Monday, August 31, 2009

Hawaii - the Choice

Gene Ward has a choice.

He has been handed what is effectively a political slam-dunk.
He could step up and declare that his efforts have yielded the following results
  • The Law will be respected, as the Shark tour operators have agreed to abide by the Shark feeding ban and to facilitate its enforcement
  • The Shark tour Industry and millions in tourism income have been saved
  • A protracted and embarrassing fight that would tarnish the image of Hawaii has been averted
all of which would dovetail beautifully with the pragmatic, pro-business agenda of the GOP, and his personal involvement in the Small Business Caucus and Council.

Or, he could continue to allow other people to set the tone.
People like Fish killer and Shark hater Makani Christensen and the infamous Shark Task Force.
And people like this.

Did you hear that? From a state official?
In case you missed it, he has the chuzpah to pontificate about the "Ecological Impact" of Shark feeding!
His "concern" is "what does that (i.e. the feeding of Sharks) do to their population and what does that do to the parts of the ecosystem that they are supposed to be having an influence on".
The token expert, Mr. "no PhD" George Burgess trumpets into the same horn: "A third concern has been raised by environmentalists – how does daily shark feedings affect the ecological balance of Hawaiian waters? George Burgess, shark researcher at the University of Florida, ... fears that the feedings may attract so many sharks to those spots that sharks become scarce in other regions. This is naturally a large problem, since sharks are apex predators necessary for the overall balance of the ecosystems in which they exist."

Beg your pardon???
That's just stupid and hypocritical demagogy.
Here they go and whinge about an ecological non-event whilst ignoring the obvious Big Gorilla in the room, the wanton killing of Sharks by the commercial guys and the game fishermen.
That, and not two small Shark viewing operations, is what is depleting Shark populations and ultimately leading to the demise of Hawaii's reefs!

It's high time Mr. Honebrink started acting in line with the mission statement of the DLNR and made some real contribution towards "Enhancing, protecting, conserving and managing Hawaii’s unique and limited natural, cultural and historic resources held in public trust for current and future generations of visitors and the people of Hawaii nei in partnership with others from the public and private sectors."
That would also include taking on board the conclusions by the Meyer paper and stopping to stoke fears with populist and irrational arguments that have been amply disproved by scientific research!
And No, that paper has NOT been funded by the Shark viewing operators!
Guys, this is science, not politics!

But don't just trust me, an incendiary Industry insider.

Here's what a real Hawaiian got to say about this issue.
He's rightfully concerned about being attacked by the anti-Shark lynch mob and has asked me not to divulge his name. All I can tell you is that he's not in any way linked to the Industry and that he is highly respected and prominent!
This is part of a longer document applying "smell tests" to the various arguments thrown out by the anti-Industry propaganda - and yes, they stink!

BAN LOGIC #3: Shark tourism dangerously upsets the ecology of the ocean by changing the natural behavior of sharks.

: Sharks are undoubtedly vital to ocean ecology because of their role as apex predators. Because of their slow reproductive rates, sharks are not able to withstand any significant fishing effort. Shark populations in Hawaii, like shark populations around the world, appear to be declining.
  • In order to preserve the ocean ecosystem has this legislative body banned shark fishing?
  • Has it banned the sale and trans-shipment of sharks and shark products, such as fins?
  • Has it supported and promoted the Shark-Free Marinas Initiative?
  • Can this government body produce studies indicating that giving sharks small amounts of food disrupts their function as apex predators to a greater extent than does killing them?
SMELL TEST B: What has this government body done to address the major causes of marine ecosystem decline, including overfishing, overharvesting of marine ornamentals, terrestrial runoff, inadequate or nonexistent sewage treatment, overdevelopment of coastal areas, introduction and proliferation of exotic organisms, and overpopulation?

SMELL TEST C: Feeding of any wild or feral animal can be presumed to alter the functioning of the ecosystem in which that organism operates.
  • Has this government body banned bird feeders?
  • Has it banned the feeding of feral cats and turkeys?
  • Are laws and regulations that affect these activities enforced?
SMELL TEST D: While any effect on ocean ecology from the provisioning in small quantities of sharks is speculative, massive damage to terrestrial environments and to populations of endemic species has been demonstrated as a result of the introduction of pigs, goats, mongoose, and other terrestrial animals. These three organisms have been shown to be responsible for the extinction of numerous endemic animals and plants.
  • What has this government body done to effect the eradication of these proven damaging species?
SMELL TEST E: At various sites around Hawaii, people are feeding honu, or green sea turtles. In some cases, they are being fed fish, which is an unnatural food for these vegetarian creatures. In some cases they are being fed in marinas where the feeding attracts them into active boat channels and into areas frequented by tiger sharks, which feed on sea turtles. The turtles sometimes bite the hand that feeds them, resulting in some injuries.

are a prominent amaukua. It would seem that this activity combines a disrespect of Hawaiian culture and religion, a public safety hazard, presumed harm to the organism being fed, and presumed harm to the functioning of the natural ecosystem.
  • Have there been any hearings on this topic, proposed legislation by the bodies considering the shark tour ban, or action to enforce provisions of the Endangered Species Act that prohibit such activities?
ANTI-BAN LOGIC: The proposed shark tour bans are a non-logical response to a visceral fear of sharks induced largely by media hype, such as the programming on Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.
This is hysteria, and not good governance, as shown by the fact that the proposed bans affect only shark tours, and no similar activities.

Gene Ward would be well served in re-considering his associations.
Yes, I'm repeating myself!

Friday, August 28, 2009


Yes Andrew is disgusted!

There's days when I despair.

Like today.
I discovered a veritable cheesemaking masterpiece in a local supermarket.
The iconic Caprice des Dieux is a recipient of the coveted Golden Cup of the Bon Goût Français and and a global ambassador of Gallic savoir vivre. To stumble upon such a treasure in Suva, Fiji can only be called miraculous. Never did an exiled gourmet exclaim Hēurēka (literally!) with more joy, gratitude and fervor!

Life in the islands quickly teaches you that when presented with such serendipitous and unique opportunities, one has to act decisively.
I cleaned out the whole stash.

I also decided to share this epicurean trouvaille with a good friend.
Well, I guess one could say that no good deed goes unpunished.

