Sunday, November 30, 2008

Interactive


This is a difficult post for me to write, really!
Please believe me if I tell you that is in no way meant to be a personal attack.

Guys, I love you to death and have generally nothing but Admiration, Respect and Gratitude for what you're doing for the Cause.
Your Magazine is iconic. Your posts and initiatives are often the very best that Shark Conservation has to offer in terms of vision, outreach and efficiency.

I'm also certainly well aware of your profound love and fascination of Sharks. I realize that you mean no harm and just want to have some good old-fashioned fun with the animals you love. You may even think that you're dispelling the myth of the killer beast and in some regard, you indeed are. Iconic images like this one are certainly a wonderful vehicle for spreading the Message.

Alas, this has gone public.
There is a trip report and the following has been posted on YouTube.



I've said it before, big predatory Sharks are never, ever pets, ever!
You can also rest assured that they do not appreciate being manhandled, whatever the intention. That's mammalian stuff, good for stoking your own Ego but bearing no relation whatsoever to what they are. All you can possibly achieve is to trigger some unforeseen reaction, very possibly aggressive. What I see are fluttering nictating membranes and increased swimming speed, hardly an indication for a relaxed ambiance. What I unfortunately do not see is a controlled situation.

In the softest possible way: please, these are Apex Predators and need to be treated with Respect! Being who you are, you must lead by example!

Really, what's the upside?
If God forbid, anything happened, it would send Shark Conservation right back to the Stone Age, especially if something did happen to people as prominent as you! Remember Ritter and his stupid antics? Remember the reaction?
Don't you see how those guys out there would be positively gloating?

Is that really what you want?

About assuming Responsibility


The English version of Jérôme's film carries the following dedication:

To Ella and Mathilda
victims of man's madness,

along with the above pic by Steve Benjamin.

This is in reference to a recent spate of Tiger Shark fatalities in Aliwal Shoal.
Very tragic and very stupid, too, as South Africa benefits from a thriving Shark Diving Industry and has much to loose indeed in terms of reputation as an Ecotourism destination but also, in terms of tourism revenues and related employment opportunities.

The incidents have caused much uproar among Shark aficionados - but I fear, not much beyond that. I hope I'm wrong.
In that respect, the comment by one "Anonymous" on a South African blog may have been prophetic. The author is clearly an insider and probably someone with a pedigree of getting things done (I got my suspicions...). He evidently also knows of the harmonious, dispassionate, un-opinionated, pragmatic and never controversial world of Shark Conservation, as witnessed by his choice to remain unrecognized - and by the ensuing comments!

This is what he wrote.

"Look guys,this is what? 3-5-6-7-8 dead Tigers this year alone?

If you cannot figure it out let me suggest the following things that can be done by YOU today to get some traction on this as neither you nor Julie-let's saver some sharks-really have a clue.
  • Start a damn website, go after the sharks board by highlighting who's on the damn board and why they are there in the first place. Any dirt on those folks? Find out!
  • Get some help from a qualified NGO like say, PEW Trusts, not Shark Savers as that whole message on a pizza box thing plus blog posts equals shark hopelessness 101.
  • Start making some real noise. You guys have hosted some of the top UW photographers over the past 5 years, leverage those guys to make some damn noise. Are they just in it for the image and money? If so shame on them, get them to start some action.
  • No shark petitions, they are as useless as third teats.
  • Local media, hit them up for action. Surely, in all of the media you have, there has to be a friendly shark voice. Find it!
  • Create and post at least 10-2 min PSA's on You Tube, yes 10, and get your dive buddies to spread the word and that means all those photographers you know as well.
If you cannot get some action from your own home waters then stop posting this crap. DO something better than this. These are YOUR damn animals and YOU have to make changes not the rest of the planet. Good luck."

... and: Good Point!

Question is: what has happened since?
Is everybody over there (as in local dive operators, NGOs, etc.) working together and has dialogue been sought with the Authorities? As in, finding solutions?

