Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shark Hope Teaser!

Nice job.
Walker Films and Ratu Manoa Rasagitale have teamed up with Coral Reef Alliance and Pew Environment Group to produce Shark Hope, a 30 minute documentary on the plight of sharks in Fiji and efforts to create a Fiji National Shark Sanctuary.
Shark Hope details the importance of sharks to Fiji's environment, economy, and culture.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Jaws meets Sharkman!

More Shark media by Ratu Manoa here.
Well done!

Sustainable fishing for Sharks - Heresy?

So - is sustainable fishing for Sharks possible?
Yes of course it is!
The number of Sharks that can be harvested globally: somewhere between one Shark and, say, 200 million!

I'm obviously being facetious.
But, what is, or rather: what should be equally uncontroversial is that in theory, there really is such a magical number. In theory, one should be able to extract less, or about as many Sharks as are being recruited every year and observe other imperatives, see below, and one should be able to fish for Sharks forever.

Please re-read this.
What the paper stipulates is that Shark fisheries can be managed, and that sustainable levels will vary depending on Shark species and their life history, and this principally in regard to their reproductive strategies, i.e whether they are rather K-selected or r-selected. Don't get me wrong: no Shark is really r-selected whereby it produces thousands of offspring like Tuna - but there are still marked differences in number of offspring (2 in intra-uterine cannibalistic Sand Tigers to up to one hundred in aplacental viviparous Tigers) and in life expectancy (= population turnover) that warrant a differentiation.

And in practice?
As always, it is complicated.
I won't bore you with the details, but trying to formulate and then implement the correct fisheries management strategies is exceedingly complicated, highly controversial and of course, fatally politicized.
And so far, it has been an utter fiasco.

Wherever we look, the track record sucks!
Largely thanks to Juerg's widely respected research and to the notoriety it confers to us, we get to increasingly meet some very, very smart (and incidentally, inevitably very cool) researchers.
One of them mentioned recently that what we've been doing to the oceans is veritable protein mining, starting from the bigger most valued fishes all the way ever further down through the trophic levels - and in the end, when everything is all but gone, we throw in a couple of bombs or poison to really get to the very last little bit.
So true - seen it a dozen times with my own eyes from Burma to Indonesia to the Philippines, the ultimate confirmation that small-scale fishing, if perpetrated by too many hungry people, is at least as bad if not worse than the so much reviled commercial exploitation! And as the demand soars ever higher and local waters are depleted, the rich nations are traveling ever further to catch other people's stocks and are increasingly importing Fish from other countries.

Anyway, I'm digressing as usual.
What I wanted to say is that arguably and with probably the exception of some small scale local ventures, there does not exists a single fully sustainable fishery anywhere, not for Fishes and certainly not for Sharks.
Instead, what we see is either a history of whole fisheries crashing, or of fisheries that are but a shadow of what they once were, both in output but also in quality, like the pathetically small Tuna I talked about here, or the Cod that are apparently rebounding but are now much smaller, possibly changed forever.
And since the fishermen have been so effective at killing everything around them, we are already seeing attempts to encroach (and in NSW!) on the paltry few Marine Protected Areas we have been able to establish - remember this post?

Please click for detail.

And of course, overfishing is only one, albeit a major element in a whole array of factors!
The oceanic ecosystems are in terrible shape - and the cause is unequivocally us.

Back to the Sharks.
Alerted by Sheli's comment, I got myself this paper and found the following list of species declines since specific dates in specific bodies of water.
  • Hammerheads 1986 N.W. Atlantic 89%
  • Scalloped hammerhead 1972 North Carolina 98%
  • White 1986 N.W. Atlantic 79%
  • Tiger 1986 N.W. Atlantic 65%
  • Tiger 1973 North Carolina 97%
  • Carcharhinus spp. 1986 N.W. Atlantic 61%
  • Thresher 1986 N.W. Atlantic 80%
  • Blue 1986 N.W. Atlantic 60%
  • Mako 1986 N.W. Atlantic 70%
  • Mako 1950s Gulf of Mexico 45%
  • Oceanic whitetip 1950s Gulf of Mexico 99%
  • Silky 1950s Gulf of Mexico 91%
  • Dusky 1950s Gulf of Mexico 79%
  • Dusky 1972 North Carolina 99%
  • Blacktip shark 1972 North Carolina 93%
  • Bull shark 1973 North Carolina 99%
  • Sandbar shark 1976 North Carolina 87%
Many of the data have been collated by the late Ransom A. Myers and their credibility is thus very high, the more as these are well documented fisheries. But beware: they are merely an indication of what fishing pressure can do to Shark stocks and cannot be simply extrapolated to describe the global rate of decline. Globally, there are no reliable baseline counts, fishing pressure may be locally completely different, data of reported species are often highly deficient, many species are not being targeted and/or cryptic and thus not being reported, there is widespread IUU, etc.
This is why in practice, the controversy about the global numbers is pretty much irrelevant - and yes, I am repeating myself!

