Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Great Fiji Shark Count - all is ready!

Everything is in place to start counting Sharks tomorrow.

With one small exception.
Our web admin is absent and the list of participants has not been amended - so there, this is the list for the November count.
  • Adrenalin Dive
  • Aquatrek Beqa
  • Beqa Adventure Divers
  • Beqa Lagoon Resort
  • Castaway Diving
  • Dive Tropex Tokoriki
  • JM Cousteau Resort
  • KoroSun Dive
  • Lalati Resort
  • Makaira Resort
  • Mamanuca Environment Society
  • Matava Resort
  • NAI'A Fiji
  • Naigani Island Resort
  • Navini Island Resort 
  • Pacific Harbour Fishing Group
  • Reef Safari
  • Taveuni Dive
  • Taveuni Ocean Sports (Nakia Resort & Dive)
  • USP School of Marine Studies
  • Viti Watersport - Port Denarau
  • Viti Watersports 
  • Wakaya Island Resort
  • Wananavu Dive
  • Waidroka Resort
Please give your business to them.
These are the people who care about Sharks and contribute close to FJD 80m to the local economy in the process - this each and every year, sustainably and in a non-extractive way!

Happy counting everybody!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Oh Lupe - Shenanigans!


Check this out.
Like everything from Pelagic Life, these are simply stunning images and the guys come across as totally accomplished watermen.

And still, I hate it.
From the standpoint of commercial Shark diving, this is once again a total disgrace. 

But don't worry, I'm not gonna dwell.
I'm actually sick and tired of repeating myself but if you care, go and read e.g. this and more specifically, this This is the inevitable consequence of Amos' idiotic pinnacle expeditions and of the ever-pervasive arms race whereby a very few rogue dive operators are willing to risk ruining it for everybody in order to cater to a minuscule and economically irrelevant minority. 

Long story short?
The speedo dude joins the proud ranks of the f@$%ing mermaid and of the menopausally challenged bikini bimbettes in SA, TB and alas now even Cat Island. And we can all look forward to the the next round of even bigger shenanigans by the next batch off even braver and stupider daredevils.
All for the Sharks of course!

And that's a promise!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

David - Big Bull!

Click for detail!

Check out this huge Bull - and the viz!

This is as good as it gets.
Of course, David Fleetham is underwater photography royalty, much like his friend Doug Perrine with whom he shares living in Hawaii - and unsurprisingly, like all real VIPs, he's equally as easy going and accommodating as it gets!

Anyway, he was here for a short assignment.
This is very much the time when the Bulls are on their way out and positively temperamental - but he's still managed to capture this very pregnant Fiji Bull Shark, along with a plethora of shots of the various Reefies parading on the reef top in bright sunshine and crystal clear, calm water. And after having viewed the evidence, David assures me that he will be back in the high season to capture our unequaled wallpaper Bulls!

Enjoy David's stellar pic!

Monster Roll - way cool!

Story here.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

GoPro Hero3, Black Edition!

Great video!

Gotta get myself one of those - comparison here!
And a Dome - if it fits!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Grey Reef at Cleaning Station!

Click for detail!

Sam this one's for you!

This is from today's Shark dive.
I've been trying to get this shot for quite a while but have always run out of bottom time before the Reefies would develop enough trust to perform in close proximity - but thanks to the Nitrox, this is not an issue anymore! :)

Remember, you got to book in advance!

Ozzie Sam on TV!

Fastest Shark - pretty obvious why!

Check out the interview!

Great - and I can post one more of those pics!
In terms of pro-Shark media, it really doesn't get much better than this.
Kudos Sam, and thank you!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Was this Mako Shot the Last the Photographer Ever Snapped?

Click for detail!

Total bollocks!
Ozzie Sam has finally released his epic Mako shots, e.g. here, here and here - and being the consummate Shark diver he is, he was never at risk and is doing extremely well, thank you very much!

And not only that.
This amazing shot of the Mako with a GWS is probably a global first, and insiders know that he's got a whole suite of simply stellar new GWS pics that he'll hopefully publish real soon.

Click for detail!

Enjoy Sam's pictures!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Samantha - counting Sharks in Fiji!

Alot of BADness - the hands in the back belong to Lui and Chris.

Meet the indefatigable Samantha!

Talk about a personified whirlwind!
She came, saw and conquered, and is gone already!
In the process, she first counted Sharks  with the Scuba Diver Girls as part of the citizen science program  she heads, this in cooperation with the Great Fiji Shark Count with whom she will share all the data. 

