Monday, July 30, 2012

Peekaboo!

Adi - the feisty Bull with the face mask is Batman - click for detail.

Great!

I just love it when my predictions come true!
Today we had stellar weather, crystal viz and heaps of Bulls.
And not only that! As some insiders know, Rusi and I always go walkabout after the clients ascend from the Arena - and bingo, look who's made a cameo appearance!
Yes nearly exactly one year after turning up on the only day where David had to skip the dive, that would once again be infamous Adi trying to barge in on the bait - and being promptly chased off like last time!

Which begs the question, where were you Lindsay?
Did I hear day off? From summer camp? And on a glorious day like today - the more as the water here is, apparently, lovely?
And you could have been Right.There!

And that's not all!
With the full moon approaching, there was what appears to be an incipient spawning aggregation of Moorish Idols - and during the whole first dive, we had a singer entertain us from the side channel, meaning that our Humpback Whale season has now officially started!

Never seen before - hanky panky among Moorish Idols!

C'ya manana I hope! :)

PS: Lindsay did join today's dive.
And here she is - click for heroic detail!

Mantabot!

I'm pretty sure this is a Pelagic Manta - great pic by Marty, click for detail!

This is pretty darn impressive.
Story here.



Saturday, July 28, 2012

Smokin' hot!

Busy - click for detail!

This has been a crazy year.
First two floods, one of them catastrophic, then a spate of torrential rain that has inundated the reef and ruined the viz for weeks on end and now it is cold cold cold! Poor Shark Reef is currently suffering from the aftermath of that deluge of fresh water, meaning that several big Acropra have succumbed to the stress and that some sand patches are covered in brown algae, something that is particularly unusual during the cold season and a clear sign of eutrophication.

And the Sharks?
Difficult question as it has been difficult counting them!
Let's say that it has been very much up and down, with maximum numbers to be likely substantially off last year's record in June. But worry not: everybody is accounted for - just not in bulk!

But as always, it ain't over til the fat lady sings.
The very end of today's second dive was nothing short of epic, with stellar viz and heaps upon heaps of animals - still uncharacteristically skittish but definitely very interested! So here's to everything being late and to this being the beginning of the arribada!

It better be.
We're expecting somebody shortly, and later this month, we'll be hosting a rather epic shoot - and we sure don't want to disappoint either of them!

Fingers crossed and keep watching this space!

Proteus Semi-dry - get one!

Fourth Element Proteus - detail of the integrated bib.

This is the cold season and lemme tell 'ya, it is COLD!

No don't ask.
I know we're sissies - but when the water temperature drops below 22C, it really becomes rather unbearable, especially on the stationary Shark dive. Long story short, after years of trying to stay warm by adding an ever increasing bulk of layers, this year I've opted for my very first semi-dry wetsuit.

The choice was Fourth Element's Proteus.
David was wearing one last year and loves it, and several people I've spoken to rate it among the best of the crop. And I totally agree - once you manage to get it on that is!
In fact, it is so bloody hard there's even a donning guide - but in all fairness, once one gets the knack of it, it's rather benign and well worth enduring in view of the subsequent benefits!
Mine is a 7mil, fits like the proverbial glove, and I've been happily toasty warm ever since.

Highly recommended!

Das Auto - Teaser!


Check this out!



So, what's it gonna be?
The video caption talks about a Beetle Shark Observation Cage and knowing the team who shot this, I'm fully expecting something totally epic!
Some info here and here.

Great to see that it's gonna be a Volkswagen.
It is them who pioneered amphibious cars with the infamous Schwimmwagen, and it just so happens that the very first Beetle, the KdF Wagen shared the same chassis. Then of course came the iconic Amphicar of the 60ies, much copied but never quite equaled when it comes to popularity.

And check out the sQuba by my nutty pal Frank Rinderknecht!
This would be the first fully functional submerged car - and I fully expect that Luke's team will regale us with something even more spectacular!



No pressure! :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Orca vs Trainer!

Captive Orcas - definitely not harmless pets!

This is scary stuff.
Story here.



Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Flying Tooth!


Great (and lucky!) shot!
You must click for detail - see the tooth?

Story here.
This would be the first time I hear that somebody snapping away from a boat is called a daredevil - but then again, English is not my mother tongue!

Enjoy!

Monday, July 23, 2012

David - back from the Doldrums!

David - a happy chappy again! :)

I must say, I was quite touched by this post.
Ever since we've started talking, David has had to do it the hard way - with no money, no back-up, no resources. What he however did have was unending passion, perseverance to the point of asinine stubbornness (no shit!), and heaps upon heaps of talent.

So this lack of inspiration must have been particularly hard.
Great to see that he's been able to dig himself out of that hole, as witnessed by his beautiful choice of words when describing the process.
The most incredible collection of charismatic, intelligent sharks on the planet?
Indeed! :)

Welcome back buddy!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cristina - another great one!

