Thursday, August 25, 2016

Biopixel Shark Promo - epic!

That's how you do it!

Remember BBC 's Shark?
Overall, I was rather underimpressed - but my favorite scenes were the aerial shot of a GWS catching a Sea Lion, and then the chapters with the reef-walking Epaulette Shark and the aggressively mimic Tasseled Wobbegong. Turns out that the latter two were both filmed by Richard Fitzpatrick who on top of being an excellent researcher is also a top notch multi-awarded underwater shooter with his own production house, Biopixel - and as with all truly exceptional people, nobody could be more knowledgeable, professional and yet humble!

Here is his 2015 Shark portfolio.
This is real natural history imaging, requiring heaps of skills, perseverance, patience, knowledge and yes, plenty of luck too. Compare that to the contrived and pedestrian fare that is regularly being dished out by Shark Week and you'll understand why I love the former and rather loathe the latter!

Anyway - enjoy!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Uprising Beach Resort joins Mangroves for Fiji!

Exemplary cooperation: Projects Abroad volunteers and staff of the Uprising Beach Resort.

I must say that I'm very happy indeed.
Right from its inception, MFF was always meant to grow beyond merely being our vehicle for becoming completely carbon neutral - but we're not an NGO but just a Shark diving operator, and have frankly never had the manpower, time, or energy to go and do much outreach with other potential candidates.

Not only have they established a whole host of whopping mangrove nurseries and planted squillions of mangroves, but their continuous advocacy has finally convinced the Uprising under the leadership of James to do the right thing, ultimately very much also to the benefit of their reputation of being forward-thinking and eco-friendly. 

The mangroves will be grown at PA's headquarters in Pacific Harbour and planted by the volunteers in cooperation with the village of Navola.
At the same time, the Uprising will be establishing a small nursery in the resort, and educate their clients and invite them to partake in the project. To this effect, they have already installed fabulous signage, and also trained their own staff.

The signpost features individual carbon footprints incurred by the tourists when traveling to Fiji.

Way to go, very well done everybody!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Please help the Sharks of Playa!

Source - and yes that looks like a subadult Bull, a small endangered Hammer and possibly a good-sized Mako.!

We never do petitions, for obvious reasons.

But this is different, so there.
We will make an exception when there's a worthwhile cause, with good people working on the ground, and when that team ask for signatures because it will help them sway their interlocutor, normally some politician or the like. One example was the push to get Florida's Lemon Sharks protected that was spearheaded by the likes of Doc, Walt Stearns and DaMary, etc, and where somebody within the FWC suggested that it would be good to show public support. That endeavor was ultimately successful and I hear that those signatures did in fact help sway the legislators.

And now we have a similar situation in Playa.
The picture at the top documents the latest, and perfectly legal haul by the only licensed Shark fisherman on that coastline. I must also add that that fisherman is the same person who used to target and kill those big Bull Sharks - but a lot has happened since that post, and he has now agreed not to fish for them during the tourist season when they migrate to the region, possibly in order to pup. So there has definitely been progress - but still, those dead Sharks are disturbing, and not anymore commensurate with the many marine conservation and ecotourism projects that are popping up all throughout Quintana Roo.

Launched by the outstanding people of Saving our Sharks and as always, very much enabled by my friend Chino of GSD member Phantom Divers, it aims at establishing a no-take zone for Sharks around the local barrier reef system. This follows years of dialogue, cooperation and lobbying with the local authorities, meaning that it has a real chance of succeeding.

This is an excellent undertaking.
Please lend a helping hand by signing the petition.

Thank you.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Legacy!


Would that be an enormous, and pregnant WS at 3:38?
The video is once again by Erick Higuera who on top (or should I say, despite!) of being one of the nicest, and most humble people you'll ever meet has firmly established himself as one of the preeminent underwater filmmakers from that nick of the world.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Kinderstube für Haie!

Tom with small Blacktip Shark - source.


Check this out.
The indefatigable Tom (nice interview here) has just won the German Price for Science Photography by the prestigious Bild der Wissenschaft with his feature about the putative Shark nursery in the Ba River Estuary.
Despite of the massive challenges in the wake of cyclone Winston, he was able to complete his master thesis by documenting the presence of small subadult  Blacktips C. limbatus as well as juvenile Scalloped and Great Hammers. These preliminary findings indicate that this may be important, if not critical habitat for those latter two endangered species, warranting urgent further in-depth investigation.

