Tuesday, September 30, 2014

GWS vs GWS!

Cannibalism does happen.

Watch.



Methinks it's a mistake.
I've seen it happen twice at Shark Reef - once when two Bulls homed in simultaneously on a Tuna head falling from the suspended bin, once when there was a bit of a kerfuffle about who would first get a head from Rusi. Both Sharks were bitten on the head, with everybody hearing a loud crunch - but they appeared rather unfazed and continued feeding, and did turn back up on subsequent days.

Anyway, lucky, spectacular footage!

Tagging Controversy - Paper!


Howlymackerel!

You really got to read this!
Neil, Austin et al are wading right into the hornet's nest that is the whole bloody Shark tagging controversy -biofouling, harassing and all- and attempting to encourage dialogue to establish a set of possible rules that may satisfy all the diverging resource users from researchers to operators to fishermen to conservationists to aficionados.
Not gonna happen of course - but valiant try! :)

And I cite.
Some recommendations to help engage local stakeholders in the significance of tagging research include
  • (1) use of informative posters or flyers; 
  • (2) meetings with stake holders ahead of time; 
  • (3) involving members of the public in the research (i.e. citizen science) or inviting them to observe the tagging activities; 
  • (4) providing public talks (e.g. schools, clubs and museums); 
  • (5) working closely with stakeholders (such as hiring guides or tourism operators to help with research)
  • (6) use of traditional mass media (print, radio and television)
  • (7) publishing tagging results in peer-reviewed journals in a timely fashion
  • (8) use of online materials such as websites, short videos, teaching via social media and even online platforms that allow the public to follow the movements of the tagged animals; and
  • (9) keeping the public updated on results.
Indeed - see Fischer's bloody communication breakdown in SA vs the much improved outreach when he moved operations to the US East Coast!
And I did like this.
While this discourse has mostly focused on stakeholder attitudes as well as user consideration and responsibilities, manufacturers have an important role to play in improving tag function and animal welfare.
While there is certainly considerable manufacturer effort to improve tag performance (battery life, transmission rate and size), there needs to be a greater focus on engineering instruments that eventually detach from animals, especially if a large proportion of tags inevitably become functionally impaired. The software does exist for some tags (mostly satellite tags) to determine their functionality (e.g. battery life/power level or light level that could determine biofouling) which could trigger release mechanisms of external tags. Tools could be further developed or studies designed in a way that tagged animals are recaptured at the end of a study.
Again, indeed!
Kinda reminds me of a rather lengthy (!!!) post somebody wrote a few years ago! :) 

Anyway, brave and interesting paper!
Like I said, you really got to read it, and I'm sure the authors will be happy to provide you with a copy should you ask them!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Vaquita - last Call!


It's nearly over.

The reason - accidental entanglement in gill nets of poachers targeting the Totoaba, once again an expensive and totally useless Chinese "delicacy".
Article here.

And the SSCS, defender of Cetaceans?
Nowhere in sight but instead, wasting time and money on non-conservation issues - which begs the question, what does that "C" really stand for? Anyway, you may want to remember that when they once again ask for your money.

And you Whale huggers in the USA?
This is happening on your watch, just south of the border.
Maybe you want to get off your slacktivist arses and do some guarding there and not in Japan!  

Fucking PRIORITIES anybody?

Shark Nets in Western Australia?

Shark barrier in Old Dunsborough - source.

Read this.
And this.

Yes they are planning to install up to 20 nets.
And I cite.
The state government is now considering installing shark nets on a number of metropolitan beaches as well as others in the South West and further up the coast north of Perth. 
According to a review of the Dunsborough Beach Enclosure Trial compiled by the state government, no by-catch was recorded as part of the net trialled in Dunsborough. 

A spokeswoman for the Premier told Fairfax Media that while the net announced on Friday was not the same type of net used in Queensland and New South Wales, it was made up of a mesh type netting. The state government's review said the planned net for Busselton would be more of a "beach enclosure" deployed to create "an impenetrable barrier to sharks".
So calm down people.
Before going out and pandering to the whacks by lamenting about wildlife traps and the linke, do your bloody due diligence. This is good news as it a) keeps the Sharks out and people within the enclosures safe whilst b) not harming the Sharks and the Fishes, see links under the picture at top and below.
Capisc?


If you want to rant, rant about this
Rogue Sharks are as real as Megalodon, Sharknados and Godzilla. 
But if a large Shark should linger in some spot, which they certainly do, evacuate the area til, being migratory, it moves on. No need/sense to remove, let alone kill it.
That simple.

And then, there's this.
Philopatry teaches us that those Sharks, far from being distributed randomly/evenly, favor determined locations. Identify those locations (which are but a few and may be determined by telemetry and/or past sightings and/or past strikes) and tell people to stay away during the GWS season which is only relatively short anyway.
Once again, not rocket science!

TGIF - amazing Video!


Story here.
Enjoy!



Saturday, September 27, 2014

Recreational Shark Fishing in Florida - Paper!


Watch.