Beautiful!


I've blogged about him and here comes a short video featuring Frederic Buyle, the author of the stunning pic above.

Filmed by French underwater cinematographer Jérôme Espla, it has just won this year's Prix Spécial du Jury at the UW Festival in Antibes. English version (and a linguistic trip down memory lane...) here.

As to the touchy feely stuff, well, it may be justified in the context of the overall message... Just...
Plus, having dived with many a Frenchman, it just comes with the territory I guess. Looks like somebody will have to learn something the hard way - with the Industry having to mop up the mess & endure the consequences once it eventuates. Such is life.

Anyway: kudos - and Enjoy!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Up, up and Away!


Life on the pack ice is dangerous.
It can also be unnerving.



It may have been sheer loss of patience or a reaction to increased habitat loss due to Anthropogenic Climate Change: but a lonely and just recently discovered tribe of Penguin has resorted to a rapid and miraculous bout of Reverse Ontogeny and resurrected their ancestral Bauplan. It is widely believed that the Ratites, equally of Gondwanan origin, may eventually follow suit as their habitat is equally affected.
Here are the first images documenting this remarkable adaptation, a clear proof of the versatility of Darwinian Evolution.



Described as Pygoscelis volitans, or the Lesser Flying Tux, they are now making regular incursions into the lower Amazon basin, thus threatening to severely disrupt its food chain and spurring a push of Heteropatric Speciation among some local predators.



Aint Nature a wonderful thing!

Morning Dew


Guido has done it again and posted yet another stunning portfolio on his wonderful SeaWay Blog.

The images are by Peter Garvanović and you can feast your eyes on many more amazing macro pix by visiting his Photo.net member page.

What can I say, I'm just simply blown away!
Guido, complimenti!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tuff Stuff!


Jeremiah and I go back all the way to 1978.

I had just started working with a small and now defunct Swiss dive travel operator and had embarked in POM on the Little Red Ship on my way to Fiji, a memorable trip in many ways and my very first foray into the South Pacific.
I remember Jeremiah being a sinewy, bearded young Biology student with an inexhaustible store of energy and enthusiasm. When I and a friend went walkabout and promptly got lost on Tikopia, it was he who headed the search party that found us perambulating on a beach surrounded by a bunch of statuesque Polynesian warriors. Now I know better, but then, having just escaped a bloody tribal war in the Trobriands, I was firmly convinced that I was about to become the guest of honor at their next supper, if you get what I mean. Never has anybody been welcomed with more relief, and remembered ever since!

When he wasn't directing the diving and the excursions (and searching for stupid greenhorns), he would abscond with Ron to conspire about the construction of a Shark-proof wetsuit made from the same stainless steel chain mail used by professional butchers.
The rest of course is history.
Ron ended up getting himself a chain mail suit which turned out to be too small and was promptly gifted (an Ozzie euphemism for "slapped on") to Valerie who thus became the world's most famous piece of Shark bait.

I kinda lost sight of Jeremiah, then saw him and his newly patented Shark suit pop up again when Howard, Marty and Bob started baiting Sharks off San Diego.
Those were the glorious days of Chuck Nicklin's Diving Locker and of some boats called, if memory serves me right, Bottom Scratcher and Sand Dollar. I remember Howard showing me his first fantastic pics of Makos and Blues, Mola Molas and Basking Sharks and later on, schooling Hammerheads, Manta riders, Marlin and humongous Whale Sharks from Baja. Out there, everybody seemed to be busy wrestling sharks wearing Jeremiah's suits. And remember the infamous Shark Tagging Competitions? Glorious times!

Back to Jeremiah, I believe I once discovered his name on the rolling credits of some noisy but otherwise, heroic movie featuring some intrepid Marines, Navy SEALs or the like, wasting a huge amount of ammo and bombs in order to kill and being killed for the greater cause of mankind. This was the 80ies and the bad guys were good old fashioned commies, funny accent and all. Might he even have been one of those? Frankly, I don't remember - but it sure was intrepid!