What we however do know and can say is this.
We know that there are massive Shark fishing operations ongoing in Central America, Africa, Asia, Arabia and in the high seas. It is also plausible to assume that the pressure we are exerting on the prey of Sharks is further contributing to their decline, especially in pelagic environments where prey substitution is not as easy as in, say, coral reefs. We also know that Sharks are a substantial component of bycatch, and this not only by long liners and purse seiners, but very much also by bottom trawlers that are destroying the demersal elasmobranchs.
Principally as a consequence of the overfishing but very likely also as a consequence of the other principal anthropogenic stressors Pollution, Habitat Degradation and Global Warming, vast swaths of Ocean have been deprived of Sharks, as in Asia, the Caribbean, the Pacific Coast of the Americas, the Northern Atlantic, even Australia where the Whitetips and the Grey Reefs have all but disappeared from the GBR - paper here.
In brief, it is I believe perfectly OK to say that we are presently killing way, way too many Sharks, or those stocks would not have crashed!

We also know about the consequences.
No, not this moronic drivel - real science!
There is a brand new paper about top-down effects that is essential reading. In essence, it documents how the loss of apex predators ripples down through the food chain, often in completely counter-intuitive ways. The coral reef example? Hmmm, not totally convinced, as stipulating causality based on a one-off comparison and not long-term monitoring is highly suspect. What if the differences were based on different climatic effects, or a Crown-of-Thorns invasion or the like?
Anyway, concerning Sharks, there is the famous 2007 paper by the same Ransom Myers. Although controversial and to be cited with caveats, it documents the precipitous decline of apex predators, the concurrent increase of mesopredators and the subsequent decline of Bay Scallops and the fishery depending on them in the NW Atlantic.
Please click for detail.

And of course there is more.
The more recent Ferretti et al that I personally like better documents Shark declines and the possible effects on a more global scale. Other papers and reports, some of which rather anecdotal, document how Sharks influence the size, composition and behavior etc of their prey populations locally.
Two anecdotal examples from Fiji: Reef Blacktips are believed to control the population of Reef Octopus and where they have been fished away, the octopi have gobbled up the economically important crustaceans and mollusks; and a coral gardener told me how the Parrotfishes used to ravage his gardens, this until the advent of a few Reef Sharks that kept the Parrotfishes on the move, very much like the Tiger Sharks/Dugongs-Turtles/Sea Grass story in the link above.
But: not all Sharks are apex predators, plus trophic cascades happen only where humans are not simultaneously exterminating the lower trophic levels - meaning that the theory is sound but that in practice, this only happens relatively rarely!

And then, there's this.
Sharks are basically a non-renewable resource.
Yes there are differences in life history whereby the smaller, shorter lived species with higher population turnover rates may be better suited for commercial exploitation - but still, compared to teleost Fishes, many of which are broadcast spawners, the difference is enormous! Sharks are generally slow growing, mature late and have relatively few offspring, meaning that depleted stocks take a long, long time to recover (decades and in some species, centuries) - if at all!
Plus, as the image of the food pyramid suggests, there are only relatively few of them (but check out this: probably true!), especially at the very top, meaning that local stocks get quickly exhausted.

Thing is, we cannot really afford the risk.
Especially in small island states like Fiji, Palau or the Bahamas whose economies are entirely dependent on fishing and on tourism, risking the health of the marine ecosystem is just simply suicidal, see e.g. here.
If the Sharks get wiped out and the reefs habitats degrade as a consequence, the country does not only lose its physical coastal protection and the sustenance of a large part of its population that is critically dependent on fishing; it also risks losing its entire tourism industry as tourists will not travel to islands where the oceans are depleted but choose other islands featuring intact marine ecosystems instead.
Haiti anybody?

Long (sorry...) story short?
Sharks are being overfished, once they're gone they're not likely to come back anytime soon and although we certainly won't end up writhing on the ground gasping for air, the consequences will be dire.

The inevitable conclusion?
We must invoke the Precautionary Principle and stop the killing by enacting and implementing comprehensive Shark protection wherever we can!
Principle #15 of the Rio Declaration states:
In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.
This is also very much reflected in the IPOA-Sharks - but equally very much not being implemented!

And there is more: the precautionary principle or precautionary approach states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action!

Which brings me straight back to the issue of sustainability!
Yes it is quite possible that Sharks can be fished sustainably.
But that implies that stocks are healthy and not depleted (beware of shifting baselines!), that TACs are no higher (I hear that the ideal number is 30%) than recruitment, that the fishery is not fraught with collateral ecological impacts like e.g. bycatch or the habitat degradation caused by bottom trawling, that reporting is accurate, that IUU is accounted for, that quotas are set in concordance with the ecosystem approach, that the whole animals are being landed and utilized (no finning!), etc etc.

