Thursday, October 30, 2014

No-Cage Shark Diving?

Nice pic! Source.

For those of you who may have read this.

Jimmy cannot talk for obvious reasons.
But I've talked to him, and what I can say is that like I speculated then, it was a diving accident - not good, but nothing to do with Shark strikes let alone cageless diving.

More reflections by Martin here.

Barefoot Skiing behind Airplane!


Too busy for posting substantive stuff.
But this is awesome - enjoy!

The Revenge of the Sea Kitten!

From PETA's idiotic Sea Kitten Stories.
Bitter and insane, she spends her day plotting revenge against the Land Kittens who live such happy lives in comfortable homes, free from the terror of being eaten.
Free no more - behold the terror!
Story here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tetamanu - Grouper Spawning and Predation!

Much upgraded since I last was there - Tetamanu Village, the place to stay. Source.

This is one of my very favorite dive sites.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tahiti Tiger Sharks!


This is for everybody that got skunked.
Very special H/T: Johann!


Red Sea Shark Attacks - Paper!

The Mako- source.

So there.

My backlog is nearly cleared.
Have you read the post about Collier's demented dog like I suggested?
If not, please do - and then please refresh your memory by reading, in chronological order, this and this post, and links, about those 2010 Shark attacks in the Red Sea.

And now, read this.

Well what can I say.
In general terms, it's probably the worst anti Shark feeding piece of pseudo-scientific rubbish I've read, ever. Considering the caliber of three first authors, this is hardly surprising - but it's a real shame to witness that they've managed to rope in Vincent, a generally smart guy who happens to make a living by taking customers diving with OWTs in baited conditions and regularly hand feeds large predatory Sharks!
Buddy - what the fuck?

But by all means, let's look at that shit.
There is actually one aspect I do like, and that is the evidence collection.
We now dispose of a good time line, good descriptions of the attacks and the injuries, have a good overview of the locality and of possible (albeit not always plausible, see below) factors contributing to the attacks and dispose of credible evidence linking an individual Mako and an individual OWT to the first two pairs of attacks.
But having said that - why does the paper assert that victim 2 was bitten in the buttock when the description of the attack states nothing of the kind? And where, please, is the evidence that the perpetrator of attack 5 is an OWT, let alone the same OWT as in 1 and 2?

And the interpretation?
Generally speaking, nothing I read leads me to differ from what I speculated back then, so no need to elaborate: agree about the contribution of the unique topography and the elevated numbers of water users, and that those were predatory events = attacks; skeptical about the Sheep and the Fish feeding; strongly dispute that the elevated temperature was causing a "need to feed" in the homeothermic Mako - rather the exact contrary! Or not?
But I notice that both the Mako and especially the OWT look emaciated which may be lending some creed to the argument about the overfishing of prey - but then, should the Sheep not have provided sufficient nourishment? Or may those Sharks have been sick?
And I'm still baffled by the fact that both Sharks were not coastal but epipelagic, and that they and at least one more OWT had quasi simultaneously found their way into the Gulf of Aqaba, well north of their usual reported range! Were they following a vessel or more likely, following prey that had been displaced north due to the heat wave?

Leaves Collier's demented dog.
Those folks continue to assert that an OWT that was being fed Fish by divers was thus conditioned to go and eat not divers but snorkelers. And that it bit them in the hands and in the ass because it had been hand fed, and the bait was being kept in a fanny pack. Like Collier's demented family dog!
What a load of crap!

This is what really happened.
Two, possibly three (additional Carcharhinid in attack 4) or even four (Carcharhinid in attack 5) Sharks attacked snorkelers and swimmers = people that emit noise/vibrations and are thus routinely the targets of Shark strikes. All Sharks and not only the hand-fed one struck the extremities (both legs and arms) because the principal vibrations originated there and because the victims used them to fend off the attacks.  The buttocks of victims 1 and 5 were never primary targets - instead, the injuries to the buttocks happened as the Sharks bit the victims in the upper legs and torso.

