Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fiji - Rain, finally!

Source.

It's coming!

Fiji is currently experiencing a rather severe drought.
But depending on forecast, there will be some respite - either by Thursday or latest on the weekend.
Finger crossed!

Reefie Cleaning Station!

Cleaning station at Shark Reef - click for detail!

Check this out.



The Shark?
According to Will White, not a Grey Reefie, Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos but a Shortnose Blacktail Shark or Blacktail Reef Shark, C. wheeleri from the Western Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
Still not convinced!

But wheeleri or not, talk about angelic patience in view of all those paparazzi!
We got two of those cleaning stations on Shark Reef but the Sharks will only play when the right current is running, and only rarely tolerate spectators. Still hoping to see a Bull joining the queue but so far, no such luck.

Anyway, cool footage!

EcoPirates - looking for Suckers!

Oh yes - this is, obviously, a first-rate research vessel! Source.

Have you seen this?
Pirates, Zombies & Sharks. Right.

No I'm not gonna dwell.
Welcome to Operation Requiem redux.
If you really believe that this cheap copy of the SSCS, with a shitty boat and a gang of highly questionable characters have full support (by whom - the authorities?) and will be working with the top researchers and ocean advocates in the world, and above all, that their moronic ecopirating kickassery will actually achieve anything meaningful for Shark conservation - then you really deserve to be conned out of your money!

Nuff said.

Nat Geo Wild - being Truthful?


Interesting interview!
Like if I were to put the Megalodon show on air, honestly Nat Geo Wild would get crickets, like I couldn't… my audience doesn't expect that from us...
So right now, what we're doing with Shark Fest – I'm shamelessly letting Discovery do all the work for me. They've chummed the waters. They've brought in a huge number of people, by the way, most of whom don't give a hoot about natural history at all, or about animals in that sense. But they're pulling a big group of people and look, I'm running right under them with a very sort of tongue in cheek marketing campaign that is actually taking a poke at them...
And when people come and they go oh, it's a shark, and then they stick on our network… we're starting to see people who are really appreciative of the difference [between Shark Fest and Shark Week] and are noticing that difference more and more. And they're saying "oh wow, they're not megalodon-ing me, they're actually giving me the real story behind those amazing animals in a way that just feels different to me."...

But the most important thing, sort of bringing it full circle, is we have to be true.
And I think that that takes a lot of courage, it takes a lot of vision and leadership to be willing to have the courage of your convictions and to stand in there while everybody is running one way to say, "this may not be the quickest path to success, but I'm certain that if we stay there that we will create this loyal core of viewers and online followers that will start to evangelize for the network and start to tell their friends and start to tell their families, and that over time will grow."

And so I actually think that the path to positive activism is through emotional engagement. And I think that you can't do that by putting on heavy hitting, dire, guilt-ridden awfulness, because people see that every night on the news.
For me, the mission is about making people fall in love, to fall in love with that animal, to fall in love with that place. And then giving them the outlets and the opportunity to then, in their own way and in their own time, come into the tent and be inspired, to engage on deeper and deeper levels, whatever that level is. Because at the end of the day, I don't need everybody to become fire breathing activists. 
Well said - but is this for real?
Time will tell. At this stage, this all very much smells like a thinly veiled marketing exercise that capitalizes on the fact that Discovery appears to have totally lost the plot. Granted the Nat Geo Wild programs, whilst still utilizing plenty of sensationalist language and fake drama are thankfully not quite as totally moronic as some of the latest shit by DC - but they're still light years away from, say, the BBC, and the breathy claim of being committed to telling the truth is only valid in comparative, and certainly not in absolute terms.
Case in point - and it's by far not the only questionable program!

And Discovery?
Word on the street is that Eileen has been sacked and that everything is on hold as they all figure out what's next. I'm not at all hopeful that this may be an indication of serious soul searching and re-orientation - but who knows.

We shall be watching!

Friday, September 19, 2014

El Diego - that's how you do it!


Finally!

Look at that picture!
Yes El Diego (aka the piscatorial pride of Colombia) is finally displaying some long overdue decorum - remember the boisterous showmanship that earned him a highly disapproving glare from Kiera, and a scathing review by El Not Impressed D'oh?
All I can say is that it was about bloody time he cleaned up his act!

But on a more serious note.
That's a juvenile Hammerhead from the Rewa river where Diego has been invited to join a research trip to study Hammerhead shark populations in Fiji. Like announced last year, Juerg and Projects Abroad have now started to cautiously engage with local tertiary institutions. The Hammerhead study is a brand new project by the new Head of the School of Marine Studies at USP, Professor Ciro Rico, and it really looks like this is but a first step towards what will become a rather close cooperation - both academically but also in other matters that will be hopefully announced shortly. 
Ciro is planning to finally elevate the School to its true potential, for which he will need to quickly attain critical high-quality mass - meaning that he is eager to hear from talented graduate students!

So if yer diligent and hi-powered - here's you chance!
And... in your time off, you can come and experience the Best Shark Dive in the Word! :)
Now how good is that! 

To be continued!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Fiji - the People have spoken!


I must say that I'm surprised.

I expected more of a contest.
Instead, it looks like this has been a veritable landslide - still provisional but by all accounts, the percentages are only going to change marginally. Our staff report that voting has been easy, the media report that the people (as opposed to some politicians) are happy, and the intentional observers appear satisfied that this has been free and fair.

Oh, and the most important news.
The weather is brilliant, the water crystal and there are still alot of big Bulls! :)

Provisional numbers here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Oslob - the Data!

Remember the despicable Ecoterrorists? Source.

Bingo!

Read this.
I must say that is a great collection of important data, and kudos to the authors for having invested all that energy and time into collating them. I must equally say that the conclusions are rather lousy.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is what I read.
  • All whale sharks come and go.

