Friday, December 26, 2008
To say that things have solidified on the conservation front is an understatement...what we have now is a full fledged, organic, top to bottom shark conservation movement, and it's paying dividends.
Last week Yahoo's Alibaba and Taobao web portals announced they are apparently discontinuing all advertising and trade of shark products as of January 1st, 2009. This stunning announcement lays two more giant cornerstones into the shark conservation movement.
On the commercial shark diving front a growing awareness of "being a global 200 million dollar industry" and the absolute need now for local site conservation efforts. The old paradigm of just maintaining commercial operations is being replaced by site activism, awareness, site stewardship and shark conservation measures. It has taken a series of horrific local site kills from South Africa to the Bahamas to bring this issue to the front burner-but it's here and operations are slowly pushing back. It is also good to mention the several forward thinking operations from Fiji to South Africa who have been leading this charge for years now. It starts with "One".
Has this been a good year for sharks? No, the slaughter continues unabated, but that slaughter is no longer being conducted in a total vacuum. NGO's, websites, blogs, major news outlets, literally thousands of people are, getting involved, raising banners and spreading awareness like wildfire.
It's remarkable really when you consider all of this has been for sharks. Not Panda's (sorry Panda People) but sharks. There's still a lot of work to do, the announcement by Alibaba and Taobao comes with a caveat yet to be announced. Our hunch is this valuable division within the company has been transferred to another site perhaps as a stand alone "take the heat and answer to no one", time will tell.
For now we can all enjoy the fact the shark conservation round table has no empty seats...let the fist pounding begin!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
This represents a massive roll out failure on the part of Taobo.com.cn and sister company Alibaba.com.
For now we have given them an "F" and ask that you disregard the following press release.
The announcement was made as part of a campaign IFAW and Taobao collaboratively initiated to combat online wildlife crime. In the unprecedented collaboration, IFAW and Taobao.com share information about online illegal wildlife trade and jointly raise consumer awareness about the detrimental impact wildlife trade has on species in the wild.
However, fueled by big profit margins and the increase in shark fin consumption, overfishing of sharks is threatening more than 50 percent of the shark species with extinction. As top predators in the ocean, sharks play an important role in keeping ecosystem balance. However, an estimated 100 million sharks are killed globally each year.
"Consuming shark fin is not only harmful to the marine biodiversity, but promotes the cruel practice of shark finning, where sharks had their fins cut off then thrown back into the ocean, still alive, die a horribly painful death." said
Taobao's decision to ban shark fin was also applauded by its users. In an online message, a
Friday, December 19, 2008
MSNBC's coverage of a dead Great Hammerhead caught in Florida this week could have been taken from any script written in 1977 for a local anchor. Missing is the "sympathy for the devil" and any basic understanding about shark conservation. Now take CNN's coverage of sharks this month and you get the feeling that perhaps MSNBC is pulling anchor scripts from 1977:
Thursday, December 18, 2008
It's a weekly look at Alibaba.com the NYSE of Shark Fin Products and sales on the Internet-Sponsored by Yahoo! Inc.
We will take you to the individual sellers listed on that site and introduce the top companies, what species they sell, and how many thousands of pounds of shark fins they have for sale on the global market.
Today our Shark Fin Du Jour is UMS Enterprises who can source a staggering 500 kilograms of sharks fin per week:
|Place of origin:||Pakistan|
|Model No:||SF 1173|
|Fob Price:||US$ 30~180 Karachi (Air/Port)|
|Minimum Order Quantity:||500 Kilogram|
|Supply Ability:||500 Kilogram per Week|
|Package:||15kg - 30kg Polypropylene Bags|
|Delivery Time:||Minimum 10 Working Days|
This week a reef shark at Atlantis leaped to it's death on a water slide. Are the two connected in any way?
Eh, probably not:
"Yesterday morning at around 9:30 AM, prior to the resort's waterscape opening to guests, a 12+-year-old female reef shark jumped over an 18 inch wide and 1 foot high sustaining structure into the resort's Leap of Faith water slide".
The Atlantis Aquarists believe the shark was startled by an unusual circumstance that we have no way of defining completely. In the over ten years guests have experienced the Leap of Faith, the reef shark itself, harmless to humans as it is fed regularly by our staff, had shown no previous incidences of leaping out of the water in the marine habitat.
The DRAG "cage" was originally designed to explore the Antarctic but design set backs and a cost overruns scuttled the first project back in 1972.
DRAG reinstated it's shark protection project with the help of Pentagon Emergency Supplemental funding for Iraq and have now launched the first multi million dollar shark cage in the history of the US Navy. Three more units are scheduled to come online in 2009 and 2010.
