Sunday, March 30, 2014

This will get you killed!



From what I understand, this is precisely what has led to the death of Markus Groh - same species, diver way too close to the bait crate and way too passive, stirred up sand.
Need I add that this is not sustainable?

Oh well - others are already looking into this stuff.

Well managed MPAs support Fisheries - Infographic!

Source - click for detail!

Fully agree - case in point!

But (of course, there has to be a But!)
For this to work, there needs to be more on top of the five principles advocated in the infographic.

Source - click for detail!

Edgar et al postulate 5 key factors that greatly enhance success.
They are 1) full no take, 2) well enforced, 3) old (>10 years), 4) large (>100 km2), and 5) isolated by deep water or sand - and guess what, the SRMR fits the first three and possibly even criterion # 5!

There you have it! :) 

I especially don't condone or encourage physical Contacts with Sharks?

Who, exactly, is being intrusive? Source
BTW that would be the female Tzitzimitl. First identified in 2002 and most recently sighted in 2012 and named by Lawrence Groth after an Aztec god .


Whereas we've received nothing of the kind, he got hit by the following missive.
Hello Martin, I am the owner of those images and I was very surprised to see them on the blog article you posted. I would like to ask you to immediatly remove them from the web as well as the comments that concerns them- which dont correspond to the reality in that specific situation. The person who is facing the shark had to push the shark away as it was a very intrusive personality and he touched it as little as he could and the dive was aborted immediatly. I don't want the images to be used in a provocative way when they don't reflect the reality of what happened. And I especially don't condone or encourage physical contacts with sharks, but in this specific instance, it could not be avoided by the diver- as I said, he got out of the water right away after the occurence. I am looking forward to hearing from you soon, Thank you, Jean-Marie Ghislain.
Being his law-abiding Swiss self, he did immediately remove them.

And now he is pissed off.
Turns out that the pictures are but a few excerpts from this portfolio on Flickr, quite possibly the world's largest video and image hosting website. That's where I got them from, after having been directed there by this post by Jean-Marie.

I actually like the dude.
According to this portrait, he got into diving to overcome his fear of the ocean and upon encountering the first Sharks, his fear turned into fascination and he decided to devote his energy to protecting them. To that end, he has founded Shark Revolution, and I cite, a communication project of an International non profit organization. The objective of this project is to re-establish the reality of our species and to propose a truce to regulate the relationship between our two communities.
Ever since, Jean-Marie has been traveling the globe diving with Sharks and posting his adventures and pictures to the web. He came here several years ago and I found him highly intelligent and driven albeit a tad self important and naive, see the above citation - but that was then and I'm sure he has learned a lot in the meantime.

Self important and naive or not, his love of Sharks is undisputed.
His advocacy of Shark conservation has been relentless and more recently, he is walking his talk by pursuing a more hands-on approach and has invested into the very Aquatek Technologies I posted about yesterday. In fact the company's logo features a picture from that very same infamous Flickr gallery!

Talking of which.
Was it really like JM asserts, i.e. an inevitable unsolicited unfortunate one-off accident?
You be the judge of that.

But first things first.
Owing to the hard work of several researchers, dive operators, NGOs and the Mexican authorities, Guadalupe has been declared a biosphere reserve and as such, any access and activities there are governed by regulations. 

Barring special permits, leaving the cages is currently prohibited.
Jean-Marie obviously knows that - or why else does he not disclose the location and not reveal the Shark wrangler in his post. He has not only chosen to engage in illegal activities, he has obviously chosen to very much (!) share his experience with the public and I must say that I am disappointed - by the act itself but especially, by his reaction to Martin's post.

And this is what happened on that trip.
Filmed by Jean-Marie Ghislain and uncritically broadcast by Nat Geo France - and yes shame on both for promoting this reckless, illegal and disrespectful behavior to the public and the inevitable copycats!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Aquatek - a possible Solution?


No don't worry, it's not a typo! :)
Watch this.

Pretty impressive ain't it.
I've talked about it to somebody in the know, and he confirms that this is serious research by serious people, and that so far, the results are promising. 
What has not yet been tested is habituation that could play a role with resident Sharks but much less so with transient species like Tigers and GWS. What is also unclear is whether it would deter a highly motivated animal that is already fully committed to an attack - but considering the cautious nature of most, if not all dangerous species which are known to usually first investigate, I am hopeful.

