Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cricket II to Continue Hunting Sharks

We have been following the fate of the Cricket Two over the past year.

Our concern was this notorious shark killing vessel, once put up for auction, might end up in the hands of someone who saw the media potential of it as clearly as we did...for the promotion and continuation of east coast shark kills.

That event happened this week as new owner Jon Dodd, 47, a regular at shark fishing tournaments in Montauk, said he plans bring this vessel back regularly for shark tournaments.

$51,000 bought Mr.Dodd the finest pro shark fishing media machine money can buy on the east coast. Our attempts to purchase this vessel outside of the auction failed - even though a preemptive offer of $150,000 was sent to the wife of Frank Mundus.

Complete story here

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sea of Cortez - Production Adventure 3

Good friend Captain Greg Grivetto of Horizon Charters is on another eco adventure and this time in the company of the BBC as they film their much acclaimed series, “Last Chance to See”. Biologist, naturalist, writer - Mark Carwardine and esteemed actor Stephen Fry host this series and will be aboard as we search for blue, sperm and humpback whales.

For the next two weeks he'll be sending us his "notes from the field":

The M/V Horizon surf board, a true long board by all accounts. We're surfing our way south on a consistently blustery sea. The weather report for today was a bit better than what we are encountering but all in all not too bad as the sun is out, the weather is warming and yesterday afternoon I installed a pumping stereo amplifier for our onboard stereo system. We've got the XM satellite radio fired up on the boat and are rocking out as we finish up our ship board projects.

As I write we are at 25.41 degrees north and 113.17 degrees west or 88 nautical miles north of Bahia Magdalena and 465 miles south of San Diego. This also places us 60 miles offshore, or for those of you that have been to San Clemente Island, the same distance you travel when making the crossing from San Diego to San Clemente.

As the day progressed Mother Nature's attitude improved, the ocean warmed and the sea came to life! We happened upon 3 humpback whales today just north of Bahia Magdalena. The first was an energetic youngster that made itself know by repeatedly breaching, spyhopping and nosing out. The first breach was classic humpback, straight up, 2/3's of it's body out of the water, then twist and extend the pectoral flippers for added flare before flopping and making a big ol' splash!

We spotted the other two at a distance as we were taking a look at Bajo Thetis, an underwater seamount a few miles north of Bahia Magdalena. We're contemplating venturing to this seamount on future Baja dive expeditions and spent some time with the sounder on metering back and forth across the top of the bank getting a feel for it's layout. The water was a bit chilly today, 65 degrees, but there was an amazing amount of life on the bank with baitfish, presumably mackerel, filling the water column and bullet tuna feeding on other small delectables.

As the sun dipped below the horizon we were adjacent to Bahia Santa Maria, just north of Bahia Magdalena. Late tomorrow morning we will be rounding Land's End, Cabo San Lucas as we enter the Sea of Cortez. I'm excited about visiting Gorda Banks north of Cabo. This is the time of year when humpbacks are found there which means we might need to spend a few extra minutes taking in the sites.


Captain Greg

Sea Shepherd - Your Money, Farley Mowat

We have been active critics of Sea Shepherd for the past year. What prompted our sudden reversal from donors and supporters to critics, was the realization that Sea Shepherd was wasting our money by Wagging the Conservation Dog.

When you support an eco org you expect results. Your money stands in your stead to effect change, and Sea Shepherd skillfully plays the "results card" when courting donors. From self generated arrest warrants for the entire Japanese whaling fleet, to quotes on websites and in public interviews, Sea Shepherd claims they will protect and save wildlife.

SSCS are well practiced at the trigger wording for well meaning eco donors.

The ugly fact is for the past 31 years Sea Shepherd has failed to stop whaling, the Canadian seal hunt, and shark kills. While other eco orgs have moved wildlife agendas forward and gained legitimacy with world opinion, Sea Shepherd has all but painted itself into a radical corner with fewer governments supporting them and fewer ports to call on.

Sea Shepherds trail of titanic financial missteps and its headlong rush to irrelevance is the direct result of insular 1970's eco thinking, poor judgment, and poor use of new media where the public backlash is immediate and unforgiving.

