Sunday, November 30, 2008

CNN's Planet in Peril

Richard Theiss at RTSea is on the pulse of eco tourism, media, and sharks with his latest posting today:

In early October, I posted information about CNN's Planet in Peril series (Oct. 10 posting). They will be covering several important shark issues, among other important environmental topics. The show will air on December 11 (check your local listings for exact times).

It appears that the show will cover shark finning/shark conservation and shark ecotourism. The video previews available on the shark finning segment cover familiar ground for those of you familiar with shark conservation issues. Hopefully it will enlighten some of the less informed. Of course, the biggest issue in saving sharks is finding effective ways to change the cultural midset regarding shark fin soup and other related products. Much like the criticisms hurled against the ineffectiveness of the "drug wars", we must wrestle with the demand for the product with equal attention and force.

The other shark issue that CNN touches on is shark ecotourism. They look at a South African operation and then touch on whether baiting white sharks is teaching them to attack surfers and swimmers (it makes for an exciting story). It's an argument often used by opponents, but in my experience and from what I have learned from respected scientists who have studied these animals for a lot longer than I have spent filming them, it just doesn't hold water. These sharks are more discriminating than most uninformed people give them credit for. Attracted to fish chum and chasing/biting hangbait consisting of tuna, bonito, or something similiar, does not make a white shark suddenly develop a taste for human flesh and begin seeking out surfers or swimmers as their next prey. Surfers have been and probably will always be subject to mistaken identity for the large pinnipeds (seals, sea lions) that white sharks feed on.

I did find it noteworthy that the South African shark diving operation CNN chose to film had an incredibly small cage that fit the divers in like slices of bread in a toaster (a cameraman could barely fit a decent video housing in there) and they dragged the hangbait right up to the cage, causing the shark to bang up against the cage - dramatic fun for the tourists but potential harm for both the shark and the divers. This is not responsible shark ecotourism.

Thomas Peschak-Good Idea

One of the more creative ways of pushing shark conservation from the Save Our Seas Foundation and one of our favorite photographers Thomas Paschak this week.

What happens when you pull shark conservation messaging from disparate sources? Great things apparently:

A new kind of shark board
If you say shark board in KZN, you’d be referring to the guys who man the shark nets off the province’s beaches. However, a national art exhibition that aims to bring together two sworn enemies — sharks and surfers — all in the name of conservation has changed that.

Eleven top South African artists — including four KZN ones in Ross Turpin, Trevor Paul, Kim Longhurst and Scott Robertson — will use surfboards as canvases to highlight the predicament of one of Africa’s most endangered predators. They will be accompanied by 40 haunting photographs of sharks by award-winning photographer Tom Peschak from the Save Our Seas Foundation, a non-profit marine conservation group.

Editors Note: Hopefully these boards will go on auction, and when they do count us in for one...or three.

Shark Hating Voyeuristic Parasite?!

Kevin Harris. You either agree what he has to say, or hate what he has to say. Either way you are obligated to have an opinion-because that's how he's set himself up.

One of our favourite shark blogs penned by the folks over at Beqa Adventure Divers all but detonated on Kevin Harris this morning. It's interesting reading.

For the record we're on the fence with Kevin. He skates a fine line between 70's conventional wisdom about sharks that often fail to take into account recent data trends and shark research. The difference, for example, between chumming for pelagic shark species vs reef sharks and a host of other salient points when lumping together "opines" on everything from shark attacks to site closures.

On the plus side Kevin has gone where no one has gone before taking a deeper look into industry shark attacks and poking about in places where our industry does not typically want anyone poking about. This is the blogger equivalent of the 400,000 soldiers who marched straight line into machine gun nests during the battle of Ypres in 1916...when you come out into this industry with opinions there's no where to hide.

One thing is for sure Mr.Harris is not the mindless WOW playing shut in behind the Cyber Diver Network whose anti-shark diving crusade is nothing short of pathological. We would humbly submit to you in the realm of "Shark Hating Voyeuristic Parasites" this fellow gets the award post dated to 2000.

Mr.Harris, his website and opinions, are more nuanced than that. As we said back in September:

"An industry is only an industry when people discuss views, organize, and debate topics affecting that them. Kevin Harris provides the starting point for many of those debates for the commercial shark diving industry".

He also has managed to raise the ire of many along the way, which we suppose, was part of the game plan from day one.

Wild Aid-"Goodwill Hunting"

This morning blog reader Dennis sent in this Wild Aid shark conservation video. It's an older video but it's also has a nice balance between the gorgeous and the horrific. Whale sharks are on the agenda: