Friday, May 30, 2008

Follow Up-Bahamas Shark Story

Last week we blogged about a developing story out of the Bahamas involving the crew of the Gulf Stream Eagle and a mysterious overturned vessel surrounded by Tiger sharks.

We contacted owner/captain Mark Rose in Florida to get the back story. The story he told us was too grim to blog about then, but now the story can be told. It's one of desperation and high seas drama unfolding in the dead of night off the coast of the Bahamas last week.

Warning-this video covers adult themes.

Brandon Cole-Cover of Smithsonian Magazine

Today I was at the bookstore looking for a copy of the new Scott McClellan book (they were sold out in ten minutes) finding none, I wandered over to the sport magazine rack.

There, in an endless field of mags, a white shark image jumped out at me from the stack. This "had to be Isla Guadalupe", I thought and sure enough looking inside the cover was Brandon Cole's name.

For those of you who do not know, some of the best professional work I have seen of white sharks coming from Isla Guadalupe was shot by Brandon. This latest cover is a perfect example of color, balance and imagery.

If you're interested in more of his stunning images and the complete story in this months Smithsonian click here.

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

Documentary-Island of The Great White Shark

The critically acclaimed new white shark documentary Island of the Great White Shark just released another online teaser for your review. It will be featured at the Harvard Museum of Natural Science in July with filmmaker Richard Theiss:

Stopping Shark Finning-It Starts With "One"

One boat, one fisherman, one website, one blog, one resort in Asia.

Today another big hotel chain made a bold decision not to serve sharks fin soup to it's patrons-reserving a limited use for high rollers.

Resorts World Asia has set also aside a continuing $70,000 USD budget for shark research and launched a Marine Conservation Fund.

It starts with "One".

SINGAPORE: Growing affluence is fuelling demand for a popular Asian delicacy – shark's fin.

According to a recent survey carried out by Singapore's Environment Council and US-based conservation group Wild-Aid, 70 million sharks are killed each year to meet the demand for shark's fin, resulting in a reduction in the number of sharks by as much as 90 percent over the last 20 years.

However, the popularity of shark's fin soup among customers often means that most restaurants cannot afford to drop the dish from their menus. Louis Ng, executive director, Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES), said: "In the past, if you didn't serve shark's fin at your wedding dinner, others would term you as cheapskate."

To support conservation efforts, one of Singapore's upcoming integrated resorts - Resorts World at Sentosa - said it would not be offering shark's fin on its menu when it opens in 2010. It does not, however, rule out exceptions.

Krist Boo, Resorts World at Sentosa, said: "In the private gaming rooms, if a high roller asks for shark's fin, we will serve it and that's a business decision." Together with its move to keep shark's fin off its menus, the resort has also launched a Marine Life Fund as part of its corporate social responsibility programme.

It has set aside some US$70,000 (SGD$100,000) for 2008 and 2009 to fund research and conservation efforts, and up to US$700,000 a year when the resort opens in 2010.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Basking Sharks and Science-Great News

Off the cold dark waters of the U.K a shark mystery is slowly unraveling.

Researchers have recently tagged and tracked giant Basking sharks to discover they are deep water-long migration critters after all. Similar research on Whale sharks is showing the same behaviour patterns.

Isle of Man Britain's biggest shark species has been tracked for the first time for thousands of miles from waters southwest of the Isle of Man to Canada.

Until now little was known about endangered basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) when they moved outside British waters, but scientists have confirmed that the animals travel huge distances and plunder deep waters for food. The discoveries were made with the help of two sharks, known as A and B, who were tagged last year.

The detailed pattern of movements will now enable scientists to identify new ways to protect sharks from harm in British waters. There is still a risk of hunting in other waters, however, because of the shark's highly valued fins, which are a delicacy in some countries.

Mauvis Gore, who is involved in the project, said: “Such long-distance migrations have implications for population genetics. Despite protective legislation, the numbers in the northeast Atlantic may show only limited recovery if mature adults are exposed to exploitation in other oceanic regions.”

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

3 shark attacks hurt tourism in Mexican resort area

Close to ten days of wall to wall shark media coverage and we still do not know what kind of sharks were involved in these unprecedented attacks.

As far as sharks are concerned knowing what species you're dealing with is 90% of how best to avoid them.

IHUATANEJO, Mexico (AP)
-- No one could remember a shark attack along this resort-studded stretch of Mexican coast popular with surfers and Hollywood's elite. Many of the large predators had been pulled from the ocean by fishermen. So when sharks attacked three surfers in less than a month, two fatally, it was unthinkable.

The latest attack came Saturday, when a shark chomped down on the arm of surfing enthusiast Bruce Grimes, an American expat who runs a surf shop in Zihuatanejo.

Grimes and a handful of other surfers were out on dark, choppy waters when he felt something lift his board. He managed about five strokes before teeth sank into his arm. "Shark!" he screamed, wresting his arm back. Grimes made it to shore, escaping with a few gashes.

"There wasn't any time to panic," he said. "I thought: 'Don't want to die. Don't want to lose my arm.' "

Only later did the 49-year-old Florida native learn a local surfer had been killed by a shark at a neighboring beach the previous day. Less than a month before that, a visitor from San Francisco, California, was killed while surfing another nearby beach.

Before that, shark attacks were unheard of in Zihuatanejo. University of Florida expert George Burgess was in the area Wednesday interviewing witnesses, going over autopsy reports and checking beaches to find out why the sharks had suddenly become so aggressive.

Shark Diver On "Wejetset Magazine"

It's always nice to get noticed in your time and today Shark Diver was noticed in a big way by Wejetset Magazine the webs source for all things travel gear related.

Over the years we have noticed a number of sites like these. Keeping fresh travel content alive on these sites is always a challenge.

From the initial look these guys are masters of the art and we look forward to seeing more sharky content up in the coming months.

Oh, and by the way, we highly suggest snagging the Magnetic Sudoku which provides endless gameplay and portability...you know, in between 90 foot shark dives somewhere tropical.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Nominating Frederic Buyle's Photography-Magazine Cover

Every once in a long while comes an underwater image so stunning, so perfect, that you just sit quiet for a minute or two enjoying every single thing about it.