Case in point Sea Shepherds other "eco enforcement vessel" the Farley Mowat. You do not hear about this multi million dollar debacle because Sea Shepherd has all but abandoned this vessel in Canada, after once again being absolutely ineffective with the ongoing Canadian seal hunt.

The financial loss of this vessel to Sea Shepherds donors is staggering. Currently the Canadian government is demanding well over 3 million dollars in fines from Sea Shepherd and this week put the entire vessel up for auction. Two crew members will be back in Canadian courts in April running up untold and unmentioned legal bills.

These are your dollars being wasted for an unchanging 1970's eco policy and an agenda that went nowhere once more in 2008. Seals are being killed again this season.

As we started to look into Sea Shepherd one other revelation came forth. Sea Shepherd is good at one thing, media and grabbing attention. This is what initially attracted us and many others. Unfortunately the blow back for Wagging the Conservation Dog is literally sucking all the air out of the room.

Legitimate eco orgs are finding it increasingly difficult to get equal media time and financial donations on pressing issues like whaling, sharks and seals. Your financial contribution to Sea Shepherd not only fails to effect change - but damages the global eco movement as well.

Great discussion on this topic here

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Ocean is a Remarkable Place

As land based humans we are often reminded of the ocean and it's wonderful abundance of sea critters only when extraordinary animals wash up on the shores.

Case in point this remarkable Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) in New Zealand this week.

Years ago we got to witness the rare and wonderful midnight Leatherback egg drop on Dog Island. Sadly this oceanic voyager died of old age and the results of a recent storm. In this day in age that's a remarkable achievement.

Full story here.

Sea of Cortez - Production Adventure 2

Good friend Captain Greg Grivetto of Horizon Charters is on another eco adventure and this time in the company of the BBC as they film their much acclaimed series, “Last Chance to See”. Biologist, naturalist, writer - Mark Carwardine and esteemed actor Stephen Fry host this series and will be aboard as we search for blue, sperm and humpback whales:

For the next two weeks he'll be sending us his "notes from the field":

Time: 0800
29 25 N
115 56 W
200 miles south of San Diego

The sun rose over a blustery sea this morning. I have to admit to being very happy that the seas are on our stern as we travel south and not on our nose.

Whaling today may be a bit tough as the wind is a brisk 20 knots. Hard to see the blows as they are blown down almost immediately but we should have some good birding as we approach the Ranger Bank just north of Islas San Benito and then as we pass between San Benito and Cedros.

Time: 1945
27 35 N
115 04 W
323 miles south of San Diego.

Today was a busy day of vessel maintenance as we make our way south. We'll be picking up the xxx team in a couple days and are finishing up multiple projects aboard ship.

The ocean was quiet today, other than the wind and swell. No whales were seen, though we were visited by several pods of Pacific white-sided dolphin as we motored down the islands western shore. Three miles southwest of Cedros was a hot bed of activity as petrels, shearwaters, gulls and albatross were about feeding on no-see-ums. It was tough to determine the food source, but the amount of life in the area was astounding.

Looks as thought the weather will be improving tomorrow as we make our way past Bahia Magdalena. We're excited about cruising this area as we should have encounters with blue and gray whales.

Time for bed, see you in the morning!

Captain Greg

Sustainable Shark Diving - Mexico

One of the primary questions for any new shark diving operator is the sustainability question. Will the program put in place today be the same program 10 years from now? With this question also comes the ultimate question of commercial shark diving safety.

As we have long maintained what happens at one dive site resonates for good or bad at others and this is a global phenomenon. In the case of Mexico a commercial shark sites success or failure in Mexican waters will help determine the fate of other sites and the longevity of the industry as a whole within Mexico.

Which leads us to Playa Del Carmen and the new bull shark site there. This site appeared on the shark diving communities radar about two years ago. It is arguably one of the newer and more exciting shark sites and will generate more interest and divers in the years to come.

From the video's on You Tube and elsewhere it's pretty evident this site needs some industry help as it features unshielded half suit divers, shark feeding staff without armor, and overall free form encounters with poor to disastrous bait controls. Exciting, but is it sustainable?

That's not to say this site is not viable, it might well be. One look at other dive ecounters with bulls show these animals deserve special consideration beyond the "man in the sand with the bait crate".

