Monday, January 07, 2019

Individual Shark Profiling? Yes and No!

Click for detail!

We're stuck inside waiting for Mona to unleash.

So there - have you seen this paper?
In essence and if I understand it correctly, it hypothesizes that Shark strikes are not a function of Shark density but that they are instead caused by specific individuals that are so disposed, e.g. possibly particularly bold  - and that as a consequence, the adequate management response would not consist in broadcast culling but that instead, one should surgically remove such problematic animals, much like what is being done with terrestrial problem predators.
And yes that person mentioned at the end would be yours truly.

So let me clarify where I really stand on this.

I agree with the hypothesis, albeit with caveats.
Ages ago, I penned this post about Shark strikes which I believe is still valid. In brief, the causes for Shark strikes are manifold =  whereas some of the interactions are due to predation or happen out of aggression and/or competition and/or self defense,  others are purely retaliatory or not at all driven by intention but simple mistakes (= NOT mistaken identity which is completely something else and  controversial) - and for these latter two categories, Eric's considerations probably would not apply. 
And anyway, for the large majority of cases, determining the specific intention of specific bites is obviously impossible and possibly also ultimately irrelevant.

But of course we can always speculate, see here.
And as somebody who has named, personally knows and spends an inordinate amount of time with individual Sharks and can thus observe their behavior, I can unequivocally confirm that they display great individual behavioral variability - and this very much including the propensity to bite!
In fact, among our Bull Sharks there is e.g. one particularly haughty lady who does not like to be touched and will always retaliate by trying to bite us when we do so; or there is another one, a small male, who despite of many years of hand feeding, appears just simply too stupid to understand the proper etiquette and always comes in too low and too fast, and is thus a constant safety risk to the feeders. Same-same for a specific Gray Reefie who has repeatedly bitten the hands of our feeders - and thank you for bodyguards and especially, for steel gloves!

And then there is XYZ (name withheld).
This is a very large female Bull Shark who can only be described as being sinister and dangerous, this insofar as she is extremely assertive, will frequently approach us closely and not in what we perceive as a friendly way, and needs to be fended away and dominated.
And one day, and I believe because she was cranky for having lost a dominance confrontation with another big female, she has already bitten one of our staff who was incidentally not in the slightest inconveniencing her; this in what I personally interpret as Übersprungverhalten or displacement behavior, or maybe simply the venting of accumulated aggression. Again, we will obviously never really know - but she is certainly an animal of concern.

And when it comes to those predatory strikes.
They are fundamentally different from the examples above as IMO predation = feeding got nothing to do with aggression and/or boldness, and why would it.
But I absolutely believe that some Sharks will sometimes target and consume a human; and I also absolutely believe that given what we know about their learning capabilities, ontogenetic dietary shifts and their individual behavioral variability, we can also absolutely not exclude that this or that individual may develop an individual propensity (or reduced aversion) for targeting humans, which is what Eric appears to postulate.
Yes this is obviously speculative and so far unproven (and likely untestable) - but it is I believe at least plausible - and as long as it is, and as long as it not actually disproven, it is also not false! 

And remember this shit
It mentions, and even depicts that ominous OWT who has been alleged to have bitten no less than three people - and this by so-called Shark experts in a so-called peer-reviewed scientific paper !

Anyway, back to Eric's paper.
Yes in theory, there could absolutely be individual Sharks with as propensity to bite humans; and yes in theory, selectively eliminating those would absolutely be preferable to indiscriminate culling!
So I absolutely support it as a theoretical approach to mitigating Shark strikes! 

And in practice?
Unfortunately, there prospects for success look totally unrealistic.
In terrestrial habitats, identifying, monitoring and managing individual animals is comparatively easy - but doing so in the ocean is obviously a completely different matter as the territory is immense, there are thousands of Sharks leading a life that is essentially cryptic as for human observers, everything happens "out of sight" - and thus, identifying, monitoring and then eliminating the individual perpetrators as suggested would generally speaking be extremely expensive and logistically extremely onerous if not outright impossible.
With that in mind, the suggested list of measures aimed at identifying problem individuals, albeit certainly erudite, is more pie in the sky than a viable recipe for success. Or should we e.g. really try and catch, tag and tissue sample every single large predatory Shark in Australia - and then try and catch a single individual perpetrator after a strike?

