Sunday, March 29, 2009

Go Fiji Go!!!

Yes, after 10 years, Fiji have just won the Hong Kong Sevens!
Let the Party begin!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Global Warming


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One Thousand!

That's a lot of blog posts!

Patric of Underwater Thrills has just reached this milestone and we feel compelled to shout a big Kudos and Congratulations!
I've said it before, the blog by Shark Diver is as good as it gets: always up-to-date, always interesting, sometimes funny, often brilliant and visionary. And thankfully, often controversial, scathing and unflinching - the way a Shark Diving and Conservation blog should be!

Shark Conservation has recently made very satisfying inroads and we should be thankful for that - and persevere and redouble our efforts!

Sharks continue to be brutally slaughtered by the tens of millions - not only by the industrial Shark finning mafia but also, by the members of the oh-so-noble IGFA.
And they continue to be demonized by the mainstream media - and alas, also by Shark-related media like Discovery's Shark Week who I hear will insist on producing this season's idiotic anchor show "Deadly Beaches" in spite of the outrage by the Shark Conservation Community. Have we managed to keep them out of Fiji or are they trying to sneak in under the radar? Keep watching this space!
And there remains a sad and increasingly lonely group of yesteryear's Shark Diving Operators who insist on tarnishing the reputation of the whole Industry with their reckless cowboy antics and still treat Sharks as mere ATM machines. Which begs the question, who will facilitate Deadly Beaches in the Bahamas?
And whilst this is going on, the relevant Authorities continue to dither and precious resources keep being squandered on frivolous science.

All very dire.
Much to do for people who care. Like Patric.
Buddy, very well done and may you continue to entertain, amaze and inspire us for many years to come!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Back to Sharky Matters!

Cocos rocks!

I used to go there in the 80ies, way before the Hunters and the like (anybody remember Mary Crowley and her Ocean Voyages? The Victoria af Carlstadt? Epic!) and continue to be drawn back by its unique charm and profusion of Sharks and Fish.
That's where I saw my very first Whale Shark, my first big green Mobula (which I mistook for a green Manta Ray) and just recently, a rarely seen male Silvertip.

Alas, the huge schools of Hammerheads are probably gone forever - but it still remains one of the must-see destinations for any serious Shark aficionado.

Case in point, this spectacular video.

Notice anything? No, not the comment which is unfortunate - the images!
See the claspers? That's an elusive male Tiger Shark, and a very good sized one on top of that!
What a great find!

Tigers are not really new to Cocos.
If memory serves me right, I remember reading that Hans Hass saw them on his 1953 Xarifa expedition - but then, apparently, they disappeared. Same-same for the Silvertips that were abundant (and quite a nuisance) in the 80ies and have vanished since, only to stage a tenuous comeback in recent years.

Time for me to go back there!

Where is the Money?

Nothing to do with Sharks.

But as an ex Investment Banker, I was impressed with Eliot Spitzer's analysis of the Wall Street debacle on today's Fareed Zakaria GPS. Lemme tell you, this is Exactly what happened and you would be well served in hearing, or reading it yourself!
Especially this:

SPITZER: ....When AIG initially received $80 billion, a decision that was a consequence of a very brief meeting of the New York Fed, the president of the New York Fed, the secretary of the treasury, perhaps Chairman Bernanke, and arguably, some reports say, the chairman of Goldman Sachs, $80 billion, virtually all of it flowed out to counterparties, $12.9 billion to Goldman Sachs.

Why did that happen? What questions were asked? Why did we need to pay 100 cents on the dollar on those transactions if we had to pay anything?

What would have happened to the financial system had it not been paid?

These are the questions that should be pursued. Bonus is a real issue, it touches us viscerally, the real money, and the real structural issue is the dynamic between AIG and the counterparties.

ZAKARIA: Because those payments are in the tens of billions of dollars, the bonuses are a few hundred million.

SPITZER: The bonuses, we think, are $164 million, give or take, huge money, I mean, nobody should diminish that, but these counterparty payments, tens and tens of billions of dollars.

ZAKARIA: And it -- to your mind it seems as though that this taxpayer may have been recklessly and unwisely paid out?

