Friday, August 29, 2008

Isla Guadalupe Conservation Fund

We got a call this week from one of our divers wondering if he could donate to the Bio-Sphere at Isla Guadalupe.

Of course, we said, go the the Isla Guadalupe Conservation Fund a site Shark Diver created just for this purpose. The trick was the site has been down for the past three days while we moved servers.

The good news is the website is back up, educating divers and thrill seekers alike to I.G and the desperate need for funds to keep this newly formed Park, open, alive and well.

As we have been reporting things at I.G have taken "turn for the worse" as of late and how this plays out will have an effect on us all in the coming months.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Shark Tourism The Race for a Species

Shark Diver has been an outspoken advocate for sustainable shark tourism since it's commercial inception back in 2001. It is our contention that shark tourism not only provides incentives for local economies to look at sharks sustainably-but also educates divers and adventure seekers worldwide to the plight of sharks.

At that time (2001) the issue of shark fining was a distant drumbeat in the wilderness. Today it is an outright jungle revolt...but little seems to be getting done in time.

Once again we woke up this morning to another media report in a series of clarion calls from distance shores. Sharks are disappearing and faster then we think:

A North Queensland marine researcher says sharks are on the verge of being wiped out on the Great Barrier Reef. Richard Fitzpatrick says on a recent research trip to reefs off Cairns and Port Douglas, his team struggled to catch any sharks to collect DNA samples.

Mr Fitzpatrick says the decline is the result of over-fishing on the reef.

"We've found sharks inside highly protected areas like the cod hole, dead on the bottom with their tails cut off, so the fishermen have just got upset with the animals, pulled them up and killed them," he said.

"The big unknown with all this stuff is the black market for shark fins and no-one's got a handle on that whatsoever."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Guadalupe Trip Report-Divers Perspective

Shark Diver Sean Kendrick and 14 other wide eyed adventure seekers joined us us this season at Isla Guadalupe for our first expedition aboard the MV Horizon last week. Here's his report and images:

August 17, 2008

I got off the airplane in San Diego and for the first time in my life I stepped foot onto California soil. I was quickly greeted by the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean and a mild ocean breeze. California was not my destination, but merely a stepping stone to a place I have dreamed about. A place that boasts of crystal clear water with 100 foot visibility, a place where great white sharks are known to congregate in the Fall. A place known as Isla Guadalupe (click link for full report)

Swim at Your Own Risk-Shark Attack Map

There's a great website that keeps us coming back month after month-it's called Swim at Your Own Risk. For those who keep track of the darker side of sharks and shark attacks this is your one stop shop for shark attack facts and real-time data:

Shark Diver Givaway-The Winner Is....

Last month Shark Diver in conjunction with the boys from 689Design Ocean Reef and Bathys dive watches offered the Trip of a Lifetime-an all inclusive 5 day adventure to Isla Guadalupe.

The numbers of entrants exceeded even our wildest calculations and after spending several weeks in Florida counting hanging chads, dimpled chads, and chaddy chads we said "Nuts to this" and picked someone at random out of a 1920's Top Hat found floating in the Atlantic after the sinking of the Titanic-true story.

O.K-The winner is....Jennifer McCormick

Congratulations we'll be calling you today to set up your next great adventure!

Isla Guadalupe Trip Report 8.26.2008

Another stellar week at Isla Guadalupe although our seasonal record was broken this week:

Hi All,

We didn't have the beautiful sunrises that we are accustomed to at Guadalupe the fog bank at the top of the 4000' island peak saw to that, but we had amazing weather to make up for it.

Glassy calm sea once again today with 80 degrees on the back deck under sunny skies once that fog broke. The water was a balmy 71 degrees, with vis in the 100 foot range. Sharking was slow this morning with deep passes being the norm. We broke our string of 44 straight cage rotations spanning two trips with at least one shark in play.

We had one rotation without a shark this morning...oh my! But we made up for it as the action got good this afternoon with 4 sharks arriving on scene by 1:30. The remainder of the afternoon was filled up with Mau and three others that we have not yet ID'd monopolizing the back deck and our divers attention.

We also had a 3 foot blue shark arrive on scene...it quickly left as it's larger cousins gave it a scare. Boy he walked off into the rough part of town!

We're now underway heading toward San Diego with 16 happy Shark Divers we'll update you if we see anything like last weeks Blue Whales and Hammerheads!

Adios,Captain Greg

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Shark Marketing Hits 2 Million

An experiment in commercial shark diving marketing has just hit the 2 million plus mark and launched a career in television for Dive Operations Manager Luke Tipple. A huge Hat Tip to the guys at 689Design Adam and Zander-two L.A based marketing gurus who know what works.

Our main company and brand Shark Diver has recently split into it's Newco Shark Divers offering film and television shark diving support and consulting to the global shark diving industry. After many successful years in commercial shark diving and quite a few consulting and film projects behind us-we put together a great little team to offer a "one stop shop" at Shark Divers.

Don't take our word for it-we'll let these guys introduce us from our last project.

Stinkin' Dead Shark Award August 2008

At the end of this month we would like to present the SDS Award to those within the global community whose abjectly abhorrent behavior towards sharks and sustainable fisheries or shark conservation warrants a big black eye.

Translation-your treatment of sharks sucks!

This months award winner is:

Yahoo! Inc for continued support and investment in Alibaba.com and a one billion dollar shark fin portal that allows fishermen from all over the planet to pillage sharks just for their fins...and then hiding behind a press release that calls this issue a "Cultural Practices Issue".

McJaws-McMisquote

26th August 2008

No McJaws. Misquoted by The SUN (again).

Hi Shark Diver,

What a surprise!

For those of you who know me and think I have gone crazy, and those who do not and assume I must be some armchair “expert”, can I assure you that much of what I was supposed to have said came purely from the imagination of the journalist concerned. Sun Article. I would not claim to be a shark expert, but have caught a few in the course of fisheries research in the Arabian Gulf and Ecuadorian waters, and have for the last ten years taken an interest in their occurrence, identification and conservation in the North East Atlantic and particularly around Britain.

I was ‘phoned on Friday morning by the said journalist, and from his description immediately said that it sounded like one of the porbeagles that are regularly seen around North Sea oil rigs. They seem to take advantage of the fish that benefit from these effective “no-take zones” and feed on the sessile organisms and other found on these structures. These porbeagles are perfectly harmless and inquisitive, almost friendly, having given many divers a shock when they turn up to inspect them at work.

When the photo concerned was sent through to me, I immediately phoned him back and told him that as expected it was definitely a Porbeagle and went through the identifying features with him. I told him that though related to and similar to a white shark there was no possibility that this was one. I have since found out that this video footage was taken three years ago.