This
is one of those images. Please vote for this image by clicking this link today. The image is called "Dancing With Tigers".

To actually be able to "capture the moment" is every photographers dream. To capture that, and everything else is pure magic. Well done Frederic!

Latest shark diving hot spot? Boncuk Bay, Turkey

The latest hot spot for shark divers is not Isla Guadalupe but, as it turns out, Boncuk Bay, Turkey.

While we're not sure about the commercial appeal of Sand Bar sharks as a main item, any site in the Med that is reusing sharks instead of killing them has our support.

The hardest part about this new dive site is just pronouncing the street names.

MUĞLA - Doğan News Agency
Boncuk Bay situated in the Gulf of Gökova, a long narrow gulf in Muğla province in southwestern Turkey, will open for shark tourism in the upcoming months and has been sealed off to tourists at present.

The bay has been closed to domestic and foreign tourists. Serving caravan tourism for more than 30 years, the facilities in Boncuk, listed among the top 100 natural paradises of Turkey, have been sealed off. Currently, officials in Boncuk do not allow the entry of caravans coming from different parts of the world. Locals claim although the project is one that will save the sandbar sharks, which are harmless to humans, it is a blow to the long-established tourism business in the region.

Boncuk Bay, located within the official borders of Çamlıköy Village in the Mediterranean resort town of Marmaris, was declared a protected site in 1990. Last year, officials from the Environment and Forest Ministry, Dokuz Eylül University's Faculty of Fisheries, and the Underwater Research Society, or SAD, carried out some examinations in the bay.

Following the examinations, the Environmental Protection Agency for Special Areas declared Boncuk Bay a protected area since it is home to Carcharhinus Plumbeus, sandbar sharks.

Currently, Boncuk Bay is closed to tourism activity. Officials have placed a number of buoys in the water to restrict boat cruises, fishing, swimming, and scuba diving in the bay. Entry to the bay both from the land and the sea has been barred.

On the other hand, the Boncuk Camping and Tourism Facility, the only existing facility in the bay, has been sentenced to a YTL 18,000 cash fine for it repaired its toilets without official permission and its operating permit has not been renewed. The administrative authority in the region informed managers of the facility that the area has been appropriated for protection of sandbar sharks before it sealed it off.

Boncuk Bay is the only spot in the Mediterranean and the second in the world for proliferation of sandbar sharks that do not pose any danger to humans. Foreign tourists who come to the bay now have to change their destination to neighboring resort towns simply because they cannot enter the bay.

Bikini Shuts Doors To Sunken WW II Fleet...and Epic Shark Diving



Mounting financial losses have forced closure of scuba diving at Bikini Atoll — the premier tourist destination in the Marshall Islands — after 13 years of operations.

The inability of the national carrier Air Marshall Islands to get passengers to and from Bikini in the past eight months when both its planes were crippled with mechanical problems, coupled with skyrocketing fuel prices, undermined a profitable scuba diving business that lured visitors from Europe, America and Australia to this former nuclear test site, Bikini Atoll Divers manager Jack Niedenthal said Tuesday night.

Air Marshall Islands, a government-owned airline, did not fly from October until earlier this month, stranding dozens of divers late last year who had to be evacuated from Bikini by ship after planes repeatedly broke down. Although Bikini has been open for a new season since February, the national airline did not resume flights until early May and only two groups of divers have managed to get to Bikini this year.

Bikini was heavily booked in advance for both 2008 and 2009. But since airline disruptions began hurting Bikini in late 2007, the tourist destination has been hit with a wave of cancellations by divers wary of being stranded on Bikini if the now one-plane airline suffered a breakdown.

Conde Nast Traveler Magazine called Bikini Atoll one of the "Top 50 Worldwide Island Escapes." It was also the sight of a two-hour, live broadcast feature in 2004 by the Discovery Channel during its annual “shark week” program, and has been featured in dozens of dive articles since opening its fleet of World War Two wrecks and large shark population to divers in 1996.

Niedenthal said the Bikinians’ U.S.-invested resettlement trust fund has been hit by losses, dropping from just above $100 million to “the low $90s (millions)” and as a result the Bikinians could no longer sustain financial losses from the dive operation in the face of both poor air service and spiraling fuel costs.

“After 13 great-though-challenging years as one of the premier wreck diving and fishing tourism sites in the Pacific, Bikini Atoll will be closed to tourists as of June 11,” Niedenthal said. “We have made this decision due to the situation of our local airline, Air Marshall Islands, and also because of the rapid rise in the world price of fuel, which has made all of our operating expenses just skyrocket beyond our means.”

In August, the Bikini council will meet to plan out its 2009 budget and decide whether to reopen Bikini for diving next year, he said.

“Given the challenges our trust fund is facing because of the recent poor performance of the U.S. stock market and a recession-bound U.S. economy, the prospect of opening next year appears very doubtful,” Niedenthal said.

Closing down the Bikini dive operation is “very hard on the Bikinian leaders and our people as all of the proceeds from the operation have gone toward purchasing food” for the displaced Bikini Islanders, who live dispersed on three different islands in this western Pacific nation.

The first nuclear tests at Bikini in mid-1946 sunk a target fleet of American and Japanese warships, including the world’s only dive-able aircraft carrier, the USS Saratoga.

Billionaire Paul Allen’s mega-yacht Octopus spent a week at Bikini in February, and one dive group flew there last week — the only divers to visit the atoll since last October.

They could be the last ones to enjoy Bikini lagoon’s underwater secrets.

Riviera Beach dive boat finds shark-mauled body in overturned vessel

UPDATE: We spoke with captain Mark Rose from the GSE this morning about this entirely sad event. According to him this vessel might have been overturned for at least two days. The Bahamian gov has not released the names of the three deceased-speculating that this group may have been Haitian refugees.


BY ANDY REID Sun-Sentinel

After jumping into the ocean to look for life on an overturned fishing boat, Riviera Beach dive boat captain Jonathan Rose realized the sharks got there first.

Rose and the crew of the Gulfstream Eagle were on a dive trip to the Bahamas with 22 passengers Sunday when the U.S. Coast Guard saw an overturned vessel near Memory Rock, north of West End. The Coast Guard aircraft was on a search for a missing sailboat from Fort Lauderdale when it found the overturned boat. Rose and his 115-foot boat were nearby and he offered his help to Bahamian authorities.