And for once, we would be in a better position.
For once, it would not have to be us doing all the leg work in order to prove that the Shark fisheries need to be closed - according to the Precautionary Principle, the onus of proof that Shark fishing can be sustainable and should be thus allowed to resume would lay squarely with the fishing industry!
But let there be no doubt about the following.
As much as I love them and as much as I deplore it when they are being killed: Sharks are not sacred Fish.
For good or for bad, they are a source of protein and some people want to eat them and yes, they are also a rather useless ingredient in an Asian soup. But then again, at least two religions frown on us eating pork - what would we say if they came and tried to tell us what to eat and what not. Criticizing culinary preferences, cultural or not, is just not a good strategy for furthering conservation - advocating strict sustainability is.

Right now, we must advocate Shark conservation and as long as Sharks are being killed in huge numbers world wide, those sanctuaries are certainly the best way of trying to create a resemblance of balance.
But if in the future there will be uncontroversial proof that harvesting specific quotas of specific Sharks in specific waters is fully sustainable, then I believe that we will have to accept that those quotas be extracted.

Can we all agree on this?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

She's beautiful!

I usually don't like pathos - but I did like this.
Excellent cut, powerful images, great soundtrack.

But... don't forget: the Planet could not care less!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Playa del Carmen - great Follow-up!

I must say, I really enjoyed this video by Eli.
It's a tribute to his friend Carlos "Charlie" Estrabeau, the head feeder of Phantom Divers in Playa. Charlie comes across as a real nice guy, very much of the mold of other Shark feeders I know, very personally committed and full of love and respect for the animals he works with.

This is also a nice follow-up on the terrible news that have come out of that site.
Good to see that a bunch of committed people have decided to take action and that progress is obviously being made. Fingers crossed that they will succeed in getting those Sharks protected, as they should be!


Gee, thanks Danielle!

Nice T! It says, Shark Diving Team, and needs to be earned by facing hordes of large predatory Sharks! :)

Check this out!
We've hosted four Broadreach trips this year and if I remember correctly, Danielle was in the last college group.
Really rewarding and actually, quite amazing to see such an instantaneous follow up! If that aint proof positive that the outreach is working - and I suspect that meeting Adi might have helped, too!

Vinaka Danielle, and well done!
Please keep in touch and let us know how things are going.
Chain Dogfish huh. Very cute animals - but are you positively sure that those qualify as legitimate Sharks? :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

NSW Grey Nurse Sharks - one last Push please!

Critically endangered on the east coast of Australia - but who cares, right?

Well done Katrina Hodgkinson!
NSW's inept Minister for Primary Industries has overturned the fishing ban around Fish Rock and the fishermen have come back in droves - and the Grey Nurse Sharks are once again being hurt in the process.
This according to this article and having asked, it is precisely so!

The question being, does Katrina give a F.
Most likely not. She has been voted in with the support of the Fishers and Shooters party and lemme tellya, having seen an interview with their positively rabid president, that's a seriously nasty, seriously vocal bunch of people who will fight hard for what they perceive as being their godgiven right to reap and pillage wherever they please, and F the future and especially, F anybody trying to establish marine protected areas!
That's her constituency and that's the mind set that is driving her actions.

Will there be transparency?
Will the Ministry publish the results of their consultations or will they hide behind processes, meetings and committees whilst the fishermen continue to ravage the GNS aggregation sites?
Anybody taking bets?

All we can do is do what we can do, i.e. participate in the consultation and tell those people that we do not agree with what is going on. Please check out these posts where you can find various templates and tips for writing the most effective submission.
The review will close this Friday, August 26.


PS - and true to her calling, she has now appointed an independent panel investigating the need, or not for Marine Parks. Check out the terms of reference & u can see where this is going.
Just great aint it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Seychelles - despicable Media!

What can I say that he hasn't.

This post by Patric Douglas is as good as it gets.
Shame on brain dead presenter Stephanie Gosk and the morons who produced & aired the piece.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

More moronic Shark porn by Ms Gosk here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Porbeagle - great Video, horrible News!

Porbeagles, by Kristen Campbell

Check out this video by Simon Spear.
It is about Porbeagles that can be found off the coast of Cornwall and like he says, what a beautiful animal!
Porbeagles are classified as vulnerable globally but critically endangered in the Eastern North Atlantic and Mediterranean, this because of targeted fishing, usually by longline, as they are prized for their meat.

But not only because of that,
This Shark aggregates in schools and is thus particularly vulnerable to being caught in nets - and yet again, a whole school of Porbeagle has been netted and discarded as bycatch.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Q&A with Juliet Eilperin!