Then -and talking of which-, here pops up this picture, I believe by Chip Matheson, featuring him being dragged along by a Great White through some murky water in South Australia!
Although nobody really knows who is the first diver to have gone cageless with a Great White (it may be Giddings or it may be Ron - my vote obviously being for the latter), this is probably the very first time anybody has been crazy enough to go ride them.
Now That's what I call cojones!
thinks me, and u even know the guy...

It is Jeremiah who finally managed to find me.
Having heard about our Shark feeding activities and being the proud owner and developer of today's ultimate Shark protection gear, he decided to swing by our booth. Imagine his surprise in finding out that we knew each other! Talk about it being a small world!

So far, our feeders' protection has been a couple of good old-fashioned steel mesh butchers' gloves that Ron and I bought in Sydney some years ago. They work with the smaller Sharks and we're not about to willingly test them on the Bulls, or God forbid, Scarface or the like - knock on wood!

But having conferred with Jeremiah, help may be on its way.
Whether a partial HardArmour or my favorite, his newest unobtrusive Waterman Pro, we sure will give it a try! Not literally, mind you, as anybody who has seen the footage of that Blue jerking around Valerie knows all to well not to go messing around with the big guys. But it will be nice to have some additional protection!

Tuff Stuff by a Tuff Guy - what better could we ask for!

Under Attack!


Isn't it just nice when something really GOOD pops up in Cyberspace!

From time to time, and thankfully increasingly so, the mainstream media make the effort to invest the time and money in order to come up with an unbiased and informative piece about Sharks.
Case in point: this truly remarkable article from Time, well written, well researched and highly entertaining, a real pleasure to behold!

It portrays Sharks as what they are: iconic, endangered, indispensable.
Hopefully, Joe Reader out there will come away with a new appreciation, and respect for these wonderful animals.

Yes, it's kinda old and some other quarters may have already commented about it: still, if you haven't seen it -and even if you have-, it is required reading and bookmarking as it offers an exhaustive panorama of the issues at hand and contains a plethora of useful information.

Very very well done MICHAEL D. LEMONICK/OAHU; GREG AUNAPU/MIAMI, ANDREA DORFMAN/NEW YORK AND JEANNE MCDOWELL/LOS ANGELES and again, kudos to Time!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Obnoxious!

When researching the previous post, I came across this epic piece of horse manure:

"It's about time! The fact that it took this long for such legislation to happen is a little frightening, and the fact is there are still many more areas that need similar laws. How can anyone say with a straight face that chumming or feeding large, dangerous species of sharks does not increase danger to humans and does not increase the risk of shark/human interactions? And listen, these laws should not be limited to commercial enterprises... scientific research are big violators of these activities, and I believe also pose serious dangers when they partake in chumming and feeding large sharks.
Sincerely,
Kevin Harris"

Who is this guy, thinks moi and goes digging about in the Blogosphere.

Turns out he's some fella who hosts a stupid website aimed at proving that there's a Conspiracy (by scientists, conservationists and other equally despicable and shady individuals) to downplay, falsify and suppress the (mind-boggling) information that Sharks do attack people.
His (auto-) bio mentions that he "has been a journalist for 10 years, and is passionate about truth and accuracy in reporting" and his creation sports the proud motto "Pro-Shark • Pro-Truth".
"Truth", I may add, as in the above comment which reeks of prejudice, conjecture and outright ignorance.

Having seen some other, equally edifying posts by Kevin, his modus operandi seems to be to issue some preposterous provocation and then, when confronted, to claim that he's actually the biggest, and vastly misunderstood Shark conservationist of them all. As witnessed by his website!

Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.
I ask: cui bono? What possible benefit can anybody derive from Mr. Harris' morbid fixation?

