Saturday, December 31, 2011

Part Two: The BAD and the Ugly!

Yum yum!

And now, to the juicy part!

But first.
This is when somebody will inevitably start shouting, how dare you attack fellow conservationists and invoke global peace and harmony and-so-on and-so-forth.

So lemme state this loud & clear, I don’t hate anybody here.

What I however do hate is bullshit.
And in the spirit of qui tacet consentire videtur, I will always reserve the right to criticize situations I don’t agree with - and if they happen to be in the public domain, I will also feel perfectly entitled to do so publicly!
I also believe that like in science, progress in conservation is achieved via dialogue but also, via robust debate where opinions may get heated but where everybody who is legit accepts that those are just the rules of the game – and where those who do not are simply not scientists and conservationists but posers and bullshitters.

In brief, where I’m coming from is that whereas it is great that Shark conservation has become sizzling hot and is uniting many passionate voices around a great common cause, bullshit continues to be bullshit and shenanigans, shenanigans - and the great common cause is in no way an excuse for any of that.
And like in real life, people are sometimes simply incompatible and thus mutually exclusive.

If you don’t agree, stop reading now - HNY and have a great life!
Seriously, spare yourself the aggro because the following aint gonna be pretty – but if you cannot resist and end up being outraged, spare me the lessons in ethics and instead, debate the assertions!

If the meteoric rise and the astounding successes of Pew teach us one lesson, then it is that the correct way to save Sharks is to pursue their protection by pragmatic, science-based advocacy and by hard work and smart negotiations aimed at legislative changes.
The rest is just stupid fluff and hot air, and counter productive to boot. We are not the ones who enact Shark protection - and rest assured that the people who do have zero time, zero patience and zero respect for the vocal clamoring of the Shark whacks!

Again, Shark conservation is inextricably liked (q.e.d.) to political and economic considerations, and he who does not understand that is just a fool.
Shark fishermen don’t hate Sharks, they want to make a buck – and the authorities don’t subscribe to conservation because they have changed their perspective and suddenly love Sharks, they do so because they have been convinced of the (eminently economic) need for sustainability and in the case of Sharks, because they have learned about the importance of several (not all!) species in regulating the marine environment and thus, of their economical value all the way to generating millions in income from tourism.

Shark finning?
The finning bans are archaic and ineffective and thus not anymore worth pursuing in isolation. Yes finning is an ethical abomination and needs to be abolished – but what is killing the Sharks is Shark fishing and if you care to open your eyes, you will quickly discern that many of the major Shark fishing hubs are processing the whole animals as the meat is increasingly sought after by ever increasing populations starving for protein, and other products like leather, squalene and even the eggs are introduced into the wider economy.

The facts and numbers?
Science is in continuous flux and the data do indeed change – but until they do, the latest peer reviewed science remains the best approximation of the truth.
Thankfully, there are now plenty of resources where anybody can consult the latest insights and data, meaning that those who continue to operate with inflated statistics and outlandish assertions lack any excuses and credibility whatsoever. The facts are plenty horrible as it is – so let’s please stick to those and refrain from the usual stupid inflated hyperbole!

The industry?
If there has been one trend at this year’s DEMA, then it has been Shark conservation - and everybody in the dive industry is now claiming that he has always been deeply and passionately involved.
Great – if only they all did walk the talk!

Instead, the usual shenanigans have continued unabated.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that nothing is just black or white. Competition is continuously leading many Shark diving operators to ever up the ante, this also very much in order to satisfy the continuous requests for ever more adrenaline by their clients. There is also an insatiable demand for images featuring stunt work with Sharks.
I understand that these are businesses and that those folks are merely trying to make a buck – but I certainly do not subscribe to the notion that these developments are inevitable, the more since we at BAD are doing very well indeed by promoting a totally different kind of experience, do not enable Shark porn and have in fact continuously tightened our protocols as a result of the stupendous increase in large Sharks visiting Shark Reef.

But you can’t have it both ways.
Stunt work with Sharks and promoting gratuitous adrenaline thrills got nothing to do with Shark conservation, period!

And the much-invoked Demystifying and Changing Perceptions about these Misunderstood animals?
Indeed - respectable Shark diving operations do that daily, and this without having to resort to those stupidities, and so do respectable Shark media!

Think about how the same was achieved with the terrestrial top predators: certainly not by showcasing scantily clad death-defying bimbettes perambulating in the savannahs and the Sundarbans and also not by turning alpha predators into pets by allowing tourists to physically interact with them, let alone ride them!

Changing perceptions by attempting to “prove” that we’re not on the menu of Sharks actually perpetuates the myth by reducing the animals’ fascinating and complex life history to one element only, that of shark-human interactions where some of the large species actually do devour people – which is perfectly normal and merely illustrates that they are the opportunistic top predators they just happen to be!

Nobody in his right mind asserts that Lions and Tigers are harmless – but most of us have learned to respect and love them for what they are, beautiful, charismatic and awe inspiring essential elements of their natural habitats, and very much endangered.
Think BBC documentary: that’s how you do it – and yes, the rest is just moronic BS!

