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!


jsd said...

I think it's very important that fearless blogs like yours exist -- though it's pretty obvious you never went to a Swiss Finishing School...

Let's face it, anyone wanting to know something critical about Van Sommeran, Ritter or any of the others with equivalently dubious track records, now has telling internet feedback distinct from the hagiographical, flashy and self-promoting rubbish of their disciples and websites.

DaShark said...

Thanks... I think?

Busted re the Finishing School!
How did you know?

BUT, I did spend 8 years in a school run by Benedictine monks, by now all probably deceased and turning in their graves whenever I post a rant!

jsd said...

'I did spend 8 years in a school run by Benedictine monks...'

Interesting. I would have guessed 15-20.

Mike said...

I think it's important to keep this in perspective. Although Jorgensen et al have a contradictory hypothisis to GWS mating behavior, it is backed by years of research by people that have been studying GWS life history for more than a decade. Counter ideas only help make an argument stronger. Those of us on the sidelines of this truly exciting research will only know which theory correct after their peers have digested and questioned both scenarios.

DaShark said...

Have you read the paper?

TOPP et al have done some fine research - but the SOFA- and lek mating hypotheses are backed by nothing and on the contrary, all the evidence points to the fact that mating does not happen there.

Chris Fischer said...

You understand that we funded the roughly $5M of research and the crew of the OCEARCH enabled all of these tags to be placed on the sharks, right?
We just funded and enabled what you described as on of the most epic white shark papers ever...yet you continue to bash...?
This is just the beginning. There are over 20 papers being written on our work and in a few years, papers like this will be coming out of S. Africa and the NE US.
There is a K-12 educational curriculum being written around the shark tracker to make STEM classes more interesting while teaching the next generation about a sustainable future for sharks and the ocean and we are going to give it away for free.
I realize it's inconvenient but....
C'mon Man!!!
Chris Fischer

DaShark said...

I can assure you that when I bash, it sounds differently! :)
Specifically, I do find the frothy anti-Fischer propaganda by some quarters in California and South Africa totally moronic both in content and in style.

I also understand that this kind of research costs a lot of money and that some donors may demand adequate publicity in exchange - but understanding does not equal liking, and I dislike your self promotion.

Yes the data are stellar, and important.
But research should avail itself of the best tools and as per my post, I believe that your protocols are too invasive and outdated, and I question the wisdom of posting those tracks.

You also have a history of secretly obtaining research permits without proper public consultation and awareness, and of then barging in on commercial GWS diving sites whilst disregarding the concerns of the local shark diving operators - and from what I hear, you are attempting to do the same right now in Australia.

As a fellow Shark diving operator I cannot but disapprove of that MO.
If you're so convinced of the validity of what you do, you should at least be willing to engage with all stakeholders, defend your POV and adapt your procedures in order to address any valid concerns.

Finally, so far, I see too little vigorous efforts to translate the data into tangible conservation measures on the ground - but granted that may be a bit premature, and I look forward to progress in that matter.

Chris Fischer said...

Wow... We got to fund it, pioneer the method, execute the never done before, get the paper published, and now execute on policy!
You holding everyone to that standard?
We will execute on policy but C'Mon man you got to weigh it all...
You can't praise the data and condone the method...
Weigh it out for us...
Was the cost worth what we learned?
Make a call..
200,000 sharks were killed today! There is not a lot of time for the sharks.

DaShark said...

Well, it depends on who you mean by WE doesn't it... :)

You make it sound like you Chris are the great benefactor and pioneer.

But upon closer inspection, without knowing the minute details and in a greatly simplified way, would it not be fair to state that

- Domeier the seasoned and reputable GWS researcher pioneered the methodology and contributed the research and the scientific gravitas

- Ocearch the NFP spent most of the money (tho 5m sounds greatly inflated!)and provided for substantial logistical support

- Nat Geo paid for most of the exercise

- Fischer Productions the for profit company produced the TV program

- Chris Fischer organized it all & then walked away smiling all the way to the bank?