It is now being rigorously field-tested in Reunion Island.
I totally like this article for asking the correct questions that are being honestly and exhaustively addressed by the project team. Should you not speak French, I highly recommend that you peruse Google Translate to get the gist as IMO it's as good as it gets.
WA: hint hint!

So bravo les mecs - can't wait to hear more!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Manhandling GWS - not sustainable!

Click for detail!

No I'm not posting the source.
But I can say this.
  • This sequence is from the 2012 season at Guadalupe.

  • The Shark's name is Valentine.

  • If my guess is correct, I've met the diver.
    He's an extremely well regarded industry professional with years of experience diving with GWS where the nature of his job does sometimes require him to leave the cage. Technically speaking, he handles the Shark well - but this is a commercial dive with paying customers and he shouldn't be there in the first place!

  • I know the photographer.
    He's a wealthy, well meaning punter - and he's equally outside of the cage.

  • I betcha that the vessel is Club Cantamar's Sea Escape, habitual enabler of Amos' geriatric pinnacle expeditions and of countless other (and way cheaper!) trips where clients are being allowed to leave the cage.

  • Barring special permits, diving outside of the cage in Guadalupe is illegal.
Somebody commented on another post somewhere else,  
Like a high stakes game of musical chairs, (that person) is at the end of a long record that has been playing for almost a decade. When the music runs out someone will find themselves and the sharks in a completely untenable situation. There will be plenty of blame to go around. 
Could not agree more.

I ask, quousque tandem.
Maybe until the next season?
The Mexican authorities in charge of the Biosphere Reserve are apparently conducting a revision of the regulations - and whatever the result, I sure hope that enforcement will improve and that whoever breaks the rules will be finally removed forever.
I know I know... but hope springs eternal! :)

To be continued no doubt!



So are the infographics.
So this is gonna be about trophic cascades - the question being, will Lily Williams utter the dreaded O-word!

So far so good.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tiburón Anguila!

That's a mouthful of teeth!

They belong to a Frilled Shark that was caught off Fuerteventura.
Tiburón anguila means "Eel-Shark", and upon watching this video, I can totally relate!


Jackass Guadalupe!


Looks like that shit by the self-professed reincarnation of Jane Goodall and Dianne Fossey, or whatever, is still on the books - or may this posting to Vimeo be an indication that it has been completed?

Anyway, here it is in all of its insanity.
Simply disgraceful - and shame on the (usual) people that have lent a hand in enabling this pathetic charade!

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Fiji has just won the Tokyo Sevens by beating South Africa.

Eat this big man.
You know who you are!

Tonic - bad for the Sharks?

Tonic on OWT - source.


Read this.
The author did contact me a while ago asking what I thought about the topic, at which I replied, c/p, Methinks yer wasting yer time there… those sharks can easily stomach a bit of stress… compare to when they get hooked and have to endure long fights … or better, compare to those 100m being killed every year and ask yerself, where should you invest your time… 

Well, she has obviously persevered.
I must say that I'm rather underwhelmed - by the persevering, by the quasi-verbatim parroting of Wikipedia, and by the I believe inaccurate and confusing content. Not a big deal really, and I was gonna ignore it - but now both David and Domeier have chosen to chime in, and it is obviously creating a bit of a kerfuffle which is actually orders of magnitude more irritating than the post itself!
So there.

But first, watch this.

This is the real tonic.
Sharks go into a catatonic state when flipped upside down, and this has been used by researchers as a comparatively non-invasive method to restrain Sharks when working on them, e.g. when inserting acoustic tags etc. Contrary to what Wikipedia claims, it appears to work with most Elasmobranchs as witnessed by the above but also countless other pictures and video of all kinds of Sharks of all kinds of sizes.
It is certainly stressful but likely not life threatening and considering the alternatives = chemical sedation or restraining with ropes or hauling out of the water, I find it an elegant way to profit from a natural phenomenon and can certainly live with the bit of discomfort it causes - as probably can the Sharks!

So what about this rant?
What I find appalling there is the disrespectful forced manhandling that serves no other purpose than to create a stupid macho show for stupid tourists. That may have been cool decades ago but times have changed - now it is only pathetic and we in the industry should be better than that.