With regard to the possibility of a white shark turning up in British waters I said that they may well have been here in the past and there was absolutely no reason that they could not occur except the great rarity of the species in the North East Atlantic (4 records from Biscay in 19th century, one in 20th and a possible sighting in 21st). Unlike Richard Peirce, I doubt that they have occurred here in the recent past, but ready to consider any evidence, especially since Ramon Bonfil’s studies in the Indian Ocean have shown that they are quite capable of crossing from the North West Atlantic population.

I made no mention about waters around rigs being warmer; is it? And said that they can occur from 5° to 22°C, preferring 14° to 17°C, hence they would have no problem in North Sea waters.

I further pointed out that even if they were present in the North Sea, there was no serious danger as there was a known population in the Mediterranean, but no human fatalities in the last 30 years (unless Sharkman or Alessandro can correct me).

Subsequently on Monday (I was not in as it was a Bank Holiday in England) the Sun contacted my colleague the Curator, Steve Matchett, with regard to a shark tooth found on a beach at Menai Bridge in North Wales. From the photograph he was able to say that it was either a white shark tooth or a very good replica, but since it had a neat hole drilled at the centre of the base since being in a shark it had almost certainly been on a necklace. Article.

I have seriously considered refusing to give interviews to The Sun, as this is the second time they have claimed that I have certified a shark as the “First British Great White”. However, as a major part of my role is to TRY to get the media to cover the marine environment and the life in it in a positive way, and to increase media coverage of marine matters, I feel I must persist with what is the most-read paper in Britain, in the hope that one day they will publish a decent story highlighting the incredible wildlife in British seas and the need to conserve it.

Douglas Herdson
Information Officer
National Marine Aquarium
Rope Walk
Coxside
Plymouth PL4 0LF
UK

Telephone: (+44)01752 275216/01752 600301
Fax: (+44)01752 275217
Email: Douglas.Herdson@national-aquarium.co.uk
website www.national-aquarium.co.uk
To inspire everyone to enjoy, learn and care about our Oceans through amazing, memorable experiences.

Google Bans Shark Finning Ads

From the guys over at A Couple Dives this mornings blog post and simply stunning news. For search giant Google to take on such a critical issue opens the doors to others within the search industry-namely Yahoo! who have not only allowed fining ads on their sites but have directly invested in shark fining to the tune of a billion dollars via Alibaba.com.


AdWords.jpgGoogle is following suit as the world takes a stand against the brutal practice of shark finning.

Finning is the inhumane practice of hacking off the shark's fins and throwing its still living body back into the sea. Finning is illegal in America (and elsewhere) but the ban is difficult to enforce. Every year tens of millions of sharks die a slow death because of finning. Since the 1970s the populations of several species have been decimated by over 95%. Just a few months ago, the United States fisheries service ruled that fishermen must bring their shark catches to shore with fins still attached.

And now, since July, Google AdWords has taken the next step forward in ending this cruel practice by implementing a new policy regarding endangered or threatened species, including sharks. Google's advertising platform will no longer promote products obtained from endangered or threatened species. This includes, but is not limited to, the sale of products derived from elephants, sharks, tigers, whales, rhinoceroses, or dolphins.

The new policy comes after Coral Cay Conservation and supporter John Nunes from California wrote to Google urging them to change their policy on accepting paid advertising from shark fin product manufacturers.

Yahoo! and Alibaba.com continue to be the worlds largest online source for illegal shark products, who continue to enable the sales of thousands of tons of dried shark fin each and every month.

shark-fin.jpgHopefully this move by Google will force the hand of other companies such as Yahoo! and put an end to this barbaric practice.With a squelching of the demand for such products, fishermen will no longer profit from their sale and this kind of slaughter will be rendered obsolete.

Do you think Google should be doing more to lead the way in ending the cruel practice of shark finning? Should more action be taken against companies such as Yahoo! that condone such acts? Let us know in the comments! And make sure to check out Shark In The Pool!.

Albino Whale Shark-You Bet!

Nature has a way or surprising us and none more so then this unlikely critter a 30 foot albino Whale Shark:

It is one of the rarest sights of the ocean. A 30ft albino whale shark glides through the water with majestic grace.

It was captured by diver and naturalist Antonio Moreano off the coast of Darwin, the northern-most island of the Galapagos.

And this female is thought to be one of a kind.

Nor Cal White Sharks are Baaack!

It's a yearly ritual for our local beach here in Marin-Great Whites who come cruising down from Pt. Reyes looking for seals and end up making a scene at Stinson Beach:

Marin County's Stinson Beach was closed to swimmers and surfers after a great white shark was spotted Sunday night, according to national park officials.

The shark, which was eight to 10 feet long, was seen about 7 p.m. about 125 yards from shore.

"It was by a former lifeguard and fisherman; he knows what he saw, that is why we are confident it was a great white shark," said John Ralph, the lifeguard supervisor at Stinson, which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Ralph said he immediately got people out of the water at Stinson on Sunday night, and then went to the adjacent Sea Drift and Bolinas beaches to let surfers there know about the sighting.

Stinson and Bolinas are both popular surfing spots.

Ralph said the beach was open Monday, but the water beyond waist deep was closed.

"I have a lot of kids today, I let them go knee deep and let them play with their boogie boards," Ralph said. The National Park Service posted warnings at Marin County's Upton's Beach, which is adjacent to Stinson.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Giant Squid Diving-Steve Blairs Report

From Steve Blair this week a quick albeit amazing Giant Squid report from the Sea of Cortez:

Patric,

I wanted to tell you about my dive trip down to Santa Rosalia, Baja last week. I had an interesting trip! As you know I was going down there to dive with the giant Humboldt squid and with our infamous friend Scott Cassell. Scott was finishing up a Discovery Channel film shoot when I arrived and we had 3 days of diving to look forward to.

The idea was to get into the water once at dusk and then again after dark to observe and film the squid’s natural feeding behaviors at night. Because the squid can be pretty dangerous we were wearing full chain mail suits and helmets for protection against bites and the ring teeth in their 1200 suction cups and eight arms.

Here’s the fun part – we were diving at night in blue water with only 10 foot visibility hanging on a steel cable 40-50 feet deep under the panga and suspended over the 3000 foot deep abyss below. At night with the limited visibility you looked down below your fins into the inky black that only monsters come out of! We had no lights except for two small LED lights on a cable suspended 15 below the boat.

