Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Shark Whisperer: Terrifying Pictures!

This is a Great Hammerhead.
Depicted here by the incomparable Wolfgang Leander, it is majestic, enigmatic and unbelievably elegant, a true marvel, joy and privilege to behold.

It is also threatened with extinction.
Endangered is the second-worst category of the IUCN and I invite you to read about the many plights affecting this particular species, from the widespread deliberate targeting for the Shark fin trade to its devastating mortality when caught as bycatch to its continued persecution by trophy-hunting anglers right here on the IUCN Red List. 
Thankfully, the Hammerheads are now starting to be protected locally and internationally - but the effects of that protection are so far unknown and may well be severely curtailed by its extremely high post-release mortality, and international Shark conservationists remain gravely concerned.
Very shy and now also rare, it can only be reliably encountered in a very few select locations like e.g. Rangiroa where they aggregate during the Eagle Ray mating season.

And then, there is Bimini.
So far, nobody appears to know why the Hammers aggregate there in spring, but Doc's Sharklab is, respectfully, working on finding answers. And of course, as of late, the Sharks have been a boon for the local Shark diving industry that is desperately trying to preserve its precious asset, and the integrity of local Shark diving, by politely asking that visitors adhere to a set of common-sense rules.

And now have a look at this pathetic shit.
So this is Bill and Joe's take on Shark conservation messaging - and I'm revolted. 
I ask, could anything be more disrespectful than this repugnant sequence of grotesquely distorted toothy caricatures and depictions of human dominance - and stupid, exploitative, narcissistic and hypocritical to boot?

But worry not - I'm not gonna dwell. Tho I could!
Whereas responsible Shark diving operators are trying to elevate the industry to more sustainable levels, a subset of adrenaline seeking self-promoting yahoos are pushing Shark encounters to ever new lows. I call it Troglodyte Shark Diving, and its requirement for ever bigger and more inane thrills is progressively thrashing Shark diving sites from Florida to the Bahamas to Guadalupe and recently even Fiji. Despite of all the bullshit about wanting to change perceptions, yada yada, it is zero about conservation and all about some macho wannabee heroes wanting to flaunt their cojones, or whatever, by taking stupid risks, or manhandling and dominating the animals.

Or as my wise friend once stated, way back then.
It stopped actually being "about sharks" a long time ago. 
It's about the individual and what the sharks as a vehicle to notoriety can do for them.
And this rant?
It will achieve nothing except for establishing yet another pathetic feud. But I'm happy that I've finally got it off my chest because I've been watching those folks and biting my tongue for way too long!

Tagging at Shark Reef - Competition!


We're currently field testing this new PAT tag.
Developed by Desert Star, it's the small cousin of the tag currently deployed by e.g Neil and Co, and its functions are accordingly substantially reduced - the good news being that so is the price of up to less than 500 bucks
But even in this basic configuration, this is really a very cool gizmo with theoretically unlimited life due to the fact that instead of a battery, it is fitted out with solar cells and a capacitor, meaning that its useful life is only limited by its data storage which is currently equivalent to approx 750 days. We've programmed the tags to release in one year's time which will hopefully help solve the April riddle.

That is, if the tags stay on!
Much of our early telemetry research has been marred by a rather spectacular failure rate, and one of the aims of this sequence has been to explore alternatives. Thus, we've used a stronger speargun with a stopper in order to finally reliably pierce the Sharks' extremely tough skin; and after some soul searching and one major correction compared to back then, all four tags deployed so far have been rigged slightly differently from each other in order to determine the best configuration.
Preliminary results are rather encouraging, the more as the Sharks appear completely unfazed - in fact, after dashing away upon impact, they have immediately returned and kept on feeding!

 This is Shark #1.

The tag has been rigged more conventionally using wire leader and crimps, and as you can discern (click for detail), the leader has been cutting away at the skin. Unsurprisingly, that tag has already released and after several astonishing loops within Beqa Lagoon, it is presently happily drifting away somewhere between Sigatoka and Momi Bay = there's a finders fee of FJD 100 for anybody retrieving it.
The other tags have been rigged using para cord (thanks Yannis!), and the attachment looks way better - pic courtesy of Martin.

