Tuesday, January 15, 2013

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

Yup that would be a stupid bimbo sinking on a dead Shark - but check out the caption and the comments! Sigh.

The Bad and the Ugly!

Sorry for keeping you waiting!
So this is what y'all been waiting for - with bated breath no doubt!
This is when, to paraphrase Vee and the nieder-Jupp, my vicious soul and inferiority complex compel me to insult and belittle others - this all in order to get attention, elevate myself at the expense of others, become famous and get the chance to finally travel with a retinue of shapely bimbettes, just like my secret hero ABC4!

But more seriously
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 and clear: I don’t hate anybody here.
Hell, I don't even really care about those people!

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, like it or not!
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 and 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 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 (but also read this and this!) 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 (Bikini Shark Warrior? C'mon girl - you're better than that!) 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!

E.g., what is this shit - and no it was not with Epic Diving!

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 makes them neither Bad not Good but merely illustrates that they are the opportunistic 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!
And: Love not Loss - remember?

Ring a bell?
It better - because I've basically copy/pasted what I've written last year!
Yes, alas, nothing has changed much - and I'm frankly too lazy and also lack the profound motivation to try and re-formulate the exact same message in the hopes that choosing other words may change the outcome!

In keeping with what constitutes REAL messaging in Shark conservation, the following will contain a liberal dosing of CAPS LOCK!

The Dolphinization of the Shark Conservation Movement

So, what's going on?
Why is it that after years of attempts at educating the public and of trying to weed out the most irritating myths, those people still continue to spout these inanities - and mind you, I'm talking about the people on OUR side, not the Shark haters?

Look no further than here!

Need I elaborate?
The question of course is, how do we proceed if we want to stop preaching to the choir and instead broaden our base and activate the masses that by definition are dumb (and I'm not even talking about the retards!) - the more as the most popular communication vehicles are demanding ever shorter messages, see Facebook, Twitter et al!

I've been discussing this with one of the science communication senseis, the great Randy Olson, and his answer is, you got to tell a compelling story - one that appeals to the gut and the emotions rather than the brain!
But hear it from da man himself!!

Easier said than done - right?
The challenge of course is to be interesting, entertaining, informative and on top of that all, synthetic - this however without succumbing to the temptation to shorten and dumb down the message to the point where its veracity is being compromised!
And here is obviously where most Shark conservation messaging fails!

I really did like this comment on David's post about the same issues.

Kirsten E
Popularizing science is a very difficult thing to achieve. It is worth considering that misinformation becomes widespread because it appeals to the general public’s sense of Right and Wrong, where soundbites with some tenuous connection to a factual foundation fit firmly into a black and white worldview. It is not surprising that sympathetic individuals fall prey to exaggerated claims, because they lack the background, ability, or dedication to look deeper.
I am guilty of being a bit of a loudmouth when discussing shark conservation, but as it is my intended career path I am always looking to further my knowledge. The difficulty is that most people’s introduction to these issues is not from researchers, but from organizations like Sea Shepherd or documentaries like Sharkwater, who seek a reactionary, emotional impact to make a point. Once that impression is made, it is very hard to scale it back to a more realistic discussion, perhaps because it lacks the same shock factor that appeals to people’s indignation in the first place.
It’s ironic that conservationists can be their own worst enemy.


Which brings me to the second issue here.
Once the scientists and conservation orgs broaden their outreach, the messaging is then picked up and multiplied by others - the bleeding hearts and idealists that consitute the movement I call Sharktivism.

And the result of those efforts?
Look no further than the Infinite Monkey Theorem!

Here's just two from a never-ending succession of wrong or distorted "information" bombarding the public - and because these people are certainly well-intentioned, I refrain from adding the links.
You know who you are!

We need to get these extremely vulnerable and critically endagered Porbeagles listed in CITES appendix I or we can put the few pictures which exist of these magnificent animals in a museum!

But Porbeagles are only critically endangered REGIONALLY!
And consequently, they ARE being protected nationally and regionally and the advocates are proposing to have them protected by the relevant RFMOs (so far successfully in one but in vain in another) and to list them on CITES II and not I!

To make shark's fin soup, fishermen catch sharks and cut off their fins.
They throw the rest of the shark back into the ocean because the meat of the shark is considered less valuable and not worth keeping. The sharks are often still alive and left to slowly drown because without their fins they can no longer swim!

But the soup's recipe does not require finning - right?
Finning is perpetrated by OTHERS (very much including us supercilious westerners!), and this for  reasons of convenience and greed! But granted, yes, it happens all-too-often - so is this compression of a long story legit?
Probably YES - but then, once the Chinese (!) whispers pick up and propagate the meme, it inevitably leads to racist rants and to crap like

the practice of shark finning results in an estimated 73 million sharks a year being killed for their fins alone and that over one-third of all shark species are threatened with extinction as a result of shark finning;

Oh yes that would be once again be the United Conservationists - see Part Three!
AND: finning is not the real issue - the real issue is OVERFISHING! Are we advocating  CONSERVATION or are we ANIMAL WELFARE activists?

So lemme repeat this - again!

If we want to be credible Shark advocates, we got to do our homework and first of all, be informed about the animals we love!
Science is always in flux and today’s insights may quickly become tomorrow’s fallacies, meaning that we must keep abreast of the latest research results and not base our knowledge on old publications and approximate hearsay.

Most importantly, we the amateur naturalists should never make up things on the fly, nor should we idly re-interpret what is considered to be the accepted consensus.
This does not mean that we should not challenge the current status quo, as that is precisely the process by which knowledge is being advanced! BUT: the only accepted technique for doing so is the Scientific Method and as always, let me warn against the siren calls and intellectual shortcuts of the self promoters, quacks and charlatans!

