Saturday, May 23, 2009

Pecunia non olet - or does it?


Remember Les Stroud?

He of the Turkeys and Hams! Yes, this guy!
He popped into our dive shop on Tuesday asking for directions to the folks down the road. Dunno if he did it to spite us or because of a genuine mistake - thing is, we realized then that we had lost the battle and that Deadly Waters would be featuring their Fiji segment as planned.

We already knew they were trying to weasel in via the back door as one of the local liveaboards had long asked us whether we would be willing to host them and a group of clients for a professional 3-day shoot for Discovery's Shark Week.
When we finally managed to dig out some details, we were told that the group would come with their own safety divers, need a chumsicle and require no further service other than unlimited access to our site. It was also stated that the show "had not yet been named" and that they intended to try and bring the Sharks to the surface for topside shooting.

Sound familiar?
Here are excerpts from the original "Experiment List" of Deadly Waters, by Gurney Productions, Discovery's pet production house for anti-Shark programming.

Fiji: Tiger/Bull Sharks

To compare how depth affects the predatory nature of sharks, we’ll deploy two balls of frozen bait at different depths. One will be at the surface, the other will be eighty feet below. We’ll then watch if sharks in the Bahamas are more likely to strike deeper underwater and hypothesize a reason. Finally, Les will draw a comparison between Tiger, Mako, and Bull shark behavior.

We will head to a remarkable Tiger and Bull Shark feeding ground that has rarely if ever been filmed.
Although they are the deadliest shark on earth, these well fed Tigers and Bulls are used to seeing divers and usually ignore them – but every now and then they randomly attack and kill one – why? Is it something the diver does?

Les will go down in a specially designed clear polycarbonate shark cage which will make him appear to the sharks as though he is unprotected. Les will conduct a series of experiments to try to elicit an attack response from the sharks (he will be safe). He will flail about, float lifelessly, release a large burst of bubbles and finally hold freshly killed fish, in order to determine what is causing these well fed sharks to randomly kill humans!


Just Great!
After years of trying to establish a safe and mellow routine and to keep the Sharks away from the surface, having Les & Co. come and thrash our dive site!

We of course declined to enable the shoot. Yes, for the second time!
I'm sure you've read the link above (if not, please do) so I'm gonna spare you the bit about the evil anti-Shark propaganda and damage to Fiji's vulnerable tourism industry. Instead, let me post this letter from a fellow dive professional we work with.

Upon reading the experiment list it leaves me in a state of amazement.
The idea of putting Les in a perspex tube to incite an attack on a diver is totally irresponsible. It shows zero thought to any future divers & is trying to promote an attack. Where did they come up with the theory that any diver/swimmer has ever been attacked let alone killed by a bull shark in Fiji? The other experiment of trying to lure them to the surface also goes totally against the safety that the operations in that area adhere to which is to keep them deep & not surface orientated.
I hope very much that this project does not proceed in Fiji as it is the last thing that the diving or tourist industry here needs.
On a purely selfish note; we want to use the bull shark dive as a drawing card to get guests to book on our liveaboard & this show will do nothing to help us down that path. The reality is that it may even deter divers from coming to this destination in the future as they will simply associate Fiji with bull sharks attacking people.
This is not good news & lets hope that it does not happen. I could go on & on about this but in short the bull sharks here have no history of attacking people so to let someone in the water for a few days to make a sensationalist documentary about that happening & potentially create attack scenarios on people in the future is abhorrent.


Well, we sure gave it our best shot.
We tried convincing the liveaboard that this was not the kind of business and publicity they, or Fiji wanted. A friend spent political capital trying to convince their offshore headquarters. More political capital was invested in seeking dialogue with the Fijian Authorities. Hell, fearing the worst as they were always gonna be the dark horse in the process, we even had somebody try and talk sense to our local competitor!

I guess we should have known better.
Money apparently talks - much louder than one's professed love of Sharks and fake Eco-branding.
And contrary to the title of this post, it does have a smell. It reeks of greed, recklessness, stupidity and disrespect of one's host Country. This is now their legacy - and I'll leave it at that.
See, I'm still trying to be polite!

But in the end, it's not our Country, not our dive, not our operation - and hopefully, not our reputation, either. Although as always, we'll have to share the negative repercussions, as will Fiji Tourism.

In the end, the real losers will be the Sharks.
A great shame - especially because we got so close to doing the right thing.

PS: Underwater Thrills have followed up with this great post. Kudos.