And then, she popped by for a lightning-quick visit to the BAD boyz and girls. 
On the program: some serious Shark diving on the Best Shark Dive in the World and quite a bit of strategic planning. I count many personal friends within Shark Savers and ever since they have evicted the insane bimbette, our contacts have been particularly tight and cordial, culminating in the org's support for the GFSC where Sam has made a huge personal contribution - and with her having been here and understood what we're all about, watch this space for some new and exciting projects! 

And did we engage in some merciless debates? 
C'mon - do bears crap in the woods??

Talking of the dive.
It's fast becoming highly unpredictable as many Bulls are pregnant and the whole gang is getting ready to abscond in order to pup and mate, meaning that they are way less interested in popping by for a snack. But Sam was particularly lucky in witnessing decent numbers but above all, in making the very personal acquaintance of our unparalleled grand lady Granma. Here they are facing off - and I really can't wait for Sam to post that GoPro footage!

Badass meet badass - Granma & Sam - click for detail!

Anyway, it has been fun and inspiring.
Moce mada Sam - come back soon!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Great Fiji Shark Count in the Fiji Times!

We got Sharks! Bull City by Ozzie Sam!

Thank you Fiji Times.

And thanks and kudos to Nani!
This is excellent pro-Shark media - with one small correction: the Great Fiji Shark Count does not try to establish a population census, it monitors population trends over hopefully several years, with this year's two counts establishing a first baseline.
And the trend is already negative.

Please read the Fiji Times article here.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Shark Reef - Video!

Doug Seifert's iconic pic of Rusi and our Bulls - do click for (amazing) detail!

Filmed entirely on yesterday's dive.
Kidding! :)

This is footage from the Boat.
We have a camera in the water on every single Shark dive, this principally in order to verify our basic presence/absence data but also, in order to document any unusual behavior.
As insiders know, I usually go walkabout, mostly with Rusi but also solo in order to venture closer to the action but also, in order to record general developments withing the SRMR via a cursory transect, meaning that I also keep tabs on the many Fishes, some of which are highly unusual.
I trust you know your Sharks (do you?) - so here's something about the short Fish segment:
  • 08:04: Scalefin Basslet, Pseudanthias squamipinnis. This is actually the only clip that is not from Shark Reef. It is the signature Fish residing on top of the bommies within Beqa Lagoon.
  • 08:10: Squarespot Basslet,   Pseudanthias pleurotaeniae. This just goes to show that given the necessary dedication, even the smallest Fish can be trained. I went back several times to play back the same jingle to the same individual Fish and one day - bingo!
  • 08:28ff: Garden Eels, the usually very shy deep-water orange-and-white Splendid, Gorgasia preclara amid the common Spotted, Herteroconger hassi, from the sand patch in front of the 25m feed.
  • 08:45: Large-toothed Cardinalfish, Cheilodipterus macrodon, mouth-breeding an egg cluster
  • 8:58: Gray Sandtilefish, Hoplolatilus cuniculus, a shy, deep-water Fish that can be rarely seen on the deep slope to Beqa Channel.
  • 09:05: Yellownose Shrimpgobies, Stonogobiops xanthorhinica, with Randall's Snapping Shrimp Alpheus randalli.
  • 09:13:possibly Flagtail Shrimpgoby, Amblyeleotris cf yanoi - if so, a huge range extension from its type location within the Coral Triangle proper; if not, a new species.
  • 09:17: Blue-and-Yellow Fusilier, Caesio teres.
  • 09:2: Panther Flounder, Bothus pantherinus, more uncommon than the rather ubiquitous and very similar Bothus mancus
  • 09:25: Elliptical Shrimpgoby, Amblyeleotris ellipse, a range extension from its previously only reported location in Samoa.
  • 09:30: Dragonet, likely Morrison's, Synchiropus morrisoni.
  • 09:40: Sharksucker on Sharksucker, Echeneis naucrates, see this paper by Juerg.
  • 11:15ff Giant Trevally, Caranx ignobilis prey on Sharksuckers, Echeneis naucrates. Never recorded before, this is natural predation in an unnatural setting.
Obviously the video is what it is.
My videography is principally utilitarian and this is my second-ever edit in FCP, so there. 
As I want to be able to grab screen shots with minimal motion blur, I've chosen to forgo a more cinematic look in favor of sharpness, and film in 720/50p over-cranked to 60 - but Vimeo requires compression to 30fps that comes at a loss to the original crispiness.
The edit is for our booth at DEMA and has the sole purpose of showcasing alot of Sharks, and for this reason I've indulged in a succession of long sequences that will basically only appeal to real Shark freaks - meaning hopefully you! But it gives a reliable impression of what you can expect to see on our dive, albeit from a different perspective owing to our rigid safety protocols.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Feisty Marlin!

