Saturday, January 31, 2015

Friends of GSD!

 Check out the GSD website.

See the new button?
For now, it is featuring short bios of our Ambassador and of course, Juerg - but very shortly, it will showcase the many Shark researchers we regularly collaborate with.

So, please do check back in a few days - you'll be impressed!

NMFS backs off in the CNMI!

Good news!
Pacific Islands 1 - WESPAC 0!

Read this.
Now, the battlefield moves on to Manny Duenas' fiefdom in Guam and that of Kitty Simonds in Hawaii, and I continue to expect major shenanigans there.
So, please, write those letters and sign those petitions!

Angelo here.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Fiji Weather - good News!


Looks like we're gonna be spared.

The cyclone has been downgraded to a depression, see above.
And another possible cyclone is widely anticipated to miss us and track South well to the West of us, see below!
We shall see! :)

Source - click for detail!

Fish Warden Course!


This is the fish warden class of 2015!
This is the fourth fish warden course we sponsor, and the lineup obviously comprises many BAD boyz and Galoa villagers that will patrol the SRMR - but there is also Ron from Projects Abroad, plus several participants from Vunibau and even the USP that will henceforth patrol and protect the precious Bull, Lemon and Scalloped Hammerhead nurseries in the mouths of the Navua and the Rewa, respectively!
Our thanks go to the Department of Fisheries, The Ministry of Environment, the Police, the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs and the office of the Roko Tui Serua for all having kindly assisted in this endeavor!
And to Nani for having organized it all! :)

Just like I said.
Like always the proof is the doing, not in those breathy announcements and idle talk!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

¡Hasta Luego, Tot Ziens, Goodbye!

Standing, ltr: Miti, El Diego, Tumbee, Andy, Ana, Papa, Salesh, Ned, Jone and Silio - sitting: Rusi, Kira and Nani.

This is a sad day.

We just did bid farewell to the incomparable  El Diego, Kira and Andy.
Projects Abroad's Fiji Shark conservation Campaign is one year old, and they are moving on to new challenges and new adventures. We did one last Shark dive, tears were shed, speeches given, kava consumend, Isa Lei sung - and off they went.

Safe travels and godspeed.
You've become like family, and we will always be happy to see you again!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fiji - incoming?

The pic above is merely a forecast.
But Metvuw is usully pretty reliable, so be forewarned - 988 millibar is likely a Cat 2 to 3!

Good luck!

Pew - Eyes on the Seas!


Great stuff!

Watch the following.
Posted specifically for the usual naysayers that continue to assert that those Shark Sanctuaries are nothing but bullshit as nobody is enforcing the regulations. I say, SINOs my ass - yes it's hard work, yes it's frustrating and expensive but slowly slowly, the noose on those poachers is tightening!

Details here and here.
And here is an article from Palau showing how a poacher was apprehended with this technology.

Well done Pew - I'm impressed!

Fiji - Cyclone Season!

Here we go.
As the weather warms up, stuff is inching closer.
You know what to do!

Monday, January 26, 2015

WildAid - Manta Ray PSA!

Source - read it!

And I cite from this horrific report.
It turns out that the shark fin traders, in a move to offset diminishing profits due to the scarcity of large shark fins because of over-exploitation, had revived a relatively obscure, pseudo-medicinal coastal remedy called Peng Yu Sai.
Peng Yu Sai is a soup consisting of boiled Manta gills, Seahorses an Pipefish that is prescribed to treat fevers, chickenpox, and heat in the body. I call this "endangered species soup". The traders then began marketing the remedy as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and a niche industry was born. It is worth noting that our interviews with TCM practitioners revealed that Peng Yu Sai was in fact not considered a part of TCM.
Much more info here and here.
And now, watch.

Well done WildAid!
But - no Shark Savers logo?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tiger Beach - cool Research!


I must say, I really like this.
It's about bloody time somebody took a long hard look at Tiger Beach - both to assess its biological importance and hopefully, one day, to finally evaluate the impact of those diverging diving protocols!
And since we're at it - could somebody please turn it into a full no-take MPA?