26 comments:

Dive Vava'u said...

What a shame that this filming is going ahead despite all the efforts. Why do we have to keep going over the same shows and the same shots. Sharks are in peril, humans are the cause, not the other way round. This show, not only damages sharks but also all the people who work hard to show the true side to these amazing animals. I am truly disappointed that Discovery continues to make these shows, and seems to do very little in the way of conservation and environment.
Thank you BAD for showing your strength in the protection of sharks.

(Tiger)Lily said...

I totally agree. I am very disappointed that they are even THINKING about doing this. Excuse me, but I thought Discovery was a tad more serious and professional than this! I hope this is a joke.

Felix Leander said...

This guy is such a freaking tool!!!

Roger said...

My partner and i dived the shark feed handled by AT dive, on the Saturday this was posted. we dived with the Dicovery film crew .All i can say is that we saw a real mess down there..divers acting really crazy upsetting the sharks and creating footage.If what you say is true then i cannot believe that the operation who controlled the dive reef and feed would willingly have allowed this to happen. It calls into account the integrity of that feed. Business is about making money sure,but at what cost. Discovery Channel has become a sensationalist freak show with little real integrity in my view.getting the shot counts increasingly in the Wildlife world and to stop perpetuating the myth created by the media about sharks means no more "extreme" television and hence no exciting stuff to watch. Why let the truth get in the way of a good story??!!Its a real shame that this has happened..we feel duped by it and unfortunetly it impacts on Fiji and the efforts of a few to understand sharks and their interactions.The Sharks and the village who own the reef deserve better.Get the truth out there by what ever means you all can. Good luck.

DaShark said...

Thank you very much for your comments.

Roger, I wish I could say "I'm not surprised" but upon reading your testimony, I'm still shocked.
We dive with the very same Sharks and I'm now very concerned for the safety of my staff.

As to the truthfulness of of what I write, fear not.
Calling people out, especially one's direct competitors, is always very tricky as it can so easily be misinterpreted - which it undoubtedly will. I've been very careful to stick to the facts and also, not to mention any names.

Discovery and Gurney Productions have morphed into the axis of evil of anti-Shark programming - but they're probably just reading the ratings which are likely to be stellar, and laughing all the way to the bank. And Les I guess is just trying to earn a buck in the process.

What leaves me baffled, and quite frankly saddens me is to see how operators continue to aid and abet such programs that are ultimately so exploitative and harmful to the animals they depend on for their business, and that are also so harmful to the Tourism Industry of the country that hosts them.

In the end, it will be people like you, i.e. the customers that will need to cast their vote via the bookings they make. As you know, there are always alternatives.

Robert said...

Idiots!!
We crush Discovery and Gurney Productions with full force.
We let Discovery know they cannot continue to lie to their consumers. They are not science anymore. They are scripted reality shows.
We boycott everything from them, we get on local television that then leads to national t.v.
We embarrass the hell out of them and let the world know that they are frauds.
The next time some idiot tries to do the same in another country or with another operator they will think twice and get turned down.
Everybody get going. Discovery channel is not letting up on their abuse of the sharks so we have to force them. Follow Sharksafe's victory with the Ft.Myers tournament.
Let's hit them hard from all sides...now.
Lupo

DaShark said...

Lupo!

We must meet one day!

First, lemme congratulate you and everybody else for that great success in Ft. Myers - that was a great piece of smart grassroots Conservation. Frankly, I didn't think you would be able to pull it off and for that, all the more power to you all!

Regarding this fiasco, I'm sure you remember the open letter to Discovery a few years back, as posted on http://www.divephotoguide.com/articles/open_letter_to_discovery_networks.
Check out the signatures, that's as good as it gets - and yet, they continue producing those obscenities.

Discovery just don't give a rat's ass about the clamoring of some Shark wackos - especially considering that they seem to be so successful with the public at large.
They've just commissioned a second installment of Animal Planet's "River Monsters" where they managed to depict Bull Sharks as "murderous killers", see http://fijisharkdiving.blogspot.com/2009/04/animal-planet-fing-morons.html - so what makes you think they'll listen this time.

It's up to us, the operators, to stand in the way of this evil.
We control the sites, animals, opportunities - if we just managed to all say "no more", people like Gurney got nowhere to turn to and the shenanigans stop right here and now.

Anonymous said...

I am with Lupo!!!
Adding fear only hurts the progress!
Eric Zsolczai

Robert said...