Enter Gary Adkison.
Gary is like a brother and in many ways, one of my heroes.
He also happens to be the object of an idealistic, and i now realize, hopelessly naive long-term rehabilitation (or should I say: habilitation?) project by Juerg and myself aimed at exorcising him from his fatal addiction to American junk food.

An initial shock therapy in Florida ended in a spectacular failure.
Equally spectacular were the results of a subsequent detoxification program where we availed ourselves of the complicity of his loving and endlessly patient wife Brenda. As time went by, she managed to gradually habituate him to periodic ingestions of unpatriotic fare like Weisswurst and Gravlax. A particularly promising milestone was reached as recently as August 2 when he managed to imbibe, and then pronounce Château Margaux without biting his tongue.

Upon his arrival in Fiji, we sequestered him in Andrew's house and kept him on a strict and wholesome diet of local delicacies like dhal soup, kokoda, dalo and tavioka from the lovo and above all, yaqona and Vegemite sandwiches. His habitus quickly improved to that of a happy, albeit marginally rubicund Hulkster lookalike.

Looks like we overlooked a jar of contraband chunky peanut butter.

Yes, you better believe it: that would be a peanut butter - Caprice des Dieux sandwich!
The sacrilege has been reported to the Quai d'Orsay and sources within the DGSE confirm that should he ever have the audacity to set foot onto French soil, he will will be apprehended and marched straight over to the next available, and preferably rusty guillotine.

Oh well.
Love'ya big mon!

Great Piece!

I wish I were a Sand Tiger called Maxine!

Lesley Rochat is obviously as smart and passionate as she is pretty!
Story here.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hawaii - It's the Economy, Stupid!

Not the only tourist attraction in Hawaii!

I've clearly retracted way too much.

As a consequence, I've deleted some important facts about the situation in Hawaii, the first one being this.

Kudos to Patric!
Contrary to yours truly and all the others who bitched and moaned but essentially did nothing, he took it onto himself to buy a plane ticket and personally go and try to mediate in a situation where the positions appeared to be completely irreconcilable.

Instead, he has managed to organize a meeting between the two Shark viewing operations and the rep. Gene Ward.
An understanding has been reached whereby the operators will desist from any chumming, baiting and feeding whereby Ward will refrain from any more attempts at shutting them down but limit his efforts to ensuring that the Shark feeding ban is being enforced.

Patric went to Hawaii because he's a good man - full stop.
Those who already whisper that he may just be pursuing some sinister self promoting agenda really ought to wash their mouths with carbolic soap and examine their own contribution in this matter!

But I'm digressing as usual.
Hopefully, everybody concerned will now stick to the script.
If so, the issue of enforcing the Law and curbing any Shark feeding is resolved and the impending legislative process just the final rubber stamping of facts that have already been created on the ground.
Yes, by all means, including installing surveillance video on the Shark tour boats!

What then remains is one thing, and one thing only: saving jobs and millions in tourism income.


The number of visitors arriving in Hawaii by air in October with the percentage change from the same month last year:

Domestic 190,215 -15.9%
International 122,923 -8.9%
Total 493,506 -13.5%
Overall total * 511,518 -13.5%

By Island
Oahu 313,138 -13.3%
Kauai 75,119 -25.9%
Lanai 6,404 -29.7%
Maui 147,977 -20.5%
Molokai 4,672 -35.9%
Big Island 96,366 -19.7%

* Includes passengers arriving by ship
Source: Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism

This is the backdrop against which the Shark Task Force is rallying a lynch mob in the attempt to close down two thriving tourism businesses and preventing 40,000 annual tourists from enjoying looking at Sharks - on snorkel, 3 miles offshore and from the perfect safety of a cage.

How much would each of those persons contribute to Hawaii's ailing economy - in airfares, accommodation, meals, shopping, tours, shows?
Two thousand dollars? Three thousand? More?
You do the math.

Yes that's somewhere between 40 and 80 million bucks in Tourism revenues!

I'm sure Gene Ward understands the implications.

A Postcard from Malta!

The Sharkman has just uploaded some footage from Fiji.

Ratu Tolu, Bum and Kinky however object: nobody likes to be made to look fat, especially not when already being pregnant like the latter two! Yes this is widescreen footage that has been compressed into "normal" aspect ratio during the uploading process!

Anyway, to us, it remains endearing.
It shows some typical scenes of what we do, including a funny little take of a greedy and inexperienced teenager barging in ahead of a biggie and ending up with a mouthful of coral rock in the process.

And the photographer who was allowed into the pit and captured the shot of a lifetime? None other than our good friend Klaus!
May the Gods of Fujichrome processing be clement!


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gene Ward - call back the Hound Dogs!

A day's catch in Hawaii. No effect on Shark behavior? Not a public hazard? And the Ecosystem?

You may have noticed that I've retracted a recent series of posts about the situation in Hawaii.

I did so after Patric from Shark Divers traveled to the islands and met with the two local Shark operators and the representative Gene Ward.
Ward is spearheading a populist movement aimed at shutting down the Shark tours but on that meeting, he assured everybody that he was not anti-business but merely wanted to enforce the law that prohibits Shark feeding in state and federal waters.

The Shark operators have no problem with not feeding the Sharks.
The Shark populations they visit on their tours three miles off the coast are resident Galapagos and Sandbar Sharks that aggregate there in response to the activities of crab fishermen. Whether anybody feeds them or not, that's where they now live - and not on the coast where all Shark attacks in Hawaii have occurred, incidentally NOT perpetrated by those species.

Since everybody involved in that private meeting seemed to agree on the way forward, I decided to facilitate the upcoming town hall meeting by desisting from any more "inflammatory" comments. I've watched a (painfully boring - the things one ends up doing for the "cause"...) video of the meeting and true to his word, Ward has kept most of his comments centered on the issue of legality.
The law of course is bad and based on faulty assumptions
- but I guess that's another fight for another day.

