Saturday, February 27, 2010

Certified Shark Fin Soup?

Once again, I'm irritated.

A friend has just sent me the link to the following Video.

Let's start with the positives.
It's by two Shark advocates, Alex Hofford & Paul Hilton who are being described as "passionate", it highlights the global plight of Sharks and the barbaric practice of finning, and it features a nice clip on 6:58 of Scarface, all of which is great.

On the negative side, it starts with the usual incorrect statement and is painfully long and tedious. Anything beyond three minutes needs to be absolutely brilliant, or the viewer will loose interest - and I'm afraid that this just isn't.
Plus, as so often, I fear that like the Sea Shepherd clip, it achieves nothing tangible. It's laudable in its intention, certainly personally rewarding for its authors - but alas, it's irrelevant in terms of reducing the number of Sharks that are being killed for their fins.

Let me elaborate - once again.
Shark fisheries are supply limited, meaning that the demand for Shark fins greatly outweighs the supply, and this by orders of magnitude.
Does anybody dispute this?

And if not, why do all those people insist in squandering all that money, time and energy in trying to "re-educate" the consumers of Shark fin soup?
Who are we to tell those people what to eat anyway?

But more importantly, it just doesn't make sense!
If the demand for Shark fins is, say, three times the supply, then we would have to convince more than two thirds of all potential consumers in order to have any effect in reducing the number of Sharks being killed! If it's four times, more than three fourths! Get the gist?
How many people would that be?

Does anybody really believe that this can be achieved via those fashionable Beijing posters, the translation of Sharkwater into Mandarin, videos like this one, or one of those countless competing petitions?
Will they succeed in convincing hundreds of millions of people to change their behavior????

C'mon guys, get real!
I've said it before and will continue to say it: the solution to overfishing is to promote sustainable fisheries, not prohibition. That is where we need to direct our energy and our scarce conservation Dollars, not into ineffective activism!

Southern Fried Science have re-visited the issue of Supply Side Conservation in this post.
Can we maybe adapt some of those recommendations to Sharks?

Dolphin-free Tuna was certainly very bad for the Tuna and an ecological disaster on top of that - but it was great for Dolphins. Following the recommendations of Seafood Watch has become fashionable and works. In my lifetime, the fashionable and ubiquitous Lady Curzon was replaced by Mockturtle and Trepang soup. As we speak, the unsustainable Caviar is gradually being replaced by surrogates. I've seen people pay a premium for eggs from happy free-range chucks.
Consumers may not be willing to completely change their habits, but they can certainly be educated and convinced to choose better products if presented with alternatives - and I see no reason why this would not apply to the consumers of Shark Fin soup.

Maybe one could work with the Shark Fin Industry and create a brand of certified Shark fin soup? From Sharks that have not been finned? From species that are not being overfished?
Could one develop a surrogate?

Just a suggestion.
Certainly more tedious and less fashionable and thus less personally rewarding than making a lot of noise and dishing out money for a good cause - but I believe, better for the Sharks.
And that's what ultimately counts.

Or not?

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Story

Shark men: Gary (right), our iconic Rusi and Alex the Sharkman.

Bless Gary!

Every picture truly tells a story!
After I posted that old picture of Gary and the Tiger Shark, he took the time to write me a moving message about the story behind it - just for me and not meant for public consumption. But having asked, he's granted me permission to post it. I love it as it so eloquently documents the transition from macho Shark killer to passionate Shark advocate, and what a good man my dear friend Gary really is.
Here is Gary's reminiscence of that fateful day.

Dear Mike,

You know that photo of the shark and myself has a story with it that I want to share.
I lived in the Gambier Islands in remote eastern French Polynesia for many months when I was sailing around the world. I would go out with the natives everyday and photograph them free diving black pearls and shooting fish for the village. One day we went out in three dugouts to spear a seasonal schooling fish they called Nanui (like a Bermuda chub) in the lagoon. There were many sharks around due to the amount of fish being shot and large amounts of blood.

I was snapping away at the grey reefs and blacktips with my camera when the tiger showed up.
This is in 1980-81 and most folks knew nothing about shark behavior or how to read it. The tiger was amped up and initially went after a couple of the native free divers, chewing on their fins. The tiger then came at my wife, who kicked her away repeatedly while backpedaling to get away. It even bit one of the outrigger logs on one of the canoes!