Nice.
I like research with immediate implications for conservation!:)
Good to see that most operators care and practice catch-and-release - now they only need to be educated to keep off those Hammers!

Paper here, synopsis here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Celebrando México: Jorge Cervera!

Source.

Really nice! :)
That's how you do it - bravo Jorge!



Thursday, September 25, 2014

30-foot juvenile Megalodon!

Another view of the very same spectacular animal! Source:  هلال پاڪستان (Millat)

Wow.

Check this out - absolutely unbelievable!
So after all that frothy lambasting by the entirety of the Shark intelligentsia, it turns out that Discovery Channel was right after all - yes they are lurking in the deep! And considering that the fisheries authorities in Pakistan know nothing about what lives in their ocean, I would not at all be surprised at further equally spectacular discoveries!

BTW Franck is totally correct, and I cite
Well fisherman , another great living giant that you have killed for what ?
I am a great lover of sharks and seeing this makes me sick , serious think of how old is this shark , how many more sharks are we going to kill and tell me what are you going to do with this shark now , seriously your f….d up 
You guys make me sick 
Franck 
Well said!
 

More Marine Protection in the Pacific!


Bravo Obama!

Read this - and this!
This is really really great - especially considering the continued bloody shenanigans by that coalition of evil that is the  WESPAC that did mobilize the usual cabal of shady characters in a last-ditch effort to derail the process. And BTW, great to see that Matt is back doing what he does best - inspiring others to enact spectacular marine conservation!
Now, can somebody please finally investigate those folks and pull their funding?

Correct me if I'm wrong - but we're still bloody waiting for NMFS/NOAA to bloody make up their bloody mind.

Standing by!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

F@$%ing Mermaid and Ecoterrorist!

This or dead Mantas from here - decisions decisions... Source.

Oh I know I know.
This is gonna earn me plenty more irate comments!

Anyway.
I've been remiss in not posting earlier about Shawn the Ecoterrorist's indefatigable efforts in trying to establish some sort of an economic alternative in Lamakera, one of the hot spots of Manta hunting in Indonesia. I was there, and in neighboring Lamalera where they Hunt Sperm Whales in the early eighties, and can attest that those hunts are their ancestral way of life - meaning that any change will, if at all, only eventuate slowly, and only if pursued in a respectful, consensual and culturally sensitive way.

But money talks, and should Shawn's project be embraced by, say, the fleet of Indonesian diving live-aboard vessels, then there is a real chance. Shoestring land-based ecotourism by enlightened travellers methinks not so much, as the economics are probably too feeble, and the logistics may prove to be prohibitive - but who knows, he is there and I am not, and he probably knows best.
Anyway, as always, huge kudos for trying!

And his co-conspirator, the f@$%ing mermaid?
Oh yes, turns out that it was really her!
And still, although that was an exercise in utter foolishness, and although I shall never really fathom the whole phenomenon of why people choose to dress up in fish tails, and why other people love that, I must reluctantly confess that I've become sort of a fan. No NOT of the mermaid thingy - but Hannah Fraser has a genuine wish to make a difference, does so in her own fashion = artistic expression, and probably really does make a real contribution.
Case in point, after her much reviled (and much more admired) Tiger Shark dance, she did launch this petition and was able to have over 8,000 anti-cull signatures hand delivered to both the WA EPA and the Federal Minister - and guess what, she just DID it and didn't brag about it!
Anyway, here is a recent interview I found rather endearing.

So well done and godspeed to both of them!
And before you ask - NO, there will be no f@$%ing mermaid bloody dancing with Bull Sharks in the SRMR anytime soon! :)

Shark Chick - curiouser and curiouser!


Wow wow wow!

But first.
Andrew Scerbo feels slighted.
As per my reply here, apologies. I thought that in my last post, it was clear that I was linking to this thread containing the picture - but obviously, this has led to confusion which I regret. It is Andrew who has first pointed out the discrepancies in the posted picture of the Shark bite, and all credit for that belongs to him alone.

Anyway.
I've woken up to a myriad of e-mails, the story keeps evolving, and this is what I read.
  • On Sunday = before  the pic was outed as being a fake, the privileged Shark chick states.
    Clean bite refers to quote a minor injury relatively speaking and anyone who knows me in person knows I am barely 5foot3 and any injury does look mammoth.
    Meaning that the picture is legit, but that the injury looks bigger than it is.
  • Yesterday = after questions are being asked, she states.
    A picture was used that I posted to Instagram with no caption and no explanation.
    The caption and explanation being...?
  • On her website, under Corrections and Retractions, this is what she had posted. The page is currently "in maintenance" - let's see if afterwards, even that statement will be corrected and retracted! :)
    Pictures of alleged injuries vary site to site and may have not been vetted by Elissa. 
    No they don't vary. There is only one. So, has it been vetted, or not?
  • Then Andrew notices that several and not only two pairs of staples are identical.
  • Then David reports that more than 80% of her Twitter followers are fake.
I'm done with this.
By now it should be clear to everybody that this is, for lack of a better word, highly bizarre. That Corrections and Retractions link on her website alone (read it when it's back up!) is a red flag for pathological behavior - and I can certainly leave it at that.

