Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Big Announcement!

Click for detail!

We got BIG NEWS!
Read this - see it at the very end?
We've finally moved into our very own custom-built premises on our very own little slice of paradise right next door to our previous location - yup, that would be those buildings with the blue roof, with more appearing as Google Earth gets updated!
The new dive shop is everything we've ever wished for, and then some - this very much inclusive of Tashi Blue's Fiji Shark Lab, this in large part courtesy of dozens upon dozens of proud shark parents who have made an adoption via Tashi's My Fiji Shark project. So thank you thank you thank you - hope you're as pleased as we are! 😊
Incidentally, she's currently hosting the coolest of shark dudes and doing some real cool shark stuff - but that's for her and not me to report!
But how, I hear you ask.
Yes the bloody pandemic has been hard hard hard - and that's a colossal understatement.
Plus, I posted that piece back in February 2021, with another ten dreadful months of zero income, personal tragedy and existential angst to go. 
But, we are resilient.
And more importantly, we do have a long proven track record of real and often pioneering conservation and research achievements and of global industry leadership, and have a reputation for getting things done on time and on budget - incidentally with zero per diems and zero time and money wasted on junkets, conferences and committees! 

And so it came to pass that we got a call by the United Nations.
And after many interminable months of meticulous scrutiny and mountains of paperwork, we were ultimately selected as Fiji's first recipient of a blended finance package under the Global Fund for Coral Reefs!
Hardest thing I've ever done - and trust me, I've done a few. 
But do it we did.

Anyway, we've since been exceptionally busy.
Apart from the rather nightmarish building project, and trying to rebuild our business, our main focus has been to properly document and then try to counter and possibly even reverse the extraordinary damage to our fish populations from all the overfishing and poaching during the Covid emergency.
What's already clear is that it ain't gonna be easy.
We've conducted several scientific surveys (thank you PADI for the co-sponsorship!) that have confirmed our worst fears insofar as it looks like our coast including the SRMR has been pretty much completely stripped of all prized fish. This has been compounded by the last government's tragic decision to reverse the fishing ban on our grouper aggregations, and by several large-scale coral bleaching events owing to an unprecedented triple-dip La Niña.
The sharks are largely OK - but our big groupers, jacks, snappers, sweetlips, emperors, parrots and surgeonfishes etc are all missing in action.

We've embarked on a series of community consultations paired with an aggressive series of day- and nighttime poaching patrols in cooperation with Fisheries and the Navy, and poaching has decreased substantially. 
But this may merely be a reflection of the fact that there's nothing left to poach. 
Plus, this is unlikely to ever go completely away as some of the people who have become poachers when they lost their job during the pandemic are not going back and will continue to ply their infamous trade, the more since as stocks continue to decrease, the prices of fish continue to increase.
And finally, only time will tell whether the professed commitment to sustainability of our newly elected government is truly genuine - so fingers crossed.
PS: so far so good = excellent decision, and looking forward to helping enforce it! 
Conversely, this sucks big time the more as zero of it is based on science - and unsurprisingly, the reefs are already crawling with sea cucumber harvesters that will quickly drive stocks back down into oblivion. So sad!

But even in the best of cases, fixing this mess will take time.
We're assisting where we can, by running the patrols but also by e.g. establishing a nursery of selected heat-tolerant corals in order to restock the reef. And we will also reseed the reef with giant clams, mainly T. derasa and squamosa, and even a few gigas, all courtesy of the hatchery on Makogai.
But reestablishing our fish populations will be a huge challenge and require constant vigilance and above all, lots of patience as biological processes are slow - and having obliterated generations of pregnant groupers sure ain't helping.
Anyway, we're on it, and cautiously optimistic.

And finally, on a personal note.
If the pandemic has taught me a lesson, it was the value of going back to basics = a simple, harmonious, personally fulfilling life with a few really good people and a modicum of happiness. And obviously, great cheese!
And in that light, spending all my time and energy on public shark advocacy just doesn't cut it anymore. And don't get me going on those ever-increasing hordes of instagramming self-promoting pathetic shark people (and THIS!) - that, too is not going away but getting worse by the day.
Seriously, check out the link - what a bunch of losers!
Long story short, I'm done with this.
I'm retiring! Again! 
And lemme tell you: what a bloody relief!
It's now a full 20 years since I've left the stellar career and posh life to come to Fiji  and devote my life to shark research and conservation, and it's past time for me to pass on the baton. 
And I could not ask for better successors: our team is the best we've ever had, and Andrew and Tashi Blue are young, smart, energized, enthused and phenomenally capable, and will carry the torch, fight the good fight and continue to make us incredibly proud in the process.

