Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lumpy, by Ozzie Sam!

Click for detail! Source.

Great pic!

Lumpy is a rather new Shark.
She turned up three years ago and remains a more occasional visitor. You can recognize her by the large lump, quite possibly a tumor on the right hand side behind the gills and above the pec, and by the many wrinkles around the gills that are totally unique (not even Granma has those) and likely a sign of protracted age.

Sam's visit has been a pleasure as always.
And as always, he got skunked by the weather that turned sour the day he arrived and is only slowly improving now that he is leaving - go wonder! Thus and despite of solid numbers, the elusive Bull Shark wallpaper shot has remained just that - the good news being that he'll have to come back and try again!

Moce mada mate - safe travels!

Streetlight Effect!

The streetlight effect: The streetlight effect is our human tendency to look for answers where it’s easy to look rather than where the actual information is. For instance, counting the lines of code produced is easy but doesn’t tell us anything about the quality of the application, the functionality it provides or even the effectiveness. Click for detail. Source.

My pal Randy is hallucinating.
I would like a singularity of voice by the ocean conservation movement. 
As a communicator, that is what you wish for. Not dozens of groups competing against each other with their various brands. Just one, singular, simple, powerful voice, created by all the major NGOs, coming together to convey the upsetting truth, that the world’s oceans have lost X percentage of their total wildlife biomass, and if things don’t change, by 2030 it will be down to Y. 

And then I’d like for EVERY group to get behind that singular message, dedicating themselves to stopping the trend in all their various ways. Instead of waging all their, “Yay, we’re winning, give us more money” campaigns.
Yeah, right.
Simply not gonna happen.

Granted, there has been progress.
The IUCN, also owing to its makeup whereby it's an NGO of NGOs has always been a great unifier. It has also been refreshing to note that despite of the occasional sniping, the Elasmobranch conservationists have presented a largely unified front at this year's CITES CoP. And even on an individual basis, people like DaMary shine by always striving to rally all the relevant players around a common goal, like she and Shawn have successfully done in the Manta Ray of Hope initiative.

But of course that remains the exception.
The divisive competition for ever scarcer donor funds continues unabated and in a world where any three chicks with a Facebook page can mount the next global conservation initiative, the fragmentation and senseless duplication of efforts has become bigger and not smaller - and I'm not even talking about the distraction by the whacks, bullshitters and shameless self promoters, foremost of which the great hydra of personality cult and pseudo-conservation whose unparalleled expertise in crowd funding continues to syphon away funds that are desperately needed elsewhere!
AND, we continue to focus on the effects and not the ultimate causes, i.e. population growth and more importantly, the growth of individual ecological footprints!
The consequences are devastating - read this post.

Forget reform from within.
It would inevitably lead to job losses - and not only are the professional conservationists gonna cling to their precious seats and oppose any such move, but those who will get shafted will moreover create their own NGOs and further add to the grudge, fragmentation and divisiveness!
Examples? :)

But the major donors could become the catalysts for change.
People like e.g. the folks at Ocean 5 are rooted in the real world and one would hope that they would not be suckered into thinking that professional conservation  is any different, and that it should not be measured by the very same metrics that rule good old fashioned business ventures: stuff like ROI, accountability, efficiency, effectiveness, market share and penetration, etc - and failing that, restructuring all the way to mergers, redundancies and ultimately, closures!

And the likelihood of that happening?
Quite possibly more than 50%, especially in the midst of this persistent recession - but having said that, both philantropy and marketing which are the major sources of such funding are more often driven by passion and emotion than by rational thinking, so who knows.
But as always, we shall see!

And our hope in the face of the ugly truth?
It, and and the passion that fuels us are all we really got.
Randy's ever shifting baselines (watch this slide show!) will never be reestablished as extinction continues to erode biodiversity - but they remind us of never getting cocky, and that the mission is really never accomplished. If we persevere and are successful and above all, very very lucky, we will eventually end up with a new wilderness, a managed, less biodiverse space that will be but a shadow of its glorious past - and guess what, owing to the shifting baselines effect, the next generations won't even notice!

That's the best case scenario.
Granted, it's not much to look forward to - but at least that, I am convinced, we can achieve.

Sharks and Bikini Bimbettes!

Same old same old - source.

Here we go again.
This is Florida, quite possibly the US state boasting the best and most comprehensive Shark conservation and fishing regimes.
And yet those morons continue to do this shit.

Because sex and vociferous machismo sell, and because other morons continue to think this is somehow cool and are willing to support it with their television subscriptions and ratings.
No wonder progress in reforming Shark Week has been so excruciatingly slow!

Anyway - check it out.
And JSD, before you say it - nice ass!