Pic: Unexso

Please read this latest post by Cristina.
Great stuff, by a person who really loves but above all, understands and respects the animals she works with. And... she's a Shark Angel! Just goes to show that not everyone there is a narcissistic bimbette! And here's a another brand new interview!
Brava!

And I did a bit of rummaging around.
Did you notice her description of the students, those who get it and those who then go home to boast? A great example of the former is Marina Gottlieb Sarles who wrote this beautiful piece after having just watched Cristina do her magic - really, really nice, and kudos for that.

And the others?
I'm still searching - but fear not, I've already found a couple of rather epic pagliacci!
Keep watching this space! :)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sea Shepherd in Fiji - WTF???

Definitely NOT a bimbette - as proven by the many comments!

Oh for crying out loud.
I really loathe giving more bandwidth to that disrespectful fiasco - but now, Julie Andersen has really crossed the line.
So there.

So, apparently, this is all a terrible misunderstanding.
  • The bombastic video? A misunderstanding!
    It turns out that there was really no intention of creating a rapid response force to do battle all over the world, and that, really, nobody is actually gonna be putting their lives on the line to fight the battle no-one else would take on!
    So what is this - just a lot of self congratulatory bullshit aimed at impressing the credulous sheeple and perpetuating the myth of the death-defying pirates? Probably - and it works! Case in point: They risk their live to saving wildlife, they are the best!!!
    So what are we to believe? The sanctimonious assurances on the project website or the on-camera statements by the self enamored Leaders? Talk about a case of institutional schizophrenia and of trying to brazenly upstage Stefanie and her Pacific Shark Initiative!

  • The plan to come to Fiji? A misunderstanding!
    The first press release of May 14 reads, and I cite: Captain Watson will captain one of at least two ships that will leave Australia next month for Fiji to begin the hunt for illegal shark finners. Most certainly a misunderstanding!
    And Paul Watson's statement that The Sea Shepherd South Pacific Shark Campaign Operation Requiem is departing the Solomon Islands for Fiji under the leadership of Shark Angel Julie Anderson? A misunderstanding, much like the article in the Fiji Times!
    Anyway, tempi passati. We now learn that they have made a new plan (= by changing the one that did not exist to start with?) and that the floating babemobile is going somewhere else, and thank God for small favors.
    Whatever - right?

  • And the involvement of the Shark Angels? A misunderstanding!
    Despite of the banner suggesting the exact opposite, I learn that this is really an initiative by Sea Shepherd only, because Shark Angels is a separate organization! For once, I am really tempted to take this at face value, the more as the blog is on the SSCS website and that a press release informs us that Julie Andersen, founder of Shark Savers and Shark Angels, joined Sea Shepherd to lead the organisation's global campaign to save sharks from extinction.
    So let's take that to the bank - Andersen works for Sea Shepherd.
    The obvious question being, does Shark Angels even want to be associated with this shit, and has anybody there even been consulted?
And now, she is here.
So much for Again, Sea Shepherd has no intention of entering Fiji!
David describes it as follows
Told they weren't needed, told they weren't wanted, asked to stay away to avoid causing offence but still they go and the first thing they do? Start spreading longlining propaganda only two weeks away from the decision as to whether Fiji introduces the world's greatest shark sanctuary. Has Sea Shepherd crossed the line from tasteless self promotion to the totally indefensible? Three years of hard work jeopardized for a PR stunt... and Patric has posted this.

Those posts are about this utter stupidity.
So some pampered bimbo from the US has made the mind-boggling discovery that fishermen are just ordinary people trying to make ends meet like everybody else, and that they do not like it when somebody tells them not to fish. Wow - and to top that off, the representative of none other than Sea Shepherd (!) comes to the conclusion that conservation is not just about taking a black-and-white stand! Priceless!
And in communicating these revolutionary insights to the uninformed masses, she is offering the guy a global platform for asserting that the fishing industry has not been consulted (a bold faced lie), that the Shark Sanctuary will be useless and that it won't happen anyway because there is no consensus from the fishermen, as if the latter was ever gonna be a realistic option.
And this on the website of the SSCS???

And that's not all!
After complaining about having been obviously denied permission to act as a volunteer teacher, she then has the audacity to go to a remote village and teach? And to then brazenly pose (again!) with the kids? And maybe even film?
Because it didn’t matter what the government thought?

And all of this on a tourist visa???

Needing and loving the light?
Indeed: the limelight, and this at any price! I mean, seriously, how many more pictures of Julie Andersen can the world possibly stomach! Look at me me me me ME!
No she is neither bad, nor is she a political activist, or whatever - quite to the contrary, she is probably well intentioned. But she's not very smart, lacks substance, understands nothing and is quite obviously a narcissist and rather shameless self promoter.
Not to worry, given time these things tend to sort themselves out.

But here and now, it is simply unacceptable.