To bring the squid in close (and that’s not difficult) we had the fisherman on the boat cut up chunks of squid they were catching and throw them overboard. It was eerie to watch the white chunks of flesh flutter down all around us and just before you lose sight of them in the dark around you “something” would quickly appear and the chunk of flesh would be gone in a blur of arms.

The squid are very fast and in the limited visibility they move in and out of sight really quickly. These were some pretty large ones at about 6 feet total length. I was watching one attack Scott in the head and seeing others move around near him when one hit me in the side of the head as well. When they attack they hit with force and the arms grab and hold while the beak rips into you. Luckily I was wearing a helmet and this one didn’t try to bite me.

In the dark with hundreds of squid darting all around eating the chum raining down it can get pretty intimidating – like walking through a bar where everyone is throwing punches at you or is about to! Wild stuff to say the least. And I thought cage diving with great whites was cool.

Wanna go diving with us?

Isla Guadalupe-Cage Diving With "Borat"

You know-after many years in this gig I am not surprised anymore by our divers. They remain a never ending source of joy and good will-I mean who would willingly travel 210 miles into the vast Pacific to cage dive with some Great White sharks?

A special breed of diver to be sure, and none more than last weeks Peter M (last name held to protect small children) who arrived on site with a ring to propose to his gal with, two bottles of champagne, and...a Borat Swimsuit.

Rumor has it, and it's nothing more than a rumor mind you, that divers and crew a like were treated to Peter in suit...in cage. Rumor also had it the shark population went wild after seeing this Go Go Green Monster in the cages. And you thought Yum yum Yellow was the thing-that's so 1997.

Like I said, never ending source of joy.

Hat Tip to Kimberly for the image, she shot about 400 last week and at least 275 are excellent.


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

Isla Guadalupe Trip Report 8.25.2008

"Shark Soup" was the description from Captain Greg this morning as he read off the current list of white shark "regulars" who have been making the rounds behind the MV Horizon and thrilled divers this week:

1. Shredder
2. Bruce
3. Mao
4. Fat Tony

"We're actually getting four and five sharks in the same frame at the same time".

Ahhh, you just gotta love white shark diving in August, it's hard to beat all the shark traffic at this time of year. For those of you joining us this month-welcome to Isla Guadalupe.

Shark Diving-Ruth Emblin

Steve sent this very well seasoned look at the state of commercial shark diving by Ruth Emblin. It touches on some points we have been wanting to address for several weeks, about the nature of the business of shark diving.

Recent Shark Attacks May Hurt Conservation Efforts

Shark attacks happen. That is a fact. They rule the oceans and we are the interlopers in their territory. That these attacks happen much less frequently than e.g. car or workplace accidents, or even, I quote from Sharkwater, ”your chance of getting killed by a soda machine is higher than getting killed by a shark”, doesn’t matter.

The media simply loves to latch onto shark attacks and turn them into sensationalist news reports that spread like wildfire all over the world. Don’t misunderstand me, my heart goes out to the victims of shark attacks and their families. My heart also goes out to the victims of other accidents and violence. Any such accident or loss of life is terrible. What I object to is the automatic response to shark attacks that the shark is so dangerous to us humans that we need to wipe out the species to stay safe.

I ask you - who was there first? Certainly not us, the sharks have us beat by several hundreds of millions of years. Yet we puny primates have been able to wipe out close to 90 % of the world’s sharks in the short time we’ve been in the picture.

A recent fatal shark attack in the Bahamas has brought up concerns whether the Bahamian government should completely stop “shark tourism”. Those of you who have dived in the Bahamas know that shark diving is an big draw. I do not think shark diving should be stopped in its tracks, however, this may be an opportunity to change some of the policies for the benefit of both sharks and man. I have had several shark encounters while diving and am fascinated by their grace and power. The more people get the chance to experience these amazing animals, the better, as long as it is under controlled circumstances which do not endanger the sharks and their environment.

I am against “mass shark tourism”, but support the controlled exposure. However, shark diving operators have to ensure their practices are not encouraging unnatural behavior among the sharks, e.g. by getting the sharks too used to feedings. Having said that, I wholeheartedly support those dive operators who are dedicated to educating divers (and non-divers) about sharks and their environment, and do it without major impact on the sharks’ behavior. We can never forget that we are just visitors in their environment and should not attempt to modify their behavior. Shark feedings, even under controlled circumstances, are risky not only because the elicit an instinctive response from the sharks, but also alter the sharks’ natural behavior. Observation alone has never hurt anyone.

There is no doubt that the recent reports of shark attacks will have a negative impact on shark conservation. The “uninitiated” will only see the danger, not the underlying reasons these tragedies happened. I was very saddened to hear about the recent tragic accidents and my condolences go out to the families of the victims, yet as heartrending as these losses are, we need to look at the bigger picture, and the fact that the media buzz around these events could invalidate all our conservation efforts very quickly. Sharks may not evoke a warm and fuzzy feeling like panda bears or seals, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve our protection. No, sharks aren’t fuzzy and huggable (well, if you are Rob Stewart, then maybe they are for you), but they have ruled the oceans for hundreds of millions of years and we “upstart” primates do not have the right to wipe them out just because they’ve clashed with us on occasion, and because of that have been portrayed as the stuff of nightmares and Hollywood shockers. The public needs to realize that sharks are the top predator in their territory, and necessary to balance their respective ecosystem.

If we continue to wipe out the top predator, the balance will shift dramatically and subsequently endanger our own survival. I really wish there was a way to “endear” sharks a little more to get away from the fierce predator or even manhunter image. They really are beautiful, graceful animals, completely at ease in their environment. No, they aren’t really fuzzy and huggable, but we can learn to love them. The shark needs an “image make over”, and I hope that many like-minded individuals will join us in finding a way to accomplish this. Just look at Rodney Fox - he was grievously hurt by a Great White and almost died - yet he has become the biggest shark advocate out there, because he understands the reason why he was attacked. We need more people willing to ignore the negative, sensationalist press and understand the importance of sharks within the ecosystem. Will sharks ever become as popular as e.g. bears of all kinds? I don’t know, but we sure can try to change their image.

Think about it - millions of children love their teddy bears… yet a ”fuzzy” Grizzly recently killed its trainer. Are we now going to tell our kids that bears are monsters and take their toys away because of this? I very much doubt it.

Our world has seen too many negative changes since we humans began our industrial evolution. Wildlife in general needs our attention now, be it land or ocean animals. We have to do it one step at a time. Sharks have been rather neglected because of their negative image (which is unfortunately a curse all endangered predators are under), and we need to step up our education efforts in order to at least make the next generation aware of what is at stake.