So far so good.
What is not good are Ward's attack dog Makani Christensen and their Shark Task Force, a recent re-enactment of the venerable State of Hawaii Shark Task Force. Contrary to their predecessor that united community leaders, scientists, government officials and other stakeholders, this is a pure Shark hate group.
They are aligned with safewatersforhawaii a local clone of the infamous anti-Industry CDNN (compare the "Myth vs Truth" section!) and stopsharkfeedinginhawaii and have literally thrown the kitchen sink at anything and anybody related to Shark viewing - from stoking fears that Shark viewing might lead to more Shark attacks, to "concerns" about the likely effects on the Sharks and the ecosystem (George Burgess - shame on you!), to claiming that it violates the sensitivity of native Hawaiians.

All of the above is of course rubbish (was that "inflammatory"?) and I shall be posting a series of excerpts from a document by a wise, and anonymous (which proves that he's wise!) Hawaiian debunking them in non-inflammatory lingo.

For the time being, read this.
It's an eye witness account I received one week ago by "somebody" spearfishing on one of the Hawaiian islands.

XXX and I went snorkeling, and he was free-diving down to the bottom (~50 feet) to spear various fishes.

XXX is an incredible free-diver -- he casually drops down to 50 feet, stalks the fish for a while, then usually nails his target perfectly with a 3-prong spear. Anyway, on one dive down, he and I both saw a 4-foot white-tip shark swimming by, and neither of us gave it much concern.
But then I saw a good-sized grey-reef shark come up from behind a rock where XXX couldn't see it. I was up at the surface, holding a mesh bag with all the bleeding/dying/thrashing fish . The shark circled around the rock and came up behind XXX, just inches above his right shoulder.

I saw XXX taking aim at a Uhu, and I yelled at him through my snorkel, "Don't shoot! Don't shoot!".
He didn't see the shark right behind him, so when he heard me yelling, he thought I was saying "Uhu! Uhu!", like I was cheering him on. So he shot the Uhu and the shark went nuts (the white-tip had left -- only the grey-reef was still there).
It bolted around in front of XXX where the thrashing uhu was at the end of XXXs spear. I thought for sure XXX would see the shark at that point, but apparently he somehow missed it, because he casually swung the spear around bringing the fish to his chest, so he could hold on to it while he swam back up to the surface.

The shark was thrashing around back where XXX had shot the Uhu, then started following up the blood trail right behind XXXs fins.
As he was kicking upward, the tips of his fins were almost smacking the shark in the face. I kept yelling "XXX! XXX! Shark! Shark!", but he didn't seem to notice.
Finally, when he was abould half-way up, he looked at me and I pointed vigorously behind him. He turned *just* in time to kick the shark off as it was charging him from behind. XXX kept kicking it off all the way to the surface, bringing himself, the speared Uhu, and the shark up to me.

I immediately held the mesh bag with the bloody fish out of the water above my head, and XXX tried to do the same with the Uhu; but the fish was too heavy and it bent his carbon-fiber spear over and the Uhu was flopping at the surface.
This only amped up the shark even more and he charged XXX again, and XXX kicked it off.
Then it charged me, and I had to kick it off (the blood was dripping down from the mesh back I was holding). XXX quickly got the Uhu off his spear and offered it up to the obviously hungry shark, but the shark didn't see it floating on the surface, and it kept charging us -- first XXX then me, then back to XXX, then back to me, etc.

At about this ti
me, I noticed XXX was laughing in his snorkel.
As soon as I noticed that, I suddenly realized that I had been (and still was) laughing in my snorkel also. I guess it's just a weird sort of reaction we both had -- and it was a funny scene, in retrospect.
The shark turned away and headed for the Uhu, now a few feet away from XXX and I (as we were both back-peddling towards the boat).

But the shark somehow m
issed the Uhu, then turned back again for us.
There was a big green cloud of blood below the Uhu, and the shark swam right through it. I expected the shark to turn and eat the dying Uhu, but instead it got even more excited and charged both XXX and I again.
XXX kicked it off, then I kicked it off, and finally it found the Uhu, and took the entire thing into its mouth (except the tail), in one gulp.

XXX and I both saw it glide down back to the bottom, with the uhu tail sticking out of its mouth. I stopped laughing l
ong enough to say "I think we might want to get back in the boat now"; and this only made XXX laugh harder. It was a very strange thing -- because it was both nerve-wracking and extremely funny at the same time.

After hopping back in the boat again for a few minutes, we both jumped back in the water and continued hunting for fish.
We figured that the shark was now well-fed, and wouldn't bother us anymore. I did see it swim by later on, but it never came close. All the same, I left the mesh bag in the boat, rather than carry it around.


Interesting huh.
Equally interesting that Ward's proposed legislative amendment to the Shark feeding ban includes the following exemption, and I cite.

c. Persons, including commercial and recreational fishermen, engaged in the taking of marine life that results in captured, injured, or dead fish being incidentally eaten by sharks shall not be considered in violation of this section...

Well well.
So who, exactly, is feeding the Sharks close to shore and (for the sake of the -wrong- argument) "teaching them to associate humans with food"? Maybe spearfishermen like Ward's very own Makani?
How many incidents like the one above happen inshore every day - and what do the Sharks learn in the process?

Ward may indeed not know this, but Mr. Christensen sure does: EVERYBODY from Florida to the Pacific to Oz knows that wherever there's regular spearfishing, the Sharks will start circling as soon as anybody enters the water and come charging in when they hear the sound of a speargun - to the point where some dive operators carry around speargun triggers to lure in Sharks!

Gene, it may be OK to try and enforce the law - although I'm sure that the state of Hawaii is facing more pressing problems right now.
What is not OK is to be perceived as an anti-business, anti-tourism demagogue pandering to unfounded and irrational fear and being abused by fanatics who are pushing self serving agendas right from your very own office.

Please, pull back the hound dogs.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Sharky stuff: Shark Men Rusi, Alex and Gary on Shark Reef. It's a nice pic of real nice people: click on it!

We had the great honor and pleasure of hosting Alex the Sharkman.

He lives breathes dreams Sharks and has done so since his earliest childhood.
He is a Shark poet, Shark blogger, Shark lover, Shark conservationists and Shark activist. Wherever Sharks are threatened, he will raise his authoritative voice. Contrary to many, he's not only a talker, but very much also a doer, for which he has earned my respect.

