Saturday, March 09, 2013

Is Sean van Sommeran a Liar, a Cheat - and stupid?

You be the judge of that!

Here is the background story.
  • In April of last year, SvS went public claiming that a GWS caught in El Choyudo, Baja, Mexico, was carrying one of the tags he had attached to GWS in California.
    That would have revolutionized what we know of the migration patterns of the Californian GWS, and caused quite a stir among researchers. SvS circulated a picture of the tag but claimed that the wife of one of the Mexican fishermen, one Paulina Leon, had contacted him and asked for money for sending it back to him. Later on, he explained that he could not substantiate his assertions because the tag had been sold to some unnamed competing researcher.
  • Patric smelled a rat right away and posted this comment
    What caught us were the nature of the images. In one, the alleged tag was in place with a small knife for perspective. Something only a researcher would do, certainly not a small village fisher-woman in Mexico.
  • Michael Domeier traveled to El Choyudo to investigate the matter and found no evidence whatsoever of either the tag or Paulina Leon, casting further doubt on the veracity of SvS' assertions.
  • I focused on the fact that the claimed e-mail conversation between Paulina Leon and SvsS had apparently taken place before (!) the capture of the Shark, a further indication that the story was likely a total fabrication.
And now, I find this - copy/paste.
Sean R. van Sommeran --
The purpose of the close quarters contact was not for recreation it was for the purposes of recovering an ID tag in 2001 (and other of our tags) that was placed at same site (MBNMS) during 1995, when we first began tagging phase of long term monitor
ing study,, we began study in 1992 but worked patiently and diligently working up to the close approach and tagging aspect of the study, these tags were subsequently identified and documented also (proofing) at SE Farallones in 1999, they were seen earlier but not successfully documented until then by S. Anderson (naturalist) and PRBO assistant Adam Brown, I finally got a copy of that from them (like pulling teeth) in 2006, following our 2005 acceptance (due to vindication of data scandal and concurrent allegations of speeding with our research lure (now standard issue), I was menaced by a $22,000 fine, by same academic corporate clique of experts who embraced the hook and line and fin mutilating methods of Dr Domeier and his millionaire cohorts et al.

Everything we do or accomplish is distorted by PR and Outreach (obese salaries) over in Monterey and affiliated colleges and experts,,,.
Comes with the territory (MBNMS/GFNMS),,,

Wow wow wow!
Compare the picture (see top of this post) with the picture of the tag that was allegedly retrieved from the El Choyudo Shark in 2012, posted here
And now look at SVS' caption: archive/2004-mar???

May SVS have made a stupid sloppy mistake and unwittingly proven that his outlandish assertions were nothing more than bullshit?
As in: totally busted?

Questions questions... :)

PS Patric about tapeworms here!


Megalobomb said...

The fact that this guy can still get funding, sucker in good young researchers to believe his SvSBS, and is allowed to have gametes... is beyond me.

Anyone can do Pseudoscience said...

Perhaps PSRF and SRI should join forces?

jsd said...

Has Sean Van Sommeran anywhere answered these allegations?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately he still convinces masses of naive shark enthusiasts that he is the greatest and most honest scientist on the planet.

DaShark said...

jsd, not that I know of.

In any case,he doesn't answer allegations, he just rants, deflects and obfuscates, see his comment on the last post where he in no way explains the fact that according to him (!), he received a message by Paulina Leon mentioning the tag one week before the Shark was caught!

In the present case, a picture tagged, once again by him, archive/2004-mar happens to be identical with the picture he circulated claiming that it depicted the tag taken from the El Choyudo in 2012!.

Barring complete and satisfactory explanations, this looks like an egregious attempt at fabricating research data for one's own aggrandizement.

So where is the evidence about
Photos and numerous local sources (including a Santa Cruz person who owns home in area where poachers operate and can also vouch for the tags ..., and
Meanwhile the tag isnt the first tag recovery we've gottan from MX and he's not interested in allowing my research to flourish and so is squelching the notion (as if it were not possible) and attacking my credibility for having received the valuable information...