Ruth Emblin

Mc Great White-Chum Slick's Take

We have no idea who's the fertile mind behind The Chum Slick Blog but it's hard to not spray coffee all over the place after reading a post or two. Case in point, we were going to take a run at the following shark story posted in the Sun this week-but after reading the C.S take on it, and spraying coffee all around...why improve on perfection?

Great White Hoax

British tabloids love to pimp their Shark hysteria this time of year. Witness last year's Cornwall Great White hoax. This year, The Sun is pimping McJaws, a supposed Great White spotted by submarine camera off an oil rig in the the Scottish North Sea--120 miles off Aberdeen.

Shark "expert" Doug Herdson of the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth said:

"There’s no reason why it couldn’t have travelled here from the coast of the US. There’s plenty of food in the North Sea and the temperatures are fine for them. Sharks are attracted to rigs because the water near the structure is warmer. If there was going to be a Great White in the North Sea, it would be likely to be found near a rig."

[the sun]

The funny thing about this comment is that Great Whites favor colder water, since they are basically warm-blooded Sharks. But forget about all of that, the picture clearly shows a Porbeagle Shark. While Porbeagles are becoming increasingly endangered because of overfishing, they are not unheard of in the North Sea. Here is photographic proof.

Porbeagle Shark

Great White

Oh, and here is the important part. There has never been a recorded attack of a Porbeagle on a human being. So the Scots better get back to fearing Nessie. If they want Great Whites, they can go down to South Africa.

It's Me, Sharky!
--Sharky


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Belize Whale Sharks-Sea Horse Divers

There's a saying in the world of commercial shark diving "smaller is better". We're moving away for a moment from some of the larger operations out there to look at a local company that get's almost no press-Sea Horse Dive Shop Belize:

Join us in the months of March, April,May, and June when whale sharks are observed at the Gladden Split Area by divers and snorkellers.

This species, despite its enormous size, does not pose any significant danger to humans. It is a frequently cited example when educating the public about the popular misconceptions of all sharks as "man-eaters". They are actually quite gentle and can be playful with divers. Divers and snorkellers can swim with this giant fish without any risk apart from unintentionally being hit by the shark's large tail fin.

Editors Note: At $150 per diver per day - Whale shark encounters here are a "bargain".

What's With Piedmont California?

00:12:39 Avg. Time on Site

Local Address: XXXX

Site Avg: 00:01:34 (706.44%)

We have been very pleased at the growth of Underwater Thrills: Swimming With Sharks over the past 8 months. When this blog was first proposed we thought "Eh, another blog, who needs it?"

Turns out about 10,000 of you need it, each and every month. For that we are grateful, thanks sharkies. But there's one fan from Piedmont, California who's spending more time with us than might be considered "healthy". Our Google stats reveal this one person spent on average 706% longer on our blog site than any other person who visited this month.

Now we're pretty sure this person is not sitting by his computer with a big novelty #1 finger that says "Go Shark Diver!". If this is the case we want to meet you.

Just wanted to point out that summer is still here and Piedmont has loads of parks and trails to explore. Get out have some fun, enjoy the wilderness, and come back to us when your site visit average dips down about 650%.

We'll be here when you have had a chance to smell the roses. Go on, you can do it...

Shark Tourism-Rock and a Hard Place

Some horrific news today from South Africa as owner operators of several well known dive shops were confronted with the sight of tons of dead sharks this week.

South Africa's shark tourism is on the front lines in the ongoing issue of sustainable shark tourism vs shark meat and raw product use:

Eco-tourists who dive with sharks off Miller's Point are up in arms after being confronted by the sight of fishermen offloading tons of dead sharks from boats awash with blood.

Many of the divers are international tourists who travel to South Africa specially to see sharks, which have been wiped out in other parts of the world.

But Tony Trimmel of the Kalk Bay Boat Owners' Association said commercial fishermen targeted sharks only when lucrative species like yellowtail and snoek were unavailable.

"They don't target sharks on a daily basis-but they have to make a living."

Editors Note: Worldwide this is an ongoing problem with use groups who both have the right to either fish or interact with sharks. In other areas of South Africa the demands for shark fins and meat is so high that fishermen are taking sharks from Marine Protected Areas.

Like we said many months ago "It's a race between the raw product use of sharks and sustainable tourism". That's the Rock and the Hard place.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The same old Allegations-Fiji Diving Shark Blog

Editors Note: With little doubt one of the most concise voices in our industry for reasoned shark diving is the Fiji Shark Diving Blog. They remain passionate and well spoken advocates for both sharks and the industry:

As so often, the Shark Divers have started a thread and I would like to pick it up as follows.

Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa is a respectable institution and their Trademark, a coveted distinction for Tourism operators of that country. Among many other things, it implies that the people whose land, natural resources, labour, knowledge and culture are used for Tourism activities, actually benefit from Tourism.

Sound familiar?

Look now further than the Shark Reef Marine Reserve Project with its holistic approach to Conservation.

FTTA have decided to look into Shark Tourism in South Africa and have published this important position paper on the matter.

Before I unleash, let me categorically state that it is a good one: balanced, fair, unbiased, pragmatic, it explores the full scope of the issues at hand and draws the right conclusions. FTTA are the first ones to admit that they are no experts in Shark Tourism and carefully avoid taking any positions with respect to the usual controversies.

This of course is the way it should be and they need to be commended for that approach.

And yet, the usual allegations raise their ugly head unchallenged.

Let me try and sum up the current state of affairs, at least how most of us in the Shark Diving Industry see it. Yes I've already blogged about it but if left unanswered, these allegations will, and have already developed into Urban Legends, and then, the "Truth".

It's all about memetic Evolution - check it out, fascinating.

But first, lets get rid of the question whether Shark diving increases the risk of Shark incidents.

Duh?

Yes of course it does!

And so does swimming, surfing, spear fishing, whatever!

The simple reason for that is that Shark incidents have one precondition: Sharks and people have to be in the same place at the same time, that place being the Ocean. Equally obvious is the fact that there will be some correlation between the number of people frequenting the Sea and the number of incidents - thus, any increase in people implies an increase in risk.

This is so trivial, it is painful!

What to do?

Well, how about looking at the airline industry: aviation increases the risk of plane crashes (Hellooo.....). Confronted with such mind-boggling insights, do we run and close down the industry? Or, do we instead require that commercial airline operators conform to the strictest safety procedures possible?

This is precisely what has to be asked from us. And let me re-iterate that safety procedures will always remain species- and situation-specific and will always imply a judgment call by the operator.

Now, to the actual debate, this in order of increasing complexity.

