Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Biopixel Drone Promo!

And here's another one by Richard.
Much of it depicts the situation at Raine - including the Turtle lovers, Turtle tagging, Tigers scavenging and finally, Tigers attacking Turtles, and the Turtles' defensive maneuvering.

Great stuff - enjoy!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Papahānaumokuākea - Deep Diving!


And talking of Rich.

This is what he has been doing for the past 20-odd years - and this incidentally together with John and Rob and I now discover, Yannis.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Papahānaumokuākea - Leadership!


And if you've been living under a stone and don't know what this is all about,  read this and this - or any other of the zillion pieces that have been published about this literally monumental achievement.

And here's to the other leaders.
Apologies to the many, many others  - but here's to you Matt.
Owing to your vision and your leadership, Global Ocean Legacy has quickly advanced to being today's preeminent marine conservation project, and the world is becoming a better place for it.
Thank you!

And here's to you Rick.
You will always be my hero, for your passion, your erudition and especially your wit. But above all, for always doing all the heavy lifting, anonymously - not because of the plaudits, the recognition let alone the money but because you really believe in the cause.
Thank you!

And finally, here's to you Rich.
For being such a crazy pioneer, explorer, adventurer and impeccable researcher, for having lent your time, voice and you scientific gravitas to this campaign, and for just being such an all-round nice person.
Thank you!

And one more thing: eat that Kitty
How do you and your corrupt gang of sniveling liars, cheats and thieves like being handed such a resounding defeat by the very indigenous people you always profess to represent!
Oh and... fuck you!

And here endeth the Sunday prayer!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Ocearch - important Discovery?

Well well.

Read this.
Yes Fischer is at it again - and the rabid anti-Ocearch gang is frothing.
Obviously, all that noise by Fischer is nothing more than his usual breathy BS. If you remember this post, the nurseries have been known for years and in fact, that link [24] leads straight to this paper from 1985!

In brief, this is the most important significant discovery my ass!
This is either totally egregious or at best, totally ignorant - the sad part being that by now, I'm not even anymore surprised!

And then there are those tags, see at top.
This is important research, meaning that I can certainly live with inconveniencing a few juvenile GWS in order to learn more about their movements within the nursery and when they later disperse; but nowadays, modern fin-mounted SPOT tags for small Sharks feature single bolts, meaning that those 4-bolt tags are hopelessly outdated and will likely lead to the same injuries as recorded here, especially in those fast-growing juveniles. From countless observations, it is equally most likely that the Sharks will survive and the fins will heal - but it's unnecessarily invasive and really not good.

Oh well, so much for that.
Several of my researcher pals tell me that Fischer has evolved and become more palatable - but as long as he continues to sabotage himself, his sponsors and the science of the associated researchers, I remain highly unimpressed.

And Alisa “Harley” Newton?
I learn that she's WCS' Senior Veterinary Pathologist for WCS Zoological Health Program, or the like, and that she is joining Ocearch with a whole gaggle of other WCS folks.

So far, WCS' involvement in Shark research and Shark conservation has been patchy at best - but now that they've jumped on the bandwagon and managed to secure their share of muchos shekels by a group of very wealthy donors, they are busy hiring (and you'd be surprised at who is applying!) and obviously eager to be seen doing something. Not a good start as they're now associated with this utter PR fiasco = due diligence anybody?

Be it as it may, this remains an important undertaking, and I very much look forward to reading about the findings.

To be continued no doubt!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Biopixel Shark Promo - epic!

That's how you do it!

Remember BBC 's Shark?
Overall, I was rather underimpressed - but my favorite scenes were the aerial shot of a GWS catching a Sea Lion, and then the chapters with the reef-walking Epaulette Shark and the aggressively mimic Tasseled Wobbegong. Turns out that the latter two were both filmed by Richard Fitzpatrick who on top of being an excellent researcher is also a top notch multi-awarded underwater shooter with his own production house, Biopixel - and as with all truly exceptional people, nobody could be more knowledgeable, professional and yet humble!

Here is his 2015 Shark portfolio.
This is real natural history imaging, requiring heaps of skills, perseverance, patience, knowledge and yes, plenty of luck too. Compare that to the contrived and pedestrian fare that is regularly being dished out by Shark Week and you'll understand why I love the former and rather loathe the latter!

Anyway - enjoy!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Uprising Beach Resort joins Mangroves for Fiji!