H/T: Patric!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Of Shark and Man - Progress!

Please read this post by David.

Yes it really looks like we're nearing the finishing line!
And, we shall be shortly treated to the second teaser-trailer!
Mate lemme tell 'ya, the sheer impact of the first one will be a tough act to follow - so best of luck with that, the more as my expectations could not be higher!
No pressure!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Time for a new Rant?

From a message by a friend.
Just looked at your blog. Doesn't look like you're fighting with anyone lately. ZZZZZ ...
See? Damned if I do, damned if I don't!

What to do?
Should really I post that anonymous message about this plea bargain?
It reads, inter alia
That article is only part of the whole story.
Having a name like Cousteau can get you out of a lot of hot water...what a pathetic ending to what was going to be a blockbuster investigation about a film crew in a National Marine Sanctuary who deliberately caused the killing of a protected whale calf...

C and his team used zodiacs to separate the calf from the mother so the killer whales could kill the calf. THEN they needed close in shots so they grabbed as many pieces of blubber they could to keep the killers around.
Obviously this was outrageous on too many levels to count, and when word got out Ms Blacks house was raided and the images and video of this event with C heard and shown directing the crew became known.

The investigators were told to refocus the entire investigation after C went to his buddies and begged for help - powerful folks indeed.
The deal Ms Black got was part of this fabrication, she would be the fall gal, in return for a light sentence. She gets to keep her boat, her titles and research permits, basically everything she started with.
C got his documentary, made money, and continues to this day to be "Advocate for the Oceans"...so do all his friends.

NO ONE in the oceans community is free from guilt on this.
Complicit in this and was in fact asked to step in and help clear Mr C and his team from wrongdoing?
Sylvia Earle...yes Ms Marine Sanctuary herself!

Or what about the irritating David McGuire.
Should I really re-blog this post and state that quite obviously, something stinks - and that I'm not in the least surprised?

Let others do the dirty work and the investigating!
This is all happening in California that probably boasts the world's highest, and I may add, highly incestuous concentration of marine conservation activists and orgs, from legit all the way to frothy do-gooderism and that toxic mixture of outright liars and cheats, pompous bloviating firemen and outrageous new age whacks.
Let them weed out the rot in their midst and for once show some backbone instead of all that karmic political correctness and collective koombayahing - that baby Whale story literally screams Sea Shepherd and I'm tempted to say, all theirs!
Or how about if Dan Noyes did some real investigative journalism for a change?
But then again... :)

And what about Lupe.
Should I really post that Ritter and his Sharkitarians are mounting a free-diving (= out-of cage) research trip (!) and that this is the inevitable consequence of the shenanigans of the past seasons?
Should I point out that tourists are being abused as guinea pigs for Erich's pseudoscientific BS - notabene unter hoch verantwortungsbewusster, fachmännischer Anleitung, meaning under highly responsible and expert guidance? Of Ritter and this dude? Hah!
Maybe - but then I would probably have to add that a) this is illegal, b) at this rate, somebody will get killed and if so, c) it will be 100% the fault of the operator and that as a consequence d) the Mexican authorities will step in and shut the place down.
But then again, I've been ranting for years and nobody gives a shit - so why bother!

Decisions decisions...

Stefanie in the Wall Street Journal!


Good on Stef!
Great person, excellent messaging!


Friday, April 26, 2013

México Pelágico!

I'm a big fan of the Pelagic Life initiative.
Well, not always - but mostly!

And I must say, I'm really looking forward to this!
I did quite a bit of diving in the Sea of Cortez in the early eighties, and much of the footage by Pelagic Life reminds me of those days: the fantastic sea life but also the merciless currents and thermoclines, the deep cobalt blue of the open ocean and then the inexplicable black but crystal clear water once you venture deeper.
Epic stuff - and PL are masters at depicting it!

And without further ado.
This is a great undertaking and if you care -and you should!- please do support it here.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Roomba Cat!

Yes that would be a dumb cat in a Shark suit.
On a Roomba. Chasing a Duckling.

Oh and there's a Pit Bull disguised as a Hammerhead.

What can I say.

Megapredators - Shawn's Video!

And without further ado!


And here's Shawn's blog post..
Fact sheet about Orca predation including the description of an attack on Sperm Whales here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ultra-Apex predators!

Orca attacking Minke Whale - source.

I would recognize that voice anywhere!

And I cite
You have  problem, you're not gonna get saved here!
Wise words indeed - after which he jumped in to take some pictures!
Any guesses?

Story here - interesting observations and hypothesis here!

PS: Shawn's testimony here - and no the voice does not belong to him!

New Caledonia - Shark Sanctuary!