Now, watch this.

Yes this is obviously Cristina.
Ethically, the big difference here is that there is no forcing: the Sharks are obviously eager to approach her, to the point that I hear that they will sometimes push away other Sharks from her knees in order to get the "treatment".

But this is not tonic immobility!
Contrary to the real tonic that is being linked to e.g. mating, I cannot imagine any "natural application" where a Shark's sensitive snout with the many nerve endings and ampullae may ever be stimulated in this way. 
I'm clearly speculating - but I believe that the rubbing may possibly lead to sensory overload, i.e. some sort of trance-like state and/or that the sensation may be highly pleasurable, both of which would explain the total relaxation and the fact that the Sharks are apparently coming back for more and even competing for Cristina's attention. 
In any case, this is not at all what has been investigated by those researchers, and the findings of the various papers about tonic cannot simply be applied willy nilly to these specific situations!

And those pics of Eli and the Tigers?

Does that look like tonic to you?
Whilst I can see that Eli tries, so far unsuccessfully, to stimulate their snouts, the Sharks don't appear to enter a trance-like state but instead remain in constant movement and are never really relaxed, to the point that I would argue that I see signs of irritation and/or lack of orientation. Yes the Sharks do come back for more - but IMO they do so because that's where the bait is, not because they desire more manhandling.
What Eli does, is merely to use a trick to flip those Tigers on their back that can sometimes result in one to multiple rotations around their axis - and the posted pictures of inverted and/or vertical Tiger Sharks are completely misleading as they merely depict a totally transitory state.
All this is possibly slightly stressful - but it harming them? Most likely not!

Ethical considerations?
Yes contrary to the example from Cuba, the Sharks appear to approach voluntarily - but this is essentially a circus act showcasing a person manhandling big predatory Sharks. I must say that I'm on the fence on this one which is obviously highly subjective - but I anticipate that in a couple of years, we will look back on it like we now look back unfavorably on the ubiquitous Sharks wrangling of the eighties. And this may even apply to Cristina's show and before you start, yes, even to our hand feeding of Sharks!

When it comes to the latter.
We still believe that hand feeding is the best and safest way to showcase our Bulls - but as the number of Bulls has continued to increase, we have continued to adapt our protocols and are now hand feeding way less than before, this not for ethical reasons but principally in order to manage the risk to our feeders.
May we once be forced to phase it out completely? Who knows, possibly yes - but not quite yet!

But I'm digressing as always.
Tonic or no tonic, tricks or no tricks, feeding or not: there are now simply too many unprepared and reckless people interacting closely with Sharks in places like Tiger Beach and alas, Bimini. And like the idiotic riding, the trend appears to be ever increasing, to the point that quite recently, some imbeciles have even tried to secretly set sail to Guadalupe to go and flip a GWS for some moronic show on Shark Week. I hear that they got stopped by the authorities - but they or others may try again elsewhere, and I must say that I don't like any of these developments.
Shark feeding is easy, and inducing tonic and the likes possibly too - but to do it sustainably and safely over a long period of time is not a question of bravery or of mastering some simple skills but instead requires dedication, knowledge and quite a bit of serious risk management, something Eli appears to be increasingly aware of.

And I see very little of that.
Instead, I see too much yahoo bravado and adrenaline chasing, too much self promotion, too much profiteering, too much outright stupidity - and way too less knowledge, and respect, admiration and love of the animals.

Once again the question is, quo vadis.
And alas, I'm not terribly hopeful.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Howard Hall - underwater Fireworks!

Mobulas (M. eregoodootenkee?) in bait ball. Source.

OWOO continues to deliver.

And here is an hommage to the unequaled Howard!

Friday, March 21, 2014


I say, no way!

But great pic.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Guadalupe Tourism - Impact?

Cage diving in Lupe - good or bad for the Sharks? Source.

Watch this.

Edgar Becerril want to assess the impact of baiting at Lupe.
Methinks that as always, the results will show no effects at the ecosystem level (= the Sharks migrate, mate and pup normally, etc) whereas like in Australia, there will probably be some effects at small spatial and temporal scales. 
As an example of the latter, they may well show that the GWS are being aggregated around the vessels and if so, it may be wise to anchor well away from the beaches frequented by the Elephant Seals lest one would subject them to increased predation risk. Or, aggregating the Sharks may lead to increased brawling among the males like apparently in Moorea.

