Saturday, January 05, 2013

2012: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Part One!

Not this year's Picture of the Year, see below - but I found it cute! Source.

Here we go again!
2012 has come and gone and what remains are the results - good and bad!

For us at BAD, it has frankly been a rather mixed bag.
The principal good news have been: several awards, the principal one being the totally unexpected AON Award for Tourism Sustainability that acknowledged our years of hard work and perseverance; the devising and successful rolling out of the first two installments of the Great Fiji Shark Count; our new Nitrox setup that has been a great personal relief; and finally, reaching 1,500 blog posts - tho one has to seriously question whether this is really "good news" or merely proof of masochism!
And above all, we're still standing: the bills are paid, the staff have a secure job - and most importantly, the SRMR is thriving and delivering data for research, and sustainable income to its stakeholders whilst remaining a safe haven for its Sharks!

But unfortunately there have been really bad news, too.
The passing of my friend Ron has left me absolutely devastated; and the failure of the Fiji Shark Sanctuary Campaign, see part two of this recap, has been a major, albeit not totally unexpected disappointment.

But like I said last time, this is really not about us.
Is is about others - and here is the first batch of the infamous nominations! :)

But first a caveat.
This is a blog reflecting personal opinions - not Journalism!
Thus nobody here is claiming that this is the Truth - whatever that may mean in this sharky context! I do make an honest effort to learn about and convey the latest scientific insights when posting about biology and research, to the point that much gets vetted by selected researchers - but otherwise, I actually pride myself for saying it like I see it: strictly subjectively, in a highly opinionated way and completely devoid of political correctness both in content and in style - and let's be frank: that's why you read this blog! :)

Also, keep in mind that I'm posting from a remote island smack in the middle of the Pacific, and I thus raise no claim of even remotely seeing, let alone knowing everything! So if anybody should feel that I may have overlooked him or others, bear with me: I may not have noticed or may have forgotten.
Or I may simply not care - for that cause or for that person!

So without further ado!

The Good

Even this section will contain some mild criticism - live with it!

1. Track back: reconfirmed

Please consult last year's introduction.
I stand by what I said there
This year's conservation posts have once again focused on the very same issues and generally reaffirmed and refined some of the same general principles.

With one addendum I am really passionate about.
When it comes to fisheries management, I strongly believe that we need to abandon  the old and largely failed approach and instead, that we must finally invoke the precautionary principle in all of its ramifications - seriously, the bloody procrastination must stop!

This includes acting preemptively wherever there is overfishing, this by drastically reducing quotas and in the case of Sharks, by enacting bans and establishing sanctuaries; and by demanding that the burden of proof  be reversed, whereby it would be up to the the fishing industry (and the trade) to come up with substantiated proof that their activities are fully sustainable and legal - much like a good old fashioned environmental impact assessment that has become so ubiquitous whenever anybody wants to tamper with nature on land!

And at the same time, I equally advocate helping to establish a premium market for sustainably caught Sharks - meat and fins alike!

Too far out there and too controversial?
Again: please do peruse the links and if you believe that rationally (= as opposed to emotionally), this is a fallacy, tell me why - but should you agree with my standpoint, please do spread the word!
Yes it won't happen tomorrow - but it will happen if we keep talking about it!

And now to the line-up!
I must once again say, I largely stand by last year's nominations - but of course that was then and in some cases, things have obviously changed.
So there - are you ready?
  • The Pew Environment Group's Global Shark Campaign remains the most impressive Shark Conservation Org.

    This is largely due to their awesome achievements in helping establish a further string of Shark sanctuaries, namely American Samoa, the Cooks (! - see below) and Kosrae, and in having been very much at the forefront in the enactment of  new Shark protection measures in Venezuela, in the European Union and at the WCPFC. And yes they may have been involved in more and yes I may have forgotten some - Angelo?
    And they once again scoop the Best Shark Conservation Resources nomination as their reports remain simply the best, e.g. this one!

    But it sure has not been all smooth sailing!
    The fishing industry has caught on to their MO and is fighting back vigorously by casting doubt on the effectiveness of those measures, and stupid commentators are gobbling up and propagating that disinformation. This has been one of the major contributors to the Fiji fiasco, see comments in part two.
    And on a strictly personal and probably terribly subjective note, I do bemoan the departure of Matt and accordingly, I sense a lack of leadership and at the same time, signs of unproductive picomanagement; and I just cannot get myself to like what I perceive to be the increasing populism (= dumbing down) of their outreach via the social media.