We've also chosen to paint those tags black.
This is to avoid disrupting the Sharks' camouflage but also in order to prevent shenanigans by the ever-feisty Giant Trevally. Of interest, the paint is already being worn away by the Sharks' skin = together with the fact that the tags are made of a material akin to that of water bottles (which appear to never foul), biofouling is likely to be negligible to nil.

And yet, Shark #2 has surprisingly lost its tag, too!
The tag has pinged only once shortly before the Shark then turned up on our dive, and hasn't been heard of since. To me, the implications are alas pretty much obvious - but I will certainly leave it at that until we ferret out some solid evidence!

Be it as it may, here's the Competition!
We've tagged these four Sharks - ##1 through 4 - click for detail. 

The first person who posts all four correct names wins one week of diving.
All I will tell you is that one is a hand feeder, two are bin feeders and one will feed, assertively, at any given occasion and location. And that all those Sharks are listed here and here. And that all are large to massive, very well known, easily recognizable and frequent visitors, this in order to allow for ground truthing.
Easy - no? :)

  • Unlimited attempts allowed - one post per person per 24h.
  • Posting is only valid on this blog, not on FB or Twitter where they will be deleted.
  • PA volunteers and staff, customers and friends who have been here during May and may thus have an obvious advantage may not participate.
  • Please don't post if you cannot accept the prize and/or dive FOC anyway. Especially you El Diego - and no whispering to friends either, special or otherwise!
Wishing you the best of success! :)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Is Scienceyness better than Nothing?

And I cite.
One of the main counter-arguments I hear from scienceyness advocates is, “Not everyone has the time or expertise to read original journal papers; isn’t it better that we support from the sidelines than not at all?”

I’m not saying you have to read the original journal paper. 
I’m not saying you have to understand all the technical jargon.
I’m saying that you need to take ten goddamn seconds to run a Google search and determine whether the story is legitimate, untrue, or just plain blown out of all proportion to the actual evidence. 

Here’s the litmus test: 
Before you click that “Share” button, ask yourself why you’re sharing the story. Is it because you’re genuinely interested in the project? Or is it because you think the headline and the picture look cool? Or is it — be really honest — because you want your friends to think of you as a smart person who’s plugged into the latest research news? 

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the second two motivations —  as long as they’re backed up by the first one.
Amen to that!
Case in point - to this day, this post gets read and shared by hundreds of people every week!
Or how about the Oxygen Myth!

Monday, May 25, 2015

In Search of Angels!


The Angel Shark is Critically Endangered, with a small population surviving in the Canary Islands.
Story here.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Shark Conservation and Shark Strikes?

Bingo - and I cite.
Shark attacks around the world are generally on the rise, thanks to shark conservation efforts that began in the early 1990s combined with increasing numbers of people enjoying saltwater recreation.
All I can say is, bravo!
Finally a researcher has the guts to say it as it is.
Human and Shark population growth are on an intersection course - and only if we acknowledge both sides of that equation will we be able to properly address the issue and find prophylactic solutions in order to avoid the inevitable conflict that will ultimately, and equally inevitably harm the Sharks. Case in point Florida - with GWS sightings clearly on the rise, it is only a matter of time til somebody will get hurt. And incidentally, same-same for further north where those rebounding Seal populations are attracting big GWS to the coast - are the aquatic recreationists in New Jersey and the Hamptons being adequately educated?

Anyway, if you're in Florida, go to George's talk.

Expedition Gombessa!

And talking of Laurent.

Tetamanu was Expedition Gombessa 2.
Gombessa 1 was about filming the Coelacanth in South Africa, so far only done from subs or via ROVs. Here's the documentary - and should you speak French, please also watch the making of with Laurent!


Grouper Spawning in French Polynesia - must-see!

Johann alerts me to this post.

This is simply sensational stuff.
I've witnessed the Grouper spawning aggregation in Tetamanu ages ago and it remains one of the highlights of my diving career. Last year, a group of French and Swiss researchers and cinematographers did embark on a major mission to document the event, and this is finally the program depicting that expedition. Featuring renown marine biologist and adventurer Laurent Ballesta, it will also document a 24-hour rebreather dive at the height of the spawning cycle when the local Grey Reefies go on a rampage (and here!) among the Groupers.
This being Arte, I expect nothing short of epic - so make sure you don't miss it!

And here's the trailer.
Enjoy - and I mean it!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Howard - Winged Giants!

Stunning as always!