This noise is now directly affecting the Fiji Shark Sanctuary Campaign.
Please do read this post by Shark Defenders. These are the facts (e.g. four consultations!) and these are the organizations government has chosen to invite and engage with when considering Shark conservation measures.
Fiji is awash in NGOs big and small, and the marine conservation community is tightly knit and pervaded by a spirit of cooperation despite of the inevitable competitive aspects. With some notable and rather inexplicable exceptions, they all have tacitly agreed not to interfere and to let the campaign run its course and when asked for opinions, they all tote the company line and defer to the decisions and leadership of the project team.

This is a process.
It includes regular information and consultations, and now that government has announced that a decision is forthcoming, several entities are starting to discuss ways to facilitate the implementation after a possible, but by no means certain (!) positive outcome - and let there be no doubt that this crap is certainly not helping!
The specific strategies will vary depending on the specific content of any forthcoming Shark decree - but from what is transpiring now, they will certainly neither involve pointy boats with green volunteers playing deputy sheriff, nor will there be a need for parachuting in foreign volunteer teachers and the like.
Teaching is the exclusive domain of the Ministry of Education and when it comes to outreach & awareness, the local NGOs are more than capable of deploying their Fijian staff who know exactly what they are talking about, and how to best get the message across.
Having said this, any assistance from abroad will be welcome - provided that it is being solicited and that it is genuine and not merely showboating for the media.
But not now.

This is why I am so pissed off.
This very much smells like the attempt at yet another brazen conservation heist - Palau all over again. The org is not welcome, and the individuals representing it have been told in no uncertain terms to wait and not to interfere. And yet they do and to my dismay, it very much appears that somebody here in Fiji is aiding and abetting.

Look, guys.
You know who you are and I am not going to point fingers because of a sense of local solidarity and in one case, even respect and possibly even friendship. I know that opinions and agendas differ and in the case of the industry, I also understand the need for bums in bunks, and the allure of being featured in the media. But with all due respect, this has now gone far beyond being private for family and friends and simply diving with Sharks.
The way I read it, those people should not be here to start with. And now that they are, instead of acting like legitimate tourists, they are upsetting the process at a critical time, and need to be reigned in. As a minimum, tell them to enjoy their holiday, keep a low profile and above all, to shut the f up!

If this continues unabated, it will end in tears.
Everybody here knows where they are now, and where they are going to be in one week's time. There is a strong indication that this involves capturing commercial media and if so, your identity will be eventually revealed - and you may want to make sure that you are not going to be embarrassed when it does?

Just a suggestion!

PS Patric on conservation boondoggling and St. Paul here!
PS2 David here!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Shark Show!

Tony de Brum with Ratu Manoa in Suva - source: Fiji Sun.

I'm still inspired by today's Shark show.

Wame did a brilliant job.
Personable and charming as always but above all, incredibly well prepared, he knew exactly where he was going and interviewed his guests with intelligent, informed and relevant questions. Jill of course was her usual stellar self in eloquently developing a coherent, pragmatic, science- and fact-based case for the need to protect Sharks.

But who really did blow me away was Senator Tony deBrum.
The words that come to mind are Leadership and Vision - and this not only because he has been one of the key architects of the Marshall Islands Shark Sanctuary, but also because he appears to be a key player within the impressive PNA, and because of many of his other initiatives and some of his more private statements.
Very, very impressive indeed!

But of course I'm once again digressing.
DeBrum is uniquely positioned in being able to describe the effects of a strict and highly enforced Sharks Sanctuary which in essence amount to higher revenues from fishing licenses, higher revenues from the sale of Tuna and an enforcement regimen that is already more than paying for itself. In brief, smart conservation can be good business, too!
He also convincingly explained why a full, rather than a partial ban is the most efficient and effective solution, and certainly the cheapest to enforce.

The discussion then focused on the situation in Fiji.
I spare you the details about the minutiae because really, they are ultimately irrelevant. It really matters not who exactly catches exactly how many Sharks where, and for which reasons, and whether they are true bycatch or targeted, whether they are finned or not, and whether they end up as Shark fin soup or steaks or stir fry or in the lovo.
What matters is the fact that Fiji is exporting a huge amount of Shark fins and that various observers are reporting a sharp decline in Shark numbers in the wild.

The take-away message is ultimately this.
If there is one thing that defines the Pacific Islanders as a people, it is the Ocean.
For centuries it has been their home, shaped their culture, provided for their food, determined their daily life and in modern times, it has been the principal driver for the establishment of a vibrant tourism industry in many Pacific island countries. It is not by coincidence that the region is called Oceania, and its people are truly People of the Sea.

And now that Ocean is under attack.
The principal hazards are Anthropogenic Climate Change and Ocean Acidification; Overfishing; Habitat Degradation; Pollution.
Many are not caused locally but are the direct consequence of the reckless behavior of the most developed nations, and of Asia - and there, all we can aspire for is some form of smart adaptation that is especially crucial for the smallest and less elevated island states.
But reducing our own contribution to Habitat Degradation and Pollution is certainly possible!