SPITZER: Maybe the case could be made that it should have been paid. But at a moment in our nation's history, when everybody is being asked to bear a piece of the burden, everybody, people are being told, work four days a week, not five, sales taxes are going to go up, contracts are being broken and renegotiated for workers across America, our 401(k)s and our savings have been depleted by the recklessness of Wall Street.

For Goldman and the other counterparties not to be able to say, we can make do with only 50 cents on the dollar, 30 cents on the dollar, after we've already given Goldman a $25 billion cash infusion, they are sitting on vast amounts of cash on the sidelines -- which is their right, but they're going to invest it in due course based upon their judgment.

For them, on top of all of that, to get another $12.9 billion in the dark without questions after a meeting of this sort is fundamentally wrong. And that is the nature of the inquiry that should be raised.

More videos of the interview here - required watching!

To Zakaria, kudos for a brilliant and intelligent piece of journalism - to Spitzer, compliments for being truthful, unflinching and yet nuanced.

OK, back to the Sharks.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fingers Crossed!

Great News!

The Fishing Lobby is fuming about the appointment of Jane Lubchenco as the new Head of NOAA. Well all I can say is that I don't really give a rat's ass about whether her policy paper has been "discredited" or not: anything the Fishermen don't like can only be good for the Fish, full stop!

Wanna know what I'm talking about - and you should?
You can find the Executive Summary here or download the Full Report.
Read them, they are just great! Kudos, and Thank You to the Pew Ocean Commission for a Job very well done - propaganda or no propaganda!

Will some of the past mistakes be avoided this time?
I sure hope so - fingers crossed!

Asking for it

Well, they're at it again.
The people, not the Sharks!

A woman went wading in murky water at 5:30 pm and got bitten by a Shark - and Sharky can finally start the 2009 tally.

Where? You guessed it, Volusia County.
In Florida, the very State that banned Shark feeding as too many people were being nipped - and has become the Shark Bite Capital of the World ever since!
Yes, I'm repeating myself and will never cease to do so!

So what have the good people of Volusia, in their wisdom, undertaken in order to minimize the risk of further accidents?
Look no further than April 1-5 and the Landshark Spring Surfari Pro Tournament! Great choice of activity and above all, great choice of name! The Beach Patrol shrug their shoulders and brace themselves for the inevitable.

Sharky must be happy - and I'm reminded of Einstein.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Photo pros, beware of this lady!

Lill Haugen is a Norwegian UW photo pro and Dive Journo who is on a one-year stint in the South Pacific. After she became a regular fixture on our boats, we asked her whether she would be willing to help us establish an image inventory of our 70 named Sharks (the one above is "Bumphead") and she graciously accepted.

She is now allowed to sit in the infamous and much-coveted "pit", a special high-traffic area where selected (and very experienced) Industry Professionals have the chance of capturing those "killer images" that end up populating the dive mags.
Having seen the first results, I fully expect Lill to quickly accumulate a Shark portfolio that will be very hard to match and impossible to beat!

And what about our camera-toting clients?
Well, if you were planning to turn up with your super-duper-ultra wideangle lens in the hopes of pushing it into the face of a large macro predator, you will be disappointed. We just don't do that and "those" pics will always elude the discerning amateur visitor to Shark Reef.

No need for that anyway, just go a little tighter and we can practically guarantee that you will have the opportunity of going home with some world-class images!

Case in point: the following image that Terry Goss (or here) took from the client viewing area.
It's my favorite picture of Scarface and probably one of the best Human-Shark pics ever! Yes I know I'm biased but that's what I believe! Terry has kindly given us a good hi-res edit and I invite you to click on the image in order to explore the amazing detail.
Terry has entered the Dream Assignment Competition and I invite you to go vote for him - great initiative!


Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Remember Hanlon's Razor?

That's what came to mind when I first viewed the latest Shark Diving Industry fiasco on Underwater Thrills (kudos for their post, well thought and well said!).