I carried a bangstick in the bottom of my dive bag that someone had given me before I left to sail around the world and I had never used it.

However, it was in my dive bag in the canoe that day. I quickly rolled into the outrigger canoe, grabbed it and rolled back in the water just in time to see the tiger turn and charge at me. To this day I really did not know what I was going to do with the bang stick but when she came at me and tried to bite the stick in my hand I rolled over her back and shot her behind the head.

Ultimately I got a rope on her tail and towed her back to the village behind the outrigger canoe.
There was a great celebration in the village and they feasted on the tiger shark that night. I was the honored guest because I had slayed this magnificent beast. In Polynesian fashion the celebration was done out of respect for the valiant shark. Never in a boastful way.
The chief of the village presented me with a tooth from each side of the jaw of the tiger shark and those are the same teeth I have worn around my neck now for 30 years!

They are a reminder to me of how we fear what we do not understand.
It is a symbol of man's ignorance.
That photo of the tiger and I..... is like another person. A person who did not understand that the tiger shark was only doing what it was meant to do. That day in the lagoon.....we created that seemingly dangerous encounter by our spearfishing for the village. In retrospect, I have relived that day a thousand times in my head and early on realized that all we really had to do was get out the water and let her enjoy another day of life in her world.
We were the intruders...and not the other way around.

I would say that that one experience with the tiger shark set the tone of how I would dedicate the rest of my life to understanding and helping others understand this misunderstood creature.
Hopefully she did not die in vain.

All of us old timers in this business of sharks have similar experiences.
Most of us just did not know how limited the ocean and its resources were when we were young. It was a path of knowledge most of us walked. We saw the changes ourselves first hand. We did not read about it. We lived it and saw it each time we went underwater in our work and travels around the world. At least we were wise enough to see the damage for what it was and try and change the tidal flow as best we could with education of others.

Take care old man!

Love 'ya mon!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sustainable Whaling?

This is gonna get interesting!

You may have noticed that I don't talk much about Whale conservation.
Yes this is obviously a Shark blog, but that's not the principal reason. What keeps me kinda speechless is the fact that at least at first glance, the pro-Whale "movement" appears to be dominated by extremists, terrorists and New Age whackos who squander zillions of scarce conservation dollars in vociferous activism and achieve little to nothing for the animals they profess to love. In fact, the situation appears so completely irrational and positions, so hopelessly entrenched that I've kind of given up on trying to talk about it even with otherwise highly intelligent people whose opinions I normally value and respect.

This is particularly frustrating since at least on a theoretical level, everybody (with a brain) knows the final solution anyway: sustainable wildlife extraction.
It's not at all different from Sharks, Tuna, Swordfish and all other over-exploited marine resources: stocks must be allowed to recover but once they have, one will have to accept that some of the animals be killed. Only by sitting at the negotiating table and accepting a compromise will we be able to influence how many animals of which species will be killed where, when, and in which way.
And yes, I'm repeating myself!

Now, it appears, the IWC has come up with a proposal for sustainable whaling.

Methinks, it's about bloody time!
Can some Whales like Minkes be harvested sustainably? Some Dolphins?
Are there ethical ways of doing so?

And if so, will the activists engage in goal-oriented negotiations, as in defining all relevant parameters and working towards efficient monitoring - or will they continue to shout Anathema! like Sea Shepherd, continue to squander our money and achieve nothing good in the process?

Anybody taking bets?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Who is this???

Here's a quick & dirty competition - just because I can!

Grand Prize: one week of diving in Fiji with Beqa Adventure Divers!
This normally includes four two-tank dives on our famous Fiji Shark Dive within Shark Reef Marine Reserve! Plus many great reef and wreck dives within Beqa Lagoon!
Is this cool - or what!

The first one who posts the name of this dashing adventurer and Shark diving pioneer wins!
  • After one day, I will post one hint and the price will be reduced to six days of diving.
  • After another day, I will post another clue - and the price will be reduced by another day.
  • And-so-on-and-so-forth until there are no days left!
This is open to everybody who's not an "insider"(if you don't know: ask before posting!) and who really plans to accept the prize.
One name per attempt, one attempt per day!
No "Anonymous" please - duh!

