Thursday, December 31, 2009
We could not have summed up a year in shark conservation any better.
Kudos to all who participated with unique shark conservation efforts that effected real and lasting conservation changes.
Your passion, dedication, and conservation successes are what keep sharks from extinction.
Farewell to the "Decade of shark awareness" and hello to the "Decade of shark action."
CNN shark conservation wrap here.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Back in 2007/8 I became aware of several Tiger sharks that had been killed for their jaws and images in the Bahamas. The animals were harvested near a shark site we operate at both commercially and with film and television productions.
We blogged about it here.
The animals taken were significant to the region and as a shark diving operator I felt a moral obligation to act.
The million dollar question was, "how do you tackle the entire sport take shark fishing industry?"
Welcome to the Shark Free Marinas Initiative.
What started as a conservation idea, brought about by commercial shark diving, became much more in the hands of a skilled conservationist like Luke Tipple who ultimately became the Director and public face of the initiative.
Launched in the summer of 2009 the initiative exploded on to the conservation scene with the help of regional leaders in the Bahamas like Oceanic Allstars and Staurt Gow in Fiji who, thanks to his efforts, have become 70% Shark Free - a stunning achievement.
Leaders within the sport fishing community and shark diving community adopted the SFMI in an endless summer series of television interviews, Op Eds, magazine articles and online posts. In short, a titanic media management effort that delivered conservation messaging and action in a nice little package.
Our proudest moment in 2009.
If there was one thing I was most appreciative of in 2009 it was the folks who saw the Shark Free Marinas Initiative and pushed it regionally, and internationally. They are the true shark conservationists, the ones who took the tools we provided to effect real conservation change in their region.
The stakes could not be higher. Hundreds of thousands of sport caught sharks land at marinas in the USA alone every single year. The Shark Free Marinas Initiative could, in just a few short years, actually reduce that number dramatically, while at the same time educating fishermen to the plight of sharks.
The Shark Free Marinas Initiative website concept, providing conservation tools to regional associates, was quickly carbon copied by at least three new shark conservation groups. Further good news, as this effort stands as a leadership example to others within the shark conservation community.
This is how you do shark conservation. Unique conservation ideas, solid tools, and media that moves people to act. Metrics for conservation success.
I have been a strong proponent of leadership within the shark diving community by "doing" and "effecting change." 2009 was another example of that burning desire to give back substantially to the very animals we make our living with.
I am looking forward to 2010. We have arrived at the "Decade of Action" for sharks.
Patric Douglas CEO
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
The good folks over at the Dorsal Fin Blog have the complete story.
Suffice to say what is being tested in Perth might just save 10,000 breeding aged sharks off coasts from Australia to South Africa in the coming years.
Here's a link to the program with full spec shark geek info. Naturally, we read the whole thing.
Saying farewell to a decade of "shark awareness" and hello to a new decade of "shark action."
Let the conservation science begin!
We did some cool things in 2009.
In fact, if was not for my iPhone and all the images I took this year I might not believe the year we had.
It started with a 10 day shoot in the Bahamas and Tiger Beach. The idea was to recreate a disaster at sea and provide real world solutions for surviving the disaster.
Part of it involved sharks, small rafts, an overturned 32' sportfisher plus a helicopter airlift by the Coast Guard. Fun stuff.
The rest was managing the disaster which included "almost losing" our primary film vessel twice in 16 foot seas on the way over the the Bahamas. Note to self, next time we go with Spectra.
I have to say the entire crew were perhaps the most dedicated bunch of industry guys and gals I have worked with. They managed to pull off the incredible with an ever shrinking budget, which was no mean feat as this was a tough series to shoot.
But that is also today's television world, shrinking budgets, and clip shows. The days of big budget productions are fast becoming a rare thing.
To make this shoot work I enlisted two of the top watermen in the business right now, Scott Cassell and Luke Tipple. Their job was to ensure no one got hurt while vessels were flipped, sharks came stalking, and the chum went flying. One of the highlights was a big female Tiger who "nibbled" on our raft - and that was prior to chumming the water.
The bite was sufficient to put a hole in the raft so we had to keep pumping it up every 15 minutes. I quickly came to the realization if we ever have a disaster at sea on a commercial level I will be first to jump into the floating shark cages and not the life rafts.
We did a few additional shoots this year and we'll unveil the details of those productions as they pop. One of them was with some frankly amazing folks this fall at Isla Guadalupe, a remote and beautiful place where the white sharks still never cease to amaze.
Looking forward to 2010 we have "Oceania" on tap, a new white shark site that will, in a few years from now, become the premier white shark hot spot in the Southern Hemisphere.
As Mike over in Fiji might put it:
"Prorsum Pro tiburon et patria!"
Farewell 2009 and hello to the new decade.
Patric Douglas CEO
Monday, December 28, 2009
For Australia when 11 Tigers are killed by nets and drumlines along the Sunshine Coast the media calls it a good thing.
We have long pointed out that nets and drum lines are a 1950's answer to a modern issue of shark conservation.
4 meter Tigers represent breeding populations and their deaths are no cause for celebration.
The only thing in the way of lasting conservation change with drum lines and nets is the will power of local and regional users to demand it.
We know sharks are being taken by these man made, indiscriminate killers, but what is being done about it?
We'll be the first to support any program that offers regional metrics for success and not just the usual rounds of blog posts and Facebook petitions. As far as shark conservation goes there's little time for "awareness" we have now moved into the "decade of action."
Surely there has to be someone on the Sunshine Coast that would like to see an end to the glorification of regional and unnecessary shark slaughters?
Thursday, December 24, 2009
It features a shark we named in 2004, "Shredder," with the image shot by Christy Fisher.
This image serves as a reminder of all the shark diving folks, research folks, and media folks we have come to call friends over the years.