YES Sharks do attack people and sometimes feed on them - So What?
In the big scheme of human mortality, these are nothing but exceedingly rare freak events, barely worth mentioning, tiny blips in a deluge of tragic incidents affecting people's lives.
Where does this messianic paranoia stem from? Couldn't he invest his relentless energy into some causes really worth pursuing? One would be tempted to shout, get a life! and move on to more pressing matters - but as always when dealing with zealots, it aint quite that simple.

Alas, it seems, some of us have been suckered into trying to counter that garbage with arguments, and by that fact alone, they've unwittingly conferred some kind of legitimacy to its author. I'm thinking of good people like Wolf and Jupp who got themselves embroiled in pointless exchanges of opinion. Even Underwater Thrills with whom I otherwise see eye-to-eye in nearly all cases.

The danger is this.
Unlike other harmless whackos peddling preposterous Conspiracy theories (take your pick...), this particularly obnoxious specimen is directly counteracting our efforts to protect Sharks by perpetuating the image of the lurking killer beast. By hijacking our forums and our time with his asinine punditry and pathetic armchair quarterbacking, he continues to detract us from the real issue at hand, the world-wide plight of Sharks and the challenge to try and change perceptions in order to stem that bleeding.

He's nothing but a sad, condescending and Shark-hating voyeuristic parasite, a small, petulant and self-important jerk who seems to get a kick from stirring up shit and rattling our cages, mine included (yup I know I know, I've just made myself a new friend for life.....).

The only way to deal with people like him is to ignore them.
You may want to keep that in mind next time you should come across one of his idiotic propositions.

New Chumming Ban - revisited......

Photo: Chip Scarlett 2005

Well, as you may have noticed, I was somewhat irritated by the recent chumming ban in the Farallons. Not to be relying on hearsay, I got myself the whole original document, of which the relevant rules read as follows (italics are mine):

"H. Prohibit the Attraction of White Sharks

This rule expands the prohibition on attracting White Sharks in state waters of the MBNMS to the entire MBNMS and GFNMS. It also prohibits approaching within 50 meters of a White Shark within 2 nmi around the Farallon Islands.
Attract or attracting means the conduct of any activity that lures or may lure any animal in the Sanctuary by using food, bait, chum, dyes, decoys (e.g., surfboards or body boards used as decoys), acoustics or any other means, except the mere presence of human beings (e.g., swimmers, divers, boaters, kayakers, surfers).
Disturbance related to human interaction is increasing as a result of controversial cage Shark diving operations, also known as adventure tourism, and other wildlife watching operations. These activities may degrade the natural environment, impacting the species as a whole, and individual Sharks may be negatively impacted from repeated encounters with humans and boats.
Implementing these regulations will resolve user conflicts (between Shark researchers and adventure tourism) and prevent interference with the seasonal feeding behavior of White Sharks. Reducing human interaction and chumming would decrease the impacts on natural Shark behavior.
This regulation is not expected or intended to impact any current lawful fishing activities within the GFNMS and MBNMS.
The purpose of this prohibition is to protect White Sharks from intrusive activities during their critical feeding life-cycle in the GFNMS and the MBNMS. With respect to the MBNMS, this rule modifies the regulations to expand the prohibition against Shark attraction to the entire sanctuary. White Sharks have experienced disturbance from cage diving operations, filming, and other wildlife watching operations. The former regulations prohibited White Shark attraction activities within specific areas of the sanctuary, including the area out to the seaward limit of state waters (three miles from the coastline). This rule extends the prohibition to the entire sanctuary."

In brief, in their wisdom and after seven years (!) of soul searching (or whatever, but certainly not data collection - mind you, all at the expense of the taxpayer!), the thus enlightened Authorities have concluded that:
  • Anything that may attract Great Whites is bad and thus prohibited!
  • Surfboards with no people on them: forbidden! Surfboards with people on them however are most welcome!
  • Swimmers? The more the merrier!
  • "Adventure tourism, filming and other wildlife watching operations"?: Bad!
  • And obviously: any food, bait and chum prohibited - unless one's intentions are to engage in "fishing activities", as in catching and killing the animals! In a Marine Sanctuary! The only possible explanation being that those guys believe that this will not "degrade the natural environment, impacting the species as a whole" and that individual Sharks will not be "negatively impacted", a truly remarkable insight!
Always good to go check the sources, don't you agree?