No I'm not talking about the operator Dolphin Dream, facilitators of underwater Kung Fu and other reckless and disrespectful Shark-related stupidities. They obviously don't give a rat's ass about safety protocols and the reputation of the Industry as long as they can make a quick buck. What has happened is not sustainable and it was their call, and obligation to put an end to the shenanigans. Shame on them.
But I'm repeating myself - and obviously, to no avail.

I'm talking about Eli.
Brother, what were you thinking?

Yes, Sharks are way cool and yes, cageless diving with macro Sharks is certainly possible and yes, one can feed them, too - that's precisely what we do here in Fiji.
But not like this!

Our procedures in Fiji are aimed at preventing any direct interactions between our clients and the Sharks. We believe that to be a prerequisite for any encounter with predatory macro Sharks.

But whenever I dare making a comment about the procedures at Tiger Beach, I'm being told that the difference to Fiji is that the Sharks never get excited as they are merely baited in with crates but never fed. Fair enough - never having been there, I have to trust the opinion of the local experts (tho after the Groh accident, I'm not convinced).

Anyway, let's assume that interaction is OK as long as the animals are not being fed: so why do I see somebody feeding a Tiger Shark out of the bait crate: is that you?
And if so, in what function? And where is the operator?

Yes, feeding Tiger Sharks is possible and cool, too: but don't you think that if one changes one side of the equation, one must change the other side as well?
As in making absolutely certain that the excited animals cannot freely circulate among the clients? Some of which are obviously absolute Shark Diving beginners?

Was this one-upmanship ("The Great Slide") even necessary from a commercial point of view?
Because this is what we're talking about: Commercial Shark Diving, not some private gratification and adrenaline rush!
On a commercial dive, customers have the right to expect that the operator -and the facilitator- will not subject them to unnecessary risks and observe the most stringent safety protocols. Fun certainly yes - but safety first and clearly, that requirement has not been met.

Do I hear: Extreme Shark Diving? As in what: Pushing the Envelope? Dangerous? Adrenaline? Macro?
Sure, that's something most of us in the Industry do, often in order to test and perfect our procedures and often for fun, too - but in private, with our closest and equally experienced friends, on our own money and from our own boat!
Never, ever with paying customers and newbies!

And: why in front of the mainstream media?
Maybe in order to change perceptions? If so, why didn't you stage a mellow and slow-paced encounter by observing the normal procedures? A dive that would have convinced the host that contrary to their reputation, Sharks are friendly and even timid, and that they deserve the very same respect and protection that is now being extended to the terrestrial Apex Predators?

Instead, the anchorman was scared to death and millions of viewers have been re-enforced in their opinion that Sharks are nothing but man-eating machines and that we're nothing but a bunch of reckless death-defying lunatics and adrenaline junkies.
Real bad news for people like us trying to conduct responsible Shark Ecotourism.

Granted, the mainstream media are overwhelmingly anti-Shark.
But we know that, don't we - so let's start being smart and let's make sure that we use them, and not they us, like unfortunately in this case.
You've been had, Eli
, and that's particularly unfortunate as I know that your heart is in the right place and that you really do care about the animals.
A great shame.

As to Dolphin Dream, lemme state this clearly: Divers, don't go there.
It will all end in tears and you don't want to be anywhere near it when it does.

PS: RTSea's comments here, Wolfgang's here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Talking of fishing Birds...

... here is another one!

You got to see this to believe it - and after seeing it, you still won't!
I sure was skeptical but after watching this interview on msnbc, I must concede that it may be for real .

Anyway, Crazy Kiwis - eh, Gannets!

Found by Shark Diver - who else!

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Nothing to do with Sharks.

But you may not have seen this footage of Green Herons fishing: just amazing!


Some morons have killed a Tiger Shark.

That in itself is certainly sad - but shit happens and it may have been in perceived self-defense.
Not very likely considering the "circumstances" as told - but possible.

What has really angered me and countless others within the Shark Community is the ensuing media spectacle: and lemme tell you, when the story even makes it onto the venerable "Fiji Times", someone has pulled every possible marketing stop!