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

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

It is that very deluge of platitudes, pseudoscience and exaggerated doomsday scenarios in all those pedestrian wannabee Sharkwater clones, those zillions of activist Facebook pages and those idiotic petitions that is undermining the legitimaticy of Shark conservation by making us all look like total wingnuts!

We are the amateurs.
Can we please listen to what the professionals are telling us – the principal message being that extreme positions (on both sides!) are inhibiting conservation and appropriate management measures?

AND, here's another one I need to get off my chest!

The Shark Con

No not the ramblings of HE Sawyer!
That's just whackadoodle gibberish!

I'm talking about misleading conservation messaging that is coupled with an AGENDA.
Mostly, it is obviously about the money. Sometimes, it is about the money plus other motivations, e.g.  narcissistic self promotion like in the case of Ms. Andersen, see Part Four.
In my book, it becomes a CON when the bullshitting is INTENTIONAL.

That's a difficult one as in practice, it is often difficult to differentiate from the equally idiotic and misleading statements of people who are actually well-meaning but who think that resorting to hyperbole constitutes legitimate "marketing", or of people who simply parrot the stupid statements of others - or of people who are simply stupid!

Case in point, once again from David's post.

David McGuire (@Seastewards)
Given the scanty data for the MSC “sustainable spiny dogfish fishery” it remains to be seen whether there really can be such a thing. Included in the definition should be negligible to no bycatch. It that category the Southern California drift gill net fishery fails. Thousands of blue sharks, other species of sharks including Great White Sharks, marine mammals and sea turtles are all killed as bycatch in the thresher shark fishery (and now Mako where the population is data deficient).
David McGuire, Shark Stewards

To which a reader responded.

Jonathan Gonzalez
I get worried when I see such comments from a shark conservation organization leader like yourself that collects peoples donations. Folks like you worry me because you are irresponsible and you mislead the public.
“Included in the definition should be negligible to no bycatch. It that category the Southern California drift gill net fishery fails. Thousands of blue sharks, other species of sharks including Great White Sharks, marine mammals and sea turtles are all killed as bycatch in the thresher shark fishery (and now Mako where the population is data deficient).”
Currently, over 90% of the total bycatch by numbers in the DGN fishery comes from a single species, the common mola (sunfish). Although there has not been a definitive study on the survivorship of common mola released from DGN gear, observations by NMFS observers and researchers suggest that a high percent (>90%) of them are released alive.
Here is a link to info regarding shark bycatch in California’s drift gillnet fishery, you might learn something here:
As far as great white shark bycatch, the numbers are a non-issue as you can see here:
Pingers have lowered bycatch of cetaceans by 50% (Barlow and Cameron 2003) and the 6 fathom extenders (buoy lines) have drastically reduced bycatch of California sea lions and CTS which are typically near the surface at night when the nets are being dragged.
California’s drift gillnet fishery hasn’t killed a sea turtle in 13 years. Here is a link to prove it:
Do your homework Mr. David McGuire. You owe it to the folks that donate to your organization and the sharks you claim to protect.

So is McGuire just an IDIOT who spouts unverified factoids, or is he a CHARLATAN who is amping up the rhetoric in order to be more successful when soliciting funding, or BOTH? 
You be the judge of that - but he is certainly IRRITATING, and has been so for a very long time indeed! Not quite enough for a nomination - but he's certainly on the waiting list!


On the positive side, LET US TELL A GOOD STORY!
Don't know how to do that? Read this - and if you're an org in the USA, book a seminar with Randy!
Oh yes - and read his blog - see the blog roll on the side!
(howz that for a shamelesss plug, buddy! :)


On the negative side, LET'S CALL OUT THE PERPETRATORS!
And NO I do NOT agree with Randy on this one: - no gravitas and decorum here mister, ever! I shall NOT watch my language, and I specifically reserve the right to continue saying FUCK, and this in CAPITAL LETTERS, whenever I please!

And what about the comments section?
Moderation is enabled and the WAILING OF HYENAS (love it!) will only be tolerated for entertainment and/or educational purposes!

To be continued!

PS: Check out Part One, Part Three and Part Four!


OfficetoOcean said...

Mellower than I expected, although I don't doubt there will be some example of idiocy this year which pours petrol on the smouldering embers of your rage :D

Hopefully it's not from me...

DaShark said...

OH NO David!
You got this totally wrong!

This is just the intro!
To be continued means to be continued!, i.e. there will be a Part Three and possibly even a Part Four with NOMINATIONS!

The post was just getting too long, hence I decided to post it in increments!

OfficetoOcean said...

Ah yes, now I see! I retract the above statement :D

As you were... ;)

Anonymous said...

Delegates statements before voting for porbeagle shark inclusion in Appendix II:

#New Zealand supports the porbeagle proposal, with some Northern hemisphere populations meeting appendix I criteria

#Ireland speaking for #EU at #CITES speculates that southern porbeagle populations are even smaller than northern populations. Support proposal!

Just maybe my panicky plea for porbeagle inclusion in appendix I wasn't really totally ridicuous after all?

I live in Europe where porbeagles are our apex predator but they are critically endangered here. The EU has a 0-tac since 2010 yes, and in Norway and Iceland porbeagle catch is prohibited also. But, in these countries, if a porbeagle is caught "dead as bycatch", fishermen are obligated to land the animals and they can be traded. Over the last few years we have seen imported "bycatch" porbeagles popping up Belgian and Dutch restaurants and fish stores like mushrooms! It is clearly a booming and higly lucrative market! That was the context of my panicky update and hopefully the inclusion in Appendix II will be sufficiƫnt to halt this clandestine trade.

DaShark said...

Thanks for reading this blog Anonymous! :)