Good people who have made the business of shark diving and shark conservation a very exciting place for us.
We are honored to know these unique and special people and look forward to the new decade of shark diving adventures, discovery, and conservation with you all.
Farewell 2009 and very Happy Holidays!
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
The photo is taken in the big Siam aquarium in Bangkok, which I visited in October. I don't know how many sand tiger sharks they have there, but in this photo there are four (and one goblin shark). Maybe eight in total? Very nice indeed. I hope these sharks are good ambassadors for all sharks so people will see their beauty and continue their efforts to save sharks throughout the world.
I'm very happy that the European Union have decided on a complete ban on porbeagle next year and a 10% bycatch quota on spiny dogfish. However, this is only regulating the commercial fishery. I was very troubled to learn that a Danish sport fishery for porbeagle in the North Sea have developed during the end of summer. This has to be regulated by national laws. This and other questions will surely keep me occupied during the coming year.
It's soon season for goblin sharks... I will keep my eyes open. Let me know if you see anyone!
Increasingly rare due to fishing pressure and sought after for their overlarge fins these remarkable critters make better close encounter video.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Code named "Oceania" this unique and remote dive site, featuring very large white sharks, resides in the southern hemisphere during a 3-6 month shark diving season.
Stay tuned and expect a very Happy New Year.
Video courtesy of Richard Theiss RTSea Productions.
A "few" within the commercial shark diving community have questioned Shark Divers quotes here, suggesting that the motives behind our involvement are to sell shark trips or ad hoc slams for some nefarious and undefined purpose.
To those "few" who sit idly by while sharks are hurt, damaged, or treated badly in the name of science, commercial shark diving or television, we say "get off your ass."
It is up to us as a shark diving community to enforce respect and safe keeping for sharks. If that means getting in front of unpopular issues it is called leadership - as long as it is in the service of the sharks. In this case Shark Diver saw no reason not to get involved and have our say on an issue that involved a research/reality television caught shark with "the worlds largest circle hook" left embedded in it's throat.
We were not alone.
There are two kinds of shark diving operators, underwater photographers, and shark conservation folks. Those who are involved and engaged in the service of the animals we make a living with and those who sit on the side lines and take mediocre shots at the rest.
Let's make 2010 the year we stopped "sitting on the sidelines," and if you are unsure when to act there's almost 1900 blog posts here at Underwater Thrills going back two full years of conservation action, leadership, and discussion for your review.
When the chips are down for sharks in our region, we do not just talk about it, we do something about it. That's been the case since 2002, and will continue to be the case:
In late 2007, when local shark researcher Michael Domeier teamed up with a television crew and National Geographic to tag great white sharks off Guadalupe Island, Patric Douglas took an interest. Douglas runs a cage-diving tourist operation out of San Diego. Each fall he takes his clients to the island, 250 miles southwest of Ensenada, 150 miles off the coast. He also works with movie and TV production companies that are filming sharks. Douglas has supported several shark-research projects, including Domeier’s.
But when Douglas learned that Fischer Productions — an outdoor adventure film company based in Park City, Utah — was funding the expedition, providing the vessel, and bringing Hollywood actor Paul Walker, star of The Fast and the Furious, on board, he lost faith in the project.
“Is this science, or is this a TV show with some science thrown in?” asks Douglas.
Domeier, founder and executive director of the Marine Conservation Science Institute in Fallbrook, has been studying great white sharks for almost a decade. From 2000 to 2007, he tagged the animals at Guadalupe Island using a handheld tagging pole — a common technique — but late in 2007 he began deploying advanced Spot (Smart Position or Temperature Transmitting) tags onto the fish. Spot-tagging involves catching the fish on a baited hook, lifting the shark onto a vessel, and bolting a transmitter to its dorsal fin. Every time the tagged shark surfaces, allowing the device to touch the air, the Spot tag sends a signal to a satellite. The satellite, in turn, instantly emails researchers, providing real-time information on individual shark movement. Spot tags may last years longer than other transmitters, making them valuable research tools. Scientists have deployed them onto smaller fish, including salmon sharks and hammerheads of several hundred pounds.
However, the stress imparted to an animal during tagging is a drawback, and the larger the animal, the greater the potential for stress-related injuries. It can take an hour or more to reel in a large white shark, which may weigh more than two tons. Then the shark may spend 20 minutes out of the water, a hose placed inside its mouth to hydrate its gills with fresh seawater. Douglas is concerned that Domeier’s research could injure or kill the fish, and he is suspicious of Domeier’s relationship with a camera crew.
“It’s not uncommon for a TV show to donate money to a researcher and then tag along and watch the scientist do his thing,” says Douglas. “But what’s morally suspect and ethically suspect about Domeier’s project is that Fischer Productions is running this show.”
On November 16, National Geographic aired the first of 11 television episodes featuring Domeier, Walker, and other crew members as they placed large circle hooks baited with mammal flesh into the waters of the Guadalupe Island Biosphere Reserve, caught several great white sharks, and bolted Spot tags into their dorsal fins. Chris Moore, line producer for Fischer Productions, says that the entire first season has been filmed, with ten episodes scheduled to air beginning in July 2010.
By fall of this year, Domeier had placed 15 Spot tags on Guadalupe Island white sharks. Then, in late October, the team traveled north to the Farallon Islands, off San Francisco, with permission from federal and state authorities to catch and tag as many as ten of the otherwise-protected sharks in the waters of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.
But on October 29, the team botched its first catch when a 13-foot great white shark swallowed the bait and, after almost an hour on the line and roughly 20 minutes on board the boat, could only be released after the crew clipped the hook via bolt cutters inserted through one of the shark’s gill slits. The shark eventually swam away with a portion of a large circle hook lodged in its throat. Domeier landed and tagged a second shark three days later before agents with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration halted the project.