Posting evidence, i.e. the e-mails and pictures along with the alleged facts on the PSRF website would go a long way in clearing the air - and this, for once, without the usual pathetic verbose rants and stabs at the conspiracy by the academic corporate clique of experts and their millionaire cohorts et al.

jsd said...

'and this, for once, without the usual pathetic verbose rants and stabs at the conspiracy by the academic corporate clique of experts and their millionaire cohorts et al.'

Oh yes, I know all about that. He loathes anyone with a PhD while being desperate to be taken for a scientist himself despite not having any scientific qualifications. The fact that he drives a boat and tags sharks (or doesn't!!!) makes him, in his eyes, the super expert and every actual scientist a rich, overpaid, incompetent, nerdy fool out to get him and steal his limelight.

I was once foolish enough to attempt a debate with him in a shark forum about the pros and cons of divers feeding sharks. It was rather like being bombarded with handfuls of spaghetti alternatively cold and hot. Interesting debating style.

If these allegations are true then they should be very widely known so that PSRF is starved of funding.

DaShark said...


At this point, this very much looks like an egregious breach of the most basic rules governing scientific research.

Nothing is more repugnant than fabricating scientific data - and if the allegations are not countered by hard evidence, this needs to be made public and sanctioned all the way to revoking the guy's research permits.

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

Good blogging to you sir.

Martin Graf said...

I posted a link to Patric's blog entry on the GWS interest group on FB and this is SVS's response so far.
Sean R. van Sommeran --
Im on way to another wildlife rescue involving trapped rays and sharks up in SF Bay area,,,.Please stand by, we've had four such events in past week and we're task saturated. We have proof of what we said and witnesses and local contacts,,, all the allegations are as usual trumped up by those who dont appreciate the important work and results of the PSRF or myself. Ill be releasing all emails and photos regarding this issue as well as tagged/tracked sharks from California being resighted at other sites including Isla Guadalupe. Thanks much, I will be back after this long work day.
Mas tarde

Deflecting? I'm standing by....

Bend Tours and Adventures said...

In response to blogs that point out obvious lies, PSRF misrepresentations, and factually incorrect images attributed to animals that never were:

From Facebook:

"Sean R. van Sommeran --
Im on way to another wildlife rescue involving trapped rays and sharks up in SF Bay area,,,.Please stand by, we've had four such events in past week and we're task saturated. We have proof of what we said and witnesses and local contacts,,, all the allegations are as usual trumped up by those who dont appreciate the important work and results of the PSRF or myself. Ill be releasing all emails and photos regarding this issue as well as tagged/tracked sharks from California being resighted at other sites including Isla Guadalupe. Thanks much, I will be back after this long work day."

Did anyone think he was going to roll over? Should be interesting to see this dance, something akin to Republican Senators in airport stalls debating over what a "finger wave" actually looked like...and means.

Sean Van Sommeran said...

Patric Douglas is a smarmy fool, he writes:
'How can a tag be in two different places over the span of a decade?'

The tag(s) recovered from Mexico are not the same tag you show in your retarded blog,,, the tag pictures is one of the tags that was recovered from Monterey Bay (MBNMS) region, also from a white shark. We have placed over 160 long term ID tags, ultrasonic acoustic transmitters and archival satellite transmitters, we've tracked white sharks all over the central eastern pacific basin, and back again. Repeatedly, at point blank range. We were also first to track blue shark with ID tags from the Soquel Canyon of Monterey Bay (MBNMS) clear across the entire pacific ocean to within several hundred miles of Japan, longest existing shark track in history. The Pelagic Shark Research Foundation has also tagged over 80 basking sharks (first to accomplish this) including one specimen we attached with an archival satellite transmitter in Monterey Bay (MBNMS) region and tracked it to open ocean, deep sea, several hundred miles offshore from Baja and well SW of Isla Guadalupe last season (2012). Thank you,,, (y)

Ill be sharing some additional findings on the Baja tag recoveries and issues above later this mont

DaShark said...

Ahhhhhhhh... not the same tag huh.

YOU circulated that pic last May claiming it was the Choyudo tag, and you said NOTHING when you commented on this this blog post depicting the same pic...