Exemplary cooperation: Projects Abroad volunteers and staff of the Uprising Beach Resort.

I must say that I'm very happy indeed.
Right from its inception, MFF was always meant to grow beyond merely being our vehicle for becoming completely carbon neutral - but we're not an NGO but just a Shark diving operator, and have frankly never had the manpower, time, or energy to go and do much outreach with other potential candidates.

Not only have they established a whole host of whopping mangrove nurseries and planted squillions of mangroves, but their continuous advocacy has finally convinced the Uprising under the leadership of James to do the right thing, ultimately very much also to the benefit of their reputation of being forward-thinking and eco-friendly. 

The mangroves will be grown at PA's headquarters in Pacific Harbour and planted by the volunteers in cooperation with the village of Navola.
At the same time, the Uprising will be establishing a small nursery in the resort, and educate their clients and invite them to partake in the project. To this effect, they have already installed fabulous signage, and also trained their own staff.

The signpost features individual carbon footprints incurred by the tourists when traveling to Fiji.

Way to go, very well done everybody!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Please help the Sharks of Playa!

Source - and yes that looks like a subadult Bull, a small endangered Hammer and possibly a good-sized Mako.!

We never do petitions, for obvious reasons.

But this is different, so there.
We will make an exception when there's a worthwhile cause, with good people working on the ground, and when that team ask for signatures because it will help them sway their interlocutor, normally some politician or the like. One example was the push to get Florida's Lemon Sharks protected that was spearheaded by the likes of Doc, Walt Stearns and DaMary, etc, and where somebody within the FWC suggested that it would be good to show public support. That endeavor was ultimately successful and I hear that those signatures did in fact help sway the legislators.

And now we have a similar situation in Playa.
The picture at the top documents the latest, and perfectly legal haul by the only licensed Shark fisherman on that coastline. I must also add that that fisherman is the same person who used to target and kill those big Bull Sharks - but a lot has happened since that post, and he has now agreed not to fish for them during the tourist season when they migrate to the region, possibly in order to pup. So there has definitely been progress - but still, those dead Sharks are disturbing, and not anymore commensurate with the many marine conservation and ecotourism projects that are popping up all throughout Quintana Roo.

Launched by the outstanding people of Saving our Sharks and as always, very much enabled by my friend Chino of GSD member Phantom Divers, it aims at establishing a no-take zone for Sharks around the local barrier reef system. This follows years of dialogue, cooperation and lobbying with the local authorities, meaning that it has a real chance of succeeding.

This is an excellent undertaking.
Please lend a helping hand by signing the petition.

Thank you.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Legacy!


Would that be an enormous, and pregnant WS at 3:38?
The video is once again by Erick Higuera who on top (or should I say, despite!) of being one of the nicest, and most humble people you'll ever meet has firmly established himself as one of the preeminent underwater filmmakers from that nick of the world.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Kinderstube für Haie!

Tom with small Blacktip Shark - source.


Check this out.
The indefatigable Tom (nice interview here) has just won the German Price for Science Photography by the prestigious Bild der Wissenschaft with his feature about the putative Shark nursery in the Ba River Estuary.
Despite of the massive challenges in the wake of cyclone Winston, he was able to complete his master thesis by documenting the presence of small subadult  Blacktips C. limbatus as well as juvenile Scalloped and Great Hammers. These preliminary findings indicate that this may be important, if not critical habitat for those latter two endangered species, warranting urgent further in-depth investigation.

Cute: juvenile Great Hammer (above) and Scalloped Hammer (below) - click for detail. Source.

Congrats buddy, very well done indeed!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Treating Sharks like Pests - Paper!

This is awesome.

In the past, I've not been kind to Steven Campana.
Back then he was working for Fisheries and Oceans Canada and was very much trotting the party line - voluntarily or more likely not.

And there has obviously been a remarkable evolution, as witnessed by his blistering attack on the unsustainable fishing practices in the North Atlantic and especially, on the responsible irresponsible transnational management agency ICCAT.
And yes thank you Japan!

Full paper here, synopsis here.
Required reading for everybody!

Reef Sharks prefer bite-size Meals!

Epic pic by Tom, from The World's Best Safety Stop on The Best Shark Dive in the World!

This is starting to get embarrassing.
From the press release,
"Although black-tip, white-tip and grey reef sharks have long been thought of as top predators, we found that the chemical structure of the sharks' body tissue actually matched closely with that of large reef fishes such as groupers, snappers and emperors,".

