Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kudos From Beqa Adventure Divers - 1000

We remain big fans of BAD in Fiji, and this week received some high praise from an operation that has been "leading by example" in their region. Thanks guys:

Patric of Underwater Thrills has just reached this milestone and we feel compelled to shout a big Kudos and Congratulations!

I've said it before, the blog by Shark Diver is as good as it gets: always up-to-date, always interesting, sometimes funny, often brilliant and visionary. And thankfully, often controversial, scathing and unflinching - the way a Shark Diving and Conservation blog should be!

Shark Conservation has recently made very satisfying inroads and we should be thankful for that - and persevere and redouble our efforts!

Sharks continue to be brutally slaughtered by the tens of millions - not only by the industrial Shark finning mafia but also, by the members of the oh-so-noble IGFA.

And they continue to be demonized by the mainstream media - and alas, also by Shark-related media like Discovery's Shark Week who I hear will insist on producing this season's idiotic anchor show "Deadly Beaches" in spite of the outrage by the Shark Conservation Community. Have we managed to keep them out of Fiji or are they trying to sneak in under the radar? Keep watching this space!

And there remains a sad and increasingly lonely group of yesteryear's Shark Diving Operators who insist on tarnishing the reputation of the whole Industry with their reckless cowboy antics and still treat Sharks as mere ATM machines. Which begs the question, who will facilitate Deadly Beaches in the Bahamas?

And whilst this is going on, the relevant Authorities continue to dither and precious resources keep being squandered on frivolous science.

All very dire.

Much to do for people who care. Like Patric. Buddy, very well done and may you continue to entertain, amaze and inspire us for many years to come!

Editors Note: Oh, we will;)

The End of Shark Diving - Farallones?

The commercial and political winds of change are blowing again.

The Farallones Islands are one of the west coasts hot spots for simply titanic sized great white sharks. After years of legal wrangling the anti shark diving folks at the Farallones have succeeded in a series of new regulations guaranteed to all but kill this shark diving site - according to local news sources:

As part of the changes, great white sharks are now protected from people who want to get a closer look at them. There is now a prohibition against getting closer than 50 meters - or 164 feet - of a white shark within 2 nautical miles of the Farallon Islands. The rule also bans the practice of using decoys or chum to lure sharks.

"We have had cases where people in vessels come charging up to the sharks, scaring them away from food they have just caught," said Mary Jane Schramm, spokeswoman for the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. "These activities threaten the health of the species."

"They have been working on the regulations for some time and put a lot of effort into it," said Terri Watson of San Rafael, executive director for the Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association. "I'm confident they heard all the issues from all sides."

Sanctuary officials will work with the U.S. Coast Guard as well as researchers to help enforce the new rules. Violations are subject to citations and fines.

"There are many things affecting the sanctuaries: tourism, proposals for wave energy, invasive species, oil spills, they need to be better protected," Schramm said.

Regulations here.

"Noblesse Oblige" - I.G Operators

Our blog is getting a once over from a number of operators at Isla Guadalupe this week.

We would like to direct your attention to our "Industry Thoughts" section and to read this post from 2008. Distilled down to it's source, this is what Shark Diver believes in.

It's a long bet.

In our world you're either working towards viable solutions for long term shark site viability, as most of you have been doing organically. Or you are treating the resource as a Biological ATM Machine. The long term bet says that this site will be enjoyed for the next decade with shark science and shark conservation measures integral to shark eco tourism. In that regard we are all in this together.

The short term bet says we one more video disaster away from a full court shut down.

“Noblesse Oblige"

There's an old French saying “Noblesse Oblige". It roughly translates in to Nobel Obligation. Those that are on the front lines of an issue and can effect change have a nobel obligation to do so.

Which gets us to the state of commercial shark diving worldwide. The industry is valued at $200-300 million dollars and for the most part, operators are content to show divers sharks, make money and repeat. Without a doubt the current state of “Noblesse Oblige" in our industry is at an all time low.

Let me qualify this statement before the angry emails start. In our world effecting change with sharks goes beyond just interacting with these animals on a commercial level or aligning ourselves with non profits who are doing all the heavy lifting. You have to be engaged, you have to create directional focus and motivate people-who might not consider it-to be active in the shark community. Let's face it with 80 million sharks being killed each and every year there's little room anymore for fence sitters who are content to just make money diving with sharks.

Operators should be bound by “Noblesse Oblige" to create conservation efforts outside their operations. Real and lasting projects that further the protection of sharks, shark science, and conservation.

Having said this there are some simply stunning projects out there that are fully supported by many forward thinking commercial shark diving operations. They are, unfortunately, the minority of the industry and we can do much better beyond a few online petitions, some POS material on a vessel, and an eco chat with our guests.

As front line sentinels, operators from California to South Africa are often the first to report trouble, and have a key insight into the health and direction of local shark populations. One of the misnomers is that real and effective shark conservation costs a lot of money, it does not. It does take time and effort beyond operations.

There are many within the shark community who are trying to make 2009 The Year of the Sharks-to that may we add “Tiburon Noblesse Oblige". The hope that operations worldwide look to where they can become involved, create local efforts, websites, focus and direction.

We cannot allow NGO's to shoulder the shark conservation burden alone. Noblesse Oblige can and will effect lasting change for shark conservation. Time is a luxury that sharks are in short supply of.

Patric Douglas CEO

Shark Defenders - The Pharmaceutical Defense?

"Treat the symptoms not the problem".

This is the heart of a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry, treating the symptoms of a problem one pill at a time. Have heartburn? Take meds at $6.00 per pill to slow down your acid reflux - instead of loosing weight and modifying your diet.

What does this post have to do with sharks?

Recently an article came out about shark defense technologies. This is nothing new. For years humans have been trying to find ways to stop shark and human interactions, from chemical studies, to sound waves and rare earth magnets. Our company was involved in a week long study with sound waves and big sharks.

Meanwhile, humans occasionally get attacked and killed at sites that, if we dug a little deeper, the data might show were avoidable.

From storm drained waters, to seal haul outs and seasonal migrations, we know where sharks are and most often we know when not to be in the waters. It is unfortunate that few local governments have the will power or the direction to modify human behavior first. Rare earth magnets, chemical bombs, shark nets are not a solution and only treat a symptom.

On a side note the application for rare earth magnets in gill netting, or chemically impregnated anti shark fishing gear is interesting science and should continue.

Let's re-think the Pharmaceutical Defense for sharks and look at a tiered system of anti shark protocols that start first with swimmers and surfers out of the water. It's a bold idea.