Wednesday, September 24, 2008

When Shark Tourism Fails

From the Diveshoppe Blog a sad but true first hand, on the ground, account of when shark tourism fails to act as a bridge solution to sustainable shark management:

Two days ago, I received a forwarded email message about Sharks Fin Soup & Squalene. Read on and find out what the fishermen in Donsol, Sorsogon do to earn a living when the whale shark sighting is off-season.

Hey Guys

Sorry to depress you with these photos.. they were taken in Donsol, Sorsogon (whale shark habitat), just two weeks ago by my friend Omar. The finned sharks are thresher, hunted by the hundreds..The pink stuff in the bucket are little pieces of shark liver (from dog sharks) for squalene. Pictured here are the liver from some 1,000 + dog sharks that were caught..they live at least 2 fathoms deep..This is the way the fishermen earn in the off season..they sell it to middle men who bring it to Taiwan and Hong Kong. Ive seen firsthand the hunting of dog shark and finning in Sorsogon and even Siargao but I am certain in happens everywhere.

What we can DO is raise awareness..Thought you might like to shock some of your friends into ABSTAINING from Shark Fin Soup and Squalene products and better boycott establishments that sell them.Please forward if you wish"

Thanks,Denise (Celdran)

After reading her message I immediately emailed Denise Celdran to find out more. She said that she knows the community personally because she is a volunteer of the Bantay Kalikasan in Donsol. She added that the fishermen and the boatmen conserve the “butanding” or whale shark. But during the off season, their livelihood is “shark finning” which is just another form of fishing for them. The fishermen don’t even earn much and it is the middle men and the retailer who makes the”killing”.

She is appealing to whoever reads this not to blame the fishermen. She said that laws must be made to make shark finning as well as manta ray hunting illegal. Manta ray hunting is being actively practiced in Pilar - a town next to Donsol.

Denise is working with the Donsol community to find alternative livelihood for the fishermen. They are currently understaffed and have lots of issues in Donsol to contend with. She is also encouraging all our dear readers to help them find an intelligent solution to the problem.

I am relaying this story in order to bring more awareness to the issue. Hopefully, you know someone in the government preferably in the Congress and Senate who can help pass a law making shark finning and manta ray hunting illegal in our country.

To date, there’s still no International law banning shark finning and manta ray hunting. There are a few places where shark finning is illegal like the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico where shark finning is banned since 1993 and state of Hawaii in 2000. Costa Rica has recently passed a law but it just bans removal of shark fins while at sea.

Lets help conserve the sharks by spreading the word. Report-Last fish taken from the Med on Monday

Athens, Greece (CNM) In a stunning report Monday issued by the NGO Oceanica the very "last fish" was taken out of the Mediterranean this week leaving an entire body of water completely devoid of any fish life for the first time in recorded history. "It is a major environmental disaster".

Surprisingly the taking of the "last fish" was caught on film. Policy makers from 5 countries that rely on fish from the Med are debating what to do next. As fish populations have plummeted over the years, governmental infighting and agency abuses have left the Med open to illegal and suspect commercial factory ships and long liners.

"What we have on tape is none of those" said Una Karapledies from Oceanica's Athens office. "The last fish taken in the Med was taken by Kostoglou Stelios a well known Speed Spiro who harvested 3000 fish in one hour, unfortunately cleaning out the last of the entire Mediterranean fish population in the process":

The following Underwater Onion was brought to you by Shark Diver. Seriously the Med might just see a total collapse of fish stocks by 2020-if no one steps in with cohesive planning. Hat Tip: Squid Force video.

Chum Slick-Homerun-Stephan Baldwin Makes a Bad Movie Worse

You gotta love the Chum Slick Blog. The mysterious writer (said to be an "actual shark") has a deep and abiding sense of the strange and bizarre and often travels into the dark lost underground cities of the shark world to bring back Internet shark treasures. Like some sort of Sharky Indiana Jones. We like that. He/she also hates Stephan Baldwin as much as we do.

Yes, "hates da Balwin" live with it:

Shark in Venice

Extreme Shark Diving-Bad Idea or Industry Trend?

Editors Note:The following Internet post opens the table for discussion about Extreme Shark Diving. To us the industry is divided into two camps on this.

1. Those that see extreme close encounters with macro predators as a way of proving sharks are simply misunderstood and not "wanton killers".

2. Those that understand that sharks are first and foremost "predators" and that extreme commercial grade encounters with these animals might be a recipe for disaster.

We generally fall into camp two. The main point here is differentiating between solo extreme encounters or extreme encounters done by filmmakers and professional photographers vs extreme commercial shark diving applications, where divers of various levels and experience are completely exposed to macro predators-i.e "riding" great whites.

It's a distinction that has been glossed over recently. It's also a point that needs to be addressed industry wide. For those operations in camp one the death of a diver by a shark sets the perception of sharks back to the stone age. At what cost are these extreme shark encounters to the very animals we are all trying to dispel the "wanton killers" mythos?

Our main point is this-few up and coming shark diving outfits are content to sit by and not attempt their own brand of extreme encounters using previous and existing businesses as models. Have we reached the pinnacle of these encounters? Is there an industry wide protocol for these encounters?

Here's the post:

The frontier of marine sports has just stretched with extreme diving. Extreme diving is the break from the “monotonous” scuba diving experience to push yourself to new limits and experiences that can bring you new-found rush. While many people consider scuba diving an extreme sport in its own right, advanced divers may end up being bored from their usual diving routine. Extreme diving adds a double serving of risk to challenge the depths of the sea.

Extreme divers could be your normal scuba diving session with an added twist. It may start with diving in deeper water, diving at night, passing through ship wrecks or exploring an underwater cave. These experiences are much more interesting than the usual scuba dive in sunlight depth, watch your helping of corals, then returning to the safety of the diving boat.

One popular definition of extreme diving is attacking the deeper parts of the sea. Extreme divers dare to reach more than 2000 meters using highly specialised suits. For divers who have reached this depth, the lack of light gives an aural void that many describe as literally out of this world. It seems that the deeper you go, the higher the thrill one can experience.

Another form of extreme diving is cave diving. Taking this field of scuba diving will need a series of intensive training. For starters, cave divers use a different suit than normal scuba divers. The other dimension of these equipments is using them to your advantage to build your own cave diving experience. Cave divers find the thrill in exploring where underwater holes end up.

Diving with great white sharks could be at the far edge of extreme diving. There are cage diving site in Mexico and South Africa. While that is dangerous enough, there are shark divers who dare to ride their fins in open water. For these divers, they are trying to point out that great whites are not such killers.

Extreme diving is an exercise of the diver’s imagination to try out something new. It may be a fresh thing that you might immediately try or you may need to sit-down for lecture and training. Either way, extreme diving is about your experience and what you add into it. So if scuba diving is not extreme enough for you, then you can consult different online communities or your local diving club to learn about extreme diving.

If you are like us-you have a list of shark science guys and labs on tap to call upon if you need clarification or updates on cool stories like the dead Great White shark in the Bahamas this spring.

Fortunately there's one site that is trying to get you all these sharky resources in one place. Ocean Expert. Now before you go running to the site because you have been diving with sharks for a few years and think you're an expert have a look at the real experts they actually allow on this site.

For those of you real experts who need a place to call home. Here it is. Keep doing your expert thing.