Just this.
These things don't happen in isolation, or like I said a while ago.
The Heroes and heroines, warriors, whisperers, experts, specialists and whatnot are all legit if the moniker is being assigned by others - but when it is self promotion and really nothing more than branding, it becomes irritating.
Does sharktivism really need its own version of the Kardashians and the associated frothy adulation and gossip? Maybe – but like in real life, I don’t like it one bit!
Think about it please.
We really got to stop adulating those self promoting frauds, narcissists and media whores.
Seriously!

PS:



And here.
I don't seek out the spotlight like a number of other scientists
Hahahahahaha 

PPS
the take home message for today is that the old eco-tactic of fabricating events to boost your cause is no longer viable

PPPS: David as always (well, mostly...) brilliant
It's all very well rounding on Elissa, getting the pitchforks and flaming torches out but maybe we might want to start looking at the more uncomfortable truths, that the people looked upon as bastions of Shark Conservation because they ride sharks ("for the sharks"), wear bikinis ("for the sharks"), make crappy TV ("for the sharks"), get you to donate your hard earned money to their projects which don't actually do anything ("for the sharks") or simply spend all their time on Facebook telling you how brilliant they are ("for the sharks") aren't actually doing it "for the sharks," at all but instead, are doing it solely for themselves and that these narcissists are merely creating more narcissists who do nothing other than push their brand at people who believe they are helping by supporting them in doing so?
PPPPS: Christine Haines
Last summer I joined the nosharkcull movement because I was appalled that sharks were being killed and maligned for being sharks.
Over the course of the trial I learned alot about the politics in environmental groups. And it's not nice. I was shocked to find that these groups were just as hypocritical as the wrongs they were fighting. They used misinformation, sex, phsychic connections and other questionable practises with as much abandon as the wrong they were fighting. I was sure that the tactics used by some people and groups were not right. I have unliked and unfollowed some organisations because I think that while the cause is right the methods were wrong and only served to reinforce the stereotype of the cosmic, tree hugging, hippie type of activist that would stop at nothing (including deliberate false and misleading information). I want a group whose ideals agree with mine and who deals in scientific fact. My illusions were shattered but at least I'm wiser.
P5S: Have you seen this?
Now she is a bloody "PETA Celebrity" = more fucking branding even whilst trying to make that totally insincere retraction?

NO NO NO NO NO!
There's only ONE (1) Shark celebrity in Australia, and her name is Valerie Taylor - this for 50 years of pioneering diving with Sharks, for countless equally pioneering Shark documentaries, for having been instrumental in having the Cod Hole, the Gray Nurse, the GWS, Ningaloo protected.
Not the home schooled brat that keeps re-editing the footage daddy took of her whilst they were vacationing in the Bahamas. Definitely not this forgettable calculating self-obsessed chick that has ZERO ACHIEVEMENTS apart from volunteering on a SSCS boat like dozens upon dozens of other volunteers.

GO AWAY!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Privileged - and fishy?

It's all becoming very strange very fast.

Check out the analysis at the top.
The picture of the Shark chick's injury is unquestionably (!) a fake, with the two pairs of staples at the center clearly identical, and this down to the individual pixels - thread here.

And why am I not surprised.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Privileged?

GREAT conservation messaging!

Oh for crying out loud!
The 26-year-old from Burleigh Heads said she felt “privileged” to be attacked...
The activist, who has been on several free-diving expeditions in South Africa to protect great whites, said..
Right.
Looks like we got ourselves yet another one of those self promoting Shark chicks.
And after so many years, I'm STILL shocked at the abject drivel uttered by those eco-celebrities, or whatever. Mediation of extinction, pollution and cruelty to animals? Expert voice - as in, "according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the great white shark is the most endangered"?

You don't fucking need to free dive with GWS in SA to protect them because a) it's a recipe for disaster and b) they are already protected both in SA and internationally! And do you really think that telling the whole fucking world (!) that you've been ATTACKED is a good strategy for changing the tired old narrative of the ever lurking beasts?

Anyway.
Like so many others, she's gonna come and go - and I may add, the sooner the better!
And I really, really got to stop paying attention!

Fiji - final Results!


Frank Bainimarama takes his oath during the swearing in ceremony at Government House in Suva.

Here they are!
Like I said, not much change.

And the surprise performance by Ilaijia?
The man is quite obviously enormously popular - and the fact that in an election where you had to tick the candidates' number, he was candidate # 297 whereas Frank was candidate # 279 is simply a serendipitous coincidence!

Anyway, huge congratulations.
To the successful candidates but above all, to the people of Fiji for an impressive, peaceful, joyous, free and fair election!

El Diego - Fly with me!

Simply fantastic pic by Allen - click for detail!

Nice!

This is the positive side of the drought.
Even on a less favorable tide, the viz has been good - and when the tide is right, it is simply stellar, as in gin clear!
That is, unless we get jinxed by Kira!

Anyway.
Enjoy!



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fiji - Rain, finally!

Source.

It's coming!

