Friday, April 12, 2013

Fischer Reality Check - Comments by Dr. Michael Domeier!

In-water SPOT-tagging of an enormous GWS - source.

Sorry for the protracted silence.

We've been extremely busy.
Plus, I've found myself embroiled in a rather unexpected and increasingly pointless debate with Chris Fischer of Ocearch.

Chris should have followed the advice of Domeier's publicist, see below.
Now the exchange has piqued the interest of the man himself who has sent me a vigorous rebuttal of Fischer's assertions, initially however with the request not to publicize it as he wanted to keep to the high road and instead let Karma take its course.

Well, I don't believe much in Karma.
It is unpredictable and takes much, much too long to eventuate.
So upon much cajoling by yours truly, here are Michael Domeier's comments - and from what I recall and have been able to observe from the sidelines, I for one have no doubt that they are a truthful representation of the facts - tho still way too karmically polite!
Unabridged - although the formatting is mine.

Enjoy!

Any PR expert will tell you to never get dragged into a public, negative pissing match… excellent advice that I try to follow. 
But once every few years I’m forced to slide down the slippery slope to correct serious misinformation that affects me, or my organization… misinformation that only I am capable of correcting. 

Some people are so comfortable stretching the truth that they actually begin to believe the lie themselves. 
Remind you of anyone/anything?? A popup tag removed from a shark at Guadalupe Island? A tag presumably recovered from another shark off El Choyudo? Pictures of Junior circulated with wounds falsely attributed to my tagging of the same shark a year earlier? For each of these things I finally made a concise statement that set the record(s) straight. Here we go again, but perhaps not as concise due to the complex situation. 

Chris Fischer, at every opportunity, proclaims 1) that he spent $5 million to fund my research; 2) that he enabled me to become a great researcher; 3) that I greedily hoard the data and don’t share with the public; and 4) that he developed the equipment and methods to capture and tag large adult white sharks. 

1) There is no way Chris Fischer ever spent $5 million of his (or anyone else’s) money on my research. 
We joined forces to conduct 2 expeditions before he got a TV deal. My last Guadalupe Island expedition (Fall 2012) cost about $40K… and that was with the boat making a profit. So do the math. Also, there was never going to be a second expedition (2008). Chris had a big sponsorship from Red Lobster and was departing for a ‘round the world expedition. I even flew to Ft. Lauderdale to attend his big send-off party at the IGFA Hall of Fame. I flew on my own dime, wished him well and said goodbye. When Red Lobster dropped him, ending the voyage before it even began, we got together to do another expedition in 2008. He did not put his life on hold, bet his savings, etc., to provide me two boat rides to Guadalupe Island. I was the one who spent months and months in preparation for each trip… he just showed up at the dock. 

Yes, he paid for 2 trips to Guadalupe, but then struck a TV deal that allowed him to recoup those costs as he was getting $400K/episode. 
We were able to make multiple episodes from a single trip. Furthermore, I tapped two other private foundations to help pay for the tags and research; financial support that he never acknowledges. Fischer was fairly paid for all of the work we did together… this was not a huge philanthropic venture. On the contrary, he made it clear: “no cameras no trips.” The huge $$ figure he throws around must be for the entire operating cost of his ship and production company for each year he was making these television shows. But that’s not a fair way to account for the actual cost of the research (a fraction of the yearly operating budgets were due to the handful of research trips)… and he never discusses the INCOME. Any real accountant would tally just the costs of the specific trips… or think like this: what would it cost to charter a vessel for each research trip, and then subtract the income! Perhaps he took a loss, I don’t know; my organization took a financial loss… but no way did either of us wrack up losses in the millions. 