Anyway, I’m digressing – here’s the list.
  • Least credible Shark Conservation Org: Shark Research Institute

    Founded in the early nineties and once rightfully considered to be the visionaries and trailblazers in Shark conservation, this org has simply ceased to evolve and is now quite obviously well past its sell-by date.
    A motley grouping of baby boomers whose claim to fame, if any, lays way back somewhere in the distant past, they doggedly cling on to outdated concepts, data and strategies and achieve nothing substantive in the process. This year’s media by some of their featured members have been simply appalling, see below, to the point where the whole org is little more than a purveyor of clients for Amos’ pinnacle expeditions and has frankly become a major embarrassment to the cause - and being my usual polite self, I will certainly leave it at that!
  • Most disappointing Shark Conservation Org: Shark Angels

    A great concept combining a promising initial triumvirate of passionate and good looking female Shark advocates, Shark Angels could have become the next big thing in Shark conservation.
    Well, after several years of waiting it turns out that it did not. Pretty girls posing with cardboard signs next to dead Tiger Sharks are just that, pretty - and the actual track record is that they have certifiably saved zero Sharks from the nets of the KZNSB or otherwise, not then and not after several years of pretty PSAs and obscure conservation work in SA. Now it appears that the epicenter has been moved to Canada and I remain equally unimpressed. Did I hear Toronto? Yes, maybe - but then again, maybe not so much!
    Up next? Canada. And the world... we shall see!
  • Conservation Snake Oil of the Year: United Conservationists

    Wow. How could I be so blind!
    Like all strokes of genius, it’s so compellingly simple: humankind just needs to stage a media-based Revolution under the leadership of those visionary dreamers and doers - and the Planet will be saved! Because we are all inherently good deep down inside - and if you give us 50k, we'll even take you diving! We are the 99%!
    Send us your money and we will save the Sharks, Lemurs and Tigers! And we will end Ocean Acidification because once they see my movie, the uneducated masses in China, the US, Europe, India and Russia will rise and force global governments to agree on reducing emissions! Just like the Arab Spring – or whatever, just send us the money!
  • Least impressive Shark Conservation Achievement: California Shark Fin Ban

    As they say in German, The Better is the enemy of the Good.
    Talk about a missed opportunity! Nice – but given the impressive widespread good will, resources and star power, this is simply not good enough! Check out the legislation, corollary with exemptions and analysis: this is a (bad) licensing law that bans the possession of Shark fins (notabene, fins that are imported from Asia where they first get processed for consumption) and clearly unilaterally targets the principally Asian consumers of Shark fin soup in California.
    Is that really Shark conservation? Does closing down the Californian shark fin market really impact the global trade and really save Sharks, let alone combat Shark finning, one of the stated aims of the legislation? Convince me!

    Plus, there is this.
    The demise of California’s Blues and Makos is legendary - and yet with this law, the local commercial and game fishermen are still free to go and kill California’s Sharks, and anybody is still welcome to continue eating Shark steaks and to consume all other Shark products. And the outlawed fins of those Californian Sharks? Betcha that they get exported to Asia!
    Compare that to the excellent progress in Florida where more and more Sharks are being protected – still think this is an achievement to be proud of?
    But as I said, nice!
  • Curiouser and Curiouser: Erik Brush (& Co!)

    "On the day that too many sharks have gone you will not know that a line has been crossed. It is only a while afterward that the sudden unleashing of methane hydrate into an already weakened atmosphere will show us our error. Then we will long for our predatory friends that could have regulated the food chain and kept the gas exchange of phytoplankton working for all life!" - Self Quote.

    New Age meets Shark conservation meets pseudoscience - and, meets the (obviously mad!) Hatter!
    Check out IMEC, Brush’s curious Facebook page and his curiouser personal website and tell me if I’m not right! And we've even got ourselves a new and mysterious Alliance!

    Anyway, all of this would just be harmless and actually, quite entertaining albeit in a bizarre way, were it not for the fact that the self professed marine biologist, Shark specialist and friend of Doctor Erich Ritter has managed to accumulate quite a loyal following (really? Are we witnessing the dumbing down of Hollywood?), among which some prominent representatives of the SRI who very much appear to endorse his pseudoscientific ramblings.
    Does Collier really think that Erik’s Shark math is very nice?
    Does the President of the SRI (doesn't R stand for Research?), apparently a German TV star and associate of Brush, really totally agree with Erik’s assertion that Sharks are the most critical factor besides human pollution to global warming and mass extinction?
    Whatever – right? But the cartoons are cute!
  • Shark Pornographer of the Year: ABC4

    Well, no need to further post any evidence here.
    Andy is actually a nice personable guy, an accomplished cameraman and also brave to the point of being crazy - and thus highly sought after when it comes to filming stunts with large predatory Sharks. Several other cameramen do the same and although I hate the imagery they produce, I know that that’s what the market wants and respect them as professionals as I understand that they do what they do because competition in that field is fierce, jobs are scarce and they got bills to pay.
    What however riles me here is Andy's total hypocrisy of regularly partaking in Gurney’s despicable productions, see below, and then turning around and pretending to be a fervent Shark conservationist. Thing is, even if that were true, for every person conceivably heeding Andy’s self-professed conservation messaging, thousands are being certifiably influenced against Sharks by watching the images he produces.
    Can’t have it both ways buddy – either finally walk the talk, or take the $$$ and shut the F up!
    And the exact same applies to those Shark diving operators who continue to enable that shit - and no, I'm not about to post names lest I once again get accused of engaging in some food fight or the like: they know who they are and so do you!
  • Shark Porn Production House of the Year: Gurney Productions