Rose said that when he got into the water, he thought he saw two life jackets tangled in fishing line floating by the boat. As one drifted away, his crew realized they were bodies and that at least one had been attacked by sharks.

"They started yelling for me to get out of the water," Rose, 26, said by satellite phone Monday.

Once Rose was back on board, he and his crew tied the overturned vessel to their own and dropped anchor. They were able to pull only one of the floating bodies from the water and decided to search for any others.

Rose swam beneath the boat and found two more bodies in a forward cabin. He said he pulled them onto his boat as one of his crew mates swam nearby with a spear to ward off two 12-foot tiger sharks swimming around them.

"We knew it had to be done," Rose said. "It's only fair and proper for the families to have closure."

The Freeport News reported Monday that the bodies of two men and one woman were recovered from the 35-foot vessel, thought to have overturned in water 8 to 22 feet deep. The nationalities and identities of the passengers had yet to be released, the paper reported.

A fourth person also was confirmed dead, said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Jennifer Johnson.

Conditions had been rough in recent days, with 20-knot winds and 3- to 5-foot seas, Rose said.

Rose's family has been making trips to the Bahamas for 30 years. His father, Mark Rose, said Jonathan has been diving since he was 3 and that he knows how to protect himself around sharks.

Helping with searches and rescues is part of a life lived on the ocean, according to Mark Rose. He said about four or five times a year they end up hunting for lost boats and even helping stranded refugees.

Sunday was different, according to his son.

"It was a pretty horrible sight," Jonathan Rose said. "It's just not something you can get out of your brain."

Monday, May 26, 2008

$1800 for wine on a Shark Shoot? It must be California!

One of the more interesting moments for us here at Shark Diver was the wine order we had to put together for a recent film shoot in the Bahamas.

Turns out the entire crew was French, and stereotypes aside, they loved their wines.

Typically when we put a shark shoot together we get calls for standard shark gear, cages, chum, cameras, what you would expect for a few days at sea with big sharks.

This unexpected 12 case wine order was a chance for me personally to showcase some talents that only Shark Diver seems to possess in the film and television world...in depth knowledge of good California wines.

Needless to say, of the entire film project, this took the most time and needed the most attention. After all there's no way on god's green earth our California based company was going to ship "subpar wines" to a bunch of Frenchmen who would be at sea for 10 days in the middle of the Grand Banks, Bahamas.

The final word? They liked our wines.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Shark vs Croc=Crikey, Great Shot!

For wild animal photogs being at the right place at the right time in Australia is almost as easy as taking the lens cap off your camera.

Then again if you happen to be Paul Van Bruggan a certain amount of underwater thrill always helps. While traipsing through the woods the other day he happened upon this remarkable scene...and shark photo of the month:

"We looked across and saw a shark's tail coming up out of the water and then a crocodile's head came up and grabbed it." Mr van Bruggen said the crocodile knew exactly what it was doing, dragging the shark on to unfamiliar dry land before finishing off its prey.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Shark kills surfer off Mexico's Pacific coast

Bad shark related news from Mexico yesterday as yet another surfer shark attack and death was reported. This time less then 6 miles from a previous fatal attack and death of an American last month.

Incredibly, as we were blogging about that attack, another surfer was attacked in the same area. While environmentalists managed to stave off an all out shark hunt last month up and down the coast...this time we're not so sure they'll be as effective.

ACAPULCO, Mexico -- A shark injured a 49-year-old American surfer Saturday off the Pacific coast of Mexico, in the third attack in a month.

The Mexican Navy deployed personnel to warn people about sharks at beaches in Zihuatanejo, a resort northwest of Acapulco, according to a Navy official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

He said authorities have not closed beaches in Zihuatanejo, but people were being advised against swimming. A day earlier (Friday), a 21-year-old Mexican surfer was killed by a shark off a nearby beach. The two attacks came a month after a shark killed a San Francisco man surfing in the same area.

Local Civil Protection director Jaime Vazquez Sobreira said the American attacked Saturday lost his thumb but managed to get to a hospital on his own and was in stable condition. The Guerrero state Public Safety Department identified the man as Bruce Greems but did not give his hometown in the U.S. Vazquez Sobreira said he lived in Zihuatanejo. The U.S. Embassy confirmed an American had been bitten by a shark but did not have additional information.

Mexican authorities used baited hooks to catch sharks last month after the attack that killed 24-year-old Adrian Ruiz of San Francisco. Local conservationists protested the hunt, and it was not immediately clear if authorities would do it again.

Arturo Sabas de la Rosa Camacho, the Guerrero state environment secretary, said the government would hold meetings in Zihuatanejo next week with tourists, environmentalists, shark experts and fishermen to determine what actions to take.

"We need scientific explanations for the shark presence, and if it's because of climate changes," he said.

Cold currents and an abundance of giant squid and other prey may be attracting sharks to the area, said Jose Leonardo Castillo Geniz, a shark expert with the National Fishing Institute. He said a large shark presence was unusual for the region.

Geniz said the authorities should close beaches in Zihuatanejo instead of killing sharks. He also called for aerial surveys to determine what species has been attacking surfers. Aida Navarro, of the environmental group Costasalvaje, urged the government to post warning signs at Zihuatanejo's beaches.

"Killing sharks is not the solution to preventing encounters with humans," Navarro said. She noted that some shark species are under threat from overfishing.

Friday, May 23, 2008

eBay White Shark Jaw Loophole?

We just knew this was not going to be easy, it never is.

Following the discovery of a complete set of white shark jaws for sale on eBay we dug around a bit more and discovered the following website. Frankly for a shark diving company like ours we had thought these kind of sites were all but gone following regulations.

If this sites claims are true, we stand corrected, but it does not take away from the fact the trade in white shark jaws remains a repugnant practice.

Seems wherever there's a market you'll find a seller:

This entire page is dedicated to genuine GREAT WHITE SHARK TEETH. The teeth have come from a large great white (genuine Carcharodon Carcharius) (estimated at an 18-20 footer) caught before December of 1998; after this time they were declared protected, then endangered, so no great whites have been caught since that time.

PLEASE NOTE: Great white shark teeth & jaws can be shipped only within the U.S..