    And yes I shall certainly leave it at that!
    It is certainly debatable and ultimately, who am I to say - the results speak for themselves, and this despite of those real or perceived pewculiarities!
  • The Shark Savers have continued to be simply brilliant.

    You can check out their yearly recap here.
Love the patrol boat: so much good for so little money! And I want to once again thank them for their invaluable support of the GFSC where I must commend the indefatigable Samantha  for having made a tremendous contribution! Thank you!
And then there is of course the terrific Manta Ray of Hope project, see below!
  • Stefanie Brendl!

    We've finally met and I now like her even more!
    As always, she is working hard behind the scenes. I'm not in a position to divulge details - but do expect something real cool in the not-too-distant future!
    But this year, the title of Most impressive individual Shark Conservation Advocate goes to somebody else - and I'm quite certain that she would agree with my choice!
  • What about last year's Most promising Shark Conservation Newcomers?

    David has really done himself proud, especially with A  Ray of Light but also his terrific PSAs The Sanctuary and Love Sharks Love Fiji. He is still desperately trying to finally get a major break but he has certainly not been sitting idly but instead, continued to stack the chips in his favor with a new production company, upcoming new websites and shortly, new attempts at marketing and crowd funding. And thankfully, there have been a few jobs allowing him to pay for the bills on the way.
    But he deserves better - so please, if you should be mulling a shoot and are looking for a brilliant all-in-one movie maker: do think of him!

    And the others?
    I see that Christine is still with Neil and trust that she is behind some of his stellar media outreach; but I frankly don't quite know what she is currently doing - but whatever it is, I wish her well.
    Same for Madi Pip - however she is off my list. As an example of alas many, check this out - that's not something I would ever want to be seen endorsing in so many ways! I'm sure you understand - and if not, wait for part two!
    Yes I'm frankly disappointed!
  • Best Shark Facebook Page: Shark Savers

    Once again, a difficult choice - but that (and the Shark Year Magazine, see below) is the ressource I inevitably find myself consulting when I want to inform myself about the latest conservation- and research-related Elasmobranch news.

    Shark Defenders on the other hand has shifted towards more and more populism, see my comments above under Pew. Alas - but then again, that's just my personal perception.
And I reiterate what I said then about the BBC (obviously!), Shark Year Magazine, Elasmodiver and of course Doc who doesn't need any further accolades to be the undisputed Grand Mufti of Shark Behavior and one of my very favorite people on top of that!

2. New Winners and New Categories
  • Most impressive individual Shark Conservation Advocate: Mary O'Malley.

    She's gonna hate me for this because like the vast majority of real conservationists including her predecessor Stefanie, she has no interest whatsoever in standing in the limelight but prefers to shine through her achievements instead of her announcements and self promotion. But let there be no doubt that whenever something is really good, she has likely had a hand in it!
    Among several others, one of her most recent projects is Manta Ray of Hope, see above - and if the Mantas will have any chance at this year's CITES convention, it will undoubtedly be the result of her tireless work and networking where once again, I discern no ego but instead, nothing but the genuine wish to reunite and motivate others to pursue a common goal in the most efficient and effective way.

    And I want to say this: it's about bloody time for some public accolades!
    No not this poor little laudatio on an obscure Shark blog, nor this truthful and loving hommage by Stefanie - I'm talking about something major, some Shark and Manta Hero award or the like! DaMary gets nothing - but the Boo Boo keeps getting nominated?!?
    C'mon you award folks - do something!
  • Most impressive Shark Conservation Achievements, ex aequo: Cook Islands Shark Sanctuary and French Polynesia Shark Sanctuary.

    Just awesome!
    I did not at all expect the declaration by French Polynesia - and knowing how rigidly the French manage these matter in their DOM-TOMs, this will incidentally result in the exact opposite of a SINO, this also owing to the vigilance of the dive operators and the researchers of the ORP!

    And in view of all the alleged shenanigans, I was of the firm opinion that the Cooks were a lost cause - so huge kudos to its visionary president Henry Puna, to Pew but also to Steve and Jess of PICI  - details here!
  • Best Blog Posts on Shark-related Issue: the coordinated Deconstruction of the infamous Oxygen Myth.