Yes, many of us do use bait to attract the Sharks.

Although Shark diving in unbaited conditions is certainly possible, predictable encounters can only be expected where the species are resident (or maybe, territorial) - as in Grey Reefs and Silvertips; or, where the lay of the land, or special conditions aggregate the Sharks - as on the sea mounts in the eastern Pacific, during the yearly congregations of Whale Sharks in the Caribbean and Australia or at the cleaning stations of Thresher Sharks in the Philippines.

Other than that, one is left to the vagaries of chance encounters : great when conducting coral dives but just not quite good enough to justify mounting a commercial operation specifically targeting Sharks.

The issue this raises is that of Conditioning.

By that, one implies that luring in the Sharks will change their behavior - well, again, Yes........... Why otherwise would we bother doing it?

The natural behavior of most Sharks is not to approach divers unless specifically motivated to do so - and that's precisely what we are trying to achieve, to motivate them. Incidentally, in our specific case, we also try to condition our Sharks to follow a uniform and largely predictable routine and to stay away from the clients.

"Best practice" among cage diving operations apparently consists in just teasing, but never actually giving any food to the Sharks.

Were I a coral-hugger, I would immediately object that letting the Sharks waste precious energy on fruitless "hunts" is to be rejected as harmful to the animals. But of course, that would be totally besides the point - the point being that common wisdom has it that this will prevent the Sharks from associating humans with food via so-called positive reinforcement. We shall come on to that later.

Apparently, according to the FTTA paper (and news to me), some quarters even contend that just teasing, but never feeding the Sharks could even be regarded as negative conditioning: the frustrated animals will learn to avoid those situations.

Sound plausible to you? Would the cage divers use that technique and bother to schlepp along all that bait if they believed it would eventually chase away the Sharks?

C'mon........

Leaves Conditioning via Positive Reinforcement, the big no-no.

Yes, I confess, this is precisely what we do!

We reward the Sharks whenever they approach, very much in the hopes that over time, more and more of them will turn up for a meal - which of course, being smart Apex Predators, they do!
We do so in order to show them to our clients - as opposed to, as I shall never tire to repeat, Fishermen who do exactly the same thing in order to catch and then kill them.

Get the hint? Who has the way biggest, and most negative impact on the animals? Are we going to abolish fishing as a consequence? I wish!

But now, the saga continues: apparently, feeding the Sharks teaches them to associate humans with food.

It is never said expressis verbis, but the subliminal message is that the so conditioned Sharks will not only associate, no, they will learn to regard humans as food and then start devouring anybody chancing to enter the waters they live in.

All intuitively plausible - but is it really so?

I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Darwinist, so please allow me to cite the Great Man himself: "Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science."

Why "humans"?

If we disregard the bait which is clearly the primary attractant and conditioning factor, is it not fair to assume that the strongest conditioning factor may well be the engine noise? Is it not so that some operators have learned to rev up the boat engines to "ring the dinner bell", and this with great success?

And if so, So What?

The "what" apparently is this.

This kind of signal, or even the mere presence of humans, are supposed to trigger a Pavlovian reflex: the Sharks will become excited, motivated and hungry and this will precipitate the abovementioned nefarious consequences, especially when no food is being offered.

And this is precisely the very point where Intuition is leading to Conjecture and Myth.

Nothing whatsoever, not the objective data about Shark incidents on, or in the vicinity of Shark feeding locations, nor the collective subjective perceptions of all Shark Diving Operators I've ever talked to supports in any way those allegations. This despite the fact that one would expect precisely that to happen, as a result of an increase of potential encounters and thus, risk - remember the first trivial argument?

To make an example, what we experience on our Shark Dive is this.

When we get to Shark Reef, we start by baiting the surface where the Trevallies, Rainbow Runners and Bohars (but never any Shark!) will hit the bait and, we believe, attract the Sharks to the resulting commotion. Upon getting into the water, we may, or may not, see some of our non-resident (at least not at the depth and location where we feed) animals: Tiger Sharks, Bull Sharks, Lemon Sharks and Nurse Sharks.

Have they been attracted by the engine noise? By the action at the surface? By us entering the water? Or did they just happen to be there anyway? Frankly, we don't know - yet. But we're working on it.

During the dive, the numbers of Sharks will increase as we continue feeding the big fish and later, the Sharks themselves. But once we decide to stop the feeding, the Sharks will retreat and disappear within minutes - not get frustrated and attack us in retaliation. This after close to ten years of positive reinforcement.

And when we go to Shark Reef without food, some Sharks may turn up for a quick cursory flyby but then disappear, never to be seen again.

Mind you, the above is merely our perception.

Interestingly enough, having once taken along an anti-feeding advocate and scientist, these very same observations did not dispel, but instead reinforce her reservations. As always, perceptions turn out to be highly subjective.

This can only be resolved by proper scientific research.
Remember the Scientific Method?

To the readers in general: watch this space!

To the colleagues amongst you.

Guys, we're in this together. This nonsense threatens all of us and needs to be stopped. We have the resources, animals, locations and opportunities enabling us to collect the relevant data. This may cost us some time and money, and we may well end up with answers we don't like - but if so, we will learn something new, as we should always be willing , and eager to do.
And we will get even better and safer in the process.

Let's do it - it's the only way forward.

Taiwan National Palace Museum: RTSea Blog Coverage

When it comes to shark conservation, one of the concepts that I have always stressed is the need for an international, combined strategy that addresses both government/business (the suppliers) and demand (the consumer). Much of the demand for shark products, particularly fins, comes from Asian countries and so, while many western countries support anti-finning regulations, attention must be paid to alter the cultural mindset of the largest shark product market.

The Humane Society International is doing just that, developing relationships with other organizations that can have an impact on Asian society. A great step forward was accomplished recently with their efforts to get Taiwan's National Palace Museum to stop serving shark fin soup. (Read press release.)


Congratulations to the Humane Society and their affiliate, the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) for their ongoing efforts to enlighten Asian peoples and cultural institutions to the tragic effects of commercial shark fishing/finning.

Since shark aqua farming is most likely a very remote prospect, then attention must be turned towards altering the basic demand for shark products. Working with the decision-makers is one important strategy, but you also have to get right to the source and eliminate demand.

Great White Shark Diving-Isla Guadalupe, Mexico

The red rocks of Isla Guadalupe blazed in the morning sun, a clear sky welcoming us after a stomach-churning 14-hour crossing. Lapping waves and the cries of fur seals on the nearby shore were the only sounds to be heard one hundred fifty miles from the mainland. The water roiled as foot-high fins sliced the surface like a knife through cerulean silk. It was a perfect day for a dive.