Anyway, bravo Neil for starting to tackle those obvious questions!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

SRMR - first Management Meeting!

Epic boatload: Elisabeth; SRMR managers Ian, Bati and El Ciro; El Diego and Kira from Projects Abroad; and a whole gaggle of BAD boyz - click for detail!

Great day!

But first things first.
That lady in the bottom right hand corner is none other than Elisabeth Holland, a veritable Nobel Prize laureate! On our boat!
Who would have thought that possible when we embarked on this crazy journey eleven years ago! Needless to say that she is (obviously!) smart and incredibly passionate - but she's also refreshingly humble, very witty and just a genuinely nice person on top of that.
Really nice meeting her - and yes, we are incredibly honored!

And then we had our first management meeting.
Juerg is abroad but will be here next month - but with the freshly coined Director of Fisheries, Aisake "Bati" Batibasaga, El Ciro and Ian we did have a quorum and were able to formulate a first set of immediate initiatives, first of which will be a substantial increase both in the number of fish wardens and the number of patrols. 
We've just received our first baseline report (= detailed Coral cover assessment, and rough assessment of Fish and Invertebrate abundance) from Helen, and there are indications of recent small-scale fishing. In itself, this is not terribly worrisome - but it IS poaching and we need to nip it in the bud.

And after that, there will be other stuff.
No as usual I'm not telling as it's way too early to divulge any details, let alone make breathy announcements - but i can assure you that you will like it! :)

So, keep watching this space!

Mega Bull Sharks!

Happy Fiji Bull Sharks in Fiji's first National Marine Park - great pic by Allen!

Here's some video from the other day.

And, we got ourselves an attack on a diver!

Yes those darn Damn-sels are feisty!
Michael's comment here.


Are GWS Populations in Decline?

No, "they" are absolutely not!

DNS doesn't post my comment, so there.
This is just simply wrong. It appears to principally base its assertions on the 10-year old assessment by the IUCN - but in the last ten years, things have obviously changed. 
GWS are one of the best protected species both internationally (CITES and CMS) and nationally, and those decades-old conservation measures are not useless and ineffective but instead, we have plenty of indications that they are quite obviously working.

Here's the situation as I understand it.
  • USA: populations are rebounding on both coasts following the protection of both the Sharks and their pinniped prey. Although there are only published data for California, the increased sightings on the East Coast lead to the conclusion that as a minimum, juvenile and subadult GWS now have a better chance of surviving = there will be more Sharks of a size where they will switch from a fully piscivorous to a mixed diet and become a threat to aquatic recreationists.
    This means that GWS sightings but also strikes will increase and that the authorities need to think now about preemptive measures = education of the public but also Shark-friendly mitigation measures from seasonal beach closures to spotters to exclusion nets, etc.
  • South Africa, reputedly the largest population, appears to be flat to in slight increase.
  • Mexico's population may be at risk due to incidental catches of YOY and juveniles - but nobody quite knows. In any case, the sightings in Guadalupe (= only adults) are not declining which is a reason for cautious optimism.
  • Mediterranean completely unknown - but in view of the desolate condition of all Shark populations there, prospects for the Mediterranean GWS are likely equally grim.
  • NW Pacific population (= Asia) unknown.

DNS, not impressed!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pelagic Life - something is brewing!



Stuff (= much hard work!) has since happened, and they are off to a great start - and this being a mere teaser, you can look forward to a great production that includes everything I love about Pelagic Life!
And btw that's a rarely seen Smooth Hammerhead!

Like I said back then,
These are not some naive tree hugging idealists, these are smart and extremely well connected young professionals who understand the rules and are making realistic, modest plans and  growth projections. And who instead of trying to re-invent the wheel and learn the lessons the hard way, are eager to communicate and learn from other already established ecotourism operators, to then adapt any insights to those local circumstances.
So far, fully confirmed.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Australia - Environmental Vandalism!


Read this.