    Again, follow the link here.
    Discovery’s go-to people for those appalling Shark Week programs featuring idiotic scripts, idiotic experiments and idiotic anchors, they really transcend negative attributes. Absolute scum!
  • Shark Porn Channel of the Year: Discovery Channel

    I’ve long stopped watching that shit that is Shark Week – but sometimes I catch a glimpse whilst zapping thru the wonderful selection of Fiji’s Sky Pacific and guess what, nothing whatsoever has changed. Not that they would care in the slightest - but I will continue to boycott Shark Week and BAD will continue to turn down those yearly requests for atrocious film shoots!
  • Worst Shark Porn: How Sharks Hunt

    Featuring the chain wrapping of Emma, courtesy of ABC4 and Gurney - nothing to add to what I said there.
  • Most embarrassing Shark Conservation Advocacy Stunts: Bikini Bimbettes and Warriorettes

    And I cite from a message by one of the Shark Greats – you would be amazed (and the bimbettes, totally ashamed!) if I told you her name!

    How I hate the latest bit of National Geographic Society shark porn!
    Absolutely ghastly that they have fallen so low, pandering to the lowest common denominator--sex and sharks. Not a scintilla of redeeming quality. I say this sight unseen as I refused to watch it after seeing the trailers.

    But that would be but one, albeit particularly pathetic example.
    Why some otherwise modern and emancipated women would agree to demean themselves by partaking in these embarrassing stupidities will forever remain a mystery to me – and undoubtedly, to the other 99.9% of intelligent modern and emancipated women who love Sharks but don’t engage in those shenanigans!

    Oh - did I hear Demystify and Changing Perceptions?
    By “proving” that Sharks don’t strike bikini bimbettes? Well guess what, they do, so sorry folks – and that makes them neither good nor bad, nor does that fact in any way diminish the validity of the assertion that we need to protect them!
    The swimwear stunts and experiments are moronic pseudo-conservation and pseudoscience that presumes that everybody out there watching is a retard – thing is, most people are not and will quickly identify them as what they really are, highly embarrassing self promoting publicity stunts!
    Tip o’ hat: Erich Ritter– and we all know how that one ended!
  • Lifetime Achievement Award for Pseudoscience: Erich Ritter for Sharkitarianism

    Yes the above link is plenty sufficient!
    And after more than a decade of spouting those outlandish and I may add, very much self-debunked theories: still eagerly awaiting the first peer-reviewed paper on the subject!
  • Most preposterous Assertions by Shark Expert: Ralph Collier

    George eat your heart out!
    Having managed to completely supplant him as this year’s undisputed token Sesselfurzer, Collier and his Shark farts have been nothing short of spectacular. From the epic dog analogy to having linked JAWS with the starvation of Grizzly Bears by means of the dreaded domino effect, the man is truly a cornucopia of moronic pseudoscience. Will he be able to further exceed this year’s stellar performance and grace us with more, forever unforgettable tidbits of hot perfumed air?
  • Shark Conspiracy Whacknut of the Year: H E Sawyer

    We've finally got ourselves our very own, home-grown conspiracy – and shame on Wikipedia for not having posted it on the ominous list!
    So it turns out that not only are the numbers a conspiracy concocted by the scientific intelligentsia, but that all of us are (once again!) nothing but the puppets of Big Oil!

    Because, and I cite, shark conservation is actually a fig leaf for oil & energy corporations, through their ‘charitable trusts’ to ring fence large areas of international waters through MPAs, MCZs and ‘shark sanctuaries’ with the purpose of leasing it out to other oil & energy corporations, & using the money from that to fund the science that supports the policy of ring fencing large areas of international waters for ‘protecting sharks’ etc!

    Utter humbug? Far from it, here is the proof, black on white!
    Wow - makes Erik the Mad Hatter of Sharktivism look like a genius in comparison! If these are really the exhaust fumes of democracy, may I humbly suggest that this may indeed be this year’s ultimate Furz from the Sessel. May I further humbly suggest that the man urgently get himself a life and quite possibly, a diagnosis by a qualified psychiatrist, chop chop!

    As a reminder, here’s what the despicable cabal of evil has been doing in 2011 - unequivocally highly suspect!

    Story here - check it out!
  • Stupidest Shark Media: Guadalupe Mermaid

    Yes that would be the f@$%ing mermaid – and I’m still completely astounded by the sheer scope of the bullshit, hubris and mind-blowing stupidity!
  • Irritating: Personality Cults

    Just one example among several.

    See, some of our founders made a little movie called Sharkwater. Soon NGOs started popping up and government policy started changing. All it took was information and a spark, and the world will never be the same.