And, when, exactly, would one effect the removal.
After a first bite? After two or even more? Lethal bites or not? Or would one remove the Shark preemptively already upon identifying a problem in behavior, or e.g. undesired levels of testosterone or cortisol?
And before the removal, whatever the latter means, one should obviously first try other approaches akin to e.g.the hazing and/or other deterrents and/or protections and barriers one would be using in terrestrial situations - correct?
Detail detail!

But of course there could be exceptions.
Specific circumstances obviously vary, and there could be individual, albeit probably rare conditions favoring Eric's approach.

The situation with our above-mentioned XYZ could e.g. escalate to the point whereby despite of our best efforts in trying to deter and/or train her, we would have to come to the conclusion that she is becoming too much of a safety hazard. 
Then, we could be forced to choose between either closing down our Shark viewing operation or selectively removing her.

Or take e.g. Cocos.
Remember that Tiger and then, this subsequent event?
Yes this is completely speculative - but considering how well the good people of GSD member Undersea Hunter Group know their Sharks: what if they were able to determine that it was the same, individually known individual? 
If so and considering the risk of further attacks vs the tourism income: could this maybe escalate to the point where the park authority would have to make a decision?

And finally, Reunion Island.
There, the comparatively small territory and likely comparatively small number of potentially dangerous Sharks that could thus be potentially identified individually may well warrant trialing Eric's approach - this particularly in view of the ever-persistent calls for more Shark culls!
Or not?

But again, these are rare exceptions.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, Eric's suggestions, albeit intellectually interesting, are just not sufficiently practicable for them to constitute a viable alternative strategy.

And finally, what about this beauty?
I can only note that Neff the token Shark attack apologist remains as predictably irritating as always, the more as his arguments are little more than straw men.
Yes the hypothesis by Victor Coppleson of there being "Rogue Sharks" has not been proven - but a) as per above, the fact that something has not been proven does not necessarily mean it is false, either and b) Eric expressly differentiates his hypothesis from it. 
Yes as per above Eric's hypothesis does not apply to all Shark bites - but that does not invalidate it a priori!
Yes often when asked, the public does not support Shark culls - but a) they continue to happen and b) more importantly, Eric does not at all advocate them but on the contrary, he obviously sees his approach as an alternative to them!

Anyway, all very interesting indeed.
And in the meantime, Mona has come and gone. And we are doing just fine thank you.

Let's go Shark diving!

PS - Bingo...

Saturday, January 05, 2019

And here She is!

I've just learned something new, to wit

Pretty awesome isn't it.
Anyway, this is the actual situation - and if you click on the line you also get a forecast, and you can also zoom in and out!
The outlook here looks rather grim, and opinions about what is going to happen next differ - but my gut tells me that there will be a landfall, and that we down here will be affected.

So there - you know what to do!

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Tropical Cyclone Mona!

Source - click for detail.

This is not good.
Rather grim forecasts here, here and here, warnings here.

You know what to do.
Stay safe, and best of luck everybody!

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Elusive White Sharks - Paper!

Still one of the very best: iconic image by Terry Goss - click for detail. Source.

Great stuff!

If you're into GWS, this is a must read.
Great job by Charlie in getting feedback from the quasi-totality of GWS researchers, which sure makes for an interesting assortment of names; great questions that  obviously also pertain, mutatis mutandis, to other Shark species;  and last but not least, great bibliography for further reading!
So well done folks, and thank you!

AND another One!

Source - click for detail!

Happy New Year and all!

Well, it sure looks like our new year will start with a bang!
Say hello to tropical disturbance TD04F that is very likely to develop into a much more pesky, and very wet Cyclone by the weekend - and the bloody SoPac Convection Zone may well spawn a few more before the current monsoonal phase is over!

Anyway, you know what to do.
Good luck!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Let the Dance begin!

Beware - click for detail!

Yes this would be a bloody Cat 1.
Obviously, at this stage it's only a forecast - but the different pages are all showing it, so keep an eye on this and this page, and obviously on the relevant warning page of the FMS.
This is the cyclone outlook for this season.