THAT IS WHY THE PRICES OF THE GREAT WHITE SHARK TEETH ARE MUCH HIGHER THAN ANY OTHER SHARK TEETH IN THE WORLD.

We do not go out and catch sharks for their teeth! Great whites were declared endangered since December 1998 so it is ILLEGAL to catch them now. But they are NOT ILLEGAL TO OWN OR SELL. So what are people supposed to do with the ones that are already in circulation? Hide them? Throw them away? No, those that are in circulation are allowed to be traded, sold, resold, collected, displayed, bragged upon, showed off.

So because there are a limited amount of these specimens in circulation.....the value has only one place to go....UP (just like elephant ivory products). Modern Great White shark teeth are not found while diving or digging. They now only come from existing collections.

Nautilus Explorer White Shark "Drop Down Cages"

Good news from the crew over at the Nautilus Explorer going to Isla Guadalupe this year. Drop down cage systems for better shark images:

We are excited to offer a very unique experience to our certified scuba dive clients with a shark cage that can submerge to a maximum of 40 feet. Guadalupe Island has fine and excellent diving conditions with beautiful blue water, 100 foot visibility and seas that are usually calm.

However, it can get windy and it seems to us that the white sharks tend to stay a wee bit deeper on windier days. So, we borrowed an idea from Australia and built a submersible 3 person cage that will offer an awesome view unlike any other. Photography opportunities should be wild. Rebreather divers are welcome to bring their rigs which is a first!! Strict safety protocols will be in place.



Submersible cage diving has been done for many years in Australia and we are very fortunate to have one of the leading shark experts in the world, Rodney Fox, joining us this fall to show us how it's done.

White Shark Jaws for Sale eBay

Thanks to the sharp eyes of blog reader "Samir" we were notified this morning of this recent shark travesty on eBay.

This is what you think it is and yes, it is illegal in the USA to sell white shark jaws and teeth. If this item is still up on eBay you can find it here:

Monster White Shark Jaws

The current bidding is $1750 USD but will always go much higher if left to market driven buyers. The last set of jaws we saw on eBay a few years ago was a $5000 prior to our email campaign. If you have a chance today, and you want to do some good, here's the sellers eBay contact info.

Please feel free to contact both the seller and eBay management at the following contacts to inform them of your feelings about this:

eBay Seller
J.Dizzl

eBay Management
Violations


"A Big Thanks" from the crew here at Shark Diver

Shark Diving with the future President?

From Luke Tipple's new blog over at Luketipple.com.

Just as I thought the Bahamas Tiger Shark season was at an end the call came in. Patric Douglas from SharkDivers had a French documentary team lined up to shoot dolphins and tiger sharks and they needed me on-board.




I’d just rounded out a month at sea which included a shoot with Discoveries Mythbusters for Shark Week and two weeks of diving with hardcore shark fans from Germany. With just enough time up my sleeve I met my Mum and brother in San Diego but when they left for New York I got back on a plane bound once again for the Bahamas.



In the rush I had just enough time to get the vessel and necessary operating gear sourced and delivered to the MV Kate. Among the requested items were two high tech underwater scooters, six bottles of oxygen, soft-no-lime (re-breather fuel), 300 pounds of chum, a helicopter, a dozen cases of wine, two shark cages and 6 dolphin shaped balloons… quite the unusual list but not one beyond our means! Usually I fully research my clients before we embark on the mission. Getting the background story and paying attention to detail really assists me in relating to a client and catering to their needs… but I have to admit, I stepped onboard knowing only that we had two vessels, 28 passengers, a potential serious language barrier and no real shooting schedule. Just the type of challenge I relish!



Ushuaia Nature is a team of predominately French movie makers that have traveled the globe for 20 years recording the beauty of our natural world. Yeah, that’s right, 20 years! These guys (and a couple of girls) comprise most of the original members of the film team and the comradery developed from spending so long together is obvious.



They are led by Nicholas Hulot… if the name doesn’t ring a bell then you probably haven’t spent any time in Europe where he is one of the most revered personalities on television. He is an author, TV host, and political force with a mission to spread global awareness of the need to conserve our natural earth’s beauty. He also founded the “Nicholas Hulot Foundation” and is being pressured to run for President of France!



The Ushuaia team boarded the vessel and I was finally presented with their shooting goals: to document and record the beauty of the Caribbean waters around Grand Bahama Island. The schedule included diving with Christine Zenato of Unexo, a well known shark handler who is experienced at inducing the state known as ‘tonic immobility’ (where a shark essentially ‘goes to sleep’ after having it’s highly sensitive snout stimulated by hand).



I joined Christina underwater along with a few cameramen and one very powerful light array but interestingly the sharks had a severe negative reaction to the generator powered lights and would not settle down enough to be handled. Three dives later and with the removal of the lights and most of the divers Christina was successful in her mission, safely handling the shark and giving Hulot quite a thrill! It should be noted that the handlers were wearing Neptunic Shark suits and would not attempt this dangerous activity without this level of protection.



The following days were spent out at sea completing a number of their shooting objectives which included diving at Tiger Shark Beach with the resident Tiger and Lemon Sharks, swimming with Atlantic spotted and bottle nosed dolphins and even breaking out a couple of Kite boards to ‘surf’ with the playful dolphins! Their safety officer, Krov (a fellow Aussie and great guy), remarked that Nicholas is extremely lucky and seems to get amazing footage… his prophetic words proved correct on the second to last day.



While perusing a pod of Atlantic spotted dolphins on the beautiful White Sand Ridge the team decided to dive and get footage. Just as we were to hit the water someone yelled “Turtle”, followed immediately by “Tiger Shark”… to which I naturally replied “Dive Dive Dive!!!”. Unbeknownst to us we’d stumbled across the scene of a Tiger Shark attack on a huge old Green Sea Turtle. Three of the sharks, ranging from 6 to 10 feet, were aggressively feeding on the still living turtle. Knowing this was a rare opportunity to observe a natural feeding event I hit the water with the camera crew to witness the demise of this huge old aquatic reptile.



