Monday, February 29, 2016

Winston - Message from the Battlefield!


Just a quick heads up about the SRMR.

The Giant Clams have made it!
Some have been ripped off and thoroughly pummeled, but we have found and repositioned all the strays, and are hoping that they may be able to develop a new byssus before the next challenge.

And the Shark action is fast and furious!
The viz is still sub-optimal but there's heaps upon heaps of big and hungry Bull Sharks, and even the small Reefies are slowly making it back to the shallows.

And finally, the water is way cooler, see at top.
Today it was 26C in 30m, meaning that for now, we've managed to dodge the worst of the bleaching. But having gone walkabout, 5% of our Corals are already toast whereas a further 30% are clearly stressed - and this surprisingly right across all genera including the generally resilient Porites!

But all-in-all,we've been very lucky indeed!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Tourism Sustainability!

Multi-awarded: Best Dive Shop 2006 + Tourism Sustainability 2012 and 2015! 

Then it happened right on the verge of Winston and it was really not appropriate to dwell - but I really owe it  to the staff, and to our many friends and supporters who have chosen to undertake this long and often arduous journey with us, to say a word or two.
So there.

Yes we've done it - again!
We were short listed in December and then declared finalists shortly before the ceremony, so it did not come as a complete surprise; but we are certainly thankful, honored and humbled by this recognition. Together with our past awards, this quite possibly makes us one, if not the most locally awarded Fijian dive center, ever!
The award recognizes, and I cite
the efforts and contributions made by individuals and organisations who have successfully implemented environmentally sustainable initiatives, demonstrable by long-term commitment and performance. It also recognises the promotion, development and engagement with the Fijian people and operators understanding of Fiji’s Green Growth Framework.
Nani - strategically positioned! :)

Compared to last time, notable new achievements include
  • First and foremost, the establishment of Fiji's first National Marine Park after more than ten years of advocacy.

  • The development of Fiji's first biggest and most successful Shark-centric volontourism program together with our partners of Projects Abroad. And let me add: Beware of cheap imitations!

  • The co-founding of Global Shark Diving, the world's first, only and obviously best alliance of responsible conservation-minded Shark diving operators.
Plus we've of course continued the ongoing sustainable tourism and conservation work inclusive of more research and more stellar research papers by Juerg, with new and exciting initiatives coming soon! In brief, the recipe for our success is that we DO things - as opposed to all the whinging and announcing of some quarters!

My only regret?
Having won automatically means that the Barefoot Collection who were vying for the same award have fallen short. These are really good people doing remarkable ecotourism and conservation work in the Yasawas, and we are proud to be cooperating on several projects with them. If you can, do pay them a visit - especially now after Winston where everybody here is thankful for every tourism dollar!

PS - Martin here. Thanks buddy! :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Tiger Beach - Paper!



Have you seen this?
I cannot find it online - but somebody sent me the full text that says Open Access, so I assume it will appear shortly.
Anyway, here's the 
ABSTRACT: Advancing our knowledge of the reproductive biology and mating systems of freeranging sharks is inherently challenging. The large size and mobility of the specimens are just a few of the problems that make such studies complicated, and in some respects, impractical. The tiger shark Galeocerdo cuvier is a large, roving, apex predator found in many oceans throughout the world. Although their nomadic nature is primarily linked to large-scale migrations, these sharks can also display site fidelity. 

One site where this is known to occur is at Tiger Beach, Bahamas. 
Unique to the waters of this area is the consistent sighting of large females. While the sex-specific use of the area remains unknown, the shallow, warm environment could represent a critical habitat for reproductive events. To investigate the reproductive biology of tiger sharks at Tiger Beach, 65 individuals were opportunistically sampled between 2011 and 2014. Reproductive status of captured females (n = 59) was assessed with ultrasonography and by measuring circulating sex steroid hormones (progesterone, testosterone and estradiol). 

Our results indicate that Tiger Beach is a high-use site for female tiger sharks of mixed life stages.
The results also suggest that Tiger Beach may function as a refuge habitat, allowing females to reach maturity free from male mating harassment, as well as functioning as a gestation ground where gravid females can benefit from year-round calm warm waters, which may reduce the gestation period and accelerate embryo development.
I really like this, especially the collecting of multi-pronged evidence.
Local lore had it that the  Tiger Shark aggregation was correlated with the fact that Sea Turtles would shelter on Little Bahama Bank during rough weather - but I guess we now know this to be, if at all, of only secondary importance.
Press release here.

Anyway, bravo, well done!

PS - here's the full text!

Cyclone Winston - Images!

Just amazing.

I've just come back from Suva.
Insiders know the route which leads through several villages and settlements with plenty of ramshackle dwellings, and then through the suburb of Lami and finally, Suva proper. I was expecting to see some signs of the devastation but... nothing! 
Everything is clean and tidy, and all I could discern were a total of three missing roofs where repairs were already well underway.
Like I said, just amazing!

But in the North and in the islands, things are completely different.
This is yesterday's local News bulletin.