"We hope to deploy these units in hot zones around the planet" said Vice Admiral Peter Loyd "we have ongoing operational plans for this unit in the Tigress river in Iraq after the discovery of Bull Sharks there".
The following Underwater Onion was brought to you by Shark Diver. Yes, we know it's been a while since the last U/O but we have been busy;)
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
"Happy Holidays" backatcha RTSea!
Editors Note: Did Shredder grow horns?
If this is the Bahamas-which is likely, these images could still serve a media purpose leading the way for fisheries changes in the Bahamas. These,sadly, are the kind of images that do effect change and garner "sympathy for the devil".
On a personal note, this is a crime, made worse by the fact this was a gravid female. The pile of bloody shark pups is something we hope we never see online again.
Warning:These images are graphic.
TIGER SHARK MARCH 2008
Like other images such as the Great White in the Bahamas this spring, we waited until we had confirmation to post the image and back story. This Tiger image "pedigree" has eluded us thus far. No one knows anything, not the marinas, not the commercial docks, not the fisheries department.
Unlike the imageless story of another dead Tiger at Old Bahama Bay Resort this spring-we confirmed with the staff at the resort and the dock master that indeed a female, and once again gravid, Tiger shark was taken and killed there.
Helmut Nickel from the Shark-l has post two of the images online with the question we're sure everyone wants to know...is this the Bahamas?
Time it seems, for even "well known sharks", is not a given or even a luxury. This mystery remains if you know anything about this image let us know.
Anderson Cooper is a fine journalist, which is all the more reason for CNN to stop trying to feed him to sharks.
Last night CNN ran its program "Planet in Peril: Battle Lines," which careened from continent to continent, crisis to crisis, anxiety to anxiety, in what can only be called porn for paranoiacs. Some of it was very well done, but the overall product, I fear, felt like stunt journalism, ranging from Lisa Ling braving the Nigerian backwaters to meet with gun-blazing militants to, most prominently, Cooper swimming with great white sharks.
First he swam inside a shark cage. Then -- Cooper in peril!!! -- he swam without the cage, among those mindless monsters, clinging to a rock at the sea bottom while they circled hungrily. You could almost hear Sean Hannity in the distance screaming "EAT HIM! EAT HIM!"
I found myself impressed more than anything by the CNN expense account. Cooper, Sanjay Gupta and Lisa Ling were zooming all over the planet, to remote deserts, an island in the Pacific, deepest jungle, the Andes, and so on, and documenting all manner of horrors and injustices. But it felt scatterbrained, showy and entirely driven by the visuals. Yes, it's neat to look at great white sharks up close, and to wonder if they'll devour the anchorman (to a cry of "Anchor away!!!), but what does that have to do with anything?
Here's the CNN Planet in Peril website.
And here's an exhaustive summary of all the amazing things that Cooper & Co. did to document the planet in peril.
Monday, December 15, 2008
I had the pleasure of attending a press event for the Undersea Voyager Project that was held at one of my regular stomping grounds, the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA. It's great to attend these events as you get to meet new people with similar interests, concerns, and passions for marine conservation.
The Undersea Voyager Project is headed up by Scott Cassell, who has done considerable study and research on the Humboldt Squid - a particularly voracious predator typically found in deeper water but makes more local appearances from time to time. The primary thrust of the Project is an ambitious program involving submersibles and a variety of different marine science projects, culminating in the development of a larger submersible that will act as an undersea classroom bringing science to the general public in a very real and as-it-happens way.
I find this very exciting because throughout my involvement in marine conservation as a filmmaker and giving screenings and lectures, I have found that there is a tremendous amount of scientific data that does not get effectively translated into issues, implications and solutions for the general public to understand and appreciate. As an example, we have decades of data documenting climate change - and yet there are still many people who refuse to accept it.
Organizations like the Undersea Voyager Project can be of tremendous benefit in enlightening the public, young and old, to important issues regarding our oceans. Marine conservation must not be obscure or vague; it must be made real and tangible to all people: to the general public, to the decision-makers, and to the future generations of scientists-in-the-making.
Check out the Undersea Voyager Project web site and give it your support.
Editors Note: We would also like to lend our weight to Scott Cassel. He's one of the genuine articles.
Did we mention this was intentional!?
The eyes tell the story here. Kudo's to the crazy Italian who went for gold, and god help this guys girlfriend when he comes home. A mere week at sea turns all of our crews into sex starved loons...cannot even imagine what this guys thinking right now:
It was a rather ignominious end to a grand adventure. After 10 months of rowing alone across the vast Pacific Ocean, eating only dried food and with nothing but emails from fans for company, Alex Bellini was rescued by a tugboat, just 65 nautical miles from his destination.