We shall see.
I'm skeptical that lacking a baseline, anything conclusive can be garnered within a mere three months - but happy to be proven wrong!

Looking forward to the publication!

WESPAC - more about the Marianas Shark Cull!

Micronesia Shark Sanctuary - very much at risk! Source.

Thank you Shark Defenders!

Obviously, mine was merely a heads-up.
Being from Saipan, Angelo is best suited to dig up the gory details - and he sure has!

Case in point, this document.
It makes the case for establishing a Shark fishery in the Marianas.
Prima facie and apart from the obvious "oversights" (e.g. Scalloped Hammers are endangered, highly vulnerable to fishing pressure and also listed under CITES 2 - but they have some of the most sought-after fins), I for one got nothing against well managed Shark fisheries that rely on sound science-based quotas and where monitoring and enforcement are ensured. I've stated multiple times that I consider those Sanctuaries to be stop-gap measures in view of the establishment of  properly designed, implemented, and enforced fisheries management plans, and I stick to that opinion. 
In theory, and provided that proper stock assessments etc indicate the feasibility of establishing a fully sustainable fishery for determined species, I would certainly not oppose a fully certified (!), fully sustainable food fishery for those Sharks.

But of course this got nothing to do with sustainability.
Angelo is perfectly correct - this is a cull, not fisheries management.
It is WESPACs continued attempt to subvert the unequivocal will of the people who have made it amply clear that they want no Shark fishing in those Pacific territories and States. Having that appalling gang of unelected bureaucrats overturning democratic processes is simply intolerable.

Angelo: solutions? 
Or is it already too late?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

WESPAC - on the Attack!

Soon from Saipan? Source.

Read this shit.

So it looks like I was right after all.
Spurred on by those bastards (and here!) at WESPAC, NOAA is now mounting a full attack on the Pacific Shark Sanctuaries.

This aint looking good.
To be continued.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Great Post by Gary!


Well said!

But first, watch this.

And here are Gary Stoke's comments.
They very much echo what I posted quite a while ago - this with the difference that back then, I was highly skeptical of the various grassroots initiatives in Asia, and could not have foreseen the effects of the Chinese crackdown on corruption. Now I stand partly corrected - although upon seeing that enormous amount of fins it appears clear that the fin trade may be reeling but is not about to simply vanish anytime soon. And of course the other drivers for the persistent astounding Shark mortality continue, meaning that the fight is far from over.

But I'm digressing as always.
All I really wanted to say is bravo Gary!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Frisky Reefie!

Feeding a Lionfish to a Reefie - maybe not such a good idea after all! Source.


Good reaction by the diver!

Talking of which.
I hear reports from Cayman that visiting liveaboards are encouraging their clients to "teach Sharks to feed on Lionfishes". This equals uncontrolled Shark feeding, and I hear that it is already causing problems for the other aquatic recreationists.
If so - people: Think!

But I'm digressing as always.
Cool video!

PS: One more post here - totally agree!

Bravo Demian!

I've been remiss in not posting this earlier.

Demian is one of the good guys.
So I'm particularly pleased to read this announcement.
Impressive bio here, project outline here.

Huge congratulations!

Inverted Trophic Pyramids?

Pristine reef - Shark-dominated. Source.


Read this.
Top predator biomass in pristine coral reefs is described to be between 54% and a whopping 85%, meaning that the resulting classical trophic pyramid of biomass is inverted, thus seemingly contradicting the rule that the biomass of prey must be larger than that of the predators because most of the energy gets lost whenever it is moving up through the food chain.
The prevailing explanation for this apparent paradox, is that the lower trophic levels have a much higher turnover rate whereas the top is much slower both in metabolism and reproduction. In fact, if instead of simply taking a snapshot and looking at biomass, one were to to plot the same data over time by depicting a productivity pyramid, one would once again obtain a standard, non-inverted shape.

