Thursday, January 08, 2015

2014 - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

No such category this year - but if there were, this would probably be my favorite pic! Source.

OK - let's do this thing.

This time, it's gonna be different.
I'm gonna spare myself the various verbose intros because they would be no different from what I've posted in the past - if yer interested, go and re-read them here!

So there.

For BAD it has been a simply phenomenal year.
This is the first year that we've not had to let go anybody but have instead further expanded our team by hiring our two fabulous trainees from Galoa, Elia and Wase; the first year that we were able to cover all our investments out of cash flow; and most importantly, the first year we've paid out more than 50k in bonuses to the staff. Yes as always, there goes the dividend - but this was never about the money anyway!
And for you fans out there: Silio got married and is becoming our first home-grown instructor; and Nani's little sister Ana is not so little anymore, equally married and mother to a healthy son!

But our biggest achievement was that after 10 year of incessant lobbying, we were finally rewarded for our patient stubbornness when Government declared the SRMR a National Marine Park in September - and having talked to many people, it really is the first NMP in Fiji and probably the first such public/private partnership anywhere!

The scientific work has continued unabated.
Juerg did publish his simply stellar paper about competitive exclusion.
Thanks to PADI Project AWARE, the GFSC  has continued for its third year despite of the rather baffling retraction of SOSF as a sponsor, meaning that we now have enough data for a first analysis that will be published shortly. And our cooperation with Projects Abroad has added two new long term research projects that will eventually result in more papers published but above all, in vital action on the ground. And I know of at least one paper being in peer review, plus two being written as we speak - so keep watching this space!

Talking of Projects Abroad, I must really say that it has been awesome.
This has really been a great cooperation. Yes, like in any marriage, we've had our disagreements - but they've been exceedingly rare, discussions have always been constructive, and we've always come away enriched from them, as did our projects.
On top of conducting their research and various community initiatives, the volunteers did plant thousands upon thousand of Mangroves and as a consequence, the MFF website is currently undergoing a major facelift to better reflect the project's massive expansion along with its changed strategic orientation. 
There too, expect news rather sooner rather than later, this along with the announcement of a substantial expansion and re-orientation of the river tagging work!
Thank you guy and gals - you rock! :)

And I must also thank Broadreach.
This was the seventh year that they've run their summer camps for High School and College with us, and thanks to the leadership of the irreducible Lindsay but also of multi-year leaders like Chris, we've become like family whereby this is undoubtedly the staff's favorite time of the year!

And  then, there was the global stuff!
We've launched Global Shark Diving to a simply overwhelming reception at DEMA, and as soon as everybody returns from the Holidays, the operator page will start populating with further amazing members, more ambassadors an also the bios of the researchers we work with along with their projects. One hundred percent initiated from within our Industry, this initiative aims at elevating Shark diving to a more long-term sustainable model, and it is great to see how the public approves of it and fantastic operators are buying into it. The customer cards are being printed as we speak, so expect to start getting them really soon, and yes they are totally free of charge - and then please show us that you like what we do!
And other really great global initiatives are in the making - and although they are not initiated by us and I'm thus not at liberty of divulging any details, I can nevertheless proudly reveal that BAD will play a role in each and every one of them!

And finally, the Sharks are doing great!
When it comes to our Fiji Bulls, we've witnessed the latest full cycle from mating to pregnancy to pupping, and the arrival of the newest batch of subadults - meaning that with the exception of the riverine YOYs and small juveniles, we're able to showcase every single life stage all the way to the old mamas like Granma and Bulge! With that in mind, 2015 is likely to yet again be a bumper year!
Same-same for the Whitetips that breed right there on the reef, and El Diego tells me that one big pregnant Blacktip has left and come back from its likely nursery on Beqa Island!
Tigers alas a big fat zero. There are just too many feisty Bull Sharks, plus they are likely been drawn away to the nascent Tiger Shark dive by BLR on the fringes of Beqa Lagoon where they usually hang out. One of their feeders has a reputation for being a loose cannon, and the dive looks messy (BTW, that's Adi) -  so here's to a steep and accident-free learning curve, and to loads of success! And, guys, get yerself some steel gloves and aluminum poles - gotta stack the cards in your favor!

Great people we've first met in 2014, in no particular order:
Allen; Mark; Ingrid, Andy, Kira, El Diego, Josh and Ron of Projects Abroad; Serge, Johann, Nicolas, Pierpaolo and the fantastic team of CRIOBE; Adam; Andrew; Riley and Mike; Avi, Mike, and the great Rodney; Nicole; Ciro and Ines, and Celso; Judi; Ian; Mark and JessElena and Ana - plus probably several more I've forgotten to mention, for which I apologize!
An then there was Shelley - and she has been a total revelation!
Great great lady, with a big heart for Sharks, a great sense of humor, a razor-sharp mind and an incredible wealth of knowledge about what is going on in those obscure pelagic fisheries. Really - very impressed!