Dashark,
We met at Dema Las Vegas '08.
If we get it known that Discovery Channel and Stroud are faking their shows and passing it off as professionals for science then that blows their credibility out of the water. They lie, falsify and endanger humans and animals. And they know that they do it.
We can bring them down. We know who makes the bad decisions and can expose their names and all their lies. We get the press to pay attention to us.
I believe/hope that people won't watch if it is not real. they will watch some other garbage for that. They expect Discovery, Animal Planet etc. to be real facts. When they find out that these shows are fakes, they will loose credibility and viewers and sponsors.
This will stop the enablers also. Lot's of names to mention here but I will refrain for now.
Don't lay down now.
The sharks need us. They can't help themselves.
Lupo

DaShark said...

I stand corrected - getting old and forgetful I guess!

By all means, go for it.
Little I can add from this side except for copies of the correspondence should you feel you need that. Our common close friend has most of that already but if not, I trust you know how to contact me directly.

Other than that, we're just a dive shop and not part of any of those "groups" and orgs that can mobilize people & apply the pressure, so our outreach is limited to what we post publicly on our blog.

We will continue to talk about this, and about all the other shenanigans out there.
Luckily, the enablers are a minority and I'm quite confident that they're already been pushed to look harder at what they do, and why - even when they retaliate by de-friending you on Facebook!

Cya in Orlando I hope - looking forward to a good meal and chat!

Robert said...

I will contact friend for the copies.
Your blog is definitely helpful as your readers are the choir and can spread the word in their areas. Our plan will be posted in strategic places when we are ready.
I wish we controlled the sites and opportunities.
Their are idiots that can rent a boat and think their 15 minutes of fame is to help another idiot throw a tuna mannequin into a shark dive site.etc.etc.
I think there will always be enablers in this realm. We have been fooled too many times before.
Will be in Solomon Islands instead of Dema.
Lupo

Shark Diver said...

These guys know better. Shame on the *few* industry folks who still enable this kind of stuff.

Read a blog post from one the other day who said something to the effect:

"any media with sharks is good because that equals tourism and that equals conservation...so there!"

A moronic look at a complex and nuanced industry.

At least we have you guys holding the line. Kudos.

DaShark said...

Thank you Shark Diver - and great post you published on your blog!

Well you did tickle my curiosity and I went searching - May 25, right?
As the French say, "qui s'excuse, s'accuse"!

Very interesting really - still keeping my fingers crossed that this is part of a "process" that will eventually lead to some insights!

The Sharkman said...

This whole thing sucks and it is typical of what Discovery does. Last year, Our internet based Shark Group had a 4 hour meeting with Discovery Channel and it was specificaly to get them to stop giving sharks the killer image.

After the very cordial meeting, DC never responded again to our posts and it is high time to take our actions further.

I am going to ask our Group to Boycott Discovery Channel and we would not help promote shark week.

This is the International year of the Shark and we have to get our voices heard.

Shark Powered

The Sharkman

Sharkman's World Organization
(to save & protect sharks)
www.sharkmans-world.org
------------------------------------------
Year Of The Shark - 2009
http://www.year-of-the-shark-2009.org
------------------------------------------
The Shark Group On line List Forum
http://groups.google.com/group/The_Shark_Group?hl=en
------------------------------------------
Let Sharks Live Network
http://groups.google.com.mt/group/let-sharks-live?hl=en

DaShark said...

Sharkman, it's really a very complex problem.

Discovery is a big money-making machine that airs what they believe "people" want to see.
I have little hope that our clamoring will change anything there, especially if we don't show them any alternatives. Let's face it, our vocal condemnation may even be viewed as welcome marketing!

The alternative we need to show is that there are way better producers and way better programs than Gurney and the rubbish they pitch.
Instead of writing down stupid storylines and then trying to bend reality to fit them, take the time to talk to the operators and show what's already there, which in most cases is stellar as it is.

As an example, Fiji combines South Pacific islanders and their ancestral beliefs in the Shark God, cutting-edge scientific research, fascinating traditions like fire walking and kava ceremonies, huge predatory and potentially lethal animals with their own personal life stories, holistic Shark Conservation involving native villages, enlightened pro-Nature Government and above all, the spectacular SoPac backdrop with its beautiful scenery and friendly people.

And then, there's the enablers.

