Friday, June 18, 2021

Surfing Reefies - Paper!

Very cool.
But first, watch.

This is DV footage from 2005, from an old edit.
I was staying at Sané and Annabelle's epic Tetamanu Village and was fortunate to catch the magic moment when the sun reflects off the Sharks on an early morning incoming tide - and for you insiders, the first two clips are from the challenging trou aux requins in Apataki.

Notice how the Sharks are barely moving? 
They are literally surfing the current - and here's the according paper courtesy of Yannis, Johann, Serge, Charlie et al, inclusive of how they use a conveyor-belt positioning system to ensure that the groups remain stationary over the most advantageous spots.
Story here.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Shark Reef - Video!

BRAT, way back then when life was easy
The virus is on the loose.
Government is doing a truly fabulous job in containment and contact tracing - but as we all must play our part, we've all decided to home isolate, meaning that I've had plenty of extra time on my hands. 
So there.
Filmed in 4K and down-sampled to ProRes 1080 due to my measly upload speed of 242 kbps  - and it still took me nearly five full days to post!
Oh and.
There's a reason why ours has been called The Best Shark Dive in the World - and this is why. 
The dive keeps on changing, and we keep on learning and adapting, too - but after literally thousands of dives I for one continue to find it as mesmerizing as on day one!

Watch in 1080 - enjoy!

Feeding and Conditioning Sharks - Video!

Remember this
And I cite,
Let's not forget the impact of the thousands upon thousands of people who feed and condition Sharks and other Fishes on a daily basis, i.e. the fishermen and spearos!
Case in point:

And this is being repeated, mutatis mutandis, countless times wherever there are fishermen = all the time and everywhere!
Do you really believe that the incremental effect of a few dozen Shark feeding operators is in any way relevant to the health of Elasmobranch populations? 
Now watch, and listen = it's exactly like I said back then, and the impact of our industry is absolutely irrelevant.

Story here.
Just gotta love it how they then complain about a problem they themselves have created! 
And, here's another one- see what I mean?
Let's go Shark diving - sustainably!

Monday, April 05, 2021


So sorry!
I hate to interrupt Tashi Blue's lovely positive messaging - but this just has to be.
Yes I've finally watched that smug garbage.
Fatally reminds me of similar Sea-Shepherd-fueled production by yet another spoiled, entitled and uninformed white dude a while ago - and I can certainly leave it at that. 
It's nothing but a vegan propaganda con job for and quite possibly, by Sea Shepherd, too - and like a Trump campaign speech, it's so full of bullshit and outright lies that I really cannot be bothered to properly fact check it.
But others are trying.
So if you want to be more than a credulous sucker and get some, gasp, actual facts, I strongly recommend that you inform yourself here, here and here - and don't forget to click on the links!
Yes the above is obviously all very Hilborn.
I've now been a marine conservationist for many years and have started out as a utopian and very vociferous activist, albeit maybe a bit less extremely so than some others - but this is the real world and not a utopia, and as I've taken the time to learn about those tedious actual facts, I've come to realize that matters are actually complicated, and that the solutions need to be much more nuanced, much more species and location-specific and sometimes, much more innovative, too.
For you in the know, nowadays, my choice between the two ideological extremes of Hilborn and Pauly clearly gravitates towards the former - and this very much including my thoughts about Sharks
And when pondering where we want our food to come from, I for one will always advocate extracting food from a natural and largely undisturbed habitat over destroying whole ecosystems in favor of agriculture.
But that extraction will obviously need to be sustainable - and therein lays the crux!
Not convinced?
Just look at this shocking image - and the same applies to food crops, too!

So, is everything in fishing OK?
Obviously NOT, or there would be no need for people like me! 
But it is by far not as bad as depicted, at least not globally - and the big bad industrial fishing complex is most certainly not the only culprit  either! 
So by all means, if you feel the need to become active, first inform yourself and then, don't reinvent the wheel but go and support those many organizations that are actually tackling the issues that rile you the most - and trust me, contrary to what is being suggested, they do exist, and many do an excellent job! 
Sea Shepherd, too - but not always and not everywhere = hint: the louder and more strident the propaganda, the weaker the actual performance - so don't be a sucker and do your due diligence before parting with your precious conservation dollars or engaging in extremist vegan volunteering!
And never, ever forget  this = as a minimum, VOTE!!!!!!
Wanna stop eating fish?
Because you're white, entitled, live in the Northern hemisphere and can amply afford to do so? By all means, knock yourself out - and enjoy enjoy enjoy the organic kale! 
But, please, stahp lecturing the others who are not and can not - OK?