So here's to freedom!
I still have ONE big unfinished project which I will continue to personally curate lest I get too bored - but other than that, I am officially embarking on a strict regimen of personal shark dives and dolce far niente!  
And obviously, great cheese!

To the many who have helped - Thank You.
To our detractors, all is forgiven - NOT!  Drop dead!

Ciao ciao - see you in the water!


The Sharkman said...

Hello my dear friend.

I have just read the above and would like to wish you a happy "retirement" and many great fun dives.

I also want to thank you for all the work that you have done (and am sure you will keep doing in your "retirement") for the conservation and protection of not only the sharks, but also the reefs, the ocean, the mangroves...... etc etc...

Finally I want to thank you for all the help and support that you have given me over the past years. The time we shared together above and below the surface will always be the best moments of my life.

Thank you and God bless you my friend.

DaShark said...

Thank you Alex

You of all people really got nothing to thank me for.

Elena Salim Haubold said...

Hola Mike,

Congrats on the new dive shop and on the new BAD projects! I am very happy for you guys :)

Also, thank you so much once again for everything! You don't only help sharks and their habitat, but also lots of people. You made me change my mind about many things that are still shaping my whole path in life, and I will always be grateful for that. Dan and I wish you a very happy retirement and we hope to see you soon!

Un abrazooo y ¡a comer mucho queso!

La remora

DaShark said...


Pero, se necesitan dos para bailar un tango = ¡siempre has sido excepcionalmente perspicaz!

¡Abrazos de vuelta!

Lindsay L. Graff said...

It's only fitting that BAD have a new dive shop/lab that is just as beautiful and sparkling as all of you, and poetically reflective of SRMR's bright future- a huge congratulations to you all! Mike, there will never be the right words to thank you for creating and fostering this wonderful BAD community, and for devoting so much of your life to protecting the gem that is Shark Reef Marine Reserve. You've established a home that brings together people from all over the world who share the common desire to aid with and appreciate shark conservation, while also teaching them about Fiji and celebrating its rich culture. I think it would be impossible to try and calculate just how many people have fallen in love with sharks on one of your dives, along with the positive impacts that it has had on their futures and careers. The naming of "Lindsay" the bull shark, by you and Rusi, will always be one of my highlights within my life. Us, lucky ones, know that you have the biggest heart, but we promise to help you keep up that tough facade- even during retirement : )

Hope to see you all and SRMR next year,

DaShark said...

There goes the reputation... :)

Thanks Lindsay!

(oh, and Lindsay was on the dive yesterday - big, badass and ominous as usual!)

Shark Diver said...

Alles Gute für Deine Pensionierung!

I hope to come to Fiji soon and dive with your sharks

All the best my friend!


DaShark said...

Merci Dir ou Martin - s'isch ja alles ziemli graesslich! :(

Yes please do come.
We've not forgotten that when the shit hit the fan, you were one of a only handful who did not only talk but actually sent some money and helped us survive.

Thank you!

Ian Campbell said...

Hey there Michael.

I can't believe it's been nearly 5 years since my last dive at Shark Reef, possibly my favourite place in the entire world with many phenomenal memories, and a place where I met some of the greatest shark researchers and conservationists on the planet. I thought I'd check out to see if there was any new blog as I am currently composing an email to you about a trip to Fiji in the not too distant future, and bloody hell, a retirement post embedded in an update on a new lab that was something you spoke about in 2015. Congratulations amigo, "BAD - getting shit done since since '04".

I want to publicly thank you for everything you have done and contributed to for shark science and conservation over the years, you have definitely left a legacy you can be proud of, even if I am sure I carried you on my shoulders between 2013 - 18 ;).

All things going well, I will be back for another dive at SR early 2014 (I'll contact Andrew for details), and I also have an other offer that I am sure you will turn down.

Hope to catch up soon. Wasabi tuna pizzas are on me.

DaShark said...

Thanks buddy, appreciate!

We now got a new Korean outfit that serves pizzas - so maybe we could even improve the original delicious wasabiness by adding a generous dollop of extra-garlicky kimchi, how about that!

Cya soon!