Monday, September 28, 2009

An Open Letter to Mexico’s Congress on Shark Ecotourism

In April of 2008 Shark Diver was made aware of several allegations regarding Isla Guadalupe shark diving eco tour activities and the perception of those activities within the Mexican Government.

We decided to act. Here was our response in May 2008. To date not one of the Deputies from Mexico’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee has responded to our open letter.

The fleet wide allegations were simply incredible, while they have since been refuted by other agencies within Mexico we have a long way to go with members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

Note: Given the nature of these allegations "media control" at this pristine shark site has never been more important. Understandably videos like the recently released Shark Song play into the anti-shark diving lobby agenda here.

An Open Letter to Mexico’s Congress on Shark Ecotourism

In April 2008, after marking up a legislatorial Point of Agreement regarding the “non-extractable exploitation of white shark at Guadalupe Island,” Mexico’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee of the federal Chamber of Deputies submitted its negative findings Point of Agreement to the lower house of Congress as a whole, where it now awaits action.

All of which relates to supervised shark diving (in cages) adventure and ecotourism activities that take place within Mexico’s Guadalupe Island Biosphere Reserve, located in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California. Activities that the Mexican government, after due study and review, has authorized through the issuance of a limited number of federal permits to Mexican and foreign tour operators (plus the requisite permits vessel owners/operators or their agents must obtain).

Following a long introductory review and criticism (with a number of unsubstantiated and/or arbitrary “facts”), the Environment and Natural Resources Committee calls for the federal government not to authorize shark watching activities at Guadalupe Island, “insofar as it may not have been determined if these practices change the behavior of this species, creating a risk to its population, the marine fauna of the area, and local fishermen.”

As well, the Committee is calling for Mexico’s Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources, through its Attorney General for the Protection of the Environment and in coordination with the Secretariat of the Navy, to carryout increased vigilance and oversight in the ocean area to insure that all of the rules and regulations in the 2005 decree, that designated the land and waters off Guadalupe Island a natural protected area, are followed.

May 11, 2008

An OPEN LETTER to members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee of the Mexican Chamber of Deputies, Honorable Congress of the Union, Mexico, D.F.

Honorable Deputies of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee:

Diego Cobo Terrazas, Chairman
Jesús de León Tello, Secretary
José Luis Espinosa Piña, Secretary
Lucia Susana Mendoza Morales, Secretary
Benjamín Hernández Silva, Secretary
María Mercedes Colín Guadarrama, Secretary
Aleida Alavez Ruiz
Armando Barreiro Pérez
Edmundo Javier Bolaños Aguilar
Juan Hugo de la Rosa García
Adriana Dávila Fernández
José Antonio Díaz García
Emilio Ramón Ramiro Flores Domínguez
José Guillermo Fuentes Ortiz
Martha Hilda González Calderón
Christian Martin Lujano Nicholas
Cruz Humberto López Lena
Sergio Augusto López Ramírez
María Soledad López Torres
Beatriz Manrique Guevara
Carlos Roberto Martínez Martínez
Roberto Mendoza Flores
Fernando Quetzalcóatl Moctezuma Pereda
Víctor Manuel Méndez Lanz
Jorge Rubén Nordhausen González
José Ascensión Bárcenas Orihuela
Martha Angélica Romo Jiménez
Víctor Manuel Torres Herrera
Rafael Villicaña García
Carlos Ernesto Zatarain González

Esteemed Members of the Chamber of Deputies:


Several allegations have come to our attention regarding ecotourism activities of the white shark cage diving tour operators at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico. Your meeting minutes of April 3, 2008 state the following (translated):

1. "As well, it is mentioned that the techniques used by these tourist service providers in order to attract white sharks puts at risk the ecological balance in the area, the habitat and populations of this species, since their boats carry containers with sanguaza (blood of different origins mixed with water), and bait that they dump into the sea once near the island with the aim of attracting sharks in order to see them rise to the surface or jump. It should be noted that the sanguaza consists of blood from different origins, (which) could have been fishes, fowls or mammals, and in some cases (it) has the remains of entrails mixed with water."

2. "These boats pour out the sanguaza at night so that the essence can remain in the sea, and the next day they can assure tourists (of) the presence of white sharks around this. Another of their methods, although it is utilized to a lesser degree, is the use of pinniped (sea lion, seal or elephant seal) shaped lures, combined with marine mammal oil, a situation that obviously violates federal legislation."

3. "As has been mentioned, the practices used in order to attract these species are so inadequate that they have modified the behavior of white sharks in the area, as well as its local distribution. This change of its behavior will create a potential risk to the populations of sea elephant (Mirounga angustirostris) and Guadalupe fur seal (Arctocephalus townsendi), as well as abalone fishermen."

4. "Regarding sanguaza, this must be considered hazardous waste and even potentially infectious, therefore its use to attract could result in the spread of pathogen agents or viruses that may be potentially infectious and harmful to the marine and terrestrial fauna of the region."