Alas, I'm not even surprised.
The Abbott government is methodically undermining past conservation successes, and this is but one of many other examples. Just makes you wonder why they even bothered to approve the listing in the first place!

Of course the Sharks that are being opted out of are all threatened.

How to spot Bad Science - Infographic!

Click for detail! Source.

H/T: David!
And if you like that one, you'll like this one, too!


Monday, January 19, 2015

Stewart Island - the Gloves are off!

From the Stewart Island News, January 2015.
The shark cage debate caught the attention of some MPs who came down here on a fact-finding
mission and held two meetings at the Hall.

Clayton Mitchell and Fletcher Tabuteau hope to take the case to Parliament and convince the
government to change DoC’s decision.

MPs Clayton Mitchell and Fletcher Tabuteau of NZ First recently visited the island on a fact-finding mission to chat with locals and learn more about the shark cage diving issue here. They held two meetings and discussed their assessment of the situation, fielded comments and questions from attendees, and promised to take the case to Parliament. “This is a unique situation and there should be a moratorium while a study is conducted,” said Mitchell.

One interesting angle Mitchell sees in this issue is the new PCBU (Person Conducting Business or Undertaking) work safety legislation coming out, adopted from Australia, which will have a huge impact on the nation, holding every person accountable for their actions at work. The goal is to reduce work-place accidents by 25 percent by 2020. Mitchell wants to point out to the government that trying to enact this legislation in an environment where shark divers and paua divers share the same work-space poses a logistical nightmare.

The meetings were a bit of “preaching to the choir” as the majority who went are opposed to the cage activities, but it was interesting to hear everyone’s perspectives on the situation.
Charlotte Bates and Diane Smith both demanded to know WHY DoC went ahead and issued the permits. One B&B owner suggested that businesses refuse to accommodate shark tourists, though Mitchell pointed out that could be tricky if the visitor spent five days at a place and then decided to go cage diving on the last day. He also pointed out this could make the Island look inhospitable.
Eamonn Ganley voiced a concern felt by many: ‘The horse has already bolted. The sharks’ behaviour has already changed. How are we going to turn that around?”
Zane Smith responded it could be changed back; and Mitchell replied that we need to try to stop it, as soon as possible, and reverse the damage done if possible.

Paua diver John Hildebrand pointed out that if it is assumed that while a shark boat is operating then dive operations cannot work in the area, that is setting a dangerous precedent for all industries nationwide. Mitchell agreed: ‘It’s ridiculous, it’s like if I open a fish and chips shop across the road from yours and then asked you to stop operating.” John also pointed out that blocking out access to the islands would mean a quota reduction for the paua industry.
Phil Sanford, who had seen a great white at Bragg’s Bay the previous day, pointed out what many long time area fisherman and divers have been saying: the back of Edward’s is a primo spot and why has this essentially been given over to shark cage divers? “They are blocking out use for most of the islands out there – who’s going to want to go paua diving or codding in a small boat now?”

Tabuteau confessed he’d been on the fence about the issue when he came down to the island, and in their caucus some politicians assumed there was more hysteria than reality being reported. But after talking to locals he believes there is a real cause for concern.
Both men are fathers, water-users, and first-time MPs. Micthell has promised to come back to the island for another meeting.
Articles here and here.
And then, there's this.
Community monitoring of shark cage diving operations 

Two Great White Shark Cage Diving Operators (GWSCDOs) were recently granted permits by the Department of Conservation (DOC) to operate in the waters around Edwards Island, despite vocal and sustained opposition from commercial paua divers and a large proportion of the Stewart Island community. Now that the permits have been granted, Stewart Islanders have a strong interest in doing everything possible to minimise the risks that GWSCDOs create for other users of the marine environment. Part of this is to make sure GWSCDOs adhere strictly to the conditions of their permits. DOC can (but doesn’t have to) terminate a permit if any of the permit conditions are breached, including any breaches of the GWSCDO Code of Practice. 

