Monday, December 31, 2012

Amazing Diving Stories - get it!


Wonderful book!
I just found the time to read it, and could not put it down!
A collection of thrilling diving stories. 
There's everything from classic tales of wreck discoveries to encounters with beautiful and bizarre creatures beneath the waves. There are stories of death and disaster as well as bravery and triumph.Each tale has been chosen to stoke the fire of divers armchair and some are illustrated with colour photographs. Take the plunge and read about the diver who discovered how to put sharks in a trance and the marine biologist who lost a limb trying to proving that sharks were safe to swim with. There's the tale behind the Red Sea's most famous wreck, as well the Titanic's sister ship that keeps claiming divers' lives. Read about the politician attacked by a turtle, the saltwater crocodile that lost a sub--aqua scuffle and the eel feeding frenzy that almost claimed a life. The exciting and the extreme rub shoulders with more poetic pieces about the people and places that make up the folklore of this fascinating sport, and some are even brought to life by the author's photography. This global tour takes you everywhere: from Indonesia to the Caribbean and from the chill waters of Northern Europe to the reefs of the Pacific. Stories of technical pioneers are accompanied by quirky tales of adventure beneath the waves. 
Every ocean of the world is explored making this essential reading -- or a wonderful gift -- for divers everywhere.
Indeed!
John Bantin is one of the great storytellers in the diving word, has been everywhere and seen it all - and he's great company and a very funny guy on top of that! This is a must read - inclusive of his description of the Fiji Shark Dive in the Shark Reef Marine Reserve and for the irreducible Shark apologists among you, a harrowing but truthful account of how two OWTs killed and consumed a diver! 

Absolutely riveting, highly recommended!

Cristina - troppo carino!

Posted with permission - click for detail.

Totally cute!

Now Cristina got it all.
A statue by Victor, a painting by Pascal, an apparel line by Neptunic - and now even a doll like the Boo Boo!
And (!) an honorary feeder's job with BAD! :)

Happy New Year everybody!

Shark eats Shark!

Click for detail!

Hmmm...
A GW eating a smaller GW like the story wants us to believe?

Don't think so!
Maybe a Blue (= long pec, heterocercal tail) eating a small species like a Tope?

Opinions?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cyclone Freda!


Yes there is already the next one!

You can check it out here, nasty!
Poor Solomons, Vanuatu and New Caledonia!
Let's just hope it tracks South without affecting us like all forecasts anticipate - the last one has been plenty enough thank you!

Sanctuaries in Name Only?


No no no no!
Mark this day because for once, I do not at all agree with Patric!

Prescient my ass!
That letter is about as bad as it gets, and stupid to boot!

Of course Sanctuaries work!
Claiming otherwise is just plain stupid - and you sure don't need to go squandering resources for some big peer-reviewed paper to come to the conclusion that if Shark fishing is outlawed, an overriding portion of the fishermen will stop doing so!
Yes the stereotype of the ever-cheating fisherman is certainly grounded in experience - and still, that's undoubtedly the minority! The vast majority of the local fishers are law abiding citizens and will observe the new law once they have been made aware of the changes, promise!
And the foreigners, as in distant water fleets? That's more tricky, see below.

Which brings us straight to the enforcement.
No, it won't cost millions of dollars, and this is why.

What constitutes the "best" conservation strategy is always situation- and species specific.
Here we're talking about the pros and cons of Shark Sanctuaries, i.e. generally speaking places where  the commercial exploitation of Sharks  is banned - meaning that each and every landed or traded Shark or fin is illegal by definition, a fact that greatly simplifies enforcement when compared to management plans. 
We're also talking, at least until now, about small developing countries where everybody knows everybody, and where as a consequence, hiding one's activities, at least on land, is virtually impossible.

In a simplified way, we're usually dealing with two distinct fisheries.

A. Coastal fishery targeting coastal Sharks.

Obviously, one cannot monitor every coastal fisher.
But the good news is, we don't have to! What we want to tackle is the situation whereby coastal fishermen target Sharks commercially for their fins, thus catching many more than they would ever consume in a subsistence fishery.
Inevitably, those fins get sold to intermediaries who aggregate and often dry them, and then ship them to Asia. It is those fin traders that are the bottleneck in the supply chain and consequently, it is they who need to be targeted - which is easy and cheap as they are relatively few, everybody knows who they are and the activity all but impossible to hide.
And once the demand they represent has been eliminated, the fishermen will stop killing those surplus Sharks!