 Mating Whitetips - now protected in New Caledonia! Source.

Great News!

New Caledonia has declared its EEZ a Shark Sanctuary.
This article explains that any fishing, possession, commercialization etc of Sharks and their parts is now forbidden within national waters - whilst fishing for Sharks in the lagoon where there is a small food fishery for Mako Sharks remains legal for as long as the concerned provinces do not prohibit it.

And Fiji?
Nada de nada de nada, still pondering, or whatever, a NPoA Sharks that will likely fail due to inadequate resources for its implementation. Having long missed the chance to be the first Shark Sanctuary in the SoPac, it has now missed the chance of being the forerunner in Melanesia.
And in the meantime, our valuable Sharks are being fished away.

Enough said.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Reef Sharks - new Papers!

Grey Reef aggregation - likely in Apataki's Trou aux Requins - stellar pic by Chip!

Great stuff!

This first paper is about Grey Reefies.
It's by the authors of the Fiji Shark tourism paper and really a nice piece of research - and kudos to Gabe on the first authorship!
Rather surprisingly, it caused quite a kerfuffle on Patric's blog - but as I said there, Patric's comments are a tad harsh, the more as that particular species is not a frequent target of the long liners. 
But the general gist, i.e. that publishing data about philopatry carries some inherent risks is of course correct. I did blog about it here and came to the conclusion that such data should be used for conservation and management purposes and only be shared widely if there is robust and above all, fully enforced local protection - something that certainly pertains to Palau, especially for the popular and highly visited stretch between Siae's and New Dropoff!

Nice re-cap here
And yes Patric - Palau lays east of the Philippines (not north, south or west)! 
And... ? :)

This paper is about Blacktip Reef Sharks.
Inter alia, this one is by the authors of that Lemon Shark paper who continue their observations and in-depth analysis of the Shark Population of French Polynesia as part of the ORP and CRIOBE.
It investigates the genetic makeup of the Blacktip population in several of those islands and describes that it is highly fragmented, meaning that gene flow (= Sharks traveling between populations) is low. The conclusion it draws is that in order to protect Sharks, it is better to establish Shark Sanctuaries rather than to try and protect them via MPAs.

Well, yes, that is certainly true in general - the bigger the better!
On the other hand, as a staunch lumper, I cringe at the recent trend of splitting everything. There are several ignominious examples from Avian, Amphibian and freshwater Fish taxonomy where the designation of many sub-species hast resulted in a plethora of tiny local populations, and subsequently, in the squandering of scarce public resources in the quest of preserving every single one of them - and this fatally reminds me of those occurrences. 
With Shark conservation being as difficult as it is, I'd be quite happy to see progress at the species-complex level - the more as otherwise, most of those tiny populations would succumb to the requirement of prioritizing one's resources by applying conservation triage!
But yes those Sanctuaries are great - at least for as long as Shark fishing remains so poorly managed!

And what about the implications for us here in Fiji?
The first one is that with such high residency levels, the Shark Corridor offers a substantial degree of protection much like in the case of our Bulls.

Other than that, we don't know - yet!
In Juerg's research, we've so far concentrated almost exclusively on the Bulls. But we have also recorded many observations about the other species, and our data base undoubtedly contains the answers to several of the same questions - that is, if somebody had the time to analyze them! But fear not, Juerg's next paper is already in the works, and it will contain much more info about the other species!
Of interest and contrary to all other Grey Reef aggregation sites I have visited, the SRMR harbors more males than females who however also appear more transient much like the Bulls and also leave for what we believe is the mating season in mid year. 
The Blacktips on the other hand appear to be very much resident, and it will be interesting to explore whether the females go walkabout to some nursery area like those in Moorea - which is highly likely as contrary to the Whitetips that appear to give birth in situ, we see zero small juveniles!

Anyway, I'm digressing as always.
Read the papers - it's great stuff, and kudos to the authors on a job well done!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Great Fiji Shark Count - that's how you do it!

Technically speaking, the Great Fiji Shark Count is about science.
But it was always also about tourism and showcasing our breathtaking marine environment - and above all, about having fun and making amazing discoveries.

Nobody shows it more than the folks up north.
From the timely announcement to the blog posts and regular messages like this and this one, they really embody the spirit of of what we set out to do.

Kudos - big props!

Great Fiji Shark Count - insane!

What a difference to last April!
The weather has been more than clement, and there's more Sharks than ever. In fact I had a quick peek at our log sheets and at slightly more than midway through the Great Fiji Shark Count, we've already marked down in excess of 2,000 Shark sightings - and this obviously net, without duplications!
Sam - dya hear me? :)

Case in point, the above screen shots.
They are from one and the same clip, a mere 6-7 seconds apart - that would be more than 70 big Bull Sharks on the second dive at 15 meters.
Click for detail!