However, the permits don’t require DOC to have observers on all GWSCDO vessels or to undertake any other compliance monitoring. In these circumstances it’s not clear how DOC will detect any breaches of the permit conditions or enforce compliance. The Paua Industry Council (PIC) is therefore urging local paua divers and the Stewart Island community to keep a close eye on the GWSCDOs to make sure that they adhere to their permit conditions and to report any breaches to DOC. This article suggests how GWSCDOs can be monitored by community members and identifies some of the main permit conditions to watch out for. 

Community-based monitoring 
Ways in which the local community can usefully monitor GWSCDO activities include: 
  • Anecdotal information from tourists who have been on GWSCDO vessels; 
  • Observations of changes in shark behaviour around Stewart Island; 
  • Observing GWSCDO activities if you happen to be in a nearby vessel (but avoid interfering with GWSCDO operations); 
  • and Monitoring You Tube and other social media for film clips of GWSCDOs posted by tourists. 
In all cases it is best, if possible, to back up any observations or anecdotal evidence with documentary evidence such as film or photographs. 

Permit conditions to watch out for 
The permits restrict GWSCDOs to operating within 250m of the shore around Motunui/Edwards Island. Any GWSCDOs operating outside this area should be reported immediately to DOC. Shark behavioural change has been attributed mainly to the methods used to attract sharks to the dive site.
Watch out for the following shark-attracting activities, all of which are prohibited by the permit conditions and therefore should be reported to DOC: 
  • Berley which is so coarsely minced that it provides food for sharks; 
  • Sacks of berley hanging from the side of the vessel or from a float or any other device; 
  • Throw baits that are made from anything other than legally obtained fish products; 
  • Throw baits that are pulled into or allowed to drift into the cage; 
  • Use of throw baits before the vessel is anchored; 
  • Use of more than one throw bait at a time; 
  • Use of throw baits after a shark has already been attracted to the boat; 
  • Sharks feeding on or taking the throw bait; 
  • Continued use of throw baits after a shark has taken a bait (if a shark takes a throw bait, no further throw baits can be used on that day); and 
  • Any use of artificial decoys or lures. 
Once the dive is underway, watch out for any diver behaviour that that harasses or is potentially harmful to a shark and also identify any situations where a shark shows signs of becoming distressed or alarmed. In both these cases the dive supervisor is supposed to terminate the dive. 

The permits do not allow commercial filming during GWSCDO trips (separate authorisation must be obtained). 
If you become aware of any commercial filming this should be reported to DOC. 

Other events that should be reported to DOC include all incidents of shark entanglement, shark ingestion of material, sharks becoming trapped or partially trapped in the dive cage, and injuries to sharks. 

Finally, DOC is able to terminate a permit if the GWSCDO causes any “unforeseen or unacceptable adverse effects” on great white sharks. All changes to shark behaviour such as examples of aggression towards people or boats around Stewart Island should therefore be immediately reported to DOC, ideally with documentary evidence. 

Reporting to DOC 
DOC is in the process of setting up a system for members of the public to report any observations about GWSCDOs. Until that process is set up, any observations of breaches in permit conditions, complaints about GWSCDO operations, or shark behavioural changes should be reported to DOC at
It really is a bloody can of worms.
But what riles me most in this communication fiasco is the apparent total absence of DoC, the researchers and the operators. The only viable long-term chance to make this a sustainable industry is to engage the local stakeholders - and on that front, all I can see is a rather abject fail.
Dunno whether it is cowardice or merely stupidity - but they got to do better!

Not impressed!

Shark Strike - Bronze Whaler?


Methinks that's a retaliating Grey Nurse!
Martin here!

JSD? Mark?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Stingrays in Beqa Lagoon!

This, I believe, is a pic of that Ray - uniformly grey, long tail & they are known to aggregate.


This is one of Projects Abroad's BRUV drops.
Quick thinking by El Diego!
Species? :)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Marine Extinctions - Paper!

Click for detail!


In brief, they postulated that compared to the terrestrial biota, there had been comparatively few - and that after having had a closer look at two controversial species, I could find zero evidence for any marine Fishes that had gone extinct during the anthropocene.
But obviously there has been a grave reduction in numbers all the way to local extinctions, meaning that many populations are now so severely depleted that they have accumulated extinction debt; and having thus lost much of their resilience and faculty to adapt, an environmental catastrophe like Climate Change could well push them over the brink.