"This result tells us that reef sharks and large fishes have a similar diet, but they don't eat each other. So rather than eating big fish, reef sharks are eating like big fish."

"We now know that reef sharks are an important link in the food chain, but they are not the last link in the food chain. In most cases, the top predators are tiger sharks, hammerhead sharks, or people,"
Or as the paper states,
Assignment of species into discrete trophic groups is standard protocol in community ecology and has facilitated unique insights into ecosystem function and alternative management scenarios, which are ultimately used to guide policy decisions.
At present, reef sharks are typically assigned to the apex of food webs, but our results indicate that this practice misrepresents trophic structure among high TP species.

Hence, we advocate a reassignment of reef sharks to an alternative trophic group (such as high-level mesopredators) that better reflects trophic similarities between reef sharks and large predatory fishes. This change is expected to refine our understanding of how reef communities function, and ultimately, improve management of reef sharks.

If indeed reef sharks are high-level mesopredators, who then are the apex predators on coral reefs?
Given their superior size and ability to eat reef sharks, we hypothesise that the role of apex predator is fulfilled by large, roving sharks such as G. cuvier, C. obscurus, C. albimarginatus, N. acutidens and S. mokarran. And surely Bull Sharks - or not?

Although large roving sharks are seldom seen during visual surveys of coral reefs and thus are typically considered rare, their actual abundances may be much higher than currently believed, since they accounted for approx. 9 % of all sharks captured by long-lining at our study sites (excludes N. ferrugineus) and they comprise a high proportion of sightings by baited remote underwater videos on the GBR. Therefore, it is plausible that large roving sharks are present in sufficient numbers to potentially exert top-down control of reef sharks and other high-level mesopredators on coral reefs.

Removal of apex predators such as wolves, lions and dingoes can invoke trophic cascades due to release of numerous prey species and subsequent flow-on effects to lower trophic levels. 
However, trophic cascades induced solely by removal of reef sharks are rare, subtle and/or equivocal, implying that reef sharks have relatively weak effects on community structure and function. 

A potential explanation is that functional redundancy exists among large piscivores, such that equivalent species compensate for any loss of reef sharks and thus buffer potential trophic cascades. This hypothesis is supported by our results, which indicate that (1) reef sharks and large predatory fishes are functionally similar (based on equivalent mean TPs and overlapping isotopic niches, and (2) these two groups of predators are dietary generalists and potentially consume prey in proportion to availability, thereby compensating for loss of species-level interactions. 
It is also noteworthy that large predatory reef fishes are highly diverse (more than 20 species on the GBR) and probably encompass a broader range of trophic niches than those of the four species considered here. 
In view of these results, we contend that functional redundancy exists among large piscivores and is sufficiently high on the GBR to stabilize community structure despite moderate to high fishing pressure and depletion of reef sharks in some areas.

We conclude that large conspicuous predators, be they elasmobranchs or any other taxon, should not axiomatically be regarded as apex predators without thorough analysis of their diet. In the case of reef sharks, our dietary analyses suggest they should be reassigned to an alternative trophic group such as high-level mesopredators.
There you have it.
So let's please stop proffering the same old tired nonsense - it is false in its generalization and as such, it is nothing but bad conservation.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Mating Reef Mantas - Video!


This is great.
I've always wondered how the males manage to hold on to the female in order to get the necessary leverage for inserting the clasper, and here's the answer.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Best Surface Interval, ever!

Doesn't get much better than doing a dive on The Best Shark Dive in the World, only to then witness a totally dominant Fiji bag the country's first ever gold medals at the Rio Olympics Sevens Rugby tournament.
Thanks you Ian for preserving this special moment!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Scavenging by Tiger Sharks - Paper!

Click for detail!

Very nice!

Paper here, press release here.
That's quite a handful of prominent authors - but in essence, this is a re-interpretation of some of the data collected by Richard, Adam and Ian whilst on the venerable Undersea Explorer that have already led to this paper from 2012 I posted about here.

Which is why the authors stress that much of the above is speculation.
The experimental design was aimed at deciphering long-term movements, and the present fine-scale analysis is very much based on inference rather than actual scientific evidence; but having said that, Richard and Adam have logged hundreds of man hours at Raine, and tell me that actual predation events on healthy Turtles are very rare and tend to be confined to the start of the breeding season when there are less Turtles and the Tigers are just arriving hungry. On a busy year, Raine will yield up to 2,000 dead Turtles, meaning that after a while, the Tigers are more than sated and really could not care less about chasing after healthy Turtles.