B. Offshore fishery targeting pelagic Sharks

That's quite a bit more tricky - but then again, maybe not so much.
Local vessels usually land their catch locally where it once again ends up with the fin dealers. Foreign distant water vessels on the other hand are inevitably declared to be Tuna vessels and operate on licenses - and at least here in the SoPac, this implies that they have to carry observers. Once one changes the mandate of those observers to not only monitor Tuna quotas but also prevent the retention of Sharks, much of that activity can be curtailed.

Will there be shenanigans?
Undoubtedly so, namely trans-shipment at sea and poaching, the latter especially in countries close to Asia like Palau where specialized poachers can dash in and back out - but overall, I am convinced that fishing and trading volumes will be greatly reduced compared to prior to the declaration of the Sanctuary!

In brief, by being smart, creative, efficient and effective, one can shut down or at least greatly limit Shark fishing and the fin trade with very little resources indeed! 
And this especially if the enforcement is backed by good prosecution and even more so, by draconian fines - see examples of legislation here, the example on page 14ff being the failed legislation for the Fiji Shark Sanctuary Decree which would have been the most exhaustive and stringent legislation at that time.
In fact this example from the Marshals shows that enforcement can even become financially self sustaining, and this on top of the financial benefits of good PR (= tourism) and a healthier ocean yielding more Fish! 

So no, these are not SINOs as numbers are undoubtedly down and enforcement is actually happening, and no there is no need to wait before declaring further sanctuaries!

And the alternative?
What about the properly designed, implemented, and enforced fisheries management plans that David advocates in this post that I encourage everybody to read?
In theory, I cannot but agree that this is by far the best long term solution.
In practice, however, it is just wishful thinking, at least when it comes to the developing word. It just aint gonna happen, at least not in the foreseeable future - and we just cannot afford to sit by idly and wait, hence the advocacy of sanctuaries and fin bans as stop gap measures!

The reason is obviously lack of resources.
Assuming that somebody could assist in designing them, David's perfect management plans would be extremely detailed and complicated, and because of that, the implementation and especially the monitoring and enforcement would become equally complicated and above all, extremely costly. As an example, a NPoA Sharks would have to encompass different rules for different species and possibly even regions and time frames. On top of being confusing for the fishermen, this would e.g. require the enforcers to differentiate between "legal" and "illegal" Sharks and fins, and this between species but often even within the same species (e.g. think region- or vessel-specific quotas) and opening up loopholes as big as barn doors. 
Developing nations just don't have the funds and the staff to do this, at least not properly, meaning that the enforcement would be woefully inadequate and that the management goals would not be reached. 
Fiji beware - but happy to be proven wrong!

And what about sustainable fishing, the ultimate goal?
At least for me, sanctuaries are merely stop gap measures aimed at preserving what needs preserving right now before it is too late. This means that I'm fully in favor of adding provisions whereby exemptions can be grated for the establishment of sustainable fisheries for Sharks.
But let me repeat: let the fishing industry and the traders fund the according research and let them come up with substantiated and detailed proposals via reputable third-party certifications - much like an ecological impact assessment!

Long story short?
Advocating both sanctuaries and sustainable fishing is not mutually exclusive - it is about finding the best solutions for determined situations at a determined time, and to be willing to accept change whenever adequate. Right now, sanctuaries and fin bans are far cheaper and easier to implement and thus far more efficient and effective, especially in the developing word - but long-term, sustainable fishing is by far the better solution.

So let's be more practical and less dogmatic shall we?  

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Must-have Toy?


Check this out!




Is this cool, or what!
The DJI Phantom quadcopter retails for approx. 650 bucks and comes fully loaded and ready to fly - to me, it sure looks like the newest and best gizmo to add that certain je ne sais quoi to your GoPro Hero 3 footage!

Just saying!

EunJae Im - very nice!

Source.

Great footage!
I've been very lucky to dive a lot of amazing place this year. 
This is short compilation of some footage from 2012. 
Shot on Canon 7D and 5D Mark III in Nauticam.
EunJae's website is here.
Enjoy!



Friday, December 28, 2012

DaSchiffmann on the Sharktivist Myths!


Brilliant post!

And for once,  I agree with 99.99% of it.
More soon.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Oh yes they are running!

Click for detail!

Sorry for the lousy quality!

It's because of Evan.
We've had a lot of crap being swept down the rivers and the viz is just starting to recover - not quite there yet but at least we did see some blue water trying to creep over to Shark Reef from the open ocean. The way I see it, things should be back to normal in 1-2 days and if so I'll post something better, promise!