For the next 2 ½ hours I watched with a mix of awe, excitement and sorrow as the three Tigers harassed, bit and tore at the turtle. Honestly I wasn’t given much time to think about it as I was on high alert knowing that at any time the Tigers could, and most likely would, turn on us. Reflecting on it later I knew what I’d witnessed would stay with me forever as one of the most amazing and emotional things I’ve yet to see underwater.



This shoot was yet another success for us in the Bahamas and one that will always stay special to me. The French team were incredible to work with and their nightly sing alongs were quite the spectacle. I was privileged to celebrate Nicholas’ 53rd birthday with their team and laughed myself to tears when their crew doctor dressed as Elvis and serenaded the group with his hilarious version of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ before jumping overboard into the marina… absolutely classic stuff.



Till next time



- Luke

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Yahoo! Fin Soup Redux

By now those-500 per day-of you who join us here at Underwater Thrills aka Shark Diver know that we are the last people on the planet to sit on the sidelines when news happen within the shark community.

Last year we were all over the place when it came to Internet giant's Yahoo! involvement with Alibaba.com

The issue was the selling of dried shark fins over the Internet and Yahoo!'s one billion dollar investment in Alibaba.com China-who continue to enable the sales of thousands of tons of dried shark fin each and every month. The math works out like this, for every ton of dried shark fin, the bloody harvest is upwards of 700 live sharks. It's ugly economics and even more wasteful than you can imagine when you realize 99% of the rest of the shark goes straight to the bottom of the ocean.

Shark Diver coined the term The New York Stock Exchange of Shark Fins for Alibaba.com and within a few weeks the term stuck.

Here's the latest news from the shark fin front and as can be imagined, the news is quite unimaginable:

BERLIN, May 22 (Reuters) - Overfishing partly caused by booming demand for shark fin soup, a delicacy in some Asian countries, is threatening the existence of 11 kinds of ocean sharks, an international study showed on Thursday.

The fish, often seen as ferocious sea predators, suffer from largely unregulated fishing for their valuable fins, said the report into 21 species of sharks and rays living in the open oceans.

The experts who wrote the study, organised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, also urged governments to quickly impose catch limits.

"The traditional view of oceanic sharks and rays as fast and powerful too often leads to a misperception that they are resilient to fishing pressure," Sonja Fordham, report co-author and deputy head of the IUCN's shark specialist group, said.

Thresher sharks, silky sharks and the shortfin mako are all under threat, said the report, presented at a May 19-30 U.N. biodiversity conference in the city of Bonn.

The sharks, all "pelagic" or living in the open ocean, include large species such as the whale shark and great white shark. Although relatively few compared to coastal and deep sea sharks, a greater number of pelagic species is under threat.

"The increase in demand for shark fin soup in countries like China is a major driver of the problem," Fordham told Reuters, noting that growing affluence in China, where the soup is served as a treat at celebrations, is behind its increasing popularity.

Underwater Times Reports:Giant Squid Caymans

From the good folks over at the Underwater Times the following story of one of our favourite critters in the ocean, the squid.

This rather large 7 foot specimen was found by local fishermen in of all places the Cayman Islands.

After 10 years of diving these islands we have never seen anything like this...apparently no one on the Caymans have seen anything like this either:

George Town, Cayman Islands (May 21, 2008 15:40 EST) A rare squid found floating on the surface of the ocean about 5 miles south of Little Cayman this weekend has been positively identifed as Asperoteuthis.

Local fisherman Derren Burlington, who was taking part in the Brac Jackpot Fishing Tournament, discovered the 24lbs 4oz creature, which is over 7 feet (2.5m) long, on Saturday 18 May at around 9:00 am, and transported it to the Little Cayman Research Centre operated by the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI).

Dr. Clyde Roper, Emeritus Zoologist at the Smithsonian Institution, has confirmed that it is only the fourth specimen known in the entire Atlantic Ocean. He said all other specimens known of this species – a dozen or so – have been found in the Indo-Pacific waters.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Shark Diving Analysis-Mexico, South Africa, Bahamas, California

As Mexico's government presses for new regulations governing shark diving activities at Isla Guadalupe under a cloud of allegations, operators worldwide need to pay attention.

The anti shark diving lobby (for the right and the wrong reasons) is alive and well and what goes on in one place reverberates throughout an entire industry.

Florida's successful and complete ban on all shark diving activities is a prime example of how governments and agencies can make snap decisions based on incorrect information, and sometimes lack of far sighted vision.

Shark diving tourism generates millions for local economies worldwide and is, for the most part, no more dangerous then sky diving. The best case financial example of this is South Africa and Australia.

For other countries like the Bahamas, and to some degree in Mexico, the feeling that commercial shark diving operations do not put back enough into local economies is an all too valid point.

Without dialogue between the commercial operators and the agencies and governments who would over see their activities-the opportunity to build on world class shark eco tourism with proper financial re numeration to territorial governments gets quickly lost in a spiral of misinformation and media hype.

Here's a quick list of governments and their agencies who are, at this moment, debating the merits of commercial shark diving within their territorial waters based on recent events.

1. Bahamas-Tigers, non caged, baited activities

2. Farallones, California-White shark viewing distance from shore, 500 meters

3. Mexico-White sharks, chumming ban

These well known commercial shark diving sites and the media attention they have garnered are interlinked. When divers and anti shark diving proponents speak of shark diving, they often list off the top sharks sites worldwide.

Add to that a rough 2008 shark diving season with a tragic commercial vessel accident in South Africa (no fault), a well covered attack and death in the Bahamas, and a series of random (non shark diving related) shark bites and deaths up and down the California, Florida, Australia and Mexico coastlines.

What you end up with is a perfect storm of negative media with several agencies and government bodies poised to take some sort of action regarding commercial shark diving activities.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Shark Tech-Ocean Reef

On the subject of shark tech-we would like to introduce you to Ocean Reef.

For the past 5 years Shark Diver has been using these full face mask/comm gear set ups for our shark diving operations worldwide.

From spotting Salmon Sharks in Alaska's murky waters to calling out sequence shots for Discovery Channel's Shark Week Ocean Reef has been with us since the beginning.

If you happen to find yourself in an underwater space, surrounded by sharks, and need to communicate fast with clarity this is the gear you need to be using.

As you know by now, the crew of Shark Diver like their gear, and the gear we use is tested by the best in conditions that require our shark gear to work the first time and every time.