Would that be one of Doc's Lemon babies?

Did you know that every last bit of the Kesennuma Sharks gets utilized?
Neither did I when I wrote that post - but thanks to Juliet Eilperin's fascinating and meticulously researched Demon Fish - Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks, I have had to change quite a few of my misconceptions! It is required reading for anybody wanting to talk about Sharks with any degree of authority in 2011, as does she - and no, I'm not going to review it: Callum Roberts has done an excellent job here, and here is a strong endorsement by David of SFS.
Long story short: brilliant!

Need I repeat that I am a fan?
Ever since discovering the promo video for her book, she has continued to impress me with a string of excellent articles about Sharks, and this in the big mainstream media where millions of people get to read them. Talk about stellar outreach by the best possible person!
Needless to say that when David approached me with the idea of intermediating an interview, I jumped at the chance!

The result is below.
I must say, I was trying to entice her to be a bit more toothy than in her usual objective reporting but she is just simply too smart and has deftly dodged all the possible pitfalls whilst remaining her usual elegant, erudite and eloquent - likely as a result of having spent way to many years reporting about politicians before becoming an environmental reporter! :)

So, without any further ado - enjoy!

Bula Juliet, welcome to the Fiji Shark Blog. I’ve read and enjoyed your book Demon Fish and very much welcome this opportunity. From what I understand, you have largely abandoned a rather formidable career as political reporter in favor of reporting about ecological issues. Why this apparent change in focus and why have you chosen to focus on Sharks in particular.

After covering a polarized political system for my entire political career, I was interested in a change. One of the things I enjoy most about covering the environment is it touches so many aspects of the human experience—our economy, our health and our way of seeing the world, to name a few. I was drawn to the ocean because there’s so much interesting scientific discoveries being made there, and looking at sharks is a great way to explore the sea’s global expanse.

What are Sharks to you, personally and emotionally.

To me, they’re members of a foreign nation, which we can observe and seek to understand. They also connect us to our past, and link together disparate regions and cultures of the world. Just as important, they’re beautiful creatures who deserve respect in their own right. I have affection for them as well, but I’m not under any illusion that they feel the same way about me.

In conducting your research for Demon Fish, you have traveled the world and talked to many parties: the fishermen, the fin traders, the consumers, the researchers, the Shark conservationists, the Shark diving operators. All of them have interests at stake and all of them are convinced of their position, meaning that there is ample scope for conflict as many opinions appear irreconcilable. With that in mind and also keeping in mind the larger issues of population growth, growth of individual ecological footprints but also Global Warming and Ocean Acidification: how hopeful are you that the most endangered species of Sharks will survive into the next century, and why.

I’m an optimist by nature, and I also believe in the importance of sharing information—otherwise I wouldn’t be in the news business. So I’d say sharks have a good chance of surviving into the next century, because we’re finally having an honest discussion about how they’re doing and what it would take to save them.

Shark conservation strategies have many facets, spanning the gamut from rather strident social media activism to quiet policy advocacy, and from establishing local sanctuaries and local and regional pro-Shark legislation to trying to re-educate the consumers. Many conservationists are at odds about which strategies are best. This blog advocates that since global resources for conservation (money but also people, brain power, passion, time etc) are finite, they must be prioritized in favor of what is more effective and efficient. With that in mind, do you see strategies that in your view appear more promising than others in reducing or even halting the demise of Shark populations.

There’s no question that it would take a combination of policy changes and market forces to eliminate overfishing of sharks. So rather than see it as an either-or, I’d say that it’s clear the world’s policymakers are becoming more open to creating marine reserves and enacting some shark fishing restrictions, but unless the demand for shark products declines in Asia, you’re going to see the hunting of sharks in large numbers continue.

Can fishing for Sharks be sustainable.

According to most scientists I’ve interviewed, only a small handful of shark species can sustain any sort of human fishing pressure. That’s a tough assessment for some folks to accept, but the fact that so many shark species take so long to mature sexually and produce relatively-few offspring at a time makes them too vulnerable to be caught commercially or recreationally.

You state here that you do not wish to dive with Bull Sharks, our flagship species and one of the most timid and endearing Sharks I have personally encountered. Would you consider giving it a try if we invited you and seconded several intrepid dive guides to act as your personal bodyguards.

Yes! I’m confident that if you and some other experienced guides came in the water with me, the bull sharks would treat me with the same sort of respect I try to show them. I’m sure it would be a stunning sight.

Vinaka vakalevu!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Numbers - a Conspiracy?

It's estimated that there are 100 million sharks killed every year.
This total has such caché it even has its own moniker; ‘The Magic Number'.

But in today's world, where big numbers wash over us with indifference, ‘One Hundred Million' is losing it's lustre. Most of us owe that on our credit cards. So shark conservationists are continually polishing ‘The Magic Number' to keep us hooked.
Scare mongering or just plain scary?

This according to Howard Sawyer.
The citation is from The People who count Sharks, a piece I've already linked to last November. But after Ms Clarke's public wail of despair, it is well worth re-reading. It eloquently develops the case for why the numbers are faulty and it also hints, so far only obliquely, at the fact that we may all be the victims of a despicable conspiracy perpetrated by an unholy alliance of self serving conservationists and researchers. Oh how very Shark Con and incidentally, how very Global Warming! :)
Totally not so, see below - but it's a good read so please do.

Incidentally, have you finally read the paper?
Yes I know it's the poster child of horrible scientific gibberish that appears to have been written specifically in the purpose of confusing any layman, yours truly included. I've honestly tried to decipher whether the numbers refer to the period of 1996-2000 or to 2000 alone and have failed miserably - even after re-reading Ms Clarke's wail that is equally unhelpful: what does as of 2000, the fins of 38 million sharks per year were being traded mean, exactly: in 2000, on average in the five years leading up to 2000 - or what?
Also and owing to the many assumptions made in reaching the above conclusion, there is a staggering error margin which is expressed in the fact that the authors point out that the number could have been as low as 26m (-32%) or as high as 73m (+92%). Not very conducive to instilling any degree of confidence in its scientific accuracy is it. And incidentally, have you ever asked yourself why 73 and not, say, 72.5m?
Divide it by 365 days. See? Purely coincidental? :)

Anyway, this is how I interpret it - correct me if I'm wrong.
Between 1996 and 2000, the global Shark fin market was processing the fins of tens of millions of Sharks every year.

And that's it!
When it comes to the global markets for Shark fins, this is actually the only assertion the paper makes, meaning that:
  • nobody knows for what purpose those Sharks were killed (actually, we don't even know whether all have been killed or whether a few may have died of natural causes in an aquarium or the like - but I'm obviously splitting hairs), ie for their fins or principally for food or in self defense or for research - or for no purpose at all because they were mere bycatch, one of the major causes of Shark mortality!

  • nobody knows how those Sharks were killed, ie caught on long lines or in gill nets, purse seines, drift nets or in bottom trawling gear, or shot by spear gun or harpooned or caught in fish traps, etc

  • nobody knows how many of those Sharks were finned and the bodies dumped overboard, and whether the Sharks were alive or dead when that happened
but much more importantly,
  • nobody knows how many more Sharks whose fins were NOT introduced into the fin trade died during 1996-2000!

  • nobody knows what happened in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010
Does that mean that we don't know anything about what's going on now?
Well, in a way, that's exactly what it means - but of course there are published data about trade volumes after 2000, although they are widely believed to be highly inaccurate as reported volumes are thought to be way too low as they do not comprise IUU, and as some Countries do not report at all.

But, nobody is preventing us from speculating.
We can make plausible assumptions and back-of-the envelope calculations that will however remain untested hypotheses as long as nobody engages in the tedious work of properly verifying or falsifying them using the Scientific Method, likely by meta-analysis of the data that have been published as opposed to going out and trying to obtain original data sets.

Provided that we are honest and declare that we are speculating, it is I believe safe to assume that today, the Shark fin market is larger than ten years ago, tho as the following oldish graph illustrates, this is not just simply a given as local Shark stocks get exhausted and new legislation may curtail the activity.
Click for detail.

Anyway, assuming the fin market has grown, do we know by how much and starting from which baseline?
No we do not.

It is also I believe totally logical to assume that the total number of Sharks that are being killed each year is larger than the number of Sharks whose fins are being traded thru the fin markets.
Once again, we however don't know by which factor - especially nowadays where each and every fisherman knows of their value and knows how to contact a friendly middleman who will be eager to buy & aggregate them and then ship them to Asia.

So, let's look at some of the statements.

Over 200,000 Million Sharks are taken each year, many illegally, caught to support a growing industry for shark products in the Asian market. Most fins being used as a starch to thicken Shark Fin soup which has no taste but is thought to have magical properties and a sign of wealth!...
... is just plain ludicrous - no it is NOT over 200 Billion (!) Sharks and the fins got nothing to do with starch nor are they believed to be magical!
I mean, seriously...

How about
Every year, about 100 million sharks are brutally murdered and of these 100 million, an estimated 73 million to 100 million of the deaths are results of shark finning, the process in which a shark’s fin is cut off and the shark is thrown back into the ocean to die. If this continues at the rate it is at right now, all 440 species of sharks may be extinct within the next decade or two. The population of sharks as a whole has already dropped 95% since the 1970s, simply due to finning.
OK(-ish) for the approx 100 million but nobody is estimating that 73 to 100m are being finned, let alone alive, nobody but a fool is asserting that all species will be extinct within the next 10-20 years and there is no statistic whatsoever showing that 95% of all stocks have been wiped out since the 70ies, let alone finned!

