lot more of us on earth today than there were back then and there will be even more tomorrow. Aquatic recreation has never been more popular. More people are kayaking, surfing, diving and paddleboarding.

More time in the water means more time to interface with sharks.

It’s partly a generational change. When my parents took a young me to the beach, my mother would lie on the sand and work on her suntan, never going in the water. My dad might have gone in once a day to cool off. Nowadays, if I’m at the beach, I might be boogie boarding or skin diving. Most of us are spending a lot more hours in the water than did our parents and our activities are inadvertently provocative. That creates ample opportunities for sharks and humans to get together.

This article in Popular Science should be mandatory reading for any journalist covering shark related stories. But of course, like Burgess points out, who would watch "Sneaker week". Unfortunately the news is a business and headlines are designed to catch our attention. Like it or not, we are all guilty of it. Like we wrote about here. What headline are you going to pay attention to. "Shark trying to bite through steel cage!" or "Shark bumps into cage"?

Enjoy your time in the ocean this summer and remember to watch out for rip currents and swim near a lifeguard. If you happen to see a shark, consider yourself lucky.

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Shark trying to bite through steel cage?

"Watch terrifying footage of great white shark trying to bite through steel bars of diving cage"  screams the headline of the "Daily Mirror" "Open-mouthed great white shark charges unlucky cameraman" shouts the "New York Post". 

So what the heck happened? 



First off, the shark is not trying to bite through steel bars to get at the photographer. It was going after a fish head that was pulled straight over the cage (not a safe practice for a shark diving boat) and ran into the cage while doing so.  Since they don't have a reverse gear and can only swim forward, it looks like it's trying to get into the cage, when in fact it is just trying to get away.


Of course this doesn't stop tabloids like the New York Post from making statements like this "In a scene straight out of “Jaws,” the open-mouthed great white clamps down on the cage with its razor sharp teeth just inches away from Bray’s camera."

The "Daily Mirror" tries to put a conservation spin on the story  by saying "The great white shark and many other shark species are under threat, so research into their breeding habits can help come up with scientific solutions to the problems surrounding their possible extinction. 

The main problem is education, most people have grown up thinking sharks are dangerous and scary, and we have Stephen Spielberg's 'Jaws' to thank for that. Yes that, and your stupid headline "Watch terrifying footage of great white shark trying to bite through steel bars of diving cage"  

We at Shark Diver specialize in "Safe and Sane" conservation shark diving. We respect the sharks and try to show them for what they really are. Awesome predators that don't need to be feared, but respected.


If you want to encounter them in their natural environment, come joins us at Guadalupe Island this fall. We still have a few spaces open. Call us at 855.987.4275 or 619.887.4275 email staff@sharkdiver.com

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver
 
About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How do you get taken seriously as a conservation activist?

When writing a blog or a comment on social media, it is easy to get a little rigid in one's stand on an issue or one's view on a group or person. Once our mind is made up, it tends to be difficult for us to change it, or admit that someone we don't like actually did something good.

People who don't agree with you won't change their mind, unless you have an open mind, are able to see where they are coming from and are able to specifically explain, why you disagree with them. While I can certainly see the passion behind someone opposing, for example OCEARCH, I question whether you can convince someone to see things your way, by just wholesale condemning everything they do. The only people you convince that way, are the ones already agreeing with you.

If you speak out against specific things instead, like (OCEARCH) lifting sharks out of the water, the fin damage their tags cause (pictured below) etc. If you explain how those things could be done better,  I think you'll have a much better chance to get them to change. Even if they themselves won't change, maybe you'll convince some of their supporters or sponsors and they can make them change.

http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/68347000/jpg/_68347075_findamagephotojyoung.jpg
source

A great example for doing it right is DaShark. He is certainly a guy with an opinion on things. His view on groups like Sea Shepherd tend to be mixed to say the least. In his own words " I harbor, to state it mildly, mixed feelings" What makes him different is the fact that he is not rigid in his thinking, he gives credit, when he thinks someone deserves credit, just like he does here and here

Admittedly, it is not easy to have and open mind, and sometimes it hurts to acknowledge that someone is doing something good. DaShark acknowledges that this way "Mark this day in your calender! I'm gonna say something positive about the SSCS! (And before you ask - yes it did hurt. But what is fair is fair.)"