In retrospect and with that in mind, the whole event appears staged and questions like "why didn't they jump into their boat and leave" or " wouldn't the Shark have left once shot for the first time" are more than justified, along with ethical concerns about the countless pictures of the diver stabbing the animal with his knife and then posing with the tail and jaws. The way I understand it, it goes against everything serious free divers stand for, and that is a profound knowledge and respect for the Ocean.

Patric over there has addressed the whole shenanigans first in this post and then, in this op ed.
The latter is as good as is gets, well worth reading and reflecting about - and you may want to read the comments by many prominent advocates of Shark Conservation.
Bravo Patric!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Karen's Dream

I like Karen.

She's not only pretty and funny, she's also one of those persons who really care about the Marine Environment and who has proven, time-after-time again, that she is willing to forfeit badly-needed income in favor of upholding her ideals about Conservation.

Karen and her husband Paul (both of Tahiti Aggressor fame) own Dive Vava'u, hands down the most professional, best-equipped and most Conservation-oriented dive shop in Tonga.
Like everybody in Vava'u, they specialize in Whale Watching during the Humpback migration in August-November. Contrary to all other dive shops, they however also specialize in finding the most amazing big (they found the first ever recorded Bull Sharks in Tonga) and small critters (see above) during the off-season.

Dive Vava'u is also the only foreign dive op supporting the Fiji Shark Conservation and Awareness Project, They have been invited owing to the fact that with a mere 4-5 dive operations, Tonga is just too small to mount their own country-wide initiative.
All-in-all: Highly Recommended - and I mean it!

Karen tells me that she has entered the "Name you Dream Assignment" competition. Her dream assignment dovetails beautifully with who she is, a passionate Conservationist and accomplished UW photographer.

Please cast your vote for her.
Granted, her assignment may lack the the chutzpah of this one (and I can relate to this one, too...), the sci-fi flamboyance of this one or the depressing gravitas of this idea - but she's one of us and anything that helps furthering Marine Conservation must be supported!

And how about the other themes?
Plenty of people wanting to document America, squillions wanting to photograph children and babies, and a surprising number wanting to spend a day with the President! The current frontrunner, with 150 votes, is some piece about Diabetes (yeah, right, and the votes are completely spontaneous...) by a woman who would also like to document foster homes.... Whow....

Can we top that in a heartbeat?
You bet!

Please invest one minute of your time and go vote for Karen.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cool Stuff by Juerg!

Juerg is busy!

He's back in Switzerland and analyzing the latest crop of data - and driving poor Eroni crazy with ever new projects!

I can't tell you too much yet but we're about to see some ground-breaking papers on behavioral stuff and more conclusions from our ongoing radio tagging exercise.
At the same time, after 6 years and close to 2,000 data sets, we're completely re-wamping our trusted database to make place for the many newcomers: who would have ever thought that we would once have 42 named Bulls, along with 4 Tigers, 3 Lemons, 6 Silvertips, and 8 Greys - and mind you, that's just the individuals with a name (for which they need to feature a distinctive permanent imperfection), putting the total population at comfortably double those numbers!
Yes we love our Sharks and name them, very much like an increasing number of other Shark Diving operators worldwide - and we think that that's a good thing (well said Felix!) that contributes to their Protection!

New projects will focus on Fiji's principal rivers, which we suspect of being Bull Shark nurseries, on finding their mating grounds, on some very cool and cutting-edge tissue and DNA analysis, on Shark Diving Tourism and on substantially expanding our current push for better Shark protection. Oh and of course there's the ever-expanding Year of the Shark - Fiji - lots of fun but boy, talk about invested man-hours, especially by Eroni!
As always, watch this space!

And should you wish to delve in Juerg's publications, go to his website as usual or go to SOSFs website where you can find a cool synopsis of what's going on pretty much real-time!

Have fun!


Good News - or is it?

Whilst we're busy researching the fledgling Shark Finning industry in Fiji (run by Chinese who buy the fins from the crews of foreign flagged vessels - we've taken the above pic last week in Suva), here comes the following message.