These are the Revillagigedo Islands.
GSD Ambassadors Howard and Michele were diving off Nautilus' brand new and luxurious flagship, the Nautilus Belle Amie. Of interest, the orange Angelfish cleaning the Pelagic Mantas are the endemic Clarion Angelfish.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dusky Sharks vs Humpback Calf!

Have you read this post by David?

Here's the video.
What strikes me as peculiar is the absence of the mother, meaning that that calf would have eventually died of starvation - and with that in mind, are those Duskies really hunting, or are they merely acting opportunistically (certainly not cooperatively!) and dispatching an animal that was already condemned for reasons we ignore = possibly lost or abandoned?

Anyway, watch.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Feeding Basking Sharks!

This is great.
You can go witness these majestic Sharks in Scotland with GSD member Basking Shark Scotland.


Fiji win the 7s World Series!

Eat that Blitzbokke!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Citizen Science - Comments by Christine Ward Paige!

Thank you Christine!

Remember this post?
It did generate a spirited debate where I once again reiterated my personal distaste for the all-pervasive duplication and lack of coordination in Shark research, and the resulting frustration of both the donors and the divers alike. Once again, the gist of my post is not that I believe that Ryan's initiative is a bad thing in itself - what I bemoan is that lacking the necessary coordination with other data bases, it further fragments the global effort which ultimately leads to worse, not better science.
Now Christine has attempted to chime in, but her comment was truncated due to the space limitations of the comments section of Blogger.
Here it is in its entirety.
Hi all,
A few comments from my experience…
  1. If people are taking their (limited) time to submit data, the goal should be to get as much useful information efficiently.
    In 2004, I started collecting a lot of information, but quickly found that there were too many missing records for many of the variables that were being collected, such as sex, behaviour, habitat, depth, etc. Generally, if a question will generate >5% missing data then it is removed from the analysis and therefore a waste of time to collect in the first place. Data for data sake is not my goal. People are busy and donating their time, so I only aim to collect data that I can use.

  2. To reiterate Mike’s point, I think we can safely move beyond collecting data on single species groups, such as sharks.
    I started with just sharks and rays as proof that recreational divers could provide useful data that the scientific community and governments would accept and use to inform conservation and management strategies. And they have! I was told that the results of the eManta_eShark survey (paper was in review at the time) were used in back room conversations at CITES COP 2013 and were influential for at least 2 countries in voting to list mantas on Appendix II. Similarly, the Bahamas protected their sharks following a paper that was published in 2010 that used the data – recreational diver generated dataset - which showed the uniqueness of the Bahamas shark populations.
    Note: The dataset is the most valuable dataset that I use and I could not do my work without it. It is the template that I used to create eShark and allows me to fill the gap that Johann M identifies, which is the accuracy of reports. However…

  3. I think we – those coming from the scientific side of things - need to be careful not to suggest that scientific divers are perfect, or that recreational divers are not good at identification.
    Way back when, when I started this work, many scientists said I couldn’t use recreational diver data because they couldn’t identify/count them properly …something about them “worrying about keeping their masks on their face”, which is so ridiculous in my opinion. So, I tested the shark scientists, fish biologists, recreational divers, and the general public on their shark identification abilities – covering people from around the world. Let's just say that the only person that got 100% on the test had never dived in their life and was only half way through their undergraduate degree - she just loved sharks.
    In fact, throughout my interviews, I have been amazed at the accuracy of not only the identifications (photo verification), but of people’s memories. Many people have photos that correspond with their observations. I’ve used these dated photos to verify memory accuracy. Especially for the rare observations, some people could remember the exact month when an observation took place more than 5 years earlier. However, I always err on the side of my memory ability, which is really not very good. These inaccuracies, whether by recreational divers, dive masters/instructors or scientists, can be managed with good survey design, reasonable assumptions, awareness of limitations and responsible analysis.

  4. When (the late) Ransom Myers and I developed the idea of using divers to census shark and ray populations, an important first step was to ask the dive community about potential concerns for data.
    I specifically asked this question when I was at DEMA and ADEX with Project Aware, which enabled me to cover a wide variety of perspectives and regions of the world. The most important concern raised was that I was creating a dataset that included the location of species that were vulnerable/endangered and still targeted. So, although I think scientists should be open to collaboration, and I certainly am, I think it is irresponsible to make these data freely available or open source and I think we need to be careful who we share it with.
    To get around this, I provide data summaries to different people or groups that request it - e.g., I give (almost) monthly summaries to Shark Guardian on their progress in Thailand - and have contributed data to OBIS, which is open source, but the data are shared according to OBIS recommendations for sensitive species (10x10 degree cells - you can't even tell what country they are in!) so that the lat/lon and seasonality cannot be used by people that aim to do harm to these populations.