That simple - even an idiot like me can see it.
Any other interpretation is nothing but unsubstantiated anti-feeding propaganda, totally speculative pseudo-scientific horse shit. After literally thousands upon thousands of hand feeds of numerous species, we observe absolutely nothing of the kind those folks assert and on the contrary, are actually astonished at the continued shyness of the very same animals in un-baited conditions - and this corresponds to what everybody else in the industry is witnessing as well. Again: with the possible exception of SA, there is no geographical correlation between baited Shark dives and Shark strikes! Think Florida, California, WA, Reunion, Recife etc etc - there is no Shark feeding at any of those locations!

Like I said, not surprised,
When it comes to Levine and Collier under the academic leadership of Dr. Hopalot, it just reinforces my contempt for those people and their fake research institute. As per the link above, Collier is somebody who knows something about something and now has taken it upon himself to bloviate about Shark-related topics he hasn't gotten the faintest clue about. Ritter and Levine, barf - but considering that they regularly sell and partake in provisioned Shark dives, this moronic filth is just the pinnacle of hypocrisy.
Fouda was likely their host in Egypt and likely doesn't know better. Special H/T to Jennifer V. Schmidt and to all the other reviewers for their glaring failure in discerning the egregious faults of this stupidity. And finally, congratulations to Burgess, normally an anti hand feeding advocate, for not having partaken in this fiasco - likely more out of distaste for the individuals, but well done none-the less!

And Vincent.
Stop being a sucker - that affiliation will end up biting you in the ass big time!
Pun intended!

Oh and...  oceanic whitetip shark, Carcharinus longimanus (first paragraph). Really. If that doesn't say it all...

Friday, October 24, 2014

Rhinochimaera - way cool!

Rhinochimera (Harriotta sp.) swims 10 meters above the seafloor in Hydrographer Canyon during Dive 05, July 13, of the Okeanos Explorer Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition 2013. Video courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program.

El Diego - it's a Boy!


El Diego has just published his master's paper.
I must say that in its details, it far surpasses the knowledge accumulated in my truncated biology studies many decades ago - but what I (maybe) understand, is that it provides evidence for two distinct populations of Pelagic Threshers in the Pacific. Considering that this is an extremely wide-ranging epipelagic Shark, this is rather spectacular - as is the fact that individuals from the two groups are living sympatrically in Hawaii without interbreeding, a fact that could indicate that they may well be distinct subspecies or species.

Or maybe I understand nothing and it's all different.
You be the judge of that - open-access paper here!


Jean-Marie - still at it!

Right - and I cite.
“One day in Guadalupe [an island off Baja California in Mexico] three of us were swimming with two great whites. One was a young macho who just wanted us out of the water. But there was this huge, five-metre female who was the coolest shark I’ve ever met. She played with us for one and a half hours and she wanted the contact - she was free to move wherever she wanted, but she clearly wanted company.” 
Played with us huh. Wanted company huh.
What a load of idiotic self serving horse manure.

Martin is of course correct.
But worry not, I've said all that needed saying back then (and here) so no need to double down.

End of the non-rant.

Ila vs David - big Kerfuffle!

Totally uncool - monster tournaments. Source.

Oh my.

Whilst I was away, the shit has hit the fan.
And yes, having been asked and after much deliberation, I'm gonna wade right in - and I may add, with much trepidation! :)

But first.
Please read David and Neil's paper about recreational Shark fishing in Florida. At the time, I did applaud it as the way I read it then, it aims at promoting catch-and-release as a more benign alternative to (lethal) trophy fishing.
After having re-read it, I stand by that judgment.

But of course, there is a big BUT - and here's where Ila comes in!
You must now read her op-ed - not this censored edited version but the original that includes the contentious assertions about the paper and its authors.
You can find it (after a toothy intro) right here.

The reaction was of course immediate.
David did post this and his interventions with Live Science did lead to the abovementioned editing - and totally unsurprisingly, things have since escalated. The usual tribalism is king and there is now a David camp vociferating against the Ila camp and vice versa, and what could have been an interesting discussion has long become irrational and personalized and is really benefiting no-one anymore.