But is this really the whole story.
  • Coral reefs are not closed systems.
    This is specially true for those remote islands that feature important influxes both from the open ocean (= plankton but also larger, often migratory transients) and from the deep, the latter especially at night. This means that the effective available biomass of prey may in fact be much larger than merely the local residents.
  • The range of those predators may encompass multiple ecosystems.
    Research shows that many reef Sharks are resident during the day but disperse during the night, likely in order to forage. Thus, those islands may merely act as anchor points during periods of relative inactivity during the day, whereas feeding may happen both on the reef but also offshore and deeper - once again meaning that for those Sharks, the effective biomass of available prey may well be much larger than what can be deducted by merely observing what lives on those reefs.
And if so, how would the resulting trophic pyramid look like?
Just sayin'! :)

When researching the above, I've stumbled across this inspirational TED talk by Enric Sala.
Oldie but goodie - enjoy!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Heartbeat of the Sea - fantastic!


Rafa Herrero Massieu is a phenomenal cinematographer.

Case in point.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

OSAM - public Screening!


Please read this post by David.
It really looks like all the sacrifice and the enormous effort are being appreciated, which is just great.
Congratulations - I'm really happy for you mate!

And for those that may have missed it the first time.
Here's the latest trailer - wonderful stuff!

Cyclone dive!

Lusi right now. Beqa is the small dot right to the south of Viti Levu - real time animation here.

This is gonna be an interesting one.

We'll be diving right at the edge of an active Cat3.
The seas will be flat as Viti Levu will keep us sheltered from the northerlies - but I can't wait to see the behavior of the Sharks!

Talk later!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Guadalupe Expeditions - last Chance!


I'm frankly underwhelmed.

9 hours to go, and the bids are languishing.
The normal price for those extraordinary expeditions is USD 3,100.00.

Can we do better than that?

Keeping British Waters for the British!

Lydia track. Source.


Lydia has taken a turn away from the UK.
Looks like for once, UKIP's ever controversial immigration spokesman Mr. Batten will have it his way and keep the infamous Cornish coast entirely uncontaminated by unwanted illegal immigrants - and undoubtedly, much safer for it!

Sorry Richard (and David!).
They may be nomadic - but philopatry rules! :) 

Story here!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Howard - Isla Mujeres!

Betcha this is an old pic from the 80ies, when Howard would find these gigantic WS off Cabo San Lucas! Source.

Wonderful stuff!

The man is still unmatched.
And did you notice those Mantas - may this be Andrea's third hitherto undescribed species?

Be it as it may - enjoy!

Fiji - Lusi!

There it is, churning away over Vanuatu!


The FMS has started issuing cyclone alerts.
Very likely, it's gonna be a near miss, with the West bearing the brunt of the wind and rain. For us down here, it's gonna be some rain and northerlies which are generally no problem.

But things can change so keep an eye on the forecasts!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sharks are not Apex Predators - Paper!

Big Fiji Bull Sharks - definitely Apex! Click for detail!


This has one of my pet peeves for a very long time indeed.
And now a panel of illustrious researchers are confirming that the vast majority of Sharks are not apex predators but instead, best described as mesopredators, to wit
We might talk of apex size classes rather than apex species in relation to sharks and other marine predators that grow indeterminately throughout their lives. 
Using the criterion of apex size classes, the categorisation of sharks as apex predators would be  restricted mainly to adults of large-bodied and wide-ranging species that influence many species within a community. Use of this definition would limit the term apex predator to large individuals (>3 m) such as older juvenile or adult white, tiger, hammerhead and dusky sharks...
(and adult Bull Sharks!)

Most shark species and size classes are in fact best described in the role of mesopredator. 
The ecological role of sharks within the diverse and impacted marine environment requires careful consideration. 
There you have it.
And the same undoubtedly applies to the terms of keystone and umbrella species that are so liberally bandied about by some quarters within the movement!
You can read the whole paper here.

And there's one more interesting observation, and I cite.
Our size-based view of the classification of predatory roles raises important questions about what objectives to manage, and how these objectives can be best achieved.