I'm already giving it way too much attention.
Like they say over there, à la poubelle! - and the same applies to all those insufferable idiots, charlatans and pleurnicheurs who praise that shit from their perches atop Mount Stupid, or who promote it because they are ultimately trying to sucker you into giving them your money.
BTW it's always the same folks - so stop listening, let alone admiring them!

Let's go Shark diving - sustainably!
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Please be aware that this is  not a public chatroom, and that comments we don't like will  be deleted.
Our blog our rules! :)
PS - well, this is embarrassing.
I must confess that I was pretty proud of my comparison at the top - and now I discover this.
I could regale you with some smart bonmot about great minds and the like - but I won't. Guess that after 5 years of that daily verbal diarrhea, the comparison must have been all-but-inevitable.
Anyway, enjoy enjoy enjoy the organic kale - Thumper and Bambi, and millions upon millions hectares of irrevocably obliterated terrestrial habitats included! :) .
PPS - more of those irritating and tedious actual facts here!
So, don't be a sucker!
Pauly here, Hilborn here - never would I have thought that those two guys would agree on anything, ever!

Saturday, March 13, 2021

More Poaching on Shark Reef!

Damn those people.
I knew that little friendly red Grouper.
And those are some of our last Parrotfish, and seeing that dead Angelfish breaks my heart.

But at least Tashi Blue was able to save that little Turtle.
I know, it's not much, just a little Hawksbill - but it is something, and for that little Turtle it is everything. We've known her for many years and can only hope that she will make it.
And Fred the clam is happy, too! :)
The poachers are known and will be prosecuted.
And before you ask and/or start lecturing us in Fijian protocol and the like: no, they're by no means destitute and desperate. 
They all have jobs, and have done this for fun
And the other inevitable excuses are just that.
Shark Reef has been a tabu since 2004, and since the gazetting in 2014, the fishing ban is like any other law and needs to be respected - and no there's no need for special signage or the like: it's up to the fishermen to know what is legal and what not. And we are duty-bound, by law, to enforce the ban - and enforce it we will.
All our local communities know that and don't poach there, the more since for many years, the reef has provided them with spillover fish for their qoliqoli, hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct assistance, and jobs for their youth. 
But those folks are not from here and didn't even bother to follow protocol and ask for permission before fishing in somebody else's reefs - and lemme tell 'ya, over in Beqa that's a transgression punishable by bush knife, not just a bit of shouting!
So people, chill - and as a minimum, know the facts!

And Turtles are protected country-wide.
And everybody in Fiji knows that.
It's so bloody disheartening.
Hopefully, now that the first batch of vaccines is in country, tourism and the economy will slowly pick up and the poaching will subside - but from what we can see, the damage is enormous and will take years to mend.
For now, all we can do is to keep on fighting.

Oh well.
Onward and upward - nobody said it was gonna be easy.
To be continued.
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Please be aware that this is  not a public chatroom, and that comments we don't like will  be deleted.
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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Fuvahmulah - Barbarians at the Gate!

Plenty of Tigers guaranteed!

Check this out.

Great huh.
I've been there a couple of years ago and can assure you that it is really like that, and even better, to the point that I've been trying to go back there ever since.
Many ages ago I landed myself a nifty little job as leader of exploratory dive expeditions and check-out diver for new dive destinations that led me to explore some of the remotest, most memorable and sometimes scariest dive sites long before the advent of organized mass tourism - and Fuvahmulah still conveys that rare feeling of exploring new frontiers where every dive is still an adventure harboring the possibility of unique and unexpected encounters - see e.g the other videos on this page.
And at a time where diving has been largely commodified that's just simply awesome.
Even Fuvahmulah itself is totally unique.
Dubbed The Galapagos of the Maldives, it sits all by itself, completely exposed to wind and offshore currents in deep oceanic water and thus acts as a beacon and pit stop for large ocean wanderers. It is also not your archetypical Maldivian tourism island that only sports a single sprawling hotel installation on a atoll motu, but is instead fully inhabited and merely features a few charming small family-owned guest houses along with a few modest eateries - but that too only adds to its charm.