And to all our old friends - thank you! :)
And a big shout-out to the traditional DEMA dinner co-conspirators - love you guys!
And a very, very special H/T to Bati!

So what about the Good elsewhere.
Frankly, I'm a bit at a loss. Yes there was plenty of good stuff and some of it was even very good - but it was essentially same old same old, nothing really spectacularly new. The good people remain the good people, the good NGOs continue to deliver good work, and DaMary and Rick continue to be my Shark heroes and continue to impress me with their intelligence, humility and humanity.

But a special H/T goes to Jessica, Ryan and Barry for their invaluable contribution to the scrapping of the WA Shark cull.

And although I'm sure that there are others - Riley, Ana and Elena, see above, are beacons of hope for picking up the torch and introducing intelligent, pragmatic, science- and fact-based Shark conservation to the next generation!

And I want to highlight this.
If you haven't before, please do watch it this time.

This is how all documentaries should be - especially those about Sharks!
Not that tired old, pathetically larmoyant new age eco clap trap; not those TV productions that are tailored for an audience of brain dead morons. Instead, give us real storytelling!, real emotions, beautiful cinematography and sound tracks!
Bravo David!

And finally - there has been progress!
Some of the charlatans have finally been unmasked and pushed into irrelevance - and I detect a clear slowing down, if not reversal of the Dolphinization of Shark Conservation! 
Here's to evolution!

And the Bad and the Ugly?

But first things first.
As a reminder, read this and watch this!

That's the general backdrop.
But there, too, I really can't be bothered much anymore.
Those cheats, charlatans and hypocritical media whores are not reformable, and you can't cure stupid - but I'll sure continue to expose them lest they think that they get away with that shit! But should you wonder whether you may have missed anything: I've WTF'd all my rants, so you can go and re-read what has made my blood boil - some stupid, some really bad and some simply egregious.

Let me mention just a few.

The very worst?
Those fishermen continue to kill Sharks by the tens of millions.
Lets never forget that THIS is the real problem - not the various comparatively irrelevant issues that continue  to inflame the hearts of the do-gooders!
Yes there has certainly been notable, sometimes even stellar progress in Asia that has driven down the price of Shark fins and sometimes even eliminated some local Shark fisheries - but the decline is not as large as asserted and with human populations continuing to grow and out-strip marine resources, Shark meat is increasingly being consumed as a source of protein.
This means that the fight is not only not over, but that a substantial part of the effort needs to be urgently re-directed towards advocating sustainable fisheries. To top that off, we're also hammering the Sharks' prey; and Global Warming, Acidification, Pollution and Habitat Destruction are exerting further pressure on Shark populations.
Not good!

And then there was the WA Shark cull.
Yes the cull proper has been stopped - but the killing continues, and the WA government has made it easier to go out and slaughter more Sharks by redefining the terms of reference. All-in-all, it's eminently disturbing and also, eminently stupid as public safety is not in the slightest being increased. And the recent targeting of tagged Sharks is just simply unacceptable.
And what about our side.
I must say that I was appalled (but by no means surprised) by all those conservation people flocking into WA like fucking lemmings with the sole purpose of showcasing themselves as heroic conservationists, and by the sheer stupidity but also, by the abject lack of compassion of many, many comments posted on social media. And I really was not at all impressed by some of the research community, both for their lack of fortitude in addressing the issue honestly (= when will anybody finally state that there are obviously more big GWS!) but also for playing to the crowd by advancing  some remarkably misleading and stupid arguments.

And Shark Week?
We don't get it here in Fiji so I haven't seen anything - but I hear that some was atrocious and some, rather good. What however did really disturb me was all that frothy incestuous twittering and blogging by the intelligentsia! Talk about a veritable cottage industry of outraged nerds! 
And the worst part? Not only did they offer zero solutions, not only did they bring about zero change - I know for a fact that DC were delighted by all that incremental traffic whilst laughing all the way to the bank!
Guys - next time, THINK!

And then, there was this shit!
Simply appalling - sed scripta manent: this will forever stand in ignominy, for the organization but also very much for the people involved. As a minimum, give your money to others that are more deserving of your respect!

And I was really saddened by the creeping demise of Shark Savers!
Once by far the best of the small Shark NGOs,  it is obviously nothing more than an afterthought in Wild Aid's global strategy.
Really, what a crying shame!

And last!
Remember the story of the junior student that tried to out-Pip the Madi?
Surely, that incident must go down as one of the most bizarre, brazen, stupid and quite frankly sad episodes of Shark conservation!
And the website (.org no less!) is rebuilding - hahahahaha!

Talk next year!

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