May this tree-hugging triumph have anything to do with the abovementioned "user conflicts (between Shark researchers and adventure tourism)"? May this be aimed less at securing the welfare of the animals, and more at securing exclusive rights to the scientists, especially in the lucrative filming business?
Honi soit qui mal y pense!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Man

No not the movie - the man!

I first met Susan and Chip on that same memorable trip on Pelagian in 2002.
Back then, Chip was what Obelix insists on defining as "tout juste un peu enveloppé" , a sharp, terribly stressed-out, sat-phone toting and I believe, newly crowned CEO of an up-and-coming biotech company.
They were simply delightful and we all had a great time, fueled by fantastic diving and an equally fantastic, funny and eclectic group of experienced and passionate divers. Bob Halstead's "Old Farts' Diving" at its very best, all the way from eggs benedict (and Valerie's Vegemite) at breakfast to sunset Cohibas with Stan.
The First Law of Liveaboard Diving postulates that every trip will feature a token asshole (the Second Law being that if you cannot spot one, it's likely to be you) and I remember us commenting that this may well have been the first trip without one!

Apart from a cameo appearance on one of our Shark dives, I haven't seen Chip until this year in Vegas - and boy, what a surprise!!! Talk about him being one half of his former self!
Clearly, the man has a will of steel and has gone through hell. But now, he looks slim, trim and fit and most remarkably, not at all stressed-out! Still sharp as a knife and clearly still well grounded within his alpha personality - but what a miraculous change!
(Picture by Erich Cheng 2008)

Now a successful retiree (surely a transitory condition), Chip has intensified his devotion for underwater photography and rumor has it that he may take up a pivotal role in a Shark Conservation Group, undoubtedly much to the benefit of that Group in particular and of the Cause in general.

Having snooped around on his website, I finally got to see that pregnant blue-ringed octopus I found on a seagrass slope somewhere near Samarai, PNG. But there's also an absolutely stunning portfolio of Guadalupe Great Whites and even some killer shots from my two favorite French Polynesian Passes, Apataki and Tetamanu. A self-confessed equipment hog, he clearly is also a master of post-production, as some of the Shark images are simply the best I've ever, ever seen in terms of color and saturation - and trust me, I've seen a few!
Amazing!

Well done Chip and welcome to the toothy, infighting, opinionated but always entertaining world of Shark Conservation!

Deflated!


I've just finished reading "Sea Salt", by Stan Waterman.

Quite frankly, I feel somewhat deflated.
I honestly thought that some of the threads that get bounced about in the Blogosphere might cast a novel, maybe sometimes even a visionary light onto the relationship between humans and the most iconic denizens of the Ocean - and now I find out that Stan has said it all ages ago.

Well, I should have known better.
Like Ron and Val, Stan has participated in the very inception of the Fiji Shark Project when we held that memorable first brainstorming on the upper deck of Pelagian back then in 2002. I did and still very much value his insights and support and he always makes it a point to come check on our progress during his yearly forays into Fiji.
I now understand that much of what I believe and have come to learn is a direct consequence of having had the privilege to spend time with him and all of the other diving legends I've been fortunate to meet over the years.
As always, nihil novi sub sole, just another turn of the Wheel.

Be amazed!
Here's what the Great, gentle Man has written in (italics are mine):

1986: "The Rambo Out-of-the-Cage Club" (this is about cageless diving with Great Whites)
"So what are my thoughts about all this? I of course (now that I've had my go in the arena), hope there will be a lid on such activity. In all seriousness, I begin to think that such stunts demean the magnificent predators. We prove for the consumption of our own human egos and the titillation of the public that we don't know the meaning of fear.
The Sharks themselves are not impressed. They have no sense of machismo; they just survive.
After many years of diving with Sharks, I believe I would rather see and film them in the wild, unmolested by man and happy that they do not eat me. I like to think that intelligent fear may be synonymous with healthy respect.
Henry Beston wrote in his book, "The Outermost House": for the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they live finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we will never hear. They are not our brethren. They are not underlings. They are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and the travail of the earth."