This one's for you Callan!

Can anybody tell me why the bill is red?
Story here. According to the comment on YouTube, the Marlin was released - as it should be!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

And People say we're crazy!

Watch this.

Feeding American Crocodiles is a popular attraction in Costa Rica

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fiji - again!

Fiji wins the Gold Coast sevens.
Eat your heart out New Zealand - again!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Flyboard - ridiculously awesome!

The website is here.

H/T: Jim Sherlock

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pacific Harbour Cleanup Campaign!

Pacific Harbour's new generation of Eco-Warriors

Bravo Nani and Janet!
The two formidable ladies have teamed to organize a clean up campaign in Pacific Harbour.

I hear that it has been a great success.
Just in time for Fiji Day (check this out!), 150-odd pupils and teachers of our Shark-loving Multi-Cultural School have swarmed over the roads and beaches, and collected a big truck lead of garbage. The event has been sponsored by BADs conservation brand, Shark Reef Marine Reserve, and by various local businesses.
They are

The Uprising Beach Resort
Rivers Fiji
Resort Homes
BSP Pacific Harbour Branch
Longo's Dive Shop
Estate Management Services Ltd.

Vinaka Vakalevu, much appreciated!

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Certified Shark Fins from Western Australia?


Prima facie, it appears to dovetail beautifully with what I've been advocating for a long time, i.e. attaining independent third-party certification that a determined Shark fishery, but also the trade in Shark fins are being conducted sustainably. Yes that's a lot to read so in order to spare you the inconvenience, lemme cite myself.
In a nutshell, this is what i believe.
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.
So, is this a good development?
At least in theory, I cannot but applaud it - but like always, all depends on the specific details and my pal Michael is already voicing the usual reservations vis-a-vis the MSC. And of course the sharkitarians are gnashing their teeth - but frankly, who cares.

Any preliminary evidence?
From what I can discern, the Department of Fisheries of Western Australia is anything but a bunch of exploitative Fish-murdering yahoos but instead, they very much appear to be extremely aware of the need to carefully manage their marine resources under the aspect of sustainability. The MSC is WA's chosen third-party certifier and Western Australia already boasts MSC certification for its famous rock lobsters.
WWF Australia certainly appears to approve of the way things are being handled.

Sounds great doesn't it.
But like Michael correctly remarks, there are unresolved questions about whether the MSC certifications is good enough. As always, this is an extremely complicated and controversial topic, way beyond the scope of this post. But should you really want to build an own opinion, I highly recommend that you start by exploring this brilliant series of posts on Sea Monster. Furthermore, you may want to consult this description of the present Western Australian Shark fisheries, i.e. Temperate and Tropical.

I say, let's give this a chance.
Yes the MSC certification process may be partly inadequate - but if so, let's not just slam it but help improve it! As far as I know, it's the best (if not the only one) there is and in the specific case of Sharks, a MSC-certified fishery and/or fin trade would be light years ahead of what is happening globally, i.e. rampant overfishing, cheating and poaching!

I've said it before, we need to make a choice.
We can remain absolutely dogmatic and oppose any fishing, any trade and any consumption of Sharks - and if so, I am intimately convinced that we will ultimately fail.
Or, we can honestly embrace the cause of  sustainability, become part of the process and be able to come up with pragmatic solutions. By being viewed as valued counterparts and not radical opponents,  we will hopefully be granted a seat at the table in order to first define what full sustainability needs to specifically encompass in a specific fishery, and then develop adequate mechanisms to achieve that aim.

Isn't that the much better strategy?
Or am I missing something here?

Karen - persevering!

Karen with a juvenile Hawksbill

Remember not just a pretty face Karen?

Well, she sure aint giving up quite yet!
VEPA appears to be thriving and is expanding, this time into the brand new Vava'u Turtle Monitoring Program as detailed in her short post on her new blog Life, Conservation, Photography.

And Karen, bless her, has taken it onto herself to become the local Hawksbill nurse!
The above image shows her with one of her latest patients and in August, she did release a very small hatchling that she had been rehabilitating for months.