  5. I agree with you Mike – more collaboration would be valuable.
    I am always on the lookout for other groups that share the my mission and are aligned with eShark. There are a few, including,, Marine Debris Tracker, and Redmap –Australia that are great and run by very good scientists that know how to use the data. Three of these I featured on for an Oceans Day event in 2014. I didn’t have time to organize this event again this year…

  6. I am encouraged by the number of different citizen science surveys now available – we have come a long way since those naysayers of 2004, some of which have actually gone on to create their own diver surveys now!
    But I do appreciate and share Mike’s comments and concerns about diluting and frustrating the people that want to contribute in the best way they can. Of course people cannot contribute to all the existing surveys – I can barely keep track of them all at this stage.
The advice I have for potential contributors is to look at the goals and results of the organization running the survey and ask:
  • i) Do they have publications to support their motivation to collect the data?
  • ii) Do they have the scientific and statistical expertise to use the data?
  • iii) Do they specifically state who will use the data, or do they just generally say ‘collecting for science’?
  • iv) Does the organization intend to use the data responsibly and keep it protected from people that may wish to exploit it, or do they have it open source/freely available?
I personally value locally collected data that feeds into a larger picture, which is why Shark Guardian and the Great Fiji Shark Count are so effective and both received awards from Project Aware for their efforts.

Anyway, this is my two cents.
Thanks Mike for prompting me to comment.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sharks4Kids - Great Hammers!

Source - read it!


Not the video - the music!
Just kidding (tho I love dubstep) - once again Duncan excels as a shooter, and Jillian excels as an educator.
And those Sharks are just fantastic! :)


Tyson Shark diving!

Ladies - this is Tyson. :)

Despite of the obvious envy I must say, I like the dude.
I really can see what has made him so popular, and that is his authenticity. He's just a friendly, easy going Aussie bloke with zero mannerisms and heaps of charisma - so good on him for his success and godspeed for a brilliant career!

Anyway, he was in Fiji.
And last week, he did pop by for a quick Shark dive.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Martin: Granma!

This is our iconic Granma - Source.

Love this pic!

Martin is here and obviously having a ball.
He'll be here all month and offers this excellent deal - so, what are you waiting for! :)

Friday, May 08, 2015

David - venit, vidit, vicit!

I must say that I'm impressed.

Here are the details of David's trip to Gran Canaria.
Huge congratulations - and when I read his report, I'm really looking forward to seeing many more accolades and possibly, some degree of financial success as well.

Fingers crossed - nobody would have deserved it more!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

New Zealand - Bycatch Mitigation!

And talking of smart young people.
And I cite.
"So let's look at the real problems, which is this loophole of encouraging fishers to get back their hooks when they catch sharks... that loophole that allows them to bring it on board, kill it and throw it back and not count it."
The proposed legislation is certainly a step in the right direction - but mandating that Sharks be released alive but also collecting all the relevant data about that important incidental mortality would be even better!

Well said Riley!

Ozzie Sam - simply stellar!

Click for detail! Source.

Well what can I say...
Those are unquestionably three of my very favorite people, too! :)

Chris Fischer - flat learning Curve?

Same old same old... antiquated, unnecessarily invasive technology and procedures. Source.

Maaan... talk about being a sucker for punishment!

Read this.
Martin had posted a totally innocuous report about the Sharks of Guadalupe - and here comes Fischer whining about being ignored! Exactly like years ago when I posted about Domeier's epic paper, and when Fischer found it fit to try and embroil me in an idiotic debate that did ultimately lead to his public crucifixion by Domeier himself (read it!).
PS - and here is of course the inevitable second public crucifixion!

Here's the deal.
Nobody really gives a flying fuck about boat owners, captains and anglers. They're a means to an end, a dime a dozen, nothing but tools much like, say, the satellite tags. They drive boats and catch Fishes upon instructions from the researchers - and in some exceptional cases, when they obey orders and function as planned, they may be thanked and maybe even praised for their skills at the end of some scientific paper together with the donors and possibly other people worth mentioning.
Case in point under Acknowledgements at the end.