Protection of reef communities through marine protected areas (MPAs) or fisheries regulation (or indeed, naturally on those few locations far from human population centres) would ensure the mesopredator sharks on these reefs are sheltered from fishing pressure. However, the same may not be true for apex predators because their broad movement patterns and large home ranges (Meyer et al. 2009) would expose them to a greater diversity of fishing fleets and gears, and thus a greater overall mortality than the smaller-ranging, reef-dwelling mesopredators. Hence, the apex predators of coral reefs may be silently eliminated by offshore pelagic longline fisheries, unbeknownst to those managing reef diversity and function (Cox et al. 2002).
Therefore, reef-based MPAs are not adequate to protect these species.

296 Fig. 2. Conceptual diagram outlining the loss of apex predators from reef regions and corresponding system responses where a marine protected area (MPA) is present (upper) or absent (lower). Presence of MPAs leads to different states of equilibrium on individual reefs

Avoiding and mitigating these impacts may require consideration of the ecosystem- and jurisdiction-crossing movements of apex species and size classes. Therefore, management needs to consider not only the effect of reef-based spatial closure, but the amount of time these regions provide shelter to large, mobile, apex species.
This of course eminently important for the SRMR
There, the range of the Bulls and especially the Tigers is clearly much larger than the MPA proper - but this is exactly why we did establish the Fiji Shark Corridor that is conferring a solid, albeit not perfect degree of protection to our Bulls. The possibly highly migratory Tigers, alas, probably not so much - tho we will likely never know as the observed competitive exclusion may well end up masking any losses due to fishing.

This is why the river nursery work is so vital.
Compared to the large and relatively inaccessible ranges of the adults, those nurseries are discrete and relatively small areas where conservation measures may well be easier to implement. We know that the Fijian rivers do not only feature juvenile Bulls but also juveniles of the endangered and probably highly migratory Scalloped Hammerhead - and I betcha that upon closer inspection, we'll also find Nurses and Lemons. 
And once we dispose of the necessary data, we will certainly do our darn best to have those habitats protected!

But I'm digressing as always.
Brilliant paper - enjoy!

Fiji - it's gonna be a close one!


Looks like Lusi  is gonna pass to the West.
Probably - but as you well know, those things can change very fast. Keep an eye on the forecast and on the animation where right now, you can watch it building over Vanuatu.

FMS warnings here.


E-mail is back up again.
Fire away!

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Mangroves for Fiji - Expansion!

There's people that talk talk talk talk.

Others do.
Case in point: Projects Abroad is picking up where we left Mangroves for Fiji and is now expanding the project all across the country. Obviously this is a long-term endeavor necessitating heaps of preparation - but they've already established several nurseries and started various awareness workshops. And as a real nice spin-off, they've even created a recycling venture that has enabled them to collect over 10,000 plastic bottles that are being used for germinating the Mangrove propagules.
Restoration will start next month, and the volunteers will be able to claim the resulting carbon credits against their individual footprints.

I say, well done - that's how you do it.
To be continued no doubt!

And now, for Something Completely Different!


Resources here - scathing critique here.

Comments section is closed!

Sharks filming Sharks!

This is simply awesome!

Stories here, here and here.
Who would have thought that those different species coexist so peacefully!

No e-Mail!

I haven't received any e-mails in days.

Turns out that the Connect e-mail server is down.
Chances are that 3+ days worth of e-mails have been lost - so once it's back up, you may want to re-send anything important.

For now, best hold off.
I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Reef Mantas in the Red Sea - Paper!

Reef Mantas or Giant Mantas? Source.

Very Cool.

Reef Mantas are shown to engage in deep dives during the night.
Apparently, they are mostly targeting Plankton that ascends from the deep at night - but the authors speculate that occasional very deep dives to up to 400m are not for foraging but instead, a more efficient way of traveling.

Synopsis here, open access paper here.

Hammerheads in Mozambique!

Simply outstanding pic - click for detail! Source.

Mozambique is of course one of the epicenters of unsustainable Shark fishing, so encountering so many of the endangered Scalloped Hammers is a special treat indeed.


Friday, March 07, 2014

Shark Volunteer in Fiji!

And here's another one!
My name is Viktor Hesselberg- Thomsen. 
I am 19 years old, live in Fredensborg and graduated buzzer 2013. In my gap year I came to Fiji for six weeks with the organization Projects Abroad to work on a project that aims to protect and conserve sharks primarily here in the South Pacific . We do this by collecting data to hajforskere , develop educational material about sharks , and to train local people in our neighborhood about sharks.I have always been fascinated by the sea and the animals that live in it. When I saw this project , I had to simply join me . I pushed the plans I had at the start of the new year, and wrote me up for the project.