Like I said, very nice - but now things are changing.
BHP the mining giant is giving a lot of money to the Raine Island Green Turtle Recovery Project, and the island is being made more Turtle-friendly by eliminating features that could kill them and by protecting the nests against inundation. This means that less turtles will have accidents, and that any distressed Turtle will be aided by the turtle lovers and consequently, adult Turtle mortality has already been reduced by 50%.

And the Tigers?
What happens at Raine is part of a system - and if you tinker at one end, it stands to reason that there will be consequences at the other.
Will the Sharks predate more on healthy individuals whilst expending more energy in the process - and if predation increases, will that have an effect on the behavior of the Turtles? Or will the Tiger Sharks gradually stop coming? And what are the effects of this diminishing resource on their population?

Here's what I think - and yes I'm totally speculating.
Research in Hawaii has shown that those Tiger Sharks are able to regularly exploit determined ephemeral resources, and our own observations at Shark Reef indicate the same for our Bulls at Shark Reef. In essence, one of those Sharks will stumbles upon an opportunity, is able to memorize the experience and will henceforth come back to exploit it. This is learned individual behavior, not something that is genetically encoded or communicated by conspecifics or the like.
At the same time, our observations and those of the GWS people indicate that individual Sharks will favor determined strategies, e.g. individual GWS will attack the teaser bait consistently in one determined way; and on Shark Reef where we have a hand feeding and a bin feeding tribe of Bulls with very little overlap, those specialized hand feeding Bulls will gradually stop visiting when we temporarily suspend hand feeding,

Could it be the same for Raine Island?
Could there be always the same Tigers, and could those individuals be specialized scavengers that would not switch to outright predation but instead, would eventually stop coming once there are not anymore enough carcasses to feed on? 
Dunno - but that's certainly testable, or not?

And another thought.
If one believes Domeier -and I certainly do- what happens at Guadalupe is essentially a GWS feeding and mating aggregation. Could the food pulse during the pupping season of the Northern Elephant Seals maybe even trigger mating, and could it be important for the success of the ensuing pregnancies?
And could what happens at Raine Island be the same, meaning that if the Shark aggregation slowly disperses, finding mates would become more difficult and reproduction success would be lower?

Questions questions!
Ain't science a wonderful thing! :)

Monday, August 08, 2016

New Fantail Ray!

And I cite,
Taeniura lessoni sp. nov. is the second species in a genus containing the widely-distributed T. lymma, which is possibly the most abundant stingray in shallow coral-reef habitats of the Indo–Pacific, with the new species apparently restricted to Melanesia. Taeniura lessoni sp. nov. is distinguishable by the absence of a distinctive pair of vivid blue longitudinal stripes on the dorsolateral edges of the tail which is one of the most distinctive features of T. lymma.
And here it is on Shark Reef - 03:17.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

The Art of Sustainable Lobster Fishing

This is great.
Story here - enjoy!

Reef Shark mediated Trophic Cascades? Not so fast!

Source - click for detail.

Bingo, and I cite,
Resident reef sharks do not sit atop the ecosystem like guardian angels; they dwell among the masses feeding on anything and everything they can.
They’re raccoons, not wolves.

On land, top predators like wolves prey upon large herbivores such as deer and elk, thereby protecting the grass and low-hanging trees from overgrazing. Such knock-on effects through an ecosystem are known as trophic cascades. In this case, those at the very bottom of the food chain—plants—are dependent on those at the top.

But of the 26 key species of sharks on coral reefs, only a few infrequent visitors—namely tiger sharks, bull sharks, and hammerheads—can be placed in the top tier of the food chain. “Shark” isn’t a blanket term for a huge voracious hunter, but a family of fish that encompasses a diversity of diets and lifestyles. The vast majority of species, such as whitetips and grey reef sharks, for example, are more akin to large-mouthed groupers and giant trevally—they are all mesopredators.
Remember this?
There it is suggested that only the adults of a few large-bodied Sharks with vast home ranges truly qualify as apex predators. The reef-associated species among them, like Tigers, Bulls and Great Hammerheads are however mere transients, which is why the evidence for (Reef-) shark-induced trophic cascades that benefit herbivorous fishes is weak or equivocal, or as this paper illustrates
In the absence of suitable long-term empirical studies, comparisons of the trophic structure between protected and fished sites can provide insight into the effects of shark removal on coral reefs. Theoretically, the loss of sharks would result in an increase in mesopredators, with cascading effects towards multiple prey at lower trophic levels. However, a critical evaluation of the available empirical studies finds weak evidence for shark-driven cascades.