You know what to do!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Ronda Rousey - Mental Midgetry?

Shark conservation messaging, or whatever, by fucking Shark GENIUS PdG - source.

And I cite,
It is a good, well constructed show with professional and scientific insight 
That was good old Riley who STILL desperately wants to be somebody in Sharks, or whatever, and STILL just does not get it and STILL publicly pals with human garbage.
Anyway, along with many reputable presenters, experts and shooters, we did obviously turn it down as we will categorically not host any shoot for Shark Week as long as they continue to air those horrible exploitative programs, and showcase those pathetic self promoting media whores and their pathetic feats.

But I was wrong. It is so much worse than that.

See what I mean?
No blame goes to poor naive Rousey and husband  who have been obviously conned into believing that any of that is in any way an accomplishment. 
But seeing how all that fabricated gratuitous and misleading hype by those fucking self important morons is portraying sweet old Blunt, Gillette, Crook and Granma as lethal killer machines really gets my blood boiling. How dare they!
And no you fucking hypocrite: it is not epic, it is fucking pathetic!

And the bloody operator?
Need I really point out the idiocy of publicly allowing a total beginner to feed your Sharks on your dive - and of allowing another total amateur and untrained ignoramus to pose as a feeding expert? 
Is this maybe the reason why Aqua Trek have shortly thereafter fired Brandon their fucking GENIUS Shark whisperer, and this apparently with cause? Hardly - but here's to that, and good riddance; and here's to the guys down the road using this as an opportunity for some fucking reflection, and to them and others (...) stopping to enable all those revolting Shark porn media that are ultimately harming Fiji's reputation as a Shark ecotourism destination!

Like an old broken record, let me repeat - over and over and over again.
Here are my own questions to fellow Shark diving operators and conservationists.
  • Are we gonna continue to pretend this (read!) is not happening?
  • Are we gonna continue to watch that shit?
  • Are we the operators gonna continue to enable it?
  • Are we gonna continue to give our business to operators who do?
  • Are we gonna continue to admire and to associate with those people?
Questions questions!

PS - Comments: please post them here & not on Facebook. Thanks!

Scavenging Tiger Sharks!


That's a whole lotta Tiger Sharks!

I've missed this when it came out - but better late than never.
Story here - enjoy!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Scuba-diving Lizard!

Amazing - watch.

Story with further links here!

Fishing for Sharks in Fiji - Paper!

Click for detail! 

How times change!

Remember Kerstin's master thesis and subsequent paper about coastal fishing in Fiji? 
Back then when she did her survey a mere five years ago, the data revealed that most caught Sharks were primarily being kept in order to sell the fins to the local bêche-de-mer traders who in turn would export them to Asia.

Not so nowadays.
Kerstin has once again interviewed dozens of fishermen all across Fiji and the news is not good. On top of discovering that indiscriminate overfishing and poaching have very unfortunately become ubiquitous, Shark fishing has fundamentally changed.
As the Asian demand, and thus the prices for the fins have crept ever lower, and as most middlemen have vanished due to the closure of the local bêche-de-mer trade, most caught Sharks are now being caught incidentally and consumed directly by the fishermen themselves. This is very much in line with international developments (and here! and here!) where as the prized Fish are being fished away, the once-eschewed Shark meat is increasingly being consumed as an alternate source of protein.
And where Sharks are still being targeted by small-scale commercial fishermen, it is for the local trade in the Fish markets where Shark meat is being sold as a cheap alternative to chicken and where you can buy a bundle of neonate Sharks for a fistful of dollars, but also in order to sell the fins directly to the local Asian restaurants.

This is obviously of concern.
Whereas trying to manage the fishery by monitoring the trade is comparatively easy, trying to monitor thousands of subsistence fishermen is not; and it is also of particular concern to us to discover that the fishermen are targeting the juveniles of Scalloped Hammerheads and especially Bull Sharks in the river nurseries, see the graph at the top.

Look no further than this commitment by Fiji at the 2017 UN Ocean Conference where I'm highly confident that good things will happen sooner rather than later. And when that eventuates, we will be standing ready to assist with the monitoring and enforcement like announced.
And yes: please Adopt Your Shark Now!

But I'm digressing as always.