Cute: juvenile Great Hammer (above) and Scalloped Hammer (below) - click for detail. Source.

Congrats buddy, very well done indeed!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Treating Sharks like Pests - Paper!

This is awesome.

In the past, I've not been kind to Steven Campana.
Back then he was working for Fisheries and Oceans Canada and was very much trotting the party line - voluntarily or more likely not.

And there has obviously been a remarkable evolution, as witnessed by his blistering attack on the unsustainable fishing practices in the North Atlantic and especially, on the responsible irresponsible transnational management agency ICCAT.
And yes thank you Japan!

Full paper here, synopsis here.
Required reading for everybody!

Reef Sharks prefer bite-size Meals!

Epic pic by Tom, from The World's Best Safety Stop on The Best Shark Dive in the World!

This is starting to get embarrassing.
From the press release,
"Although black-tip, white-tip and grey reef sharks have long been thought of as top predators, we found that the chemical structure of the sharks' body tissue actually matched closely with that of large reef fishes such as groupers, snappers and emperors,".

"This result tells us that reef sharks and large fishes have a similar diet, but they don't eat each other. So rather than eating big fish, reef sharks are eating like big fish."

"We now know that reef sharks are an important link in the food chain, but they are not the last link in the food chain. In most cases, the top predators are tiger sharks, hammerhead sharks, or people,"
Or as the paper states,
Assignment of species into discrete trophic groups is standard protocol in community ecology and has facilitated unique insights into ecosystem function and alternative management scenarios, which are ultimately used to guide policy decisions.
At present, reef sharks are typically assigned to the apex of food webs, but our results indicate that this practice misrepresents trophic structure among high TP species.

Hence, we advocate a reassignment of reef sharks to an alternative trophic group (such as high-level mesopredators) that better reflects trophic similarities between reef sharks and large predatory fishes. This change is expected to refine our understanding of how reef communities function, and ultimately, improve management of reef sharks.

If indeed reef sharks are high-level mesopredators, who then are the apex predators on coral reefs?
Given their superior size and ability to eat reef sharks, we hypothesise that the role of apex predator is fulfilled by large, roving sharks such as G. cuvier, C. obscurus, C. albimarginatus, N. acutidens and S. mokarran. And surely Bull Sharks - or not?

Although large roving sharks are seldom seen during visual surveys of coral reefs and thus are typically considered rare, their actual abundances may be much higher than currently believed, since they accounted for approx. 9 % of all sharks captured by long-lining at our study sites (excludes N. ferrugineus) and they comprise a high proportion of sightings by baited remote underwater videos on the GBR. Therefore, it is plausible that large roving sharks are present in sufficient numbers to potentially exert top-down control of reef sharks and other high-level mesopredators on coral reefs.

Removal of apex predators such as wolves, lions and dingoes can invoke trophic cascades due to release of numerous prey species and subsequent flow-on effects to lower trophic levels. 
However, trophic cascades induced solely by removal of reef sharks are rare, subtle and/or equivocal, implying that reef sharks have relatively weak effects on community structure and function. 

A potential explanation is that functional redundancy exists among large piscivores, such that equivalent species compensate for any loss of reef sharks and thus buffer potential trophic cascades. This hypothesis is supported by our results, which indicate that (1) reef sharks and large predatory fishes are functionally similar (based on equivalent mean TPs and overlapping isotopic niches, and (2) these two groups of predators are dietary generalists and potentially consume prey in proportion to availability, thereby compensating for loss of species-level interactions. 
It is also noteworthy that large predatory reef fishes are highly diverse (more than 20 species on the GBR) and probably encompass a broader range of trophic niches than those of the four species considered here. 
In view of these results, we contend that functional redundancy exists among large piscivores and is sufficiently high on the GBR to stabilize community structure despite moderate to high fishing pressure and depletion of reef sharks in some areas.

We conclude that large conspicuous predators, be they elasmobranchs or any other taxon, should not axiomatically be regarded as apex predators without thorough analysis of their diet. In the case of reef sharks, our dietary analyses suggest they should be reassigned to an alternative trophic group such as high-level mesopredators.
There you have it.
So let's please stop proffering the same old tired nonsense - it is false in its generalization and as such, it is nothing but bad conservation.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Mating Reef Mantas - Video!


This is great.
I've always wondered how the males manage to hold on to the female in order to get the necessary leverage for inserting the clasper, and here's the answer.