As I said, post the EVIDENCE on your website and spare everybody the verbose deflections - it is irrelevant how many tags you've deployed.
What is relevant is and what you need to explain is

- how according to YOU, a Mexican woman could alert you to the tag more than one week before that Sharks was captured

- why YOU circulated this pic last May claiming that it came from the El Choyudo GWS.

Standing by.

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

Wait a sec here Mike, he called me "Smarmy" and my blog "dumb" or something like that, I demand satisfaction first:

Prima Nocturne! Prima Nocturne!

DaShark said...

Are you invoking Ius primae noctis?

All yours buddy!

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

Prima Nocturne!

Santa Cruz Shark Research Group Draws Big Fine

June 21, 2003
Release from:
By Clarissa Aljentera
The Monterey Herald

Helping an entertainment company film great white sharks has landed a hefty fine for a Santa Cruz-based research group.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Friday that it has levied a $21,000 fine against the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation for violating its research permit while helping a film company obtain footage of a shark near Año Nuevo north of Santa Cruz.

The spot is within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Ray Torres of NOAA said the violation was discovered last August after the Discovery Channel aired the shark video, which was filmed in 2001.

"We would never do anything to hurt a shark," Sean Van Sommeran, executive director of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation, said Friday. "In our permit it says a film crew can visit us. We followed standard operating procedure."

NOAA said Van Sommeran's group violated two terms of its research permit when it allowed Shark Entertainment to accompany foundation researchers into the sanctuary to film sharks for entertainment purposes. The company was producing "Air Jaws II," a film about great white shark behavior in South Africa, Australia and California.

The foundation was also fined for using a "Hollywood mock-up" of a seal to lure sharks. The permit forbids use of lures in connection with a media venture.

"It was a violation of sanctuary rules," said Torres, a special agent for NOAA.

Although the film was shot in October 2001, it wasn't publicly aired until 2002. Torres said phone calls from researchers and shark enthusiasts helped alert the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Torres is unsure whether the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation's permit will be revoked but there could be more restrictions placed on the foundation.

The Pelagic Shark Foundation received a permit in 1999, primarily to be used for tagging, behavioral observation and photo identification of white sharks in the area.

DaShark said...

Now YOU are getting off topic sir...

Plus, I believe, that fine was revoked.

Let's keep to this one topic plz,
i.e. whether SvS has fabricated evidence for his claim that the El Choyudo GWS was carrying one of his tags, a fact that if corroborated would revolutionize our current insights about the migratory patterns of the Californian GWS.

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

Yes of course, apologies;)

Anonymous said...

The tag I showed in photo was an example of a tag recovery,,, I never identified it as the tag in question.

I was emailed a photo of the tag allegedly collected from one of the sharks landed in Baja during that time and would be happy to share it with anyone, as well as emails and full headers, weve traced phones to Mexico as well as the emails we received prior to being informed that some other person had offered money on the spot for the tag(s) that were then in her possession (identified herself as wife of a fisherman).

Thank you too,

Anonymous said...

That pic was used in conjunction with a press release that SVS recoverd a tag from a shark captured off El he says he never claimed it was the tag off that shark? What else were we supposed to believe at that time? Do we have to question everything SVS implies??? Stupid question. The fact that anyone even listens to him makes me want to vomit.

jsd said...

You maintain that you have the proof. Despite Dr Domeier's piece claiming you lied and fabricated evidence, you STILL do not appear to have produced it. You could have refuted his claims. You could have sued him. All your dreams about being the victimised underdog could have turned to gold in the aftermath (where, of course, you could have gone straight to the media and you could have sued). Meanwhile, of course, IT WAS YOUR SCIENTIFIC RESPONSIBILITY TO PROVIDE THIS EVIDENCE FROM DAY ONE.

How much better is it for someone who claims to have important scientific data to refuse to produce it for scrutiny than to fabricate false data?

DaShark said...

I say, let's see the evidence as announced by Sean.

Sean, as I suggested, best post any evidence to your website for everybody to see - plz share the URL once that's done.

I notice you writing one of the sharks: so are you stating that it was not necessarily the El Choyudo GWS - video here?