Fiji is currently experiencing a rather severe drought.
But depending on forecast, there will be some respite - either by Thursday or latest on the weekend.
Finger crossed!

Reefie Cleaning Station!

Cleaning station at Shark Reef - click for detail!

Check this out.



The Shark?
According to Will White, not a Grey Reefie, Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos but a Shortnose Blacktail Shark or Blacktail Reef Shark, C. wheeleri from the Western Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
Still not convinced!

But wheeleri or not, talk about angelic patience in view of all those paparazzi!
We got two of those cleaning stations on Shark Reef but the Sharks will only play when the right current is running, and only rarely tolerate spectators. Still hoping to see a Bull joining the queue but so far, no such luck.

Anyway, cool footage!

EcoPirates - looking for Suckers!

Oh yes - this is, obviously, a first-rate research vessel! Source.

Have you seen this?
Pirates, Zombies & Sharks. Right.

No I'm not gonna dwell.
Welcome to Operation Requiem redux.
If you really believe that this cheap copy of the SSCS, with a shitty boat and a gang of highly questionable characters have full support (by whom - the authorities?) and will be working with the top researchers and ocean advocates in the world, and above all, that their moronic ecopirating kickassery will actually achieve anything meaningful for Shark conservation - then you really deserve to be conned out of your money!

Nuff said.

Nat Geo Wild - being Truthful?


Interesting interview!
Like if I were to put the Megalodon show on air, honestly Nat Geo Wild would get crickets, like I couldn't… my audience doesn't expect that from us...
So right now, what we're doing with Shark Fest – I'm shamelessly letting Discovery do all the work for me. They've chummed the waters. They've brought in a huge number of people, by the way, most of whom don't give a hoot about natural history at all, or about animals in that sense. But they're pulling a big group of people and look, I'm running right under them with a very sort of tongue in cheek marketing campaign that is actually taking a poke at them...
And when people come and they go oh, it's a shark, and then they stick on our network… we're starting to see people who are really appreciative of the difference [between Shark Fest and Shark Week] and are noticing that difference more and more. And they're saying "oh wow, they're not megalodon-ing me, they're actually giving me the real story behind those amazing animals in a way that just feels different to me."...

But the most important thing, sort of bringing it full circle, is we have to be true.
And I think that that takes a lot of courage, it takes a lot of vision and leadership to be willing to have the courage of your convictions and to stand in there while everybody is running one way to say, "this may not be the quickest path to success, but I'm certain that if we stay there that we will create this loyal core of viewers and online followers that will start to evangelize for the network and start to tell their friends and start to tell their families, and that over time will grow."

And so I actually think that the path to positive activism is through emotional engagement. And I think that you can't do that by putting on heavy hitting, dire, guilt-ridden awfulness, because people see that every night on the news.
For me, the mission is about making people fall in love, to fall in love with that animal, to fall in love with that place. And then giving them the outlets and the opportunity to then, in their own way and in their own time, come into the tent and be inspired, to engage on deeper and deeper levels, whatever that level is. Because at the end of the day, I don't need everybody to become fire breathing activists. 
Well said - but is this for real?
Time will tell. At this stage, this all very much smells like a thinly veiled marketing exercise that capitalizes on the fact that Discovery appears to have totally lost the plot. Granted the Nat Geo Wild programs, whilst still utilizing plenty of sensationalist language and fake drama are thankfully not quite as totally moronic as some of the latest shit by DC - but they're still light years away from, say, the BBC, and the breathy claim of being committed to telling the truth is only valid in comparative, and certainly not in absolute terms.
Case in point - and it's by far not the only questionable program!
Re-read this!

And Discovery?
Word on the street is that Eileen has been sacked and that everything is on hold as they all figure out what's next. I'm not at all hopeful that this may be an indication of serious soul searching and re-orientation - but who knows.

We shall be watching!

Friday, September 19, 2014

El Diego - that's how you do it!


Finally!

Look at that picture!
Yes El Diego (aka the piscatorial pride of Colombia) is finally displaying some long overdue decorum - remember the boisterous showmanship that earned him a highly disapproving glare from Kira, and a scathing review by El Not Impressed D'oh?
All I can say is that it was about bloody time he cleaned up his act!

But on a more serious note.
That's a juvenile Hammerhead from the Rewa river where Diego has been invited to join a research trip to study Hammerhead shark populations in Fiji. Like announced last year, Juerg and Projects Abroad have now started to cautiously engage with local tertiary institutions. The Hammerhead study is a brand new project by the new Head of the School of Marine Studies at USP, Professor Ciro Rico, and it really looks like this is but a first step towards what will become a rather close cooperation - both academically but also in other matters that will be hopefully announced shortly. 
Ciro is planning to finally elevate the School to its true potential, for which he will need to quickly attain critical high-quality mass - meaning that he is eager to hear from talented graduate students!

So if yer diligent and hi-powered - here's you chance!
And... in your time off, you can come and experience the Best Shark Dive in the Word! :)
Now how good is that! 

To be continued!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Fiji - the People have spoken!


I must say that I'm surprised.