At the Third Regular Session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC3) in Apia, Samoa in December 2006 a Conservation and Management Measure (CMM) for sharks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) was adopted. This measure was subsequently revised at WCPFC5 in Busan, Korea, in December 2008. The Shark CMM has two parts, the first being a non-binding resolution and the second being binding upon Commission members, Cooperating non-members and participating territories (CCMs).

The non-binding part of the Shark CMM resolves that the 'International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks' (IPOA - Sharks), developed by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), should be implemented by CCMs.
The intent of the IPOA - Sharks is to carry out an initial assessment of shark stocks under the jurisdiction of the State to determine if there is a need for national management action to monitor and mitigate the impacts of fisheries on sharks. It is generally accepted that where shark populations may be negatively impacted as a result of fishing activities a National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (NPOA - Sharks) should be developed. The IPOA - Sharks suggests the kind of assessment necessary to determine whether an NPOA - Sharks is required, considering the status of stocks (if known) and the effectiveness of any management arrangements that may be in place. An NPOA - Sharks provides for further monitoring and assessment of fishing impacts on sharks and details the implementation of management arrangements. The Commission should be informed of the implementation of the IPOA - Sharks by CCMs, including their assessment of the need for and/or status of any NPOA - Sharks.

The primary intent of the binding part of the Shark CMM is to prevent 'shark finning', i.e. 'the removal of shark fins at sea and the discarding of the carcass'. The preventative measure applied is to require that the total weight of the fins cannot exceed more than 5% of the total weight of the shark carcasses aboard the vessel. By attempting to minimize resource wastage and incidental fishing mortality through the discarding of shark carcasses, it is intended that overfishing of shark stocks be prevented.


The purpose of developing a Pacific Islands Regional Plan of Action on Sharks (PI-RPOA Sharks) is to enable Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTS) to address the obligations arising under the Shark CMM by identifying and enacting compatible measures for waters under their jurisdiction. The PI-RPOA also follows from a decision by the SPREP Council to include sharks in its marine species programme and to collaborate with SPC, FFA, and WCPFC on a regional action plan.

The PI-RPOA Sharks will provide a model NPOA developed specifically for the Pacific Islands region, including a range of monitoring, assessment and management arrangements. These may then be incorporated into a NPOA - Sharks and associated legislation as required by the PICT concerned.

The primary obligation under the Shark CMM at this stage is the application of the 5% fin to carcass ratio. However, paragraph 11 of the Shark CMM provides PICTS with the option to adopt alternative management measures to prevent the overfishing of sharks.

As such, it is intended that the PI-RPOA and subsequent NPOAs will provide PICTS with a range of potential management actions, under broader themes and focus areas, that PICTs may prioritise at both national and regional levels. By developing the PI-RPOA in this way it is anticipated that consistent management arrangements for sharks may be adopted, which will assist with implementation and compliance measures, as well as any future assessment of effectiveness.


The WCPFC Scientific Committee (SC) identified the need for a Shark Research Programme (SRP) to improve knowledge and provide assessments for sharks caught in western and central Pacific fisheries. The SRP has yet to receive funding but another WCPFC project on 'Ecological Risk Assessment' (ERA), which covers all non-target associated and dependent species (NTADS), has started to integrate information on biological parameters, catches and other indicators of fishing impacts on sharks.
The WCPFC Regional Observer Programme (ROP) will also be essential to the effective monitoring and management of fishing impacts on sharks, as will the ongoing national observer programmes.

The recently revised Shark CMM now sets timelines for the future assessment of key shark species, with preliminary advice on stock status of key shark species expected in 2010 in addition to the proposed SRP.
CCMs are expected to review the implementation and effectiveness of the Shark CMM and any related management arrangements developed by coastal states, which would include the PI-RPOA Sharks. While it may be difficult to determine the effectiveness of management arrangements in the absence of stock status information, this should not preclude the application of such arrangements by Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) or by the WCPFC based on the 'precautionary principle'. Fishing gear configurations, indicative catches, survivorship of sharks caught and the fin to carcass ratio of landed sharks may all be monitored as indicators of fishing impacts on sharks.