Mr Bellini, 30, set off on his solo crossing from Lima, Peru, in February, and had planned to next set foot on land in Sydney on Saturday. His plan was to row across the great ocean in his 25-foot boat. For 99 per cent of the gruelling journey, success seemed to be within his grasp.
What neither the shooter of this video, who last week could be seen tastelessly trotting around signed pieces of shattered cage on national television, nor the operator seem to comprehend is the blow back from this event in Mexico.
This cage breach video and subsequent posting on You Tube directly resulted in a ban on all chumming at the island in 2008.
Unfortunately it does not end here as the national media in Mexico now has this story and you can rest assured there will be much more in terms of anti-shark diving sentiment from Mexico in the coming weeks and months:
Recently I was asked to give my comments on the “Great White Shark Accident”, a viral video that gained worldwide attention after heavy YouTube exposure. The video depicts a large (around 14-15 feet) White Shark ‘breaching’ a the cage of a well known and respected cage diving operator at Isla Guadalupe. My comments were picked up by ABC news as you can see in the following video:
The response was overwhelming and rather interesting. It is the opinion of some people in the shark diving industry that nothing should have been said about ‘operator error’, effectively the strategy was to simply hope that the issue would go away. I find that a rather difficult plan to follow when the divers in question have since appeared on the nationally aired ‘Today Show’ and their video has hit ever major news desk in the world. That includes the front page of Australian and British newspapers not to mention many morning and evening talk/news shows.
It is my opinion that a video such as this, released without due care to follow up PR, can only be detrimental to the shark diving industry. Major news websites and blogs have gone so far as to suggest that shark (cage) diving is “dangerous and terrifying”, “training sharks to eat people”, even claiming that accidents like this occur with regularity.
As an industry professional and passionate supporter of sustainable eco-tourism (in this case shark diving) I cannot abide these comments. Our industry regularly takes abuse from people who do not understand what it is we do. The shark diving industry is worth 200 million dollars annually worldwide and in many cases is responsible for helping police and protect dive sites and endangered animals from damage while channeling much needed money into research and conservation. There are certainly operators who could manage their businesses in a safer or more ethical way, but that is a subject for another discussion.
As far as Guadalupe goes the fact remains, in 2008 the Mexican government sent their Navy to enforce their new ‘no baiting’ guidelines. This was partly influenced by videos such as the ‘cage accident’. This decision is a threat to our industry and tourism operations, all of which help support local research and contribute funds to the Mexican economy and Guadalupe’s conservation.
The accident was an isolated incident that is extremely unlikely to happen again. Claims that the animal was at fault have no relevance whatsoever… the explanation is simply this:
This predator reacted to a stimulus which was placed too close to an obstruction giving it little to no time to react or turn to avoid collision. That’s it.
With a little care about the message we put out our industry could avoid a lot of the drama that it perpetuates. I stand by my comments on air as in the end I’d rather see an endangered and beautiful species of animal get off the proverbial hook for a change, if that means someone admits a one off mistake, so be it.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
This nifty present we opened today-thanks Tony, Sheri and Andreas!
As you can see Discovery Channel's "other wing" Animal Planet is behind this interesting and very sharky creation. We'll try and explain what you cannot see in this image. In no particular order:
Animal Planet Shark Attack Playset
"press dorsal fin to move jaws" (huge chomping action white shark)
"I floss everyday" (image of great white mouth open)
"includes diver with accessories, diving cage, great white shark with moving jaws, and smaller tiger shark" (way cool cage design, with diver in rebreather set up)
"say cheese"(another great white mouth open)
"try me!" (reach in and chomp the shark at the diver, hours of fun)
In short we'll rate this almost as cool as one of last years gifts the ever popular "Shark With Frickn' Lazer Beam" still in it's original packaging.
What is this saying to kids 5 and up? Take it up with Discovery Channel if you have a beef. For us we'll just sit back and enjoy the sharky holiday glow of it all. Now with 40% more chomping action!
The 3.6-metre, 460-kilogram shark died in the Mapua channel last month.
Conservation Department shark expert Clinton Duffy, who carried out the dissection, found an empty stomach and that the mako gave birth recently. The autopsy indicated it may have been killed by an encounter with a boat.
There was massive bruising behind its jaws, Touch the Sea aquarium marine educator Richard de Hamel said. "So it may have been feeling a bit sick, then got a bump on the head, and that's really put her on the downhill slide."
The condition of the shark's uterus showed it had given birth within the past few months.
A sample of its spine was taken and its growth rings will be used to determine its age, which was probably about 30. Video here.