I expected more of a contest.
Instead, it looks like this has been a veritable landslide - still provisional but by all accounts, the percentages are only going to change marginally. Our staff report that voting has been easy, the media report that the people (as opposed to some politicians) are happy, and the international observers appear satisfied that this has been free and fair.

Oh, and the most important news.
The weather is brilliant, the water crystal and there are still alot of big Bulls! :)

Provisional numbers here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Oslob - the Data!

Remember the despicable Ecoterrorists? Source.

Bingo!

Read this.
I must say that is a great collection of important data, and kudos to the authors for having invested all that energy and time into collating them. I must equally say that the conclusions are rather lousy.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is what I read.
  • All whale sharks come and go.

  • All but a very few are males = the females are likely somewhere else = maybe more pelagic?

  • All but a very few that don’t feed are immature, which in combination with the above is consistent with observations made elsewhere = immature male WS form natural aggregations.

  • Some feed, some don’t = this is voluntary behavior, hence the statements that the results of the present study show a significant difference in residency patterns between provisioned and non-provisioned individuals suggesting behavioural modification is quite possibly only partly correct. The increased residency may simply be an individual trait = some immature WS may be simply more resident than others, and since they choose to stay there anyway, they also choose to feed. 

  • The increase in daily individuals is consistent with observations elsewhere, i.e. here in Fiji  where it is however not an indicator for increased residency. Methinks that eventually, the number of daily WS will stabilize as over a determined density, some WS will start feeling uncomfortable and/or start missing out on handouts and leave. And I equally speculate that they will leave once they become adult, see below.

  • Those WS that reside longer are smaller (= younger?) and

  • Those that feed stay longer = possibly conditioning - or may younger WS simply be more resident anyway?

  • I cannot see any evidence that provisioned WS are faring worse than the control group = no difference in propeller strikes. The difference to the WS in Holbox may be due to the fact that the Holbox ones may be more pelagic and thus encounter less vessels? 
Long story short? 
So far, this paper alone does not constitute compelling evidence that provisioning those Sharks is a bad thing. The provisioned Sharks are not being described as having more propeller scars, and there are no statements that they may be otherwise physically impaired.

Leaves the increased residency.
Should it become 100% AND permanent, then those Sharks would be likely prevented from mating = the feeding would have a negative effect at the ecosystem level.
But this is way to early to make that assumption. In fact, methinks that like any other Sharks, those WS will eventually leave what appears to be their immature aggregation site once they become adults, migrate normally and eventually join the females at their mating sites. The latter has certainly been shown for all other places where Sharks are being provisioned. If so, it will be then very interesting to see whether any Sharks will return after the mating season!
But so far, we simply don't know - meaning that we'll have to wait before making any ultimate pronouncements!

The provisioning?
Per se, it appears to have little to no effect - but of course the poor interaction protocols where too many people are being poorly monitored and where, maybe, the total interaction time is too long, see here, need to be reformed. But again, that's a consequence of the protocols, not the feeding - re-read this!
Not easy - but certainly not impossible either!

Or am I missing something here?

Fiji - Elections!


Today is the first election in 8 years.

Polling has now closed.
May the people have chosen wisely, and may the right party win! :)

The results will be starting in 3 hours.
Fingers crossed!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

CITES Implementation Day!


Today the CITES management of those 7 new species goes live!



This is truly a great milestone in Shark conservation.
Projects Abroad have been all over it, and celebrated this momentous occasion with a day of awareness, research and education.
Well done!

And the implementation in Fiji?
It's gonna happen - but in the Fijian way.
More in a subsequent post!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Only Bycatch - Two!


Turns out that the Tuna longliners have been, gasp, lying!

You don't say!
Did it really take a "study" to confirm what had been obvious all along and what we here in Fiji had known for years?

Anyway.
Good that now, it is out in the open - and good that the FFA wants to bring it up and have it banned at the next WCPFC meeting. There will undoubtedly be the usual dirty politics and stalling (responsible fishing nations?) but eventually, this will be resolved - undoubtedly, only to be replaced by new shenanigans!

And so it goes!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Scarface and Rusi!

Terry-fic pic by Terry Goss.
 
No don't get too excited.

This is footage from 2010.
We haven't seen Scarface in years and although a very experienced videographer on rebreather reports seeing an enormous Tiger Shark, I fear that she has become the victim of all those pelagic long lines out there. The most interesting bit is at 3:17 where the Bulls, far from being intimidated, are actually shouldering her away.

This brings back many inspiring moments.
Enjoy - with a bit of melancholy!



Western Australia - now we wait!


Yes yesterday was cause for celebration.