It is hoped that these lessons are learned soon for the sake of the entire nascent shark diving industry in Mexico:

The Long Hand of Dick - Conspiracy

This week a NASA satellite launch sent a 278 million dollar Carbon Observatory into the cold, dark waters of the Antarctic.

Conspiracy theorists are screaming foul claiming the "Long Hand of Dick Cheney". Their theory goes something like this:

1. Dick Cheney, minion of big energy, sought to derail the Carbon Observatory from day one. Keeping an eye on rising carbon gas levels is not good for the coal or oil guys.

2. Many of Dicks senate buddies, who believe in The Rapture were helping Dick derail this project. They (senate buddies) do not believe in global warming as a general rule and no new "wacky science" was going to change that view.

3. The satellite failure was a direct result of industrial sabotage brought about by unnamed "Friends of Dick".

So there it is. But a look through the lens of Occam's Razor suggests that this floating observatory might have actually failed with a 59 cent lowest-government-bid widget that misfired at a critical moment.

Or the Rapture Guys made it happen with the help of Big Oil and Coal.

Most disturbing in any of this, is not the loss of a 278 million dollar bird, not the fact that Dick Cheney et al hate global is that fact that members of our government who have the ability to direct and change government policy for the rest of us actually believe in The Rapture.

CBS News - Documentary Hijacking

RTSea Productions is the driving force behind the well received white shark documentary Island of the Great White Shark. Shot at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico with the crews of Shark Diver and the research team from CICIMAR over four years - the shark footage in this film is simply stunning.

Richard Theiss, owner of RTSea, and ourselves were surprised to see his documentary footage on a recent CBS 8 news piece about sharks. The pieced aired last night and featured Florida's Shark Attack Files claim that shark attacks were down in 2008 due to the recession. This claim has been roundly questioned by many within the shark community and conservation world.

A strange story from Florida becomes stranger still when a major news source hijacks a shark documentaries footage, adds 3rd party advertising to it, and proceeds to air it without asking the filmmaker first.


See Video

Frank Mundus' Shark Boat - $51,000 Final

With your "average" pro shark PSA running upwards to $250,000 - including an A list star, director, set time, CGI, we're more than disappointed to see the Cricket Two sail off into the sunset for a mere $51,000.

This vessel to the pro shark world would have been media slam dunk. To any commercial shark diving operator even more so.

Mundus, the real life character to Quint from Jaws and shark fishing advocate landed untold numbers of sharks over his 60 years of fishing, many weighing between 1,000 and 4,500 pounds, the latter a world record for a Great White.

These animals were killed for the express purpose of weigh ins and nothing more. Having the Cricket Two as pro shark media platform at $51,000 would have been nice, but it was not to be.

To quote "Quint" from Jaws as the Cricket Two moves on to a private owner in New York - "Fare well and adieu, to you fair Spanish ladies..."

Sea of Cortez - Production Adventure

Good friend Captain Greg Grivetto of Horizon Charters is on another eco adventure and this time in the company of the BBC as they film their much acclaimed series, “Last Chance to See”. Biologist, naturalist, writer - Mark Carwardine and esteemed actor Stephen Fry host this series and will be aboard as we search for blue, sperm and humpback whales:

For the next two weeks he'll be sending us his "notes from the field":

After months of preparation we've departed San Diego for what will prove to be a grand Sea of Cortez adventure!. Over the next two weeks we will traverse the entire length of the Baja peninsula twice and in between will enjoy the company of the XXX as they film a segment for their much acclaimed series, "Last Chance to See". Biologist, naturalist, writer -Mark Carwardine and esteemed actor Stephan Fry host this series and will be aboard as we search for blue, sperm and humpback whales within the Sea of Cortez.

If that doesn't prove to be exciting enough we will also go searching for the endemic Santa Catalina Island rattle-less rattlesnake and hope to have the opportunity to venture into the Sea of Cortez's briny blue to experience the magnificent Humboldt squid off Santa Rosalia with Scott Cassel. The crew and I are pumped and ready to say the least!

I will do my damnedest to provide you with colorful commentary that will pull you away from the day to day grind and into the Sea of Cortez. We'd like you all to be with us, but since that is not possible I'll take copious amounts of photos for display upon our return on our new Facebook site. As I find time I will email photos to my better half so that she may post them in advance of our return.

