Monday, November 16, 2009

Farallones - ABC News Investigates Tagging Disaster

ABC News I Team investigated the ethics of invasive tagging techniques and the controversy surrounding an extreme white shark tagging mishap at the Farallones. The event was documented by a reality television crew who also fund the research and provide the logistical support for the capture of white sharks.

As far as we know this is the first time in white shark research history that reality television film crews also act as quasi research team members and research funding sources.

We covered our thoughts on this matter in a previous post.

ABC I Team blog coverage post/read comments.

Sympathy For the Devil?

The number one rule of shark conservation science should be "do no harm."

The second rule should be "and that includes reality television shows in the name of science."

I am not sure when conservationists and researchers decided to join reality television shows, but now it has happened little good has come of it.

Case in point.

As blow back for a seriously mishandled shark tagging effort at the Farallone islands continues to cause upset and anger within the shark community here in the Bay Area, a simply titanic media wave complete with PR agencies and live interviews on all major news networks pushes what is touted to be a 10 week reality television series about hooking great white sharks for science.

The show even has an actor from L.A in a supporting role.

Is this science?

Perhaps it is, and then again perhaps it is a for profit production masquerading as science.

The conflict of interest here is the reality television crew are also the crew members who hook the sharks, and fund the tagging research. A new and some say chilling departure from standard research models unencumbered by the addition of 24/7 embedded film crews.

The fact remains that this team made a complete hash of a recent tagged shark, so bad in fact that industrial bolt cutters had to be employed to cut a hook (a copy now proudly displayed on television junkets) through the sharks gills to remove only a fraction of it from the animal. The rest was left embedded inside the shark..

The team, film crew, and PR machine all claim this animal is "still alive and well," few if any within the shark community believe them. Tonight the first reality episode airs to a primed and waiting public. In the end it will be up to them to decide if hooking white sharks for science is a reality television show they want to follow or not.

As for the magnificent shark that tonight either lies dead at the bottom of the ocean or continues to live with 60% of "the largest hook ever made" still embedded in its throat, the answer to that basic question is self evident.

We would like to officially demand that Fischer Productions and Dr. Michael Domeier take the time, about as much as they have spent promoting their reality television production, to provide "proof of life" for this shark and long term "independent monitoring" of the animal.

It is the least they could do, and it is the right thing to do.

Patric Douglas CEO

Pacific Islands Regional Plan of Action (PI-RPOA)

The announcement of the Pacific Islands Regional Plan of Action on Sharks sounds like a good idea, but as they say "the devil is in the details."

While this plan of action "tips a hat" towards shark fining as a regional issue along management of shark stocks, it fails to look at sustainable shark tourism options that generate per shark, thousands of dollars to local and regional economies.

Shark tourism is a viable bridge solution to successful shark conservation and management.

Where local inhabitants adopt "safe and sane" shark tourism, sharks, reefs and surrounding areas flourish:

The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) today launched the Pacific Islands Regional Plan of Action (PI-RPOA) on Sharks.

At least 80 species of sharks and rays occur within the Pacific Islands region. Around half of these species are considered to be highly migratory, therefore fishing impacts upon them must be internationally managed. Due to their low productivity and long life span, these species are particularly vulnerable to overexploitation. Sharks and rays are also of cultural significance to many Pacific Island communities.