So, what are you waiting for!
Give it a try!


Yes, And now for something completely different!
Thanks Timbo!

Tonga: one more - and counting!

Bravo Chris and Nora!

Their Vava'u Island Express is Tonga's second Shark Free game fishing operator under the Shark Free Marinas Initiative!
Theirs is the newest marine venture in Vava'u and having decided to follow the example of Target One is a clever business decision, as it instantly propels them at the forefront of the Kingdom's ecotourism operators - and I hear that for that precise same reason, more are about to follow!

As always, our gratitude goes to our good friends Paul and Karen of Dive Vava'u for acting as the Initiative's local ambassadors.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tonga: everybody is OK!

René has come and gone.

As per Dive Vavau's blog post, there has been extensive damage but nobody got hurt and people are busy cleaning up and getting on with their life.
And for those of you in the know: damage to my house has been nil. I guess one could say that this is a case of one getting what one pays for, and Kudos to Henk and Sandra, and to Tristyle (now TCS) for a job extremely well done!

More Tongan Shark Free Marinas on their way!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lemon Shark Fishing Ban enacted!


May I really be the first blue blogger to report this?
I've been blogging about the efforts to have Florida's Lemon Sharks protected and it appears that this has just happened!
If so: wonderful news and big Kudos to everybody involved!

Walt and especially, Doc will be ecstatic!

PS thought so: Felix beat me to it!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Great Whites: new Insights!

Unbelievably cool stuff!

I just got this synopsis of this year's International Great White Symposium in Hawaii.
It's a PdF document with the title Selected Highlights from the International White Shark Symposium February 7-10, 2010 that features no author, and I herewith apologize profusely for breaching any copyright and citing it verbatim in its entirety - but it's absolutely fascinating stuff and it would be a great shame if it remained reserved for the select few Shark scientists and not communicated to the many GW enthusiasts at large.

So without further ado: this is what we've learned about the life cycle of the Great White Shark.
Absolutely stunning!

In the past two decades, fish biologists have gained considerable knowledge about the great white shark, Carcharodon charcharias.
Many more investigations, however, are still necessary in order to understand the comprehensive biology and life history of this ecologically important and charismatic apex predator. Below are the some of the information presented as new or reviewed at the symposium:

A. White Shark population in the NE Pacific region:

1. Adult population size estimated to be between 200 to 300 individuals in the NE Pacific. Worldwide population is still not known

2. Females give birth (live birth) near shore in the Southern California coastal region; between Malibu, California and Vizcaino Bay, Baja California

3. White sharks copulate, have internal fertilization, the gestation period is about 18 months, and the pups at birth are about 4.5 to 5 ft long

4. White sharks are warm blooded and the young tend to congregate in near shore warmer waters: theoretically, the smaller size sharks need warmer water to assist in thermoregulation

5. Young white sharks feed primarily on fish, ignoring humans and other mammals near the coast

6. Young white sharks migrate 1000 km between the Malibu Coast and Vizcaino Bay. They are protected in Baja (like California), but the Mexican government does not enforce conservation. Thus, many of the young sharks in Mexico are being poached for food to feed the indigenous people while their fins are sold off lucratively. Scientists are analyzing the effect on the NE Pacific population resulting from this practice.

7. When the young sharks grow to about 9 to 10 feet long, they begin to feed on marine mammals plus other larger prey and start to migrate to the northern and colder regions of the
Pacific. At this size, their thermoregulatory mechanism is well developed.

8. Genetic studies (using mitochondrial DNA) demonstrated that the NE Pacific white shark population is derived from the population in Australia/New Zealand. This NE Pacific group split off tens of thousands years ago.

B. Great White Shark Café:

1. The Café encompasses a region in the NE Pacific primarily between ...W to ...W and ...N to ...N where the adult white sharks migrate from the US west coast during winter to aggregate.