As I write, we are 70 miles south of San Diego, 10 miles south of Ensenada. Today's encounters have found us sharing the ocean with Pacific gray whales, blue whales, common and Pacific white-sided dolphin. As the sun set into the Pacific we passed our final cetacean of the day that fittingly fluked just off our starboard beam.

We're looking at a restful evening on following seas and will be back on tomorrow with reports from Baja California's ocean oasis!

Until manana,
Capitan Greg

Goblin girl... on the plight of sharks on film.

I really liked the movie "Sharkwater". When I saw it, it felt like "Sharkwater" with it's action packed style, would appeal to a younger audience. Even I - who have always thought that Greenpeace's methods are a bit extreme - wanted to join Sea Shepherd's Captain Watson on his quest after seeing the film! Also a contributing factor why Greenpeace wasn't my cup of tea: when I was younger they mainly focused on cute animals, like seals and whales - not sharks.

Now that I've seen Joe Romerio's film clip, I'm more convinced that his style will talk more to politicians, than maybe "Sharkwater" did. "333-death of a deity" has a more suggestive - still very clear - way of hammering in it's message. And the footage is truly excellent, the music works well with the message delivered. VERY nicely done! I hope that it gets widely spread.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stinkin' Dead Shark Award February 2009

It's been a while since we handed out a Stinkin' Dead Shark Award, in fact it's been several months. That's good news for the shark world.

In case you forgot - the SDSA goes to those within the global community whose abjectly abhorrent behavior towards sharks and sustainable fisheries or shark conservation warrants a big black eye.

This months award winner without reservation:

Australia's The Daily Telegraph and a story this month about paying local fishermen to catch a Bull shark so this paper could capitalize on a gruesome and recent shark attack that left navy diver Paul de Gelder without his leg.


When the Media Hates Sharks

Recently an Australian special forces diver was attacked by a Bull shark in Sydney Harbor prompting a veritable media storm across the country.

As a general rule we do not cover shark attacks unless they are industry related or in the interests of exploring the media's relationship with sharks.

What got us about this event was The Daily Telegraph's efforts to capitalize on a simply horrific and rare shark attack that left diver Paul de Gelder without his leg.

This week The Daily Telegraphs Editors gratuitously hired a local fisherman to hunt down and catch a Bull shark for film crews and waiting cameras - all the while pondering out loud "if this was the shark" that attacked the diver.

Goodbye 2009 - Hello 1976.

Surely someone in Australia saw through this charade of media self flagellation and had something to say about this ill timed, ill conceived, and badly promoted shark fest?

Of all the misguided shark media we have seen this year - The Daily Telegraph takes this months prize. Congratulations.

Ecotourism and Sharks - Malaysia

Over the past three months tourism officials in Mayalsia have been wrestling with the issue of shark finning and a proposed boycott of the region by international divers seeking stronger protections for sharks.

Malaysia seems to be rising to the occasion organically with the following announcement by the Saba Anglers Association (SAA):

The Sabah Anglers' Association (SAA) will use the Sabah International Fishing Tournament 2009 as a platform for its Anti-Shark Finning Campaign. The campaign's committee chairman, Nilakrisna James, said SAA was concerned at the depletion of unique fish in Sabah waters, including protected species like sharks.

"In the past, we have voiced our concern on suspicious marine activities taking place in Sabah waters which received lukewarm response from the authorities.

"We do not need a global boycott from the increasingly green-conscious international travellers to take matters seriously," she said at a press conference on the tournament here today.

Nilakrisna said SAA was campaigning not only to ban shark finning activities in the state, but also at the universal level.

"The ban should be universal and not just for the reason of protecting the tourism integrity or the diving business in the state," she said.

Editors Note: Any efforts by regional players in Malaysia towards anti shark finning efforts should be encouraged. The gov response to the proposed dive boycott has been admirable thus far. The dive community should continue to encourage the tourism minister in tandem with the fisheries minister to enact local laws with a mix of tourism incentives to ban shark finning entirely.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Best Undersea Critter Ever!

If it were not for the Internet critters like these would remain in some lab, in a bottle somewhere, or in some obscure journal on a dusty back shelf.

Fortunately we live in a more enlightened age.