Without them, nothing goes.
They have the boats, gear, animals, sites, opportunities, information. If only they could be "convinced" not to facilitate that shit, Gurney & Co would have nowhere to turn to.
We nearly managed to achieve that in Fiji and that would have been a strong signal and a precedent for others to follow.

Yes it takes guts to face up to the "big" guys and it implies a loss of income and no potential global exposure - but it's the right thing to do both ethically but also, in terms of preserving our business in the long run.

But it takes brains, guts and vision to come to that conclusion - and as you know, that's a scarce commodity indeed.

Anonymous said...

I live in fiji and think you guys from the mainland who come here and think you can own the sharks and dive sites are a joke. you abuse the locals and pay them nothing. you dont own the ocean and especially do not OWN a dive site. anyone can come here and dive. And if they want to make a shark week show thats ok by me. They stayed where my girlfriend works and she said they were the nicest people that left huge tips and even handed out clothing and shoes to a few local kids. You guys had to be forced to donate to the locals and never give. go back to the mainland. leave fiji for the locals

Anonymous said...

and i work the night shift at a resort and can tell you many people talk about how they come here to dive wit fish and sharks they see on tv...

DaShark said...

Good One! (:

The adulterous reptile is in country - and here come the "poor disenfranchised Fijians" who just happen to read our Blog!
Gee, talk about coincidence!

But for the sake of the argument, lemme state this - if by "you guys" you should really refer to us which would be rather surprising.

Last year, we paid approx. FJD 35,000 to Deuba, Galoa, Wainiyabia, Rukua and Yanuca. That's a whole lotta t-shirts and shoes for the kids!

In fact, we pay reef fees wherever we dive and as a Fijian, you should know that this is perfectly voluntary and not owed - but we think it's the right and respectful thing to do and that's why we do it.
No need to "force" us by any stretch of the imagination!

We have signed contracts with two villages concerning the SRMR (which incidentally is NOT the reef where those guys dived - read the original post) whereby everybody is welcome to dive there as long as they pay the Marine Park Levy but nobody but us can run Shark Dives in that location.

The agreements have been ratified by Government as they are the "owners" (the villages being the trustees) of the reef. It would have been different if the Qoliqoli Bill had been passed - but as you must know, it hasn't.

Regarding "donations", as we speak, a group of our customers are working in one village building pathways.
Last year, that group renovated the school in another village. And yes, they always hand out gifts on top of that!

But you're right - we don't give to every clever "namu" who happens to venture our way with some harebrained request - if we did, we'd be sucked dry in no time.
I'm sure you understand.

Instead, we empower the local unemployed youth by running a village sponsorship program where we teach them a profession that will enable them to feed their families in the future.

And shame on you for your disrespectful xenophobia! Totally unwarranted! No wonder you don't have the guts to show your face!

When it comes to the filming, we've enabled many of the great productions people refer to.
This one is different, as like the title implies, it wants to portray Fiji as a country with deadly beaches infested by man-eating Sharks.
Again, read the posts.

Hardly the image Fiji Tourism needs in these difficult times, bad for the Sharks and also, completely untrue - that's why we've turned down the money and tried to stop it instead.

Well, the damage has been done and you'll be able to see it on Discovery, as will millions of viewers across the world.
We'll certainly talk about it once it airs!

Anonymous said...

IF they DO NOT say the word "FIJI "in the entire shark show with Les survivor guy that you are talking about and badmouthing then you shut down this blog. if so I will get all the locals behind the local shark diving. And ROGER is not telling the truth. No one was with Discovery. they were on a live a board and no one dived with them.

And if you are so against commercial sharking than why do you buy and support the commercial fisherman that have taken over fiji by buying thousands of dollars of chum and fish from them. they are laughing all the way to the bank an this is DIRECTLY supporting a commercial fishing organization that is raping our waters.

DaShark said...

IF they do not mention Fiji, great - then this post had an effect. Kudos to you if you can pull that one off.

And no, I'm not gonna shut down the blog, I will continue posting about that rubbish and the negative image they depict of Sharks.

Yes Roger dived with them.
Show who you are, call the dive shop and you will understand why I am 100% certain he did. Yes, AS YOU KNOW ALL TOO WELL, they did dive off a liveaboard but on at least one day, the operator joined in with his clients. Ask Ned.

Fiji Fish is one of Fiji's great success stories and we are proud and grateful to work with them.
They target and process Tuna, Wahoo, Skipjack and Oil Fish and we get the carcasses for free, and we buy Tuna heads for the hand feeding.
The carcasses would otherwise end up in the rubbish dump and are thus recycled back to the Ocean.