"We've got a 16-footer," announced Patric Douglas, CEO of Shark Diver, the outfit leading our expedition. From beneath his shades, Douglas beamed like a proud papa as he pointed out the great white circling the cages. Not wanting to miss the action, I hustled to join the other divers, who had already scurried to squeeze themselves into wetsuits before the great white disappeared back into the cobalt depths.

Moments later, after almost getting thrown into the water by the surge, I was safe within one half of the 100-square-foot cage system, the hookah regulator looping from between my clamped teeth to the deck above. The current tossed the cage -- and us -- only slightly more gently than a washing machine.

And then it appeared. Like a phantom shadow, the shark approached from below, slowly swishing its massive tail side to side as if it had all the time in the world. This was nothing like spotting a shark confined in an aquarium's tank. With our cage dangling over the side of the 88-foot MV Islander, my cagemates and I were well aware that we were but visitors in the shark's domain.

As the behemoth approached, we determined it was a female, and as she glided past just inches from our cage, her length was so great it seemed forever before she passed. I'd heard that great whites could reach such lengths -- and longer -- and for better perspective, I'd told myself I'd be seeing creatures roughly the length of a VW bus. What I hadn't counted on was the girth. I'd joked to landlubber friends that I was going to ride a shark, but after seeing how wide a female could grow, there was no conceivable way I could have saddled one, even had I been suicidal enough to try such a ridiculous (and illegal) feat. The six-foot-wide creature slid past, her black eye so close we could see the pupil, which made the shark even eerier than when she appeared to have two black, unseeing orbs.

When I emerged 45 minutes later, I had a grin as toothy as a great white's. Douglas slapped me on the back after helping me out of the cage and back on deck. "Pretty boring, eh?" He guffawed at his own joke as I racked my brain for an appropriate adjective. What emerged from my mouth cannot be printed in most publications of repute.

Only in the last few years have these waters, under the jurisdiction of the Mexican state of Baja California del Norte, earned fame for its white shark population. Other locations around the globe -- Australia's Great Barrier Reef, South Africa's notorious Shark Alley, and even San Francisco's Farallon Islands -- have long been renowned for their notorious aquatic residents, but Isla Guadalupe has quickly become a favorite, as much for its convenient location (an overnight sail from San Diego) as for its warm waters and astounding visibility, which can reach up to 100 feet. Such ideal conditions attract not only adventure-seeking divers such as my shipmates but also scientists in search of primo research conditions.

During shark season (September through November), at least 50 white sharks -- and possibly as many as 100 -- patrol the waters, estimates marine biologist Mauricio Hoyos, who spends several months a year camped out in a tin shack a couple yards away from a fragrant fur seal colony. He and a couple dozen lobster and abalone fisherman comprise the whole of the population of the island, a desolate red rock long since made devoid of vegetation by a marauding pack of abandoned goats.

After dinner our second night, Hoyos presented his most recent findings to a galley of rapt shark aficionados. We felt special, privileged even. Not only were we among an elite few -- a couple hundred a year at most -- to visit these waters, but we were getting a first-hand account with the most up-to-date information on sharks available.

Shark Diver provides a great deal of aid -- both financial and practical -- to Hoyos and his project. The crew has provide research photos of the sharks, duplicates of which exist in a massive binder in the ship's galley, each labeled with the shark's name and distinguishable markings so that passengers can identify underwater visitors. Divers, inspired by Hoyos' shipboard stopovers, often go on to send donations or even specifically requested equipment. Shark Trust Wines, which has graced the table of many a Shark Diver meal, donates a portion of its profits to both shark conservation and research. The combination of first-hand encounters, freshly caught scientific knowledge, and cultured respect for the creatures we came to visit was but one of the many aspects of the trip that made it unique.

As we entered the galley our final night at Guadalupe, we did so solemnly, well aware that our once-in-a-lifetime experience was drawing to a close. It was then we discovered that our congenial chefs had taken it upon themselves to whip up a farewell meal we wouldn't forget, which included the 60-pound yellowfin tuna that had been caught the day before. Divers and crew retold the tale of how we'd almost had two such tuna on our tables that night, and those who’d had the good fortune to be in the cages at the time shared their photos and video.

Unlike the tuna caught earlier that last day, the dinner yellowfin had been landed whole, without a shark-sized chunk missing. There had been quite a ruckus onboard -- and below -- as Melanie Marks, founder of Shark Trust Wines, began reeling in a yellowfin, much to the excitement of a patrolling white just below the boat. The occupants of the cages had a spectacular view as the great white circled slowly toward the fish struggling on the line then zipped towards its prey with astonishing speed. With a single chomp, the fish was severed just behind the gills, and Marks had no problem reeling in what remained of her catch. She shrugged, well aware that's what you get when you fish at the "sharkiest place on Earth."

For more info:

Shark Diver www.sharkdiver.com

Shark Trust Wines www.sharkstrustwines.com

www.islandofthegreatwhiteshark.com New Documentary DVD

Jenna Rose Robbins is a freelance writer and editor based in the Los Angeles area. She can be reached via e-mail at jenna@jennarobbins.com.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Speaking of submarines and sharks...

What ever became of this ungainly beast featured on the CBS primetime show "Killer, Bloodthirsty, Eye of the Monster Killer"...or something to that effect?

This was the worlds first submarine shark. Loaded with a diver and capable of doing...well according to the crew not much, but heck it looked cool!

Isla Guadalupe-Submarine?

One of the hottest rumors sweeping through the 2008 season is the arrival of a private submarine sometime in October to Isla Guadalupe.

We'll be curious to see the bubble sub when it arrives. These items are fast becoming the hottest ticket for the wealthy:

Hat Tip: Born Rich

It is always great to own a yacht and have those parties by the deck. However, after a while, the yachts just get, well, monotonous and you need something more exciting. That is when U.S Submarines comes to your rescue. They have developed a sub for 2 people. Called the Triton 1000, it is lightweight, and can function as an additional feature to your existing yacht. You can just go ahead and deploy the sub from your medium-large yacht. If you still don’t own a yacht, you can attach the sub behind a truck or a SUV and just negate the need to buy a yacht. With excellent visibility and luxurious interiors, the pilot of the sub will have a very comfortable journey under the water. The submarine is built specifically for the enjoyment of piloting one and hence the operations are easy. At about $1.69 million, Triton 1000 may be a little too heavy on the pockets, but you can do what no other yacht owner can do, view corals and the amazing underwater life or just have a romantic sub-ride with your partner. Or just have a look at some of the most luxurious private submarines you could own. You may find that interesting as well!

