Sunday, November 25, 2012

Playa - more dead Sharks?

It just never stops does it.

Check out these pics - and these!
From what I can understand, these are fishermen from Puerto Morelos, half way between Playa and Cancun, and they may, or may not be sneaking over at night to capture those big pregnant Bull Sharks that visit Playa during the pupping (and diving) season. Apparently, they dispose of the relevant fishing permits (but not for Playa!), making this legal - but certainly not right!

There has been a national and international outcry, and there is a petition
Good luck with that.

My call, granted without disposing of the full picture.
Our Fiji Shark Project hinges on compensating the local stakeholders and thus making conservation more lucrative than fishing - and it clearly does work.
With that in mind, here's what I would do - already hinted at in this post.
  • Get the Shark dive operators to work together - yes I know, that's a long shot. And if that's not possible, assume leadership and do it solo. The others will follow due to competitive pressure, like the guys down the road were forced to follow after we established the SRMR.
  • Establish a Shark dive levy of USD 20.00/pp/pd on top of the regular price for the Shark dive. Divers love paying for conservation, so that should be easy.
  • Disburse those funds to the fishermen (not the authorities), ideally earmarked for something concerning their families, like e.g. children's tuition, etc.
  • In exchange, obtain an agreement about a seasonal fishing ban for the critical habitats involving a) a ban on targeted Shark fishing and b) a ban on gear that is likely to result in Shark bycatch e.g. gill nets, wire leaders, very strong fishing lines etc.
    This is much easier than trying to establish a year-round Sanctuary or MPA, the more as it can initially be merely a private agreement with the local fishermen thus not requiring legislation that is always a tedious process. But do aim to get some legislation confirming the above in the long run, if only at the municipal/local level. Having established a track record of cooperation will certainly help!
  • Establish patrols - maybe even involving the fishermen that could be paid from the Shark levy. On top of that, maybe the staff of the Shark diving operators can be deputized like we've done here - remember that apart from the conservation aspects, you would be defending your own business assets!
  • Bring in the research in order to get the data for further refining the process.
Just my two cents as always.
Wishing you the very best of success - and if you want to discuss, you know how to reach me!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sharky boo boo?

And she's got her own doll as well!

And I cite.
It stopped actually being "about sharks" a long time ago. 
It's about the individual and what the sharks as a vehicle to notoriety can do for them.
Anybody come to mind?
Anyway, apart from the stellar R and R (!!!), this year's DEMA has been a rather uninspired affair. High-quality business traffic was rather lackluster but in exchange, everybody, his dog and the dog of his dog was into Sharks, and a whole gaggle of new and old self promoting Sharkwhathaveyous was busy making the rounds to showcase their newest and greatest "feats", or whatever, and to try and land some new gig for next year. 

Don't get me wrong - for the most part, that's perfectly OK.
Shark diving is part of the entertainment industry and like there, we got our celebrities and heroes - and by the same token, plenty of B-listers, wannabees, moochers and outright charlatans. The plebs wants to be entertained, bills need to be paid, smoke and mirrors - and that's that, no big drama.

Which brings me straight to a surprising DEMA dinner conversation.
Looks like the meteoric rise of Sara the (umpteenth...) Shark Whisperer has been ruffling quite a few feathers - and I must say, I can certainly see why!
A 16-year old girl being awarded some Ambassador of the Planet medal and thus being elevated to the ranks of, inter alia, Sylvia Earle, the Dalai Lama and Al Gore sure is, for lack of a better word: remarkable, the more as off the top of my head, I could think of several dozen people deserving of the honors miles ahead of the whispering Sara!
But then again, maybe Wyland is a visionary. Or maybe he just likes very young girls. Or both. Or neither. Who knows.

Even more remarkable is the genesis of her nomination.
It involves a Beqa Adventure Divers t-shirt, a good friend of mine (think: Brie-de-Meaux-and-peanut-butter-sandwich!) and a parking lot somewhere in Florida. There, the story goes, having been outed as a Shark man by the sharky t-shirt, he got cornered by a, for lack of a better word: assertive mom who somehow convinced him to nominate the daughter - this very much Sara unseen but after having previously consulted the endorsement by Shark Savers.
And so it goes.

I say, so far so good.
From what I can see upon exploring her website and the links, Sara appears legit in her wish to make a difference, and kudos for that.
But having said that and in the softest possible way, the awards, sponsorships, endorsements and real and perceived celebrity friend "names" that are being dropped are certainly not adequately balanced by according deeds - yet!