But boy what a dive!
They're big, they're hungry and they are definitely back!
Whilst the males are still lurking further off and likely fully engrossed in doing the dirty mating deed, the big females have turned up in big numbers. I don't see many mating scars quite yet, meaning that these are likely to be those females who have given birth and won't mate for another year, and maybe some that are not quite ready for sex - but they sure were ready to come and get a meal, and this uncomfortably assertively and close! For those of you in the know, we were not able to hand feed at all on the first dive and on the second, back in 15m, Rusi barely managed to hand out three Tuna heads before having to retreat behind the wall!

But of course I'm not complaining.
Great that so many old timers (Crook - 10 years now!) have made it back, and even better to see a whole new generation of youngsters who have likely followed the females out of the rivers and will now have to learn the etiquette!


A Conspiracy by the Scientists?


Think again!
One thing that has simultaneously amused, disheartened, angered and outraged me over the past decade or so is how anyone in their right mind could even suggest that scientists band together into some sort of conspiracy to dupe the masses.
The idea that a conspiracy could form among scientists ignores one of the most fundamental components of scientific progress – dissension. And hell, can we dissent!
Well-informed non-scientists might understand, or at least, appreciate that process. But few people outside the sciences have even the remotest clue about what a real pack of bastards we can be to each other. 
Use any clich̩ or descriptor you want Рit applies: dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest, jugular-slicing ninjas, or brain-eating zombies in lab coats.
Wonderful blog post by Corey!
Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Shark Sanctuaries: only Spin?

Polynesia Shark Sanctuary - the latest and biggest!

Oh for crying out loud!
Have a look at this shit.
Shark Sanctuaries: Substance or Spin? 

As Shark populations collapse and public concern rises, some national governments have established shark sanctuaries. 
These countries, such as Marshall Islands, Maldives, and Venezuela, have been touted to be “safeguarding” (1) and “protecting” (2) sharks. The Marshall Islands sanctuary was hailed as the “strongest legislation to protect sharks we have seen” (3). Fiji bucked the trend recently by deciding not to declare their national waters a sanctuary, thereby attracting press attention and criticism (4). 

This raises the question: What are shark sanctuaries, and does their creation result in effective shark conservation and management? 
Given that studies show shark populations are declining mainly as a result of overfishing (5, 6), no-take marine zones might seem like a logical and effective way to curb mortality and boost populations. However, what constitutes a sanctuary varies among countries, and often is not synonymous with no-take zones. For example, the Marshall Islands bans commercial fishing yet allows small-scale fishing of sharks (7). The Maldives has banned commercial fishing only in waters out to 12 nautical miles (8), and Venezuela has banned commercial shark fishing in less than 1% of their waters (9). 

Even with sufficiently protective bans, shark sanctuary creation is only the first step; the real challenge is ensuring effectiveness through strict monitoring and enforcement (10, 11), which requires sustainable financing. 
Indeed, Fiji’s offshore fisheries officer stressed difficulties with monitoring and enforcing a total ban on shark fishing (12). Alternatively, allocating capacity toward scientific data collection would allow experts to evaluate effectiveness of management measures and inform long-term regional and global population assessments. 

Shark sanctuaries provide hope, but there is no scientific evidence that they are effective—yet. Even worse, the positive press attention surrounding shark sanctuaries may preclude more effective conservation management. 
Sanctuaries should not substitute for rigorous, science-based management. 

LINDSAY N. K. DAVIDSON Earth to Ocean Research Group, Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, V5A 1S6, Canada. E-mail: ldavidso@sfu.ca

Even worse?????
Just great isn't it.

What a fucking disaster!
Local fisheries, of Sharks and otherwise, are at a fraction of 1960ies baselines, fisheries management in most developing countries is either non-existent  or severely lacking - and this stupid chit has the audacity to go sniping against Shark sanctuaries, playing right into the hands of the fishing industry?

What is this, the bloody uprising of the nerds?
Had the bloody fish management intelligentsia done their bloody job and bloody managed our fish stocks sustainably, there would be no bloody need for us conservationists to advocate sanctuaries and bans in the first place! 
How about you get off your fat arses, stop trying to cover up your own track record of dismal failures and for once go and do the job we all pay you for with our hard earned money! How about you come up with some results instead of wasting everybody's time with your stupid uhhming and aahing! How about no more expensive and useless committees and junkets, paper shuffling and procrastination but some actual field work, hard decisions and tangible progress instead! How about finally invoking the precautionary principle everybody agrees upon in theory but nobody has the guts to implement!
If I had it my way, each and everyone of you would have been kicked out of the door a long time ago - would have been real good fun to look at you trying to survive out there in the cold, with real timelines, deliverables and personal accountability!