    Have we got ourselves a case where the salesman is starting to believe his own marketing, with symptoms of incipient guru-esque megalomania?
    There is no doubt that Sharkwater hit a nerve and that it has done much for popularizing Shark conservation among the masses. But Rob is not the visionary trailblazer, Shark conservation did not start with Sharkwater and the recent spectacular successes are not at all attributable to that movie!

    Anyway, it is just one example and certainly not the most brazen one.
    The Heroes and heroines, warriors, whisperers, experts, specialists and whatnot are all legit if the moniker is being assigned by others - but when it is self promotion and really nothing more than branding, it becomes irritating.
    Does sharktivism really need its own version of the Kardashians and the associated frothy adulation and gossip? Maybe – but like in real life, I don’t like it one bit!
  • Most Brazen Conservation Heist: Shark Research Institute

    Having nothing much to show for, the SRI is now mooching on other people’s hard work by insinuating that they were somehow responsible for all (!) of this year's Shark conservation achievements. From the SRI's Winter Newsletter - and I cite

    Thanks to you — our members — 2011 has been a very good year for sharks. Through SRI active participation, advocacy and legislative efforts we have achieved spectacular results. We still have work to do, but look at what has been accomplished this year alone!
    Give yourself a pat on the back!! Thanks to your support, 2011 has been a fantastic year for sharks. This year alone:
    * Honduras announced creation of 92,665-square mile shark sanctuary.
    * The Bahamas converted 243,244 square miles into a shark sanctuary.
    * The Marshall Islands, Guam and Palau created a region-wide 2 million square-mile shark sanctuary.
    * Chile banned shark finning in its water.
    * ICCAT agreed to reduce fishing of shortfin mako shark and porbeagle sharks (At least get your facts right! I thought you were there?)
    * The trade in shark fins, outlawed in Hawaii in 2010, was also prohibited in Guam, Oregon, Washington and California

    Certainly cleverly worded!
    I say, how cheap, sad and frankly revolting - simply unforgivable!
  • Low Point of Academic Competition: Junior Controversy

    Got some time to waste?
    Read this and track back through the links. What you will discover is an ignominious smear campaign against Michael Domeier orchestrated by competing researchers. Dunno and don’t care much about what happened after it backfired, except for noticing that the Monterey Bay Aquarium has obviously not severed its contacts to the very much implicated Sal Jorgensen and Scot Anderson of TOPP.
    All very revealing and very disturbing!
  • Stupidest Shark Conservation Memes and Slogans.

    Here, I did a quick brain storming session with some of my Shark friends.
    In no particular order: the Oxygen myth; No Fin No Shark No Future period (can anybody please tell me what that means?????); Fintastic; and last but not least, Fins Up!
And here endeth the list - happy I finally got it off my chest!

And, are you pissed off?
I sure hope so - the question being, at whom!
Comments welcome!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sharks and Rays in the Arctic - especially in Norway!

Click (twice) for detail - original PdF here.

Cool poster!
And did you notice: co-authored by a real Viking from Tromsø!

From the Conclusions
The Norwegian, Barents and the Bering Seas are particularly species-rich.
Now there's a challenge for an intrepid UW photographer!

Lill? :)

2011: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Part One!

Shark pic of the Year!

So there.
2011 is slowly petering out, the shop is closed so that the staff can enjoy a well deserved rest and I’ve got some spare time on my hand – so brace yourselves for a lengthy recap of 2011!
You have been warned!

This time, it’s not gonna be about BAD.
Thanks to our clients that have once again visited us in record numbers, we did very well indeed – and so did Shark Reef where biodiversity continues to increase and where once again, we recorded a record number of Bulls - and it ain’t over yet: from what we can already see now, we will very likely witness a further increase in 2012!
As of September 1st, we are also completely carbon neutral after having sponsored the planting of 330,000 mangroves, very likely a world first – and again, this is just an intermediate step as we’re currently planting more in order to offset the carbon footprint of our clients!
Finally, we’ve again met some wonderful new people, many of which researchers, and are involved in several ground-breaking projects that will hopefully come to fruition next year.
Keep watching this space!

But as I said, this post is not about us.
2011 has been an exceptional year for global Shark conservation and outreach. It has also seen the continuation of the usual shenanigans.

And without further ado – 2011 as seen by DaShark!

The Good

This is the easy part.

But lemme first tell you where I’m coming from here.
The way I see it, the only metrics for effective Shark conservation is that less Sharks are being killed, full stop. The rest is just fluff and we shall talk about it later.

Having now been involved in Shark conservation for close to a decade and having seen the varying success of various approaches, I remain firmly of the opinion that regardless of the anger at seeing the all-pervasive global slaughter of Sharks, the only winning strategy when advocating Shark conservation is to remain strictly fact-based, pragmatic and willing to compromise.
Successful conservation is always the result of negotiations where we are asking others to enact pro-Shark legislation - and whereas sometimes popular support (and thus petitions) may help, the arguments must never the less be rock solid. Never forget that legislation can as easily be repealed – and it will if the arguments supporting it are proven to have been fraudulent!