2. Some of these sharks, mainly males, go as far SW as the Big Island and as far NW as Midway Island. White Sharks have been tracked throughout the Hawaiian Islands

3. Great debate regarding the ‘purpose’ of the Café: food or sex or both?? One scientific group favors the view that the animals go there to feed and another sees it as an area for mating. Only circumstantial evidence is available to support either role.

4. Females and males appear to segregate at the Café. Each sex has its own preferred section. Males to the W-NW and females to the SE

5. Studies showed that the white sharks swim on the surface non stop between the US west coast the Café, crossing > a thousand miles of ocean (Adult white sharks have been found to be able to travel up to ~5,000 miles.)

6. Upon arrival at the Café, white sharks dive down and come up again continuously. They go from the surface and straight down to as deep as 800-1,200 meters, from 25 degrees C at the surface to 4 degrees C at depth. Again, this seems to be a non-stop, 24/7 activity.

7. Other marine life found at the Café: sperm whale aggregation and 3 species of squid, including the giant squid. Reproduction of all squid species has been observed here.

8. Although no similar Café has been described in detail as for the NE Pacific region, similarly tropical migrations during the winter have been found for the South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and West Atlantic populations:

a) The New Zealand adult white sharks migrate to the New Caledonia region
b) The South African adult sharks migrate to the Mozambique coast and west Seychelles area

c) Australian white sharks migrate between S of the Sydney area in New South Wales up to tropical Queensland region

d) N Atlantic white sharks migrate from the Maritime Province area to Florida. These are known to have fed primarily on whale carcasses before conservation practices. Now that the gray seal population has bounced back near Cape Cod, after conservation is enforced after the enactment of Marine Mammal Protection Act in the 1970s, white sharks have begun preying on the seals in this region.

C. Other interesting information:

1. Scientists have not yet been able to witness the white shark mating/copulation act, not for the lack of trying. Must be an impressive sight as the scar patterns on head region of the adult females would indicate

2. Male adult white sharks (NOT female adults) appear to have a strong propensity to feed on newborn white shark pups. This could be the reason why male and female adult white sharks have different migration routes to the tropics

3. Intrauterine cannibalism of younger embryos by older ones has been documented for the white shark

4. Largest white shark caught and measured is > 7,000 lbs with its liver weight at 1,000 lbs.

5. Controversy over the evolutionary origin of the white shark: Megaladon (extinct ancient shark species) versus a Mako shark lineage.

6. Many of the studies that acquired the above information utilize dorsal fin tags that transmit data to satellites either when the sharks are at the surface or after timed-release of the tags

Is this cool, or what?

The question is, is there really a need to deploy more tags, especially those cruel SPOT, in the Pacific? How about taking that money and sending a ROV into the Café instead?

And who's gonna finance the same effort in the Mediterranean?

Always stirring the pot, am I...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Back where it belongs!


Having grown up in Switzerland, I've been rooting for the Berhards and the Rogers like the best of them. But this was just ridiculous, and rather shameful on top of that - especially the part about buying the victorious Kiwi crew!

Mind you, the Cup has always been at the center of controversies all the way to outright horseplay.
But whatever the possible justifications, legalistic and otherwise: the Société Nautique de Genève should have just stuck to their Chasselas and Filets de Perche, continued to proudly host their Bol d'Or and accepted the natural limitations of their Lac Léman, the obvious one being that it is an inland lake and not an Ocean!

Anyway, tempi passati!
The Cup is back where it belongs.

Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi!

Bravo Jimmy!

Well said!

I've said it before, Mark's iDiveSharks is the place to be!
This week features a post by none other than Mr. Tiger Beach himself, Jimmy Abernethy. We've never met and to be perfectly frank, our relationship can probably be safely described as being wary ever since some weasel managed to start a small skirmish by proxy involving one of our best common friends, of which we have many.

I also won't deny that having reached completely different conclusions and until convinced otherwise, I remain skeptical about having large predatory Sharks circulate freely among tourists during commercial baited Shark dives.
But that's just my opinion as as such, certainly debatable - as incidentally is our controversial hand feeding!

What I'm however adamantly opposed to, are the ever increasing shenanigans happening on that site, of which this one is but a particularly stupid example - and I spare you the other links.

