Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Great White Sharks-Another Look

The simple, elegant beauty that is the Great White Shark. We never get tired of video's like these:

Bull Shark CSI-The Guys in Fiji

Like to discover new shark sites? Look no further than the Beqa Adventure Divers Blog. This week they "uncovered" Bull Sharks in Thailand:

Ever heard of Chumphon Pinnacle?

Me neither, until a very pink website announced that it was Thailand's new hotspot for Bull Sharks. I must admit that at first glance, I was rather skeptical.

The first pics showed smallish Sharks with a very distinct dark rim to their tail fin, something that I had never seen in Fiji. Bull Sharks have a closely allied species, the Java or Pigeye Shark (Carcharhinus amboinensis) and my gut feeling was that it could be that species, which would have been a great find in its own right.

As more and more images began populating the site, I however started seeing Sharks that were very much the same as our own sub-adults. Must be that the "rimmed" Sharks were either smaller than even our smallest animals, or that they were displaying some typical Thai color pattern, not at all impossible per se. We know that from Grey Reefies where local populations have a white rim on the first dorsal fin, prompting some splitters to try and describe them as an own species (which they are not).

Having alerted "our" expert Juerg, he confirms the original diagnosis. You can read his conclusions here.

Kudos to DJL (yes: Davy Jones' Locker, of all things...) on Koh Tao for their find and correct identification of the Sharks.

By the way: that would be just down the road from Ko Pha Ngan's Full Moon Party and just around the corner from The Beach - epic!

Shark Diver-For The Record

Last month one of the most spectacular industry and politically damaging shark diving video's exploded into the national media.

The video had sat on You Tube for well over a year before the London Times picked it up and ran with it. The video and story was quickly transmitted to the USA, then Canada, Australia, Mexico and even South America.

We have heard "via the grapevine" this week that some within our industry have laid the blame for this simply amazing media push on...us. For the record, we're good, but not that good.

This event was entirely preventable from the get go. The operation in question has a long history of documented cage breaches at this site. After the event little to no effort was made to take the video down from You Tube. This was after many of the other operators on site asked, requested, and requested again that the effort be made.

For the record, we do not subscribe to the weak excuse that "there was nothing to be done". The resulting media storm was a natural progression of global media consolidation, a slow news cycle, a diver who desperately wanted his "two minutes of fame". He got it and the rest of the industry is picking up the tab for it.

The end result is this. Mexico might well shut Isla Guadalupe down based on the front page image and story of this event in Mexico City...yes, the story exploded there too.

So, for the record, and for the smaller minded in our community who only see things in easy-to-understand lego blocks of information:

1. If Guadalupe does get shut down it is because of one single operation, one horrific preventable video, and one over zealous media hungry diver. Period.

2. This blog, while growing and well read each month, does not have the horsepower to initiate any kind of media storm such as last month's. If it did this would be the last thing we would be pushing. Our coverage to date has been to document the existing fallout. A cautionary tale for others within our community. We do not learn from operational mistakes by sweeping them under the rug and hoping for the best.

3. If you're a shark diving operator, take heed. Damage to the global shark diving industry begins in your own back yard. You choose and promote your own operational safety parameters. Should they fail, it is your fault, you and you alone take the heat. You do not hide in a box, you do not blame others, you stand alone and take the fallout. This is called industry leadership.

It would seem the few operations who have had spectacular operational failures are content to allow these failures to be shared by the rest of the shark diving community. I have seen no evidence of operators coming forward to guide the conservation during or after an event, or even work towards a better understanding of events as they unfolded. This is not commercial shark diving, this is little more than profiteering from sharks.

We can do better than this. In 2009 we have to do better than this.

Patric Douglas CEO