Douglas believes the health of the first shark has been compromised.
“I don’t think you can leave 60 percent of the world’s largest circle hook in the gut of a shark and know that [the shark] is safe. The future of that animal is now in grave doubt.”
Dr. Ken Goldman, a fisheries biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, has tagged sharks off Northern California. He also believes white sharks may be injured by Spot-tagging.
“There’s a chance of the animal being decked and suffering organ damage, and it could easily rupture its liver and you wouldn’t know,” he says.
Goldman once saw a white shark off the coast of South Australia, recently caught and released, in a near-death state of exhaustion. His foremost concern about Domeier’s research is that Spot-tagged sharks may swim away from the operation exhausted, unable to maintain basic vascular functions, and as a result experience a steep decline in body temperature, which averages a stable 74 degrees Fahrenheit in white sharks, according to Goldman.
“And if a white shark can’t maintain that core temperature, it dies,” he says.
Late last month, Domeier was back at Guadalupe Island with cameras rolling. Fischer Productions and Domeier are tagging more sharks and compiling new footage with the hope of producing a second season in 2011, says line producer Chris Moore.
Domeier maintains that Spot tags will add substantially to the work he and others have already conducted with simpler forms of devices. In late November, he explained via email that he suspects that the Guadalupe great whites may move through the Pacific on a two-year migratory cycle — a time period that only Spot tags can reliably record, he said.
“Effective international white shark conservation requires us to find out where these mature females are spending their time when they do not return to the adult aggregation sites,” he wrote. “We cannot understand the threats they face without knowing precisely where they are during this time. The Spot tagging methods I have developed will allow us to track individuals for up to 6 years.”
Domeier asserts that all white sharks he has Spot-tagged have been proven to be alive after the procedure, each animal generating the satellite pings indicative of a live, swimming shark.
“The level of temporary stress we subject these fish to is unfortunate, but the scientific advancements are well worth the effort,” he wrote by email. “Our tracking data has proven these sharks quickly resume their normal behavior.”
During Domeier’s earlier white shark research at Guadalupe Island, he tagged 75 animals using handheld tagging poles. The satellite tags released from the sharks between 15 and 246 days after deployment, and 9 devices were later recovered, providing data on white shark migratory behavior. At least five of the tagged animals had swum as far west as Hawaii before returning to the Mexican island, and when Domeier and coauthor Nicole Lucas published their findings in October 2008 in the Marine Ecology Progress Series, they added substantially to the amassing scientific knowledge of the life habits and movement patterns of white sharks.
Scientists have been tracking great white sharks for years. A group called Tagging of Pacific Predators, based in Northern California, put transmitters into 179 Northern California great white sharks between 2000 and 2008 and in November published findings on the migratory patterns of the fish. Sean Van Sommeran, founder of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation in Santa Cruz, has inserted approximately 50 identification tags and transmitters into white sharks using handheld tagging poles as they swam past his boat.
“We’ve been tagging them by hand from a boat for 15 years,” says Van Sommeran. “It’s the best way. It’s less invasive, doesn’t stress the animal, and has produced an avalanche of data. We barely touch the sharks.”
Goldman, the fisheries biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, conducted transmitter research on white sharks in the 1990s at the Farallon Islands.
“I really wonder how much more information they can get off the Spot tags than from the other kinds of satellite tags already in use that don’t require lifting this heavy fish from the water,” he says.
Mike Lever is, like Douglas, a cage-diving guide, whose vessel, Nautilus Explorer, is based in Ensenada. In 2008, Lever donated $14,000 to Domeier’s work, hoping to assist in understanding the species upon which his livelihood depends. But Lever also has doubts about the safety of white sharks undergoing Spot-tagging.
“I believe in pricking a shark with a spear and receiving tracking data for years afterward, but do we need to be hauling sharks onto boats for the same goal?” says Lever. “The big question is, Are the sharks okay afterward?”
Domeier contends that his work has been criticized unfairly, as other researchers have Spot-tagged large animals. Researchers have placed Spot tags on 400-pound salmon sharks. University of California at Davis biologists have Spot-tagged eight-foot-long hammerheads at the Galapagos. And the Tag-A-Giant Foundation, based in New York, has deployed dozens of pop-off tags onto half-ton bluefin tuna, caught on rod and reel and lifted onto the deck of a vessel.
“These very same colleagues use the exact same methods as I on other species that have similar conservation status, but for some reason it is OK,” Domeier wrote by email.
Even before Domeier began his current research, Spot-tagging had a cloudy history at Guadalupe Island. In 2006, an independent researcher, Dr. Ramón Bonfil, pulled a white shark from the water and placed a Spot tag on the animal as part of another National Geographic film project. The shark, a 16-foot female well known to the Guadalupe Island cage-diving community and nicknamed “Clytie,” has not been seen since.
Other researchers currently study great white sharks at the island. Dr. Mauricio Hoyos, an independently funded biologist from La Paz, is tracking the local movements of Guadalupe Island white sharks via acoustic tags, which are deployed with a simple stab at the dorsal muscles with a handheld lance and which emit a signal each time a tagged shark passes near a subsurface receiver. The data provided by such tags is limited — a presence or absence of the animal. Hoyos could not be reached for comment, but a field assistant, UC Davis biotelemetry grad student James Ketchum, acknowledged the great value of tracking animals across the ocean via Spot tags.
“But I don’t think they need to lift the shark out of the water,” says Ketchum, who believes Spot-tagging could cause internal injuries. “I think they could keep the shark in the water in a sling as they bolt in the tag, but what they’re doing is very sensationalist. It’s something that sells.”
The SFMI works with marinas, boaters and fishermen to develop policy designed to protect sharks as a vital component of the oceans health. The SFMI has a singular purpose, to reduce worldwide shark mortality. Working with marinas, fishermen and like minded non-profit groups, the Initiative forms community conscious policy and increase awareness of the need to encourage shark conservation.