Not that he probably cares, but kudos to Jimmy for having spoken up and said it as it is - couldn't agree more! Let's hope that somebody listens! As a minimum, his countless fans!
I cite.

Once again the real threat with all these very large sharks was that many of the guests fell in love with our girl, Emma!
She seems harmless just like a big dog, but that doesn't mean she might accidentally hurt someone, while checking out their cameras etc, especially if someone did something stupid!

Yes, hugging and kissing in my opinion is stupid!
We are all in titled to our own opinion, but for me anything that puts the shark at a risk of making a mistake while interacting with us isn't worth the risk. Lately it seems many people want to ride or hand feed these beautiful creatures, which I will never allow on my boat.

To me if you truly love them you should treat them with respect.

If an accident happened, many people would like to project it as a shark attack, which isn't right.

I wish everyone that really loves sharks that has actually spent time with them, would work on telling the truth about them, so we can help convince the rest of the world how valuable they are, and why we need them!
The time of monster shark shows and tabloid journalism are outdated with those of us that really know sharks, because we know to much! I don't read the tabloids at the grocery counter and I refuse to work or watch any tabloid monster shows. I prefer the higher road, where these magnificent powerful creatures are projected truthfully!

Sorry probably had to much coffee this morning!
I hope you all are getting your shark fix somewhere soon!

Save the Sharks! Jim


Please spare a thought for the people of Tonga and especially, for our good friends in Vava'u.
This is happening right now.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Oceanic Dreams alerts me to this post by Mark Harding.

Well said!
Like in the case of Domeier, Campana just doesn't get it. The times where it was somehow OK to kill or torture an animal provided that this was being done in the name of "science" are long gone. I do hear where Campana is coming from - but to go as far as to publicly whinge against a great victory for Conservation is just self serving and unethical, full stop.
And incredibly stupid on top of that!

Unfortunately, I fear that those two guys are still rather typical and by no means an exception.
I've said it before, it's up to the scientific community, and to those funding them, to take a stand against those shenanigans.
Heartless scientists engaging in frivolous research need to be ostracized and peer reviews need to include an examination for adequate ethical conduct. And I sure hope that the new batch of Biologists are finally being told that the only justification for spending those scarce research resources is to try and halt the anthropogenic habitat degradation and extinction!

And here endeth the Sunday sermon!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Just Beautiful!

Lest we forget why we're doing this.

The scene with the Flamboyant Cuttlefish is epic!
As to the barelegged Tubel, oh well...

You must of course watch this in full screen.
Enjoy - very much!

Fishing for Sharks!

Never trust those scientists!

Especially Juerg!
Whilst I'm still pondering what to say, and what not to say, about our latest expedition to Fiji's Shark-infested rivers, he has jumped the gun, hijacked my exclusive scoop and posted a detailed description on his SOSF blog. Well, gee, thanks!
So much for my pondering!

Lemme tell you, it has been an adventure!
From choosing the right bait (in Eroni's native Vanua Levu, the Shark fishermen swear by roast mongoose - and no, we did not try that!) to employing the right technique to choosing the correct tide, location and time of the day, it's been a lot of trial and even more error, as in nada de nada de nada!
I won't go into details but our valiant Victor, Eroni and Tumbi were finally successful after rigging up an elaborate longline and the mysterious "river Sharks" are pretty much confirmed as being juvenile Bulls! They are really tiny, with disproportionately big eyes and a characteristic black rim to the caudal fin that will disappear once they become adults, and my guess is that they could very well be this December's crop of newborns!
Is that cool, or what!

Now before anybody gets too excited.

Yes we fish for Sharks as we want to determine their pupping grounds in order to get them protected. We also want to get small tissue samples for Mahmood's groundbreaking genetic mapping.

Contrary to the behemoths that get severely hurt in the process as their body weight will crush their internal organs once they're out of the water, these very small Sharks can be safely landed and are being returned to the water within a few minutes after having been measured and sexed and after removal of a small fin clipping. All very fast, non-invasive and respectful!

As to Juerg, I guess I will forgive him- for now!
Especially since he's due next week and there's a rumor that he may be carrying some Vacherin Mont d'Or and Sprüngli Truffes du Jour - see below!
How could I possibly hold a grudge in view of that!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Very Nice Footage!

