Friday, March 31, 2017

TGIF - epic Video!

Story here.
Watch in 4k - enjoy!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Maya - Fiji Finale!


This gal will go places!
Highlights from my unofficial last dives as the 2016 Australasian Scholar.
Thanks to the new moon weather gods finally pulling through for us with good vis, no current and plenty of sharks. Amongst the mesmerising chaos of nearly 40 big bulls swimming overhead, I looked across the reef to catch Valerie "The Taylor" give me an adorable excited little wave.
I really could not have asked for a better, sharkier finale.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Florida - targeting protected Species?

Read this.
These are the rules governing fishing for Elasmobranchs in Florida. There is a list of protected species that may neither be harvested nor landed but must instead be immediately returned to the water free, alive, and unharmed, see under Definitions, (3).  
Here are some additional recommendations for catch-and-release fishing that latest since 2014 have been shown to be woefully inadequate for Great Hammerheads that are likely to die even when they appear to swim away in seemingly good shape - especially when they are caught from land where dragging them ashore requires particularly brutal handling.
And these are the regs for the protected Goliath Grouper.

So how about the picture at the top.
Or this one

I got this 13'6 hammer with a few friends of mine a couple of nights ago. Many more to come!

Or this one

I hate these things so freaking much

Yes these pics would be the dude from that recent video.
Like those morons targeting Sawfish, he and his friends are deliberately targeting protected species. This is his Instagram account - pictures here, here and here, more endangered and protected GHH e.g. here and here, total abomination here. Here are more horrible pictures. And here is his Facebook account.

And the FWC that should be enforcing the law?
I know for a fact that they've been alerted to the shenanigans, and this several times - and so far, nada de nada, zilch, bubkes!
Like I asked back then, is this because a) this is legal - and then the law or its interpretation are failing their purpose and need to be amended; or b) it is illegal but the FWC doesn't give a shit - and then those people need to be held accountable.

So what is it gonna be.
Are you Shark folks down there gonna continue to play at conservation by going out and molesting some more Lemons and Tigers - or are you finally going to actually do something and actually save a few endangered animals by getting off your arses and having the FWC put an end to the appalling shenanigans by that dude and his friends?
And since we're at it: is Mote still complicit in this shit?

The world is watching!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Great People!

Valerie, the indefatigable Jayne, Maya the scholar, Gauthier, some BAD boyz, and friends - click for detail!

We're having a great time.
And yes, at over 80, Valerie still dives with big Sharks and is as badass as ever!

Need I say more.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Florida: more dead Great Hammerheads!

Same shit from Australia - and repeated journalistic fail by Strege. Source.

Remember this post?
20k views and 3.4k likes later, we get this - story here.

And you local Shark lovers?
Am I really to believe that you're ultimately nothing but big fucking talk but zero action?

The world is watching!

PS: MPO here - could not agree more!
And the little yapping Schmock? If this was legal because the Shark wasn't landed, then get off your fucking ass and work on changing the law, or its interpretation!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

No more Galapusky - Paper!

Or is it, Duskapagos?

Anyway, check this out.
I was sent to me by the Saffron Pimpernel under the heading of mumbo jumbo - and for a genetic ignoramus like me, it sure very much is! 
But having double checked with my trusted geneticist, she confirms that Gavin and Will's putative lumping of the Dusky and the Galapagos is no more, meaning that the two species continue to be valid.

Likely not a Dusky (see the map at the top) but a Silky like first assumed!
Ain't taxonomy fun - and it's so easy, too!:)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Florida - GHH vs Blacktips!

GHHs are hunters of Elasmobranchs - source.

Great stuff - story here!
Watch in HD, and enjoy!


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Saturday, March 18, 2017

BRAT - not a Brat anymore!


This is BRAT, and at close to 5m, she's now a serious Shark.
Of interest, on top of all those big Shark Suckers, she sports a small white Remora (possibly R. brachyptera *) that you can discern on her chin as she comes in and next to her gills as she swims away.
Kudos to Tumbee for this great circular feed and to the staff for having beautifully contained the Shark's rather epic exuberance.
* Having observed her swimming into BRAT's gill chamber, I now tend towards R. albescens.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Nassau Grouper Spawning Aggregation - 360 Video!

Simply amazing picture! Source - read it! 

This is great - story here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Reefies and SCUBA Divers - Paper!

Grey Reefies in Palmyra - source.


Reefies and divers can co-exist!
Darcy and Yannis aka the intrepid slayers of the inverted pyramid myth have penned this nice paper where they show that frequent SCUBA diving does not appear to have any notable long-term effects on the behavior of the Reefies of Palmyra. I must say that I'm frankly not terribly surprised considering that a) particularly the Grey Reefies are feisty and generally show no problem approaching divers - this especially considering that b) those divers in Palmyra are mostly researchers who tend to behave themselves!
But nicely hypothesized and nicely tested!