2) None of my recent white shark papers would have been possible without the 10 years I put in the field before I met Fischer. 
Fischer just happened to be in the picture as I began to really put all the pieces together. I knew SPOT tags were the only way to push the science forward. I also knew the sharks would be easy to catch, but I wanted to lift them from the water to safely remove the hook and do extra sampling (sperm, blood etc). I was developing a stand-alone pneumatic lift to accomplish the task. When Fischer showed me a picture of his new boat at a Billfish Foundation Board Meeting, I instantly recognized that the lift designed to pick up a yacht could shortcut my lift building plan. I asked if I could use the boat. The answer was “yes,” but only if I allowed cameras. I had never cooperated with a film maker in all my years at Guadalupe (well… Guy Harvey is an exception… but he’s an exceptional guy), and I had requests on a monthly basis, but this seemed like a good trade. 

When it comes to enabling, I think one needs to look at who really benefited from this collaboration. 
I brought Fischer into my world… he took my idea and crafted an entirely new career/image for himself. He even used the experience to gain his coveted Explorer Club status. Brett’s a good guy, but even he will tell you he (Brett) had no interest in catching sharks… even as we were heading to Guadalupe for the first time. If it wasn’t for my bringing Fischer into the marine science world, and consequently primetime television… he would be sitting in his home in Park City without a big boat waiting at the dock. Yes, he was about to lose the boat. If I had stayed true to my original course I would have accomplished the same work, it just would have taken me longer 

3) I do not hoard data. 
Like any professional researcher, I gather data until there is enough to analyze, allowing me to write an excellent publication. Then I publish and share with the world, just like every other working researcher that I know. In fact, I was careful to publish our latest findings in an open access journal, so the entire world could read the paper for free. 

I also disseminate results on our Facebook page. And yes, I have an app that costs a whopping $3.99… that helps me fund the research (actually… it brought in enough to do a nice upgrade (soon)… but not much more). I don’t have huge tv deals and corporate sponsors. So what’s the problem? Fischer slammed my app (and me personally) when it debuted and encouraged people not to purchase it. No, I don’t give the data to Fischer… why should I… it’s my data? He got all the TV shows and celebrity status he wanted… I got data. Furthermore, releasing research results prior to publishing can be problematic when the time comes to publish. Ask any researcher about that. I’ve been sharing more data lately simply to try to keep my organization afloat. But the last person I want running around the world, interpreting my unpublished data, is Chris Fischer. But that hasn’t stopped him from doing so. His brand building (photo shoots and interviews with big hooks draped around his neck, the hyped fishing template for the show) really hurt my reputation as a legitimate researcher. 

4) For our initial expedition I told Fischer he didn’t need to bring anything, just bait…I would do the rest.
I did the rest… and he forgot the bait (thus the infamous bait arguments on TV program). I conceived of the idea to use his yacht-lift to tag sharks, I designed the cradle, I designed the hook, the buoys, the line… everything. When the cradle didn’t work the way I had hoped, I was the one that tore it all down and fenced in the entire platform… Chris wanted to use the crane to pull the sharks onto the platform (yikes). Yes, my home-made hooks were prone to bending and breaking, but there was no place to buy such big circle hooks and we caught a few sharks that first year. And yes, the crew helped refine my concept for safely catching and handling the sharks. 

The SPOT tags used by all now, were built specifically to my design specs. 
I tried the off-the-shelf version and it failed. My version worked, and continues for me and for those who have followed. Lately I’ve made significant changes to the attachment of those tags… but that’s another story. 

Every single place we went with the ship was under my specific direction. 
I was in the wheelhouse each time we dropped anchor, putting the ship on my numbers… and we caught and tagged sharks every place we went. Our success was not due to the exceptional fishing prowess of Fischer; it was due to years and years of observation, study and note taking.