Shark Free Marinas work with, not against, the recreational and commercial fishing community, in order to raise awareness of the importance of a healthy shark population for our oceans, and to contribute to their ongoing survival.
Matava, together with partners in Fiji, has helped many marinas and charter fishing boats become SFMI certified, and Fiji now has more certified Shark-Free Marinas than any other country in the world. Stuart Gow, Director of Matava, said that his team has been actively promoting the SFMI, and distributing information about the Initiative, with the long-term goal of making Fiji “the first country to be proud to announce itself as a ‘Shark-Free Marinas’ Country”.
See the map of current Shark-Free Marinas
The majority of shark species caught by recreational and sport anglers are currently listed by the IUCN as “Threatened” (or worse) and each year, half a million of these sharks are killed in the US alone. It is estimated that 70-100 million sharks are killed yearly worldwide.
See IUCN Red List of Threatened Shark Species
Matava is an eco adventure getaway in Fiji, offering a unique blend of cultural experiences and adventure activities in the pristine and remote island of Kadavu, Fiji. Matava is a PADI Dive Resort as well as a Project AWARE GoEco Operator, a title awarded to demonstrate a commitment to conservation and provide customers with experiences that enhance visitor awareness, appreciation and understanding of the environment. Matava is also one of the supporters of the Fiji Shark Conservation and Awareness Project, which aims to raise global awareness of their imminent extinction of sharks and the crises facing our oceans.
With more than 12 years experience in the Fiji Islands, Matava is recognized as a leading educational dive center. Matava is participating in TIES ecoDestinations project (currently featuring “beaches, marine and coastal ecotourism experience”) as one of the Summer Special 2009 sponsors.
Underwater Thrills:Swimming With Sharks: “No Caught Shark Allowed”: Matava leading the Shark Free Marina Initiative in Fiji
It's all in the DNA:
Millions of shark fins are sold at market each year to satisfy the demand for shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy, but it has been impossible to pinpoint which sharks from which regions are most threatened by this trade.
Now, groundbreaking new DNA research has, for the first time, traced scalloped hammerhead shark fins from the burgeoning Hong Kong market all the way back to the sharks geographic origin. In some cases the fins were found to come from endangered populations thousands of miles away. These breakthrough findings provide strong evidence for enacting international trade protection for hammerhead sharks at the March 2010 CITES meeting in Qatar.
The programme was created in 2006 when four young, British university graduates set off to the 1192 island archipelago on a pilot study in search of the whale shark, after a tip off from the dive industry (already well established in the Maldives) that there were a substantial number of whale sharks throughout the country and that not one person was studying them or their behaviour. After a huge amount of research, reality struck – there was nothing known about this magnificent species anywhere in the world – anything these guys could learn would help to further protection efforts for an already ‘vulnerable species’.At that time, the guys did not know exactly what they were about to stumble across. But it would soon become apparent that the rich ecosystem of the Maldives played host to a year-round aggregation of the largest fish in the Ocean, a fact very few places in the world can claim – the majority of whale shark aggregation sites around the world, such as Ningaloo Reef, Australia, are only seasonal ‘hot spots’.
Why the sharks choose to inhabit Maldivian waters throughout the year is still not known, although the MWSRP does have its plausible hypothesis. What is known is that the Maldives is a globally significant whale shark aggregation site, possibly the best place in the world to see and study these animals.
In 2007, the guys again returned to the picture-perfect chain of islands to continue logging whale shark encounters. This time they secured sponsorship from Conrad Rangali Island - a resort with a great passion for protecting the environment. Conrad would and, to this day, continue to prove their commitment to the cause by providing logistical support to make the in-filed research possible.
The team also initiated a collaborative genetic analysis study with Dr Jennifer Schmidt in an attempt to determine how related the whale sharks in the Maldives are to others in the Indian Ocean. The team encountered over sixty whale sharks in the two-month expedition and managed to collect sixteen skin samples from different individuals.
They would also begin to realise the very real threats that the sharks and the ecosystem faced, especially in South Ari Atoll.
With that in mind the guys vowed to return the following year.2008 became a real turning point for the MWSRP. The data collected over the previous two years enabled the MWSRP to bring the issues to the government’s attention and together with the tour and dive industries they developed ‘Whale Shark Encounter Guidelines’ in an attempt to make the explosion of whale shark tourism sustainable. The Maldivian government also pledged their support for the programme and invited the MWSRP to develop a Marine Protected Area proposal for South Ari’s whale shark ‘hotspot’.
The guys had also been busy working with the community and it was beginning to have tangible results - they were realising the ecological importance of the whale shark. Until quite recently, Maldivians used to hunt the whale shark for their liver oil. The older generation can vividly remember when a whale shark was caught, “It was a real community event. The whole island would come to the beach to help drag the shark over the reef and onto the beach where it would be cut open”.
The MWSRP guys realised that they needed to re-establish a connection between Maldivians and the whale shark to be able to achieve their goals. They also began to understand the issues the local people faced – a lack of employment and educational opportunities, no real way of providing power to their islands sustainably, no waste management systems and no direct benefits from the tourism exploiting their natural resources. One particular conversation, with a fifteen year old student, was the programme’s educational focus. When asked which career path he would take his reply was, “I want to be a doctor but I cannot because there are very few higher education opportunities in Maldives. I will end up working in a resort”.
A second collaboration was also instigated in 2008, this time with Dr Brent Stewart (Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, CA) to begin the first whale shark tagging project in the Maldives, a project that would be instrumental in the development of South Ari Atoll’s Marine Protected Area (MPA). Dr Stewart would also become a trusted friend and integral part of the MWSRP team and advisory committee.