The stars are the animals and the researchers.
And the quality of those research papers is dependent on the rigor of the science, and on whether it provides new insights, or additional evidence for some hypothesis, etc. - not on whether the animals were caught from an aircraft carrier or a kayak, not on how long it took whom to catch them how. And certainly not on some gimmick like that tracker which is brilliant technology and great public entertainment but adds nothing to the scientific insights. Once again, in order to have any value, those data need to be interpreted - and this by a trained scientist, not some self promoting wannabee Shark celebrity!

A pity, really.
Some pals were telling me that the man had calmed down, was a pleasure to work with and had finally learned to put the animals ahead of his ego.
Well, so much for that.

Oh - and talking about self important jerks.
Behold Klimley in this truly remarkable document.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Canoodling Blacktip Reefies!

Cristina and Blacktip Reefie - great pic by Ozzie Sam!

And talking of Elena.

Check this out!
Amazing - and so close!

Elena - Real World Shark Conservation!

Me gusta muchisimo!

Well done Elena, this is a most lovely video!
No not because of the honorable mention - because as one of last year's crop of Rolex scholars we've hosted, she is doing us proud by listening, understanding and then, educating! She is smart, passionate and hails from a developing country = exactly the kind of person to whom we would love to pass the torch!
And great to see her meeting so many good people and friends! :)


Swiss Shark Fin Ban - not so fast!



Fin Fighters UK announce and Martin proudly celebrates.
But the The Swiss National Council is not Congress but merely the House of Representatives - and now a commission of the Senate recommends to NOT pass specific legislation banning the importation of Shark fins. In line with Government, they argue that there are no such imports anyway as it is only legal to import Shark meat, and that Switzerland has already made its position clear by being a member of CITES.

Detail detail!

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Spring Sea, Revillagigedo!

The Revillagigedo Archipelago is Shark diving heaven. Go there with GSD member Nautilus! Source.

And talking of Pelagic Life.

This is masterful as always.

Ila - titanic Achievement!

Bravo Ila.
This is stellar, and obviously a labor of love.

So here it is in its entirety.
Recounted with much insight, knowledge, love and respect, behold the complete biography of the irreducible and unequaled Doc: brilliant and iconic Shark researcher, mentor and Mensch - and certifiably nuts to boot! :)
Part one here, two here, three and final here!


Ritter and the Oxygen Myth!


Oh yes he's still at it.
By now, everybody and his dog knows that the oxy myth is nothing but moronic pseudoscientific BS - but you can trust the grand mufti of Sharkitarianism to continue regurgitating the same old tired and utterly discredited diarrhea to his googly-eyed audience of credulous dimwits!
Talk about the man being an inexhaustible cornucopia of rubbish!

But worry not.
I'm not about to go repeating myself.

Terra Australis - Trailer!

I like this.
I kinda reminds me of Pelagic Life - young people simply doing their own thing and living their own adventures in the ocean, all sans breathy self promotion.
This time instead of Mexico the images are from Western Australia.


Friday, May 01, 2015

Targeting pregnant Sharks in Florida!

Oh yes - there's nothing wrong with this, just some harmless FUN! And highly educative for the kids! Source.

And I cite.
FWC enforcement officers in the Keys are aware of the nocturnal shark-fishing activity at Sea Oats Beach and pay special attention to it during the shark pupping season, agency spokesman Officer Bobby Dube said.
"Fishermen are allowed to catch sharks," Dube said. "Finning is illegal but catching sharks is not."
Read this - fishermen are targeting and killing pregnant Sharks in the Florida Keys, and the FWC sees nothing wrong with that. Much like the IGFA that continue to certify those all-tackle weight records which for Fishes inevitably equals the biggest, likely pregnant females that happen to be the most prolific and thus most valuable breeders.

Remember this?
Looks like 5 years on, progress is still zilch - which is even more disturbing considering the legions of Floridian Shark divers that swamp us with all those terminally boring videos and ALL purport to be saving Sharks by changing perceptions yada yada! How about less self promotion and less breathy statements, and instead, more meaningful action on the ground folks!

You know who you are!