Nothing wrong with all of that - except for the protocols that it now turns out were unnecessarily invasive, and for how you then left Domeier out in the cold when the Junior controversy broke.
But I guess that's human nature where e'body is in it for himself when the shit hits the fan.

But of course that's not what I'm talking about.
I'm saying that those protocols can and should be reformed to reflect the newest insights.

As for the advocacy - isn't that what it was all about in the first place, to gather data for better protecting those populations, in order to assure the sustainable future for sharks you are mentioning?

Chris Fischer said...

Your facts are so incorrect and off base, I'm shocked you wrote them in a public forum.
*This research began in fall 07 and there was no NGC gig till mid 09.
*I personally funded the first two years of research.
*Before the trip in fall of 08(where much of the data for the paper comes) I had to sit down with my wife and decide if we were willing to lose our house.
*We consciously decided to leverage everything we had to fund the second trip and potentially lose our house and everything we had saved.
*In fall of 2008 I remember telling Capt Brett, I am going to be broke by April of next year so no matter what happens we have to get these tags out.
*Have you ever consciously decided with your family to give everything you have to the ocean?
*I am still digging out from over $2M in debt so that this paper could be published.
*Domeier had nothing but a permit and tag. His cradle and equipment were all wrong. Capt Brett/crew redesigned everything to make this possible.
*Ocearch the NFP did not exist until after all this work was done.
*NG did not fund most of this research. I guess you are just trying to slight the fact that I funded, enabled on the water, and filmed with no gig so we could share it with the world, and then got myself into NGC HQ and sold the project so I could take all that money and dump it into research with Klimley, Hearn, Hoyos, Hueter, Skomal, Whitney, and 35 scientists in S. Africa??
*Fischer Productions did film/produce the show, but it had no revenue till 2009 to do so, I floated the whole operation and all of the very little profit was poured into the next research projects.
*I did not organize all this and walk away, I began to support other researchers around the world. We knew that it was going to take years for the research to be published, so we began to help others around the world so they could learn about their sharks too. Over 25 research papers are being written about our work now.
* What data do you have that our protocols are too invasive? We have been through Animal Care Protocol board with Vets, the top PHDs in the world work with us.???? some data please.
* Don't understand why you think we split when the Jr. thing happened. .. that was regional people in a turf war that had little to do with the actual shark.
* I am regularly working on advocacy... uncertain what your comment means...
*We will be the greatest explorers of our time, and we will leverage that to create a brighter path forward for the ocean while exploding the body of knowledge forward on our oceans giants.
*We will build he largest dynamic STEM based educational tool in history around the Shark Tracker so while all of our children are working at school, they learn a centrist sustainable path forward for the ocean is essential for the planet and humanity.
*I will leverage the Global Brand we have built to get policy meetings and affect change based on the science we fund and enable.

Next time you would like to write about my life, family, motives, and circumstance it seems you may want to give me a call.

We have never spoken, But it's clear you just can't believe that someone loves the resource so much that they would give everything they have to it and it's future. I mean everything... not just what's convenient.

Your information is so wrong, and you puke it out so publicly, that I must now lump you in the SVS category when it comes to credibility.

Chris Fischer

DaShark said...

Wow – you sure hit where it hurts!
Being lumped together with SvS is definitely the ultimate humiliation!

This is increasingly sounding like a case of revisionist propaganda, selective amnesia and the salesman having fallen victim to his own sales pitch – and this in a comments thread about a post that was not about YOU but about Domeier’s stellar paper and the morons who continue trying to bite at his ankles!

Out of the blue, I’ve in the meantime received a message by Domeier vigorously (a euphemism!) refuting your version of events - and lemme tell ‘ya, it’s my turn to be shocked!
So far, he prefers to try and stick to what he believes is the high road and not make any public statements – but that may hopefully change and I’m thus not going to engage in paraphrasing.