Iemanya Soiree and Charity Auction Invite

The second annual Iemanya Soiree and Charity Auction will be held on Thursday, May 29th at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles at 6pm.


I.E.M.A.N.Y.A stands for Research, Education, Management, and Advisory (Investigacion, Educacion, Manejo y Asesoria in Spanish). We are also named after Yemanjá, the celebrated Afro-Brazilian Goddess and guardian of the sea, and mother of all life.


Shark Diver will be donating one free 5 day all inclusive expedition to cage dive (value $3100) with the Great White Sharks at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico and meet famed CICIMAR white shark researcher Mauricio Hoyos on site with proceeds to going to Iemanya.

If you don't have your tickets yet, sign up online at www.iemanya.org. We look forward to having you at this dinner celebrating the ocean and sharks!

At the dinner Iemanya will be presenting their first annual SHARK WARRIOR Award.

There will also be a live and silent auction with sports memorabilia, event tickets and fantastic get-aways. Live Brazilian Samba dancers will provide the entertainment. It will be a fun evening.

Please join us!

Shark Tech-Shark Shield gets Coroner's Nod

Following what was nothing short of an online and media "witch hunt" the makers of the Shark Shield (note: Shark Diver uses and endorses this product) have seemingly turned a corner with the latest findings from the Australian Coroners office.

We blogged about this subject a few weeks ago. Shark Diver maintained when used correctly, this product does deter sharks.

In our case we have used this product for film and television work where extra site security is called for when filming sharks. Nothing on the market replaces or should replace common sense, site knowledge, local shark knowledge and gut instinct when swimming with sharks:


Shark Shield gets Coroner's nod

Recent coroner’s findings have supported the use of the Shark Shield device as a shark deterrent.

The inquest came after the shark attack death of an Adelaide University student, Jarrod Stehbens, while diving for cuttlefish eggs off Adelaide in August, 2005. The inquest also found claims that the device caused health problems or attracted sharks were unwarranted.

Paul Lunn, a former KI resident, first introduced the device to Australia through an agency, which was run out of a shed at Island Concrete in Kingscote.

The Shark Shield was originally from South Africa and called the Shark Pod. The Shark Pod was “cumbersome, had a low battery life and components often failed,” Mr Lunn said. The potential market was recognised by Paul and wife Charmaine Zealand. They developed the Shark Shield by making the original smaller, lighter, more reliable and made the battery last longer.

Shark Shield released a statement after the Coroners findings were published, “We are pleased the Coroner has quickly cleared the air and acknowledged the effectiveness of Shark Shields. We still remain concerned that many unfounded allegations aired during the Coronial Inquest could put lives at risk. It would be a terrible tragedy if one more life was lost because divers, surfers or other water user - or their places of employment - had lost faith in such life-saving technology,” Mr Lunn said.

After years of testing and development the Shark Shield is now used by many government departments, police diving squads, professional and amateur divers and surfers as well as being tested for Military use.



Crossing Over-Sharks and Art

When you spend as much time at Isla Guadalupe as we do you get to meet some interesting sharks...and people.

Case in point this stunning 4 foot replica of "Mystery" sculpted by one of our divers over the course of the last two years.

Capturing the unique "lightning patterns" on her side as she glides through gin clear waters was nothing short of magic.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Diving with Sharks-Score "0" for Reality T.V

We're not even sure where to begin with this one. Is it:

1.The foam crab suit?

2.The cheesy sound track?

3.The crazy accents?

4.All of the above?


Friday, May 16, 2008

Cage diving doesn't make sharks aggressive

In a landmark study South African researchers have come to some startling conclusions about cage diving, bio attractant and great whites.

As a shark diving company who's crews spend hundreds of hours observing these animals on site each season-the conclusions from South Africa are what we have come to suspect for a few years now...white sharks and cage diving do not equal "killer sharks".

This study also backs up a 4-5 year study done by Rodney Fox in Australia to answer similar bio attractant questions at his white shark site.

The white shark tagging and tracking efforts of CICIMAR's Mauricio Hoyos at Isla Guadalupe has uncovered similar data-although his project was not directed specifically at the chumming issue.

White Sharks+Inflatable Boat=Not a Good Idea

What happens when you get hired to tow a dead Blue Whale carcass off the coast of California in an inflatable vessel?

1. You attract a Great White shark

2. You attract another Blue Whale

3. The Great White you attract decides to "sample and deflate" part of your vessel

If you answered three you get to watch this video. Lesson for the day, if you happen to own an inflatable vessel, never deploy it in white shark rich waters. Of course there are those who would disagree:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dead Seal Mystery-Solved?

By now you're probably saying, "not another twist to that mysterious dead seal case up in Oregon!".

At least that was our take this morning when word came out the 6 seals died of...heat exhaustion, not gun shot wounds as was reported earlier.

Why does this matter? Politics. Water politics, salmon politics, resource politics, and the grandaddy of them all the news media.

So here it is, until someone else says something different, which in this very unlikely case of 6 dead seals-is likely to be the case:

Heat killed 6 sea lions trapped at Bonneville Dam

On Wednesday, NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service said the sea lions had died of heat prostration. Officials say more conclusive results should be available in another 10 days, once tissue sample studies are completed.

The investigation into the deceased sea lions remains open.

Great White Lies-"Fair and Balanced Media"

This mornings news from San Diego also included this article about white sharks. In the aftermath of a recent shark attack near here this piece serves as a critical look at the myths and biology of the great white shark.

Overall the reporting is fair-if not "glossy".

Enduring myths about sharks create mistaken identity


May 15, 2008

Peter Benchley once said he could not have written “Jaws,” his best-selling 1974 novel about a giant white shark terrorizing a New England beach town, if he knew then what he later learned.
“When I wrote 'Jaws,' I really didn't know much about sharks,” Benchley said in 2002. “There wasn't a lot of material about them.”

These days, much more is known about white sharks. (The “great” is a misnomer. It's not part of the species' traditional or scientific name.) Benchley, who died in 2006, came to be an ardent advocate of stronger efforts to protect and understand sharks.

Click link for complete article.