These poor people need urgent help.
Should you want to contribute, please re-read this  - and should you want to use other channels, you may want to first ascertain whether the funds will be ultimately disbursed to the National Disaster Management Office  and then, the District Disaster Management Committee (DISMAC) that are coordinating the efforts, and what portion of your funds will be wasted on overheads as is too often the case. Like the PM said, this is really not the moment for waste, duplication let alone obstruction!

Thank you very much!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Ratu Kolinio Biautubukoso!

And... do you know who that may be?

Yup that's none other than Tumbee, Papa's son!
The short clip has been edited by Bruna and Felipe during the Oceania caper of their Gente Extraordinária project - and of course he is!

Looks like they had a ball.
All of that happened extremely short term and amid major boat and engine problems, meaning that nobody had prepared for their visit let alone had really any time for them; but of course this is Fiji, and everything sorts itself out at the and - and of course the Shark dive is always awesome.
Tho Bruna appears to have been fascinated by other things?

So here is their report - and here is their portrait of Tumbee.
Indeed, É muito bom, mas não é natural.
And Tumbee is truly extraordinary!!

Vinaka, much appreciated - and bon voyage!

Back in Business!

Click for detail.
We're opening tomorrow.

But first.
This has been the worst cyclone to ever hit the SoPac, and one of the very worst globally.
Our thoughts go to the families of the deceased and missing, to the many who got injured, to the countless displaced, many of whom have literally lost everything.

But this is Fiji.
Yes the widespread stoicism in the face of the onrushing onslaught may have seemed peculiar - but the flip side is that after the event, there is no drama whatsoever as instead of lamenting and waiting for others to help, we get up, dust ourselves off and carry on. 
Case in point, the power and water are miraculously back on, and everybody is busy cleaning up and helping friends and neighbors to get back on their feet. And a big bravo to Government who has been handling this admirably right from the get go, and who continues show leadership by being proactive, efficient and effective all throughout the country.

I also want to thank our friends.
Your outpouring of support has been frankly humbling, and we all thank you for that. No we really don't need anything - but should you want to make a valuable contribution, please make a donation to the Fiji Red Cross or to the Prime Minister's Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation Fund as right now, those are by far the most effective venues for quickly getting the right help to the affected people.
Thank you very much.

Anyway, we're open for business.
Can't wait to have my first look at Shark Reef that has been battered by phenomenal seas. We've recently established a shallow nursery for different endangered Giant Clams, and I'm fearing the worst - but who knows, we here are resilient.

Keep watching this space!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

We're OK!

OK this has been nasty.

But all is OK.
Power is still down & there's a curfew - but as far as we can tell, everybody is accounted for.

More as the situation normalizes a bit.

Saturday, February 20, 2016



Check this out.
This is a really big deal here in Fiji, and we're obviously very proud, and thankful.

But more of that later.
Right now, it's time to batten down the hatches.
Winston is now a severe Cat 5 of 920 hPa packing phenomenal winds of over 300 km/h, and the latest forecasts have it passing slightly to our North which is frankly a small relief - also see here.

Good luck Fiji!

Thursday, February 18, 2016


975 Hp would be a Cat5 - click for detail. 

Looks like we're pretty much screwed.

Check this out.
You can click once and will get a forecast function at the bottom - see what's brewing?
Confirmation here!

You know what to do!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Exploding Cownose Rays? Not so fast!


Remember those exploding Cownose Ray populations?
Proudly announced in 2007 as the first scientific evidence for Shark-mediated trophic cascades, the paper is a favorite argument of some quarters within the Shark conservation movement, and a frequent topic of increasingly critical posts on this blog, e.g. here, here and here.

Enter myth-buster Dean Grubbs, and I cite.
The lack of temporal correlations coupled with published diet data suggest the purported trophic cascade is lacking the empirical linkages required of a trophic cascade. 
Furthermore, the life history parameters of cownose rays suggest they have low reproductive potential and their populations are incapable of rapid increases. 
Hypothesized trophic cascades should be closely scrutinized as spurious conclusions may negatively influence conservation and management decisions.

Like I said, bingo.
The article is here, and required reading - and no, I really got nothing to add!

Actually, there IS something to add, so there.
Spurious conclusions is likely a euphemism for a load of horseshit. From what I can see, Grubb did not conduct any new field research but merely re-examined the info available at the time, and his findings are pretty much devastating in terms of the methodology and the illicit conclusions by Myers et al. 
Which obviously raises questions about the peer review process but also about the value of NGO-sponsored research (eg here) and according agendas and conflicts of interest.
And now, I can certainly leave it at that!

And then, throw those exploding Cownose Rays into the same incinerator as the Oxy Myth! Like I said back thenthe theory of correlations between trophic levels is sound - but much more when viewed bottom up! 

Synopses here and here - extensive blog post here!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Game Changer!

Now Tom has weighed in here.
He is perfectly correct - this will be a game changer and a huge step towards propelling the Shark diving industry towards a more long term sustainable model, much like what we in the industry are trying to achieve via GSD and what Austin et al have advocated in their recent stellar paper.
And not only that - despite being your quintessential penniless young researcher, Tom has also made a contribution! 
Chapeau - I am impressed!