Crazy stuff - and the busiest months are yet to come!

Monday, April 15, 2013

GWS in Hawaii - Paper!

NOT a GWS after all! Source.

Once again, nice!

The paper is here - read it!
Nothing really immensely spectacular, the more as it's not based on original field work but simply on a compilation of GWS sightings in HI since 1926 - incidentally much like the stuff by DeMaddalena the bloviating barlafüs da Milan.  
But the conclusions are certainly interesting as they once again confirm Domeier's hypothesis (or may it already be a theory after so much verification?) that the GWS females follow a two-year breeding and migration cycle and can thus be encountered in HI year-round whereas the males, being males, periodically rush back to the aggregation and mating sites for their yearly hanky panky.
AND, it unequivocally identifies this Shark as a Mako, meaning that its now turns out that the very prominent GW researcher did not know what he was talking about!

So Kudos to Kewin Weng on a job well done.
I didn't know who he was but now that I've found it, I shall read his dissertation with interest.

And remember Honebrink?
Yes that would be he of the Cookiecutter Shark attack paper - but also he of this utter stupidity, thus not somebody I respect a lot.

But the paper is nice!


I just know that you'll appreciate!
Believe it or not, after I posted it, the last one went to 1.5bn!
This one is 51m - watch it explode after this post!

Enjoy! :)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Scavenging on Whales - new GWS Paper!

I've been so busy with the Fischer fiasco and according complete vindication of Domeier that I've been remiss in not posting about this paper.

Check this out.

So there you have it.
Of course, ever since the Blue Water White Death team bought a Whale carcass off Durban in their search for GWS, we knew that they scavenge on Whales - but it's nice to see such an in-depth analysis of the phenomenon. Great also to see Neil concede the first authorship to Fallows - tho why such a staunch crusader against Fischer's SPOT tagging would align himself with a prolific SPOT tagger like Neil leaves me somewhat perplexed.

Obviously, with N=4, much remains conjecture.
Although the insight about selective feeding is not completely new (but now further confirmed), the other hypotheses are certainly plausible and warrant further investigation.. Personally, I was intrigued by two observations in particular
  • The initial predilection of the calorically poor fluke and caudal peduncle.
    This reminds me of Gary's account (and video!) of how he got jumped by a GWS when outside of the cage many years ago in SA. The Shark went for his fins, prompting the speculation that they may be first targeting the locomotion, much like Makos are reported to do when attacking Billfishes.
    Maybe this is yet another clue verifying that hypothesis.
  • The lack of intra-specific aggression, and the pecking order.
    I've always described our baited dives as an artificially induced communal scavenging event, and I can confirm that our observations fully match that pattern. Somewhere, I've read that Sharks are not known to bite conspecidfics when competing for food whereas they will certainly exclude and when necessary, even attack other species. I see that daily on our dive but have also heard the same from other foraging events on Whale carcasses, namely from a well documented event in New Caledonia where dozens of Tiger Sharks retreated from a Whale carcass upon the advent of two GWS.
    If my intuition is correct, those chummed and baited GWS dives may thus offer a great opportunity to further record such inter- and intra-specific interactions.
    From what we can discern here, when it comes to rank, size certainly plays a very high role - but in addition to it, there are definite individual character traits, foremost of which assertiveness/boldness that break the general pattern whereby particularly assertive Sharks (usually males) will barge in ahead of the rather placid large females. And one other factor may even be desperation, whereby some possibly particularly hungry and thus desperate subadults will try and dash in and steal a Tuna head, only to then abscond precipitously followed by a whole gaggle of competitors!
Anyway, just a hint.
All-in-all, a very charming little paper that will hopefully once lead to more and stronger insights.about GWS life history and their functions within their ecological niche.

Oh - and I've learned a new word!
Post-prandial torpor = food coma! Didn't know Sharks had that, too!

New Shark Bible - get it!

And talking of Shark ID.

If you are interested in Sharks, you must get this.
Authored by the brilliant illustrator Marc Dando, by David Ebert, and by the indefatigable Sarah Fowler of inter alia the Shark Trust and the IUCN whose praise I could not possibly sing highly enough, it will be the most authoritative book on the different Shark species for many years to come - this obviously with the caveat that several taxa are under revision and that you must continue to keep abreast of the latest science about the topic.
The pre-publication offer for this book is now open, with special incentives for the first 500 orders received (free postage world-wide and a limited edition shark print of one of the original plates signed by the illustrator). 