What you are looking at is Macropinna microstoma, brought to you by our all time favorite underwater website/news archive Underwater Times - the grandaddy of all online underwater sites. Kudos and double kudos to Jeff Dudas for this story.

Macropinna is currently being studied at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute by researchers Bruce Robison and Kim Reisenbichler (another reason to live in California) using ROV's in the deep waters just offshore of Central California. This unlikely looking critter can be found at depths of 2,000 to 2,600 feet.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Hillary Clinton on China- Trust me, it relates to sharks

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently gave her first speech about China.

She said that while human rights issues are important:

"our pressing on those issues can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis, and the security crisis"

In other words, the Obama government and the Clinton state department aren't going to pressure China on human rights issues because doing so will interfere from more important things, like the global financial meltdown.

While I don't necessarily disagree with this statement, if you read between the lines it's bad news for the shark conservation community.

As most of you know, China is the largest market for shark fin soup, an industry that kills (by some estimates) as many as 100 million sharks a year(many, including the shark diver, question the validity of this number, but at the very least we're talking about a LOT of sharks). It's one of the least sustainable fisheries in the history of the planet, and there's little that can stop it other than direct pressure from the U.S. Government.

If the Obama government isn't willing to pressure China about how they're treating PEOPLE.... there's very little chance of pressuring them about how they treat SHARKS.

The shark diver recently wrote a post about how the economic crisis means fewer humans killed by sharks... but it may mean more sharks killed by humans.


Greetings from David

Hello, everyone, and thanks to the Shark Diver for the wonderful introduction!

As a marine biologist, I will try to provide a scientific perspective on the shark world. As stated in my introduction, though, I am also an ardent conservationist and a SCUBA diver, so there is very little in the shark world that I won't comment on. My specific research deals with the food chain relationships of the sandbar shark along the Southeastern United States, and I've worked in the past on the electrosensory system of small Outer Banks stingrays.

I'll post something more substantial in the coming days, but I wanted to alert the shark diving industry crowd to an ethical debate taking place on my other blog (Southern Fried Science). It deals with the ethics of shark diving itself. Please find it here, and check the blog often!

Thanks, everyone, and I look forward to many interesting discussions about sharks in the future.


Rodney Fox - Industry Leadership

This week The Age newspaper in Australia featured an outstanding article on white sharks and commercial shark diving operator Rodney Fox.

Along with son Andrew, the Foxes have remained stand alone industry leaders to shark conservation efforts and the perception of sharks in general. Their operation remains a template for doing things right with big predatory animals.

Some excerpts from the article:

When people come out with us, we make an effort to calm it down to a sort of spiritual, eco-tourism experience. Everybody wants to see sharks jumping up in the air, smashing into the cages, biting the platform, breaking teeth.

So we have to tell people: You're not allowed to touch the sharks. We're not allowed to make them jump out of the water. If we do, the sharks bash themselves up and go away, and it's a lack of respect for such a majestic animal.

Complete Article.

True "Sharkitarians"

Frederic Buyle's underwater images of man and shark continue to appear around the Internet like rare found jewels. This is simply a great series of images.

His latest set can be found at the blog of Daan Verhoeven. If you can get past Daans "messianic vision" towards large predatory sharks and comments like these:

"Notice how her eyes seem to have the slight squint of pleasure?"

This photo set and the remainder of his observations are pure shark. Daan even coined a new term we kind of like for those who play with sharks, "Sharkitarian".

Tiger shark accidently caught, Teahupoo

From the shark research blog of Johann Mourier yesterday news of a dead Tiger in Teahupoo. Original story broke on the Shark-l and The Shark Group:

As a PhD student at CRIOBE studying sharks in French Polynesia, the Fisheries Authorities contacted me to informe us that the tiger shark was caugth . At first they said that it was a pregnant female with pups that started to go out of the body.

When we arrived we saw that it was a male. The babies that saw was the 2 claspers. This male was exactly 3.6 m long but we didn’t have the material to weigth the shark. But I think it could weigth about 500kg. We took DNA samples and we opened the body to have a look at the stomack both for stomack contents and parasite analysis.

The stomack was almost empty. It only contained some vertabrae that should belong to small shark or fish, and some fibres that we think could be whalebone plates of small cetacean.