I really did like this video.

Greg Huglin seems to be quite a guy, and he sure is a good cinematographer - very refreshing, especially considering all the same-old same-old pedestrian stuff out there!

Monday, February 08, 2010


This is a Flagtail Shrimpgoby, Amblyeleotris yanoi.

Not impressed?
What if I told you that a) it's a great picture and b) it was taken on Shark Reef?
Wanna bother to consult the distribution chart of this species, as in Australia • Indonesia • Indonesia:Bali • Japan • Madagascar • Micronesia • Mozambique • Palau • Papua New Guinea • Philippines • Ryukyu Is. • South Africa • Sri Lanka • Taiwan?
Far far away from Fiji!

This is but one of the massive range extensions resulting from our regular Fish counts and I can announce with absolute certainty that this year's crop will undoubtedly be particularly spectacular! John and Mr. Punion are due here in less than two weeks, and they will be joined by Somebody who is known for having a veritable midas touch when it comes to discovering new species! Hint: Tourette's!
So, keep watching this space!

But this post is not about Fish Taxonomy.
It's actually about Timbo's latest portfolio featuring but a tiny selection of the pics he took during his latest visit with us. We just chatted and he's a real happy camper, tho he complains about coming down with carpal tunnel syndrome from having to edit those tens of thousands of images!
Go and check it out: it's a feast for the eyes - and don't forget to click on the images!

Talk about it being a testament to the man's dedication and to his talent!
And to Fiji!


Saturday, February 06, 2010

Hear hear!

I just found out that the number 500 represents the physical life of the microcosmic creature.

Plus, having typed The Best Shark Dive in the World, I learn, among many other things, that

Your number is: 7
The characteristics of #7 are: Analysis, understanding, knowledge, awareness, studious, meditating.

Thought, analysis, introspection, and seclusiveness are all characteristics of the expression number 7. The hallmark of the number 7 is a good mind, and especially good at searching out and finding the truth. You are so very capable of analyzing, judging and discriminating, that very little ever escapes your observation and deep understanding. You are the type of person that can really get involved in a search for wisdom or hidden truths, often becoming an authority on whatever it is your are focusing on. This can easily be of a technical or scientific nature, or it may be religious or occult, it matters very little, you pursue knowledge with the same sort of vigor.

Your Soul Urge number is: 9
A Soul Urge number of 9 means:
you want to give to others, usually in a humanitarian or philanthropic manner.
You are highly motivated to give friendship, affection and love. And you are generous in giving of your knowledge and experience. You have very sharing urges, and you are likely to have a great deal to share. Your concern for others makes you a very sympathetic and generous person with a sensitive and compassionate nature.
You are able to view life in very broad and intuitive terms. You often express high ideals and an inspirational approach to life. If you are able to fully realize the potential of your motivation, you will be a very self-sacrificing person who is able to give freely without being concerned about any return or reward.

And why this sudden interest for New Age flimflam, I hear you ask with bated breath? Because this is post # 500 and coincidentally, we've just reached 500 Facebook Fans!

There you have it!


I'm simply in awe of the above picture - click on it!
Brilliant - and so very Alte Schule!

So far, my favorite pic of a Great Hammerhead was this capture by legendary Yves Lefèvre. Yves and his Raie Manta Club are the pioneers of Shark diving in Rangiroa and his book Rangiroa, sous le signe du poisson is a must-have for every true Shark aficionado.

Go there in December/January and provided that you are at least a PADI Divemaster, they will allow you to go deep to observe gigantic (I'm talking 20+ feet - really!) and surprisingly shy Great Hammerheads stalking the schools of mating Eagle Rays at the entrance to Tiputa Pass. This is very challenging diving as you will have to learn to subsequently manage your decompression whilst negotiating up to 4 knots in the passage - but it's a truly awesome spectacle and I invite everybody to go and give it a try!

Well, Wolfgang is now my number one - and not only when it comes to GH!
Felix has just posted a loving laudatio of his father and I can only agree that nobody deserves it more! Should you be unfamiliar with Wolfgang's work, you can check out some of his terrific pics on his iconic (that word again!) Oceanic Dreams or on his iDiveSharks page.
Masterful stuff!