By the same token and very much like the science it is based upon, Shark conservation remains always in flux and is evolving rapidly based on the latest science but also on the success (and the failings) of the latest conservation initiatives.
As an example, legislation has evolved massively in 2011 as the forces of evil have shown considerable cunning in exploiting loopholes and otherwise circumventing the law, and as it has become painfully evident that the best legislation will always remain completely toothless unless it gets adequately enforced. The latter requires considerable resources for capacity building, monitoring and prosecution that must be an integral component of any such initiative in developing countries.

And one last thought.
As the global recession is far from over, 2011 has seen a further shrinking of the resources available to research and conservation. With that in mind and because the Shark fin industry is supply limited, we need to prioritize our resources and invest them where the Sharks are being killed - and yes, like an old broken record, I'm repeating myself - and will continue to do so, over and over again!

Anyway, here is the list.

  • Most impressive Shark Conservation Org: The Pew Environment Group's Global Shark Campaign.

    I must confess that for once, I’m quite at a loss of positive attributes here. I was going to painstakingly try and enumerate the many achievements but thankfully, they have done so themselves. Far from the huge bureaucratic overhead of the established NGOs, this is but a tiny group: but its members are smart, dedicated and extremely hard working individuals who know how get the job done and who like in the real world, operate under a strict regime of deliverables, deadlines and accountability. And no, they don't achieve their success by throwing money at the problems as some of their pathetic detractors claim, but by being solution-oriented, strictly science-based, pragmatic and diplomatic - and thus widely accepted as valuable expert interlocutors by the powers that be.
    The strategy has been to concentrate on the supply side by successfully advocating changes in fisheries policies at national, regional and global levels.
    This is how you do it – which of course begs the question, what have all the other, bigger, more established and more vocal orgs been doing all these years!

  • Most improved Shark Conservation Org: Shark Savers

    Shark Savers continues to evolve and I like where it is going, the more as I’m good friends with several of the people involved, some of which for a very long time indeed. 2011 has seen a long overdue consolidation at the top where the org is now being steered by intelligent, pragmatic and solution-oriented individuals, resulting in solid Shark conservation successes. Case in point: this year's Florida Shark protection measures where they have played a preeminent role, the stellar project Manta Ray of Hope, see below, and much along the lines of think global act local, this recent victory in the Midwest (bravo Penny!).

  • Most promising new marine Conservation Org: One World One Ocean

    This is a brand new undertaking and there is thus no track record except for a stellar PSA.
    But I like the people, the pragmatic message and the mission and look forward to many successes in the years to come. The principal difference to other media-based initiatives: no personal self promotion but above all, a long term track record of getting the message across – meaning distribution distribution distribution!

  • Most impressive individual Shark Advocate: Stefanie Brendl

    The victim of an appalling and by no means resolved witch hunt in Hawaii (check on the oldest posts), Stefanie has not given up but instead, completely re-invented herself and become one of the most respected global Shark advocates in the process. Following their ground breaking Shark fin ban in Hawaii, she and Senator Clayton Hee have successfully expanded the concept to several US territories and states. Their approach has been quiet, rational, pragmatic and science-based diplomacy instead of activist clamoring. Passionate, goal-oriented and doggedly determined, Stefanie gets the job done whilst operating in the background and leaving the limelight to others – deservedly and alas, very much not so, see Part Two.
    So here’s to Stefanie, heroine of Sharks!

  • Most impressive Shark Conservation Achievement: Bahamas Shark Sanctuary

    Who would have thought!
    Having previously talked to literally scores of insiders about the need to protect the Sharks there, everybody was telling me that getting meaningful conservation enacted in the Bahamas was strictly mission impossible – and then Pew and the BNT (and yes: many others did help) managed to pull it off without any notable hiccups in a matter of mere months! This is a massive achievement and a testament to the quality and effectiveness of the approach by Pew and it cannot be applauded enough!

  • Best new Elasmobranch Conservation Initiative: Manta Ray of Hope

    Although not directly an initiative by Shark Savers (or is it?), it is very much associated with them. Once again, kudos for a brilliant, important and timely project!

  • Best Shark Conservation Resources: Reports by Pew

    Once the clear niche of Oceana of which I used to be a fan but where I am increasingly becoming critical, the reports authored by Pew are a meticulously researched treasure trove of hard facts, always up-to date science and pragmatic solutions – the latter very much setting them apart from the widespread whining and lamenting! A must-read for anybody wanting to stay abreast of modern, solution-oriented Shark conservation!

  • Best Outreach in Shark Research: Neil Hammerschlag and the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program

    This is how you do it.
    This is simply brilliant outreach via blog, Facebook, video and undoubtedly many more outlets, showing that Shark research can be fascinating, fun, hip and young. I remain concerned by those SPOT tags and only time will tell whether the data will somehow justify the invasive methods – but all-in-all, I really do like the people and the energy and am impressed by the passion and also by the willingness to tackle some of the more controversial aspects of Shark research.
    Well done!

  • Best Shark Conservation print Media: Juliet Eilperin

    Juliet’s contribution to catapulting Shark conservation into the mainstream media has been invaluable. Extremely well informed and (frustratingly) balanced, she continues to crank out stellar pro-Shark pieces that directly counteract the appalling hype by the tabloids.