We have seen some amusing posts suggesting a great fire, or explosion to render this notorious vessel to the cold hellish depths of Davy Jones...perhaps so old Frank could enjoy himself killing sharks once again. But we digress.
There's one solid answer to the fate of the Cricket Two, and that is to make her a commercial shark diving and research vessel. As a media tool few vessels carry the instant recognition factor of the Cricket Two. As a way of pushing the shark conservation message forward to later generations of commercial grade shark killers-we know of no better vessel or platform.
Imagine for a moment having the Cricket Two "blockade" the ongoing Martha's Vineyard Monster Shark Tournament?
It will take a smart media team, cool messaging, and of course about 300k to pry this vessel away from those who would use her to either hunt for sharks or send her to the bottom. If this vessel ends up in the hands of a savvy pro shark hunter the balance of media attention would go there...and it's a real a possibility as you could imagine.
Editors Note: For a production company this vessel could be, with the right show concept,the next Shark Week vehicle. Anyone interested should give us a call we have a *few* ideas.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Having a first rate conservation message that perhaps 30,000 people see is like pouring a "cup of salt" on an Antarctic Ice Shelf. We need more videos like these and we need to open them up to a wider audience. Kudo's to Leslie Rochat for this effort. Cannot wait to see the completed doco:
Maybe it's the legacy of decennia of successful terrestrial Conservation - but South Africa seems to be a fertile breeding ground for efficient and intelligent Shark Conservationists, which of course is great!
Case in point: Lesley Rochat who has posted this video on YouTube.
Shame that she has de-activated the embedding feature and thus limited its circulation.
I like it because despite being chillingly graphic, it nevertheless manages to remain pragmatic and doesn't gratuitously vilify and demonize the perpetrators and the Authorities.
That's smart Conservation.
Those are the very same people one will eventually have to meet in order to flesh out what cannot be but a compromise. Ultimately, it is them who will have to sign , and then do (or stop doing) something and that requires that one continues to talk. Yes, certainly assertively but never impolitely.
How not to do it is amply demonstrated by the recent Whale hunting fiasco - and I'll leave it at that.
Now we're not so sure about the ident, here's the email, anyone out there know what this is?
I work as Senior Project Engineer for DOF Subsea Australia. I am on secondment to one of our companies in as you can see from my email signature below. We're an engineering and offshore services contractor to the oil and gas industry. We also perform all kinds of offshore work and recently you may have seen our team and one of our survey vessels was responsible for the locating of the HMAS Sydney. A long lost battleship of the Australian Navy that was sunk in battle in WW2.
We design and fabricate and install all manner of equipment and systems in all corners of the oceans. We have dedicated vessels from which we perform all our work and on these vessels we carry a full survey crew, an ROV crew for each onboard ROV, Saturation Diving crews, marine crew, deck crew and engineering staff. Within the travels we have collected large amounts of digital footage recorded from at least one of the 7 onboard cameras of the ROV(s) (some vessels have two) and share them amongst ourselves. I have attached the footage of the squid????? as described.
You can see from the title that the ROV boys have named it “Creature” you’ll see why. From the video overlay you can see the Eastings and Northings for the location in the Gulf from the onboard survey systems and the depth as recorded by the onboard ROV instruments.
Anyway if you can indent this let me know.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
At some shark dive sites the headlong rush to offer more adrenaline fueled encounters and the abandonment of nearly all safety protocols will eventually lead to disaster.
The site in this video is Tiger Beach, Bahamas.
At one time there was only one operation here. That operation with the help of photographers and hundreds of videos on You Tube and elsewhere set the bar for the current operations who are growing by the year.
The question with this video is about ethics and sustainability in our industry and once again the power of You Tube and viral media to portray our industry in a less than positive light:
Obviously someone put a lot of time and effort into creating a conservation based shark diving program that works.
Why is this not front page industry news?
The commercial shark diving industry generates a lot of "great ideas" put forth by some very bright people. Most go by the wayside or end up as regional efforts that few others get exposed to.
This Master Shark Diver Program is one of the better conservation ideas we have seen in a while. Kudo's.
11 December 2008 - A mako shark collected as it died in the Mapua estuary, near Nelson, recently will be dissected at an open viewing this Saturday.
The dissection will be lead by Department of Conservation shark expert, Clinton Duffy, one of the country's leading shark researchers.The huge female shark presents an exciting and sought after research opportunity - only one pregnant female mako has even been recorded in New Zealand waters before.
Clinton will examine the shark's reproductive tract to uncover crucial evidence that will help researchers answer questions about the lifecycle of mako sharks. If the shark is pregnant, DNA samples will be collected from the embryos to investigate the possibility of multiple paternity occurring in this species.