Peep inside it here and order online. 
For those of you who know the 2005 Collins Field Guide to Sharks of the World (now out of print from Collins, but still available from Princeton Press): this book is completely new.
It is larger format, with 528 pages and nearly 60 new species illustrated, more detailed, and features photographs as well as Marc Dando’s stunning illustrations. You may think that it’s worth waiting for this book to be discounted on Amazon. Well, it is already discounted, and this offer is as good as it gets! 

Title: Sharks of the World - a fully illustrated guide 
Authors: David A. Ebert and Sarah Fowler
Illustrator: Marc Dando
Publication date: Summer 2013
ISBN: 978-0-9573946-0-5 
Amazon has a cheaper offer, however sans signed illustration.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Is this a 10ft Tiger Shark?

Watch this.

Story here.
My money is on a large Galapagos.
I see no stripes on either the first dorsal or the body, the first dorsal is too erect and the head not broad enough for it being a Tiger.


Fischer Reality Check - Comments by Dr. Michael Domeier!

In-water SPOT-tagging of an enormous GWS - source.

Sorry for the protracted silence.

We've been extremely busy.
Plus, I've found myself embroiled in a rather unexpected and increasingly pointless debate with Chris Fischer of Ocearch.

Chris should have followed the advice of Domeier's publicist, see below.
Now the exchange has piqued the interest of the man himself who has sent me a vigorous rebuttal of Fischer's assertions, initially however with the request not to publicize it as he wanted to keep to the high road and instead let Karma take its course.

Well, I don't believe much in Karma.
It is unpredictable and takes much, much too long to eventuate.
So upon much cajoling by yours truly, here are Michael Domeier's comments - and from what I recall and have been able to observe from the sidelines, I for one have no doubt that they are a truthful representation of the facts - tho still way too karmically polite!
Unabridged - although the formatting is mine.


Any PR expert will tell you to never get dragged into a public, negative pissing match… excellent advice that I try to follow. 
But once every few years I’m forced to slide down the slippery slope to correct serious misinformation that affects me, or my organization… misinformation that only I am capable of correcting. 

Some people are so comfortable stretching the truth that they actually begin to believe the lie themselves. 
Remind you of anyone/anything?? A popup tag removed from a shark at Guadalupe Island? A tag presumably recovered from another shark off El Choyudo? Pictures of Junior circulated with wounds falsely attributed to my tagging of the same shark a year earlier? For each of these things I finally made a concise statement that set the record(s) straight. Here we go again, but perhaps not as concise due to the complex situation. 

Chris Fischer, at every opportunity, proclaims 1) that he spent $5 million to fund my research; 2) that he enabled me to become a great researcher; 3) that I greedily hoard the data and don’t share with the public; and 4) that he developed the equipment and methods to capture and tag large adult white sharks. 

1) There is no way Chris Fischer ever spent $5 million of his (or anyone else’s) money on my research. 
We joined forces to conduct 2 expeditions before he got a TV deal. My last Guadalupe Island expedition (Fall 2012) cost about $40K… and that was with the boat making a profit. So do the math. Also, there was never going to be a second expedition (2008). Chris had a big sponsorship from Red Lobster and was departing for a ‘round the world expedition. I even flew to Ft. Lauderdale to attend his big send-off party at the IGFA Hall of Fame. I flew on my own dime, wished him well and said goodbye. When Red Lobster dropped him, ending the voyage before it even began, we got together to do another expedition in 2008. He did not put his life on hold, bet his savings, etc., to provide me two boat rides to Guadalupe Island. I was the one who spent months and months in preparation for each trip… he just showed up at the dock. 

Yes, he paid for 2 trips to Guadalupe, but then struck a TV deal that allowed him to recoup those costs as he was getting $400K/episode. 
We were able to make multiple episodes from a single trip. Furthermore, I tapped two other private foundations to help pay for the tags and research; financial support that he never acknowledges. Fischer was fairly paid for all of the work we did together… this was not a huge philanthropic venture. On the contrary, he made it clear: “no cameras no trips.” The huge $$ figure he throws around must be for the entire operating cost of his ship and production company for each year he was making these television shows. But that’s not a fair way to account for the actual cost of the research (a fraction of the yearly operating budgets were due to the handful of research trips)… and he never discusses the INCOME. Any real accountant would tally just the costs of the specific trips… or think like this: what would it cost to charter a vessel for each research trip, and then subtract the income! Perhaps he took a loss, I don’t know; my organization took a financial loss… but no way did either of us wrack up losses in the millions. 