And the ubiquitous
Up to 73m Sharks are being killed each year, or statements that the growing demand for shark’s fin soup, a Chinese delicacy, kills between 26 and 73 million sharks a year, or People kill 73 million sharks per year (Really? Not even a modest "up to"?) and the like?
Better but still inaccurate! These are numbers from 10 years ago - can anybody show me a single trade statistic that has remained unchanged since? Plus, these numbers suggest some degree of accuracy - what if in reality, the 2010 number turned out to be, say, 87 million?

So, what is going on?
Is this a nefarious conspiracy by Shark conservationists and researchers who want to perpetuate their job at the expense of the poor fishermen?

My call?
Many Shark conservationists are hopelessly ill informed, and a few may well be inflating the numbers as they are under the completely misguided impression that doing so will make for a better case - but that's that. These are well meaning people who try to do good but with inadequate means.

The NGOs?
One would assume that they would know better but once again, many probably simply do not and parrot what others have asserted before them - tho it looks like a very few very small ones have long relinquished the path of credibility, scientific and otherwise, and are merely the marketing arm of personal inflated egos!

And the researchers?
To my knowledge, none of them is asserting any of that nonsense - and if they did, they would have to elaborate on how they have come to that conclusion or they would have to kiss their scientific gravitas and career goodbye!
With one exception that is, the token whacknut - but then, what did I say about the gravitas etc?

A conspiracy?
Hell no
, it's merely a motley group of well meaning, mostly ill informed people and orgs wanting to do the right thing.
Me too, I've sinned in the past, as in here.

But now, I know better.

Now, I say stuff like
We know that ten years ago, about forty million of sharks were being killed each year - and now, that number is probably even higher!
or if I want to keep it short
Tens of millions of Sharks are being killed each year
But then, I add
What we DO know is that this is completely unsustainable and that it causes grave and permanent damage to our oceans - which I believe is the far more important statement!

But is that really so?
How many Sharks are there, and are we killing 1%, 2%, 10%, 30% of them each year? Is there such a thing as sustainable Shark fishing and if so, what is the Maximum Sustainable Yield? What happens if we kill too many? And if we stop killing them, will they multiply unchecked like Savyer's Serengeti lions (bollocks: ever heard of trophic pyramids and predator-prey cycles?) and start devouring us, as Capt'n Bill rants?
More of this in an upcoming post!

For now, this much.
This is never happening in a vacuum - this is being used to advocate legislation that will deprive fishermen of income and quite possibly, of their livelihoods. With that in mind, we owe it to them, but also, to ourselves not to cheat and to use misleading perceived "marketing", or whatever, but to be truthful and fact based instead.

Yes Bill is clearly mental - but he is also wily and will catch on to our shenanigans, so why do we continue to provide easy fodder for people like him?
The situation for many, if not most species of Shark is really, really dire and there's absolutely no need whatsoever to inflate numbers and to come up with ludicrous propositions like the moronic correlation to the ocean's production of oxygen which is my current pet grievance.

And then there's this.
Assume we succeed in having laws enacted based on misleading data - what would prevent the legislators from repealing them once we got caught out?
Think we would ever get a second chance after such a fiasco?

So, let's do it right from the outset.
Let's inform ourselves and then, let's just say it as it is.
That, and not cheating will have us win this fight in the long run.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Edwar - ridiculously awesome!

Rosy-lipped Batfish, quite possibly a Cocos endemic.

Edwar Herreño is not only a brilliant photographer, he also films.
Here's his best of 2005-2008, shot in DV, and I can only hope he's gonna be upgrading to HD and continue shooting as what he's got is just simply too good not to be broadcast world wide!
You will see the very best of what Cocos has to offer, from Whitetip feeding frenzies (David: 3:48!) and mating Marbled Rays, Turtles, Eagle Rays and Reef Whitetips, to a male (!) Tiger Shark and the Rosy-lipped Batfish (Ogcocephalus porrectus) which is apparently different from the Galapagos endemic Red-lipped Batfish (O. darwini) - and of course, to heaps upon heaps of Scalloped Hammerheads!
Simply brilliant!


Friday, August 12, 2011

David in the Fiji Times!

David on D2, sporting his dazzlingly brilliant Mancunian tan - the question being, has anything changed since!

The Fiji Times series of Shark-related articles continues.
This time, it is Shark Smitten, a piece about David's sharky quest and of the goals he wanted to achieve whilst in Fiji. It is of course way too flattering and now that the film team has finally! left our shores, you can all look forward to a totally unbiased exclusive eye witness account of their Fijian adventures - and lemme tell 'ya, it's gonna be pretty shocking stuff!

