Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Isla Guadalupe Trip Update 8.20.2008

The old saying "It aint' over till the fat lady sings" was in full force today as the Mexican Navy arrived and proceeded to board all the vessels at Point Norte, Isla Guadalupe.

This is what we had feared. The final edict after many months of back and forth conversations and negotiations with various government agencies was absolutely "No Chumming".

Unfortunately Mexico has chosen to deliver this final message on site and at the beginning of the 2008 shark diving season with an actual Navy Frigate.

This leaves us as eco tour operators in an unusual spot and our divers wondering what's next?

In the short term no chumming means that while sharks will be seen this year (they are extremely curious animals and will come-non chummed-to the cages) we will be slower than usual. That's the short term.

The long term prognosis is grim indeed. Mexico needs shark tourism, it also needs to be benefited by shark tourism. Right now it is not benefiting. Right now divers pay the equivalent of $20.00 USD for permits to enter the Bio Sphere and that's it. They should be receiving a whole lot more. We're in full agreement with those within Mexico who see it that way.

Additionally, the very real specter of rampant shark fishing at this site once shark diving operations fade away is something that must be contended with. You may say it would never happen here, but 2.5 tons of shark fins were taken from the Socorro's this spring-right under the nose of the Mexican Navy base stationed at that Bio Sphere.

This is a clarion call. If Mexico is successful in essentially gutting the relatively nascent 3.1 million dollar white shark dive tour industry and these vessels cannot continue to educate divers, support field research, and continue operating in a sustainable manner-we will lose upwards to 30% of the entire Western Pacific White shark population to shark fishing in a matter of two years.

Left to their own devices shark fishermen have a strong financial incentive to harvest sharks even within protected Bio Spheres. We will submit to you that Mexico's government has their guns turned on the wrong people at this point.

7 comments:

Tammi said...

This is incredible, why is Mexico doing this and for what purpose?

Sarah and Stephan said...

For the past two years we have been diving with you guys, this rips my heart out to hear this news.

Anonymous said...

What the hell,I just called another dive operator and they said this was a lie and that you did not have the permits to operate at this site that's why you were making all these false stories up.

Care to respond?

Shark Diver said...

Yes we would. There is "one operation" out there who is claiming to have "all valid chumming permits", even after the MX Navy boarded his vessel two weeks ago and told him point blank not to chum.

I cannot speak for that operation. I can tell you what all the other operators have told me, both US and Mexican "The Chum Ban is Complete"-there are NO official discharge permits for any vessel.

I can also report this situation like all situations in Mexico is "fluid" (no chum pun intended)and could change-but it is unlikely.

What is more likely is the following:

1. This chum ban is part of a larger more sinister effort at the island to either remove US vessels from this site or ban all vessels from this site.

2. The operator you are referring to decided to not be as forthcoming as we have in fear of losing business. Calculating that this situation would not come to a head this year and his "we got the only permits" jag would make him look good in the eyes of divers who do not know any better.

We maintain that divers need to be aware, and sadly, need to become activists. These pristine sites are under pressure all over the planet, the NGO's will not steward this site for us, it is up to us, divers and operators to do it.

In the years we have been in this gig we have discovered that "if it smells wrong, there's a reason".

Our standing company policy is "site stewardship" not "money first". As a matter of note I would be personally interested to see the official chum permit granted to that sole operation and run it by the MX Navy for their review. Mexico has many problems, granting sole permits to one operation at a site with 6 use groups-is not one of them.

trogloxene said...

"What the hell,I just called another dive operator and they said this was a lie and that you did not have the permits to operate at this site that's why you were making all these false stories up."

I was on the vessel when it was boarded by the MX Navy and I can assure you that this is the truth. The other dive operator (vessel - Solmar V) was there at the time and was boarded also

Sean

Michelle said...

I was there also, this is not a story! The MX Navy was making a serious statment that day. There were even claims of the MX Navy locking the chum up on Solmar V. Although I am not positive, I believe Solmar V is the one that stated this. Either way, I know this isn't made up by shark diver! I don't think shark diver could get away with going to Guadalupe for years without a permit, Also if shark diver's vessels didn't have permits to be at Guadalupe, the MX Navy sure wouldn't have let us stay at Guadalupe that day and/or the rest of the trip!

I just hope an agreement can be made, so this beautiful place filled with amazing great white sharks can be available to those who will do no harm while enjoying all Guadelupe is and has to offer.

Shark Diver said...

Hi Michelle,

The situation remains fluid, but we're beginning to suspect that something is "not right" out there.

The vessel you saw boarded by the MX Navy has put out a newsletter showing chumming openly, and is telling everyone that they have "the only chum/discharge permits" on site. The not so subtle subtext to that is the rest of the fleet is operating illegally.

Ahhh, shark politics. I wish we had a crystal ball to see where this was all going-suffice to say by December we'll know and we suspect it will break in either of the two ways we described.

Keep an eye out this is getting interesting.