And we can certainly address Overfishing!
Much of it is perpetrated by the same more developed nations that having exhausted their own resources, are now attacking Oceania with their distant water fleets. And let there be no doubt that despite of their rhetoric and development aid, they simply do not care but will grab what they can and then move on to greener pastures, and leave us to confront the long-term consequences.
To witness, keep an eye on the Cooks where a large Chinese fishing conglomerate is already embarking on test fishing after having treated several key fisheries officials to lavish junkets to China!
And, we must even start to manage the small scale fisheries as populations continue to grow - whilst the fishing grounds do not!
Yes it is difficult and fraught with political considerations - but this is our ocean and the obligation to nurture and protect it is ours alone!

And the Sharks?
They are the one crucial element that keeps a balance in the Ocean.
Contrary to the bony Fishes, they are essentially a non-renewable resource that needs to be protected now, as long as stocks in Oceania are still in relatively good shape when compared to the catastrophic situation elsewhere.
We simply cannot afford to procrastinate because once they are gone, our Ocean will not be healthy anymore.

And without a healthy Ocean, the islands will lose everything.
Their beauty, their food supply, their tourism and ultimately their unique culture and way of life. Look around - in some places, this is already happening.
Think about it.

Anyway, great show with great people!
Wame - can you please have it posted to YouTube - if you do, this will be seen by millions and FBC will be famous all over the world - and you, too! :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fiji - Sharks on FBC!

Bull Shark in the SRMR - hopefully soon protected throughout Fiji.

Please tune in to the following.

From the GoldFM website (links are mine).
  • Speak Your Mind, with Wame Valentine.
  • When: Thursday July 19th at 12pm
  • Every year an alarming forty million sharks are slaughtered for their fins. On the show this week is Fisheries Director as well as a Marshall Islands senator instrumental in creating the world’s largest shark sanctuary in the Marshalls.
    Should Fiji follow the Marshalls lead? Should we ban trade in shark products and commercial shark fishing throughout our waters? Tune in on Thursday to find out!
The show airs live on Gold FM (100.2 FM), live online around the world on goldfm.fbc.com.fj and delayed on FBC TV every Tuesday nights at 10.30.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Baited Shark Dives and Shark Attacks?

Outright Shark feeding - even worse than chumming?

Oh well.
So much for being too busy to blog.

There has been a Shark strike in Western Australia.
From what I can discern, it very much appears to have been a predatory attack (Christopher???) and it comes right on the heels of Mr. Moore's decision to preemptively ban cage diving there. The apparent reason for that politically motivated stupidity was that South Australia had restricted cage diving there because Barry Bruce et al had discerned that berleying (= chumming) had caused a minimal change in GW distribution.
Nothing whatsoever to do with Shark attacks - but who gives a shit provided that one can engage in populist grandstanding, right? And this? Indeed: Neanderthal reactions!

Which brings me straight to the following.
I rather despise those couch farting Shark lists - but people do keep me in the loop about the rare noteworthy discussions; and so I got sent this remarkable, and provided that you got a sense of humor, incredibly witty post by the Grand Mufti of Shark behavior, non other than the forever unequaled Doc.
I hope he doesn't mind me re-posting it verbatim in all of its glory.

A key criticism of the ruling in Western Australia is that researchers were not able to show a causal link between shark attack and chumming at shark dives. Lets see how they might prove such a link using the scientific method. How about setting up two dive sites within say 5 km of each other. At one you use chum and feed the sharks from a feeding tube or box. At the other you attract sharks by low frequency sound attraction and again feed shark from some device that precludes odorant from getting to the test-beach 5 km distant.

Now if there are sharks around I wager they will very quickly be attracted to the baiting station due to currents which rapidly brings the olfactants to their nostrils---so you might get them trained up in just a few days. For the acoustic attractions the sharks have to be within about 500 m of the hydrophone and be fairly motivated at the time. This might take several months but eventually the sharks at both sites will be feeding regularly, and reliably but probably seasonally.

To be further certain about your experimental study population you would have to tag the sharks and possibly take genetic samples to be sure you are working with different animals at the two sites...ok it could be done. Thus you have established two relatively equal feeding sites with a control and a treatment trial....good!

So after about two years of preparations you can now set up an hypothesis: H0, the null hypothesis is that there is no statistical difference between the control and treatment groups with respect to shark attacks; H1 is the proof of the pudding---There is a statistical difference between the two.

Ahhh, but here's the rub: You would of course have to continue your trials until you collect and adequate sample size for your appropriate statistical tests that you would used to either accept or reject H1 or H0. Based only on the annual rate of shark attacks world wide, this will take on the order of 1,000 years depending on the seasonality of the sharks. Considering the paucity of attacks and the time required for a human generation, you should put in your will that for the next 50 generations your offspring must continue the experiment on a daily basis until each season ends, then start again next year when the season begins. Get my drift? So it goes for all such shark-attack research.