To draft a Pacific Islands Regional Plan of Action (PI-RPOA) on Sharks reflecting and promoting best practice in the conservation and management of sharks in the WCPO, and enabling Pacific Island Countries and Territories to develop NPOA - Sharks compatible with the WCPFC Shark CMM.


In collaboration with focal points from regional agencies (FFA, SPC, SPREP, WCPFC):

a) To provide an overview of regional and national measures in place to conserve and manage shark stocks in the WCPO, including a review of any NPOAs developed by WCPFC CCMs and of existing regional action plans for other marine species.

b) To provide advice in relation to cost effective management options to prevent overfishing of shark stocks on a regional and national basis where possible (i.e. as potential alternatives to the fin to carcass ratio).

c) To assess the effectiveness of these measures from multiple perspectives, i.e. sustainability of stocks, utilization of product, compliance with regulations, etc.

d) To provide advice on ways to minimize the incidental mortality of sharks in WCPO tuna fisheries, through avoiding capture and increasing survivorship of captured sharks.

e) To provide advice on mechanisms for effectively applying the 5% fin to carcass ratio through compliance and monitoring measures, as defined in the Shark CMM.

f) To provide advice on mechanisms for promoting the full utilization of sharks that are caught and retained, including from the point of transhipment or first landing.

g) To provide advice on shark species identification and data collection, including fin to carcass ratios of landed catches, for the purpose of improving fisheries monitoring and assessment.

h) To provide advice on the feasibility of stock assessment for sharks (incorporating a review of catch data, biological data and potential indicators of abundance) and on interim indicators for fishing impacts on sharks.

i) To develop a framework for NPOA - Sharks that individual Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) could adopt, consistent with the following aims:
* To ensure that shark catches from directed and non-directed fisheries are sustainable
* To assess threats to shark populations, determine and protect critical habitats and implement harvest strategies that ensure biological sustainability and rational long-term economic use
* To identify, and provide special attention to, vulnerable and threatened shark stocks
* To improve or develop frameworks for effective consultation involving all stakeholders in research, management and educational initiatives within, and between, States
* To contribute to the protection of biodiversity and ecosystem structure and function
* To minimize incidental catches of sharks while targeting other species, e.g. tuna, swordfish.
* To minimize incidental mortality, waste and discards from sharks that are caught, as per the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, the WCPFC Convention and CMMs.
* To provide for capacity building in fisheries monitoring, data collection and management, and awareness training in the conservation of sharks as vulnerable marine species.
* To identify the roles of and promote collaboration among regional agencies and PICTS to deliver efficient and sustainable outcomes in the conservation and management of sharks.


The consultant shall:

May 2009

* Gather information on NPOA - Sharks implemented by WCPFC CCMs and on existing regional action plans for other marine species.
* Produce an outline for a PI-RPOA Sharks, reflecting the Objective and Scope defined above.

July 2009

* Meet with focal points from FFA, SPC, SPREP and WCPFC, to discuss the outline and potential contents of the PI-RPOA Sharks (potentially at SPC in New Caledonia).
* Visit SPC in New Caledonia, to gather data, information and advice on fisheries monitoring (i.e. shark species identification, catch reporting, etc.) and options for scientific analysis, including catch estimation, the feasibility of shark stock assessment and interim indicators of fishing impacts.

September 2009

* Produce a draft PI-RPOA Sharks for review by focal points from SPC, WCPFC, SPREP and FFA.
* Receive and incorporate comments on the draft PI-RPOA Sharks as directed from the focal points.

October 2009

* Attend a secondary meeting with the formal contacts if required.
* Prepare a final draft of the PI-RPOA Sharks document for presentation by the focal points to FFC, SPREP Governing Council, and SPC Heads of Fisheries.

The consultancy is for a period not exceeding 76 days (i.e. 76 days @ $500 USD a day). Payment for the consultancy will be made consistent with standard FFA contract where 25% is paid in advance and the remainder is paid on completion of the contract.

The work of the consultant will be monitored by all the focal points through the FFA focal point.


Professional fees 76 days @ $500 $38,000

Stage 1 - document outline $ 6,000
Stage 2- final regional Shark Plan document $32,000

Travel: flights and in-country expenses for Noumea (to be booked by FFA)
$ 5,000


Like the acronyms? Get the gist??
Probably not, right? That's because it's written in Fisherese, the secret lingo of Fisheries bureaucrats.