Mexico and the Sharks of Ecotourism Frontera NorteSur

Due to the actions of one operation at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico-many within the government of Mexico are now asking if shark diving activities at this site are in anyones best interests.

The following article from Mexico's "La Jornada" details a full cage breach event (one of the worst ever caught on tape) at Isla Guadalupe, November 2007.

This video, shot by clients of the operation in question was quickly posted to You Tube where it has been viewed over 120,000 times. Presumably by Mexican environmentalists and policy makers as well.

Many in the environmentalist community and anti-shark diving lobby within Mexico are using this video and this singular event as a "raison d’être" for everything bad about cage diving within Mexico. One look at the video and you can understand why.

This video continues to overshadow the ongoing "laundry list" of positive steps taken by eco tour operators in good faith at this site. From donations of building material, boat engines, fuel, food and medicine, to the full support of Mexican lead white shark tagging and research.

It is high time those responsible for this event-step forward and take full responsibility for their actions of last November 2007. That means the following:

1. An open letter to the Mexican government posted to major newspapers and a full apology

2. A self imposed fine with funds being turned over to the new Bio-Sphere for enforcement activities

3. The removal of this video from You Tube. Its continued presence serves only to misinform and provide an incomplete look at the many thousands of hours of safe and eco minded shark diving that has been done at this pristine site.

Without steps taken now to mitigate the media and perceptional damage done to the entire white shark eco tour fleet, Isla Guadalupe and those who would see all shark diving activities at this site stopped is becoming a very real possibility:

Mexico
and the Sharks of Ecotourism Frontera NorteSur

In Baja California and other Mexican coastal states, ecotourism is promoted as an answer to declining resource-based economies and old school sun and surf-style visitation packages. Within the ecotourism sector, extreme sports activities are one variation of attractions designed to lure the dollars of affluent foreigners and Mexicans. But one form of extreme ecotourism, cage diving with sharks, is raising questions about the management of Mexico's natural resources as well as the safety and integrity of both humans and animals.

A remote chunk of land off the Pacific Coast of Baja California, Guadalupe Island is a hot spot for shark cage diving. Every year one hundred or more great white sharks gather near the island, likely drawn by Guadalupe's tasty seals. In April 2005, Guadalupe Island was declared a protected biosphere reserve by the federal Mexican government. However, the reserve lacks governmental or medical facilities.

Guadalupe Island's lack of infrastructure hasn't stopped several San Diego-based tour operators from offering adrenaline-spiked encounters with the magnificent if potentially deadly great white sharks. Running expeditions from the port of Ensenada, Baja California, tour boats ferry as many as 22 people on shark-seeing adventures. Advertised on the Internet, five or seven-day Guadalupe Island packages range from $2,750 to $4,295 in price. Once near the island, tourists don diving gear and are then put into cages from where they observe great whites swimming near the enclosures. The circling sharks are attracted by bait, usually tuna, dangled from a line.

According to Mexican environmentalist and columnist Ivan Restrepo, a November 4 trip crossed the line in keeping sharks and people at safe distances. Restrepo reported in a recent column that a great white shark snagged itself on a cage which contained two tourists, ripping apart an entire section of the "barrier." Luckily, the two thrill-seeking tourists, who presumably got their money's worth, escaped harm.

Restrepo said a previous pilot study conducted by Dr. Jose L. Castillo Geniz, a researcher with Mexico's Regional Fisheries Research Center of Ensenada, resulted in recommendations to tour operators about where to place the bait and how to keep a prudent distance from the sharks.

"(Tour operators) promised to do it, but nothing more," Restrepo charged. "The lives of tourists and sharks continue being at risk."

The incident reported by Restrepo once again raised questions about the possible impacts of ecotourism on wild animals. Whale-watching, for instance, is an economic plus for coastal residents in Baja California, Banderas Bay and other areas, but the popular activity poses important questions. When does the number of boats viewing animals reach a saturation level? How close is a safe distance from an animal? How do human-animal interactions alter the natural breeding, migratory and other patterns of wild species?

According to Restrepo, Guadalupe Island's shark tourism brings in about $3 million per year for the tour operators, who pay nominal permit fees to Mexico's Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment.

"The business of taking tourists to watch white sharks on Guadalupe Island is an excellent one for a small group from the neighboring country," Restrepo wrote, "but not for the natural reserve, which lacks resources to establish a management plan, sponsor research or pay its personnel better…."

On the other hand, tour operators maintain that their Guadalupe Island excursions help shield protected great white sharks from poachers, who hunt the endangered creatures for the lucrative global fin market. Recent reports estimate that the worldwide population of great white sharks has declined by as much as 70-90 percent. A group of San Diego shark-watching tour operators has established the non-profit Guadalupe Island Conservation Fund to raise money for the preservation of the local shark population.

"Great whites are listed as endangered in Mexico; however there are no resources to dispatch park rangers in small enforcement vessels to protect them," said a statement from the Fund posted on its website.

Experts regard closer US-Mexico collaboration as essential for preserving the great white shark, which is an international traveler of excellence. After tagging a male great white shark with an electronic tracking device in early 2007, a cross-border team of researchers released the young predator into the ocean from the privately-owned Monterey Bay Aquarium in north-central California. Months later, the shark surfaced off the southern coast of Baja California near Cabo San Lucas.

"It clearly shows that like many migratory animals, sharks don't recognize international boundaries," said Dr. Salvador Jorgensen, a researcher with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Hopkins Marine Station. "It underscores how important it is to work closely with our Mexican colleagues to make sure we have adequate protection for the species," Jorgensen told a California newspaper.

——————————
Sources: La Jornada, February 4, 2008. Article by Ivan Restrepo. Article by Kevin Howe. Guadalupefund.org

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Shark Stewards of The Reef-Documentary Review

Sharks: Stewards of the Reef a shark documentary by Trillium Films and filmmaker David McGuire is perhaps one of the most in depth and visually appealing shark documentaries to hit the screens in the past three years. Filmmaker McGuire weaves a fascinating tale of reef sharks and reef ecology in pristine locals and gin clear waters.

These are the kind of encounters with sharks that change peoples perception of them. Beautiful reef sharks gliding over colorful reefs-with a simply melodic and haunting sound track to accompany the viewers voyage. McGuire's film introduces you to a host of local flavor and tropical locals in all it's greens and blues and sunset glories.