I've known about and admired Alex for a very long time and when we developed the Fiji Shark Conservation and Awareness Project in response to his International Year of the Shark , we decided that it was high time that he come and meet our friends at Shark Reef. He has been with us for the past three weeks where he has assisted in Gary's newest tagging sequence and given several interviews to the local media - but above all, he has dived dived dived!
We all had a great time, marked by a shared passion and mutual respect.

Alex, like Nani said, you are now family.
We miss you, and so do our Sharks.

Come back soon!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Anatomy of an Obscenity

Lemme tell you, it has been an ordeal.

I've slaved myself and watched Deadly Waters, most of it in fast forward as it is so incredibly boring and badly edited on top of being so disrespectful, exploitative, deceiving and stupid. No wonder that the blue bloggers' reaction to it has been so moderate: it's so bad, it defies description!

Felix of Oceanic Dreams and Drew of Wetpixel have posted their take on the overall program so I need not dwell on its entirety, the more as I just cannot stomach having to watch every stupid and obscene detail.

Just this.

The "experiment" with the trailing and stationary chumsicles? Absolute rubbish!
Caribbean Reefs are strictly piscivorous and do not feed on humans - ever! The proof: did they attack the idiot driving along on his scooter? If Gurney had wanted to create a correct analogy to humans, they should not have dragged along the Sharks' favorite food but, say, a bale of hay instead! But hey, it never was about facts, it always was only and exclusively about showing those Sharks in a state of frenzy.
Shame on Stuart for having been the token prostitute!

The "experiment" with the hand and the fish?
Remember the post about not deceiving the audience? When the Lemon predictably ignored the hand, they dipped it in fish blood!

And finally, please note down those operators who aided and abetted the exploitation of Sharks!
As a customer, you have a choice!

Which leads me straight over to the issue at hand, the Fiji shoot.

First and foremost: mission accomplished - mostly!
Please believe me if I tell you that I've been called many things, but "naive and utterly stupid" is just not one of them. When I exploded in a post about Aqua Trek, I was certainly painfully aware of the potential loss of goodwill this would inflict to our business. This post will undoubtedly trigger more of the same condemnation from the same quarters. So be it.
Apparently, exposing perpetrators is good - but when they happen to be your competitors, the very same action becomes "disappointing". Go wonder!

No, this has not been a "food fight" by any stretch of the imagination.
Far from it: after the debacle of having dropped the ball and allowed Gurney to sneak into the country, we decided to disregard our commercial interests and publicly embarrass the perpetrators because we wanted them to use their influence to prevent the airing or at least tone down the sequence. We also went very deep and very high within the Government of Fiji and the country's tourism stakeholders, again with the same aim. As a result, the location has been changed to "Oceania" and after the Fijigirl went out on a limb, the footage of the chumsicle and the night diving sequences have been scrapped.

What remains is a misleading, sensationalistic and stupid prime example of Shark exploitation. What did Stroud apparently say? That he would not be lending his name to any ludicrous productions as he is friends with people like Jean Michel Cousteau and Rob Stewart?
Indeed: hilarious!

Take for instance the Shark attack they re-enacted.
The one that happened not far from this very spot.... in an area that's a known Bull Shark feeding zone? It took me a while to find it, but it is this one.
The location? Check out the map (click on it for detail): yellow is Lake Reef where the show was filmed, red is Turtle Island - 200 miles away, on the other side of the island, far off the coast in a completely different habitat!

The activity: spearfishing - and I'll leave it at that!

And talking about deceiving the audience.
How about the blond bimbo with 12 years' experience diving with the deadliest animals in the South Pacific, that squeaks away on the back deck of the Fiji Peter Hughes? That would be Teresa Carrette, associate producer with Gurney. And the deadly animals? Carukia barnesi (which earned a scientist a honorable mention in the Darwin awards) and Chironex fleckeri, box jellyfish!
Could anybody please tell me how that would make her a Shark expert worthy of being showcased to a global audience?

No wonder her comments are so utterly stupid!
Bull Sharks may, or may not (neither I nor Juerg know of any relevant papers) have a high level of testosterone. But the link to aggression is tenuous at best and has certainly never be researched in Sharks.
What however appears unequivocal is that testosterone promotes the growth of muscle mass and bone density. That, and its effect on virility are why some men in general and bodybuilders in particular resort to anabolic steroids, among which Bull Shark testosterone.
Ever seen a Bull Shark? There you have it!
PS the testosterone assertion has since been debunked: it is utter baloney!

Ever dived with one?
If so, you will know that despite of their impressive size, they are very hard to approach and positively timid - much unlike the Reefs and especially, the Silvertips!
"Aggressive" my derrière - and certainly not "territorial"!
So much for Teresa's credentials - and hopefully, for her scientific career!

Other than that, there is Stroud, a diving neophyte, hand feeding massive predatory Sharks without even the protection of steel mesh gloves; there's Teresa flailing around her pasty white hands in murky water saturated with Fish juices; there are signs of impending feeding frenzy; there are cameramen out there in no-man's land bumping, or being bumped by the animals - in brief, there's an operator completely surrendering his dive site to a bunch of yahoos in breach of the most basic safety protocols.
How does that dovetail, exactly, with They came and filmed our dive as we run it everyday. They conducted no experiments. The filming was about Les with a scientist swimming amongst large sharks. We only show sharks in a normal state of feeding, no chumsicle feeds. All very calm?
As I said, pretty brazen!

Plus, there's Stroud's hysterical commentary (dontya just love it how he shakes his head pretending to talk through his mask?) about "deadly waters," Shark attacks and aggression and trying to amp up the action by suggesting that he got bumped and chased out of the water - only to then languidly linger at the dive platform chatting away with the bimbette!
In brief, this is exploitative Shark porn at its very worst and a slap in the face of local conservation efforts and the local tradition and reverence of Sharks.

Did somebody really dare to mention the cause?

As to why Discovery chose to air this shit, what can I say.
As a reminder, check out their Corporate Social Responsibility statement.

John Hendricks launched Discovery Channel in 1985 with a mission to satisfy curiosity and make a difference in people's lives by providing the highest-quality, nonfiction content, services and products that entertain, engage and enlighten; and he chose the globe to represent Discovery's brand as a symbol of the company's commitment to protecting and celebrating planet Earth.
In keeping with this mission, Discovery Communications is committed to being a thoughtful and responsible corporate citizen, supporting the extension of science, environmental and other educational programs in the U.S. and abroad, and promoting the value of nonfiction content and documentary filmmaking across all genres.