Ain't gonna happen is it.
Instead, we the conservationists will continue to have to allocate our time and our resources to try and clean up the mess you have caused. 
Want us to start pointing fingers and calling names?

So here's the deal.
We're all sick and tired of the continued lack of support by some quarters within the scientific community. Either become part of the solution or at least have the grace to finally shut the f up and stop trying to derail the process you have been too stupid and/or lazy and/or corrupt and/or cowardly to implement in the first place!
And start bloody earning the money you keep asking us for!
.
End of rant - Merry Xmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012

No smoking Gun!


George and Collier, eat your heart out!
This is how you do it!

Great piece!
Kudos, again, to Carl Meyer and also to his mentor Kim Holland, the Big Silverback at the Hawaiian Shark Lab!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Al Jazeera about the WA Shark Controversy!


Did I just say "tomorrow" ?
I misspoke!

Excellent program, check it out!



No I'm not going to comment, at least not in depth.

Just this.
It is good to see a nuanced and balanced report on the issue, and that some calm and rationality is returning after the initial emotional outbursts on both sides of the divide. Talking of which, it is sadly not surprising to witness the woefully inadequate contribution, or whatever, by the conservation activist. Just embarrassing - all the way to seeing it fit to invoke the moronic oxygen myth no less!

And yes I'll certainly leave it at that, the more as I would be repeating myself!

1500!

Somewhat satanic? According to some, most definitely! :)

Yikes!

Yes, this would be post # 1500!
Quite honestly, I really don't know what possessed us to start posting in 2006 - but more puzzlingly, to persevere until today! 
Trust me, like anybody who runs a blog knows all too well, there have been many, many occasions where we've nearly thrown in the towel in utter disgust and frustration - and yet, having managed to survive a grand total of two raptures and one apocalypse, here we are! I guess it's like having an affair with a high maintenance mistress - can't live with her, can't live without her!

But of course it has been loads of fun, too.
And looking back, there sure has been plenty of Evolution, from vocal and passionate Shark conservation activism to advocating a much more nuanced, fact-based, pragmatic and solution-oriented approach - and alas, to a much more cynical view of the state of affairs, this especially when it comes to the "movement" and its various representatives!
Talking of which, this year's recap is once again gonna be interesting, so keep watching this space! :)

And going forward?
For the time being, expect more of the usual topics: marine and Shark conservation, Shark research, industry thoughts and notable Shark media, all interspersed with random and utterly senseless fluff - and yes, with the usual liberal sprinkle of toothy rants, too!
We will also continue to ignore Shark attacks and following a recent decision, we are completely bowing out from acknowledging each and every fad, twist and turn in Global Shark Conservation, especially those frothy petitions and social media excesses that we've long subsumed under the moniker Dolphinization of Shark Conservation. 
Instead, we will selectively pick and choose what we deem worthy of mentioning - either because we support it or more likely, because we hate it!

Long story short?
The show will go on - for now!

Talk tomorrow!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Manta Rays - Info!

Likely a Reef Manta - great pic by Lill.

Great job by Shawn!

This is of course part of Manta Ray of Hope
The Mantas are hopefully slated for a positive vote at next year's CITES convention. I've not been blogging about it much because things right now continue to be very much in flux. What I hear, at least for the Mantas, is encouraging although there may be opposition due to the lack of data about the appalling gill raker trade - which would be the stupidest of arguments.
With only one baby every several years, Mantas are extremely vulnerable to overfishing and populations are not likely to rebound once fished out - so let's do something now and not only once it is too late!

Anyway, enjoy!



Yes this is a Drawing!

Click for detail!

Amazing!
Story here, original pic by Brandon Cole here.

21.12.12 11:11 UTC

And... ?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Carl Meyer - thank you!

Carl Meyer and Yannis Papastamatiou from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Source.

This is as good as it gets.
Another issue which has generated a lot of heat here in Hawaii and elsewhere is shark cage diving ecotourism. 
These activities have proven hugely controversial
We’ve done a fair bit of work on the one here on Oahu, including a meta analysis of logbook data and tracking long-term movements of sharks captured at the cage diving sites -
the takeaway message is that there’s absolutely no scientific evidence whatsoever that the existing operations off Oahu are a threat to public safety, which has been people’s major concern.
Full interview here.
It's a great read that touches on many sometimes controversial topics and is garnished with many useful links - much too exhaustive and also, much to good to be synthesized in an abbreviated synopsis.

Once again - required reading!
Enjoy!

Greenpeace - roughing it on the High Seas!

Esperanza - helping to enforce Palau's Shark sanctuary.