2) None of my recent white shark papers would have been possible without the 10 years I put in the field before I met Fischer. 
Fischer just happened to be in the picture as I began to really put all the pieces together. I knew SPOT tags were the only way to push the science forward. I also knew the sharks would be easy to catch, but I wanted to lift them from the water to safely remove the hook and do extra sampling (sperm, blood etc). I was developing a stand-alone pneumatic lift to accomplish the task. When Fischer showed me a picture of his new boat at a Billfish Foundation Board Meeting, I instantly recognized that the lift designed to pick up a yacht could shortcut my lift building plan. I asked if I could use the boat. The answer was “yes,” but only if I allowed cameras. I had never cooperated with a film maker in all my years at Guadalupe (well… Guy Harvey is an exception… but he’s an exceptional guy), and I had requests on a monthly basis, but this seemed like a good trade. 

When it comes to enabling, I think one needs to look at who really benefited from this collaboration. 
I brought Fischer into my world… he took my idea and crafted an entirely new career/image for himself. He even used the experience to gain his coveted Explorer Club status. Brett’s a good guy, but even he will tell you he (Brett) had no interest in catching sharks… even as we were heading to Guadalupe for the first time. If it wasn’t for my bringing Fischer into the marine science world, and consequently primetime television… he would be sitting in his home in Park City without a big boat waiting at the dock. Yes, he was about to lose the boat. If I had stayed true to my original course I would have accomplished the same work, it just would have taken me longer 

3) I do not hoard data. 
Like any professional researcher, I gather data until there is enough to analyze, allowing me to write an excellent publication. Then I publish and share with the world, just like every other working researcher that I know. In fact, I was careful to publish our latest findings in an open access journal, so the entire world could read the paper for free. 

I also disseminate results on our Facebook page. And yes, I have an app that costs a whopping $3.99… that helps me fund the research (actually… it brought in enough to do a nice upgrade (soon)… but not much more). I don’t have huge tv deals and corporate sponsors. So what’s the problem? Fischer slammed my app (and me personally) when it debuted and encouraged people not to purchase it. No, I don’t give the data to Fischer… why should I… it’s my data? He got all the TV shows and celebrity status he wanted… I got data. Furthermore, releasing research results prior to publishing can be problematic when the time comes to publish. Ask any researcher about that. I’ve been sharing more data lately simply to try to keep my organization afloat. But the last person I want running around the world, interpreting my unpublished data, is Chris Fischer. But that hasn’t stopped him from doing so. His brand building (photo shoots and interviews with big hooks draped around his neck, the hyped fishing template for the show) really hurt my reputation as a legitimate researcher. 

4) For our initial expedition I told Fischer he didn’t need to bring anything, just bait…I would do the rest.
I did the rest… and he forgot the bait (thus the infamous bait arguments on TV program). I conceived of the idea to use his yacht-lift to tag sharks, I designed the cradle, I designed the hook, the buoys, the line… everything. When the cradle didn’t work the way I had hoped, I was the one that tore it all down and fenced in the entire platform… Chris wanted to use the crane to pull the sharks onto the platform (yikes). Yes, my home-made hooks were prone to bending and breaking, but there was no place to buy such big circle hooks and we caught a few sharks that first year. And yes, the crew helped refine my concept for safely catching and handling the sharks. 

The SPOT tags used by all now, were built specifically to my design specs. 
I tried the off-the-shelf version and it failed. My version worked, and continues for me and for those who have followed. Lately I’ve made significant changes to the attachment of those tags… but that’s another story. 

Every single place we went with the ship was under my specific direction. 
I was in the wheelhouse each time we dropped anchor, putting the ship on my numbers… and we caught and tagged sharks every place we went. Our success was not due to the exceptional fishing prowess of Fischer; it was due to years and years of observation, study and note taking.

I  hate this sort of thing, and hopefully it will be years before I have to put myself out there like this again. 
But sometimes it’s a necessary evil. There are moments of clarity when you have to act, today was one such moment. Let me share a similar moment from years ago: while doing a big promotional push before the debut of our first TV episode, Fischer and I were both doing nonstop interviews in NYC. During a short break, my wife and I watched one of Fischer’s interviews, on FOX News, from the lobby of the hotel. We sat in stunned silence as he proclaimed that the entire research program was his idea and that he had pulled together the boat, crew and research. Just weeks prior he had proclaimed that I was nothing more than “a passenger with permits.” Suddenly it was clear this was not a good situation for me. The science message was being lost by the growing ego. In the end, I could not bear to watch the series that was based upon my own hard work. I tried to watch an episode during the season when Peter Klimley took my place… I was sickened at how Peter was made to look so foolish… turned it off again. 

There have been a huge number of people on-and-off the Fischer bandwagon, many of whom can confirm my statements if you care to track them down. Brett was a good friend… he knows the truth… unfortunately our friendship could not endure the awkwardness to keep in touch. 