The people to go with are these folks, hands down.
I had heard about the place from clients who mentioned a crazy Russian and her partner - but Tatiana and Panda are everything but. And this is me saying it so you better believe it!
Instead, these are smart, extremely knowledgeable, responsible and highly experienced people running a highly professional dive operation together with a great team of super motivated locals, and diving with them is both great fun but also super safe.

And lemme tell 'ya: the latter could not be more important.
The simply fabulous Thresher Shark dives are (drift) diving for grown ups in oceanic conditions and often substantial depth and challenging surge and currents, followed by open water decompression and live pickup - so you better have guides who know exactly what they are doing. And they most certainly do!
And when it comes to the world famous baited Tiger Zoo dives that often feature dozens of large Tigers, following the correct protocols is everything - and these guys sure have it down pat. And yes this would again be me saying it, the more as they've shown me the protocols that are spot on and exhaustive, including the all-important evacuation procedures and first aid training!

Which brings me straight to the title of this post.
It's much like what happened in Playa where Chino did all the pioneering work, only to have a hoard of moochers fly in and piss on his parade, or Bimini where everybody rushed in and as a minimum spoiled years of research by the Sharklab. 
Now that Tatiana and Panda have done all the heavy lifting and pretty much single-handedly put it on the tourism map, Fuvahmulah is being overrun by dozens of local copycats and wannabee Shark whisperers with little more to their credit than a GoPro, an Instagram account, an opinion and a mouth.
And like last year in Playa, this can only end up in tears - especially at the Tiger Zoo which in the high season is already operating at the very limit of sustainability. When I see those arrogant idiots and their clients wanting to change those excellent procedures and even institute free diving, in baited conditions and at the entrance of the island's only harbor with scores of vessels zipping around overhead I can only shake my head in disbelief - but then again, this is so pathetically same old same old isn't it.
Rule number one: never, ever let the inmates run the asylum!

So folks, don't be fooled by the images and the hype.
Especially in Shark diving, there really is no substitute for experience, professionalism and quality - and being a local, and giving stupid discounts, and showing you nice pictures and video, and spinning some nice eco-BS are all no substitutes for that. Not in Fuvahmulah, not in Playa and also not here in Fiji where we too continue to hate on each other but at least have our own dive sites.

Incidentally, Playa has improved dramatically.
The pandemic has weeded out the worst assholes, and most others have finally discovered the virtues of cooperation, leading to a solid season with acceptable Bull Shark numbers (thanks Chino for the baiting!) and somewhat reasonable revenues for everybody.  
And yes, Bimini has become much more orderly too.

When it comes to Fuvahmulah, it'll take a while.
Assuming the safari boats come rushing in as usual, the high season will likely be a bloody clusterfuck, after which business volumes will dry up and many of those folks will thankfully go bust and hopefully wander off in search of greener pastures.
But it aint gonna be pretty.

So, again, be smart and go with the best - seriously!
And should you be on a safari boat, do insist that they do, too, instead of trying to do it on the cheap with some local pal, the more as the victim of that fiasco would be you!

Just sayin'!
Enjoy - because you most certainly will!

PS - Oh FFS.
I've barely posted this, and here they come - and it's even worse than I feared.
The inmates have already taken over and are free diving at the Tiger Zoo, and developing some inane pelagic Tiger Shark dive, obviously baited like their illegal dive in Hawaii. And they are obviously empowering women and helping the poor locals and fighting marine pollution - something that has already been done by others for years, and this without it being used for self-aggrandizement! 
And of course it's all about Shark conservation - in a Shark sanctuary
And talking about eco clap trap
for generations we have recycled the fish scraps into the sea to fertilize the fisheries 
Literally all fishermen who clean their catch throw the scraps into the ocean, and this everywhere!
Recycle and fertilize my ass!
Lord have mercy...
And we're back to square one. 
Like a wise man said years ago - incidentally about the very same folks
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 I can most certainly leave it at that.
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Please be aware that this is  not a public chatroom, and that comments we don't like will  be deleted.
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Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Sharks of Shark Reef!