1994: "Neither Friend nor Monster"
"The Shark-feeding syndrome has such broad currency these days that I feel the activity has endengered a too-casual attitude towards the Shark. Divers who started with a healthy fear (let's call it healthy respect) of the animal are wooed by its grace and control and apparent shyness in the presence of humans.
Despite the common opinion that Sharks are unpredictable, they have proven very predictable. Their behaviour within the Shark-feeding exercise is steady and under control. However, the margin of safety is very thin indeed. One small mistake in the conduct or appearance of the human element in this banquet can be the catalyst for a sudden, nightmarish accident. There have already been accidents and there will be more.
Humans are fallible. The Shark's response to instinct is constant and immutable. The point I want to make is that these fascinating animals are neither monsters nor friends. Their instinct is to feed.
Most of the Shark-feeding performances are safe, with the odds strongly in favor of the divers involved. While these activities have done much to dispel age-old fears, they have led to complacency and carelessness, which is the flipside of respect and regard for potential danger.
The Shark's instincts were shaped over 300 million years ago. Its course is clearly programmed. Our instincts, on the other hand, are both young and easily eroded by familiarity. Let us use our intelligence to sustain a prudent, careful relationship with the Shark."

1999: "To Feed or not to Feed"
"Maybe "prudence" and "respect" are the key words. The exposure to great marine animals by diver experience and through the entertainment media has done much to build a consensus for Sharks. That in turn bears on legislation to protect them. Like so many controversies over humanity's relationship to the animals with which we share the planet, there are varying sides - not all good, not all bad.
Just keep in mind the words of William Blake: "What immortal hand or eye/ Could frame thy fearful symmetry?"
That "symmetry" may be thought of as a deep-rooted instinct in all predators. The "immortal hand or eye" imbued them with that instinct millions of years before we evolved. That imperative is still deeply rooted in them."

And! Check out this: Stan and his family!
Yes, January 1958!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

BAD Publications!


Speaking of DEMA, I was finally able to catch up on several published features about the BAD Boyz & Girls.

Apart from Bill Fisher's flattering article and Terry Goss' unmatched pics in Shark Diver #17 (thank you Bill! kudos Terry!), there is an equally flattering honorable mention in PADI's Sport Diver October issue (thank you Kate Siber!) and I found yet another pic of one of our Bulls in the latest AustralAsia Scuba Diver, equally a PADI-affiliate.
Plus, Russia's premier Octopus Magazine is about to publish a fantastic multi-page spread, courtesy of our friend Sasha. As so often, спасибо Vakalevu my friend - and привет Julia!

Last but certainly not least, I had the pleasure of viewing a brand-new piece of Bijou Entertainment by Stan Waterman and Nancy McGee featuring Rusi and Manasa (in one of his last feeds prior to the incident) interacting with Scarface and the ever-feisty little Adi.
Killer footage and as always, wonderful narration by the Great Man himself - not to be missed! It's a bonus feature on Nancy's DVD "Rajan, the Swimming Elephant"(not quite pictured above), to be ordered at Nancy's website.

All-in-all very rewarding and an indication that we seem to be doing something right.
Go get yerself a copy!

And to all authors and image hunters, my heartfelt thanks!

Delusional?


To say the least, my DEMA 2008 has been a memorable one.

Apart from the usual socializing and hunting for the newest and coolest gadgets and dive destinations, it has been an occasion to celebrate many old friendships, to meet some great new people and to -finally!- attend the marriage of my good friends Paul and Karen.
On the business side of things, insiders assure me that despite being kinda "slow", the overall "quality" has been excellent. In fact, bookings are fabulous and the future looks brighter than ever!
All-in-all, a fantastic event!