Shortly, it shall be revealed
  • whose little heart was broken
  • who laid on his stomach & screamed like a girl
  • who became a predator in order to understand the predator
  • who was cowardly abandoned in the arena all alone & surrounded by large predatory Sharks
  • who shall never, ever again get anywhere near a can of Heineken, ever!
  • and above all, who went home with a tan and who did not!
Keep watching this space!

NSW Grey Nurse Sharks - thank you Shark Defenders!

Shark Defenders have posted this action alert.

Please do submit your testimony.
Australia's Grey Nurse Sharks are critically endangered and it is imperative that we counteract the pressure by the NSW fishing lobby who wants to encroach on their aggregation sites. As SD correctly points out, individual testimonies are generally more effective than copy/pasting templates or joining petitions.
Submission close on Friday, August 26.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Another good one by Juliet!

Blunt, by Richard Ng. The silhouette in the background is Sickle.

Read this.
Yes, it's once again by Juliet Eilperin who has obviously carved herself a nice sharky niche and is being kept busy cranking out excellent pro-Shark media. Great to see it happening in the mainstream media with millions of readers, for which I'm even inclined to overlook the factually faulty numbers.

More about the latter in an upcoming post.
For now, this much: no, it is not a con-spiracy!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tiger Sharks feasting!

Story here.


Check this out!
The Shark picture in Running the Numbers II: Portraits of global mass culture (2009 - Current) is actually a huge heap of fossilized Shark teeth. You can see them when clicking on the image in the link. And do not miss to explore the other artworks - especially the amazing one with the Tuna!
Talk about attention to detail, and picture resolution!

Hat tip - Sea Monster.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Numbers: The Chickens have come home to roost - again!

Dead Sharks in Kesennuma. No, this NOT about Shark Finning, and no, they have NOT been killed for their fins alone or the like!

Oops indeed!
From my Weekend Rant.
The numbers?
The numbers are just that, numbers.
If one does not put them into context by comparing them to what we know about individual species in specific locations, they say nothing about sustainability which is the only thing that counts.
Yes we all know without having to resort to peer reviewed science that many local, and possibly even some global populations of some Sharks have been severely depleted, and that their disappearance is of concern – but for the time being, that’s basically all we can assert.

So far, there has been one single paper trying to shed a light on the actual numbers being caught, and this only based on data from the Shark fin trade. Read it!
The paper is based on a series of (probably plausible) assumptions that are heaped upon more assumptions, and consequently, the results are merely expressed in orders of magnitude. Specifically, the authors come to the conclusion that the fins traded annually came from between 26 and 73 million Sharks, with a median number of 38 million.
Does that really allow us to honestly state that up to 73 million Sharks are being killed each year, as everybody and his dog has started to assert?
Kudos to Seafood Watch for doing it right: It's estimated that tens of millions of sharks are killed around the world each year for their fins is much better - but then again, have they been killed for their fins?

As I said, the above numbers are only about the global Shark fin trade alone.
They do not cover many other Shark fatalities due to bycatch or targeted food fisheries where the fins are not being introduced into the fin trade. Also, that was then and the trade has very likely increased since. It is thus entirely plausible to assume that the “real” number is higher, and it is perfectly OK to say so.
It is however totally unacceptable to make up numbers on the fly, be it as many as 100 million, let alone over 200,000 million (!!!) which is just plain ludicrous and quite frankly, a total disgrace! Yes, I'm being frank! :)
The good news is that I know that somebody is working on a peer reviewed paper about the global number of Shark being killed – but once again, unless put into context, those numbers will mean absolutely nothing!

And what about the Rate of Depletion?
Is it really true that 90% (or 99, or 70 – whatever!) of global Shark stocks have already been wiped out? Compared to which original baseline count, done when, where and by whom?
Where are the data?

And is it really true that Some marine biologist have suggested as soon as 2020 these magnificent creatures may be extinct – and if so, who is claiming such utter baloney?
Those endangered species of Sharks will become commercially extinct long, long before they will become biologically extinct! But there's a caveat: it is however probable that some local populations may have shrunk to the extent that they may have accumulated extinction debt and that they may be too small to be able to withstand the pressure of a large environmental shock, like the current anthropogenic Climate Change – re-read this post!
Also, not every fin that is being sold has been finned!
Statements like over one hundred million sharks are caught and finned alive are thus doubly misleading!
If we want to be credible Shark advocates, we got to do our homework and first of all, be informed about the animals we love!
Science is always in flux and today’s insights may quickly become tomorrow’s fallacies, meaning that we must keep abreast of the latest research results and not base our knowledge on old publications and approximate hearsay.
Most importantly, we the amateur naturalists should never make up things on the fly, nor should we idly re-interpret what is considered to be the accepted consensus.