The massive size of the shark - over 3.3m long and weighing in at 460kg - means the shark could be close to being as old as makos get. Vertebrae samples could provide much needed clues to help determine the age of the shark. This can then be used to estimate natural mortality, how many pups a female mako can produce in her life time and allows researchers to better estimate growth rates of large sharks.
Members of the public are welcome to view the dissection. The dissection will take place on the car park area near Mapua Wharf (near Nelson), on Saturday 13 December, rain or shine. The dissection will begin around 12.30pm and is expected to take 2 - 3 hours. There is no charge.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The "Planet in Peril" crew traveled with Knights to Taiwan's southern port city of Kaohsiung, which is considered one of the world's main hubs for shark fins. We watched as the fishermen unloaded their catch. Thousands of fins were thrown from one of the ships that had spent months fishing the international waters of the Pacific.
Real and lasting conservation media starts with credible sources and ends with in depth reporting like this. Kudo's to the entire team who put this together, from the video crew to the line producers, this is first rate NGO work and first rate television/media.
That happened on Monday when the Times Online covered the video. What happened next is a classic case of viral negative media.
Today we'll be looking through the media lens on this event to highlight how far this video has spread-estimating the number of people who have been impacted.
Negative operational events (NOE's) affect the entire shark diving industry and ripple through the global media like wildfire. This is one example of how poor media handling immediately after an event has lead to the current negative media storm. Sadly, in the end, the sharks are the real victims here once again portrayed as 70's iconic, vicious killers.
Today is Wednesday December 10.2008-72 hours after the initial story broke in the U.K
1. Times Online readership 618,160
2. Telegraph U.K readership 882,413
3. The Sun readership 7,900,000
4. Courier Mail Au 224,689
1. Today Show NBC-USA viewers 4,910,000
2. Today Show NBC-USA viewers 4,910,000 (second show Dec 11)
3. CBS Evening News-USA viewers n/a
4. ABC Good Morning America viewers 5,656,000
Major Viral Video Sites
1. You Tube 1 views 683,140
2. You Tube 2 views 149,541
3. You Tube 3 views 15,419
4. Break.com views 291,877
5. Travelistic.com views 27,160
A quick blog search shows this video on well over 400 blogs and video posts at this time. Estimated numbers of viewers is hard to count.
The coverage of this video by the mainstream media will burn out by the end of this week. The driving force behind this video's success has been CNN's Planet in Peril and a recent expose on cage diving in South Africa. The story will not end here. This video will now sit on literally thousands of servers across the planet with absolutely no chance of it being taken down.
"Post spin" after a negative operational event (NOE) is not effective. Viewers of this video make up their own minds based on the negative media in front of them and will continue to carry that view. The real tragedy here is the animal which was put into an "artificial situation" driving both the anti shark diving agenda, and the negative image of sharks.
Operators have a small window immediately after an event like this to control media should they choose to exercise this option. Failing to do so, as we have seen this week, damages everyone.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
"Take more than a stinkin' shark to make you back off now". Who wrote this stuff?
His film "Sharks Stewards of the Reef" remains one of the best looks at the fate of modern sharks with a strong conservation message. To quote David "It's a bad time to be a shark".
For the second day in a row a major newspaper in the U.K has acquired a You Tube video shot by a diver at Isla Guadalupe in 2007.
The video details one of the worst cage breaches ever caught in the history of cage diving.
The operation in question has had several cage breaches going back to 2004 at the same dive site with the same sharks.
By way of disclosure we also operate at the same site and before anyone proffers the idea this post about "slamming a competitor" we would like to put that to rest-now.
This post is about media, responsibility, and leadership within an industry. It is about our responsibility to the animals we make a living from, it is about treating the resource as a renewable one and not as a Biological ATM Machine.
This video, for the anti shark diving lobby, who would like to see an end to shark diving in places like South Africa, Australia, the Bahamas, remains the perfect visual media tool. It is the Golden Key.
For example this video is one of the primary reason the Mexican Navy enacted a ban on chumming at Isla Guadalupe in 2008. This ban affected an entire fleet of operators and shark divers from all over the planet. All due to a video and the complete lack of any media control exercised by a commercial shark diving company.
The abject irresponsibility of allowing this video to remain on the Internet where it continues to portray great whites in a 70's mindset, continues to harm other operations at this dive site, and continues to provide a platform for those who want to end shark diving-cannot be understated.
Leadership within an industry begins with the sharks and it ends with the realization that everything we do on a local level will eventually affect those on the other side of the planet either positively or negatively. The next steps are up the the company responsible for this event.