But!
To those who have started with the chest thumping I say, not so fast!
Yesterday's decision by the EPA is great, and it is also great that the WA Government has stated that they will abide by it.
However on the EPA website, I read this.
The EPA’s report to the Minister for Environment is now open for a two-week public appeal period. Appeals close September 25, 2014 and can be made at www.appealsconvenor.wa.gov.au 

Appeals are administered independently of the EPA by the Appeals Convenor and determined by the Minister for Environment. This proposal is also being assessed under a bilateral agreement with the Commonwealth. This means both State and Federal Ministers for the Environment will make a decision under their respective legislations. Both Ministers will need to give approval for the proposal to proceed.
The Fat Lady hasn't sung quite yet, so let's wait and see how things play out.
The State may still retract its current position and still make a last-ditch attempt at turning things around - in which case the ball would be in the court of the Federal Environment Minister. Hunt has been quite adamant about wanting to do things by the book - but this is the Abbott government that has completely lost the plot (and here!) when it comes to conservation, so there's definitely an element of risk there.
But having said that, I'm actually quite optimistic.

And then, there is this.
You really got to read the exhaustive EPA decision.
You will find that it is based principally on the peer review by CSIRO (three documents here) and that in essence, the EPA is simply applying the precautionary principle in view of the uncertainty about the effects of the cull on the South-Western population of GWS. Only - not the Bulls, not the Tigers where EPA considers that the proposal presents a low risk to the viability of populations for other target sharks and non-target marine fauna.
You may also want to note that the other arguments against the cull have been noted, addressed and essentially dismissed - and that the only aspect the EPA has assessed is the environmental impact, not public safety or ethics or the like.
Just sayin'.

Now, we wait.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Reef Mantas off Eastern Australia - Paper!

Click for detail!

The paper is open access.
Read it!

Great stuff.
And, it clearly illustrates how behavior is being mediated by the environment.
But we knew that already - right? :)

No more Cull in Western Australia!

Source.

BOOOM!!!

Read THIS!
Yes the EPA is against the cull and the Premier has stated that he will accept their decision!

See? Sometimes the process works!
A big THANK YOU, and congratulations to those of you who have taken part in the Public Environmental Review and have operated with arguments instead of listening to the crazies!

And particularly, bravo Ryan Kempster and SOS!
Excellent job!
 

It's not only Overfishing - one more Paper!

A baited remote underwater video station showing details of the removable bait arm, plastic camera housing and pegs for placement of ballast on the frame (a). Images of Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos (b), C. albimarginatus (c) and Galeocerdo cuvier (d) in the BRUVS field of view.

Remember this post? :)

For Sharks, the principal threat is overfishing.
But of course it only stands to reason that no Shark can survive if we destroy its habitat. We often talk about how healthy Shark populations preserve habitat, e.g. via those trophic cascades - but of course the principal effect is not top down but bottom up, which is actually so trivial that most researchers and conservationists don't even bother to mention it. Methinks that both effects are linked via feedback loops, meaning that negative effects at either side of the equation can quickly lead to a self-reinforcing downward spiral, but of course I'm speculating.

Long story short?
Species protection alone does not work - you need to also protect critical habitats.
That's why we protect the whole of Shark Reef and not only the Sharks, and that's why we continue to investigate the nurseries in the rivers!

The above is obviously particularly evident in those Reefies.
Several species like the Whitetip, Blacktip and Grey Reef Shark are highly associated with and resident in coral reefs, meaning that their dependency on the health of those reefs is likely very high. Other more transient species with a wider range of habitats like the Tigers, Bulls and Great Hammers, likely less so.

This appears to be one of the findings of this paper.
It really is fantastic stuff, the result of ten years of data collection via BRUVS, much like what the volunteers of Projects Abroad are currently doing in Beqa Lagoon. The paper is thankfully open access, meaning that there's no need for citations.
Plus, you can find a great synopsis here - inclusive of highly complimentary comments by other researchers which is really nice to see.

Well done - very impressive indeed!

It is not only Overfishing - Paper!

Click for detail.

Remember this post?

For Sharks, the principal threat is overfishing.
But the other threats are of course equally a cause of great concern, plus our increased encroaching into their habitats that is leading to conflicts and persecution. And now for possibly the first time, this paper is examining the likely effects of Global Warming and Acidification on a tropical Shark.
Synopsis here, so I need once again not elaborate.

Though this is perplexing.
From the Discussion.
Although the vulnerability of tropical sharks to climate change is species-specific, factors such as temperature, sea level rise and freshwater input are assumed to elicit the greatest effects upon estuarine, coastal inshore and reef species. Such effects are likely to be expressed through changes in species abundance and distribution (e.g. poleward movements and migrations to deeper waters).

Until now, ocean acidification was not considered as a primary climate-related threat to elasmobranchs; only indirectly through habitat and community changes (e.g. reef sharks).
Experimental approaches such as those shown in the present study are critical to directly assess risk and vulnerability of sharks to ocean acidification and warming, and can ultimately help managers and policy-makers to take proactive measures targeting most endangered species. 
Proactive measures?
As in...? Suggestions welcome!

Coordinated Hunting between Groupers and Morays - Paper!


Watch this.



Very interesting!
There are this and this excellent synopses so I need not elaborate.
I learn that coordinated hunting is apparently different from the widespread cooperative hunting where several species cooperate opportunistically. When I think of those Sea Kraits and Jacks I've seen hunting together in Niue (and apparently elsewhere), it sure looks very very similar - but who am I to say!