Then, in a wrenching transition, the viewers are taken on a darker voyage, that of sharks final destination into the holds of ships as nothing more than dried fins. In the world of complex eco systems analysis McGuire and his crew manage to distill the sharks place in this world down to the easiest and most understandable format using shark biologists and Peter Knights CEO of Wildaid as the primary story weavers.

The imagery he chooses to tell the tale of this unrelenting harvest is brutal and savage and serves as a wake up to the viewer. Overall the story resolves to one of a clarion call to action, reef sharks, like many other species of sharks are often the first species to be harvested as poor, local fishermen, are enticed by the lure of quick dollars and waiting factory ships off shore.

Accomplishing one solid message in any wildlife documentary is a herculean task, weaving a complete and understandable tapestry is just pure shark viewing magic!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Isla Guadalupe-Mexico's Committee on Environment and Natural Resources

Monday, May 19, 2008

An Open Letter to Mexico’s Congress on Shark Ecotourism


In April 2008, after marking up a legislatorial Point of Agreement regarding the “non-extractable exploitation of white shark at Guadalupe Island,” Mexico’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee of the federal Chamber of Deputies submitted its negative findings Point of Agreement to the lower house of Congress as a whole, where it now awaits action.

All of which relates to supervised shark diving (in cages) adventure and ecotourism activities that take place within Mexico’s Guadalupe Island Biosphere Reserve, located in the Pacific Ocean east of Baja California. Activities that the Mexican government, after due study and review, has authorized through the issuance of a limited number of federal permits to Mexican and foreign tour operators (plus the requisite permits vessel owners/operators or their agents must obtain).

Following a long introductory review and criticism (with a number of unsubstantiated and/or arbitrary “facts”), the Environment and Natural Resources Committee calls for the federal government not to authorize shark watching activities at Guadalupe Island, “insofar as it may not have been determined if these practices change the behavior of this species, creating a risk to its population, the marine fauna of the area, and local fishermen.”

As well, the Committee is calling for Mexico’s Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources, through its Attorney General for the Protection of the Environment and in coordination with the Secretariat of the Navy, to carryout increased vigilance and oversight in the ocean area to insure that all of the rules and regulations in the 2005 decree, that designated the land and waters off Guadalupe Island a natural protected area, are followed. brt

March 11, 2008

An OPEN LETTER to members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee of the Mexican Chamber of Deputies, Honorable Congress of the Union, Mexico, D.F.

Honorable Deputies of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee:

Diego Cobo Terrazas, Chairman

Jesús de León Tello, Secretary

José Luis Espinosa Piña, Secretary

Lucia Susana Mendoza Morales, Secretary

Benjamín Hernández Silva, Secretary

María Mercedes Colín Guadarrama, Secretary
Aleida Alavez Ruiz

Armando Barreiro Pérez

Edmundo Javier Bolaños Aguilar

Juan Hugo de la Rosa García

Adriana Dávila Fernández

José Antonio Díaz García

Emilio Ramón Ramiro Flores Domínguez

José Guillermo Fuentes Ortiz

Martha Hilda González Calderón

Christian Martin Lujano Nicholas

Cruz Humberto López Lena

Sergio Augusto López Ramírez

María Soledad López Torres

Beatriz Manrique Guevara

Carlos Roberto Martínez Martínez

Roberto Mendoza Flores

Fernando Quetzalcóatl Moctezuma Pereda

Víctor Manuel Méndez Lanz

Jorge Rubén Nordhausen González

José Ascensión Bárcenas Orihuela

Martha Angélica Romo Jiménez

Víctor Manuel Torres Herrera
Rafael Villicaña García

Carlos Ernesto Zatarain González

Esteemed Members of the Chamber of Deputies:

Several allegations have come to our attention regarding ecotourism activities of the white shark cage diving tour operators at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico. Your meeting minutes of April 3, 2008 state the following (translated):


1. "As well, it is mentioned that the techniques used by these tourist service providers in order to attract white sharks puts at risk the ecological balance in the area, the habitat and populations of this species, since their boats carry containers with sanguaza (blood of different origins mixed with water), and bait that they dump into the sea once near the island with the aim of attracting sharks in order to see them rise to the surface or jump. It should be noted that the sanguaza consists of blood from different origins, (which) could have been fishes, fowls or mammals, and in some cases (it) has the remains of entrails mixed with water."


2. "These boats pour out the sanguaza at night so that the essence can remain in the sea, and the next day they can assure tourists (of) the presence of white sharks around this. Another of their methods, although it is utilized to a lesser degree, is the use of pinniped (sea lion, seal or elephant seal) shaped lures, combined with marine mammal oil, a situation that obviously violates federal legislation."



3. "As has been mentioned, the practices used in order to attract these species are so inadequate that they have modified the behavior of white sharks in the area, as well as its local distribution. This change of its behavior will create a potential risk to the populations of sea elephant (Mirounga angustirostris) and Guadalupe fur seal (Arctocephalus townsendi), as well as abalone fishermen."


4. "Regarding sanguaza, this must be considered hazardous waste and even potentially infectious, therefore its use to attract could result in the spread of pathogen agents or viruses that may be potentially infectious and harmful to the marine and terrestrial fauna of the region."

We would like the opportunity to refute these allegations, and to speak directly with any members or deputies of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. What you have been made aware of at this pristine site is factually incorrect, and it does a great disservice to the overall positive efforts that this fleet, in good faith, has put forward within the Biosphere Reserve boundaries of Isla Guadalupe over the past seven years of operations.

If this site, and the fate of a large percentage of the Pacific’s white shark population, is to continue to thrive the actions you take in coming months will be a deciding factor. We ask that the esteemed members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee come to understand exactly how these white shark operations are run, and how this fleet, on its own accord, has made great strides in building a long term ecotourism benefit for Mexico.

We stand ready and committed to working with the Mexican government in developing this site as a world class ecotourism and white shark research destination. These small steps have already begun at this site, and we would like to introduce you to them.

Respectfully,

Patric Douglas

CEO

www.sharkdiver.com
www.sharkdivers.com
www.guadalupefund.org
www.islandofthegreatwhiteshark.com

415-235-9410