The tag tracks showed that the sharks were highly mobile but the tagged animals always returned to the South Ari Atoll, highlighting the Maldives as a preferential habitat for the whale shark. This data, combined with the MWSRP’s three years of photo identification work, collectively heightened the MWSRP’s excitement that the sharks utilising Maldivian waters may be a resident population.
Even with all of the programme’s success, the year proved to be a one of transition. It was clear that to make a real difference the MWSRP would need to commit one hundred percent, but with no resources and a lack of funding it would be a real gamble.
The draw of doing “what you love doing for a great cause” was too much for two MWSRP members - Richard Rees and Adam Harman. So they decided to give up their careers, sell their possessions and pool their resources enabling the programme to exist for another year, when hopefully some long term funding would already be secured.
Richard and Adam returned to the archipelago for December 2008. The goal for the trip: recover the remaining archival tags, attempt to secure some long term funding and to develop the MPA. They also piloted a volunteer scheme which enables the MWSRP to utilise a wide range of expertise while providing each volunteer with research experience or that once in a lifetime opportunity.
The partnership proved to be a great success. Over one hundred whale shark encounters were recorded and the groundwork for the MPA was laid.2009 has been the MWSRP’s biggest year with the successful development of South Ari Atoll’s Marine Protected Area (MPA). The MPA dream: to be the first collaboratively managed, regulated, revenue generating MPA in the Maldives, ensuring the local community benefits from their natural resources whilst making tourism sustainable. Resorts are already committing to sponsoring the initiative following consultations with the MWSRP.
The year also brought the MWSRP recognition from the scientific world, the completion of a follow-up whale shark tag and release project and a vast amount of media attention – ultimately helping to raise awareness of the plight of the shark.
The guys have been present in the Maldives for six months and recorded nearly three hundred whale shark encounters this year alone. The team has grown to four, with two voluntary part time staff (Ben Fothergill and Rachel Bott) and a host of dedicated specialist volunteers and companies providing pro bono support (including Hogan and Hartson, an International Law Firm).2010 promises to be very busy - The whole team hopes to be able to build on the MWSRP’s achievements in the coming year. 2010 goals: The development of a one hundred percent self sufficient eco-facility, to enable a year-round presence for visiting researchers, scientists, students, teachers and volunteers is being planned in partnership with Sheppard Robson (leaders in sustainable design) and the Maldives’ Ministry of Tourism, two foreign student exchange schemes are in motion (one in the UK, the other in Qatar), the MPA development will continue with baseline coral reef and species specific studies and a MPA management specific NGO is being initiated. An American based ‘Friends Of’ organisation is also in the process of registration and the whale shark research will continue to provide the scientific basis behind the programme’s broader conservation goals.
The only missing aspect – funding.
To become involved with the MWSRP or for more information please visit www.mwsrp.org
Sport fishing and habitat destruction has left these animals with few chances for survival.
Last year another shark was discovered with a gaff jammed in its throat and was successfully caught, saved and released.
Kudos to divers helping sharks.
Monday, December 21, 2009
David Diley is one of those people.
A man who has looked at the global shark diving industry and who has distilled it's biggest issue down to a well thought Op Ed.
We would like to congratulate him on his ideas this month and fearless interpretation of our industries future and direction.
This blog along with a few others have been advocating for deep changes within our industry. One year later it would seem that we're having an effect.
As we close out 2009 and a decade that has seen shark diving grow from a few pioneers and into a global 300 million dollar tourism juggernaut it is time to streamline and manage this industry.
The scuba industry did it and most other high profile tourism industries have done the same.
Make no bones about it, commercial shark diving is not scuba diving and it never was, therefore it is up to our industry to guide and direct it's own future.
With 2010 right around the corner the fusion of a commercial shark diving guiding body along with shark conservation would be a powerful force to content with, and would go a long way to growing this industry into 2020 and beyond.
Solid vision for the future and thinkers like David Diley will get us there.
Thanks to Da Shark for the original post.
The end result was seen by millions of viewers across Mexico. Today two reporters from Mexico's Televisa, who covered Wildcoast in this multi part series shot at Isla Guadalupe, have been awarded for journalistic excellence in environmental and science reporrting.
The award was in part for positively featuring the resident white sharks, shark tourism, and Mexican lead shark research at this Bio Sphere reserve.
The three part series was shown first in Mexico City to several million viewers and across Mexico in the fall of 2009. The industry got some great quotes from Captain and owner Greg Grivetto of Horizon Charters with on site shark footage shot by Richard Theiss from RTSea Productions.
Kudos to the entire team from Wildcoast who worked so hard to bring positive conservation messaging to Mexico and to all the people featured in this informative series.
The first resort located within the MPA to commit to backing the pioneering conservation project with fundraising initiatives, Diva Maldives has introduced a voluntary gratuity charge scheme enabling guests to actively contribute to the conservation of the whale sharks and their habitat.
A tropical paradise on one of the archipelago’s largest and most beautiful natural islands, with four kilometres of pristine white sand and lush tropical greenery flanked by a crystal clear lagoon, Diva Maldives enhances the picture postcard Maldivian idyll with the elusive luxury of space, and the liberty of choice. The introduction of the voluntary gratuity charge scheme underlines Diva’s commitment to protecting the whale sharks and their habitats, while helping the new MPA to generate improved business, education and employment opportunities for the local community.
Established following successful lobbying by the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme conservation charity, the MPA was officially designated by the Republic of Maldives government in July 2009. The MPA is 42km in length and, through proper regulation and educational community initiatives, will protect important habitats and species in this area from threats including overfishing, unregulated tourism and pollution, and help the local community to protect their natural resources for future generations.