That is the vision.
The reality: idiotic shows that pander to the basest emotions of idiotic audiences and are presented by idiotic hosts.

The network has clearly lost its way.
Despite of all the pathetic last-minute greenwashing, it is obvious that this year's disastrous Shark Week has severely damaged the brand and eroded its credibility not only with us Shark people, be it divers, operators or scientists, but with the public at large as well.
The resulting damage to its reputation and its goodwill will only be mended by bold managerial action. Pornographers like Gasek have clearly run their course and must be replaced by fresh and untainted talent that better embody Discovery's aim to be perceived as socially and ecologically responsible. Production companies like Gurney need to be dismissed and idiotic hosts like Stroud ought to be sent back to some remote wilderness to continue doing what they do best, i.e. munch on grubs in splendid isolation.

When people like Stephen Colbert catch on to your hypocrisy, it's high time to act decisively.
Will somebody have the vision to enact the necessary reforms?

And on this happy note... enjoy!

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Human Week
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Protests

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Poster!

Well, here it is - we hope you like it!

This is the official poster of the Fiji Shark Conservation and Awareness Project, Fiji's very own contribution to the International Year of the Shark. Click on it to see which Dive Ops, Resorts and Conservation NGOs in Fiji are pro-Shark.

FSCAP Supporters can order it with Eroni at and yes, it's free of charge!
We will display it in strategic locations across Viti Levu and it will be the centerpiece of our booth at this year's DEMA. Should you want to produce your own copies for your own marketing, just contact Eroni and he'll send you the artwork for your perusal.

On Fiji One!

The clip is about to be aired on Fiji One.

As promised, here are the Dates and Times.
This is Fiji - so make sure you switch on the television a little bit earlier!
  • Sat 22 6pm - News
  • Sun 23 6pm - News
  • Mon 24 6pm - News
  • Tue 25 8pm - Talk Business
  • Wed 26 9pm - News Headlines
  • Thu 27 8pm - Have your Say
  • Fri 28 9pm - News Headlines
  • Sat 29 6pm - News
  • Sun 30 6pm - News
  • Mon 31 6pm - News
And whilst yer waiting (with bated breath, no doubt!), here's the English version, once again a World Premiere.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009



Well, here's the ordinance (click for details).

Apparently, the fishermen are happy.
So are the residents of Delray Beach, as no one has seen them around.

Guess one could call that a win-win.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hawaiian Shenanigans

Gene Ward is on the attack.

He continues to fan the flames of anti-industry hatred and is circulating this piece of despicable populist shit. Click on it for details: this is how a self serving politician is trying to kill Hawaii's tourism industry.

And what about "chairman" Makani Christensen?
A quick Google search reveals an xenophobic activist and guess what - a spearo and fisherman! Despite of his fake eco-branding (or can anybody please tell me what part, exactly, of teaching tourists how to kill Fish is to be considered "eco"?), he obviously got zero knowledge of the Ocean, or he would not be propagating this irresponsible anti-Shark rubbish. Or is he really encountering Stefanie's Galapagos and Sandbar Sharks on his Fish killing sprees?
Gene and Makani are old allies and have formed the Shark Task Force aimed at shutting down the Shark tour operators - smack in the middle of a recession, where every penny and every job count!

The "invitation" is of course nothing but smoke and mirrors.
Mr. Ward knows all too well that after their recent experiences, nobody from the pro-Shark faction is anymore willing to endure the abuse of an irrational lynch mob. The inevitable result of that town hall meeting will be yet another "public outcry".
Such a sham and oh so predictable!

What however continues to rile me most is the reference to "traditional Hawaiian cultural practices" and the like.

You really need to go through Stefanie's brilliant website and read the comments concerning the purported "Disrespect of the Aumakua".
But she's obviously right smack in the middle of it all and there's no way she could ever dare to properly respond to those ridiculous allegations. I've said it before: Hawaii is a glaring example of how the natives are unabashedly playing the racial card and abusing of the naivety and fashionable collective guilt of the haoles.
Or do you really believe that stuff like E komo mai. Welcome. Come to Hawaii and re-connect to your aumakua. Learn the old chants with us under the trees by Kealakekua Bay. Swim with us at Waipio valley. Walk with us into volcano craters in Volcano Park. Let us ride the winds together at Ka Lae. Meditate with us deep inside a lava tube. is anything but cold-blooded pandering to our credulous stupidity?
Wanna really know what respectable people have to say about the Aumakua?
Read this!

Contrary to Stefanie, I got the advantage of not being subjected to the same pressure, and of being allowed to tell it as it is. I also live in a vibrant cultural environment where I can just go out there and hear it from the horse's mouth.
And that is precisely what I have done!

So there.

This is a scam, and a particularly nasty one on top of it!

Contrary to Hawaii and despite of its colonization and the advent of Christianity, Fiji has managed to preserve much of its indigenous ancestral beliefs and traditions.
To this day, Fiji has a dual system of government: a post-colonial westernized system with President, Government, Parliament and Judiciary and a highly stratified indigenous community that resides in villages which are organized under a local and regional chiefly system. These indigenous villages are the repository of Fiji's native culture that has been handed down (mind you, orally, by storytelling, dances and ceremonies) in an uninterrupted line since time immemorial.

After reading about the racial shenanigans in Hawaii, I've gone out and interviewed several people about Fiji's rich tapestry of beliefs linked to Sharks.
This has not been easy, as not everybody is empowered to make authoritative statements about this matter. That authority is only conferred to storytellers and sometimes, people whose hereditary ranking would correspond to that of an indigenous "priest".
Like everywhere in the Pacific, there is however no shortage of native scamsters who make a good living at cooking up some self serving pseudo-cultural ethno-bullshit aimed at impressing some naive and google-eyed kavalangi. Inevitably, these stories turn out to be false and more than that, in indigenous culture, these people are actually committing sacrilege.