    I must say, I'm mighty proud of this effort!
    And it has been loads of fun, too - to wit here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here! Simply brilliantly epic!
    And... have we been successful in eradicating that stupidity?
    Check part two! :)

    And i did love love love Cristina's posts on the Shark Savers community pages!
  •  Most promising Shark Conservation Newcomer: Michelle Wcisel

    I have no clue whether she's to be considered "new" - but I've only caught on to her this year.
    And I must say, I like what I see - and so will hopefully you once you explore the links, including those of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust where she works!
  • Ocean Hero of the Year: Tony Burke, current Australian Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

    This is the guy who has had the courage and the vision to establish what could well be the largest network of contiguous MPAs in the world - and this against the stiffest political resistance. Backbone and Leadership in politics - stuff the Americans can only dream of! 

    But Harold Martin of New Caledonia is certainly a close second! 
  • Best Conservation Org: Pew Environment Group

    Check this out - bloody impressive!
    Not really convinced about the part about Rio+20 where I once again had the impression that nothing tangible was achieved - except, of course, for the decision to reconvene = further millions spent on junkets and a further stupendous incremental carbon footprint!
    But again, that would be me and I've frankly stopped caring.
    On the other hand, the list is just awesome!

    Would there be anybody else coming even remotely close?
    Maybe the ubiquitous WWF, or CI with their tremendous Seascapes? Or the fantastic IUCN that achieves so much - and this silently and completely collaboratively?
    Maybe - but for 2012, I stick with my choice!

  • Best Shark Book: Domeier on Great Whites

    When it comes to GWS, this is really the bible, with each chapter being a peer-reviewed paper by the most eminent GWS researchers. Don't talk GWS biology if you haven't read it - and you can get it cheaper here!
    My deepest apologies to those I may have forgotten - it has been a very long year and my faculties of recollection have become somewhat fuzzy!
  • And a special h/t to you RickMac for being so sharp, erudite and witty, and for what you do for our oceans - truly you are one of our unsung heroes!
  • Special Thanks to you Doug and Emily for always having been there for Ron and Val;  to you Gary and Brenda, for always being there for us, and to you Juerg , for the always stimulating excellent cooperation – would you believe it, 10 years now! To you Drew, Nani, Papa and Rusi, for so many fabulous years of loyal friendship and adventure!

3. Not nominated

  • Blogs - both about Sharks and about marine topics in general

    This is a tough one as I continue to peruse many of them, especially those in the Blog Roll on the side bar. But, I am sensing some widespread fatigue that echoes my own - see the very different monthly counts in the Blog Archive that reflect my work load (turns out that retired really means re-tired) but also, my faltering mojo!
    Yes SFS cranks out the occasional brilliant post like here; yes DNS publishes the occasional epic rant against the latest pseudoscience; yes the Monster continues its valiant fight against climate change denialism - but I sure miss the randalierende Wolf and Patric's incisive sharkasm!
    And then, there's the competition by the one-liners on the zillion FB pages and by those tweets - and the frustration at the seemingly unstoppable creeping progress of the Dolphinization of the Shark Movement.
    The question is, are we merely preaching to the converted in some global circular echo chamber whilst being overrun by that deluge of truthiness and idiocy - and if so, should we be investing our time more productively on other projects?
  • Other Media - journalism, pics, television and  movie.

    Nothing truly extra-extraordinary has caught my eye - probably my fault for not having paid attention!
Phewwww.... that's it I think!
And now, over to the infamous Part Deux!
I'm currently multitasking and honestly drowning in urgent stuff - so bear with me if it'll take a while, as it's gonna be long.

But it's gonna be interesting!
And that's a promise! :)

PS: Dang I've forgotten one - again!
So there: granted, that was late in 2011 - but still!
PS2: Time Danaos et dona ferentes!
In case you thought that being nominated here is good - think again! Public praise by DaShark might just be the beginning of your demise! :)

PS3: Wolf here!

PS4:  Check out Part Two, Part Three and Part Four!


Angelo Villagomez said...

Agreed that Mary O'Malley is great!

And agreed on the Shark Defenders stuff. It will be like that at least through CITES. The social memes are addictive. You spend hours drafting blog posts about science and policy and they get read by 15 people. Post a photo of a cartoon shark and it gets shared 1000x and gets 5000 likes. What's on deck for 2013: Funny photos of cats.

There's a good chance I'll be in your neck of the woods by the end of the month. I'm do my best to inspire you.

Gary and Brenda Adkison said...

As always Mike, your insight, wit and "wordmanship" is superb! My personal favorite kudos will always go to Mary O Malley, Andrea and Simon in Mozambique, Juerg Brunnschweiler, Doc Gruber, Neil Hammerschlag, Samantha Whitcraft, Doug and Emily Seifert, Val Taylor and the heart of the Fiji BAD Operation....Nani, Papa, Rusi and Drew! I see cherished Peanut Butter Awards in all their futures!!! (but none for Boo Boo....)