Talking of Great Hammerheads.
What strikes me most about them, apart from that unreal dorsal fin, is their unbelievable snakelike agility. If you dunno what I'm talking about, check out 2:03 of this memorable footage from baited monitoring stations on the GBR. Talk about being an underwater contortionist!
The title of the story is of course baloney: that Tiger was never stalking the Snake (nor the Bristle Worm!), it was merely attracted by the bait whilst the snake was there - but apart from that, it's a great collection of the weird and wonderful like the elusive Bowmouth Guitarfish (1:37), along with a great final scene illustrating the awesome power of the Tiger Shark's Turtle-cracking dentition.


Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Boat

Nomen est Omen: Timbo rocks!

Bless the good people over at Gates!

As a proud owner of a venerable Hugyfot-F3 that never let me down in over 20 years of reckless abuse, and this on its first set of o-rings (!), my standards are high.

Once I decided to switch over to video -aka the dark side- and having seen more Amphibicos and L&Ms fail than I care to remember, my choice of a Gates was kind of inevitable.
Like Hugy, Elwyn Gates is one of the true pioneers of underwater imaging and his housings had a reputation for being extremely durable and reliable, the latter largely owing to the fact that they were fully mechanical and thus didn't feature any of the vulnerable electronic circuitry of their competitors.

Scarface, yours truly and the Gates PDX-10 in this epic picture by Doug Perrine.

Enter the new owner and CEO John Ellerbrock.
Although I was quite impressed by my "old" Gates for the PDX-10, I am now absolutely in awe of my housing for the EX1, quickly christened The Boat by one of our clients. This is just exquisite craftsmanship and a testimony to John's inventiveness and commitment to unsurpassed quality and reliability. Perfectly balanced and with crisp and yet sensitive controls, it's a real pleasure to work with. Add the terrific SWP44C by Fathom Imaging and Gates' legendary client service personified by always helpful, patient and friendly Pamela, and the result is absolute perfection!

Well done and thank you so much!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Beqa Critters!

The bulls are running like there's no tomorrow and one is tempted to completely forget that Fiji provides for some of the best all-round diving anywhere.

Enter Hugh and his camera problems!
He came over from Guam for a week of diving and ended up being relegated to his 100 mil macro - to say it mildly, not the ideal rig for Shark photography! But you have to hand it to the man that he took it in stride and made the best of his predicament by going critter hunting in Beqa Lagoon and coming up with some spectacular finds.

Like the Irish Setter aka Rufus aka Hairy Ghostpipefish pictured above, one of only very few we've ever seen in the Lagoon.
Having once been a keen macro photographer, I harbor a special interest in Ghostpipepishes and was thus surprised to note that at least one source names this Solenostomus paegnius. The usually flawless Fishbase identifies paegnius as a synonym of the valid cyanopterus, a fact that I find equally surprising considering the completely different caudal peduncles, usually a good diagnostic feature in this genus.
The fact is that Rufus has never been scientifically named. It is so rare and so cute that chances of it ever being collected (which of course is a euphemism for "bagged, killed and pickled") and properly described are slim indeed - and that's a good thing!

But I'm of course digressing.
Whatever the scientific truth: it's a great find, as are the following wonderful creepies and crawlies from Beqa Lagoon.
Click to view - and enjoy!

Yes those are eggs!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Hawaii - Sample Letter

Well done!
Where I rant, others keep their cool.

The good people over at the Shark Safe Network Blog have posted the following sample letter. If you want to assist Stefanie in Hawaii, please send it, or parts of it to the addresses mentioned in the previous blog post.

Thank you!

Dear Sen. Hee,

I am writing in support of two North Shore shark eco-tour businesses, North Shore Shark Adventures and Hawaii Shark Encounters. These responsible businesses, that draw tens of thousands of tourists every year, are being unfairly targeted by a series of five bills (SB2330, HB2664, HB2459, HB2705, HB2483) that have been submitted to this year's State Legislative session. It is appalling and unconscionable that public officials -- who are supported by Hawaiians' tax dollars -- would take up the State Legislature's time and resources with this series of bills that have no other purpose than to destroy two hard working and law abiding small businesses.