And talking about Greenpeace.

Cute video!
And incidentally, the enforcement assistance by their fleet is everything Julie Andersen's pleasure cruise was not - and then some!

Anyway yes, I'm digressing as always.
Enjoy!



Thursday, December 20, 2012

Greenpeace - promoting sustainably caught Tuna!

Coles Tuna - after hand-caught now FAD-free!

Bravo Greenpeace and Coles!
Coles Australia will only buy sustainably caught, i.e. FAD-free and pole-and-line caught Tuna by 2015. This is the latest in a series of big Australian supermarket chains to do so - good overview here.

And for you Dolphin-huggers.
FAD-free Tuna from the Western Pacific is also largely Dolphin-safe because this is about  Skipjack and South Pacific Albacore that do not associate with Dolphins - and even if it were Yellowfin, those from the Western Pacific  don't generally associate with Dolphins like in the Eastern Pacific.
Regarding the latter, if you have not already done so, I urge you to read David's epic posts on the matter - and if you have, read them again! :)

Incidentally and contrary to the Bigeye, both the Western Pacific Skipjack and SP Albacore are not currently being overfished - great overview here and more resources here.

But I'm digressing as always.
What I wanted to say is, helping to establish sustainable brands and markets is smart conservation - and as the market grows, the sustainably caught Tuna does not even have to cost more than the conventional one!
Everybody wins - the consumers, the Tuna, the bycatch species and ultimately the fishermen who can look forward to long term income!

Please do listen to this stellar interview.
Nathaniel Pelle is an oceans campaigner at Greenpeace Australia Pacific and he comes across as extremely well informed, fact-based, pragmatic and thus compelling.
Great stuff that also sheds a cold light on the appalling shenanigans happening within the WCPFC.

Now.
Is this a good thing, or what!
And if so, why is everybody so adamantly against doing the same for Sharks - for the meat and for the fins?

Please give it some thought - seriously!
Because in reality, it would be the exact same thing!

Improving Marine Conservation in the Developing World?

Dwindling resources. Source. Yes these are links!

Excellent post!
Please do take the time to read it!

And I cite.
NGOs in developing countries are instead focusing on simple conservation projects that they themselves administer and implement or which are done in collaboration with small communities. This is troubling as NGOs will never alone have the capacity and communities the scope necessary to succeed in the widespread conservation of fisheries in the developing world.

I argue that environmental NGOs absolutely must change their government engagement strategy if it truly wants to improve state capacity for fisheries management and succeed their mission to preserve ocean resources for future generations.
Could not agree more!
Mark Gibson clearly knows what he is talking about and I really enjoy discovering his thoughts on Breaching the Blue, the more as everything is always meticulously documented via links.

His five points?
Great stuff, maybe with one addendum.
When he correctly states that the management of fisheries doesn’t ‘pay’. Most fisheries in the world are considered public resources that yield private benefits for fishermen, and yet fisheries taxes are relatively rare. Compare this to the timber or mining industries where royalties are common. And even when there are fisheries taxes, they typically do not cover the full cost of public management my answer obviously is, it is high time for that to change!

Remember this post?
In its second half, it touches on the exact same problem and basically proposes to advocate a marine version of ecological impact assessments whereby the burden of proof is being reversed and the fishing industry is being asked to invest the resources into proving that what they do is sustainable. That's was has been happening on land for a very long time indeed and I just don't see why it cannot be extended to the ocean.
Granted, it cannot be applied to subsistence fishing which is a major problem in itself due to recent demographic developments - but it would immediately free up considerable government resources that could be invested into monitoring and enforcement which so far have been so woefully inadequate.

Please do think about it.
And if you agree, please spread the word - the more we talk about it, the sooner it will happen!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Special Weather Bulletin!


In case you forgot!

Ozzie Sam on TV!

Sam in action - you can admire his stunning pics here and here! And of course here! :)

Yes of course there's also Andrew! :)
Ozzie Sam at 1:10.

Nice!



No zero TACs - nice Try!

Porbeagle caught as bycatch - source.

Read this, once again posted on SYM.

Prima vista, it's a good, rational proposition.
Discards are an abomination and should be abolished - but of course what is intellectually unequivocal becomes extremely intractable once it needs to be translated into concrete management measures, like in the present case. 

The problem?
Given the chance, fishermen will cheat - that's one of the corollaries of the Tragedy of the Commons!
Need I elaborate?

So, let's examine this proposal.
It hinges on several assumptions that actually make total sense.