It is high time they took full responsibility for this sad affair and "retired" this video for the sake of the industry and for the ongoing perception of sharks worldwide. These animals deserve better, you know it, the industry knows it, and no amount of post event website spin will change that.
Apparently DARPA, our military's mad science wing has been exploring implants in the brains of sharks that "steer them" from a remote location like, sorry for the pun, Predator Drones.
Darpa military research is currently exploring ways to use electronic stimulus to control shark behavior and movement. In fact, scientists at Boston University have already developed brain implants that can influence the movements of dogfish (members of the shark family) by "steering" them using a phantom odor.
The military objective of controlling the movement of sharks is outlined in the New Scientist Magazine as follows; "By remotely guiding sharks' movements, the military hopes to transform the animals into stealth spies, perhaps capable of following vessels without being spotted. The Pentagon hopes to exploit the ability of sharks to glide quietly through the water, sense delicate electrical gradients and follow chemical trails.”
Monday, December 8, 2008
From their website:
This project has been funded and conducted by Undersea Explorer through adventure diving tourism. Public awareness of shark conservation needs have been highlighted through the involvement of recreational divers and the production of international film documentaries and articles.
The experience of divers on these liveaboard diving adventures has been heightened by interaction with the scientists, quality interpretive presentations and exciting and unique shark diving.
Editors Note: Shark research and tourism work.
GUATEMALA - Grupo Nais announces the December 3 opening of the Nais Aquarium, the First Restaurant-Aquarium in Latin America, in Guatemala City. A gastronomical and technological gem that astonishes with its complexity and beauty, the Nais Aquarium includes a group of 15 aquariums in the Restaurant, Lounge and family area. Measuring 12 x 6 meters and containing 30 thousand gallons of salt water, the main Aquarium is the largest Mobile Aquarium in the world, with 450 fish from 38 exotic species, including sharks, manta rays and eels.
First came the fang-toothed lancetfish, washing up on Oregon beaches last spring and summer.
Then came the young salmon sharks -- which resemble baby great whites -- turning up on the sand through October.
Now Bill Hanshumaker, a marine education specialist at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, wants to figure out why at least 10 or more of each species beached up on Oregon shores in the past several months. It's not unusual to find a few each summer, but this year's high numbers remain a mystery.
At the time the event was written off and to this day the operation publicly looks at this event as "par for the course" when dealing with Great Whites. Meanwhile the video of the cage breach continues to grow on You Tube (500,000) garnering interest far and wide from not just the media, but government agencies in Mexico tasked with this sites enforcement, members of the Mexican Parliament, and a few NGO's whose agenda is clearly anti shark diving.
The lessons here are simple and two fold. Design and adhere to safer protocols for macro species encounters that do not rely on cage systems for "entertainment". Having white sharks bump, ram, or hit shark cages is both a disservice to the animals and inherently dangerous. Always control your media. When events like these happen there is a small window in which the operator may ask for the video or images. Videos such as these damage the credibility of all shark diving operations worldwide.
As an industry we live in a world where negative operations events (NOE's) are transmitted at light speed around the planet. These events will also sit on servers until the end of time reinforcing the image of sharks as deadly killers and no amount of post event spin will change that. As an industry whose livelihood depends on these animals, we can do better. Let's start by taking this video down and replacing it with a pro shark PSA, while at the same time ensuring these kind of events never happen again. The Times Online readership is 349,000 a day.
Editors Note: We just noticed the Sun also ran with the same story with a "Divers survive shark attack" headline. Good for sharks? Probably not.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Commercial shark diving has evolved from a few maverick shark divers, who showed the way back in the late 70's, to an actual $200 million dollar global industry. It's a hard fact few within our industry fully comprehend the magnitude of.
Unfortunately, our industry is also at point in time where our actions are inspiring an entire generation of up and coming operators and underwater photographers. In many cases they are being inspired to attempt animal encounters that will inevitably lead to spectacular and unfortunate events.
It has happened already and the perception of sharks when this happens dumps them back into stone age erasing years of positive shark messaging and pro shark efforts. It's a classic Catch 22. The desire by some for closer encounters with top predators to educate the public these animals are not killers, which inevitably leads to an accident or outright attack on a diver, which then destroys the animals reputation once again.
The two burning issues that most commercial shark diving operations fail to realize are the following:
1. Due to the nature of what we do we are high value targets for the media and for misguided wildlife advocates.
2. Regardless of where you have a shark operation your actions ripple through a global industry. This is a fact.
I have to hand it to Beqa Adventure Divers for taking the stance they have taken. We have been strong advocates for industry standard protocols with macro sharks like Tigers, Bulls and Great Whites. On the flip side the imagery taken by Amanda Cotton was stunning and one might argue several of her images will do great things to change peoples perception of sharks.