OK...I put it up there now you shoot it down. I personally would love to understand the motivation of why sharks bite naked apes. (see Gruber, S.H. 1988. Why do sharks attack humans? Naval Research Review 40(1):2-19.)

Bingo! :)
As I've said all along, those theories about Shark attacks amount to nothing more than conjecture, i.e. sometimes plausible but ultimately untestable hypotheses.

But is the whole story?
Is there really no evidence whatsoever to point us one way or the other?

I believe that in fact, there is.
Yes George the great doyen of Sesselfurzing should indeed finally creep out from behind his desk and have a reality check by doing a couple of Shark dives; but in this specific specific case, he may even be useful by staying right where he is, smack in the middle of his Sammelsurium of Shark attack data - and ditto for Collier!

What I'm suggesting is this.
Get a Masters student to mine those data and to analyze whether globally, there is any statistically relevant correlation between the location of Shark strikes and that of baited Shark dives!
Of course correlation, even if it were found, is not causation. And, this would not be testing the hypothesis that baiting leads to more Shark attacks. For that, one would have to proceed like Doc suggests and wait for several centuries. But it would at least give us an indication about whether the hypothesis is at least plausible and thus, worth testing!

Betcha the result it is a big fat zero!
And if so, wouldn't that be all the more surprising as common wisdom would suggest the exact contrary! Here's the long version of why this should be the case - but if you can't be bothered, here's the synopsis.

For there to be a Shark strike, a person and a Shark need to be in the same place at the same time (dooh...) and consequently, anything increasing the rate of such encounters increases the probability for such a strike.
When it comes to baited Shark dives, it thus follows that, equally trivially
  • the more Sharks are present, the higher the risk of a Shark bite
  • the more divers are present, the higher the risk of a Shark bite
  • the more dives are being conducted, the higher the risk of a Shark bite
  • the closer the divers and the Sharks interact, and the more frequently those interactions occur, the higher the risk of a Shark bite - meaning that protocols are incredibly important!
And then there's also the element of location, i.e. where those baited Shark dives are being conducted.
They are obviously being conducted where there are Sharks (dooh...) - but often, they are even located where Sharks aggregate naturally to mate and feed, e.g. around Dyer and Seal Islands in South Africa, the Neptunes in Southern Australia, Guadalupe, etc., meaning that those places are more dangerous to start with, something one may want to consider when analyzing the data.

But then again, maybe the above is a fallacy.
Maybe Shark dives habituate the Sharks to the presence of people, meaning that they become more relaxed or "tame" and thus refrain from biting. Let's not forget that agonistic (= essentially, defensive) behavior may well be one of the principal causes of Shark bites on divers! And if we put too many divers in the water, the Sharks may well decide to simply go away.
Yes as always it's complicated!

So how about it.
Will those guys finally let somebody analyze those data, and will those stupid assertions be finally outed for what they really are, nothing but rubbish and completely unsupported and probably even falsified by the very data collected by the people proffering them!

PS Patric here (thanks!) and Jillian here!
PS great comment on the attacks here!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Zombie Ecosystems!

Painting of intact coral reef - increasingly becoming science fiction.

Please read this.

Not much to add is there.
I know that Rick the Mac and others are attending, so expect more informed analyses to hit the blogosphere soon.

After the folly of Ipanema the question remains.
Where is the f&%@ing leadership?

PS great post by RTSea here!
PS2 dissenting opinion here!

Surprise!

Very dapper indeed! :)

Cool!

Photographer and Shark Expert Jim Abernethy thought he was getting some photographs and video of a blue marlin, but he wasn't alone.

Photographed in the Bahamas in May along with Guy Harvey and the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. For more on sharks and the problems they face, check out the new film, This is Your Ocean: Sharks.

Enjoy! :)



Saturday, July 14, 2012

Empty Seas!


Got no time for writing lengthy posts right now.
Thankfully, there's plenty of other good Sharky stuff out there.

Case in point, this post by CJA Bradshaw.
Cory is one of the foremost thinkers in Conservation, and a brilliant blogger to boot. Please do take the time to explore the links, and the links contained therein. It's the disheartening saga of how Indonesia is annihilating its Elasmobranchs - and having personally witnessed the shocking decline I may add: all other Fishes as well, small and big alike!
This has led to the rise of poaching along Australia's Northern coast and with South-East Asian fisheries in general not being far behind, these developments are the likely driver of the rise of Shark fishing in the Pacific, Latin America and possibly even Africa.

Indeed: holy f&%k!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pew - new Bible!

According to trade data from the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong, 83 countries exported more than 10.3 million kilograms (22.7 million pounds) of shark fin products to Hong Kong in 2011 - click for detail!