The lesson being that next time some brown skinned half-cast who happens to have an indigenous name comes along and starts lecturing you about his "culture", "tradition" and "pride", you need to question his motives and ask for his credentials.
I betcha that in 99.9% of the cases, he will turn out to be a self serving fraud. Legit storytellers are very reserved about these matters and will generally only share with a foreigner after lengthy introductions and after having thoroughly checked out your intentions. Keep in mind that sharing determined religious beliefs is an important defining and cohesive element of social groups and that very often, it is strictly tabu to divulge them to outsiders.

Over to the Fijian Shark beliefs.
Fiji has a multitude of languages ("Fijian" being a lingua franca derived from the dialect of Bau) and cultural beliefs that are linked to a large and diverse number of clans. Several of them believe in rather generalized Shark guardian spirits and others, in veritable Shark gods, Dakuwaqa being the most widely known of the latter.

Depending on where you go, Dakuwaqa is purported to fulfill different roles.
The islanders of Kadavu believe that Dakuwaqa has lost a battle against their own protector deity, the Octopus, and that he had to promise never to harm any Kadavu islander. The people of Taveuni believe that Dakuwaqa will punish the sinners and when somebody gets attacked by a Shark, they believe that the victim was obviously a bad person and that his fate was merely the just punishment for a misdeed. Our Beqa islanders will tell you that Dakuwaqa resides on the island and that there is a covenant whereby no Beqa islander will ever harm a Shark and in turn, the Sharks will protect and even assist them.

When talking to elders, I've asked the specific question whether it is reproachable to observe and dive with their gods and the unanimous response was that it is perfectly OK. In fact, our feeders from Beqa have the specific permission to do so.
It is however completely
tabu to fish, kill or otherwise harm the animals.

The exact same answer was given to Eroni when he went and interviewed other clans as part of his TEK: some clans have various Shark spirits who protect the people and nobody from those clans fishes for Sharks or eats their meat.
Here's a textual example from an upcoming paper on the matter.

Our father told us that a big white shark that lives at the mouth of the Navua river had decreed and warned other sharks not to hurt or spill any human blood or otherwise face the consequence of being killed by the big white shark.

Now this is Fiji - and Fiji is essentially Melanesia, albeit heavily influenced by Polynesian culture.
I've thus also inquired about any Shark beliefs in Tonga. This is a pure Polynesian country and with neighboring Samoa, very much the place from which the Polynesians have set out towards the east all the way to French Polynesia and the onwards to Hawaii.

Like Hawaii, much of Tongan culture has been eradicated by Christianity and by the overpowering drive towards the "benefits" of the western cash economy. In fact, most young Tongans know next to nothing about their history and their culture, expect for a highly romanticized and sanitized version which is being handed down by the government and the churches. Like in Hawaii, there's a cultural renaissance movement but most of the original culture and traditions, like the art of navigating, have already been lost forever.
I was however lucky in finding an elder who confirmed that some people did believe in a "punishing" god very much like the Taveuni islanders, and that contrary to the majority of the population, those people would not fish for Sharks nor eat Shark meat.

When conducting the interviews in Fiji and Tonga, I also told the elders what was happening in Hawaii.

That there is a Shark viewing tour where customers observe Sharks from the safety of a cage far out in the open Ocean.
That this operation educates their clients and turns them into Shark lovers. That on top of it, they are active in sponsoring research aimed at pushing through pro-Shark legislation. That they are instrumental in preserving the Sharks for future generations and that by doing so, they are preserving the reefs which are the sustenance of the indigenous people.

That on the other hand, there are plenty of recreational an commercial fishermen that kill Sharks and kill the reefs as a consequence.

And that there is a nasty politician wanting to close down the pro-Shark tours but who does nothing to stop the killing of Sharks. That his anti-Shark movement is aided by some natives that claim that looking at Sharks is culturally insensitive whereas they raise no objection to the activities of the Shark killers.

They all shook their head in utter bewilderment.
And we all had a good snicker at the suckers who got conned into believing that pseudo-cultural rubbish.

I can thus unequivocally confirm that were Stefanie in Fiji, she would not be reviled and persecuted but hailed by both the Government and the indigenous community alike.
She deserves our gratitude and our respect.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Shark Reef Marine Reserve - an Ecotourism Project?

Click on image for plenty of interesting detail!

Juerg says, it is!

And I agree!
The relevant page (10) of the paper say this.
According to The International Ecotourism Society, ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the wellbeing of local people.
In this sense, the SRMR is an ecotourism project providing sustainable tourism that rests on the “three pillars” of sustainability and as such “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland, 1987;Diedrich, 2007; Townsend, 2008).

The value of marine reserves is undisputed for enhancing marine tourism and for raising consciousness of the need for, and the benefits of marine conservation. The SRMR is no exception to this (

The main purposes of protected management areas include preservation of species and genetic diversity, protection of specific natural and cultural features, tourism and recreation, education, sustainable use of resources from natural ecosystems, maintenance of cultural and traditional attributes and scientific research.

Based on the primary management objectives of the project, the SRMR is an International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) category II MPA, functioning mainly for the protection of ecosystem and recreation and designated to
(1) protect the ecological integrity of an ecosystem for present and future generations,
(2) exclude exploitation or occupation inimical to the purposes of designation of the area, and
(3) provide a foundation for spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities, all of which must be environmentally and culturally compatible (IUCN, 1994).

But the work is not finished.
Quoting Jameson, Tupper, and Ridley (2002), “In this day and age, with all the stresses imposed on coral reefs and other marine environments, an area is not magically or instantaneously ‘protected’ via anMPA designation process – protection must be fought for – and it may never be attained”.

Actions are more important than concepts and definitions.
The SRMR project will only be successful if future divers enjoy a unique and exclusive diving experience in the marine reserve and compensate the traditional fishing rights holders for having this privilege. This way, it will hopefully serve as a pilot project for future privately or community-initiated, locally implemented and managed marine reserves.
There you have it!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sneak Preview!

Yes we do this, too!

The following is a world premiere

As you know, Fiji has made it's own local contribution to the International Year of the Shark, the Fiji Shark Conservation and Awareness Project.
The supporters are the who's who of Fiji diving and conservation and we try to continuously add new content by rolling out new initiatives, like Stuart's impressive list of Fiji-based Shark Free Marinas.