DaShark said...

Aaaaah Angelo...

U sure know how to stick it in & twist!
Case in point, last month's most popular post is this one! :(

But what remains is the infinite monkey theorem, ie whether thousands of sheeple perusing "like" buttons are good or bad for furthering the cause of conservation.
As you know I cringe at that stridulous choir of inanities - but then, given clever sheepherders, maybe all of that energy can be harnessed productively?

We shall see shall we not!

OfficetoOcean said...

Thank you for including me in the good again, it's always an honour to be in the company of people I myself admire.

As with last year, the cheque is in the post ;)

DaShark said...

The q being, will it bloody bounce like last year?

OfficetoOcean said...

Most likely yes it will :D

Rudy said...

Mike - I agree with most of your blog analysis for 2012. Especially allowing legal shark meat AND fin consumption rather than show total contempt for a diet and culture different than our own.

I am sorry to say that although PEW has done some great work over the past 5 years, their CEO is moving more funding AWAY from ocean related projects and putting that money into Arts and Culture (her personal passion).

I watch the TV commercials as they compete for donations between species and see so many falsehoods being used to generate sympathy as they work to elevate their favorite species. Here are just two examples:

Polar bear populations are at an all time high. Turns out seals and seal pups are much easier for the bears to catch on land than on artic ice.

And by all accounts, the greatest number of tigers that can be supported in today's forest without depleting all prey is 5,000. Currently there is a stable population of 3,200 tigers living in the wild.

In today's non-profit world, spin, dishonesty and drama seem to be the order of the day.

Angelo Villagomez said...

That rumor about funding just won't go away, will it? Pew already responded to it on the message board where it was first posted.

You know one thing missing from your update? The good things that government managers are doing for sharks now that domestic management measures are in place in a few countries. The US Coast Guard does amazing work in both the Atlantic and Pacific, MIMRA in the Marshall Islands does great work with limited funds, and the agencies in Palau and Honduras that busted shark traders and fishermen in 2012 get hardly noticed for the hard work they put in every day.

Also of note are the FFA and PNA. I would give most credit for the WCPFC whale shark measure to PNA (and the carve out that is discussed in another blog isn't that big of a deal, the sharks don't typically swim that far north). FFA also wants to do something regionally on sharks, but haven't exactly figured it out yet.

DaShark said...

You're right - and now, by virtue of your comment, it's also on the blog! :)

Pew can use their own money as they please - or not?

So maybe we should all be thankful that they are donating it to the good causes and refrain from sniping?

DaShark said...

Thanks Rudy! :)

As I said to Angelo, Pew (not an acronym) can do with their own money as they please - so maybe let's just applaud and thank them for being on our side?

Yes the conservation con - remember we're still on the "good" side of things so I'm not gonna dwell... but you can certainly look forward to part two! :)

You examples are surprising, but I'm frankly not cognizant enough to comment with any authority.

From the gut tho, the Tiger story just does not appear to be plausible, especially considering the extinction of subspecies, the continued poaching, etc.

Plus, even if what you say is factually correct: beware of shifting baselines!
Habitat degradation is one of the major drivers of extinction, and today's forests are certainly not what they used to be!
What I'm trying to say is that we should not just always accept the status quo but ask what is required - and possibly, the answer is: more habitat = forests?
3,500 Tigers spread over their entire range just doesn't feel right and smacks of genetic bottleneck.

But as I said, I'm merely speculating and can't back it up with fact.

RTSea said...

Great overview, Mike. And I'm right with you regarding the sense of burn-out. Maintaining a worthwhile blog without succumbing to a complete revenue-based conversion is hard. And I have watched my numbers decline over the past few years (while, I felt, my posts improved) as many people were getting their daily "fix" via the short FB and Twitter posts you mentioned. Changing times and I'm not that thrilled about it.

But we do what we can. And you keep it up! Cheers.

Tropical Selkie said...

A terrific end-of-the-year summary, as expected. Thank you for including me in such an impressive list of hardworking, dedicated, and knowledgeable individuals. I'm honored and enriched by working with many of them (and you) on a regular basis.

Mary is a force-of-nature while being kind and caring; she is an example to many and mentor to a fortunate few who learn from her on every level.

And now, I wait (and shudder) for Part II...