I will be the first to say that I’ve noted a different tack from the Fischer camp lately… less fishing hype and more attention to the fish being studied. 
Perhaps lessons have been learned. But in my heart I know Fischer’s ride is about recognition… not about sharks. He didn’t know a clasper from a cloaca before I met him. I hope he does great things for the world… I hope he becomes more self-aware and learns to let his actions speak rather than his words. This whole thing started because he could not stand the fact he was not getting all the credit for a paper Nicole and I invested nearly 15 years to produce. 

Dr. Michael Domeier

PS: simply brilliant post by Patric here - kudos!
“I once thought (call it an evolution) that science and tv could be married together to deliver the best and brightest to waiting audiences. Then the major cable players started cutting doco budgets, slashing and burning them in an almost Visigothic manner until a 60 minute show was left with a budget of $150,000 and that included post production.

What do you get for $150,000 or less? You get Gurney Productions and sharks. There will always be someone who is willing to drop their pants and chain wrap a Tiger shark, and film it, (yes ABC that's you buddy) for a few film credits and the chance to film the next piece of shit that comes down the chute.”
PS2: Megalobomb unleashes!
The most challenging experience one will face during a career in white shark research is being suckered into working with someone that is a dick. Like a one-night stand, they/their projects may look attractive and say all the right things, but then you wake up and realize that you’re some wrinkly married man’s mid-life crisis.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mike - legendary!

Mike, son Riley and a gaggle of BAD boyz  - click for detail!

Do you know what a Ten Quid Pom is?

Neither did I - til I finally met Mike Ball.
He is one, which makes him  legendary by definition - but on top of that, he's one of the original pioneers of Australia's dive-, and more specifically Shark diving tourism. His Spoilsport will take you to the equally legendary Cod Hole at Ribbon 10 and then straight out into the Coral Sea with its unparalleled Osprey, Bougainville and Holmes Reefs that still showcase some of the country's most pristine Reef Shark populations - plus the more than occasional Tiger and various pelagics!
Stellar stuff, not to be missed!

What a pleasure it has been!
He quickly popped by for a quick visit, and has managed to totally charm the whole staff, and yours truly, with his totally unassuming, friendly and above all, infectiously enthusiastic demeanor - and the latter after having seen it all during 40+ often difficult years in the industry where he succeeded in clawing his way right to the top from the most humble beginnings.
Talk about a classical case of veni vidi vici!

Anyway, Mike, moce mada.
Come back soon!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Peacock Spiders - ridiculously awesome!

Check this out!

This is Maratus volans.
More videos with different coloration here, more pictures here.
Story here.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Swimming with Polar Bears!

Many, many years ago Bruno Vailati tried the same, and the shooter got nailed and grievously injured - don't try this at home!

Friday, April 05, 2013

Guadalupe Great Whites - Paper!

Location data for the four satellite-linked radio-telemetry-tagged female white sharks during the pupping phase.


No I'm not going to write a synopsis as it is open access, short, incredibly interesting and informative, and crystal clear insofar as it does not contain any obscure scientific lingo - and anybody ever wanting to talk about Great Whites needs to have read it!
Yes, female GWS follow a two-year breeding and migration cycle, something no PAT tag has ever been able to document!

And, there is this.
Jorgensen et al. have proposed an alternative life-history hypothesis that is contradictory to the hypothesis proposed by Domeier. The major difference between these hypotheses pertains to the timing and location of mating. Jorgensen et al. speculated that white sharks are mating during their offshore phase, whereas Domeier proposed that mating occurs during seasonal, near-shore, adult aggregations...

The offshore-mating hypothesis is based upon the conjecture that a described vertical-diving pattern (rapid oscillatory diving (ROD)) is a result of a lek-like mating behavior in the core of the SOFA. This interpretation is problematic from several perspectives. Lek-like mating systems involve the gathering of males at a traditional site for the purpose of ritualized courtship display. The males compete for the attention of females, and in turn, the females select a specific male for mating. Although the peak in ROD behavior, and thus presumed offshore mating, occurs during June/July in a period when the distribution of males temporarily constricts, even the constricted offshore space is vast (estimated to be about 64,000 km2). Lek-like mating would require the males to be in a very small space to allow females to observe the courtship of several males at once. No electronic-tag data have ever indicated that sharks are densely populating a small, traditional offshore site. Lek-like mating systems have been described for some species of fish, but leks have never been seen among elasmobranchs. Females that mate in lek systems select a single male deemed superior to other males, thus the fact that white-shark pups from a single litter tested positive for multiple paternity argues against lek-like mating for this species. 