And this is certainly true elsewhere and with other Sharks!
Like a very wise old man once said, it's not WHAT you do, it's HOW you do it! -  and provided that there's not too many divers, and provided that the divers behave in a respectful way, regular diving with Sharks in un-baited conditions is certainly possible, to wit those Shark aggregation hotspots like e.g. Cocos, the Galapagos, Tetamanu and Malapascua where the Sharks appear largely unfazed, or even, gasp, habituated to divers thanks to many years of responsible Shark viewing tourism!

But the contrary is also true. 
Cattle diving multi-user destinations like Ras Mohammad in Egypt or Richelieu Rock in Thailand that were once famous for their Shark encounters have largely lost their Sharks, and it is only fair to speculate that those Sharks have likely fled the masses and the continuous harassment and have relocated to more peaceful locations.

So folks, be nice to those Sharks, and enjoy!
And, do read the paper - story here!

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Biopixel - slo-mo Showreel!

This is epic as always.
Watch in 1080 - enjoy!

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Honoring the Fish Geeks!

Jack, with Helen, at the  Darwin Award ceremony.


This is my pal Richard, he of Tourette's.
I've blogged about him before and was particularly happy to discover this excellent tribute. No he really ain't a mere naturalist but is instead one of today's preeminent fish taxonomists and marine conservationists - but other than that, very fitting and certainly long overdue!

And then there's his mentor Jack, equally a friend.
Yes it's somewhat old and I should have really posted it earlier - still, bravo Christie Wilcox for this wonderful profile honoring the greatest living Ichthyologist and one of the humblest, most accessible and funniest people around. Of interest, the mentioned idiopathic neuropathy is likely due to Jack's long-term exposure to rotenone and not a late upshot of his many decompression accidents like we all thought.

But I'm digressing as usual.
Required reading - enjoy!

Monday, March 06, 2017

Are we killing them with Kindness?

No we are certainly NOT!

Check this out.
I would have never thought that I would have to say this about a paper co-authored by Juerg and Adam, ever - but I find it pretty much shite, and pretty useless to boot. Alas!
To me it smells like some student needed some grades and was told to compile some lists - and like many such meta-analyses, the result is everything and nothing, however very unfortunately with a subliminal anti-industry message at its core, as very much evidenced by the stupid title.
Mind you, methinks that had it not been for my friends, it would have been even worse; plus, there is nothing inherently inaccurate about its findings, and the recommendations are probably formally correct - but it still annoys the heck out of me.

But maybe it's just me.
Thing is, it fatally reminds me of the overwhelming hostility displayed by most researchers and NGOs when we embarked into the Fiji Shark Project 13 years ago.
There was no specific criticism - just a widespread aversion against messing with nature, something that has continued hounding us til today whereby some quarters continue to try and nitpick on what we do despite of the clear benefits the SRMR has brought to Fiji and its Sharks.
Yes of course any wildlife tourism will have an effect (dooh!), and of course those effects need to be analyzed and mitigated which is precisely what we've been doing and also blogging about (yup those would be 100+ posts, and counting!) for years - but to even hint that we may be the problem is just simply unconscionable.
Who is killing them are first and foremost the fishermen and hunters, and the people who destroy and pollute their habitat, and humankind that emits too much CO2 etc etc - and far from being complicit, marine ecotourism is one of the factors that is counteracting that unholy trend and slowing down the biodiversity loss by creating alternative income and employment opportunities, and by instilling a sense of awe and love in the public!
Or am I missing something here?

Which brings me straight over to this opus - press release here.
First and foremost, it's always nice to see one's work being publicly acknowledged along with the honorable mention of the GFSC; also, being one of the (recalcitrant) industry representatives who have been consulted, I'm partially responsible for the final product.

This has been in the making for a very long time indeed.
I did blog about it here and very much stand by what I said then, i.e.
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!
So how does this rate by those metrics?
I can say that it is much improved compared to its initial versions where there clearly was a don't mess with nature undertone as per the above, and where the overall gist was much more geared towards the need for regulation (re-read this!).
I can also say that I did submit it for review to GSD and got back a polite average score of 7 out of 10 - but I can also equally unequivocally state that nobody was highly impressed let alone enthused, and that most certainly none of us is now gonna run and follow the suggestions to e.g. (re)define his business core values or get certified by some tree-hugging agency, or the like.

And on a more personal note.
Despite of clear improvements, Tool 7 remains highly irritating because of its largely negative bias.  Precautionary approach my ass! And, we have actually chosen (!) to hand feed as provided that it is done responsibly, we find it highly selective and actually safer than the alternatives. And no, we're absolutely not gonna change our feeding times = opening hours on a daily basis - I mean, seriously!
And then I find other stupidities like e.g. that fucking flash photography ban which is apparently vital when snorkeling with Whale Sharks but not with equally surface-dwelling Mantas and Baskers, or when cage diving with GWS - let alone with the other Sharks at depth whose pupils will be comparatively more distended????!

But now it's me nitpicking.
Overall the guide is quite nice - and nicely presented which will make the donors happy! :)

Long story short?

