Saturday, December 27, 2008

Shark conservation at the source-Maldives

We were been on this subject pretty hard in 2008. For shark conservation efforts to succeed in 2009 local efforts must get the ball rolling.

The days of waiting for an NGO to swoop in and take control of local shark conservation are essentially over. It's up to the dive operators and vested interests in the region to save their shark populations.

Case in point, and Kudo's as well, to the Banyan Tree Resort Conservation Lab located in the Maldives. They recently went head on with the Maldives government all but demanding protection for all sharks in Maldives waters:

"According to Stevens, a year and a half ago, six resorts rallied together in order to jointly tackle the problem of shark hunting."

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you do shark conservation. It takes "One" with enough guts and forward thinking ( beyond just this year and perhaps next year) to create local and regional game changers that in the end save shark populations. The Maldives are a template for places like South Africa and the Bahamas where recent shark kills have raised awareness-but little real action in terms of multiple operators and a broad consensus efforts.

As a commercial shark diving operator where will you stand next year with real and lasting regional shark conservation efforts?

As a diver who pays operators to show them sharks where will you be spending your money?

2009 will be a watershed year for answers to both of these questions. It's a win-win for the sharks and an "awakening" for an entire 200 million dollar industry.

Happy New Year!

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

Friday, December 26, 2008

Better Year For Sharks 2008

As we get close to a wrap for 2008 there's a chance to look back at a remarkable year for the shark diving industry and for shark conservation.

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

Happy Holidays...Shark Diver CEO Exposed!

Happy Holidays Sharks Divers! (cool image by RTSea 2007)

You know
, I get a lot of email from people who have never met me, in fact they have no idea what I even look like. As the CEO of a well known shark diving company this oversight will end today.

Got the following email from "He-who-cannot-be-named" with a disturbing video of yours truly doing something "Holiday-ish". Now, I spent all of 3 seconds debating if I was going to post this or not...something about a run I was considering for high office one of these days on the old "to do list".

But what the hell, they hired Bush twice, and even with this video posted to a thousand You Tubes how bad could it be?

I'll let you decide. Happy Holidays everyone...try not to laugh...I double dog dare ya.

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

Nine essential strategies for 2009-CEO Quotes

When MSNBC's Christopher Elliot called us for a quote the other day about the global travel industry in 2009...here was the response. It's going to be an interesting year:

“This kind of reminds me of the old sea maps from the 1300s that showed a coastline with the caption which read, ‘Here be Monsters,’” says Patric Douglas, the chief executive of Shark Diver, a tour operator in San Diego, Calif. “Trying to forecast this thing using any models from the past 20 years will be useless.”

Full story.

Happy Holidays Shark Divers!

To all who love sharks, and to the few of us who are crazy enough to want to "make a living" with these magnificent animals we say...Happy Holidays and the warmest of New Years!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

China's Largest Shopping Site Bans Sale of Shark Fin Products

Editors Note: Starting January 1, 2009 we attempted to purchase sharks fin via the Alibaba.com website. After 7 days we were able to source over 80,000lbs of sharks fin from nine of eleven sellers we contacted in a classic loophole.

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.

BEIJING
, Dec. 19 -- The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW-www.ifaw.org.cn) congratulates Taobao (www.taobo.com.cn), China's largest shopping website for its ban on the sale of shark fin products on the site. Taobao.com announced to its 400 million online members that all shark fin products will be banned from trade on Taobao.com starting 1, January 2009.

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.

Asia is the main market for shark fin products. In major cities in China, shark fin soup is readily available on the menu in restaurants. With the coming of Chinese New Year Festivals, shark fin soup consumption will significantly increase.

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 Grace Gabriel, IFAW's Asia Regional Director. "It is our choice as consumers to say No to shark fin products. Consuming wildlife equals killing."

Taobao's decision to ban shark fin was also applauded by its users. In an online message, a Hangzhou netizen condemns the shark fin trade by posting shocking pictures of shark finning. According to this posting, 5000 Kilos of shark fin are consumed daily in Beijing alone. Active Taobao users also call on others to report online shark fin sales to site management when the notice takes effect in January.