Our latest project is Fiji's first ever pro-Shark clip which is due to be aired on Fiji TV and MaiTV starting next week (yes I will post the exact days and times!).
We've tried to give it a distinct local twist by keeping part of the narration in Fijian. Rusiate is of course our famous and unsurpassed Rusi who hails from nearby Beqa Island, the very home of Dakuwaqa himself!
We hope you like it - we certainly do!

Our thanks go to the Shark Foundation and to PADI Project AWARE who generously provided the funds for the shoot and the airing. Imraz of Niuwavemedia did an excellent job of directing, shooting and editing - in record time and strictly within a massively discounted budget. Thank you guys!

OK here it is - enjoy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The token Natives

Some council on Maui has voted to ban Shark tourism on the island.

Mind you, pre-emptively, as there is no such operation there!
Apart from the usual uninformed bullshit about "changing the natural behavior" and the like, they managed to come up with a new twist, and that is that "feeding sharks for entertainment was offensive to Native Hawaiians".

"I believe the commercialization of a religious symbol that's so important to the host culture is inappropriate," said Council Member Mike Molina.

Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. reminded council members that many Native Hawaiians honor sharks as aumakua, or guardian spirits, and said treating the animals as entertainment was invasive and disrespectful.
"Any time you organize a tour to look at the mano (shark), you're disturbing their environment," he said.

Were it not so serious, I'd be dying of laughter.
There is no "host" in Hawaii, let alone a "host culture". Last time I looked, the USA overthrew Hawaii's government in 1893, annexed it in 1896 and made it a state in 1959. Bill Clinton, bless him, apologized for that in 1993 and ever since, the conquerors are plagued by a bad conscience and the conquered are playing the racial card. With Hawaii probably sporting the highest concentration of naive and romantic new age wackos of the entire planet, the scope for abuse is limitless.

Thing is, the native Hawaiians and their newly found "pride" and "culture" (especially the hula!) are the laughing stock of the Polynesians in particular and the Pacific islanders in general - and I'll leave it at that lest I offend some contrite and oh-so-sensitive and -politically-correct US citizen.
Trust me, good ole Kahu's "cultural" statements and recommendations have been made up on the fly and have no relevance whatsoever, cultural or otherwise. I happen to interact daily with native people who are in tune with their ancestral beliefs and who revere Sharks and they would certainly never utter such complete baloney.

What they however totally oppose is killing Sharks.
My advice to Kahu and also to the equally hypocritical and sanctimonious Sol Kaho'ohalahala is to have a good hard look at the Shark killers, be it game fishermen like these guys or the commercial killers. Now That's what I call disrespect and "disrupting the pristine, natural environment"! Right?
Wanna make your culture proud? Go tackle the fishermen - capisc?

In the meantime, Stefanie in Oahu is braving the lynch mob with a clever, fact-based and proactive campaign.
She has posted a stellar website dealing with the fear-based anti Shark movement (thank you Discovery Channel!), is starring in a new Docu-series, Shark Boat and has just posted the following video.

Mind you, this all is on top of her original website and her conservation project which are already brimming with facts, conservation and research!
Stefanie is been forced to do all of this essentially alone, whilst trying to keep her business afloat and whilst countering the incessant harassment by her detractors.
Very impressive!

She deserves our solidarity.
Please sign the two petitions she has posted on her website. I'm sure she will very much appreciate your help. It's not only about saving an educative, conservation-oriented, extremely popular and perfectly safe touristic attraction - this is also about the future of Shark Diving in the USA.

Thank you.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Time after time, Patric over there at Underwater Thrills comes up with some truly epic posts.

Like his analysis of this year's obscene programming for Shark Week.
Here's what Patric has to say

Discovery Networks - Reinventing Sea Monsters

This years Shark Week has revealed a bacchanalia of man made shark horror well beyond any concerns the shark conservation community and commercial shark diving community could have fathomed.

Without a doubt Discovery Networks have reinvented Sea Monsters, erroneously establishing the shark as the most feared predator on the planet.

34 years after JAWS, and 34 years of conservation science discoveries, pro-shark media, and conservation themed initiatives have been swept away by the 2009 Discovery Channel anti-shark juggernaut. This year broadcast in gory, blood soaked HD, to an estimated 30 million domestic viewers.
Great for advertising revenues, lousy for the perception of sharks worldwide who have been thrown back to the stone age with last nights docu drama, "Blood in the water" and this weeks entire line up of gratuitous Shark Porn.

As a commercial shark diving operator I find over hyping one small facet of a sharks entire Raison d'etre to be patently dishonest and a disservice to animals that are suffering one of the highest rates of destruction on the planet.

Approximately 90 million sharks are killed each year. That's a stunning statistic.
And yet Discovery Networks feels compelled to bring back the 1970's shark mythos, blood and fear, with absolutely no Sympathy for the Devil.

At the same time Discovery Networks have rolled out a simply draconian and somewhat East Bloc ham fisted media campaign showing conservation for sharks. An afterthought pushed out by Discovery and it's hand selected group of "Shark Porn Programming Apologists" to mollify the growing push back from an appalled research, science, and commercial dive community.

To those who are supporting the very dark decision by Discovery Network executives to bring back, promote, and hype the fear of sharks, rethink your position.
At a critical time when sharks, as a measure of the health of our oceans, need as much support as we can give them, programming decisions that demonize these animals for ratings, ad sales, and corporate profits are wrong, dishonest, and bordering on fraudulent.

Discovery started Shark Week 20 years ago with programming that was fresh, alive and informative. Our company along with many others have been involved in some of that programming and happy with the results.
Early Shark Week programming started with unflinching production companies striving to produce they best they could, fully engaging local operators to introduce them to the full range of shark behaviors.

Discovery has officially lost it's way.
It can come back, hopefully this is the final year of Shark Porn.
Hopefully those within the community who are currently in bed with Discovery Networks "will see the light".
As both the alcohol and tobacco industries have discovered you cannot sell these toxic brands to minors and then ask them to "drink and smoke responsibly".
Discovery Networks cannot sell fear and loathing of sharks...and then push for conservation.

Patric Douglas CEO

Bravo my friend and of course I fully concur! As so often!
Which of course leads me straight over to the role we, the Shark Diving Industry have continued to play in this fiasco - and the role we must play in the future.