Kudos, once again, to Pew.

Someone there has been working really, really hard.
The result: the most comprehensive compendium of Shark management and conservation measures to-date. Navigating Global Shark Conservation Measures: Current Measures and Gaps is a remarkable feat of meticulous research and when coupled with the other excellent resources by Pew, it offers all the information and arguments every Shark conservationist should dispose of.

Executive Summary here, full report here - synopses here and here.
Or article here - the Bull is Nani, pic by Vitaly.

Required reading for everybody!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Barnacle Fishermen!


David is right.
This is a really, really nice documentary!

Enjoy!



Story here - equally brilliant Making Of here!

Taiwan and Spain - again!

Albacora Uno - habitual Spanish poacher.

Read this.

Same old same old.
After having annihilated their own Fish stocks, Taiwanese and Spanish distant water vessels are now poaching in the Pacific - and not only them and not only there!

But in the end, it's also our fault.
For some reason I shall never quite comprehend, those nations are given a seat and alas, also a vote within the local RFMOS where they successfully prevent any sensible management measures, like at the last catastrophic meeting of the IATTC. And what is even worse, they are then even accorded fishing licenses where they then proceed to reap and pillage like they have always done, and this very much at the expense of the local fishing industry (and here!).

Huge kudos to the Marshals for having caught them red-handed.
And yes, They are protecting sharks and don't even have a reality TV show!!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July: Fijian Bull Sharks!

Click for detail and save as to download!

Great!
The SOSF has posted its July Calender and guess what, these are our Sharks, photographed from the exact same spot where we placed Lill! Needless to say that not being one of the dreaded semis but a full-time pro, Peter Verhoog was awarded full honors - and no, his bodyguard did not scream like a girl, either!

Having said that, there was plenty to body guard!
The viz was absolutely dreadful, meaning that the Sharks were frisky and in yer face - very much to the delight of Peter but very much not to that of Tubee! BTW, this is a major cleanup job in Photoshop, so kudos to the photographer for both, the pic and the post production!

Do you like it?
If so, you can download it in lowest resolution from the top, or there are much higher resolution versions available here, along with the past months. And you can check out many more pics from the SRMR right here - stellar stuff!

Peter: Hartelijk bedankt!

Shark Shepherds - Diplomacy huh!

Good question!

Sometimes I hate to be right.
The Ueber-Angel's floating babemobile is on its way to Fiji (!) and somebody has had the simply brilliant idea to try and use the Fijian media to put pressure on government to reconsider its ban.
Same old same old - zero respect, just the usual shenanigans and strong-arm tactics, and this not in order to achieve results but merely in order to star, or whatever, in a sensationalist reality show.

From the article
The ship left Honiara yesterday for its Shark Angels mission in the South Pacific where it aims to help stop the killing and finning of sharks on the high seas...

So what about the assertion that
Hunting down shark finning boats was never part of the plan, and neither was the media involvement - just idle talk and outright lies?
This is not diplomacy and outreach; this has either been some pathetically amateurish attempt at disinformation - or it is the symptom of some major clusterfuck and messaging disaster where the laudable intentions of many are being highjacked by the megalomania of a few.
And the SA brand? Who cares - right?

Here's a thought.
When it comes to Shark conservation, both the Solomons and Vanuatu have nothing.
How about stopping there and doing some real, hard work. It'll take several years but what the heck - wasn't it about going where nobody dares to go, or whatever, for the Sharks?

To be continued no doubt!

PS: stellar post by Patric here!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lill photographing Bull Sharks!

Great pic - and now you know where and how it was taken!

This is way cool, check it out.



The location is obviously the SRMR.
This is the lower pit is in 25m that we use as an alternative to the usual location in 15m. We go there in the off season when the Bulls are extremely shy, when there's too much surge and also, when the theromcline with the clear water is deep like after a lot of rain.

Great pics and surprisingly good footage, well done!
Despite being one of the dreaded semi-professional uw photogs (would you ever consult a semi-professional lawyer or MD?), Lill is really one of us and is thus sitting in the hot spot, very much with a bodyguard at her side - so don't get any ideas here, it's simply not gonna happen!
Just saying!

Enjoy Lill's video!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Shark Overpopulation???

Too many Sharks? I wish!

Really???
Did USP Marine School head Joeli Veitiyaki really say this???

For now, I'm assuming that the journo has made an error.
Maybe Joeli said something on the lines of if we don't stop overfishing, Shark populations will remain depressed, or the like.

At least, that's the hope.
But just for the record: the campaign aims at halting the precipitous decrease of Fiji's Sharks which would have devastating effects on marine ecosystems!
Apart from the truly remarkable event of witnessing a marine academic speak out against urgently required marine conservation measures, claiming that Sharks would ever overpopulate, or whatever, would reveal a catastrophic ignorance of Shark biology and of the role they play in their habitats, and of the most basic and fundamental insights of Ecology!
Sharks out-breeding their spawning prey??? And, what about predator/prey relationships, feedback loops, trophic cascades etc???
Really???