Nearly all studies reported simultaneous declines across all trophic levels driven primarily by high levels of fishing pressure in populated and heavily fished locations (bingo again!).

Most studies focused on links between sharks and fish species at the base of the food chain: herbivores. This interest stems from the key ecological role herbivores provide on coral reefs, enhancing coral resilience by consuming fleshy macroalgae that outcompete corals for space. Theoretically, high shark abundance might lead to reduced mesopredator abundance and allow herbivorous fish to escape predation and become more abundant. However, empirical demonstration of trophic cascades involving sharks, mesopredators, and herbivores has proved elusive and nearly all studies find that reductions in shark densities occur in conjunction with reductions in mesopredators and herbivores .
Further, in regions where herbivores are not targeted for fisheries, higher densities of sharks inside marine reserves had no effect on the density or biomass of herbivorous fish.

While a recent study purports to show evidence of a shark-driven trophic cascade following catastrophic reef disturbance, no differences were found in the abundance of lower trophic groups (herbivores, corallivores, or planktivores) among fished and unfished atolls before disturbance, despite mesopredators being more abundant in areas where sharks were depleted by fishing
Increases in herbivore abundance in the area protected from shark fishing were observed only following cyclone disturbance, but the consequences of habitat damage confound interpretation. Because the cyclone caused loss of coral and a concomitant increase in algal resources, food limitation provides an alternative, and perhaps parsimonious, explanation for the positive response of herbivores rather than a shark-driven trophic cascade.
Alas, the last paragraph concerns this paper.
And despite Mark et al having mounted a vigorous rebuttal, I fear that upon reading the riposte by Roff, I remain equally unconvinced.
Alas - because I really liked that paper!

Long story short?
Nah I'm not gonna repeat myself like an old broken record - re-read it here!

Go Fiji Go!


The whole nation stands with the sevens team.
For the first time in nearly a century, Rugby Sevens is back in the Olympic Games; and with Fiji being the current, and repeat World Champions, they have a real chance of bringing back Fiji's first Olympic gold medal, ever.


Friday, August 05, 2016

Catch-and-Release fishing for Hammerheads - Reminder!


That last post has virtually exploded.

So as a reminder.
This was the post back then: in brief, once they've been dragged all the way to the shore, those Hammers will likely die.
And no there's really no room for interpretation here.

And here is the video.

Thursday, August 04, 2016


Remember this paper?

Here it is again in its entirety.
And here's the video from back then in 2002 featuring mon pote Eric
Crazy stuff - the event and the man.


Ils sont fous ces Gaulois!

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Killing Great Hammerheads in Florida!



Yup those motherfuckers are still at it.
So much for Heuter valiantly trying to talk some sense (and here) into the land-based Shark fishing community  after the latest batch of dead GHH did wash ashore. Despite of all the hypocritical admiration for the beautiful creatures, those morons continue to intentionally kill those endangered and protected Sharks by targeting, subduing and then dragging them ashore for trophy pictures.
And the FFWCC is hiding behind the letter of the law and doing nothing.

This has been going on for far too long, see here and here.
Obviously the shore anglers are not able, or willing to self regulate.
It's not a matter of whether the hooks are stainless or not, it's not about whether the Shark will be inconvenienced by having to drag around a line - that's just bullshit. By now, everybody and his dog knows that there is simply no way to safely release a Hammerhead from the beach as the stress from the protracted fight will kill it even if it swims away in seemingly good shape, and the shenanigans must stop. Forget the pseudo-scientific taking of measurements, the records and the pictures - the Sharks must be released immediately upon identification by cutting the damn line, and anglers posing with Hammers on the beach need to be sanctioned, period.
And if the law is insufficient to suitably protect the Sharks it was designed to protect, then it needs to be amended accordingly.

And shame on the press - when will you finally start doing some proper reporting! 

Over to you vociferous Floridian Shark lovers - stop raising awareness and dispelling myths, or whatever, and start doing!