Our forever unforgotten Rusi with probably Bum or possibly Crook.
Obviously the quality is what it is.
But that was in 2007 when most of us were still filming in DV, and when the editing suites didn't quite have all of today's bells and whistles. Plus this is from a DVD we used to sell that had chapters and sub-chapters one could click on, hence the video's disruptive architecture.
And before you comment.
The generic Grey Reefie images are obviously not from here but from Tetamanu, much like the generic Blacktip Reefie footage. But then, you can witness Rusi's very first hand feed of a Blacktip, this after 4 years (!) of daily attempts - and once the first one took the bait, all others followed suit and have been hand feeding ever since!

Incidentally, Tootsie who back then was a total asshole continues to visit (!!!) but is now very much a polite elder statesman! 
Same-same for Whitenose who's the first-ever Shark I named back then in 2003 and who still pops by to say hello - much more politely and last time last week! And of the featured Bulls, we still see Long John, Stumpy, Bum, Crush, Crook and Granma, too - and there's even early footage of Valerie and Hook!
Or for you in the know.
Check out how much Whitetail has bulked up, and how even back then, she already mysteriously managed to always attract and surround herself with ever new cohorts of juvenile Golden Trevallies - something the other Lemons don't do, the more as having them constantly swim in front of your face must be a total pain! 
And yet, Whitetail continues to do it - maybe because she alone continues to visit some unknown aggregation of juvenile Golden Trevallies, maybe when she goes to give birth, maybe always in her own birthplace like her Atlantic cousins?
So many questions!
Or check out Adi who now is a giant but back then was merely a baby!

Anyway, enjoy.
We really cherish and are also really proud of what we've achieved over these many years - and now that the vaccine is looming and there's finally light at the end of the tunnel, we can't wait to see what the future will bring - and yes we got big plans! :)

So Sota tale - hopefully soon!

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Fiji - Vaccine?

Watch this - yes all of it!
Obviously, the pandemic has pretty much been an unmitigated economic disaster whereby whilst Government has done a truly fantastic job at keeping us safe, this has come at the price of shutting our borders = basically annihilating our foreign tourism industry that used to represent 40% of our GDP.
The consequence has been a 19% drop in our economic activity in 2020, mass unemployment and a dramatic reversal in the efforts to eradicate poverty that has shot back up to nearly 30%
And there have been other consequences, too.
Whereas on the positive side, many have reinvented themselves and are managing to survive by engaging in small scale farming, horticulture, handicraft, trade and bartering, we have also witnessed an alarming increase in widespread and indiscriminate fishing all the way to local overfishing and poaching, much like anticipated and also in line with what we hear is happening elsewhere in developing maritime countries.
With that in mind, we are convinced that once this fucking nightmare is finally over, there will need to be a proper damage assessment, after which marine conservation priorities will very likely have to be completely redefined = donors, hold on to your money and do not squander it on yesterday's projects! 
And BAD? 
Like I said back then, we will almost certainly survive - but next to zero income for close to one year = WAY longer than expected has been hard hard hard! Yes we continue to dive and to conduct our research, this also thanks to your continued generosity - but we too will have to reassess our priorities as even under best-case scenarios, past business volumes will remain elusive for quite some time.
That said, we also have some exciting plans!

Anyway, right now I'm pretty happy.
I might have been snoozing - but that video is the first time I learn about how Government is planning to get out of this horrible impasse, and I must say that I'm rather impressed! All I can say is that we here have obviously prepared, have already developed comprehensive yet not overly intrusive Covid protocols and will be ready to welcome you back with open arms the moment the borders reopen!

So here's to 2021 - onward and upward!
Keep watching this space!

PS - unsurprisingly the vaccine we're getting first will be the AstraZeneca via COVAX.