Peter Pueschel, IFAW's Program Manager hailed the move. "This is really amazing and wonderful that the leading cyber market provider in the biggest shark fin consumer nation bans shark fins. What a strong signal to other auction sites and governments in other parts of the world!"

Friday, December 19, 2008

CNN Good-MSNBC-Bad

Got an email from Jeremiah over at Neptunic SharkSuits yesterday about the following video. For those of you who do not know Jeremiah he's an "industry gray beard" a guy who's been around the block and few million times and whose time in water with sharks commands respect.

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

Shark Fin Du Jour-Sponsored by Yahoo! Inc

Our weekly feature on Underwater Thrills:Swimming With Sharks is the "Shark Fin Du Jour".

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)
Port: Karachi (Air/Port)
Payment Terms: L/C
Minimum Order Quantity: 500 Kilogram
Supply Ability: 500 Kilogram per Week
Package: 15kg - 30kg Polypropylene Bags
Delivery Time: Minimum 10 Working Days

Atlantis Bahamas-Shark Commits Suicide

Atlantis resort in the Bahamas announced last month they were laying off 800 employees.

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.

US Navy Builds Deep Water Shark Cage

The US Navy's Deepwater Reconnaissance and Autonomous Gateway or DRAG unveiled it's $120 million dollar shark cage yesterday to a group of cheering engineers and at least one congressman from New Jersey.

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

Jaws 2007-A Movie That Never Was

But an interesting video mashup none the less. Not sure what Mr.Cameron thinks about this:

Bahamas Shark Kill - Defining Moment Conservation

The images are graphic and repugnant. This event happened in the Bahamas in 2007 and again in 2008. Two Tiger sharks killed, one pregnant animal with pups ripped from her body and tossed in a bloody heap on the deck.

As the CEO of a commercial shark diving company, Shark Diver, I am shocked at the loss of life and the wasted resource that is highlighted by these images. Something must be done to reset the mind set of those who do not see what the loss of animals like these means to the oceans, the economy of the Bahamas, and to sport fishing in the region.

We are defined as a shark diving industry and as shark conservationists not by moments when everything goes well and we are sitting on the back deck of a vessel at sunset.

We are not defined by the shark images we take or the numbers of divers we expose to sharks.

These are benchmarks that do not define who you are, or what you stand for as a business, or as a person.

We are defined instead by moments like these, when presented with horrific evidence of fisheries policies that kill sharks without any sustainable strategy. Those who stand up now to make a difference in the Bahamas are shark conservationists.

Let's get to work.



TIGER SHARK MARCH 2008


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

Scientific American Earth 3.0-Isla Guadalupe

A windless dawn rises over Isla Guadalupe, 150 miles west of the Baja California coast. Rolling slightly in a gentle Pacific swell, our 80-foot trawler Horizon motors toward the island’s north end. The skipper, Greg Grivetto, is standing the final watch of a 20-hour passage from San Diego. He glances down through the bridge windows at the dozen or so passengers gathered on Horizon’s foredeck. We’re shaking off sleep, gabbing, sipping coffee, eager to catch sight of our first landfall on this remote volcanic rock. In the distance, sunlight outlines the arc of Guadalupe’s northeast inlet. There, deep in flat, dark water, something is also stirring, and everyone onboard is thinking about it.

The inshore waters of Guadalupe make up one of the few known habitats for this formidable migrating creature. It is the world’s largest predatory fish, typically 13 to 16 feet long, weighing 1,500 to 2,500 pounds. The great white is the undisputed king of the cartilage-skeletoned vertebrates that have been swimming through the seas for 400 million years and the supreme iteration of an “apex predator”—top dog—in its watery world. To scientists and shark devotees, great whites are a feast of complex behaviors—maddeningly coy in their breeding habits and wary but stunningly accomplished killers. Remarkably, they also are now listed as endangered, and when an apex species is in trouble the threat can cascade down through the entire food chain.