Founded in 1990 and based in Mauritius, Naïade is a renowned hotel group with an undisputed reputation in the Indian Ocean. The group currently consists of nine hotels and one private island: Beau Rivage (five star deluxe), Legends (five star), Les Pavillons (five star), Tamassa (four star), Merville Beach (three star plus), Le Tropical (three star), and the private island of Ile des Deux Cocos, all in Mauritius; Hotel du Recif (three star) and Grand Hotel du Lagon (four star) in Reunion Island; and Diva (five star deluxe) in the Maldives. Each hotel has its own individual charm yet all the resorts in the portfolio share high levels of service and warm hospitality setting them apart from their competitors. www.naiade.com
Sunday, December 20, 2009
"Tiger Shark eats diver's video camera while it is still rolling. Get a first hand view of what it looks like to be chewed up by a giant shark. Filmed By Stuart Cove and his team from Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas and documented with still photography by world renowned underwater still photographer Stephen Frink."
For those of you who are white shark geeks like us, here's an in depth paper on whites in Florida waters - a good read.
Reminds us of the white shark that was beached in the Bahamas back in June 2008.
What's nice to see in this video is the respect the folks shooting this clip have for the white shark. Kudos:
Friday, December 18, 2009
Until that day there is much work to be done. Please support your regional shark conservation programs. Together, we can "de-demonize" the shark.
Caution: This video contains live fining of a shark.
What is the Undersea Voyager Project?
Smart discoveries, intelligent investigations, and undersea adventure as few have seen before. Project leader Scott Cassel is no stranger to the wild world of the deep and is changing the perception of some of the oceans strangest critters one dive at a time.
Welcome to the Undersea Voyager Project.
This week another in a series of images from 2009 featuring dead and dying white sharks being taken from commercial tuna pens in October.
While farmed tuna is being hailed as a viable alternative to wild caught tuna in many regions the accidental by catch of great whites that seek these pens out as an easy food source is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Most of the images we have seen are of breeding aged adults, which begs the question, are there no industry wide anti-shark protocols that are in place to save these animals?
We think there are. The lack of interest in this issue and the threat of boycott of farmed tuna products are twin barriers to real and lasting eco change.
Hopefully 2010 will see fewer images like these.
More on shark conservation - One Shark.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Attended by a who's who in ocean conservation from Sylvia Earl to National Geographic and Monterey Bay, I met and dined with some of the brightest minds in ocean conservation over three days. Our presentation was about sharks, reefs, and monetized eco solutions that are "out of the box."
By "out of the box" I mean ready to go today. Real and lasting solutions that radically change regional shark conservation efforts and are born from 20 years experience in global eco tourism.
The Green Ocean Forum also included several outstanding media PSA's that caught the entire conference attention with simple yet powerful and compelling statistics:
"At the Americas Business Council, we believe that bringing brilliant minds and change-makers together plays a vital role in disseminating messages to audiences worldwide. Yet, we do not stop there. Our Forums serve as the first step in bringing about change. At ABC, we believe that solutions created during forums must be implemented in the short- and long-term; and every year we innovate our strategies in order to make sure that our Forums translate into sustainable solutions and results."
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Americans will be gifting novelty ties and slippers again this year in unprecedented numbers, more often than not these traditional gift items end up in the closet.
Instead, consider giving a gift that will be remembered forever, your own “Shark Week” dive adventure. Since 2002 Shark Diver has been thrilling shark fans from all over the planet with “Safe and Sane” shark encounters with the world’s top shark species.
Divers and non divers seeking out the grand daddy of shark diving, the Great White, can join the Shark Diver crew in San Diego, California from August through October aboard some of the top shark diving vessels in the industry.
“It’s all about providing a once in a lifetime personal experience for our clients”, says Martin Graf, on board dive operations manager. “About 20% of our divers are booked as the ultimate gift by spouses and family members, these family members end up having the time of their lives.”
Gifting adventure travel has increased dramatically since 2003. According to The Adventure Travel Report “one-half of U.S. adults, or 98 million people, have taken an adventure trip in the past five years. This includes 31 million adults who engaged in hard adventure activities like whitewater rafting, scuba diving and mountain biking.”
For more information:
Shark Diver: 415.235.9410
Image Credit: Juanmi Almay
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The CITES Convention was established to protect wild species whose status is being directly affected by international trade. It is not designed to protect species that are endangered for other reasons. Once a species is listed by CITES, its international trade is subject to varying degrees of control depending on its status, ranging from controlled trading (if listed on CITES Appendix II) to outright bans (Appendix I).
The proposals, submitted by various CITES parties, request the Convention to control international trade in certain shark and coral species and to ban international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna. They will be considered for listing at the 15th Conference of CITES parties (Doha, Qatar, 13-25 March 2010).
The advisory panel consisted of 22 international fishery experts from 15 different countries. It was convened to evaluate the proposals according to criteria established by CITES and to give independent and impartial recommendations based on the experts' knowledge and on the scientific evidence presented in each proposal. This follows a formal process through which FAO channels advice from external fishery scientists to CITES. The CITES Conference of Parties will take the final decision regarding listing of proposed species.
Following a thorough six-day review and using the CITES criteria, the panel determined that sufficient evidence exists to warrant placing the following species on CITES Appendix II: Oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus), Porbeagle (Lamna nasus), and Scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini). In addition, the proposed listing of "look-alike" shark species to help enforcement for Scalloped hammerhead shark was found to be justified in two of the four cases, Great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran) and Smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zygaena).
The panel did not reach consensus regarding the proposed listing under CITES Appendix I of Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus), however a majority of the panel agreed that the available evidence supports the proposal. There was consensus that the evidence available supports the inclusion of Atlantic bluefin tuna on Appendix II.
For the remaining species under consideration, Spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) and all species of the coral family Coralliidae, the panel assessed that they did not meet the criteria required by CITES for listing on Appendix II. However, the panel did note that inadequate management in many areas of distribution of these species represents a cause for "serious concern". It urged that these shortcomings be remedied by relevant fishing nations and regional organizations in order to prevent rates of exploitation for these animals from exceeding acceptable levels.