But I can say this.
Some of what you do, like you successful US East Coast caper or the GWS tracker technology is quite impressive, and some less so.
Ever after the Junior debacle, I’ve very much refrained from posting in detail about your failures lest I aid and abet the wailing hyenas – and I still think that’s what I want to continue doing, so let me just address your comments here.

- I stand corrected re the minor details like the non-existence of the NFP

- I’m confused about the over $2M in debt you’re apparently still digging yerself out of vs the very little profit that you’ve apparently re-invested into further research?

- Junior controversy: search for it on this blog & you will discover that it was me who outed it as a smear campaign by competing researchers. All I said is that you conveniently disassociated yourself from that fiasco – whilst your man Klimley played attack dog, only to then haul what appear to be pregnant Tiger Sharks onto the very platform and following the very same procedures he had so vehemently slammed.

- Invasive protocols: accidentally gut hooking Junior; killing a GWS in SA; warped and shredded dorsal fins; severely fouled and thus likely permanent bling; widespread reservations about hauling those large Sharks out of the water – do I need to elaborate? I understand that shit happens and that sometimes, the goal may justify the means, something I mention in this post. What I’m saying is that once better solutions exist (e.g. in-water tagging), protocols should be adapted accordingly.

- And finally, you may be well advised in letting others judge whether you are indeed the reincarnation of Cousteau or the greatest explorers of our time or the greatest ever anglers for having hooked the largest ever fish, or whatever - the more as your incessant self promotion is the principal factor that has people wondering about your ultimate motives. Please also spare me the straw men and melodrama: nobody mentioned your family (?), and your life, motives, and circumstance only insofar as they were pertinent to the raised issues.

I’m done with this – have the last word if you so wish.

jsd said...

Damn - what did those Benedictine monks put in your cocoa?

DaShark said...

I know I know...

Like I said, they're likely turning in their graves...
Poor bastards - the more as I'm being uncharacteristically polite!

Tropical Selkie said...

Um, wow. Talk about an education. I guess we are all up-to-speed now. Thanks for the excellent debate!

DaShark said...

Chris I misspoke - turns out that I wasn't quite done with this.

Please read this

Lateralus said...

I've been in contact with Andrew Fox, the son of Rodney Fox about the rumours that OCEARCH were planning on coming to Australia. It seems they won't be welcome at the Neptune Islands. Here is a comment posted by Andrew on their FB page on the 22nd of March 2013 (
"Hi Benjamin! In answer from past posts we have previously done here and elsewhere..., we find this all very interesting and get involved in Shark tracking ourselves. However we prefer to put our satellite tags in the sharks just by simply poking them in their backs as they swim past our platform. These tags then pop off the sharks with a preset clock timer. This doesn't stress the sharks, risk their lives or permanently damage the shark and their delicate dorsal fins. Dorsal tagging does upset their whole day, and it upsets the whole hierarchical, social and residency structure of the location and (in the least) has an impact on the whole future life on those particular captured individuals! The dorsal tag SPOT method above does have the tasty advantages in giving immediate and progressive accurate real time data updates, and certainly makes for spectacular and exciting television viewing and gets high ratings, so therefore generates great shark awareness and valuable funding so much lacking with this species.... It all generates a lot of interest and funding that would not otherwise be there.....But we also happen to know that the sharks themselves here would definitely NOT appreciate this type of fame and want to reinforce that this driver for shark conservation and research does come at an often unacceptable cost to the captured sharks and upsets the shark population they are part of! I don't want our Neptune sharks subject to these unnecessary stresses and am prepared to protect them, even though I would be extremely excited to find out where more of them are when they are not at the Neptune's. . New technology will allow further improvements in all these areas, and hopefully then we can have our cake, and eat it! :o) Cheers andrew"

DaShark said...

Thanks Lateralus - very interesting.

So I guess that Fischer has been put on notice.
Let's now see whether he continues to try to barge in as usual, or whether he respects the wishes of the stakeholders and graciously bows out, as he should.

Anybody taking bets?