The way I read it is this:

The Central Pacific Nations have adopted a non-binding Plan of Action for the Conservation and the Management of Sharks and a binding resolution aimed at preventing Shark Finning, the latter being the Good News. What is also Good News is that the problem of sustainable Shark Fisheries has made it into the agenda at all.

The bad news is what is going to happen now: just a lot more blah blah and very likely, no tangible Conservation - at least not fast enough.

Amid all the great sound bites about the need to protect Sharks, the document is rife with the usual vocabulary, as in "gathering data', "initial assessment", "monitoring", "preliminary advice on stocks expected by 2010" and a lot of "may", "could" and similar non-binding fluff.

It's always the same and I admit, one of my pet grievances: inevitably, and often despite the very best of intentions, Fisheries Agencies will discuss, assess, monitor and gather data (=i.e. procrastinate whilst the fishermen reap and pillage) in order to meticulously document the decline of a Fishery or a Species - and only when it's too late will they finally present their findings to the Politicians who can then enact Legislation which may sound great but achieve nothing as anything worth protecting is long gone.

Yes, I know, I'm repeating myself: nowadays when it's amply documented that everything is rapidly going to shit, the right course of action would be to first enact stringent Legislation aimed at stabilizing stocks at present levels. Later on, and once the necessary data have been collected, one could then relax the rules in order to promote a form of sustainable fisheries if so wished.

Will somebody please start learning from past mistakes?
In the present case, that will most likely depend on the recommendations of the Consultant.

Anybody out there who would like step up to the job?

Monday, March 09, 2009

One more Threat!

This is a Shark Conservation Blog - so why this obsession with Global Warming?

The why is that Species Protection doesn't work: it needs to be Habitat Protection!
That's why we have established a Marine Protected Area, Shark Reef Marine Reserve, and that's why we have established the 30-mile long Fiji Shark Corridor once our data suggested that the area of the SRMR was too small for the Bulls and Tigers. Our present acoustic tagging exercise may well reveal that we may have to expand the area even further.

As if Coral Bleaching, Sea Level Rise and more Extreme Weather weren't enough in terms of threats to the South Pacific, here comes yet another one - and this one is bloody serious: Ocean Acidification.

In brief, the rise of CO2 levels is lowering the pH of the Oceans.
The consequence: increasingly, those organisms who precipitate Calcium Carbonate to build their shells will be unable to do so. Yes, that would mean the gradual disappearance of the reef-building Corals and of Sea Shells, Crustaceans and important planktonic components like the Foraminifera. It has happened before and we can observe the likely consequences around present-time carbon dioxide vents.
And Corals are already disappearing fast!

And on top of the demise of the Coral Reef Habitats, the Ocean would lose, and even reverse its present function as the most important Carbon Sink, obviously with further devastating consequences for the whole planet.

But to get back to what we really do: our Marine Reserve would die and the Fish and our Sharks would have no more place to live in.

Just scaremongering?
Just a Conspiracy by the Liberals and the Scientists (and I may add: the Reptilian Humanoids)? To rule the word, promote a socialist agenda and get more funding - and steal a Nobel Prize and an Oscar in the process?
Really!, who are those people who come up with this garbage?

But granted: may there be an element of hysteria and may some of the predictions be exaggerated?
Sure, most probably! As in all marketing!

But whatever the full Truth: can we really afford not to heed the warnings and continue to waste time by engaging in pointless discussions instead?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Back to School!

Recognize anybody? (click)
Ten BAD Boys and Girls and six Gentlemen from Waitabu Marine Park have spent three days learning about Reef Ecology and Fiji's Fisheries Law, courtesy of the Coral Reef Alliance who fronted the costs for the Taveuni gang and SRMR and BAD who organized & financed the whole gig.

Our thanks go to the Department of Fisheries, foremost to the Director, Commander Naqali for having accepted to run the course and for having sent us a team of brilliant lecturers. All the participants have assured me that they have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and learned heaps in the process!