  • Best Shark Conservation television programs: CNN

    Bravo and thank you CNN for having embraced the cause of Shark conservation with frequent, balanced and always interesting programming!

  • Best Nature Programming: BBC

    Who else – the measure of all documentary work, the one and only, the best of the best, forever emulated and forever unrivaled and unmatched!
    Need I elaborate? I sure hope not!

  • Best Shark Conservation Movie: Sanctuary: The Last Stand for Sharks

    So far, it appears that it has only been shown to select audiences in the Bahamas. Funded by Pew and (I believe) produced by Shawn, it combines great visuals with strict scientific data. I’ve seen it at DEMA and it is my hope that there will be a less Bahamas-centric director’s cut for viewing by a larger audience.
    Great job Shawn, I'm actually quite impressed!

  • Best Shark Picture: this one, featured at the top!

  • Best Shark Dance: David Shiffman

    Nobody and i mean Nobody! comes even close to David’s beautifully choreographed species-specific routines combining his dazzling footwork with exquisite artistic expression, period! Here’s to the Fred Astaire of Shark conservation - and frugal fashionista to boot!

  • Most promising Shark Conservation Newcomers, ex aequo: Madi Pip Stewart, Christine Shepard, David Diley

    The common denominator: passion and a lot of talent.
    But as always, this is only the beginning. Having witnessed how other promising talents have quickly succumbed to the temptations of fame and money, or just simply lost interest, only time will tell whether these are mere blips or whether we are witnessing the start of careers that could be remarkable indeed.
    So far so great!

  • Best Shark News Website: Shark Year Magazine

    It may well be an old hat but having only discovered it recently, it's new to me. Shark Year Magazine impresses by being exhaustive in covering all aspects of Shark news from fishing to strikes to the latest science.

  • Best Shark Info Website: Elasmodiver

    Andy Murch’s Shark website is truly a treasure trove of information, often interspersed with personal and intelligent observations by the author who proves to be a true Shark expert – and this for once in a positive sense!

  • Best Shark Blog: Underwater Thrills

    How could it be any different!
    His is the other watchdog blog and like this scribe, Patric does not shun to dabble in controversy of which there is plenty – especially if you got no patience for bullshit! The difference being, where I regularly get outraged and start firing broadsides, he retains his composure and dissects sarcastically, something which is both way more effective and also, way nastier! Whereas we sometimes disagree vehemently, we are united by the fact that we get called names by very much the same people, something I carry as a badge of honor – as I suspect does he!

  • Best Marine Science Blog: Southern Fried Science

    In all honesty, this is likely the last year where I would assign the honors to them. I sense that the boyz are growing up and being kept increasingly busy pursuing their professional careers. Blogging is excruciatingly time consuming and requires staying on the ball, something very few can afford once they enter the daily treadmill. But for 2011, SFS has continued to be my very favorite marine blog, this largely to the epic posts mentioned below.

  • Best Blog Posts on Shark-related Issue: WhySharksMatter on the Junior Controversy.

    I must say, David’s two posts here and here, and especially, the ensuing epic threads and moderation by both David and Andrew have been nothing short of stellar. This is a brilliant exercise in investigative journalism shining a cold spotlight on the Californian GW research scene - more in Part Two.

  • Best Shark Facebook Pages, ex aequo: Shark Defenders and Shark Savers

    There is now a legion of Shark conservation Facebook pages and making a choice has been difficult. My personal criterion: whether or not they allow the Shark whacks to post their ramblings – and both these pages do thankfully not but instead, they are regularly updated and feature interesting news and causes worth pursuing.

  • Most deserved Accolades: Doc becoming a featured Nat Geo Explorer

    Whereas it is quite impossible to overstate Doc’s contribution to Shark research and Shark conservation, I believe that his true legacy will be that he has found the time to educate and mentor a whole new generation of brilliant and equally passionate Shark researchers who are truly among the crème de la crème in their field.
So, have I already managed to piss somebody off like usual?
Wait til you see Part Two! :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Tuna Wars!


Remember the posts about the Pacific Tuna Industry?
First the whistleblower video by Greenpeace and then the appalling evidence that purse seiners are using Whale Sharks as FADs?

But, is it really true?
Well, check out this website.

Interesting huh.
To me, it's all déjà vu, very much on the lines of the present appalling climate change denialism. Seen it all before 30-40 years ago, see below.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Al Jazeera - Sharks and Tourism!

Best safety stop on the planet - Whitetip Reef Sharks @ 4m on the Fiji Shark Dive!

Different Shark Sanctuary, same story.
Sectors of the Honduran tourism industry are booming thanks to the Shark diving industry. This follows in the wake of news from Palau where the establishment of the world's first such Sanctuary is being credited with record tourist arrivals for 2011.

And Fiji?
The Shark diving industry's contribution to tourism is already remarkable and I have no doubt whatsoever that if one examined the value of Sharks for the whole of the Fijian economy (diving but also general tourism and ancillary sectors, fisheries, ecosystem services etc) , the figure would be even more impressive - and that once Fiji announces the Sanctuary, tourism arrivals will skyrocket even further as a consequence!