A. Although this is well meaning and certainly not terrible, the Best Practice Guide is also not great.
With that in mind, I very much doubt that there will be the abovementioned substantial industry buy-in, the more as I don't see any mechanism for encouraging adherence e.g. via an own rating system or failing that, by using one's outreach to strongly endorse and promote Rick's SSD. Yes Project AWARE I'm looking at you!
The good ones among us don't need your help but very much conduct their own research as evidenced by the bylaws of GSD whereby research is a precondition for membership; and failing some form of gentle coercion (and again, I'm looking at you PADI!), the bad operators will simply refuse to cooperate as e.g. already evidenced by their obvious boycott of SSD.
All of which obviously begs the question, cui bono = and could those resources have been invested into something more useful?

B. We are not the problem.
Instead, even the worst ones among us are a part of the solution, see above! But yes we always need to learn, evolve and improve - and this ideally via self regulation. And if not, then regulation is certainly both opportune and necessary!

C. When it comes to the whole fucking never-ending controversy about provisioning.
People who feed and condition Sharks are called fishermen - not a few dive operators! And anyway, this is one of the safest underwater activities by far = with one single fatality during thousands upon thousands of baited dives, it is orders of magnitude safer than ordinary SCUBA!
Yes there are effects on the animals, the principal one being conditioning - but they are largely short-term, localized and sublethal, and in no way comparable to the threats Sharks face otherwise! But yes there too we need to minimize our impact - and guess what, most of us largely do!

D. And finally, to those researchers and NGOs.
We did not ask for this - and all this incessant nagging and lecturing by people who ultimately have no clue about, and zero investment into our industry is frankly becoming terminally irksome. There is now a whole cabal of incidentally mainly female researchers whose academic niche (and thus career and thus income) is predicated upon being considered ecotourism experts, or whatever, and who appear to be operating with questionable agendas and also appear to desperately want to meddle instead of waiting to be asked.

When it comes to the global Shark diving industry in general, there are now one excellent paper and one good one (both, incidentally, by experienced Shark divers!) and several that are not, see e.g. here and also here, with links.

And now there is this.
That's plenty enough, thank you very much.
And now, please, why don't you just fuck off - because we actually got work to do, salaries to pay and tourists to wow!
No hard feelings, love you all! :)

Saturday, March 04, 2017

A Shark Cull in Reunion?

Spoiler: not quite yet!

I'm sure you've seen the news - if not, read this.
Kelly Slater had an emotional outburst, and the usual dipshits with an opinion and a keyboard have gone ballistic as they always do.
A prominent researcher writes - and no, no names but you'd be gobsmacked if I told you who she is!
This week Kelly Slater (surfer) posted on instagram that he thinks Reunion should implement a cull so that it is safe to go in the water again. As expected, he took some heavy hits from a lot of people for saying that.
And then this article comes out.

I'm starting to get a bit cranky on how "science" is used to beat down anyone that suggests a shark cull. Over and over "experts" and "science" are cited to drive home the argument that culls don't work...scientists have proven them not to work. 

I have to call BS on that. 
No one has ever done a controlled study to determine if culls work/don't work. And even if they did, each species and location are different. And then you have the hypocrisy of the shark conservation community always screaming about the 100-200 million sharks killed per year and that they are all going to die (and the oceans are going to die and we will die). If it is impossible for culling (fishing) to decrease shark attacks, then how is it possible for overfishing to bring down shark populations?

It's very easy for people who don't live in an area with shark problems, or don't ever go into the ocean, to scream and yell that sharks live in the ocean and it is not "our" place to attempt to manage them. Of course they are typing this from a comfortable human dwelling that required the killing of a terrestrial community that lived where their house now sits!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating managers to start putting culls in their toolbox...I just don't like the misleading rhetoric. At a place like Reunion, I think it is none of my business if the local authorities decided to try to reduce the bull shark population. It is their economy and quality of life that is suffering, not mine. It's their decision.
And...if they decided to do it, I personally believe it would work.

I almost wrote a piece about this, but thought maybe venting here first will keep me from committing professional suicide! 
Bingo - totally agree, see here and generally, here!
The good news being that Reunion Island's Shark attack mitigation measures appear to be holding (= the attack happened on a closed beach) and that the authorities are not advocating any cull - for now!

Anyway, this is not what riles me.
What does, is that like the lady above, an increasing number of researchers are voluntarily muzzling themselves for fear of incurring the wrath of the wailing Shark conservation hyenas.
This is especially evident in Australia where those Shark attacks are happening at the intersection of there being ever more aquatic recreationists but also more large GWS due to the successful protection of both the Sharks and their prey. Same-same for the US East Coast where IMO a fatal attack is all-but-inevitable - yet in both locations, the GWS researchers are treading very lightly indeed, lest the unwashed masses accuse them of being Shark haters, or whatever.

I say, this is not going away but will escalate instead.
And unless we allow the researchers to do their job and analyze, and then properly describe ALL aspects of the problem and explore ALL possible solutions, the strikes will continue to happen - and if so, the culling will eventually resume everywhere.

Is that what we want?

PS - not bad at all!