The result? 16 brand new Fish Wardens!
These are sort of "Park Rangers" who are given full authority by the Government to enforce the Fisheries Law. They can arrest poachers, inspect cargo, even confiscate catches and boats - great for monitoring and enforcing the fishing ban in our respective Marine Protected Areas!

Fisheries tell me that they would welcome more such cooperation between Government and the Private Sector.
To us, it makes perfect sense: it is in our best business interest to protect the reefs we dive and by being on the water on a daily basis, we have the best chances of catching any poachers. Much more effective than training people from the Communities who all too often don't dispose of adequate boats and quite frankly, often lack the motivation to go out and do the job - very difficult anyway as chances are that one may have to arrest a relative.

Dear Colleagues: wanna think about it?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Finning Ban

Read this:


Washington -- The House of Representatives passed the Shark Conservation Act of 2009 (H.R. 81) yesterday. This bill would require sharks to be landed with their fins still naturally attached, which allows for better enforcement and data collection in stock assessments and quota monitoring.
The Shark Conservation Act will improve existing laws that were originally intended to prevent shark finning. This legislation will also allow the U.S. to take action against countries whose shark finning restrictions are not as strenuous, labeling the U.S. as a continued international leader in shark conservation.
Oceana now looks to the Senate for fast action to enact the Shark Conservation Act into law. It is time for the U.S. to end shark finning once and for all.
Tens of millions of sharks are caught globally for just their fins each year. During the finning process, sharks are typically hauled up on deck, their fins sliced off and the animals thrown back to sea, often still alive."

Whereas this is very good news, for which Oceana needs to be applauded, I cannot help but being angry - again!

First, let's not kid ourselves: "Finning" is merely one -albeit particularly repugnant- technique and killing Sharks remains perfectly legal!
Don't get me wrong, banning it is certainly good Conservation! Not only is it an ethical imperative, it also reduces catches as the ships are now required to land, and thus store the whole carcasses instead of being able to fill their holds with just the much more valuable fins. So far so good, provided that it is intended as a first step towards a comprehensive ban on Shark fishing.

What pisses me off is the wording of the press release.

What's that Shit about "data collection", "stock assessments" and "quota monitoring"???

Guys, that's typical Fisheries lingo. What it means is: we plan to procrastinate until there's nothing left to protect.
What's there to "assess"??? Is there any doubt that Sharks stocks are severely depleted, with Oceanic species critically endangered? Haven't you heard that starting from today's levels, some species will take Centuries to recover - if all fishing stops now? What possible "data" need to be collected, I mean: additionally, in order to document a case that is so blatantly obvious and overwhelmingly documented?

Are those guys ever going to learn from the mistakes of the past? Maybe, for once, issue preventive measures first and if really needed, collect data afterwards?
Atlantic Cod Fisheries anyone? Scallop Fisheries? Orange Roughy?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Talking of Shark Infested Waters...

There are obviously other, and I may add: way more exciting ways of using Sharks to test food besides throwing turkeys and hams at them!

Incidentally, this reminds me of the fact that the Uprising never rose to our Challenge - but that's another story altogether!

Anyway - Enjoy!

Year of the Shark - Fiji: DVD!

Want to spice up your Shark Presentation?

We've produced a short DVD featuring the 8 species that frequent Shark Reef Marine Reserve: Tawny Nurse Shark, Whitetip Reef Shark, Blacktip Reef Shark, Grey Reef Shark, Silvertip Shark, Sicklefin Lemon Shark, Bull Shark and Tiger Shark.

As a Supporter of the Year of the Shark - Fiji, you can now order them at our dive shop: just call 3450 911 0r write to We'll give them at cost and it's entirely up to you whether you hand them out for free as part of your Shark Awareness Course or mark them up and sell them instead.

However, please keep in mind that the footage is copyrighted to BAD and that you may not use it for any other purpose.

Without Blue, no Green!

Sylvia Earle is one of the winners of the 2009 TED Prize.

This is her acceptance speech.

“I wish you would use all means at your disposal — films! expeditions! the web! more! — to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.”