1. Bycatch is unavoidable.

Correct!
Yes we can greatly reduce bycatch by applying adequate mitigation measures, and kudos to the fishing industry on having identified some in point 4 - which begs the question, are they already being implemented, maybe, gasp, voluntarily?
But yes, some residual bycatch is inevitable.
However
  • Most Shark bycatch comes up alive and should be released alive, whilst in the water as it will likely be killed if hauled up on deck, if only for reasons of convenience and safety.
  • If the retention of bycatch is allowed in general, the fishermen will cheat and establish a targeted fishery and then declare their haul to have been bycatch.
  • If the fishermen are allowed to retain and sell only dead bycatch, they will cheat and find ways of ensuring that the Sharks come up dead, e.g. by extending soak time.
  • All of the above can only be prevented by 100% coverage of (incorruptible) observers, which is extremely cumbersome and expensive - or would the fishermen be willing to foot those costs?
2. The data about Bycatch are valuable for managing the Fishery.

Correct once again!
But of course, the answer to that is to oblige the fishermen to record those data and/or land any specimen that would be required for analysis.

3. Spurdog and Porbeagle are Food that should not be thrown away.

Absolutely!
So what about actually obliging them to land and then, to donate those dead bycaught Sharks - either to the public or to the fishing authorities that could sell them in order to use the proceeds to implement better management measures.!
Betcha that if the fishermen were forced to reserve hold space for uneconomic cargo, bycatch rates would drop like a stone! :)

How about that for a workable solution!
Or am I once again missing something here?

Gauntlet Fishing for Sharks - possibly sustainable?

Ozzie Fish&Chips - usually flake = Gummy Shark. Source.

Great find by Shark Year Magazine!
Check it out - and yes this would be 1956!



Solutions?
Possibly gauntlet fishing, ie to only fish for sub-adult Sharks, ideally within the parameters of natural mortality, whilst sparing the tiny juveniles and the valuable sexually mature Sharks that are the breeders - and incidentally, this applies to all fishing inclusive of game fishing, for Sharks and for other Fishes, too!
This can be achieved by deploying adequate gear that is too big for the juveniles and to weak for the adults and/or by targeting those areas where the sub-adults aggregate. Counter-intuitively, size limits would thus define a minimum and also, a maximum size.
As a proponent of sustainable fishing, I like that - if properly monitored!

As SYM points out, the Australian Gummy Shark fishery is currently being defined as sustainable whereas the School Sharks are still being overfished. 

And what about the fins?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mike Heithaus - cool Dude!

Source.

Check this out.



Great outreach!
I must say, I like the dude.
Yes he's the Crittercam man and yes, he's obviously nuts (Australian Rules Football - in Florida?) - but haven't we seen that before? :)

The fact is that he's an excellent and prolific researcher.
On top of his research in Shark Bay, he also operates with big predators closer to home as per this Shark River Sizzle Reel - and do read this by Jillian the Shark Girl about what it takes to film that stuff!
And whereas he may come across as being somewhat loud (...), I would put that down to infectious enthusiasm - which is the very stuff that fuels us all!

But check it out for yourself.
Now that's what I call marketing! :)



Heithaus & al - fantastic!

"Research" in Shark Bay - don't try this at home!

And talking about non-consumptive risk effects of Sharks.

This is fantastic, seminal stuff!
Alas, 15 years of research results in Shark Bay (check out the list of Sharks and Rays!) are way to exhaustive to be summarized in a blog post, so I really do invite you to spend those 25 bucks and buy the PdF - or could David and Andrew maybe venture a synopsis hint hint?
Please?

Here's a great video.



And here's a teaser from the paper itself.

The best-studied species with respect to multiple layers of anti-predator behaviour in Shark Bay is the dugong. 
In addition to modifying their use of habitats (Wirsing et al. 2007a), microhabitats (Wirsing et al. 2007b) and patches (Heithaus et al. 2007b), they also modify their feeding modes, diving behaviour and duration of behavioural bouts in response to predation. These responses, however, tend to be concentrated in high-risk, shallow habitats and are less pronounced, or even absent, in safer, deep waters. 

As tiger shark numbers increase, dugongs largely switch their foraging behaviour in shallow habitats from excavation, which allows them to access more nutritious seagrass rhizomes but at the cost of creating large plumes of sediment that could mask the approach of a tiger shark, to cropping the less nutritious leaves of A. antarctica, a feeding mode that does not inhibit anti-predator vigilance (Wirsing et al. 2007c). 