And all the others?
I thought that Rick was one of the most liked and respected conservation people out there, with zillions of friends all over the globe? And yet, I'm yet to see any endorsement in all those friendly blogs and FB pages and Twitter feeds, let alone any shekels for his funding page? 

C'mon people, we can do better than that.
Isn't this precisely what is needed and what we've all been advocating for years, and does Rick not deserve our full support for having selflessly embarked on this rather titanic endeavor on his own dime and precious free time? 
Forget the breathy sharkaholic masses that are so long on opinions and so short on actual deeds - but even if yer all hopelessly broke, can we please at least see some public endorsements by all you social media gurus and public friends?

Thank you!

Winston - double Whammy?


That track keeps getting crazier by the day!
Check out the dates on the pics above: right now, it really looks like Winston is going to leave Fiji, pick up strength in the open ocean North of Tonga, only to then boomerang back and hit us as a Cat 4 to 5!

You know what to do!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Shark Geeks!

LtR: the indefatigable Debbie and Rick, plus young Shark researchers and conservation biologists Kerstin, Tom and Gauthier!

Life is good.

This has been loads of fun.
Shark conservation meets Shark research - with a generous sprinkling of big feisty Fiji Bulls!

Incidentally, the clouds are the outskirts of the bloody cyclone.
Christened Winston and presently rated a Cat 4, it is embarking on a crazy loop south of Fiji and then northward to Tonga, meaning that there is a chance that we down here and especially Kadavu may dodge the anticipated major bleaching event.

Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Fiji - Fish Kills!

Bloody El Niño!

A friend alerts me to this article.
Our new captain Abo hails from Votua Village (= the home of Fiji's best pizza!!!), and has been reporting about dead Fishes for a while now - but I must say that I would never imagined the extent of the catastrophe!

Alas, the cyclone ain't gonna help.
The latest forecasts have it pass far to the West and considerably weakened, meaning that we're likely to be stuck with the present unbearable heat for quite a while longer, and that the chances for a widespread coral bleaching event are that much higher.

A real shame for Victor Bonito.
He has been conducting great, community-based coral restoration work with his Reef Explorer Fiji - and now much of that hard work is at high risk of being wiped out.

Alas, the reef top and especially the back reef where Coral growth has been nothing short of spectacular may once again be wiped out - either by the bleaching or by the quasi inevitable subsequent invasion of Crown-of-Thorn Starfish.
Not good - and for once I'm not very hopeful.

To be continued!

PS - Pacific Beat interview here!

Monday, February 08, 2016

A Plastic Ocean!

Literally everywhere - this unfortunate little girl turned up on Friday's dive. 
Click for detail.

Sure you do! :)
Anyway, here is the trailer - story here.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Cut the Bull!

A tad intimidating and, literally, Blunt!

Read this!

Poor Michele!
Blunt and intimidating huh - and to think that I was really on my very best behavior and merely trying to be useful by providing some, I thought, valuable and impartial guidance!
Damned if you do, damned if you don't!

And the infamous education and awareness thing?
Regular readers of this blog know that it's one of my pet hates as it is so often invoked as an excuse for bad things with Sharks by the brazen self promoters, Shark molesters and new age idiots. 

Don't get me wrong here.
We here do it every day, and hope that some of our in-depth conservation and research briefings "stick", and that our customers will go home and amplify the message among their friends. 
But the very vast majority of the recent Shark conservation victories are not based on plebiscites but instead, have nearly always been the result of the right people talking to the right people at the right time, and of heaps of hard, persistent and anonymous work on the ground.

And Shark Stanley I hear you ask?
Dunno and likely never will - or is anybody about to finally analyze these things?
But my gut tells me that it was certainly nice but by no means mission critical = the victories at the last CITES CoP were the result of stellar but incredibly tedious and hard work by several individuals and NGOs, not of a social media campaign featuring cute Shark and Manta cutouts!

Long story short?
I  believe that education and awareness are possibly (?) valuable as a long term strategy;  but in the short term and considering the urgency of the task at hand, they remain a poor substitute for focused conservation work. And I equally remain of the opinion that intelligent and highly educated young people like Michele ought to channel their passion into more efficient and effective undertakings!

But I'm digressing as always.
Great blog post by a really nice promising marine conservationist.

Fiji Weather - incoming!

This by no means surprising.
It has been way too hot for far too long, and as always the choice becomes coral bleaching or a cyclone - with my preference being a cooling cyclone anytime!

Usually, 80 HP is a Cat 2 to 3.
Anyway, keep your eyes peeled here and here!
You know what to do!

Friday, February 05, 2016

Wallpaper Bulls!

Told you that there would be more pics!

From today's dive.
And yes those Sharks would be up to three meters long - click for detail!
Need I say more!

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Is the Tiger Shark a coastal Species?

Click for detail!

You be the judge of that!
Brief Communication here, expanded version here!

Monday, February 01, 2016

Healing in Bull Sharks - Survivor: Ship Shape!

I had to look twice but it is definitely him!
Looks like he's always gonna be unusually skinny - but one year later, everything has healed perfectly and he's as feisty as always! Click for detail - and yes this would be a new camera, so expect plenty more pics!

Is this whole thing amazing or what!