And now this is largely being confirmed in this paper.
Synopsis here.
And I cite.

On many levels, defaunation in the oceans has, to date, been less severe than defaunation on land.
Developing this contrast is useful because our more advanced terrestrial defaunation experience can serve as a harbinger for the possible future of marine defaunation (3). Humans have had profoundly deleterious impacts on marine animal populations, but there is still time and there exist mechanisms to avert the kinds of defaunation disasters observed on land. Few marine extinctions have occurred; many subtidal marine habitats are today less developed, less polluted, and more wild than their terrestrial counterparts; global body size distributions of extant marine animal species have been mostly unchanged in the oceans; and many marine fauna have not yet experienced range contractions as severe as those observed on land.

We are not necessarily doomed to helplessly recapitulate the defaunation processes observed on land in the oceans: intensifying marine hunting until it becomes untenable and then embarking on an era of large-scale marine habitat modification. However, if these actions move forward in tandem, we may finally trigger a wave of marine extinctions of the same intensity as that observed on land. Efforts to slow climate change, rebuild affected animal populations, and intelligently engage the coming wave of new marine development activities will all help to change the present course of marine defaunation. We must play catch-up in the realm of marine protected area establishment, tailoring them to be operational in our changing oceans. We must also carefully construct marine spatial management plans for the vast regions in between these areas to help ensure that marine mining, energy development, and intensive aquaculture take important marine wildlife habitats into consideration, not vice versa. All of this is a tall order, but the oceans remain relatively full of the raw faunal ingredients and still contain a sufficient degree of resilient capacity so that the goal of reversing the current crisis of marine defaunation remains within reach. 

The next several decades will be those in which we choose the fate of the future of marine wildlife.
Indeed, there is hope.
And like I said back then, there is a role, small or big, that each of us can play in order to ensure that the worst case scenario does not eventuate.

And what about the Sharks?
Re-read this report by the IUCN and this paper by Christine!

Let' do it!

H/T The Ambassador aka the Saffron Pimpernel!

Shark Reef - the Party is over!

Recognize the dude?

Yes this would be Whitenose - for obvious reasons!
This is the very first Bull Shark I've named 12 years ago, and he's still going strong! I wasn't on the dive but El Diego who sent me the picture tells me that he was making sure that everybody knew he was back!

Remember what that means?
Indeed - together with the fact that we're not seeing any more fresh Shark bites, his visit officially concludes the very early, and very short mating season!
Now, the action will slow down as everybody quickly assumes the correct rank within the newly established hierarchy - and then we wait. In four-five months, we'll know who's pregnant and who is not, and compare that to our observations from the last five weeks.

Oh, and Alex:
Guess who was there, too! :)

Gracias Diego - much appreciated!

Undersea Hunter joins GSD!

The venerable Undersea Hunter and Sea Hunter that were later joined by Argo with its sub.

We are stoked.

This is really as good as it gets.
Having pioneered much of what is today being considered modern liveaboard diving, Orly, Avi and Yosy's iconic Undersea Hunter Group is truly the crème de la crème of the global industry.
Ive spent quite a bit of time diving both Cocos and Malpelo with them and with all due respect (!) to all other operators, I personally consider Sea Hunter one of the best, if not the best liveaboard in existence. And back then, they were also employing arguably the world's best divemaster, Mario Arroyo, and Pepe the skiff driver's friendliness and mastery of the often treacherous conditions are still the stuff of legends.

You can find Undersea Hunter's operator page here.
Once again, this reaffirms GSD as the world's premier alliance of professional, safety conscious, research-based and environmentally responsible Shark diving operators.
And it isn't over yet - more stellar operators will be announced shortly!

Welcome aboard!

Shark Conservation in South Africa?

One truly never stops learning - this is Shark Conservation!

First, the good news.
African Watersports are still using Allen's Shark-friendly bait ball.