For years close encounters were pretty much out of the question. Swimmers and scuba divers ardently avoid the sharks, and useful observation in study tanks or aquariums is impossible because the animals do not survive prolonged captivity. But recent growth in the popularity of shark-cage diving has opened new opportunities. On this August morning Horizon’s crew, scientists and ecotourists are arriving under the aegis of Shark Diver, a leading operator of “sharking” excursions to Guadalupe. The mission, as always: to watch at close hand this impressive animal in its natural surroundings.

Shark Diver, in conjunction with the Marine Conservation Science Institute, has identified, recorded and named more than 85 individual great whites that regularly return to the area, now a reserve protected by the Mexican government. A compilation of photographs (including contributions from amateur cage divers) plus tagging and satellite tracking is steadily producing a detailed profile of the Guadalupe community of great whites. A thick ring binder, the “family album,” circulates in Horizon’s wood-paneled saloon. Among the pictured sharks are Fat Tony (the charter member of Shark Diver’s roster), Nacho, Belt Strap, Bruce, Captain Hook, Harvey, the Russian. And the truly massive 18-foot females that migrate here late in the fall—Tlazolteotl (named for an Aztec goddess), Chicka, Dorri, Snow White, Lady Notch—many of them pregnant and voraciously hungry.

Even though the great whites are a protected species, relentless poaching has put them on the international “threatened” list. Shark Diver CEO Patric Douglas reports that one set of jaws alone can fetch $5,000 in Ensenada. His Guadalupe Island Conservation Fund (www.guadalupefund.org) has documented the sale of whole carcasses of the great white for $20,000 on the black market. Mexico’s national park service lacks the resources to station patrol boats at Guadalupe during the great whites’ season. But Shark Diver expedition vessels, along with those from several other adventure operators, have become an unofficial police presence against illegal sport fishing.

The great white shark will always be the subject of controversy, in large part because of Peter Benchley’s best-selling thriller Jaws and the movies it spawned. Two years before his death in 2004, Benchley boarded Horizon for his own Guadalupe visit. He wanted to see firsthand the creatures he had demonized. By that time Benchley was already an advocate for white shark conservation, having seen the senseless, bloody orgy of shark hunting touched off by his success. He was profoundly moved by the majesty of these animals, and his campaign to save them soon took hold in the media. Ecotourism now helps to fund great white conservation.

Sympathy for the great white shark should never obscure its important role as a predator, however. Luke Tipple, a respected shark biologist and Shark Diver’s director of operations, is outspoken on this subject. “Occasionally,” he muses, “you’ll hear the phrase that great whites are ‘misunderstood.’ They may have been mistreated, but they are definitely not misunderstood. Many millions of years of evolution went into producing this animal, and he is, first and foremost, an astonishingly efficient killer. Let’s not take that away from him.”

Watch a shark slide show here:

Article taken from this months Scientific American Earth 3.0

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holiday Cheer-From RTSea

Let the Bloody Mary's begin...it's the drink of choice for all shark divers far and near.

"Happy Holidays" backatcha RTSea!

Editors Note: Did Shredder grow horns?

Theater of the Grotesque-A Family Shark Kill?

We're still trying to drill down the "when and where" of this Tiger Shark kill and the images keep getting worse. We had seen some of these but not all. Kudo's to Trules Jemtland for finding this full image suite online. Nice bit of detective work.

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

Bahamas? Mystery or not this image is out

This image is part of a series we looked at a while ago. It is reportedly a dead Tiger in the Bahamas, obviously gravid.

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's Stunt Journalism

From the Washington Times this morning a "news industry" look at Anderson Cooper's Planet In Peril. For the record we're going to depart from our CV and jump to Anderson's defense, that entire series was great conservation television:

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

RTSea on the Undersea Voyager Project

From RTSea Blog today:

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.

Hey Lucy...I'm Hooooome!

THIS is what you look like after spending 10 months at sea...in a rowboat...in the vast and unforgiving Pacific.

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.