Monday, December 14, 2009
We got the final synopsis from Guy Harvey this week:
On December 10th, the Florida Wildlife Commission approved new measures aimed at protecting several distressed shark populations in Florida state waters. Beginning in mid-January 2010, the harvesting of sandbar, silky and Caribbean sharpnose sharks is prohibited within state waters. These species are either currently being overfished or are in danger of being overfished.
In addition, the FWC implemented several other protective measures, including 1) the prohibition against the removal of shark heads and tails at sea, 2) a rule allowing for only hook-and-line gear to harvest sharks and 3) the establishment of a minimum fork length on several shark species.
Another encouraging development at the Dec. 10th meeting was the proposal of a rule that would prohibit both recreational and commercial harvest of lemon sharks from state waters. Lemon sharks are especially vulnerable to overfishing, so conservationists – including representatives of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation – have been lobbying the FWC for some time to adopt more aggressive protective measures for lemons. The FWC will hold one more public meeting on this proposal before putting it to a final vote.
All in all, the Dec 10th meeting of the FWC was a great day for shark conservation efforts in the state of Florida. Many thanks to the FWC for taking a leadership role in the protection of our marine ecosystems!
For more information about the new rules, and to view the presentations on shark management and lemon sharks that were used at the meeting, see the official FWC press release published on the FWC web site.
Additional in depth look into Florida shark fisheries here from the Paxton Blog.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
The NEPTUNE project also has a sister program VENUS.
"This week, scientists in Canada's British Columbia began collecting data from hundreds of scientific instruments on the seafloor of the Pacific Ocean using the largest and most advanced cabled ocean observatory in the world."
The observatory links are here, good hunting!
Friday, December 11, 2009
The section on sharks and shark tourism harbors many ideas this blog and others within our industry have been pointing out for the past two years.
Marine environments have long been places of exploration, subsistence, transport and trade, but it is only recently that marine tourism has extended beyond coastal resorts and beaches. Demand for marine wildlife experiences has grown considerably in recent decades but a corresponding increase in the conservation of these environments as well as adequate legislative and management responses aimed at sustainability has not yet followed.
This book demonstrates that through scientific approaches to understanding and managing tourist interactions with marine wildlife, sustainable marine tourism can be achieved.
Drawing from disciplines such as marine and conservation biology and behavioral ecology, the book explores the effects of human disturbance on marine wildlife as well as management approaches. Social science perspectives are also used to understand consumer demand and the ethical and legislative problems that this demand creates.
Get it here.
Patric Douglas CEO
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
As I came to discover this week it's a can of Shark Fin Soup made in Taiwan and sold in a corner market in San Francisco.
San Francisco is a major hub for shark fin activity and thousands of pounds of sharks fin pass though this city each and every month.
It was a personal shock for me to discover these cans on shelf at the extraordinary price of $36.89 a can (click image).
Fortunately there are others who have noticed this issue and they are planning strategies using DNA to curb the sale of shark fin in San Francisco.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
What you are looking at is the "Chum Gator" (click image for full effect).
Invented by the crews of Shark Diver to add a constant stream of beef blood over the side of our vessels at Isla Guadalupe back in 2003.
If you look just past the "Chum Gator," you'll also note a "Mark V Chumerator", an electric tree shredder we changed over to shred fish at the rate of 300 pounds an hour.
While raw beef blood worked very well for attracting white sharks we're happy to say that today we do not use beef blood or beef blood powder (think bloody TANG for sharks) in our operations any more.
Back in the beginning, prior to CICIMAR's research efforts at Isla Guadalupe, little was known about commercial shark diving with white sharks at these islands. The three original operations on site learned as they went along.
In our case it was a steep learning curve. After the first season we stopped putting out chum slicks you could see from space, by the second we had dropped all beef products, and by the beginning of the fourth shark diving season we had dropped chum production by 90% coming to understand that with white sharks "less is more."
A lot people might read this post and assume the behavior adaptation was with the sharks. As I have come to learn, it is the sharks who teach us.
Images like the one featured in this post serve as a reminder of just how far we have "evolved" with our operations for the better.
Still, there are days I miss the Chum Gator, strictly for the visual horror of it all.
Patric Douglas CEO
Sign the petition.
Ask our San Francisco leadership to speak out for sharks and stop the sale of shark fins and fin products until fins are obtained through a sustainable and certified source that does not kill sharks for fins alone. Help us educate the consumers and let the community know that sharks are important for a healthy San Francisco Bay and World Ocean.
More from RTSea Productions blog about the need to personalize shark conservation.
Rangefinder is the premier monthly magazine for the professional photographer. Each month Rangefinder typically includes:
- product and new equipment reviews
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Rangefindermag.com provides online multimedia resources for the photographic professional. In addition to archives of Rangefinder's print articles, Rangefindermag.com provides original online content, news, and events.
About Jim Cornfield
Jim Cornfield is a commercial photographer and travel writer based in Malibu Canyon, CA. He’s a veteran certified scuba diver and a passionate campaigner for great white shark conservation and coral reef preservation.
Monday, December 7, 2009
We were not disappointed.
Fast forward to 2009 and a simply stunning look at these animals in HD by National Geographic:
Once labeled the "Dr.Evil of Shark Finning," he remains the CEO of the widely successful online Chinese trading platform Alibaba.com.
I had a lot to say about Alibaba.com and the millions of sharks fin they traded online back in 2007 when pressure in the form of hundreds of individuals and groups brought this trading platform to the media forefront.
Can anyone say changed man?
I was more than pleased to read an in depth press release from Alibaba.com this week featuring Jack Ma. As it turns out the changes made to Alibaba.com from the shark fin protest radically altered the companies outlook towards all environmental issues.