Open-access paper here!

Orcas vs Tiger Shark!


Wow.
After 20 years diving, 10 of them at Cocos Island; she gave me the most incredible experience so far at sea. We were witness of how 6 killer whales hunted, killed and fed on a tiger shark. just unreal experience!!! I just filled my tank for 20 more years ;)
Enjoy and be amazed!



Culling the Sharks of the Neptune Islands?


I believe there will be some culling, some time in the future there will be culling of sharks, because we will have other shark attacks.
The lady at the top is Valerie Taylor.
Next year, she's going to be 80 - and she is still fighting for the Ocean, like she has done for the past 50 years. She is a titan in marine and Shark conservation and one of Australia's most honored and revered personalities - and rightly so.

And some assholes are trying to destroy her legacy.
It's not only about the Sharks - what is at risk is the precious and totally unique marine ecosystem that was finally protected in 2012, specifically also the Neptune Islands Group (Ron and Valerie Taylor) Marine Park that is honoring her and Ron's tremendous contribution to marine conservation. And this is also going to impact Rodney and Andrew Fox's pioneering Shark tourism operation that continues to generate millions in tourism dollars and has become a pivotal platform for education, research and conservation in Australia.

This shit is so bad, it is just simply absurd.
Valerie is fighting this together with local conservation groups and politicians which is great. But whilst I can find this Facebook turd (wow - just wow) on the anti protection side, I see NOTHING on all those usual sharky social media that profess to be saving sharks with all those actions and petitions and awareness and statements and the like.

And all those names?
All those whisperers an warriors and girls and whatnot that have all been rushing to WA like fucking lemmings in order to promote themselves as Shark saviors? Quite obviously, totally missing in action! You may want to remember that next time somebody wants to convince you that they are fearless and badass!

But I'm digressing as always.
Fingers crossed that common sense prevails!
Alas, in this case, I'm not very hopeful.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Sustainable Shark Fisheries in lesser developed Countries?

Devastating - unsustainable small-scale Shark fishing. Source.

So there.

Remember this post?
Back then, it did earn me plenty of flak from the movement - but times have moved on and the concept of sustainable fishing of some (!) species of Sharks is apparently becoming more accepted, to the point that I was very happy to read this really quite excellent post on the Ocean Campus website.

I could not agree more when I read that
... countries are beginning to put measures in place to increase the sustainability of their shark fisheries, and research is constantly being done to further their efficiency. 
In my opinion, it is the development of these biologically based, best practices, concerning reproductive traits and ecology of shark species which hold the greatest potential in minimising shark stock collapses and population declines. Fragmenting the conservation effort by targeting single practices (such as implementing shark finning bans) can obstruct the development of more effective shark management tools.
But of course, there is a big BUT!
From the paper.
Abstract.
(...)
PERMANOVA analysis showed that over-exploited and depleted fisheries employed different sets of measures than fisheries with healthier stocks, and a non-metric multidimensional scaling ordination illustrated that a broad set of regulatory measures typified sustainable fisheries.
SIMPER and regression tree analyses identified that the dissimilarity was most related to enforcement capacity, number of species harvested, fleet (vessel) controls, limited entry controls and rotational closures.

The national Human Development Index was significantly lower in countries with over-exploited and depleted fisheries.
Where possible, managers should limit the number of fishers and vessel size and establish short lists of permissible commercial species in multispecies fisheries. Our findings emphasize an imperative to support the enforcement capacity in low-income countries, in which risk of biodiversity loss is exceptionally high. Solutions for greater resilience of XYZ stocks must be embedded within those for poverty reduction and alternative livelihood options.

Trends in sustainability and exploitation
(...)
Management measures
Enforcement (and compliance) capacity varied greatly among fisheries and tended to be weak in tropical fisheries in low-income countries.(...)
The PERMANOVA contrasts showed that, in terms of variables potentially controllable by the fishery manager, under-exploited, moderately exploited and fully exploited fisheries were similar, but differed significantly from management variables employed in over-exploited and depleted fisheries. The subsequent SIMPER analysis identified that enforcement capacity was the management tool most strongly related to the dissimilarity between unsustainable and sustainable fisheries.
Nonetheless, other management variables were also important and contributed only slightly less to the dissimilarity than enforcement capacity. Specifically, the other management measures important in the majority of difference between sustainable and unsustainable fisheries (in descending order of importance) were the following:
  1. fleet (vessel) controls,
  2. limited entry controls, 
  3. rotational harvest closures, 
  4. the total number of species harvested by fishers, 
  5. licensing and reporting requirements, and 
  6. the number of regulatory measures used by the manager

Discussion

We aimed to relate management measures to sustainability of XYZ fisheries, and our analyses indicate that resilience of social-ecological systems (SESs) of XYZ fisheries will come from strengthening enforcement capacity, allowing only a small number of species to be harvested, applying input controls, reducing the number of fishers per unit of fishing ground and improving the socio-economic state of human communities. (...)
Stocks of commercially valuable species have been depleted at a comparably fast rate over much of their distribution. Many XYZ species face a high risk of extinction through overfishing coupled with inherent biological and ecological vulnerability. Apart from an unlikely reduction in demand from Chinese consumers, we believe that sustainability and resilience of troubled XYZ fisheries will only come from the adoption of radically different approaches to management.