If so, you appear to be contradicting your statements in the article in the Sentinel where you also appear to confirm that there was an algae-covered tag and that you received phone calls and e-mails from a Paulina Leon.

Anyway, looking forward to any evidence you may want to share.

This is obviously important not only in order to clear your reputation but also for the scientific insights it may reveal.

El Choyudo is on the Mexican mainland coast deep within the Sea of Cortez.

So far and with one ludicrous exception , I understand that the prevailing hypothesis about the life history of the Californian GWS is that they forage in the SOFA/Café where they mingle with the GWS from Guadalupe and migrate all the way to Hawaii; but that the two populations are strictly separated insofar as there is reproductive and possibly even natal philopatry whereby the Californian female GWS then return to the Californian coast where they mate in the Farallones (and possibly Año Nuevo) and then pup in SoCal, whereas the Guadalupe females return to mate in Lupe and then pup along the Pacific coast of Baja.

So having a huge female travel all the way from Año Nuevo to the Sea of Cortez, possibly to pup, would be absolutely spectacular.

Standing by.

dr anonymy anonymous flenge said...

Im a resaerch scenitist. i was contacted by some Esckimoos off of Greanland a while ago those guys informed me that they had recovered one of my tags on a 100' long megalodon shark. Unfortunatyly a myzterious scieintist who just happpened to be ckamping on the ice flow at the time borght the tag and then vaporizized. i was then acoozed of fabrikating datuma and altho i had lots of evidenz to show that i had tagged a megalodon -- first one ever!!!!! -- i never got round to producing my evidenz (so busy with other things). Oh well, never mind. There's always next time.

...What? You expect me to prodooce the evidenz NOW?! Watch this space. ive just had a report in that a 3000 foot long killer wahle with the Statue of Liberty in its mouth is doing hand stands in Monterey Bay. i'll get back to you. Promiss. Oh and i traced the message from those pesky Eskimoos to the very ice flow. Trooly we did. itz melted now so I cant provide any evidenz.

This just in: a giant noodibranch has slimed my swimming pool. Gotta run.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else here find it very suspect that when another shark made national headlines recently, Sean and PSRF claimed one of it's tags had been recovered by the crew of the boat involved? This was posted by SVS and PSRF via Facebook.

NOAA researcher Owyn Snoddgrass has informed PSRF that one of our long term ID tags has been recovered from a mako shark caught off Southern California by the same group of big game sport anglers that recently landed a world recored sized mako shark that weighed over 1300lbs.

The information provided by the NOAA researcher included photos and contact information for the angler who had recaptured the tagged shark and collected the tag from the shark after it was killed. A phone conversation with the trophy fisherman confirmed that the tag was taken from a large mako shark recently and offered to send additonal informationa and photos of the reported tag recovery. The trophy fisherman is a well regarded charter boat skipper and specializes in hooking and killing the large sharks for ticket paying tourists.

The trophy angler is familair and cordial to PSRF Director Sean Van Sommeran and understands its mission statement and the PSRF has in the past provided tags to his business and met for demonstrations of alternate methods and tag and release method.

PSRF Director is pleased for the report by NOAA researcher and the cooperation of the well regarded trophy angler and outfitter known in Southern California as 'Mako Matt'.

More information pending and forthcoming on this timely matter and back story regarding ongoing efforts to better understand the mako shark's population abundances, range and seasonality, behavior and ecological niche while at same time striving to better educate the public at larger while advocating for the sharks as a valuable resource and urging NOAA and CDFW administerators to better protect them while managing the user groups which are targeting them with increasing interests of exploitation. In particular, proper tag and release training and protection for upper tier generational catagories (large adult specimens, esp females) which are of particular interest to big game trophy sportmen as well as large scale fisheries and fin trade.

For further information or inputs contact the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation at

DaShark said...

Yeah I see it!

I would have considered it legit as SvS & Co are out there doing a lot of tagging - but then, at the bottom. we're back to the usual paranoid conspiracy theories, so who knows.

The dude sure has a knack for constant whinging & defaming (and incessant trolling), and that is surely not endearing him to the authorities - what beats me is that they obviously continue to endow him with research permits.
Go wonder - must be a Californian thing.