PhD candidate - Shark research
Laboratoire Ecosystèmes Aquatiques Tropicaux et Méditerranéens
UMR 5244 CNRS - EPHE - UPVD "Biologie et Ecologie Tropicale et
Université Via Domitia, 52 avenue Paul Alduy 66860 Perpignan Cedex

Sunday, February 22, 2009

McDonalds Hates Sharks...Apparently

In response to a new McDonalds radio commercial on the east coast, Melanie Marks CEO of Shark Trust Wines sent the following email to McD's corporate headquarters this week.

Having personally known Melanie for over 6 years and her absolute dedication to shark conservation issues we'll agree with her take on this commercial having not yet heard it for ourselves. Sometimes you just have to act:

I recently heard a radio commercial for McDonald's that referenced the great white shark. More specifically, it promoted McDonald's at the expense of the great white. Sickened would not begin to describe how I felt about McDonald's when I heard this commercial.

The great white shark is on the endangered species list. It's population has declined by roughly 80% in the last 15 years and is expected to become extinct within the next several decades unless something is done to reverse this trend. In light of that, how can McDonald's approve an ad that contributes to the negative, and incorrect, image of this animal. Clearly, someone did not do their homework! A great leader once said, if you are not part of the solution than you are part of the problem.

I request that you immediately remove these extremely ignorant and inflammatory commercials from the air. I am prepared to organize a boycott of McDonald's if you do not do so immediately. And, to give you a sense of the power behind this statement, 30 million viewers tuned into Discovery Channel's Shark Week last year because they are interested in the fate of the shark.

I am an active voice in the ocean conservation community and I am not opposed to using that voice to send a message to McDonald's that your advertising campaign is malicious and contributing to the extinction of one of the great ocean animals.

I request that you respond to my request within 5 business days, or I will have no choice but to begin a PR campaign against McDonald's for your slander of an endangered animal.

Melanie Marks
Shark Trust Wines

Market Watch - EU Sharks

A large part of real and lasting shark conservation efforts is the engagement of major media outlets to carry shark stories. Kudos to Market Watch and Reuters this month for looking into the EU shark conservation issues:

Introducing David Shiffman to Underwater Thrills

A few months ago we began to take notice of a smart and prolific shark blogger at a site called Southern Fried Science.

The blogger as it turned out is David Shiffman. He is a Masters in Marine Biology student in South Carolina, and his research focuses on shark ecology and conservation. He is also an avid SCUBA diver and a supporter of responsible shark diving - our kind of guy.

David will be joining us from time to time here at UT as a guest blogger delving into the world of sharks, conservation, industry news and more. As this blog grows we are always looking for a "few good voices" to help move the conversation on sharks forward.

All our guest bloggers are independent voices. We are drawn to the world of sharks, conservation and research for a variety of personal reasons. The bloggers you read here are the ones we think have compelling, interesting, or noteworthy observations - and things to say about them.

Welcome to UT David!

Wild Aid - Mass Communication

One of the things that has impressed us with Wild Aid is their ability to mass communicate a message. Their recent efforts in China and India have impacted millions with prime time pro wildlife messaging brought to you by credible spokesmen and women.

This is how you do conservation. Smart messaging using old and new media with an eye towards this generation and the next:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Who is Sergey Panchuk?

Apparently he's an ex special forces shark diver with the St Petersburg Oceanarium, touted to be the largest in Russia and Eastern Europe.

What caught our eye today was Russian Televisions intro to the topic of sharks and shark diving - and the video clip they used to make a point.

In fact we're not so sure about the Jaws era spin on the entire article and video. They even managed to squeeze in a classic Erich Ritter style misquote from the Sergey:

The hardest thing when working with sharks is to never show that you are scared. You can't even have increased blood pressure because they can feel it. No emotions – even if they try to bite you,” Sergey says.

If there's anyone who reads this blog locally perhaps a word with the editor?

See story and video.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Whale Wars Season Two - Search Warrant?

In a surprising twist to the ongoing and very sad saga of Sea Shepherd - officers in Hobart, Tasmania boarded Sea Shepherds vessel Steve Irwin this morning.

The ship was met dockside by a party of Federal Australian Police officers with a 40 page search warrant.