But that's the topic for another post.

Monday, August 03, 2009


Sharky has done it again!

Shark Week has kicked off in the USA and since it is not being shown in Fiji, I got to fully relay on the comments by the other Shark bloggers. Blood in the Water is apparently so boringly stupid that neither Sharky nor Felix seem seriously outraged, just somewhat bemused.

Tomorrow is the turn of Deadly Waters.
I've been promised a video copy and can't wait to see the Fiji segment!

Did I commit the ultimate sin of unjustly berating an innocent member of the Shark diving community who on top of that happens to be -anathema!- a competitor - and will I thus have to extend a public apology to them, to Discovery, to the Fiji Peter Hughes, to Gurney Productions and to the fearless Les himself? And of course to you, our loyal readers?
Or will their tearful justifications be exposed as brazen lies on a public forum?
Boy-oh-boy: talk about having exposed myself!

Tomorrow, you'll know! Me, in about two weeks!
As a reminder, here's Aqua Trek's description of the Fiji shoot.

They came and filmed our dive as we run it everyday.
They conducted no experiments. The filming was about Les with a scientist swimming amongst large sharks. We only show sharks in a normal state of feeding, no chumsicle feeds. All very calm.
Les explained that he would not be lending his name to any ludicrous productions as he is friends with people like Jean Michel Cousteau and Rob Stewart. I honestly felt that there was just a desire to swim amongst large Bull sharks and our site is well known for this. The movie is not about Fiji or Aquatrek, our dive company, so the name “deadly beaches” does not make sense. They remained on a live aboard the whole time. They paid our daily dive rate. There were regular dive guests on our boat as well and the dive was conducted normally.

Talk manana then - I'm sure I'll be receiving some comments!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Shark Images

This is Chica - and yes, she's pregnant!

A customer has just departed in utter frustration.

He turned up for one day of Shark diving toting an impressive underwater housing with multiple strobes and a fixed 15 mil lens. He's a real nice guy and a very proficient diver with extensive experience in taking pictures of big animals. Water conditions were calm and we had loads of Sharks and very decent visibility.

And yet, he left without a single usable picture.
Very sad indeed - and quite inevitable.

From our website.

One of the principal advantages of the Fiji Shark Dive is that it allows for great opportunities to capture Shark images in a controlled and largely predictable setup.
In fact, many of our procedures and even the spatial layout of the dive have been developed in order to maximize those opportunities whilst still ensuring the best possible safety standards for our customers.

Consequently, many of the world’s foremost photographers and cinematographers have flocked to Fiji and have come away with truly stunning results, some of which grace the pages of our website and our blog and are used for our marketing.

Many of our customers visit us in the hope of emulating those portfolios.
We are acutely aware of those aspirations and will do our utmost to try and please our clients and help them achieve their aims – but to be completely frank, some images will always be reserved for bona fide diving professionals only. Any customer aspiring to stick an expensive fisheye lens into the face of a large predatory Shark will unfortunately always remain frustrated.

The reason for that are our safety protocols that are aimed at avoiding any direct interactions between the Sharks and the spectators. Yes others may do it differently - but this is just how we have decided to run things.
We have blogged about our procedures here and here and they are an essential cornerstone of what we believe constitutes responsible and sustainable commercial Shark diving. We will not deviate from them for any reason whatsoever.

Having said this, you will nevertheless be in a position to capture truly stunning images - provided that you talk to us, listen to our suggestions and devote the necessary time to that undertaking. Over the years, we have worked with hundreds of talented and ambitious elite amateurs and provided that the conditions were favorable, most of them have been able to meet and even surpass their goals. Shark Reef is a Shark photographer's heaven and we assure you that you will not be disappointed!

It is imperative that you plan for several Shark Dives.
The main reason is that conditions vary in function of the weather and the tides and that you want to profit from the best possible visibility and biggest number of animals. Also, you really need to "understand" the dive as your key to capturing stunning images will be good anticipation. Finally, this will give us time to get to know you better and to talk with you about your goals and the best way of obtaining the required results.
We have been taking images for a very long time ourselves and have logged thousands of dives on Shark Reef. You can rest assured that we understand where you're coming from and very much want you to capture stunning Shark images. We also know the best way to do so on this particular dive and are eager to share our insights with you.

In very general terms, this is how that can be achieved.

Typically, on your first day with us, we will ask you to stick to our usual protocols.
This means that you will not be allowed to approach the Bulls, Lemons and Tigers. Conditions permitting, you will however get close and personal with the Grey Reefs, Whitetips and Blacktips along with many large Fishes and we urge you to profit from it as this is quite a unique opportunity. This is where you can successfully deploy your widest angle lens - but for the Bull Sharks, we recommend that you take along a wideangle zoom enabling you to go tighter in order to compensate for distance. We understand that this may be suboptimal - but this is how it is going to be.

As we get to know you better, we will escort you closer to the bigger Sharks.
Depending on your aims, we have some "special" techniques and spots where you are very likely to obtain some excellent images. However, this will always depend exclusively on our judgment and you will always be escorted, positioned and supervised, the more as all will happen during one of our scheduled dives involving other customers.
You can obviously achieve more freedom by booking a private charter - but even then, we will always ask you to refer to our guidance and prevent you from roaming at your will.

As stated above, we will allow bona fide dive professionals to get closer to the big Sharks, albeit always under close supervision.
Typically and when conditions allow, this includes being placed in the much-coveted "pit" during the hand feeding of the Bull Sharks. This is a "radical" position allowing for extremely close captures and the prerequisite for being placed there are excellent diving skills and a proven track record for having dived with large predatory Sharks in baited conditions.

We urge any professionals wanting to enjoy preferential treatment to announce their visit well in advance.
Unless you are really prominent, we would appreciate a short description of who you are, any references, your specific aims and why you require special treatment. We will typically extend discounts against confirmation by one of the major media that you are coming on their behalf. Very exceptionally, we will trade diving against images.

We hope the above is useful and helps to avoid any unfortunate misunderstandings.
Please always feel free to drop us a line should you have any questions. We want you to have a memorable stay and depart with wonderful memories and stunning images and will do our utmost to help you reach that goal.

Thank you very much.