ABC news with Luke Tipple: Great White Shark cage accident at Guadalupe Island

From Luke Tipple's Blog this week. A look into the firestorm of media surrounding Isla Guadalupes best documented and unnecessary cage breach. We happen to agree with Luke's position and while unpopular to some of the smaller minded in our community "who just see personal gain" what was needed to be said about this sad event, was said, and that takes leadership.

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

Our Very Own Shark Attack Playset

Must be the holidays again because the parade of shark related gifts from ex shark divers and friends are pouring in. Ahhh, we loves our holiday season.

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!

Massive Mako Mother Makes Good Science

So....we missed the flight to NZ but the story remains one of predatory fascination. Turns out this female had recently given birth. More than 800 onlookers showed up:

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.

Quo Vadis, Shark Diving?

The $200 million dollar international shark diving industry has one or two seasoned voices who frequently try and replace many of our industries conventional wisdom's with "plain sense".

One of these is Da Shark from BAD's Blog. A regular feature and well known to 10K of you who visit us here each month.

This week a video from the Bahamas has fired up a multi pronged conversation about the "Ethics of Shark Diving". A thread starter which may have been misnamed as the video brings up a host of issues not related to ethics. As always we tend to agree with Da Sharks take on this...with one caveat.

Operations like the one featured on this video have to start somewhere. They are usually inspired by others with images and video to "one up the old guard". Had this site in the Bahamas been locked down with a set of "unmoving protocols" from day one and not promoted as the "Tiger between the operators legs" site or the "Night time diving with Tigers site"-we might not be here discussing this today.

While I agree with 99% of Da Sharks thoughts on this, our industry must be ever vigilant for The Great Slide. In the ever increasing rush to offer closer encounters with macro shark species we are loosing the thin margin of error that is the difference between safe shark encounters dictated by the operation, and relying on a predator with a brain the size of a walnut to "make the call" during an encounter. We as an industry are often resetting the goal posts of encounter safety while the game is still in play.

I personally do not subscribe to the pervasive school thought that says "we have had 300+ safe encounters-so this is fine". It is never fine, not with macros. Ever. We learn from them each and every time we encounter them and we should never push for danger close encounters. That is the essence of The Great Slide, eventually we will get to the final point where the animals push back. It has happened, it will happen, and it continues to happen.

Exploring the "outer limits" of macro shark encounters on a commercial level is a fools bet.

It is unfortunate that we have lost the one voice that could have made a difference here. Credibility in this industry is everything and people do listen to those few voices who have the spotlight (we're not one of them) but those few voices need to maintain the veneer of safety.

You lose that in our industry and you lose your ability to guide a dive sites natural progression and others with your wisdom.

Is it not enough to "witness" these animals in all their grace and elegance? Do we need to touch them and ride them as well? Do photographers really need to shoot inside a Tigers mouth? Do we need to throw pokey-sticks at them? Where does it end, where do we call the game and set the safety goal posts?

2008 was a troubling year for the industry. It was also one of "awakening". Since we started this blog a year ago we have heard from many in the industry who have reached out to say "you know, I was just talking about that the other day".

We're in this together. We may not like the fact we're in it together, but I'll take the recognition that we are in it together as a good first start.

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

The "Imperial Presidency"...Ends With A Shoe

Good by and farewell Mr.President:

What To Do With The Cricket Two?

With the death of Frank Mundus-shark killer extraordinaire-the fate of his vessel remains undecided as it goes up for auction next year.

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

Smart Conservation-Minus the Viral Factor

The guys over at BAD posted an excellent shark conservation video teaser today. Had to say we liked it too...except the most important factor posting any video on You Tube-the viral factor.

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.

Magnapinna Squid-Perhaps, Perhaps

We got the following email this morning about that face hugger critter found at 7800 feet back in November of 2007. We had an ident of Magnapinna perhaps the scariest looking critter you would ever not want to meet free diving at night. The email is from the ROV company who caught this on tape.

Now we're not so sure about the ident, here's the email, anyone out there know what this is?

Gentlemen,

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.

Company website


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Scientific American Earth 3.0-Isla Guadalupe

This fall I was contacted by a reporter, Jim Cornfield, who wanted to take an in depth look at the issues of commercial shark diving, shark research, and the world of charismatic megafauna like the Great White. He wanted to join us at Isla Guadalupe.