Protecting the nurseries?
Certainly, but this on top of a blanket protection of Sharks, this in order to protect them against incidental mortality when they reside in one of the most important hot spots!

So here's to it having been a mistake.
And: to seeing a correction in the Fiji Times!

South Pacific Projects - impressive!

Source.

Remember Alisi?

I just found her again right here.
Great to see that her advocacy for Sharks was not just a fad but that it is continuing even after the spotlight has moved on.
Kudos & Vinaka Vaka Levu!

The link alerts me to the SPP and I must say, I am impressed.
This is good local conversation, done smartly, consensually and inclusively and above all, quietly - just the way I like it and also, just the way it works! I invite you to explore that website as it is an excellent template for how things need to be done in Fiji, if not the SoPac in general.
And I also do like this!

Kudos!

H/T: Shark Defenders!


Saturday, July 07, 2012

Certified Shark Fins - redux!

The Shark fin trade - unsustainable and unmonitored

David's post keeps on giving!

Check out the comment by KT Tan at the end of the comments thread.
I'm being told that KT is a well known troll in the Asian press, and I should really not be feeding him - but his comments echo those by Carlie Lim of the HK Shark fin traders' association, and even those by the infamous Giam of CITES. It's crafty stuff that latches on to the bullshit propagated by what Sam calls verbose, passionate, on-line activists, and it cleverly mixes fact & fiction to weave a narrative of western imperialism and disrespect of Chinese culture.
Are we just gonna let it stand?

But worry not - I'm not gonna be suckered into feeding the troll.
Yes of course he is right about the bloody unhelpful generalization and hyperbole by the sharktivist fringe - but then comes a whole list of disinformation and rhetoric that has been brilliantly addressed and thoroughly debunked by Shark Savers here and here, so I really need not rack my brain for further clever rebuttals.

Where I want to go with this post is somewhere else.
Tan states the following
Ultimately, the moral/ethical question that arises is this : Should we eat shark’s fin soup at all?
My answer is that we should not if sharks are an endangered species, just like we do not eat whales, dolphins, tigers, elephants. bears, white sturgeons, snow leopard or panda bears etc.
Yup, and apart from not eating them, we should also not bloody buy products resulting from the poaching of endangered Tigers, Rhino, Bears and Elephants - right?

And since we're at it.
What about the bile of tortured Bears, or the meat of tortured or inhumanely killed cattle; or blood diamonds and gold that finance civil wars and genocide - and this irrespective of whether they were "legally" obtained from some murderous dictator or his militia! Or cocoa (= chocolate) and garments produced by child labor or in sweat shops - and this irrespective of whether child labor and sweat shops are being tolerated in the country of provenience! Or coffee and bananas where the growers are not getting a fair price - and this irrespective of whether the middlemen have purchased them legally! Or the products of the drug cartels - and the list goes on and on and on!
See where this is leading?

So what about those fins.
Yes the 500-odd Sharks are not all endangered - but it just so happens that the majority of the species whose fins are being traded are!
And let there also be no doubt that the only legitimate organization that assesses whether a Shark is threatened is the IUCN!
Certainly not CITES that is a politically and economically driven trade organization where several predominantly Asian countries have successfully prevented the listing of Sharks, this by "convincing" a minority to block the vote of a majority, very much like many predominantly Asian countries are undermining the decision making process within the RFMOs and using development aid to then go and reap and pillage in distant countries!

The facts are crystal clear.
Most Shark fisheries are being badly managed or not managed at all, and whereas it is correct to demand that the relevant countries must enact better management measures, it is never-the less equally correct to state that as long as they don't, one should not buy those fins. The same applies to fins that have been poached, or that have been traded through criminal cartels, or purchased from greedy middle men who cheat the fishermen - those fins should even be declared to be illegal. And the same definitely applies to fins that come from Sharks that have been cruelly finned, and from Sharks that are endangered!
That's got nothing to do with cultural discrimination - those are just the perfectly ordinary and increasingly stringent ethical guidelines of any trade, see the examples above!

And yet, the Shark fin trade remains completely non-transparent and unmonitored - to the point that one can easily purchase fins of GWs, and that shops and restaurants proudly display fins of Whale Sharks that have been obviously poached and traded in contravention of CITES Appendix II!
As long as that is the case, that trade needs to be boycotted - and where necessary, especially when there are criminal elements in play, it is perfectly legitimate that the authorities intervene with legislative bans!

Any good news for the traders?
Yes: there exist well managed and perfectly legal Shark fisheries!
I see no reason whatsoever why the fins from those legal and sometimes even reputable food fisheries for Dogfish, Thresher, Mako or the Sharks that aliment the appetite for flake should not be used for that soup!
Have those fins certified, document their provenience, brand them as sustainable and you may even succeed in selling them at a premium, much like, say, pole-caught Skipjack!