  • All but a very few are males = the females are likely somewhere else = maybe more pelagic?

  • All but a very few that don’t feed are immature, which in combination with the above is consistent with observations made elsewhere = immature male WS form natural aggregations.

  • Some feed, some don’t = this is voluntary behavior, hence the statements that the results of the present study show a significant difference in residency patterns between provisioned and non-provisioned individuals suggesting behavioural modification is quite possibly only partly correct. The increased residency may simply be an individual trait = some immature WS may be simply more resident than others, and since they choose to stay there anyway, they also choose to feed. 

  • The increase in daily individuals is consistent with observations elsewhere, i.e. here in Fiji  where it is however not an indicator for increased residency. Methinks that eventually, the number of daily WS will stabilize as over a determined density, some WS will start feeling uncomfortable and/or start missing out on handouts and leave. And I equally speculate that they will leave once they become adult, see below.

  • Those WS that reside longer are smaller (= younger?) and

  • Those that feed stay longer = possibly conditioning - or may younger WS simply be more resident anyway?

  • I cannot see any evidence that provisioned WS are faring worse than the control group = no difference in propeller strikes. The difference to the WS in Holbox may be due to the fact that the Holbox ones may be more pelagic and thus encounter less vessels? 
Long story short? 
So far, this paper alone does not constitute compelling evidence that provisioning those Sharks is a bad thing. The provisioned Sharks are not being described as having more propeller scars, and there are no statements that they may be otherwise physically impaired.

Leaves the increased residency.
Should it become 100% AND permanent, then those Sharks would be likely prevented from mating = the feeding would have a negative effect at the ecosystem level.
But this is way to early to make that assumption. In fact, methinks that like any other Sharks, those WS will eventually leave what appears to be their immature aggregation site once they become adults, migrate normally and eventually join the females at their mating sites. The latter has certainly been shown for all other places where Sharks are being provisioned. If so, it will be then very interesting to see whether any Sharks will return after the mating season!
But so far, we simply don't know - meaning that we'll have to wait before making any ultimate pronouncements!

The provisioning?
Per se, it appears to have little to no effect - but of course the poor interaction protocols where too many people are being poorly monitored and where, maybe, the total interaction time is too long, see here, need to be reformed. But again, that's a consequence of the protocols, not the feeding - re-read this!
Not easy - but certainly not impossible either!

Or am I missing something here?

Fiji - Elections!


Today is the first election in 8 years.

Polling has now closed.
May the people have chosen wisely, and may the right party win! :)

The results will be starting in 3 hours.
Fingers crossed!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

CITES Implementation Day!


Today the CITES management of those 7 new species goes live!



This is truly a great milestone in Shark conservation.
Projects Abroad have been all over it, and celebrated this momentous occasion with a day of awareness, research and education.
Well done!

And the implementation in Fiji?
It's gonna happen - but in the Fijian way.
More in a subsequent post!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Only Bycatch - Two!


Turns out that the Tuna longliners have been, gasp, lying!

You don't say!
Did it really take a "study" to confirm what had been obvious all along and what we here in Fiji had known for years?

Anyway.
Good that now, it is out in the open - and good that the FFA wants to bring it up and have it banned at the next WCPFC meeting. There will undoubtedly be the usual dirty politics and stalling (responsible fishing nations?) but eventually, this will be resolved - undoubtedly, only to be replaced by new shenanigans!

And so it goes!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Scarface and Rusi!

Terry-fic pic by Terry Goss.
 
No don't get too excited.

This is footage from 2010.
We haven't seen Scarface in years and although a very experienced videographer on rebreather reports seeing an enormous Tiger Shark, I fear that she has become the victim of all those pelagic long lines out there. The most interesting bit is at 3:17 where the Bulls, far from being intimidated, are actually shouldering her away.

This brings back many inspiring moments.
Enjoy - with a bit of melancholy!



Western Australia - now we wait!


Yes yesterday was cause for celebration.

But!
To those who have started with the chest thumping I say, not so fast!
Yesterday's decision by the EPA is great, and it is also great that the WA Government has stated that they will abide by it.
However on the EPA website, I read this.
The EPA’s report to the Minister for Environment is now open for a two-week public appeal period. Appeals close September 25, 2014 and can be made at www.appealsconvenor.wa.gov.au 

Appeals are administered independently of the EPA by the Appeals Convenor and determined by the Minister for Environment. This proposal is also being assessed under a bilateral agreement with the Commonwealth. This means both State and Federal Ministers for the Environment will make a decision under their respective legislations. Both Ministers will need to give approval for the proposal to proceed.
The Fat Lady hasn't sung quite yet, so let's wait and see how things play out.
The State may still retract its current position and still make a last-ditch attempt at turning things around - in which case the ball would be in the court of the Federal Environment Minister. Hunt has been quite adamant about wanting to do things by the book - but this is the Abbott government that has completely lost the plot (and here!) when it comes to conservation, so there's definitely an element of risk there.
But having said that, I'm actually quite optimistic.

And then, there is this.
You really got to read the exhaustive EPA decision.
You will find that it is based principally on the peer review by CSIRO (three documents here) and that in essence, the EPA is simply applying the precautionary principle in view of the uncertainty about the effects of the cull on the South-Western population of GWS. Only - not the Bulls, not the Tigers where EPA considers that the proposal presents a low risk to the viability of populations for other target sharks and non-target marine fauna.
You may also want to note that the other arguments against the cull have been noted, addressed and essentially dismissed - and that the only aspect the EPA has assessed is the environmental impact, not public safety or ethics or the like.
Just sayin'.

Now, we wait.