After 35 hours of travel I arrived in this amazing country with a very friendly locals .  

In the project we are 20 volunteers, and the age difference is great. There are about ten , which is between 17 and 25 years. The rest are somewhere between 26 and 63 years. Although there is huge difference in age and background between us is really good atmosphere in the group and I have made friends all around the world.

Two to three times a week we'll go diving .  

Here we collect data by counting how many and which sharks we see. We also an underwater camera with a feed box . In addition, we develop training materials or game / play ( involving sharks) , these we use when we are once a week take off for a school or a local village to give sharks a positive ' image ' of the people especially the children. We also try to catch baby sharks to take DNA samples and to cause them a ' tag ' that makes it easy to follow them.
Once a month , we take a dive center out and watch them feed the sharks. 

Here we have 40-45 bull sharks swimming around , you see how easy and elegant grabs tuna heads , as they are fed . This is one of the best experiences of my life , and along with the rest of the project and unity with the other volunteers have it pushed to my view of sharks and the world at large. I really think that those who get the opportunity to see sharks in the wild , must seize it ! 

Viktor diving with sharks in Fiji.
There you have it.

Three Weeks til April!


Doesn't get any better than that!
So, what are you waiting for!

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Shark Molesting in Cuba!

Huzzah - we got ourselves a new Shark whisperer! Source.

Well, apparently little has changed.
Alerted by that last picture, I've gone rummaging - and it sure looks like there's a gang of commercial idiots molesting Silky Sharks at the Jardines de la Reina.
Check it out, this is but one of many such videos.

This is so nineties.
Contrary to what happens with Cristina, it's the real tonic.
If memory serves me right, this stuff was started by Stuart Cove who used it to remove hooks from Silkies when diving on FADs. Now it's a stupid macho show for stupid tourists, much like the ever more pervasive wrangling of Tigers at Tiger Beach.


Indeed - it is Ridicule!

Alas I fear this is not photoshop. Source. Is it this guy?

Read this.

I fully concur, to wit.
With one caveat that is: there may be situations where the moronic behavior of a few idiots may well end up endangering the public and consequently, triggering a retaliatory backlash against the Sharks.

Anyway, yes, bravo Angelo.

Fiji - another one?


Quite possibly!

You know what to do!

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

OSAM - Progress Report!

Looking slightly overwhelmed? I would, too!


Read this.
Which begs the question, at what point, exactly, does dedication morph into obsession - maybe after two and a half years of editing one and the same movie?

Be it as it may, I just can't wait.
This is gonna be simply epic - in length and judging from the teaser-trailers, in quality as well. My only gripe: I just love my percussion heavy techno and "Arabic wailing music", to wit!

What I really wanted to say is, godspeed buddy.
And to you out there, please do consider making a contribution - I'm sure it will come back a thousandfold!

Shark Molesting - Article!


Nice job David!

This is a real nice piece of Shark journalism.
My quotes are excerpts from the following short interview, and regular readers will be shocked to notice that I'm being exceedingly civil - but worry not, this is by no means a change of attitude but merely the reflection of the fact that after much soul searching, I've ended up acquiescing to the request that the responses be kept PG-13. :)
Should you have missed what I really think - read this!

So there - enjoy!
1) Please state your name and affiliation/title as you'd like it to appear in the article (and a link to your business website) 

I am Mike Neumann, a shareholder of Beqa Adventure Divers
We are a dive operator specializing in baited shark dives with several sharks, among which our flagship species bull sharks. We are also heavily invested in shark research and shark conservation, the latter both directly and through advocacy. 

2) In general, is shark diving good for sharks? Why or why not?

In general terms, yes. 
Shark diving showcases some of the most charismatic marine species and has a proven track record of furthering shark conservation by enabling the public to acquire a better understanding and appreciation of these magnificent animals. Many reputable shark diving operators are also actively engaged in conservation and research, the latter often in cooperation with the research community to whom they provide access to the animals but also invaluable long-term data, etc. 