Here's the video of that event.

OWOO - know your Seafood!

Great infographic - click for detail.

With one caveat.
"Up to 73 million Sharks" are certainly not all being finned!
Anyway, I continue to be a big fan of One World One Ocean.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Sharks in Nouméa!

Great stuff!

As I said, the Kiwi GWS are traveling right now.
Along with Fiji, Tonga and Oz, one of the destinations is New Caledonia where a particularly lucky diver was able to snap this great image in 2007 - here's another one!
Case in point, this recent encounter with a GWS in the very same (!) pass of Dumbéa right outside of Nouméa. From what I can discern, this is a popular surfing and kite surfing spot that is also being frequented by divers and by spearos. One of those had just shot a fish when he saw the dorsal fin and back-pedaled to his boat where a couple of friends managed to haul him aboard. The Shark stayed with the boat for 5-6 minutes and is believed to have been 4.50-4.80m long.
Update: the Shark has been identified, see comments section!

New Caledonia also boasts a healthy population of other Sharks.
Friends tell me about having encountered Tigers and Bulls, along with several of the smaller Carcharhinids. I went rummaging and found this clip of a Tiger devouring a deer smack at the entrance of Nouméa harbor.

And here is an encounter with approx 40 Sharks feeding on something resembling some sort of a bait ball (?).
And yes you guessed it: the Baie de Saint Marie is in Nouméa as well! The story mentions Lemons and Greys - but to me, they frankly look much more like Sandbars which are certainly present there.
JSD - any opinion?

Anyway, enjoy!

Friday, October 05, 2012

Thesis: are the Numbers lower?

Back to the infamous numbers.

I assume that you're familiar with the Clarke paper.
In essence, it stipulates that more than 10 years ago, the fin trade was processing the fins of approx 40 million Sharks, give or take. Clarke herself has since speculated that the fin trade may have shrunk.

This brand new thesis appears to confirm her hunch.
Here's the relevant statement,  hidden at the bottom of page 56ff.

3.3.1. Best Catch estimates for Sharks and mean wet fin to body weight ratios

Based on BCEs, the total estimated global yearly catch for 200-2009 was 571,485 ± 114,297 t, of which 450,517 ± 90,103 t was from the EEZs of various maritime countries and 120,968 ± 24,193 t was from the High Seas.

3.3.2.  Estimation of traded dry fin weight using the Monte Carlo method

The model predicts that the mean potential weight of dried fins produced from global shark catch was 7795 t per year in the 2000s

This compares to Clarke's original estimate of 10,600 t of dry fins (that she then extrapolated into number of Sharks), this with the caveat that the new numbers could be too low due to non- and under-reporting, and that they could in fact be "similar" to those by Clarke.

Is this good or bad news for Sharks?
The hope would be that these lower numbers reflect better global protection measures - alas, like the author, I fear that the reported decline of Shark catches since 2003 is a reflection of the dramatic decline of Shark stocks due to overfishing.

Anyway, there you have it.
This is the latest credible research -  and I'm sure that if you are a regular reader of this blog, you understand.

H/T: Shark Year

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Really cool BRUVS Footage!

 Typical BRUVS - Source

I've just received the newest SOSF newsletter .
Among many other things, it informs me that
This year, Save Our Seas Foundation received over 200 grant applications, requesting a total of over US$ 5.5 Million in grant aid for the 2013-2014 funding year. 53 of these applications were invited to submit Stage 2 applications. These figures do not take into account projects that are already receiving funds from the Foundation; some of these Principal Investigators will be invited to apply for continued funding next year.
Pretty darn impressive!
One of those endeavors is an innovative pilot project that aims at exploring the viability of using  Baited Remote Underwater Video Stations, or BRUVS to document the underwater fauna of False Bay, South Africa. As the project synopsis explains, BRUVS may be a cost effective, non extractive way for census and long-term monitoring of MPAs. Should you be interested, you can always check on the project's progress here
As always, there are challenges, as documented in this great little video about a thieving octopus.

As far as I know, BRUVS were first developed by AIMS.
Be it as it may, here's a very cool compilation of what appears to be some of their "best of", including a rather devastating intervention by a Tiger Shark that aptly demonstrates the effectiveness of its very special dentition which appears specially geared towards sawing through solid objects, foremost of which Turtle carapaces - remember those basic can openers?

Anyway: enjoy!

More info about AIMS's BRUVS research here.

Monday, October 01, 2012

OK - I give in!