Enforcement drives sustainability 
While marine reserves, international trade agreements and stock assessments may be important tools for sustaining XYZ stocks, our analysis highlights the importance of enforcement capacity in fisheries sustainability.
Indeed, many fisheries struggle with deterring fishers from illegal activities by compliance measures or strict penalties. The SIMPER and RT analyses both indicated that depleted and over-exploited XYZ fisheries predominantly had weak enforcement capacity. Thus, fine-tuning management regulations or developing complex management plans are less likely to succeed in protecting minimum viable populations of XYZ than investment in compliance and enforcement. (...)  

Conclusions

Stocks of commercially valuable species have been depleted at a comparably fast rate over much of their distribution.
Many XYZ species face a high risk of extinction through overfishing coupled with inherent biological and ecological vulnerability. Apart from an unlikely reduction in demand from Chinese consumers, we believe that sustainability and resilience of troubled XYZ fisheries will only come from the adoption of radically different approaches to management.
Recent assertions about improved management of XYZ fisheries have centred on regulatory measures and management actions, marine reserves and international regulations, research, monitoring and harvest strategies.
Our findings reveal that a new paradigm is needed for managing XYZ fisheries; one in which resources are shifted from the development of complex management plans to enforcement and compliance of simple sets of regulations and to tackling the socio-economic challenges of coastal fishers that transcend fisheries. 

The best devised management plans will fail if disincentives to illegal fishing activities are not strong enough and/or if underlying poverty of fishers is not improved. We also conclude that multiple management measures are needed in XYZ fisheries but not so many that they cannot be easily understood and enforced.
In addition to compliance and enforcement, the key regulatory measures appeared to be the following:
  1. a small list of permissible species for exploitation, 
  2. fleet controls, especially on the size of boats in the fishery, 
  3. limited entry controls to restrict the number of fishers, and 
  4. licensing and reporting requirements.
Evidence of slow growth, low natural mortality and high longevity in some species underscores the need for more conservative management strategies than in the past and cautions the use of conventional fisheries science underpinned by estimations of maximum sustainable yield.  
The great variation in the scale of fishing activities, management systems and technical capacities of management bodies means that multiple, country or region-specific solutions will be needed to redress the shortcomings in collapsed fisheries.

Operationalizing an ecosystem approach to fisheries management (sensu Garcia et al. 2003) requires a greater involvement of stakeholders, consideration of alternative management systems and a higher priority of social science in management institutions.
Resilience in XYZ fisheries will come about only if fishers are part of the management system and can adapt quickly to changes in the resource. In the vast majority of global fisheries, regulations towards sustainability are commonly undermined by political pressures (Mora et al. 2009).

Transformation of the management paradigms currently undermining XYZ stocks, therefore, inevitably needs to be supported by decision-makers resolutely if these animals are to remain valuable to the livelihoods of coastal peoples and provide the eco-services that contribute to healthy marine ecosystems. 
There you have it.
The poorer the countries, the more depleted the stocks.
And if we want to establish sustainable fisheries, we have to develop simple, often country-specific management tools, we have to involve the stakeholders - but we also have to tackle poverty and above all, we have to boost compliance and enforcement.

The paper - have you divined the species XYZ?
It's not at all about Sharks - it is about Sea Cucumbers!
Thing is, when it comes to lesser developed countries in the tropics, I can find plenty of literature about large-scale, industrialized commercial fisheries for pelagic Sharks but nothing about those small-scale artisanal fisheries that are wreaking havoc on the coastal species.
The Sea Cucumber paper is an excellent proxy not only because it sheds a light on those coastal fisheries but also because in places like Fiji, the Sea Cucumber traders are increasingly promoting Shark fins as a high-value alternative for those depleted and ever more rare Sea Cucumbers. Both fisheries supply the same essentially Asian consumer markets, involve the same people and socio-economic issues, and follow the general trend whereby they are equally often not, or badly managed and unsustainable (e.g here), and exploit the same lack of resources (and often lack of determination and/or corruption) and resulting insufficient to nonexistent enforcement by the local authorities.

Solutions?
It's same old same old.
  • Legislate Shark Sanctuaries as stop-gap measures.

  • Where possible, create alternative livelihoods e.g via tourism or aquaculture.

  • Eventually and where adequate, establish science-based and sustainably managed fisheries, however with much smarter, and way cheaper monitoring and enforcement.
    In the case of those small-scale commercial fisheries, monitoring every single fisherman and landing site is mission impossible - the good news being that the bottleneck are the fin traders that are both driving the fisheries and aggregating, processing and exporting the fins. They are relatively few, easy to identify and easy to monitor. Reverse the burden of proof and let them prove that the trade is sustainable and legal, and make it a condition of their license to provide the data required for management.
There you have it - not easy but not impossible, either.
Or am I missing something here?