The above however with a big caveat. 
Like any other organized wildlife tours, shark diving can also be highly detrimental if conducted incorrectly. E.g. whale shark tourism had to be regulated in order to avoid issues of operator overcrowding and harassment. Baited dives with large predatory sharks carry inherent risks that need to be properly managed in order to avoid accidents that would ultimately reflect negatively on the sharks. 

3) Have you observed (or heard of) customers change their minds about sharks after interacting with them up close? 

Countless times! 
We service clients of all experience levels and it is always inspiring to observe the awe and exhilaration especially of the newbies once they realize that the sharks are nothing like the negative stereotypes but instead simply awesome and beautiful – and badass! 

4) What do you think of recent "daredevil" behavior, ie riding sharks and filming it? Are these divers in danger, even if they have experience around sharks? 

As you know, I hate it and have publicly criticized that practice for many years. 
My main grievance is this: I hope that everybody agrees that riding harmless species like turtles, manatees, nurse sharks, manta rays or whale sharks is totally disrespectful and moronic – so why would riding those predatory sharks be anything else? 
Being in the presence of those wonderful animals is a privilege. We need to admire and respect them – not molest them! 

The risk aspect plays a secondary role – but yes, these close interactions with large predators are always dangerous. Highly experienced people may possibly limit those risks through adequate behavior and safety protocols – but the increasing number of inexperienced copycats makes me fear that somebody will end up having a bad accident. 

5) If someone gets hurt while riding a shark, what will the consequences be for your industry? For sharks in general? 

As long as those remain private undertakings, common sense will likely prevail as the overwhelming majority of people will state the obvious, i.e. that the perpetrator was a fool who got what he was asking for.

What however concerns me are trends in the industry whereby some commercial operators enable ever closer direct interactions between their clients and those large predatory sharks, and this in baited conditions. I am convinced that it’s only a matter of time before this will precipitate a major accident – and if so, it will reflect very negatively on the industry in general and reinforce the already widespread reservations against our activities. This can also not be good for the sharks. 

Having said that, I am equally convinced that the consequences for those operators that are on record for not approving of those developments and for observing stringent safety protocols will be minimal.

6) People say that they are riding sharks to help show others that sharks aren't dangerous. What do you think of this? 

First things first: those large predatory sharks are dangerous and asserting otherwise is both disingenuous and stupid.

It is also a stupid conservation strategy.
Nobody asserts that e.g. the big cats, bears and large and/or venomous reptiles are harmless – and yet we preserve them because we appreciate their beauty and ecological role, and because we believe in preserving biodiversity. Predators have every right to be predators and we need to respect and admire them as such. The best conservation strategy is to concentrate on awareness and education whilst advocating legislative change - not those misleading stunts. 

By the same token, it is at best naive to assert that Sharks are imperiled because the public does not like them. 
Like with all other endangered large predators, the principal risks for sharks are commercial overexploitation coupled with habitat destruction and human encroachment leading to conflicts. Shark fishermen kill sharks because they are trying to make a living, not because they hate them – and I can equally assure you that no fisherman in say, Indonesia will stop fishing because of some scantily clad peroxide piranha swimming loops around a perplexed Oceanic Whitetip! 

And finally allow me one last observation: upon closer inspection, the main motivation of those people appears to be personal gain - be it perceived fame, revenue from selling those images or marketing for their corporate sponsors. Far from being admirable, this is highly hypocritical.

7) Have you observed changes in your industry in recent years? 

Yes I have. 
On the positive side, many operators have become more active in shark conservation because they have witnessed the decline of sharks first hand and decided that something needed to be done. Others have been driven into it by competitive pressure. It is also great to see an increase in the number of shark divers and shark conservationists. 

On the negative side, like I said, I observe the trend towards ever closer encounters with great apprehension. 
And when it comes to shark conservation, I deplore what I call the dolphinization of the shark movement whereby predatory sharks are being depicted as puppy dogs and the media are increasingly being driven by shameless self promoters, cheats and charlatans. 

8) Is there anything else you'd like to share about your business, the broader industry, or your thoughts on this daredevil behavior? 

I wish that the industry were more cohesive, and that we could all agree that we carry a collective obligation to act as stewards of the animals we showcase. That very much includes desisting from enabling those horrible productions by Discovery, Animal Planet and Nat Geo Wild.


Thank you for this opportunity!