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

It really has been an Epic* year!
Wishing you Peace, Health, Happiness!

* oh yes, there will be an assessment! :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

One Week with Cristina!

Total serendipity!
We're finally ready to announce Cristina's two trips and it just so happens that today is her birthday! From all of us here at BAD, tantissime bellissime cose, salute e soprattutto Felicità!

What can I say about Cristina that hasn't been said already.
Yes she really is the First Lady of commercial Shark Diving - and together with her new friend Rusi with whom she shares a deep, intuitive understanding, love and respect of the animals, she is also probably the best Shark handler on the planet. Being who they are, people who do things out of passion and not for fame, they would obviously balk at the notion - but if ever there were two people truly deserving the attribute of Shark Whisperer, it would be them, not the legion of self promoting wannabees out there!
Please don't tell her I said so, but all of us here really do like and admire her very much - professionally but very much also as a beautiful human being!

We are honored that Cristina has decided to come visit us again in 2012 - and you can join her for an exciting week of Shark diving and Shark education!
You can find all relevant details here and I hope that you will agree that this an experience any lover of Sharks can simply not afford to miss! One caveat however: as always, this is not about the adrenaline and what has been called extreme Shark diving. It is about learning about the animals and witnessing respectful Shark-human interactions, also by Cristina who is the only person we have ever trusted to do so with our Sharks - but again, do not expect to see her experimenting with tonic on the Bulls!

This is prime Bull Shark season and space is limited. Really!
Total numbers on our dive are strictly limited and we already have other bookings, so please, do book early in order to avoid disappointments!

See you in May!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tune in to Alisi!

For our Fijian readers!

Alisi Rabukawaqa our newly minted Miss South Pacific and Queen of Sharks will be interviewed on FBC Radio live tomorrow December 22 between 7 and 8 pm.

The interview will be shown on FBC TV at 10.30pm on Monday December 26nd and again at 11.00am on Tuesday December 27.

Please tune in and give her your support!

Fascism 2011


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bravo Helen!

Message from SlideShare.

Hey helenthereef,

Your presentation The King of the Sea: Making Fiji a Shark Sanctuary has been featured on SlideShare's homepage.

Kudos from our editorial team for your effort. Your presentation was chosen from the thousands uploaded to SlideShare everyday from across the world.

– The SlideShare Team

Indeed, Congratulations!
is of course none other the indefatigable Helen Sykes, our valuable counselor from Resort Support, principal of Marine Ecology Consulting and local manager of the Fiji Shark Sanctuary campaign for CORAL and Pew.

Here is the presentation.

Brilliant Marine Conservation PSA!

This is as good as it gets.

No wonder, it's been produced by the people around Greg MacGillivray of MacGillivray Freeman Films who have entertained us with wonderful IMAX productions for the past 30 years, notably also by Howard and Michele Hall.

One World One Ocean is a remarkable new venture supported by remarkable people and organizations, and I very much look forward to reporting about their future successes.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Caymans' Nassau Groupers - great News!

Great artwork by Guy!

Remember this post?

Now, the Cayman Islands have extended the seasonal protection of the endangered Nassau Grouper spawning aggregation sites for another 8 years. Full story here, Guy's reaction here.

And here's a really nice PSA on Guy Harvey's website.
But: why is embedding not enabled - isn't this about spreading the message?
Anyway: Kudos to everybody involved!

Butch is as Butch does!

Yes that would be an endangered Great Hammerhead.

Apparently, that's the boat of Shark killer Mark Quartiano.
Apparently, that woman is Rosie O'Donnell - having FUN with the kids!

As in, and I cite.

ROSIE, music, merriment, celebrities, games, laughter and fun!!!!
The Rosie Show is all of this and more!! Are you the life of the party? Do you light up the room with your energy? Are you always known to turn a frown upside down? Do you just LOVE to have FUN??? The Rosie Show wants you to make us smile and show us how fun you are!!!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fred Buyle - excellent Interview!

Unsuccessful - attempt to tag a Bull in La Réunion.

This is Frederic Buyle.

From the interview.

Il y a vraiment un paradoxe car on voudrait prendre des mesures mais on ne peut pas sécuriser un milieu comme celui là. Je pense que maintenant ce qu’il faut faire, c’est responsabiliser les usagers de la mer.

Ce que je pense, c’est que maintenant, on va à la mer comme on va au supermarché.
Les gens ne sont plus responsabilisés. Vous allez en Afrique du Sud ou en Australie, où il y a un vrai problème de requins, il y a des panneaux. Vous connaissez les dangers, ce qu’il faut faire pour les éviter. Après, c’est à vous de prendre le risque ou pas. Les gens s’éduquent. Dès lors que l’on informe les gens, ils vont d’eux-mêmes aller chercher d’autres informations.

Translation here - not great but you'll certainly get the gist.
Could not agree more!

The backdrop are obviously the recent Shark strikes in La Réunion.
Fred and several friends had mounted an expedition to go and tag some Sharks which failed miserably: in 17 days of searching, they did not find a single Shark with the exception of a few Bulls that were however incredibly timid; and once they managed to get closer by offering some bait, the Bull Sharks' skin proved to be simply too tough - and haven't we experienced that!