Las Vegas is an old haunt of mine and I took the occasion to meet up with some of my old gang of Lawyers, Bankers and other equally despicable pillars of modern Society.
With one notable exception who has sold out just in time, many are still very much in the thick of it and having progressed to ever higher executive levels, they dispose of unique insights normal mortals can only dream of. To put it mildly, what has transpired over copious amounts of Dom Pérignon, aged ribeye and tartufi d'Alba is very very frightening indeed.
The Party is truly over.

Which begs the question, what about our Industry?
Has the Show been nothing but an overly optimistic and ultimately, delusional bubble of hype and self-promotion, soon to be pierced by conditions in the Real World at large?

At the risk of being the party pooper - I fear it has, at least for some of us.
From what I can discern, a recent glut of operators, many of which liveaboard vessels, has clearly led to the oversaturation of some destinations. With the pie shrinking -and it will-, those markets will have to revert back to their true capacity. As always, this will be painful - but having said this, it'll likely most effect those businesses who bring little value to the table, be it in terms of product, service, pricing or pure and simple know how.

Like in the Real World, we shall require a change of paradigms - away from the culture of smoke&mirrors and back to the boring "traditional values", foremost of which honest hard work.
But also, living within one's means whilst observing strict fiscal discipline; a commitment to quality and safety; understanding, managing and spreading one's risks; the willingness to constantly improve on one's skills and to refine one's product; knowing the client's expectations in order to provide him with impeccable service; prudent demand-driven expansion and market development.
Sounds trivial but it is true never the less - the adage that there's no such thing as a free lunch has never been more true than now.

With that in mind, we will most certainly survive.
Smaller maybe - but likely, as a whole, more professional and hopefully, equally profitable.

Shark Reef: simply miraculous!


Shark diving in the Reserve gets better and better, with no end in sight!

Common wisdom had it that the Bull Shark numbers peak in February and then slowly decline until all activity peters out in November when the pregnant females leave for the birthing grounds and everybody else gets caught up in the mating frenzy.

Not this year!
January was just phenomenal but then came April with an absolute record of 40plus, this on a single dive! Even August was excellent and even now, mind you on a very lucky day, we are recording a dozen or more individuals! True, they are mostly sub-adults and they are at best finicky when it comes to accepting food - but still, our customers love it!

Are we witnessing a trend?
I sure hope we are, as the old-timers continue to be faithful and more and more newcomers are learning the ropes. Very very rewarding indeed and a clear indication that our model seems to be working!

As to the other suspects, we now boast three Giant Groupers and scores of other Sharks. And not to forget, close to 400 species of tropical Fish!
Right now, the Greys, Silvertips and Blacktips are all over the place and present great photo-ops on the shallow portion of the dive. They are clearly on the menu of the big guys and seem to sense a temporary truce. This is the realm of Papa Manasa and he sure has it down to an art - to be seen to be believed, dozens of Greys behaving like lambs in the presence of a binful of bait!

And the biggest of them all is even bigger yet, truly enormous!
Yes, Scarface is very very pregnant and looks like she's gonna pop anytime. In fact, on her last two visits, she staid high and circumspect and Rusi had to go meet her up in the water column in order to push a tuna head into her mouth. She deigned to accept it but then didn't swallow it right away, preferring to parade it around for a while before taking off into deeper water.
Very unusual and very interesting too - may this be some incipient feeding inhibition prior to giving birth, like the one displayed by the pregnant bulls?

Assuming that Tigers may choose some safe birthing ground and knowing about their impressive range, we fully expect her to take off and not be back for a while. Last time, friends who know her spotted her in the Yasawas, several hundred miles away, so we could be in for quite a wait.
In any case, all very interesting and loads of fun!