Isla Guadalupe Trip Update 8.21.2008

How do you translate into Spanish the following -"Loads of sharks"

"Mas, mas, mas Tiburon!"

However you say it, we had it today at Isla Guadalupe. Captain Greg of the MV Horizon reports back three simply tremendous shark breaches with animals flying completely out of the water...much to the amazement of our divers.

Total tally for the day was 9-11 sharks with not a single rotation without them. Not bad considering.

We'll be pulling the hook at 6.00pm after a heavy dinner tonight and should find the vessel in port by 6.00pm tomorrow. Once again Isla Guadalupe amazed our divers, we cannot wait to see some of those images our divers shot and we'll be posting two complete diver trip reports next week-once they come in.

Junk-A Blog To Watch

15,000 plastic bottles and a Cessna 310 are all that hold together Junk
an intrepid duo who are raising awareness of ocean plastics by sailing to Hawaii in this most unlikely of vessels.

Here's a quick post from June:

Guadalupe Island is roughly 15 miles long and 4 miles wide. For the last 200 miles we’ve drifted practically due south toward it. Yesterday we were five miles and bearing down on the north point. “Which way do we go?” we asked each other. Going west meant faster traveling, but the risk of being pushed ashore was greater. Going east meant a safe trip, but unexpected wind and currents. We flipped a coin, “East it is!”

Steep slopes of brown sand and rubble cascade into deep blue water. The island’s tall mountains create an imposing silhouette against the setting sun. We give a 4-mile buffer between Guadalupe and JUNK. The wind shifts to the northwest, giving us the joy of downwind sailing and a record 2.9 knots. We will skirt around this island in no time. At 1:00am Joel wakes me up, “Can you give me a hand with this spinnaker?” There’s no wind. It fell from 2.5 to .3 in the blink of an eye. The mountain, even at 4 miles, blocks the 20 knots of wind we need. It would now be up to the current.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Saving sharks at the expense of fishermen

We're huge fans of shark biologist Andy DeHart-he's got a way of drilling down to the issue at hand in a way everyone can understand:

“We’re taking sharks out of the water faster than we are putting them back in,” said Andy Dehart, a shark biologist who works with the National Aquarium in Washington.

Sharks are a vital part of the ocean’s eco system because they are an apex predator.

“An apex predator is key in maintaining balance,” said Ray Owczarzak, an assistant curator at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. “They eliminate the weakest population of fish so the biggest and strongest are the breeding animals.”

Without sharks, the ocean would be out of whack: In North American Atlantic water, Hammerhead Sharks eat Cownose Rays, which feed on Bay Scallops. If there are no sharks, the ray population explodes and eats the scallops, leaving fewer scallops for people to eat.

Isla Guadalupe Trip Update 8.20.2008

The old saying "It aint' over till the fat lady sings" was in full force today as the Mexican Navy arrived and proceeded to board all the vessels at Point Norte, Isla Guadalupe.

This is what we had feared. The final edict after many months of back and forth conversations and negotiations with various government agencies was absolutely "No Chumming".

Unfortunately Mexico has chosen to deliver this final message on site and at the beginning of the 2008 shark diving season with an actual Navy Frigate.

This leaves us as eco tour operators in an unusual spot and our divers wondering what's next?

In the short term no chumming means that while sharks will be seen this year (they are extremely curious animals and will come-non chummed-to the cages) we will be slower than usual. That's the short term.

The long term prognosis is grim indeed. Mexico needs shark tourism, it also needs to be benefited by shark tourism. Right now it is not benefiting. Right now divers pay the equivalent of $20.00 USD for permits to enter the Bio Sphere and that's it. They should be receiving a whole lot more. We're in full agreement with those within Mexico who see it that way.

Additionally, the very real specter of rampant shark fishing at this site once shark diving operations fade away is something that must be contended with. You may say it would never happen here, but 2.5 tons of shark fins were taken from the Socorro's this spring-right under the nose of the Mexican Navy base stationed at that Bio Sphere.

This is a clarion call. If Mexico is successful in essentially gutting the relatively nascent 3.1 million dollar white shark dive tour industry and these vessels cannot continue to educate divers, support field research, and continue operating in a sustainable manner-we will lose upwards to 30% of the entire Western Pacific White shark population to shark fishing in a matter of two years.

Left to their own devices shark fishermen have a strong financial incentive to harvest sharks even within protected Bio Spheres. We will submit to you that Mexico's government has their guns turned on the wrong people at this point.

Isla Guadalupe Auction-Current Bid $1000

It's no surprise that we have been huge supporters of IEMANYA OCEANICA and the local efforts they have made within Mexico to educate the public about sharks and rays. This org puts boots on the ground and as such we donated an expedition to Isla Guadalupe with funds going back to I.O:

In Partnership with IEMANYA OCEANICA we would like you to bid on this 5 day Great White Shark Expedition to famed white shark dive site Isla Guadalupe in Mexico.

Here you will discover one of Mexico's last remaining pristine underwater environments and home to the Great White shark. Discovered in 1999 and with the hard work of a small team of shark researchers from CICIMAR and UC DAVIS, we now know these animals congregate here every season to feed on the endemic Guadalupe Fur Seal.

The Expedition lasts 5 full days and departs from San Diego, California. We look forward to having you join us on this amazing adventure at this rare and beautiful site 210 miles off the coast of California.

THIS AUCTION IS FOR 1 PERSON 5 DAY DIVE ONLY, RETAIL PRICE OF THE DIVE IS $3,100

IEMANYA OCEANICA is a non-profit organization, dedicated to the conservation of sharks, rays and their habitats. IEMANYA is an international organization of scientists, educators and environmentalists committed to protecting marine life, especially sharks and rays, while addressing the socio-economic repercussions of conservation within the communities that depend on marine resources.

Iemanya currently conducts programs and conservation efforts in Southern California, USA (under IRS code 501(c)3) and as Iemanya Oceanica A.C. in La Paz, Mexico.

Shark Diving East Coast-Snappa Charters

One of the things we love about our industry are those that started it all. The few forward looking operations who, on a whim, built the first cages and lowered them into their home waters...hoping to see a shark.

Without a doubt if you're looking for one of these operations you need not look much further than Snappa Charters and captain Charlie Donilon. When we first looked at the world of shark diving in the USA many years ago-Snappa Charters was one of a small hand full of plucky industry leading operations. The good news is they're still going strong and summer isn't over just yet:

Snappa Fishing Diving Charters has been incorporated for 26 years. We offer both inshore and offshore fishing trips, shark cage diving, ash burials at sea, bird watching and lighthouse tours. Private groups and individuals are welcome.