The proponents of these bills have been conducting a campaign of misinformation and misguided emotion with no regard to the facts or any common sense. A calm review of the facts and issues, however, presents a much different picture.

Following are some observations on the issues involved that I respectfully present to you:

1. Public Safety: There has been no evidence to indicate that these shark eco-tours pose a hazard to public safety, nor is there any indication that the tours cause a significant change in the sharks' behavior. Please see the following University of Hawaii study, which concluded that shark tours have a "negligible impact on public safety" (

Other activities in Hawaii's waters are much more likely to attract sharks close to shore and the surfers, canoers and swimmers. For example, the Waikiki Midnight shark hunt operates near the most populated areas of Waikiki and Hawaii Kai. Spear fishing goes on right in the surf zone where bleeding and struggling fish attract sharks.

It doesn't make a lot of sense that activities that attract sharks close to shore are apparently not considered to be a threat, while shark viewing tours that operate three miles offshore are being criticized as a hazard to public safety. Yes, these tours operate three miles offshore in 600 foot deep water, far from where any surfing, swimming or canoeing takes place. Participants view the sharks from Poly Glass cages that allow them to view the sharks with no risk of physical contact.

This anti-shark tour movement seems to be fueled by a fear of sharks and shark attacks that is way out of proportion to the actual risk. For example, according to the International Shark Attack File there have been five shark attack fatalities in Oahu since 1828, and the last one occurred in 1992. The shark eco-tours that are being targeted have only been in existence since 2001. Proponents of the bills in question, however, are using the fear factor to manipulate the public and attract attention to promote themselves and their personal agendas.

2. Hawaiian Culture - Aumakua: Please see the following Public Service Announcement that is currently being aired on Fijian television -- .

(That would be this)

Sharks are also very important to Fijians and other Polynesian cultures.
Yet the Fijians do not consider shark viewing tours to be offensive or disrespectful. What does offend Fijians is the unsustainable killing of sharks that is going on throughout the world.

The Waikiki Midnight shark hunt attracts sharks with bait so that paying customers can catch and release the sharks. Is this activity not using the sharks for entertainment and profit? Yet shark fishing tours are not being targeted by these bills; only the shark viewing tours.

Shark fin soup is sold in Hawaiian restaurants and container loads filled with shark fins can be seen in Honolulu Harbour. If the welfare of the sharks is the concern here, it seems that the shark fin traders in Hawaii's ports and markets and the longliners in Hawaii's waters would be more appropriate targets.

Since sharks are such an integral part of Hawaii's culture why not promote shark conservation, education, respect and understanding? What the shark viewing eco-tours are doing is educating and enlightening, promoting understanding and respect, not fear. How is this bad?

3. Sharks are vital to the health of the marine ecosystem. Hawaii's tourism industry depends heavily on its marine resources. Without sharks to keep the oceans in balance, the ecosystem begins to fall apart, and everyone suffers. Sharks should be protected, not vilified.

4. Impact on tourism and small businesses: A decision to ban shark tours would shut out 40,000 tourists from the North Shore. These tour operators are generating tourism dollars for the local economy. They are hard working small business owners who pay taxes. The tourists who go on these tours also stay in hotels, eat in restaurants and go shopping. Especially during these challenging economic times, is it wise to take actions that will drive out small businesses and tourists? Stirring up fear of shark attacks doesn't seem to be a good idea for tourism either. This fiasco has generated a huge amount of press, not just locally, but internationally as well. And it does not show Hawaii in a favorable light.

It's understandable that Hawaiians would want to see some kind of regulation or oversight of shark tour operations. Irresponsible tour operators certainly could endanger their clients, generate negative press and even possibly endanger others. This statement applies not only to shark tour operators, however, but to many recreational activities.

But why attack responsible tour operators who are operating three miles offshore in deep waters far away from any surfing, canoeing or swimming?

Please consider all the issues and the potential consequences of any proposed actions. And please don't allow Hawaii's Legislature to be hijacked by this witch hunt mentality that aims to destroy small businesses and recklessly divert the State's attention and resources from much more important matters.

Thank you very much for your time and attention!