With January-March already flagged for plenty more action in Conservation and Science, along with a plethora of diving celebrities, this is the perfect time to make a booking! Space is filling up fast (really, and this despite of two boats!), so drop us a line and reserve yourself a ringside seat on the Best Shark Dive in the World!

Yet again, a new Chumming Ban


Bush may be a lame turducken (incompetence stuffed with stupidity stuffed with arrogance) when it comes to saving the Economy, but you can sure count on him when it comes to undermining Conservation and Human Rights!

In a frantic surge of "midnight regulations", the Bush Administration is scrambling to approve or change as many federal rules as it can before it hands off power to President-elect Barack Obama.

Before a Federal agency approves any construction project– anything from building a dam to a post office — government officials must consult the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. These two agencies enforce the Endangered Species Act, and they can veto any project that adversely affects an animal on the endangered species list.
A regulation proposed by the Interior Dept. Aug. 12 would end this approval process.

Other regulations will effect worker’s safety (less of it - and to top it off, less sick leave) , women’s health-care choices (yes you guessed it: against contraception and abortion) and local police powers (more spying on citizens, what else...).
Check it out, it is simply epic!

Given this kind of Leadership, the following comes as no surprise.

"After seven years of soul-searching (how come I'm not surprised......), Federal officials have issued a major expansion of Federal rules governing three marine sanctuaries."

"The revised rules ban chumming for Great White Sharks around San Francisco's Farallon Islands for thrill-seeking divers in cages and photo-snapping tourists -- rules that have long been enforced closer to shore in waters colloquially known as the Bloody Triangle for their history of Shark attacks.
As for luring Sharks closer to thrill-seekers with fish and blood, known as chum, William J. Douros, western regional director of the National Marine Sanctuaries said: "We just think it was a bad idea for white sharks to associate humans with blood in the water."

"We just Think", of all things........Yeah, right.........

No, I'm not gonna bore you with yet another, obviously futile rant.
I've blogged about it before and stand by what I said then. As long as we remain fractured, we shall never prevail against the anti-Shark-diving lobby, especially when the tree-huggers wield executive powers like in the present case.

Richard Theiss of RTSea has posted a comment about the whole fiasco and I should commend him for his conciliatory and diplomatic approach. Alas, not my style.
To me, it's just yet another setback, yet again fueled by total incompetence.

But one thing's for sure: POTUS will be proud of them!

Great White Hype

Back from an interesting DEMA and an equally interesting Fiji, everybody here is speculating about several tags that have popped up down in the South close to the capital Tongatapu.

They've come off three Great Whites that have been tagged at New Zealand's Chatham Islands and may prove that the Sharks make incursions into tropical waters when following the Humpback Whales' annual migrations, possibly in order to target the newborn calves.

Actually, it is old news - but this of course is Tonga, the place where Time begins but then stops dead in its tracks as it is instantly and miraculously morphed into some sort of a gelatinous warp called "Tonga Time", a hitherto overlooked third consequence of Einstein's Theories of Relativity.

But I'm digressing.
In their wisdom, the NZ scientists have asked for help in trying to retrieve the tags and an according request has found its way into the in-box of the local Whale Watching Association, haters of Sharks and purveyors of idle gossip.

Will anything good come of it? Certainly not.
In a place where "sport" fishermen pride themselves in killing juvenile marlin, some redneck monster hunter will merely see this as a welcome opportunity to go set some more drum lines, like last time after the infamous Shark incident.

Back to the tags, one has been recovered from a beach and is being sent back to the Aquatic & Threats Unit in New Zealand's Department of Conservation for analysis.
After one of our tags detached itself from a Bull Shark and floated all the way to Oz, I'm very interested to find out whether the data are genuine or merely a reflection of prevailing winds and currents. But if they are, to paraphrase Patric, "To say this latest tracking data is "epic" is an understatement. It opens a whole new chapter into the migratory habits of the worlds foremost oceanic predator".

As always, time will tell.
Let's just hope it aint Tonga Time!