So far so good- tho a bit mom-heavy?

But there is certainly hope.
If the equally remarkable original can get her own reality show, so can Sara - and we shall then see whether she will use the opportunity to appeal to the younger generations and educate them about the importance of sharks as her bio announces. If so, it will certainly be a welcome counterbalance to the brazen BS in the upcoming Shark Wars featuring the ever weasely Ms. Andersen!

Most certainly!
Apart from the impending vagaries of puberty that may, or may not derail the whole process, the whole exercise is just a tad to "polished" and "adult", if you know what I mean.
There is a fine line between highly supportive mothers who mentor their children and help out by engaging in ghost writing, and proverbial obnoxious stage moms; and there is equally a fine line between outreach, marketing, self promotion and outright BS - see the above citation and yes I shall certainly leave it at that!

Sharky boo boo or upcoming stellar Shark conservationist?
As always, we shall see, shall we not!

And on this note!

Sharky boo boo is a trademark belonging to the Yellow Pimpernel.
Thankfully used with kind permission.

PS: Patric about Sharky boo boo here!
Greybeard??? Talk for yerself!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Carol - gallivanting around in the SoPac!

Carol with SPOT tag.

Behold Carol the Mako Shark!

Kudos to Clinton Duffy, he of Grim the GW!
He and colleagues have tagged Carol in May and like Grim, she has left New Zealand and gone walkabout all the way to western Fiji.

Story here.
And here is the interactive track on Guy and Mahomood's research website - which of course raises the same fundamental questions about the pros and cons of posting this kind of information online!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Diver, Dog and Orcas!

Story here.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Paper: Philopatry in Blacktip Reef Sharks!

Blacktip Reef Shark, by Johann Mourier.

Excellent job!
I must say, this paper is as good as it gets.

And totally fascinating and unexpected as well!
Turns out that contrary to being strictly confined within rather limited reef habitats, (some) Blacktip Reefs in Moorea are embarking on a rather perilous inter-island crossing to Brando's Tetiaroa in order to give birth in the nursery there - and vice versa!  Is that because they were born there? Very possibly, the more as it appears that the females always visit the same nursery!

I'm literally off to DEMA so this will have to be short.
But once again, the paper demonstrates the importance of investigating philopatry for formulating good Shark conservation measures.

Bravo Johann!

PS no more posts for the next two weeks!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

See you at DEMA!

It's that time of the year again!

We'll be heading off to DEMA shortly.
Like always, we are not going to be in the SoPac aisle but instead, next to the Image Resource Center at booth # 955. Look for something resembling the following - undoubtedly much to his delight, the video showcases our incomparable Andrew doing the perma-smile routine, as it should be.

And since we're at it, here's another one for you.
This is the short marketing video we will be handing out to our customers. In essence, it is a much-abridged version of the long edit, sans lengthy feel-good scenes but plus dive shop, boats and selected attractive customers.


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

US Elections!


Well well - Video removed?

Here's what he said.
“President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. 
(smirks and pauses for laughter)
My promise is to help you and your family.”

Great joke!

Cristina about Shark Diving Procedures - awesome as always!

 Cristina and Blacktip Reef in the SRMR - stellar pic by Ozzie Sam - click for detail!

What can I say that I haven't already.
I'm a big fan of Cristina, and this both from a strictly personal but above all, from a professional standpoint where she continues to cement her position as one of the foremost industry voices in advocating conservation, common sense and long term sustainability.

Her latest post does not disappoint.
Once again, here is the definitive list of what constitutes good commercial Shark diving: no rocket science by any means but alas, apparently already too complicated for a few irresponsible operators, see last week's posts about the erosion of commercial Shark diving in Guadalaupe - and yes, I'll certainly leave it at that!

And what about
I have read blogs about the need to have personal freedom to interact with sharks however we like. While the concept is absolutely correct...?

Totally - but with one big caveat.
It is absolutely correct when it comes to private undertakings where everybody is welcome to find their own piece of the ocean and to experiment. After all, that's precisely how all commercial Shark diving operations were established by a few adventurous, brave and often crazy pioneers!
But not on commercial Shark dives - especially in the presence of bait and especially with those large potentially lethal predatory species!

But of course I'm repeating myself.
You can find our take on this subject in countless posts, e.g. here, here and here to name but a few more substantial ones, so no need to dwell.

So here's to Cristina and to somebody finally taking heed of her sage words.
And yes, and pigs...

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Mark - State of the Sharks!

Never equaled - Mark's Silvertip Generations

Very cool!

