Monday, December 15, 2008
I had the pleasure of attending a press event for the Undersea Voyager Project that was held at one of my regular stomping grounds, the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA. It's great to attend these events as you get to meet new people with similar interests, concerns, and passions for marine conservation.
The Undersea Voyager Project is headed up by Scott Cassell, who has done considerable study and research on the Humboldt Squid - a particularly voracious predator typically found in deeper water but makes more local appearances from time to time. The primary thrust of the Project is an ambitious program involving submersibles and a variety of different marine science projects, culminating in the development of a larger submersible that will act as an undersea classroom bringing science to the general public in a very real and as-it-happens way.
I find this very exciting because throughout my involvement in marine conservation as a filmmaker and giving screenings and lectures, I have found that there is a tremendous amount of scientific data that does not get effectively translated into issues, implications and solutions for the general public to understand and appreciate. As an example, we have decades of data documenting climate change - and yet there are still many people who refuse to accept it.
Organizations like the Undersea Voyager Project can be of tremendous benefit in enlightening the public, young and old, to important issues regarding our oceans. Marine conservation must not be obscure or vague; it must be made real and tangible to all people: to the general public, to the decision-makers, and to the future generations of scientists-in-the-making.
Check out the Undersea Voyager Project web site and give it your support.
Editors Note: We would also like to lend our weight to Scott Cassel. He's one of the genuine articles.
Did we mention this was intentional!?
The eyes tell the story here. Kudo's to the crazy Italian who went for gold, and god help this guys girlfriend when he comes home. A mere week at sea turns all of our crews into sex starved loons...cannot even imagine what this guys thinking right now:
It was a rather ignominious end to a grand adventure. After 10 months of rowing alone across the vast Pacific Ocean, eating only dried food and with nothing but emails from fans for company, Alex Bellini was rescued by a tugboat, just 65 nautical miles from his destination.
Mr Bellini, 30, set off on his solo crossing from Lima, Peru, in February, and had planned to next set foot on land in Sydney on Saturday. His plan was to row across the great ocean in his 25-foot boat. For 99 per cent of the gruelling journey, success seemed to be within his grasp.
What neither the shooter of this video, who last week could be seen tastelessly trotting around signed pieces of shattered cage on national television, nor the operator seem to comprehend is the blow back from this event in Mexico.
This cage breach video and subsequent posting on You Tube directly resulted in a ban on all chumming at the island in 2008.
Unfortunately it does not end here as the national media in Mexico now has this story and you can rest assured there will be much more in terms of anti-shark diving sentiment from Mexico in the coming weeks and months:
Recently I was asked to give my comments on the “Great White Shark Accident”, a viral video that gained worldwide attention after heavy YouTube exposure. The video depicts a large (around 14-15 feet) White Shark ‘breaching’ a the cage of a well known and respected cage diving operator at Isla Guadalupe. My comments were picked up by ABC news as you can see in the following video:
The response was overwhelming and rather interesting. It is the opinion of some people in the shark diving industry that nothing should have been said about ‘operator error’, effectively the strategy was to simply hope that the issue would go away. I find that a rather difficult plan to follow when the divers in question have since appeared on the nationally aired ‘Today Show’ and their video has hit ever major news desk in the world. That includes the front page of Australian and British newspapers not to mention many morning and evening talk/news shows.
It is my opinion that a video such as this, released without due care to follow up PR, can only be detrimental to the shark diving industry. Major news websites and blogs have gone so far as to suggest that shark (cage) diving is “dangerous and terrifying”, “training sharks to eat people”, even claiming that accidents like this occur with regularity.
As an industry professional and passionate supporter of sustainable eco-tourism (in this case shark diving) I cannot abide these comments. Our industry regularly takes abuse from people who do not understand what it is we do. The shark diving industry is worth 200 million dollars annually worldwide and in many cases is responsible for helping police and protect dive sites and endangered animals from damage while channeling much needed money into research and conservation. There are certainly operators who could manage their businesses in a safer or more ethical way, but that is a subject for another discussion.
As far as Guadalupe goes the fact remains, in 2008 the Mexican government sent their Navy to enforce their new ‘no baiting’ guidelines. This was partly influenced by videos such as the ‘cage accident’. This decision is a threat to our industry and tourism operations, all of which help support local research and contribute funds to the Mexican economy and Guadalupe’s conservation.
The accident was an isolated incident that is extremely unlikely to happen again. Claims that the animal was at fault have no relevance whatsoever… the explanation is simply this:
This predator reacted to a stimulus which was placed too close to an obstruction giving it little to no time to react or turn to avoid collision. That’s it.
With a little care about the message we put out our industry could avoid a lot of the drama that it perpetuates. I stand by my comments on air as in the end I’d rather see an endangered and beautiful species of animal get off the proverbial hook for a change, if that means someone admits a one off mistake, so be it.