The bad news?
Check this out.

So, are you impressed?
Because, apparently, this is NOT, yet again, an exercise in stupid self promotion - oh no, far from it! This is modern conservation messaging, and the dude merely wanted to highlight that it’s not me in danger, but the sharks themselves! 
It's right here in black and white, so it must be true! 

Me, not so impressed.
Not by the shenanigans, nor by him not wearing dark gloves in such a situation where pasty hands sticking out of black wetsuits look exactly like bait - and yes he certainly could have lost his finger with that one!
And if so, what would have happened to all the conservation messaging?

Nor is Martin - his toothy comments here

Fischer in Australia!

Tagging Tigers in WA - good idea? Source.

Oh yes he's there.

And of course he's already giving the usual breathy interviews.
This is officially being sold as Tiger Shark research - first on the East Coast then in Northern WA. But of course, before even having touched the first Shark, Fischer is already, once again, mentioning beach safety, and making oblique references to GWS.
Some conservationists and advocacy groups blame the lack of progress on global collaboration. "Northern California, Australia, New Zealand - you have a couple of kingpins reigning over their kingdoms and they don't want anyone to come in because they might not be the king or queen anymore," said Chris Fischer of Ocearch. "They're not really into collaboration, they're not really into ocean or shark first. They're into being the man, or being the woman. So we have to disrupt this...the ocean needs our help now."
As he bloviates in this stupidity.

It's same old same old.
Fischer the next -and of course bigger and better- Cousteau, the great conservationist, tagging pioneer and protector of public safety - and of course, pinnacle of self effacing modesty, who merely does everything he does for the Sharks!

Which of course begs the question,
Which safeguards are there in place so that the stupid government of WA will not be using the data from those newly tagged WA Tigers (and god forbid, GWS!) to go and kill them once they start lurking (yes apparently, that's what Sharks do!) off some beach?
And he's also set his eyes on New Zealand, apparently for this November - undoubtedly much to the benefit of stirring up defusing the delicate situation in Steward Island, see here, here and here!
And yes I'm being sarcastic!

To be continued!

Friday, January 16, 2015

GWS vs Dolphin!

Story here!

Lindsay - Healing in Bull Sharks!

Remember this picture?

That was Lindsay with fresh mating bites less than a month ago.
And now look at her yesterday: as if nothing had ever happened, but of course as greedy and feisty  as always! Yes you can still see some scars - but I promise you that in one more month, she'll be clean as a whistle!
And did you notice - the lip piercing is gone, likely rusted out! 

 Click for detail!

We've talked about it here.
Like with Martin's GWS, the healing power of our Bulls is nothing short of miraculous.
Amazing stuff!

Hippo Attack!

Story here.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Left-to-right: Mavoa, Michael, Api, Aceni, Tumbee at the top an Manoa at the bottom, El Diego, El Ciro and Rusi!

What can I say.

He was here.
For those of you in the know, this is nothing short of a miracle - who would have thought this possible just a couple of years ago!
But I've finally done what I always wanted to do and thrown him to the Sharks. As is usual during this time of the year, the dive was not for the faint of heart, see below - but I can report that he did not even flinch!

Yes the big females are all back - click for detail!

I must really say that Michael Domeier is one great guy.
And lucky, too - his wife Amy Grace is one helluva nice lady!
Anyway, I've had a fabulous time, and so did El Diego and El Ciro that joined us on the dive and later, for an extended round of discussions. Oh - and I'm now the proud owner of a jar of very rare and very premium Great White Honey - simply delicious, get one!

Great stuff!
Moce mada amigo - and come back soon!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Killing tagged GWS - bravo Andrew!

Andrew with his father, the legendary Rodney. Source.

Remember this post?

Sure you do! :)
Therein, I refer to this courageous blog post by Corey Bradshaw where he exposes how the Australian government is censoring and muzzling its scientists. That policy continues to this day, and the sometimes baffling reticence by some members of the Australian scientific community to address the WA Shark cull needs to be weighed against this backdrop - and this is also precisely why the unflinching public opposition by people like Colin and Jessica fills me with particular admiration!