We would like the opportunity to refute these allegations, and to speak directly with any members or deputies of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. What you have been made aware of at this pristine site is factually incorrect, and it does a great disservice to the overall positive efforts that this fleet, in good faith, has put forward within the Biosphere Reserve boundaries of Isla Guadalupe over the past seven years of operations.

If this site, and the fate of a large percentage of the Pacific’s white shark population, is to continue to thrive the actions you take in coming months will be a deciding factor. We ask that the esteemed members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee come to understand exactly how these white shark operations are run, and how this fleet, on its own accord, has made great strides in building a long term ecotourism benefit for Mexico.

We stand ready and committed to working with the Mexican government in developing this site as a world class ecotourism and white shark research destination. These small steps have already begun at this site, and we would like to introduce you to them.

Respectfully,

Patric Douglas CEO
www.sharkdiver.com
www.sharkdivers.com
www.guadalupefund.org
www.islandofthegreatwhiteshark.com
415-235-9410

Alcohol and Shark Diving - Mixing Success

As shark media marketing folks we like this:

Scottish whisky liqueur Drambuie is rewarding 13 of its loyal bartenders by throwing them to the sharks – literally.

In the spirit of adventure that embodies Drambuie and its brand values of ‘risk, rebellion, passion and mystery’, they offered bartenders across the country the opportunity to win a trip cage-diving with sharks off the coast of Port Lincoln, South Australia.

The three winning venues - Rambutan in Sydney, Madame Brussels in Melbourne and the Forrest Centre Tavern in Perth – are currently at the Neptune Islands (70km off the coast of Port Lincoln) redeeming their prize.

“This promotion is similar to one they run in the UK, where bartenders are taken to Cape Town [South Africa] to experience the adventure-of-a-lifetime shark-diving,” said Drambuie senior brand manager Alison Sinclair. “It’s really exciting how well the bartenders have embraced the competition and the spirit.”

Complete Story

Grey Nurse Shark Birth - On Tape

With an estimated wild population of close to 500 animals the birth of a Grey Nurse shark in Australia this week was a huge event. Attended by an aquarium diver from Australia's UnderWater World the exceptionally rare birth was also caught on tape.

Complete Story


Save Our Seas Foundation - Positive Shark Media

When it comes to Save Our Seas few NGO's strike as many positive chords for shark conservation media output as they do. We have been blogging about their continuing media efforts for a while now as the "conservation gold standard."

So it is with little surprise that we discover another media hit, this time featuring some of the least voices heard in the shark conservation discussion. Mostly due to the fact that in their world shark conservation speaks with the language of data sets and power point presentations.

Here in their own voices, none less passionate, are the shark researchers who are on the front lines of shark conservation worldwide.

After watching this video you have to wonder out loud how Discovery Networks failed as badly as they did with Shark Week 2009. Making compelling shark media is not rocket science, as we have been saying for a while it starts by "engaging the source," not arriving on scene with a hand made shark script fabricated in Los Angeles.

Kudos to all those who made this wonderful video, we could use many more:



Thanks Mike in Beqa for posting this first!

Isla Guadalupe - Vessel Ordered to Leave?

In the ongoing political mess that has become Isla Guadalupe Mexican Navy officials have, for the first time, demanded that a vessel to return to Ensenada in the middle of it's shark operations.

The issue, a ban on all chumming, brought about by a video shot in 2008 is back on the table in full force (thank you Mr.Patrick Walsh).

We'll update you as soon as the details have become clearer, suffice to say this latest development is not a positive one for this newly minted Bio Sphere Reserve or the commercial shark diving industry at large.

Underwater Thrills:Swimming with Sharks - Top 100

We received the following email this morning. 1900+ blog posts later about sharks, shark diving and conservation, it would seem this blog has discovered a wider audience.

Thanks to all our readers, shark divers, and associated industry cranks (you know who you are) we could not have done it without you:

Congratulations Shark Diver Blog,

Your readers have submitted and voted for your blog at The Daily Reviewer. We compiled an exclusive list of the Top 100 scuba Blogs, and we are glad to let you know that your blog was included!


Cheers,

Angelina Mizaki
Selection Committee President
The Daily Reviewer

Shark Free Marinas - Keystone Point Marina Miami

Congratulations to another Miami area marina who has gone Shark Free. This week was an exciting one for the Shark Free Marinas Initiative as marinas from as far away as Puerto Rico joined the effort.

Leadership begins with taking a stand and making a phone call. Kudos to all our Regional Ambassadors who made the call and used our online materials to ask marinas to make that change.

Please support Keystone Point Marina by dropping by their facility at 1950 N.E. 135th Street, North Miami, Florida 33181 and be sure to visit their website at www.keystonepointmarina.com

Are you a marina owner/manager? Follow their example and register your facility with Shark-Free Marinas today.

Want to get involved with SFMI? Visit our Regional Ambassadors page for more info.