Dugongs observed using the excavation feeding tactic make more and shorter dives during periods of high tiger shark abundance than during periods of low shark abundance, whereas dugongs using cropping do not change their diving behaviour as tiger shark catch rates vary (Wirsing et al. 2011). 
This change in diving behaviour is likely to allow excavating dugongs to be vigilant for tiger sharks more often by rising above sediment clouds.

A final anti-predator behaviour identified in dugongs is modification of behavioural sequencing. 
Dugongs in dangerous shallow habitats, but not in deep habitats, more frequently switch between foraging and traveling, and resting and traveling, during periods of high shark abundance (Wirsing and Heithaus 2012). This sequencing adjustment results in individual dugongs avoiding long, continuous bouts of foraging and resting, during which their capacity to detect sharks is inhibited. 

Interestingly, the multiple layers of anti-predator behaviour in dugongs closely mirror those of elk (Cervus elaphus) foraging under the risk from grey wolves (Canis lupus) (Wirsing and Ripple 2011).

Is this way cool or what!
Anyway, enjoy the paper - required reading if you want to be able to talk about top-down effects other than the usual, and rather suspect, trophic cascades.

Don't buy Ugg Boots!

Uggs - nomen est omen, uggly as shit!

Some asshole is spamming this blog.
For months now, I'm being swamped with moronic messages trying to convince me to buy Ugg Boots, at the tune of 10+ comments per day - and thank goodness for comments moderation or you would see them, too!

So there.
Don't buy that crap - they are ugly, the people who are marketing them are total morons and for you vegans out there, they are made out of animal skins!
Yikes!

Shark!


Nice pic!

Found it on the Fiji Tourism FB page, with a link to here.
Matthew dove with us last week and appears to be a real interesting dude. You can read about his global adventures here and I look forward to his description of the dive - and of course, of Evan!

And the lonely Bull?
It's that time of the year where they are skittish - but having said this, at least one pregnant female, Curly, has returned from the nursery, and we're witnessing the first mating scars - meaning that the Running of the Bulls is imminent!

Keep watching this space!

Evan - thar he goes!


Woke up to a gentle breeze & sunshine.

We're now getting northerlies, meaning that we're being sheltered by the mountains - but the Navua has flooded meaning that some of the staff may be in trouble - as well as those in Galoa that is on the ocean and where I'm sure matters have been grim.

The sucker is gone, see here.
Now it's time for a clean up - not much damage at the dive shop but considering that the ocean is brown and covered in debris, we're likely to be back diving as of Friday.
Official updates here - I must say, great job by Government, really!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Evan - personal update!

Evan - starting to move off by this evening

OK power was off but has come back on again.
And I may add - very surprisingly!
A big vinaka to the FEA! :)

We're fine.
Loads of wind but the rain is bearable.
The cyclone is now moving South more to the East than anticipated, meaning that Lautoka to Nadi all the way to Sigatoka are under a hurricane warning, with sustained winds of 190 kmph gusting up to 270. You can see that we're just on the edge  - the tiny speck south of Viti Levu being Beqa, right opposite of where I'm writing from.
Dreadful.

Forecast here.
Story & first pictures here.
Fiji TV news images here.

Evan - right here right now!


You can watch it right here.

So far, down here, things are holding up.
It's 10:30am and the wind is screaming - but the rain is bearable, the house is intact and power is still on.
So far - this will last all day!

I feel for the poor people in the Yasawas.
That's where the center will pass and when I read that close to its centre the cyclone is expected to have average winds of up to 185 kilometres per hour with momentary gusts to 270 kilometres per hour, it will be devastating.
Forecast here.

New Bull Shark Papers!

This is a BIG Tarpon - or a tiny lady! Source.

I've been remiss in not posting about some recent papers.
But now, thanks to Evan, I got time - that is, for as long as we got power!

But first, watch this!



Yes that would be a big-ass Bull Shark!
And yes they do breach!

But over to those papers.
The first is this one of which you can find a nice synopsis here.
Apparently, Bull Sharks have the strongest bite of all Sharks - and whilst they grow, the bite force increases disproportionately (= allometrically) whilst they are young and then increases in a proportionate way (= isometrically) once they are older.

I must say, I like that!
My obligated question to visiting Shark researchers is, why has Evolution selected for the Bulls to be so massive considering that it appears to be a hydrodynamic disadvantage.
My favorite, and most frequent answer is because they are the apex-apex predator that has evolved to also prey on Sharks - and when they do, they are built in order to get the job done and dispatch their prey quickly and without getting injured!