It is challenging to ascribe any behavior to vertical movement data in the absence of visual observations. The seasonal constriction of the SOFA and the ROD-type diving pattern could be due to the pursuit of a seasonally available prey. An expedition to this region during the constriction identified the presence of three species of spawning squid and sperm whales, but again, the absence of behavioral observations deems it impractical to assign any cause to the ROD diving pattern. Diving patterns and mating systems aside, there are other strong arguments against the hypothesis that white sharks are mating during the offshore phase of their migratory pattern. First, electronic-tag data indicate that males and females are largely segregated during the offshore period, and second, the proposed mating during June/July would equate to December/January pupping (accepting the 18-month gestation estimate). Females arrive at adult aggregation sites approximately in September, and depart in December to end of February. No YOY have been seen at the adult aggregation sites, no obviously pregnant females have been sighted at GI, and pupping is known to occur approximately April through July.
I really had to laugh out loud - remember?
Basically exactly what i said - which begs the question, does the man read my posts? What I did not know was the fact about multiple paternity - the exact opposite of what would be expected in lek mating!
Eat that, Sal!

Bravo Michael Domeier and Nicole Nasby-Lucas - this is truly seminal stuff. And, thank you for the chapter about conservation concerns! 
And I repeat: read it!

And now, watch this.

Looks like the bunch of dipshits with an opinion and a keyboard has spawned a dipshit with an opinion and a camera who is now publicly spouting the usual moronic rubbish all the way to having the audacity to post that picture of Junior

All so pathetically SvS.
But fear not, I'm not gonna dwell on the latter. 
As per Patric's update and after now many weeks of him having produced zero, zilch, nana da nada evidence for his assertions, I'm done with the man and his verbose excretions!

Does that mean that I now endorse SPOT tags?

It depends!
Research does not consist in slapping on some tags in order to then look at what happens - the scientific method demands that one formulate a (plausible - see the lekking fiasco!) hypothesis and then test it, for which one needs to employ the adequate tools.
So IF the hypothesis requires gathering multi-year data about a species that conducts large migrations and IF the animal comes to the surface frequently which is necessary for up-linking to the satellite, and IF the questions being asked are important, then I absolutely support deploying SPOT tags!
As I said here, research about philopatry is vitally important for conservation purposes!

The GWS that aggregate and regale the cage divers at the Neptunes are likely to be among the very same animals that munch on unsuspecting aquatic recreationists in Western Australia, quite possibly in tandem with GWS that travel there from SA.
Both hypotheses have already been validated by PAT tagging tracks, and possibly even via acoustic tagging - but we still don't have the full picture insofar as we don't know where they mate, where they pup (or do we?) and why, exactly, they and some of the SA GWS travel to WA.
That is simply vital information if we ever want to understand and then address and manage the mess in WA and protect those Sharks - and of course the people!

And how would one go about in gathering that info?
Assuming (which is not a given!) that the females of that Australian population follow the same 2-year cycle as those from Guadalupe, then SPOT tags would be the ideal tool, vastly superior to PAT tags that do not have that longevity! The ideal tagging location would be the Neptunes where the Sharks aggregate, and the operators there should really consider inviting a knowledgeable GWS researcher - out of intellectual curiosity but also very much in order to safeguard their assets!

But not Fischer's wandering circus!
I dislike the man but that's obviously not the issue.
The issue is that by today's standards, his methods are unnecessarily invasive. Domeier has proven that very large GWS can be caught and then tagged whist submerged; and he has also developed a cradle for the tags whereby there is only one single attachment bolt, thus greatly reducing the risk of fin damage. 

Is that perfect?
Certainly not - but it's a great improvement and in view of the importance of finally gathering the necessary information about that population, I for one could personally live with some possibly warped or shredded fins. But I would not publish any tracks - at least not at this time of public pressure and according political brinkmanship in WA. Imagine the fiasco of showcasing the Sharks' real-time location, only to have one executed by some overly zealous government bureaucrat - highly unlikely but why take that risk!

But I'm digressing as always.
All I really wanted to say is, epic and congrats!

Bimini Hammers - Video!


Stellar footage!

No wonder - it's by my friends Jillian and Duncan!
It advertizes Neil Watson's brand new dive center at the Bimini Sands - and of course, Bimini's fabulous Great Hammerheads.
What a truly amazingly elegant and beautiful Shark!


BBC - Shark Reef segment!

Scarface by Jean-Marie Ghislain

Oldie but goodie!

This is the excerpt from South Pacific.
Producer Jonathan Clay, videographer Richard Wollocombe, both great guys - with cameo appearance by Scarface!