My take?
From what I can discern, the question about whether Fish in general and Sharks in particular feel pain remains largely unresolved, with both camps being able to cite scientific literature in support of their viewpoint - but do those minutiae really matter in the present case?
Whether it is "pain" like we perceive it (from what I can observe, probably not) or another sense of acute discomfort, it is pretty much evident that being hooked is certainly a traumatic event that will always have negative consequences for the Sharks. Even if the animals are being released, some of the consequences will be transient and some will be more permanent and possibly debilitating - but a considerable percentage of the Sharks will die, and this depending on a whole array of variables ranging from the fishing technique to the length of the fight to the handling of the animal to the Sharks' species-specific resilience, etc etc. 
With that in mind, the topic of catch-and-release fishing for Sharks touches on animal welfare all the way to Shark conservation and on that, I'm 100% with Ila in stating that it is certainly never "good".

But here's where I differ - reluctantly!
I am a recreational fisherman. Although I strictly fish for food, and this only for non-threatened species, I'm not gonna try to deflect and obfuscate and state clearly that I certainly do so principally for the thrill and the challenge. I understand that this will disappoint some purists, but this is how it is. I could also add that for obvious reasons (= I love Sharks and yes, they are not Trout!) and because technically, Shark fishing sucks, I'm totally against targeting Sharks - but that's not the point.
The point is that there is thousands upon thousands of people like me. The point is that in this real world we live in as opposed to some idealistic but equally unrealistic utopia, they constitute an economically important, powerful and well organized force whereby if we really want to further the cause of Shark conservation among the recreational fishermen, we must learn to work with and not against them - re-read this.
Again: reluctantly - but that's the only viable strategy!

David and Neil know that.
I've now followed them for many a year and there has been considerable evolution - incidentally, like with yours truly, read these posts bottom-to-top! The net result of their efforts and those of many other equally evolving Shark conservation advocates has been, among others, the reforming of several kill tournaments, the establishment of the Shark Free Marinas Initiative (again, read bottom-to-top), the adoption of length- instead of weight records by the land-based Shark fishermen, etc - by no means perfect but still a notable step in the right direction. 

With that in mind and like their recent paper against weight records, the chastised article is not proof of their affiliation to nefarious fishing interests like asserted but rather, a testament to David and Neil's advocacy of positive, albeit (only) gradual and organic reform!

And one last thought if I may.
Whereas the Hammerschlag labs are simply brilliant in their outreach, they continue to fail quite miserably in handling critique, be it ever so benign. Guys, in the softest possible way: if you publicly circulate your research in the mass- and social media, you must a) develop a better strategy for dealing with the inevitable, equally public and possibly unsubstantiated criticism and b) develop a thicker skin - and I can certainly spare myself the examples as I'm sure you understand!
Or not? :)

End of wading!
Comments policy: read this! :)

PS - Martin here!
PPS - David's final comments here!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

North Carolina - Shark Feeding Frenzy!

Again, very cool!
On Thursday, October 9 at around noon, while at a retreat at Cape Lookout National Seashore off the coast of North Carolina, the leaders of One Harbor Church witnessed a shark feeding frenzy. The men were out fishing for the evening’s dinner when they stumbled across more than 100 sharks attacking a school of blue fish. As seagulls and pelicans joined in on the meal, the men began to cast into the surf, catching fish.
Would those be Blacktips - JSD?

Bimini - Sharks and Idiots!

Vincent Canabal hand feeding Tiger Shark. We shall come back to that. Source.

Very cool!

CJ has posted another video.
No need to explain as he does that perfectly! :)
Of special interest to me is the apparent lack of aggression between the Tiger and the Bulls - and despite the Tiger's jaw deformity: may those passes at the end of the video be agonism all the way to early jaw gaping?


Back online!

Well, I was away and now I'm back.

First, a big thank you!
The response to the gazetting of the SRMR has been overwhelming and I just won't have the time to thank everybody individually - so there!

Second, the video is finally back up.
And third, please re-read this about Collier's demented dog who bites all the hands it sees and then runs out into the street to bite random people in the hands and in the ass! The same shit is now being asserted in an egregious publication by the Bangladesh Post Office SRI, no less, and I shall have to post a comment about it as soon as I work myself through my current backlog.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

The SRMR Video!


Yes I know.

That video has been on and off all day.
It will be re-uploaded shortly, likely after our long Fiji Day weekend.

Thanks for your patience in this.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Shark Reef Marine Reserve - breaking News!

I'm over the moon!
But first, watch this.