Of course I said yes.

The end result is a great article in this months special edition of Earth 3.0 by Scientific American. The first page of the multi-page article is online for the rest you'll have to visit Borders Books or subscribe-which I might suggest you do as this magazine is amazing.

In terms of positive shark media it was nice to have the time to really get into the issues about this unique and special shark site. Vessel owner operator Greg Grivetto and marine biologist Luke Tipple got to share their knowledge and passion about the Great Whites of Guadalupe. They shared both an operational viewpoint and a wildlife viewpoint of this special island with Jim and as this article will attest...I think he got it.

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

The Ethics of Shark Diving

The following video aptly highlights a post from earlier this year. We suggested that the ongoing rule of thumb within our industry was actually working against it. That would be "Out do the other guy".

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:

Master Shark Diver-Great Idea

We got sent over to the Shark Life conservation site today and "discovered" another great shark conservation idea.

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.

Your Chance To Get Up Close To A Massive Mako

Count us in-we're scrambling for frequent flyer miles. Spring in New Zealand with a 12 foot Mako?

Priceless:

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

CNN-Wild Aid-Conservation Home Run

After months of bad news about sharks, along comes this mornings in-depth and quite frankly astonishing coverage of Taiwans sharks fin trade by CNN's-Lisa Ling and Peter Knights of WildAid

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.

When Disaster Videos Go Viral-Tracking The Spread

We have been tracking the spread of one of the worst cage breach videos ever to be caught on tape. The event happened at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico in 2007 and was posted on You Tube shortly after waiting for an editor or producer to take it mainstream.

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

International Newspapers

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

US Coverage

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

Blogs

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.

Summary

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

Holy "Old School"

From the guys over at the Squid Force Blog. They find the most amazing videos. This one's got pretty much everything:

1. Tuna
2. Fishing
3. Sharks
4. Guns

"Take more than a stinkin' shark to make you back off now". Who wrote this stuff?

David McGuire-Shark Talk

David McGuire, conservation filmmaker, a field associate of the California Academy of Sciences and a shark advocate recently took part in a round table discussion with Global Commons radio about sharks and shark conservation.

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".

Listen here.

Two escape as great white shark tears apart cage

We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the 200 million dollar shark diving industry and how the actions of local operations ripple across the globe to eventually effect us all.

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.

When Animals Attack-DARPA

According to a recent article the days of "Sharks with Frick'n Laser Beams" is closer than you think.

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.

Seriously.

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

Nicole, Ripley, Linda, Adam, Lola, Stacy, Brooby

This is the sat tagging and tracking map (click for full size) of several Tiger sharks tagged and tracked in Australia courtesy of The Undersea Explorer Shark Research Program.

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.

Nais Aquarium in Guatemala-Lip Smacking Good

When we covered the future of shark diving and commercial aquariums a few months ago this is not what we had in mind. Let's hope on some far off planet there's no alien equivalent to "eating sauteed red snapper in the middle of an aquarium"...then again an estimated 7 million people "vanish" from the planet each year, we may be there already:

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.

Salmon Shark Mystery or Media Push?

Salmon Shark young of the year have been washing up along the coasts of both California and Oregon over the past three years with increasing frequency. At least one "marine expert" thinks there's something fishy going on...we're not so sure:

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.

Sharks and Media 101

This mornings Times Online highlights the ongoing need for both control of media within a shark site and safety protocols with macro sharks. Back in 2007 this company had another full cage breach at Isla Guadalupe. This time the shark took off the entire front of the cage system dumping a fully weighted diver into 500 feet of water.

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

Sharks-Taking a Leadership Position

This morning we read an astonishing post by a shark diving operation in Fiji. As we have come to learn "the hard way" the commercial shark diving world has a similar unsaid credo to that once uttered by Ronald Reagan-"Speak no ill of fellow shark diving operations". Or put less succinctly by those still in the 80's mindset to our industry,"Mind your own goddamn business".

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".