Here are possible explanations from the paper.
About the initial allometric development.
Positive allometry of bite force appears to be largely associated with the earlier stages of life history for this species, perhaps indicative of a “performance gain” allowing bull sharks to attain higher bite forces and access functionally difficult prey earlier in life.
About the high bite force in general.
It is possible that the “over-design” of the feeding mechanisms of large sharks is simply a by-product of large body size, although it may also be tied to functions beyond the initial penetration of the prey item. For example, bull sharks generally inhabit murky waters (Compagno et al., 2005) in which the relocation and recapture of wounded prey is likely difficult. Therefore, a “bite and grip” behavior in which prey is held with extremely forceful jaws (high bite force and high MA) could be an effective strategy. 
This is in contrast to white sharks which may use a “bite, spit and wait” strategy in which wounded prey is left to exsanguinate and is later consumed (Tricas and McCosker, 1984 but see Klimley and Anderson, 1996; Martin et al., 2005). Although bull and white sharks have comparably high bite forces, they appear to be perhaps more excessive in the latter case. 
A “bite and grip” strategy may also be more important for species that use head-shaking to dismember large prey, where a forceful grasp on the swinging food item is necessary to rip tissue and to avoid considerable damage to the teeth and jaws (Gerry et al., 2010). Combined with the dual articulation between the upper and lower jaws (Motta and Wilga, 1995), powerful adduction of the jaws might prevent damage and dislocation.
Very nice :)

I'm however less convinced about this one.
It's thankfully open access so please, do check it out.
If I understand it correctly, it comes to the conclusion that Atlantic Tarpon tread carefully when around large Bull Sharks (which is pretty much trivial - so do we!) to the point of actively avoiding them and even retreating into fresh water systems in order to escape predation by, specifically, Bull Sharks.

Now nobody disputes that large Bulls prey on Tarpon, see below.



But provided that these fishing videos are in fact indicative for what happens naturally, which is not a given - so do other species, foremost of which Great Hammerheads!
Case in point - and kids competing for a Darwin Award!



Now.
Assuming that evolution has selected for Tarpon to escape predation by Sharks by retreating into fresh water systems, which is certainly plausible - is it equally plausible to postulate this specifically with respect to the one Shark that could well decide to follow them inside the rivers if it chose to do so?
Would it not be more plausible to assert that this retreat happened in order to avoid predation by the other, strictly marine large Sharks like Great HHs and Tigers?

And then I find this.
Tarpon are certainly very well adapted to entering fresh water insofar as they can tolerate euryhaline environments (0-47 parts per thousand) and often enter river mouths and bays and travel upstream into fresh water. In addition, tarpon can also tolerate oxygen-poor environments due to a modified air bladder that allows them to inhale atmospheric oxygen.
But this is not limited to this one species. The genus Megalops comprises two species and the Indo-Pacific Tarpon Megalops cyprinoides is equally known to access fresh-water systems all the way to inland lakes - and even the related Ladyfishes that share of the same Order Elopiformes are equally eurhyaline, at least at the juvenile stage.
Are we to believe that all of this has evolved merely in order to avoid predation by specifically, Bull Sharks?

As I said, I'm not convinced.
It's a nice study with interesting techniques and data showing some Shark-Bay-esque displacement effects - but when it comes to the part where our hypotheses outlined above require significant investigation by increasing tracking efforts and gathering further ecological data for sharks, tarpon and their potential prey, I fear that the results will not confirm the link to Bull Shark, at least not specifically.
My hunch is that the Tarpon enter fresh water because they can - in order to hunt in those rich biota and yes, maybe also to avoid Sharks at the time when those aggregate. But to speculate that they may have developed that faculty because they want to specifically avoid Bull Sharks - don't think so.

But I still love you guys - keep up the good work! :)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Evan - Special Weather Bulletin!


Just heard it on the radio.

Can't find a link so here's what I remember.
There is a hurricane warning in effect for the Yasawas and Mamanucas that will bear the brunt of the onslaught, with winds of possibly up to 220 kmph. For you people in the US: that's called a Cat 4-to-5 here but a Cat 3-to-4 in the Atlantic.
On Viti Levu, the strongest effects will be felt in the North and West from Rakiraki to Nadi where the closest approach is expected by approx 3pm tomorrow. That stretch and the Northern Division will also be the most affected by intense wave action and flooding of low lying areas. 
Suva and we down here will be spared the worst but will start experiencing gale force winds starting by tomorrow at approx 5am.

Source

That's what I remember hearing - probably accurate but not guaranteed.

You can observe the progress of Evan here.
Here is the forecast confirming the above, and here is the latest advisory by the FMS.
Good luck everybody - tomorrow is the day!

PS here are links to the bulletin:FBC and FijiVillage