As we have said in the past there's a "line in the sand" between what we do as commercial shark diving operators with the general public and needs of commercial underwater photography. We covered this same issue last month.
What we do with sharks should be based first and foremost on long term sustainability not a "run of good luck".
Friday, December 5, 2008
It is using an indescriminate "anvil" to squash a "mosquito", we can do better. In the end it will be up to South Africans to ensure their own sharks survival and for the local shark diving operations to show leadership by addressing this head on. They are not alone, this is an issue facing commercial shark diving operations worldwide-loss of sharks:
The English version of Jérôme's shark film carries the following dedication:
To Ella and Mathilda
victims of man's madness
This is in reference to a recent spate of Tiger Shark fatalities in Aliwal Shoal.
Very tragic and very stupid, too, as South Africa benefits from a thriving Shark Diving Industry and has much to loose indeed in terms of reputation as an Ecotourism destination but also, in terms of tourism revenues and related employment opportunities.
The incidents have caused much uproar among Shark aficionados - but I fear, not much beyond that. I hope I'm wrong. In that respect, the comment by one "Anonymous" on a South African blog may have been prophetic. The author is clearly an insider and probably someone with a pedigree of getting things done (I got my suspicions...). He evidently also knows of the harmonious, dispassionate, un-opinionated, pragmatic and never controversial world of Shark Conservation, as witnessed by his choice to remain unrecognized - and by the ensuing comments!
This is what he wrote.
"Look guys,this is what? 3-5-6-7-8 dead Tigers this year alone?
If you cannot figure it out let me suggest the following things that can be done by YOU today to get some traction on this as neither you nor Julie-let's saver some sharks-really have a clue.
- Start a damn website, go after the sharks board by highlighting who's on the damn board and why they are there in the first place. Any dirt on those folks? Find out!
- Get some help from a qualified NGO like say, PEW Trusts, not Shark Savers as that whole message on a pizza box thing plus blog posts equals shark hopelessness 101.
- Start making some real noise. You guys have hosted some of the top UW photographers over the past 5 years, leverage those guys to make some damn noise. Are they just in it for the image and money? If so shame on them, get them to start some action.
- No shark petitions, they are as useless as third teats.
- Local media, hit them up for action. Surely, in all of the media you have, there has to be a friendly shark voice. Find it!
- Create and post at least 10-2 min PSA's on You Tube, yes 10, and get your dive buddies to spread the word and that means all those photographers you know as well.
Question is: what has happened since?
Is everybody over there (as in local dive operators, NGOs, etc.) working together and has dialogue been sought with the Authorities? As in, finding solutions?
TOLIARA, December 2008 (IRIN) - Coastal communities in southwestern Madagascar, who risk their lives travelling long distances in dugout canoes to supply a lucrative demand for shark fins, face an uncertain future as unsustainable fishing practices threaten the survival of the marine resources on which they depend.
People in villages along the southwestern coast are reporting a dramatic decrease in all marine resources. "Around 2000 the decline really started here. The octopus catch fell and sea cucumbers disappeared. Some fish species also disappeared," Roger Samba, in the village of Andavadoaka, in Toliara Province, told IRIN.
"It is difficult to catch enough fish to sell. People go far away, fishing from early in the morning until late at night, to catch not even 10kg or 20kg of fish - just 5kg."
When shark fisherman Zoffe loads his nets into his pirogue (a dugout canoe, often with a sail) in the morning and sets out from his home in the coastal town of Morombe into the deep waters of the Mozambique Channel, he knows that he will be lucky if he catches anything.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute of Oceanography
La Jolla, CA
When: Tues., Jan. 6, 2009, 6:00-8:00pm
For RSVP/tickets, call: 858-534-4109
Heal the Bay (Santa Monica Pier Aquarium)
Santa Monica, CA
When: Wed., Jan. 21, 2009, 7:00-8:30pm
For information, call: 310-393-6149
While we're here how about a shameless plug for those of you shopping for the holidays: The Island of the Great White Shark DVD is available online through Amazon, currently at a reduced price for holiday season. This award-winning documentary is a great stocking stuffer for shark lovers and those who could benefit from seeing the magnificent great white shark in a different light.
A huge squid was caught on underwater camera attacking a ROV at around 1650 ft water depth in the Gulf of Mexico. The ROV hydraulic arm made an attempt to nudge the squid away but it held on firmly to its target until it gave up and left:
Amanda shot what we believe is the "Iconic Shark Image" of 2009 featuring Wolfgang and a female Tiger with a hook in her mouth. As a stand alone image the story telling is terrific and as an ambassador image to the plight of sharks worldwide there are few that compare.