So what does keeping and open mind and working with people instead of against them get you? Well in DaSharks case, a national park! He is none other than the guy who was instrumental in creating the Shark Reef Marine Reserve in Fiji, a project that saw the number of fish species present go from around 260 to over 460 in a 10 year span!
 
DaShark with his "girls" in the "SRMR"

Of course it was not just his open mind that got this project accomplished. There was a lot of hard work instead of "slacktivism" involved. In other words, if you really want to change something, you have to do more than just have an opinion and open mind. You have to get off your butt and actually do something.   

You can follow DaShark's blog here.

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver 

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Do sharks really mistake humans for seals?

Do sharks really mistake humans for seals? that is the headline of a report in "The Sydney Morning Herald"

The article says that Researchers test 'mistaken identity' theory  by conducting some studies on sharks in a pool.

Photo: Taronga Zoo  

"You can see quite easily how that mistaken identity might come about," Dr Nathan Hart explains. 

Look at these images and it's easy to imagine how a shark might mistake a swimmer or surfer for a seal.

At least that's the premise behind the "mistaken identity" theory that tries to explain why sharks sometimes attack people.

While the idea seems reasonable, even logical, it has never been tested until now.

What? Never been tested? Ever heard of Dr. Peter Klimley, Scott Anderson and many others.

Photo: Taronga Zoo

At Taronga Zoo, researchers have this month run a series of experiments to understand what drives a shark to attack by mimicking what they see and hear underwater.

With this information, they hope to develop specific shark repellents, such as making surfboards less attractive with lights; a feature they'll test on South Africa's white pointer population later this year.

"We know their visual system isn't as good as ours," said lead researcher Nathan Hart, a neuroscientist at the University of Western Australia. 

Sharks are colour blind but they have very sensitive eyes, making them good at detecting objects in low contrast. However, they also have poor spatial acuity, which essentially means their vision is more blurred than humans.

Wait, their visual system isn't as good as ours? They are color blind? Their vision is more blurred? I guess Dr. Hart has never heard of Dr. Gruber's research published way back in 1985! 


Thanks to decades of careful, dedicated work by Samuel Gruber and his co-workers, we now know that many sharks see in color, too

In a revealing 1985 paper, shark biologist Samuel Gruber and anatomist Joel Cohen studied the retina of the White Shark. Gruber and Cohen demonstrated that the Great White retina has both rods and cones, but at a significantly different ratio from most sharks. The small, moderately deep-dwelling Spiny Dogfish has a rod-to-cone ratio of about 50:1, while in the larger, more shallow-water Sandbar Shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus) the rod-to-cone ratio is about 13:1. But in the White Shark, the rod-to-cone ratio is about 4:1 - roughly the same as in human beings. From these results, Gruber and Cohen concluded that the White Shark has the retinal mechanisms necessary for acute, bright-light, color vision. source

I would expect a researcher to 1. not make a general statement about shark's vision, when different species have very different eyesight and 2. know about the fact that white sharks can see color, which has been known for 30 years now.
I can see you! In color :-)


Maybe, if Dr. Hart had done a little research on what is already known about sharks, he would not make statements like these 

"If you now imagine blurring those images, you can see how there'd be even more similarity between them because the details of the arms and the legs get hidden," Dr Hart said. "You can see quite easily how that mistaken identity might come about," he said.

The article states that  The study forms part of a broader project funded by the Western Australian government to assess shark attack deterrents.


Well, knowing what kind of "science" the Western Australian Government used to justify their drum line program, I'm not really surprised that they are funding these kinds of researchers.

Link to the article here

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.