The success of the Alibaba.com shark fin campaign cannot be understated and remains one of conservations best efforts to date.
A lot of the Kudos needs to go back to Jack Ma and Alibaba.com. Not only did they cease the sale of sharks fin, but they doubled down on the effort and have embraced environmental efforts throughout China.
What started with the outrages of millions of sharks fins sales has become much, much more.
I didn't force the Alibaba team to remove shark fins from our site. My colleagues and staff asked me about it and we exchanged ideas. The young people in my company sat down and discussed it amongst themselves. They came to their own conclusion and said, "Let's take down this thing." I am proud of the transformation that resulted through education and thoughtful discussion. It's very interesting that so many people, especially those born in '80s and '90s, support this action. I am proud of these young people. They care for the environment more than my generation ever did. If you want to change the future, get the young people on board. If you want to understand young people, you have to think like the young people do and care for the environment. It's a good transformation for me.
Patric Douglas CEO
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Additionally Leon and his crew have video proof that petting these feeding animals is actually some form of shark conservation.
It is not.
The Department of Environment and Conservation in Australia have seen through this charade calling this stunt “highly irresponsible and dangerous behaviour.”
We have to agree. This video serves as a wake up call to all would be "shark conservationists," who promote the notion that sharks are anything but top ocean predators. Those few who ride sharks and put themselves into questionable situations with sharks under the guise of "shark conservation."
2009 was a strange year for this off brand of "shark conservationist." Featuring stuntmen playing guitars while surrounded by white sharks, and others who presented their flesh to sharks to prove some sort of conservation point.
Shark conservation is and should always be solid measures for conservation success not stunt work and this disturbing slide towards stunt work in the name of shark conservation continues to malign the entire effort.
More commentary from the Dorsal Fin Blog.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
The mission of the Vero Beach Municipal Marina is to provide efficient first class service at reasonable cost to resident and visiting boaters in a manner that reflects well on the character of the City of Vero Beach. In order to fulfill our mission Marina personnel are trained to:
- Exercise time and material cost consciousness, while implementing business practices that meet Marina Industry and City Standards. These practices are carried out in a labor-intensive activity requiring acute safety awareness on the part of each employee.
- Act as goodwill ambassadors for the city by promoting tourism and local business patronage.
- Insure that Marina and Mooring operations maintain a favorable relationship with neighboring residents, clubs and businesses.
- To promote Clean Marina practices and assist in developing programs and procedures to keep the Indian River clean and environmentally safe.
Located on the East side of the Indian River Lagoon, just north of the Merrill Barber (Hwy 60) Bridge, the City of Vero Beach prides itself on being a center for maritime information and hospitality for over 3,000 visiting boats each year. These visiting boaters spend a phenomenal 20,000 overnights with us. Rental moorings and slips are available on a daily or monthly basis (call for monthly details). Gasoline, diesel, and pump out services are available on our 70 ft. fuel dock. Approaches to the fuel dock are 8-10 ft. Facilities and services include free bus service to town, Laundromat, TV lounge, WiFi, mail drop and pick-up, bicycle and vehicle parking, restrooms, showers, trash disposal, waste oil disposal, and a park with picnic shelters and barbecues.
Support their business by dropping by their facility at:
City Marina at Marker 139 on the Intracoastal Waterway
3611 Rio Vista Boulevard, Vero Beach, FL 32963
Radio: Monitoring VHF CH 16 working CH 66A
Business Hours: 0700 to 1900
Are you a marina owner/manager? Follow their example and register your facility with Shark-Free Marinas today.
Want to get involved with SFMI? Visit our Regional Ambassadors page for more info.
Friday, December 4, 2009
"100 million animals are killed each year."
As it turns out the leaked clip was not so leaked and is part of a half assed production now titled "The Shark Con." The premise being if you absolutely enrage dedicated members of the shark conservation movement by highlighting a few zero credibility, lowbrow naysayers, people will buy your film.
As we did not buy Tiburon Productions last half assed shark film we'll be giving this next effort a wide berth and are a little disappointed they did not approach us directly so we could have told them officially to go "crawl back under a rock."
In the interests of watching folks lose their minds to outrage here is the You Tube clip they are peddling around to anyone who will watch so you can post nasty controversial messages like this one:
"You're full of shit and I think you know you are full of shit. This is an attempt to make money and protect your interests by deliberately deceiving people. Find something useful to do with your time instead of destroying species that have every right to exist and which are vital for the health of our oceans."
On a personal note, with as much shark footage as Tiburon Productions have in the can and obvious desire to be part of the shark conservation movement, why bother with this effort?
Manufacturing controversy is as easy as following Sea Shepherds Whale Wars and a media world where facts mean little. Providing real and tangible solutions to shark declines is where the grunt work begins.
That is what we call shark conservation.
What, you afraid of some heavy lifting boys?
They will bring breath-hold diving courses to your door, take you on live-aboard freediving cruises and organize expeditions for the chance to breath-hold dive in the company of large marine animals.
In their many upcoming activities, you will find one that is tailored to suit your needs whether you are a complete beginner wanting to improve your comfort underwater, or a dedicated breath-hold athlete looking to fine-tune your technique for your next competition.
The more adventurous amongst you will participate to shark encounters for an opportunity to discover the natural behaviour of these amazing creatures in their own territory.
Ocean Encounters is no ordinary endeavour. In addition to organizing courses and expeditions for the public, Fred Buyle and William Winram regularly join expeditions for the purpose of scientific research on large marine animals. From tagging sharks in the wild on a silent breath-hold to documenting unique animal features through photography and video, they contribute to the advancement of ocean preservation.
Buyle and Winram are scheduled to arrive in
For more information on Ocean Encounters, visit http://www.oceanencounters.net.