You can read Fred's report in this excellent blog post.
I was particularly interested in hearing about the proximity of fishing ports and beaches, and was once again particularly impressed by Fred's pragmatic advocacy of caution and common sense.

Kudos again!

PS further details by Fred himself in the comments section!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ridiculously small Stuff!

Click for detail!

Just to show you that we got more than Sharks.

From today's dives in the Lagoon and on Shark Reef.
The upper screenshot shows one of the Dwarf Seahorses we now regularly find in one of our a secret spots. It is very likely Hippocampus severnsi, one of many similar recently described species. Here's a proper picture, very likely in 2x magnification as they are minuscule.

The lower one is of a very small juvenile Razor Wrasse, probably Iniistius (formerly Xyrichtys) pavo.
This is how they look.

The Shrimp Goby below is probably a flaring Amblyeleotris ellipse, formerly only known from Samoa.
It's probably just a range extension but it may also be a new species, something that can only be determined via DNA analysis.

Click for detail!

And since we're at it, behold the Squarespot Fairy Basslet, Pseudanthias pleurotaenia - fairly common but always a wonderful find!

Click for detail!

Long story short?
Next time you come, pack your wide-angle zoom but do not forget your macro rig!

Friday, December 16, 2011


Interesting presentation!
Concept here, and here's some info about the Ecomodel Summer Rayne Oakes.
Not sure whether I love it, but it sure is different.


Lill - excellent!

Just stumbled across the above picture.
It's the winner of the Coldwater category of the 2011 Ocean Art Photo Competition - and quite unsurprisingly, the prize-winning photographer is none other than Lill Haugen, our one and only Viking BAD Girl!
Great pic, the more as it even features a veritable Snell's window!

Complete competition results here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Shark Reef for 4 Bucks?

Yes that would be Scarface - and behold the boat in the background!

Just got this message from Timbo.

Look at your Fiji books.
Now people can buy either as an e-book for under $4 - note the option for iPad - iPhone version.

Is that cool, or what!
You can read more about he luxurious coffee table book here, and here is the post about the monograph on Shark Reef - and may I add that I'm posting this right in time for Christmas, hint hint!

And since we're at it.
Timbo has spent the last two years documenting the marine parks of his home island Guam and the result is now finally for sale on Amazon or once again as an e-book and app. Yes I know everybody makes this claim - but I know for a fact that compiling Hidden Treasures, Guam's Amazing Marine Preserves has truly been Timbo's proverbial labor of love requiring countless dives squeezed in amid the ever busy schedule of a globe trotting underwater photographer.

And there's even a Sharky aspect!
Guam as you (should) know is a Shark Sanctuary, and this very much also thanks to Timbo who has quietly assisted his long term friend Stef and Pew in making this happen. Timbo now tells me that Tumon has a Blacktip Reef Shark nursery and Sasa, one for (Scalloped?) Hammerheads, the latter very much in line with Fiji's major estuaries, and thus the future for Guam's Sharks looks rather bright!

Here is the preview and you can purchase the e-book and app right here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

El Monstruo - great Video!

Smalltooth Sand Tiger, Odontaspis ferox - another stellar pic by Francis Pérez!

As I said, I really, really like this Shark!

Here's some stellar video by Rafa Herrero Massieu - again!
Rafa lives in the Canary Islands and this video is from El Hierro which clearly appears to be one of the global hotspots for encountering this species - and this without the need for taking ludicrous risks, or for being a ludicrously proficient free diver like in Malpelo!
You may want to once again notice the retinue of Pseudocaranx!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Our National Geographic Explorer!

The hard life!

Well it was about bloody time!
One of our very own is a National Geographic Explorer!
From the interview with the great man.

The lemon shark has provided me with a career, a loving wife of 42 years, a family, a home, cars, travel, educated my children, and, yes, even today my grandchildren enjoy this wonderful great fish.

Have you guessed?
Yes that would be none other than Doc Gruber, Grand Mufti of Sharks, bon vivant extraordinaire, beloved by his friends and rightfully feared by his enemies!
Here's a nice video listing some of his academic credentials but above all, where he gives invaluable advice (!) to prospective Shark researchers, as in Study Hard!

We have now met a couple of times and I can attest to the fact that apart from knowing everything! that is currently known about Sharks (=heaps but actually, not much), the man is brilliantly intelligent, eminently entertaining and charming, and ludicrously witty - and absolutely and certifiably nuts to boot!

No I'm not alluding to stuff like this - that's just Work!

What I'm alluding to is what he does in his spare time - or does a septuagenarian hammering Porsches over race tracks and flying WW2 planes sound normal to you!

Anyway, I'm certainly digressing - as usual!
What I really wanted to say is that it's great to see his name among all those other illustrious personalities - which of course begs the question, does a veritable revered Nat Geo Explorer have the clout to influence that godawful Shark programming on Nat Geo Wild?
I wish!

Nat Geo interview here.

PS - and here's one more pic! :)