Sunday, December 07, 2014

Sustainable Shark Diving?

And now, to that post by RickMac.

But first.
Avuncular? WTF!
That's a whiff of a pico-fraction of a galaxy removed from Yoda, and I don't like it a bit - but then again, coming from the guy at the top, should I even care?
But I do like this - spot on!

Lemme cite.
My very personal and subjective (although I also suspect accurate) summary on what I’ve observed to date is that there is money to be made on shark dive tourism and it is a powerful incentive to “get in on the action,” regardless of experience and awareness of lessons learned.  And like all businesses, there’s a continuum of what I would consider sustainable practice… some are deeply invested in good training, supervision, and safety and some are in it to simply turn quick profit.
Indeed, astute observation!

Now, this is frankly nothing new.
Yours truly and back then, Patric Douglas of Shark Diver have been blogging about the future of Shark diving for years, and for the need of the industry to reform and move towards a more long term sustainable model. Back then, we were being decried as troublemakers and party poopers - but ten years later, the public appears to be shifting towards a more authentic and holistic experience, and much of what did preach back then is now increasingly being proffered in the mainstream. With that in mind, this is a great chance to elevate Shark diving to the next level.

Plus, now, we dispose of the science.
Not of just two papers like Rick asserts but actually, of quite a few. They all come to the conclusion that whereas there are certainly local effects, Shark provisioning appears unproblematic at the ecosystem level i.e. over large spatial and temporal scales, meaning that overall, the impact on Shark populations is negligible to nil.

Not convinced?
Don't speculate - show me the fucking evidence to the contrary and no, rubbish like this doesn't count! And incidentally, no, the Shark feeding in Playa did not precipitate the attacks in Cancun. The Bulls in the Riviera Maya are sexually segregated = provisioned females in Playa and non-provisioned males in Cancun!
And since those events, progress has been remarkable!
Just sayin'!

But of course those local effects are eminently relevant.
It is there where we will discern the biggest discrepancies based on the specific protocols, or lack of, of the operators, and it is there where the various initiatives will hopefully have the biggest impact, by emphasizing the good and reforming the bad.

And yes, some notable NGOs are starting to take notice.
Considering the dead-set opposition to any form of Shark feeding I've encountered in the past, this is certainly progress. I'm not a fan of breathy announcements and will not comment on Rick's name-dropping which is both partly inaccurate, premature and certainly not for him, nor for me to do - but yes, this may or may not eventually result in an initiative to develop a common code of practice and if so, I for one would certainly welcome that! 

This however with the following caveat.
Nice to have academia and the NGO intelligentsia look into our industry and hopefully give us some valuable unbiased pointers for improvement - but any such code will only succeed if there is considerable industry buy-in. And for that to happen, any such rules will not only have to reflect some eco wish list but also be flexible and above all, factually and economically practicable!
But again - at this stage it's nothing for me to comment about and certainly not fodder for social media! 

And then, there is now Global Shark Diving.
We did the soft launch at DEMA and the response has been simply overwhelming. Like I said, potential new members are undergoing a meticulous screening process and will only be accepted if they are already truly invested in conservation and research. Failing that, any aspiring members will first have to establish track record and will only be considered once they are able to produce tangible results on the ground. Our principal asset and the one factor setting us apart from similar ventures is market leadership and credibility - and we will certainly not risk losing that because of shortcuts due to friendship or economic expediency.
But worry not: more members are going to be announced very shortly indeed!

And BAD?
We will continue to do what we've been doing all along, and that is to lead from the front. We may or may not be the best - but we're certainly among the leaders in Shark ecotourism and have every intention of keeping it that way!
The establishment of Fiji's first national marine park via a ground-breaking public-private partnership has been a great milestone. But of course the proof is in the pudding, and we have no doubt that for it to succeed and be picked up elsewhere, the honor bestowed upon us needs to translate into a lot of hard work on the ground. To that effect, we have started establishing new baselines by recording the current coral cover and conducting a census of all the Fishes and Sharks. We will also considerably enhance enforcement by conducting more frequent patrols and by training further honorary fish wardens. And finally, we are currently developing yet another project that will hopefully have repercussions Fiji-wide and even abroad.

So, keep watching this space.
Like always, it's not a matter of making announcements but of coming up with actual results - and I can say, so far so good!

To be continued!


Unknown said...

I'm en route to Grenada, so with only iphone I can't fully respond till I land Caribbean-side, however I can unequivocally say that you are (as always) an asshole in your choice of images for yours truly.

More soon.

DaShark said...

Lemme get this right buddy.
First you proudly and publicly post those pictures to your timeline - and then you blast me for enhancing their circulation?

But yes, I would have to agree with the asshole bit - where yer right yer right!

I see "Grenada".
More cocktails and la dolce vita huh.