Did you see it, right at the end?
Yes, we've just received the official notification that from its humble beginnings as one of dozens of locally managed MPAs in the country, the SRMR has now been upgraded to a National Marine Park - one of the first if not the very first in Fiji!

Oh boy has this been an adventure!
It is the result of a whopping 11 years of constant advocacy and cajoling all the way to begging: hundreds upon hundreds of e-mails, dozens of formal meetings and position papers, several governments, multiple ministers, five different village chiefs chairing numerous village meetings with ever changing village committees, having to wait for the outcome of the ultimately failed Fiji Shark Sanctuary campaign, and the list goes on and on and on. And mind you: all these years and enormous effort had to be invested into a conservation project that was completely undisputed and where every single stakeholder had given his approval since the very beginning!
This just as an aside and as a warning to those groups that want to quickly parachute in and get fast results and instant gratification - this is not how Fiji works!

But in the end, we've pulled it off.
We are highly grateful to Government and specifically, to Frank Bainimarama for not only having single-handedly saved our sorry ass back then in 2010, but for getting Cabinet to finally endorse it. And an enormous shout-out goes to Aisake Batibasaga, Principal Research Officer at the Department of Fisheries, for his unwavering support and encouragement all throughout this interminable process. It is thanks to his very personal efforts that it got finally tabled, and for that we shall always be grateful to him.
Vinaka Bati, you're a good man and a good friend!

Our massive thanks also go to the village of Galoa.
Shark Reef lays is within their fishing grounds, and I must really say that contrary to others, working with them has always been easy, and fueled by mutual trust, respect and above all, honesty. To celebrate this event and show our appreciation, we will very shortly increase the marine park levy, with all incremental funds flowing to Galoa only.
Vinaka vakalevu!

And then there's our unmatched team.
Here's to James for having founded BAD and to Andrew for his excellent leadership, loyalty and hard work; to Papa and Nani that have been invaluable guides when navigating the treacherous waters of local protocol; to Rusi, quite possibly the world's best Shark feeder and my dive buddy who continues to inspire me every single day; and to the BAD boyz an gals that always make me so proud.

And then!
Here's to those wonderful people that have been helping us since the very beginning - for a decade of friendship, counsel and encouragement, and above all, for stellar company and shared adventures: Valerie and the late Ron, Juerg, Gary and Brenda, the Hawaii gang of Jack and his disciples John, Rob and Richard and least but not least, Alexander Goldknecht of the Shark Foundation who funded our first patrol boat, continues to fund Juerg' research and is a sponsor of the ongoing GFSC.
And to you, the many loyal friends we've made on the way, and the thousands upon thousands of visitors that have enabled us to keep going and finally achieve our vision of a tourism-based integrated Shark research and conservation project, and reach finally this milestone.
And to our detractors - your have only strengthened our resolve!
Thank you so much!

Oh yes this is long - but it has to be!
So, please, bear with me for another bit.

Back to the SRMR.
Yes in the big scheme of things, this is a nothing, a tiny insignificant speck in the vastness of the ocean - but here's why it may well be just a tad more than that.
As far as I know, this is possibly the first time anywhere that the public sector is conferring the day-to-day management of a National Marine Park to a private entity.
There will be a management committee comprising representatives from Fisheries, BAD, private societies and academia - but whereas Fisheries will always retain the final say in anything, BAD are the only operator entitled to conduct Shark dives, will regulate daily access, monitor the reef, coordinate research, and police and even enforce the fishing ban via our fish wardens. To that effect, we will be shortly conducting our fourth fish warden course, after which every single one of our staff will be a honorary park ranger with full authority to inspect vessels and catches, and apprehend perpetrators.
Methinks this public-private partnership is a great and possibly ground-breaking template, especially for developing countries with their notorious lack of resources - so you purists out there, please do consider the many advantages before summarily slamming it down!

Leaves the video.
Contrary to last time, this is obviously a professional job.
We commissioned it because we knew that something was cooking and as chance would have it, it just got completed one hour ago - in fact I'm posting this minutes after having obtained the Vimeo link! The editor is none other than Jackie's husband Dave who happens to equally be a keen Shark diver - and it sure shows, nobody else could have done it the way he has, bravo!

To be continued - and that's a promise!

PS - thank you Martin!
PPS - Manta Trust here. Thanks!