So here's the deal.
Prove that you're not exploiting poor fishermen or developing nations that don't have the means to properly manage Sharks and/or enforce their own laws; prove that you're not encouraging poaching and retention of live bycatch, and that you are not buying your products from criminal cartels; prove that you're not profiting from cruel, wasteful and unsustainable fishing practices!

That's the only way you will survive as an industry.
And if so, godspeed - and to your customers, as long as they really want to eat that stuff: bon appetit and enjoy your freedom of choice, individual predilections and cultural traditions!

And if not, face the consequences: the boycotts, the bans and the criminal prosecution.
The choice is yours.

Mary? :)

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Sea Shepherd in the South Pacific?


First things first: read this.
The Fiji Blog is the official blog of Fiji's Ministry of Information.

What followed was a flurry of e-mails.
My friends being who they are, there was a lot of laughing, smirking and conspiratorial winking - so for the record: Beqa Adventure Divers have nothing whatsoever to do with that.
We are a foreign owned company and have no bearing whatsoever on what Fiji's government do and say. As Sea Shepherd HK's fiery Gary Stokes reveals, we limit our activities to feeding Sharks for money and to pursuing our ego-driven campaigns - and yes, we generally just stand on the sidelines and claim to be conservationists whilst having the audacity to critique others for actually doing something!
Well said!

PS! Gary has reached out & we're cool - I think. :)

Anyway.
What we did do, was to politely turn down a request by the SSCS for a few days of filming in the SRMR. As I said here, we want nothing to do with the dolphinization of Sharks, and we also certainly don't want to be in any way associated with Sea Shepherd's radical brand of conservation.
Having met him years ago, I don't like him much - but I do respect Watson for being one of the preeminent marine conservation activists. What I however hate are the personality cult, the hyperbole, the bullshit media, and the fanaticism and glaringly uncritical adulation by his devote followers - and let's not forget the simply atrocious poetry, barf!

Remember?
And if not...


Huge H/T to David!!!

Oh yes yes, I'm critiquing - again!

We were reinforced in our decision when a SSCS representative started making the rounds here in Fiji.
There was talk of an Animal Planet shoot, of two vessels coming here to hunt for illegal Shark finners, of roping in Ratu Epeli, of buxom bimbettes frolicking with Sharks etc. - in brief, some kind of Shark Wars, or whatever, combined with the usual self promotion by the Shark Angels, both of which I particularly despise.

But now, I read this.
Looks like someone has been listening, as this is really rather good, and kudos for that!

But is this the whole story?
You be the judge of that.



Well well.
Looks like nothing has changed after all.

I say, this is not the Pacific Way.
Nobody is asking anybody to put his life on the line (or was it, putting her life online? Detail detail!), and we down here have zero need for self-appointed deputy sheriffs, the more as this could once again lead to unwelcome political implications.
What we do require is intelligent, informed, committed and passionate people who help in advocating and then, implementing locally appropriate Shark management and conservation strategies, and this in a constructive, respectful and consensual way. This means hard, quiet and persistent work on the ground, and pursuing strategies that are diametrically opposed to Watson's interventionist approach.
This also means providing for resources for capacity building, monitoring, enforcement and prosecution - meaning time, talent and money and not foreign vessels playing policeman whilst starring for sensationalist reality shows.

Long story short?
Better change the playbook - or you'll be quickly celebrating the requiem for Operation Requiem!
My honest advice - free of charge!

PS: David - brilliant!
PS2: Patric on the Watson Doctrine & con-ninnies here!

And the saga continues...

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Fiji - the End Game?

Bull Sharks in the SRMR - hopefully soon protected throughout Fiji!

Looks like it's crunch time.

A submission for the Fiji Shark Sanctuary shall be ready this month.
Then, Cabinet may approve it, or it may send it back for amendments, or for even more consultations like it has done last December. Please do check out the Fiji Shark Defenders page where you may, or may not be asked to lend your support.

This time, I am really hopeful.
Everybody including the Tuna industry has had a chance to state their views and I firmly believe that the Department of Fisheries is going to duly consider them in their submission.

And then comes the difficult part.
There will be a need for awareness campaigns, capacity building, monitoring, enforcement and prosecution - and above all, for finding the resources to pay for that all. The way I see it, the latter will very much depend on the exact wording of any decree. The more exceptions and loopholes it contains, the more people will cheat and the more difficult and expensive it will be to implement.

Keep watching this space for any further developments.
Fingers crossed!

China - monumental!


Wow.

Read this.
If the Chinese government has really decided to abolish the soup at its functions, there's a real chance that they may be swayed to get further involved in Shark conservation.
And if so, such a top down approach would be enormously effective, and this on a global scale.

Wow.

PS a few more details here.