This does not mean that we should not challenge the current status quo, as that is precisely the process by which knowledge is being advanced!
BUT: the only accepted technique for doing so is the Scientific Method and as always, let me warn against the siren calls and intellectual shortcuts of the self promoters, quacks and charlatans - see on top!

All researchers I’ve ever met have always been eager to engage in informed discussions and to entertain different hypotheses, if adequately supported by according observations.
Those researchers are neither omniscient nor omnipresent and often, observations by common mortals like us have greatly contributed to the advancement of scientific insights - so even if you have no academic background, don’t be shy and speak up!
But do your home work first!

Or, as I said before .

Can we maybe just be a little more humble and less righteous, the more since Conservation is so complicated?
Maybe progress towards more facts and less truthiness (read this!)?
Can we maybe just open our eyes and wonder at the magnificence of what IS instead of trying to make things up?

We are the amateurs.
Can we please listen to what the professionals are telling us – the principal message being that extreme positions (on both sides!) are inhibiting Conservation and appropriate Management measures?
Recent example? Right here – like it or not, the man has a point!

If we want to educate others – let’s educate ourselves first!

That was in March.
Now, the lead author of the numbers paper (yes it is open source and available online - read it!) Shelly Clarke, has reached out with a wail of despair about the way Shark advocates are abusing the numbers she has estimated. It's the Shark Con all over again - and talk about a pathetically flat learning curve!

And I cite.

Exaggeration and hyperbole run the risk of undermining conservation campaigns.
Presenting a high but scientifically unsubstantiated number like 100 million can discredit otherwise valuable advocacy for better resource management and monitoring.

Pretty bloody embarrassing huh.
Pretty bloody dangerous too, as now the other side can rightfully claim that the lead author of the only paper dealing with the issue is asserting that Shark conservationists operate with fake data. So as a reminder, here's the actual citation from the paper, hidden somewhere in the general scientific gibberish at the bottom of page 119.
Estimates of the total number of sharks traded annually worldwide, based on all fin positions combined, ranged from 26 to 73 million year-1 (95% PI), with an overall median of 38 million year -1.

Not very helpful is it.
Couldn't she have said it like in her post, i.e. as of 2000, the fins of 38 million sharks per year were being traded through the fin markets, but the number could range as low as 26 million or as high as 73 million? Could she not have put that estimate into the Abstract at the top?
But, it is what it is - and anyway, those numbers mean nothing unless put into context!

Long story short?
We gotta stop exaggerating and making things up - is that so difficult to understand?

Which brings me straight over to the Oxygen.
Claiming (one of dozens, talk about a bloody memetic viral infestation!) that if the Sharks get wiped out we will all suffocate is just total unadulterated rubbish! Period!
And if that were not stupid enough, I already get a whiff of the attempt of linking Sharks and Global Warming! WTF?

How long til that, too, will bite us in the ass?
It is, as always, up to us!

Fiji Shark Campaign - cool Posters!

Bravo CORAL and Pew!

I've just found this Fiji Shark Campaign page featuring links to the two posters, this one for the Fijian and this one for the English version.
Well done!

And I've also found this interactive map by Pew!
Here's to it featuring Fiji by the end of this year!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Mako! Mako! Mako!

Boy that little gal is fast!
Filmed in the Azores, season is late July til end of October.

And the Longfin?
Rodrigo has published the story online, so here's the picture - is this awesome or what!!!

Click for detail!

NSW Grey Nurse Sharks - awesome Op Ed!

Please click once, then once again for detail!

Bravo Dive Log - talk about telling it like it is!
Please do submit your comment - for once, it really counts! Recommendations for how to proceed here and here.
Submission close on Friday, August 26.

Thanks Dave for the heads up!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Shark Week - Emma abused?

Patric is asking questions.
He has posted the following video featuring a large Tiger Shark that features abrasions consistent with getting tangled in a cable or rope; a chumsicle that is being held up by a length of metal chain that can injure the animal and contains diving weights that can both break teeth and/or get ingested; a burly dude yanking on the rope, and some blonde bimbette.
Not nice - check it out.

  • The location: Tiger Beach
  • The Shark: Jimmy's beloved Emma
  • The occasion: Shark Week, notorious broadcasters of Shark Porn

  • The yanking dude: Cody Lundin, self professed nature-loving reborn aboriginal Red Indian, or whatever, doing what stupid burly people do when directed to do so.
Did you check out the links?
And here are my own questions to fellow Shark diving operators and conservationists.
  • Are we gonna continue pretending this aint happening?
  • Are we gonna continue watching that shit?
  • Are we the operators gonna continue enabling it?
  • Are we gonna continue giving our business to operators that do?
  • Are we gonna continue associating with those people?
Yes I know I know...