We're currently hosting Mark Strickland.
Mark and I go way back, to the times were Mark was the cruise director on the Fantasea and later, the Ocean Rover in the Andaman Islands and Burma, and I was a frequent guest on the competing liveaboard Sai Mai. Those were the glorious days of guaranteed Whale Sharks on Richelieu Rock and terrific Silvertips and Tawny Nurses on the Burma Banks, see Mark's iconic picture above.
All gone now, likely fished away.

Anyway, Mark mentioned this Shark exhibit in the G2 Gallery.
The gallery strives to bring attention to environmental issues through the power of photography, and donates all proceeds to charity. Mark and Chris' exhibit coincides with the lead-up to the next CITES meeting (more soon as good things have happened since) and sounds the alarm on the precipitous decline in Sharks. 
To my great pleasure, all proceeds will go to my friends at Shark Savers.

If you happen to be in Venice, don't miss to go and admire Mark's wonderful photography!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

New Study: Shark Finning in the Pacific!


And I cite.

A new study reveals worrying declines in Pacific shark populations, due mostly to the shark fin trade.
The results:
  • Pacific population of the oceanic whitetip shark declined by 17 percent between 1995 and 2010
  • The north Pacific blue shark decreased by about five percent per year in the same period
  • There was a decline in shark size over the 15 year study period, a clear indication of overfishing
These findings suggest that bans on shark finning are not helping nearly enough to protect sharks.  Their failure is most likely due to lack of enforcement and the increasing market for shark meat.
“These findings underscore conservationists’ messages that most finning bans are not properly enforced, and alone are insufficient to reverse shark population declines,” explained Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International.

Also, read this and listen to this.

Please do re-read this post.
We got to stop advocating only finning bans because that is not the solution: most countries have them anyway - but enforcement sucks and even if the bans are being followed, by now the fins are so valuable that landing the whole animals is profitable, meaning that those bans don't reduce the number of Sharks that are being killed, at least not adequately.
I'm also not in favor of fins-attached policies and even less, of fin-to-body ratios and the like as the associated bureaucracy and thus cost is staggering and because they present huge loopholes.

What we got to advocate is sustainability.
Ultimately, this means drastically reduced quotas and there, we got to ask the fishermen to prove that whatwever quotas they want to fish are fully sustainable - and until they do, they should not be allowed to retain and land any Shark let alone only its fins! 
Incidentally, at least when it comes to this specific region, the OWTs are protected as of next January - but then again, let's keep an eye on the implementation!

Friday, November 02, 2012

Great Hammerhead vs Grey Reef!

Remember this video?

Like I hinted then, the scavenging scene was staged.
The pictures above, likely screen grabs, are however most probably genuine.
Johann is a very serious researcher and I am sure that he has done all the required due diligence before publishing his take.
Stellar stuff!

Short paper here.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Lupe - more Shark Bait!


And here is another one!

Once again, nice visuals.
And once again, the bimbette appears to be an accomplished free diver and has obviously taken the time to refine her Shark interaction skills after a rather tentative test in 2009.

Need I repeat that I find it a disgrace?
And the featured article? If you can stomach the music, you will discover that it is the usual, tired, albeit certainly nicely packaged pseudo-conservation greenwashing. Let's not illude ourselves: violating the protocols of a dive site established by others and completely disrespecting charismatic predators by abusing them as underwater scooters (WTF!!!!) got nothing to do with conservation, zero!
A wise friend writes,
It stopped actually being "about sharks" a long time ago. 
It's about the individual and what the sharks as a vehicle to notoriety can do for them.
Mostly, it's obviously about the money, what else - tho in this specific case, I suspect that the ego may have been the principal driver.

So who is this guy?
I didn't take me long to discover him among the bunch of reckless amateurs that got tarred and feathered, and run out of Maunalua Bay, a total fiasco that precipitated the subsequent, and by no means resolved appalling witch hunt that could well end up destroying the North Shore cage diving operators - like these shenanigans could well end up destroying the GW diving in Lupe.
As another wise friend (yes I got two!) writes,
For commercial entities it's all a downward spiral. 
There will be the day when the media asks, "who was in charge?" 
The answer will be a lot of hang dog faces and some incoherent industry mumblings.
Having run out of wise friends, let me cite myself.

In the end, it’s gonna be up to the operators and Mexico – as it should be.
They know the place, the animals, the risks, the rewards, the business models and they will win, or lose based on the decisions they will take – or not take!

So, what’s it gonna be?
More shenanigans or long-term sustainability?

Anybody taking bets?