Enter Andrew Fox of GSD.
He too is far from being impervious to the wrath of government that holds sway over the renewal of his licenses - and still, he too has decided to go public against the demented shenanigans in Western Australia. You can find Andrew's comments, along with further details about that totally misguided policy here.

Bravo Andrew, I'm proud of 'ya mate!

Sizing Ocean Giants - epic!

Source - click for info!

You got to read this!

I say, simply phenomenal!
When it comes to sizing those marine behemoths, this will henceforth be my bible - and huge kudos to the authors for the herculean effort of assembling and then analyzing the evidence!
Stories here, here and here - stellar website here!


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

BAD Videos!

Love love love this pic by Gary!

OK I'm kinda ranted out.

How about something easy and nice for a change.
Here's some customer videos I've stumbled upon - just your normal footage from The Fiji Shark Dive, shot by Joe divers on average days with average viz, with zero special favors from our side, taken from where we position all our clients.



Source. Pic by Leigh Cobb.

Yes, really!
What a fucking idiot.

Monday, January 12, 2015

SRMR - Accolades by Juerg!

Great pic by Klaus!
Check this out!

No not because of the personal accolades.
They are certainly nice but irrelevant. But what is really impressive is the sheer number and scope of Juerg's papers so far - and more are in the making as we speak! I should have posted that list a long time ago - but we're currently revamping our website and will certainly add them there!
Interesting to say the least is also the fact that on top of having retracted their support for the GFSC, the SOSF has obviously also ceased to fund Juerg. WTF!
I could comment but choose not to - but it's certainly their loss not ours!

Anyway - very nice!
Thanks buddy!

Bull Shark or GWS?


Story here.
We find a lot of Bull Shark teeth, and the central ones are perfectly symmetrical like the one depicted - but those GWS do wander from the Atlantic into the Gulf, so one straying into the Bahamas is certainly a possibility. And a bite spanning all the way from the shoulders to the buttocks is very large indeed!

David - JSD?

H/T: Mark!

PS - Mark just sent me this pic with Bull Shark teeth (from the SRMR no less!) - not easy!

PPS - GWS confirmed?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Do Shark Diving Operators need to be regulated?

Commercial Shark feeding - very very safe!

Thorny thorny!

If you're a Shark diving operator, you need to read this!
And I cite.
5. Conclusions 

In recent years there has been increasing global interest in shark-encounter tourism and the potential economic incentive and awareness raising benefits this industry may bring to shark conservation. 
However, recent research has indicated negative behavioural impacts arising from shark diving or snorkelling and inadequacies in management have been highlighted. 

In this global study of shark tourism practices we found that in the majority of cases surveyed, shark operators apply codes of conduct (either mandatory or voluntary) to ensure the safety of both people and sharks even when no formal national guidelines exist. 
However, the practices and approaches taken varied widely, and we believe there is a good case for greater regulation to raise standards and minimise any adverse effects on both sharks and people. Such an approach would involve greater scrutiny of the industry and formalisation of legally enforced national guidelines. 

Links are frequently made between shark baiting/provisioning and attacks, and while these remain speculative, a precautionary approach is warranted that would be best delivered through regulation. 
Without this, shark tourism has the potential to cause accidents which could decrease the growing popularity of sharks and thereby have negative knock on effects for their conservation, particularly when culls follow attacks such as those recently witnessed in Western Australia. 

While our questionnaire indicates that the majority of shark encounters and shark tourism currently pose very little risk to people, more field research is required on shark behavioural responses to tourism practices to help assess best practices for sharks, people and environment. Shark diving management therefore needs to be dynamic and must evolve with continuing developments in the industry and understanding of shark behaviour.
First things first.
When it comes to collecting the evidence and painting a picture of global Shark diving tourism, this paper is really quite good. Also, I really don't want to further elaborate on what I've already said about those problematic non-provisioned encounters with Elasmobranchs, be it Whale Sharks, Mantas and the like, i.e. that if the industry is not able to self regulate, then the regulator has to step in - see e.g. here.