But I am aware that some of the crew of the foreign boats that offload at Fiji Fish do indeed keep and sell Shark Fins to complement their wages - and I of course bemoan it.

We're currently working with Government to try and address this specific problem.

pats0n said...

Fully agree with Lill on that this production is hardly associated for me with concept of Discovery, which is supposed to preach good things about good practices of interaction wtih nature. And I thought they real concern should be avoiding destruction of shark population world wide and as mean to that improving public shark image ? Hard to believe, and it is sad they are trashing hard work by many people involved in Shark Reef creation and operation over many years. I posted this to my blog for my readers to be aware of the situation - http://pats0n.livejournal.com/230098.html

Anonymous said...

you dont think that hand feeding bull sharks thousands of pounds of chum a month is altering the eco-system? we all know that you guys were second in line here as shark divers and have mooched off of the REAL shark guys. We all know where Patrick CAME from. you guys are never going to win a fight. Make your own show and sell it to national geographic. the funny thing is you think that BUYING tuna heads from commercial LONGLINERS and NETERERS is ok. the average size of a tuna is down from 1000% in the last 5 yrs. you may a swell go shark finning!!!! Keep the blindfold on guys! see you around town! Everyone laughs at you guys....

Shark Diver said...

Yeah we got hit on by this "Anonymous Poster" as well. Quite the angry rant and he spelled Patric wrong too!

Mike - you're correct in what you're doing here - providing the forum for discussion about what Discovery Channel does or does not do with sharks leads to change.

Shark Week is a huge cash cow for Discovery.

Unfortunately, like all rebellions, the actual rebelling comes from the inside. In this case the many operators and researchers who are flatly refusing to work with hack productions who come bearing second rate shark scripts.

We know we can do better. We live with sharks 24/7.

They must do better.

No one likes to have the Green Curtain pulled aside, especially when it reveals not the Wizard of Oz, but a group of small men without a clue making it up as they go along.

Let's show those who buy programming the way back to the days of Air Jaws and the early excitement that was Shark Week.

There's nothing wrong with Shark Week as a concept. The industry feels, and rightfully so, that they have in many ways lost their way.

The fact that "Anonymous" has come forth to rant on such a personal level tells me this movement is on target, and timely.

To "Anonymous", mate if you want people to start taking you seriously, start by putting up your real name.

It's O.K to have an opinion that is outside of this thread, but posting "slash and trash" makes you, your way of doing business, and your cause look like what it is.

Second rate.

Get a clue, get a name, and join the convo.

Wilson said...

Ack - you gotta hand it to anon, they've got this self righteous attitude that just because they're from Fiji, that they get to decide who deserves to stay and should be kicked out because they 'aint helping us locals out'.

Lame.

As a fijian, I say enough with the 'I'm the local, I'm the boss' attitude. Show some respect online. Being bossy don't exactly portray Fiji as the friendly people. And lines such as "Leave Fiji to the locals" are so 1800's. Tourism is the country's biggest earner, and shark diving operations such as these ones help to fund and build a better Fiji.

Get with the times annon.

Tafa said...

I am truly disgusted with the shooting of the show by Discovery.

I for one live in fear of sharks for the past 26 yrs of my life and where did I get this fear from? Well firstly from the movie JAWs and then from other "Documentaries" on the TV. I always thought of sharks as mad man eating machines who would take a bite of you the moment they saw you in the water.

Thanks to BAD I truly saw and learnt what a majestic creature they are and not just man eating machines. Of course some may say that they are still dangerous, but so is a dog, you annoy them, and irritate them and they both will take a bite at you without a second thought, but treat them with the respect that they deserve and you'll learn to love them.

To the guys at BAD and DaShark, keep up the good work guys.

The episode that was done by MaiTV a while back is a really good one and I believe we need more media involvement in this kind of programs to create true awareness. Let me see what I can do to help.

Keep up the good work.

George Askew said...

My 2 bits.
This refers >
To "Anonymous", mate if you want people to start taking you seriously, start by putting up your real name. <
Where`s your name Patric? - and all the others hiding behind aliases. Why?
It is so infantile and moronic.

Good for you guys who do reveal yourselves - or some of your names.
Real men are not scared to use their real names and/or contact details. Real men are prepared to take the flak. [Just like what I am sure will come down on me - Ho Hum - what`s new].
Hope I get "approved"
George Askew LOL