I  hate this sort of thing, and hopefully it will be years before I have to put myself out there like this again. 
But sometimes it’s a necessary evil. There are moments of clarity when you have to act, today was one such moment. Let me share a similar moment from years ago: while doing a big promotional push before the debut of our first TV episode, Fischer and I were both doing nonstop interviews in NYC. During a short break, my wife and I watched one of Fischer’s interviews, on FOX News, from the lobby of the hotel. We sat in stunned silence as he proclaimed that the entire research program was his idea and that he had pulled together the boat, crew and research. Just weeks prior he had proclaimed that I was nothing more than “a passenger with permits.” Suddenly it was clear this was not a good situation for me. The science message was being lost by the growing ego. In the end, I could not bear to watch the series that was based upon my own hard work. I tried to watch an episode during the season when Peter Klimley took my place… I was sickened at how Peter was made to look so foolish… turned it off again. 

There have been a huge number of people on-and-off the Fischer bandwagon, many of whom can confirm my statements if you care to track them down. Brett was a good friend… he knows the truth… unfortunately our friendship could not endure the awkwardness to keep in touch. 

I will be the first to say that I’ve noted a different tack from the Fischer camp lately… less fishing hype and more attention to the fish being studied. 
Perhaps lessons have been learned. But in my heart I know Fischer’s ride is about recognition… not about sharks. He didn’t know a clasper from a cloaca before I met him. I hope he does great things for the world… I hope he becomes more self-aware and learns to let his actions speak rather than his words. This whole thing started because he could not stand the fact he was not getting all the credit for a paper Nicole and I invested nearly 15 years to produce. 

Dr. Michael Domeier

PS: simply brilliant post by Patric here - kudos!
“I once thought (call it an evolution) that science and tv could be married together to deliver the best and brightest to waiting audiences. Then the major cable players started cutting doco budgets, slashing and burning them in an almost Visigothic manner until a 60 minute show was left with a budget of $150,000 and that included post production.

What do you get for $150,000 or less? You get Gurney Productions and sharks. There will always be someone who is willing to drop their pants and chain wrap a Tiger shark, and film it, (yes ABC that's you buddy) for a few film credits and the chance to film the next piece of shit that comes down the chute.”
PS2: Megalobomb unleashes!
The most challenging experience one will face during a career in white shark research is being suckered into working with someone that is a dick. Like a one-night stand, they/their projects may look attractive and say all the right things, but then you wake up and realize that you’re some wrinkly married man’s mid-life crisis.

7 comments:

OfficetoOcean said...

I'm in no way involved in any of this and nor do I know either man so I'm impartial but looking at both sides I'm more than inclined to accept Domeier's take on events.

Watching the first series, I could certainly sense the tension between the two men. There always seems to be this pathetic "Jocks Vs Nerds" subtext permeating everything in each series and the utterly pointless inclusion of that actor bloke always made it seem to me at least, that TV was encroaching on science, creating a really contrived and rather boring story centred around eye candy for the housewives, somewhat putting what was actually the interesting bit in the background.

Fair play to Dr Domeier, I think he's made a good choice in putting his side out there.

jsd said...


Fischer - black trunks// daShark - white trunks



DaShark said...

@ Chris Hartzell the pompous bloviating fireman.

Are you kidding me?
Did you not read the part where I stated that I was not gonna aid and abet the hyena wails of the dipshits with an opinion and a keyboard?
Who do you think I meant by that?

Piss off - go post your self important and condescending rubbish with your pals in your circular echo chamber like you always do.

Shark Diver said...

Yeah like he said...and BTW Da Shark that's two expensive coffee stained t-shirts you owe me sir:

"Piss off - go post your self important and condescending rubbish with your pals in your circular echo chamber like you always do.'

DaShark said...

tunicae volant, scripta manent...

Anonymous said...

What was the deal with Junior? And why not surgically insert a tracker in the skin beside the dorsal fin on it's back instead?

DaShark said...

Junior.
Please read this - bottom to top.

Tags.
Long story and you obviously need to document yourself about satellite telemetry - but in the case of these particular tags that deliver multi-year tracks, the tag needs to be positioned in such a way that when the Shark is close to the surface, the antenna can establish a connection with the satellite and transmit position and other data.