And what about those provisioned dives?
I've blogged ad nauseam about what the evidence teaches us about their effect on the animals, the public and the environment, e.g. here. Yes there are of course people that postulate otherwise - but at this stage in the debate, it is for them to stop speculating but instead, to finally come up with evidence to the contrary. And no, invoking the precautionary principle in view of those totally unsubstantiated allegations aint good enough anymore, either!
And if they cannot come up with the evidence, they finally need to shut the fuck up - especially the researchers!

Yes Shark feeding is dangerous - dooh.
Yes often the Sharks get excited - dooh.
And yes there are dodgy Shark diving operators, and those unsupervised multi-user sites like TB are a cause for concern. And we also all know that there have been quite a number of Shark bites - very few on the clients but plenty on the feeders, the latter ranging from harmless because there was protective gear to serious when there was none.

But here comes the big BUT!
In tens, if not hundreds of thousands of baited Shark dives, there has been a grand total of ONE documented fatality - and I betcha that if one were to make the comparison to "normal" diving, you would likely find more fatalities per hours spent in the water than during baited Shark dives!

The reason?
Believe it or not - but none of us has a death wish, and we also want to bring back our clients unharmed!
We know that what we do is dangerous, and we are the first ones striving to minimize and manage the risks we admittedly create! This is why the overwhelming majority, if not all of Shark feeding operators have devised voluntary codes of conduct - and those protocols obviously work!
Does anybody really believe that some government bureaucrats could come up with, implement and then supervise better protocols - but more importantly, is there really a need for them? There are already more than sufficient laws on the books to deal with criminal negligence vis-à-vis the customers, and accidents to the staff are covered by occupational health-and-safety regulations - so instead of wasting additional government resources on what is essentially a non-issue, why don't we rely on the authorities to simply apply the Law.
And guess what - when the incidents are serious, they incidentally do it already!

And the suggestions by the authors?
... legally binding national guidelines for shark tourism which all shark operators need to be made aware of. 
Education could include mandatory classes for shark operators about species which are likely within their area, the threats facing them, current management practices, potential human impacts from tourism activities and best practice for mitigating them. Attendance at such sessions could be a formalised requirement of any permitting scheme and could be funded through charges to operators. Based on our findings and review of literature, we propose that national regulations or codes of conduct for shark-related tourism should include limits on: group sizes, time spent in the water with sharks and provisioning (both in terms of quantity and quality of food items). There needs to be compulsory education about such regulations and legal consequence should they not be followed.
Seriously - what a load of crap!
Surely, this stupidity has not been coordinated with the concerned operators - or has it?
None of the accidents I know of (and I know of many!) had anything to do with group size, time spent in the water and amount of food, let alone with not knowing the animals! Once again, it really appears that some researchers are bloviating about our industry without the slightest clue about sustainable Shark provisioning let alone tourism - and it is really starting to piss me off!

Guys, we appreciate the interest.
But for fuck's sake, as a minimum, you need to talk to us before accusing us of not knowing what we do! In fact, the contrary is true - most of anything that is known about Shark behavior and sustainable tourism practices has been garnered on dives that have been established by our industry, and smart researchers have long learned to talk to us and to listen to what we got to say!

Anyway, it matters not.
Governments got no time for these minutiae - that is, unless there are real issues where self regulation has obviously failed. Then they should, and will regulate - and when they do, I'm equally confident that they will seek the dialogue with us, the pros!

And in the meantime, we will continue to do what we do best.
We will continue to provide extremely safe, enjoyable encounters that harm nobody - not the public, not the Sharks and not the environment. And we will of course evolve and progress, like we always have, and like we are presently doing by having voluntarily established GSD and quite possibly, by collaborating with respectful people and organizations in formulating a global code of conduct like briefly mentioned here!
That's how you do it - by dialogue, not by proclamations ex cathedra!

To be continued no doubt!

PS: Martin here. PIDOOMA huh - hahahaha, very funny!