We have been seen on National Geographic Explorer, NESN and Chronicle. Feature articles have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, Boston Globe, Yankee Magazine, and the Rodale's Scuba Diving.

Bigfoot-Never Trust a Policeman from Georgia!

Naturally you're asking yourself, why all the fuss? Well, last week along with about 15,000 other blogs, news outlets, and hopefuls we broke format to bring you what looked like the first and the only Bigfoot claim that looked, for a moment, like the real deal.

It had all the elements. An off duty cop, a frozen corpse, images, and an actual press junket with the world's media. You need to watch this video-just for the fact that everyone in this video is lying through their teeth...and they know it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Joel & Suzie almost eaten by Tiger Shark?

You can watch this video three or four times and come to different conclusions about what you are seeing.This is a growing trend with Tigers within the industry. Until recently no one would have considered Tiger encounters like these.

The main question on the table...is it sustainable?




WWF to World-10,000 sharks a year "unsustainable"

Using data from the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service, the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) has revealed hundreds of tonnes of shark fin are being exported from Australia every year.

They say on a conservative estimate that is the equivalent of 10,000 adult sharks.

The WWF is using the figures to add weight to its call for the Queensland Government to ditch a proposal to issue specific licences to target sharks.

The Federal Government says a final decision is yet to be made but it will take a precautionary approach.

WWF's Dr Gilly Llewellyn says the appetite for shark fin overseas which Australia appears to be feeding, is insatiable, and in the past 13 months 230 tonnes of shark fin have been exported from our shores, mainly to Asian markets.

"Using a really conservative estimate using the largest possible size of shark, using a low fin to weight ratio, that's still 10,000 sharks that would have needed to be killed for that amount of fin," she says.

Dr Llewellyn says there is no scientific evidence to show whether that amount of shark fishing is sustainable.

Isla Guadalupe Expedition Update 8.18.2008

Opening Day at the most spectacular white shark dive site on the planet.

For 16 lucky Shark Divers, one very excited dive crew, and Greg Grivetto owner operator of the MV Horizon this day could not have been any better:

Another amazing season here at the Island. We arrived to quickly discover we're the only vessel out here this week. Things started almost immediately, with the divers in the galley doing a dive briefing we counted three whites cruising around at 30 feet.

We'll try and surmise the day since it was filled with sharks. You'll be happy to know both Shredder now closer to 15' and Bruce who's just huge are both back on site again this year. We also saw a small y.o.y about 4 feet long. That guy didn't stay around for very long.

The animals are very curious slowly coming in for a look and swinging by a few more times on their way to other places in the area. For the shark divers this is what they have waited in some cases two years for!

We saw two full breaches today with sharks jumping completely out of the water and I cannot say we had a single shark rotation without animals. The divers are currently in the galley swapping images, drinking beer, and telling tall tales...you know the usual.

Tomorrow is another shark day, and we'll update you again, have a great night!

Captain Greg.

Isla Guadalupe Research-Mauricio Hoyos

We just got off the phone with white shark researcher Maurico Hoyos who's looking forward to his final tagging and tracking season at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico.

This project has been an exciting adventure for us and for Maurico-simply put this was the first time any cross border shark eco tour/research effort has ever been attempted in Mexico.

It has been the standing policy of Shark Diver to include shark research with operations wherever we could. 8 years ago this policy was considered by many within the community to be a lost leader, or at worst a complete waste of time.

Time, it seems, was all it took to show proof of concept. In the end we are obligated as eco tour operations to know more about the animals we make a living from. Research knowledge is key- with that comes our credibility.

As commercial shark diving operators we do not have "any rights" to make a living from white sharks. It's a gift, and payback comes in the form of adding to the understanding of these animals. You have to support the resource with realistic and yearly efforts. Otherwise these animals become little more than Biological ATM Machines.

If you're interested in providing material support for Maurico's 2008 field season contact him directly at:

Mauricio Hoyos <amuakua@gmail.com

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sharks and Tourism - Monetizing is not a dirty word

I was in the middle of a conversation with a well know shark biologist the other day when he said, "yeah but you guys are just commercializing sharks."

By "you guys" he meant an entire worldwide shark diving industry.

I had to agree we are, but so are "they" and by "they" I mean the folks who see sharks as nothing but raw product.

As far as shark commercialization goes it's come down to a bit of a race with no creamy center in this debate. By creamy center I mean those who would like to see sharks just left alone and protected.

This paradigm - the "protected areas" for marine life has major issues. It's a concept of the 1970's and does not even begin to address lack of enforcement, species migration patterns, or any of a host of other problems.

So, back to the conversation. Yes, we as shark diving operations "commercialize sharks," but it could be so much more, with just a little vision and effort. Commercial shark diving, done right, is a bridge to sustainable solutions with shark populations. Taking a page from Wild Aid and now the WWF, the only way to combat the rampant raw product commercialization of a species is to sustainably commercialize it.

"Heresy!" you say.

Not so. Look at Mountain Gorillas prior to the advent of Gorilla Tourism (yes some problems there but it's one example). Observe Grizzly Bears in Alaska, how about Whale populations worldwide in breeding areas like Tonga and Mexico?

Wherever local populations have a financial incentive, that's where you'll find either raw product uses or sustainable uses for species. Commercialization of a species abhors a vacuum. Left to their own devices populations will ramp up existing raw product use of a species until that species is no longer available.

With global human populations growing and raw product demand exceeding supply in many areas the viable bridge solution is sustainable tourism. We just need to adapt with the situation in front of us today and lose the old school distaste for sustainable species commercialization.

The sooner we do, the sooner we can begin to save sharks worldwide...with a purpose.

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

World Wildlife Fund and Shark Tourism

Interesting news from the WWF this morning. Conservation NGO's are beginning to subscribe to the concept that shark tourism acts as a bridge to shark conservation:

WWF flags shark watching expeditions to protect species

Conservation group WWF says some of Queensland's shark species are on the verge of being listed as endangered.

Spokesman Nick Heath says there are concerns for tiger sharks which he believes are being wiped out by the State Government's shark safety program and many reef species that are targeted by fishers.

He says if tourism operators charged people to see them in the wild like whale watching expeditions, more of an effort would be made to protect them. "The more we learn the more we realise how vulnerable they are to overfishing," he said.

"We should actually be protecting them because more and more people around the world are becoming interested in seeing sharks and I think that all over the world they're becoming so endangered we should make sure that people can pay big money to come from all over the world to see them."