We have always been partial to black and white underwater images of sharks. It is much harder to shoot in black and white because you are "compelled to tell a story" with the image-and that takes talent. As talented as Old Wolf is with his shark interactions so is Amanda with her seemingly organic ability to "be there for the image".
It's a look at Alibaba.com the NYSE of shark fin products on the Internet-Sponsored by Yahoo! Inc.
We will take you into the individual sellers listed on that site and introduce the top companies, what species they sell, and how many thousands of pounds of shark fins they have for sale on the global market.
Today our Shark Fin Du Jour is Stavcorp Australia Pty Ltd who can source a stunning 10 tons of sharks fins a month and who have a minimum order of shark fin via Alibaba.com of 3000 kilograms or 6500 pounds-per order.
To put this into perspective 10 tons of sharks fin equals roughly 11,000 dead sharks-per order.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Editors Note: We see a lot of underwater film projects each year and none are as captivating and visually stunning as this one. If you have not already clicked the link do so now go to full screen and enjoy.
That's the headline of Shark Swarm perhaps one of, if not the worst 3 hour anti shark film, ever to grace the silver screen...actually this film was so bad it went straight to television by passing the silver screen and silver tongued film critics along the way.
Shark Swarm with it's 40+ shredded body count, stars Daryl Hannah. Ms Hannah who claims to be an eco activist is currently on board the Steve Irwin with Sea Shepherd adding some eco credibility to her resume "saving whales".
Strangely, and we're sure this has nothing to do with her current involvement with Sea Shepherd, a film crew from Animal Planet will also be on board Wagging the Conservation Dog for the second year in a row.
Disclaimer: We think whaling should end and are no fans of Japans hunt-unfortunately Sea Shepherd is a bad actor whose overall damage to the global eco movement and flow of much needed funds to legitimate eco orgs has caused lasting and serious harm.
As we have been blogging Sea Shepherd has lost it's way in terms of eco messaging and being effective. In fact if recent events are concluded in Canada one might argue they have even lost their way financially.
The Romans had a saying for both Sea Shepherd's antics and Ms Hanna's latest foray into the eco movement "Ad Captandum Vulgus". We think she could have made a better statement by passing on the Shark Swarm project and highlighting the global slaughter of sharks instead. At least her credibility as an "eco activist" would still be intact.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Once, one of the worlds healthiest populations, back in the 1920's and 30's today this rare and unique critter is all but vanishing from the coasts:
"Sawfish are disappearing all over the world for basically the same reason, which is that their big saws snag very easily in fishing nets, they have become despised as net wreckers because obviously a fisherman doesn't like getting one in his net. So over the years most sawfish that were captured were killed."
Editors Note: As we have mentioned Florida's continued ban on shark diving activities changes the value of sharks and rays in Florida's waters. Without safe commercial shark diving operations who see sharks as a sustainable and valuable resource-the value of sharks and rays is degraded to fishermen and one time use of these species.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
In early October, I posted information about CNN's Planet in Peril series (Oct. 10 posting). They will be covering several important shark issues, among other important environmental topics. The show will air on December 11 (check your local listings for exact times).
It appears that the show will cover shark finning/shark conservation and shark ecotourism. The video previews available on the shark finning segment cover familiar ground for those of you familiar with shark conservation issues. Hopefully it will enlighten some of the less informed. Of course, the biggest issue in saving sharks is finding effective ways to change the cultural midset regarding shark fin soup and other related products. Much like the criticisms hurled against the ineffectiveness of the "drug wars", we must wrestle with the demand for the product with equal attention and force.
The other shark issue that CNN touches on is shark ecotourism. They look at a South African operation and then touch on whether baiting white sharks is teaching them to attack surfers and swimmers (it makes for an exciting story). It's an argument often used by opponents, but in my experience and from what I have learned from respected scientists who have studied these animals for a lot longer than I have spent filming them, it just doesn't hold water. These sharks are more discriminating than most uninformed people give them credit for. Attracted to fish chum and chasing/biting hangbait consisting of tuna, bonito, or something similiar, does not make a white shark suddenly develop a taste for human flesh and begin seeking out surfers or swimmers as their next prey. Surfers have been and probably will always be subject to mistaken identity for the large pinnipeds (seals, sea lions) that white sharks feed on.
I did find it noteworthy that the South African shark diving operation CNN chose to film had an incredibly small cage that fit the divers in like slices of bread in a toaster (a cameraman could barely fit a decent video housing in there) and they dragged the hangbait right up to the cage, causing the shark to bang up against the cage - dramatic fun for the tourists but potential harm for both the shark and the divers. This is not responsible shark ecotourism.