The warrant authorized the seizing of "all edited and raw video footage, all edited and raw audio recordings, all still photographs, producer's notes, interview transcripts, production meeting minutes, post production meeting minutes as well as the ship's log books, global positioning system records, automatic radar plotting aid, purchase records, receipts, financial transaction records, voyage information and navigational plotted charts."

In short, the sum total of Animal Planets Whale Wars season two. Exactly why this raid happened remains a mystery. For the money we think it had a lot to do with Watsons pathological inability to tell truth from fiction and the repeated ramming of Japanese whalers last week - done expressly for the film crews of Animal Planet.

This is blow back for Wagging the Conservation Dog. With Watsons second vessel the Farley Mowat owing close to 2.2 million dollars in fines and sitting at a dock in Canada for serious regulation violations we will once again point out that your money is best sent to organizations that effect real and lasting change.

Watson and Sea Shepherd have been attempting to stop whaling for 31 years. This years entire anti whaling effort culminated in the storming of his vessel by Federal Australian Police officers with more downside to come.

Is this what you want from your eco group? Demand more than just hysterical media.

Goblin girl on… size!

Does size matter? At least when it comes to sharks it seems like size matters. One of the most frequently asked question I get from the public is: which is the smallest and which is the largest shark? It is quite uninteresting in one way. I mean, the maximum length for a human is 2.72 m (8 ft 11 in). How many people have been that tall? One! So, maximum length might be interesting for anecdotal reasons, but it doesn’t say much on the ”ordinary” shark. Still, it is a very common question and therefore I can’t ignore it.

The late Aidan Martin held the dwarf lantern (Etmopterus perryi) as the smallest shark. It reaches a maximum length of ca 20 cm (8 in) according to fishbase . At a size of just 19 cm one female was carrying developing embryos. After sharks reach sexual maturity the growth rate slow down considerably. Therefore the size at sexual maturity is interesting.

It was also to fishbase I went in search for the largest whale shark on record. I was a bit amazed to see a total length of 20 m (66 feet). I would have said 14 m (46 ft), and usually fishbase is quite conservative when it comes to size. So I posted my question on the three sharky mailing lists I’m a member of.

Luckily one list-member was in direct contact with Professor S.J. Joung in Taiwan - one of the authors to the fishbase referene. He assured the member that he personally witnessed this shark - and although not accurately measured, the animal was estimated by him and his scientist colleagues (Profs. Chen & Liu) at 20 m TL. The shark weighed 43 t!

The length equals that of the largest toothed whale, the sperm whale , where the bulls can grow to 20.5 m (67 ft) and weigh 57 t. Note that the whale sharks cartilage skeleton makes it much lighter, if not light!

So, does size matter? Let me know what you think!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sharks - Leading Economic Indicator?

All the financial Titans of Wall Street needed to do was look at the shark world to predict the slumping economy.

They look at their numbers to divine and predict the future of the financial markets and we look at ours.

According to the International Shark Attack File recorded shark attacks in 2008 slumped by 24%. If that's not a leading economic indicator please tell us what is these days.

So, in 2008 sharks took a break munching humans (thank you Mr.Shark) and in 2008 the housing debacle started to unravel in a big bad way. We will be the first to predict, based on our indicators, that 2010 will be an unheard of year for shark attacks on humans.

This shocking news will also dovetail nicely into the "great global recovery" story of markets near or at par with previously recorded highs - and all will be well with the universe again.

With the uncharted nature of global financial markets many ex industry titans have turned to jello, snow flakes, and oracle bones to peer into the future. We'll stick with sharks. A 24% slump is good news in our world.

1955 - Sharks and Jane Russel

A post of ours earlier this week with the original poster from the 1955 Howard Hughes epic "Underwater" prompted us to go look for the films original trailer. Yes it has sharks in it and a whole lot of museum quality dive gear as well. They also don't make swimsuits like that anymore:

Editors Note: Let's give a few props here to the original underwater shooters who made this film happen paving the way for generations of underwater films that inspired and educated.

Color Vision for Ancient Sharks

On a "cool science scale" we'll give this latest shark discovery a 9.9 up from a 7.5 because this story involves Callorhinchus milii:

PRIMITIVE deep-sea fish may have viewed the world much as we do. The elephant shark, which evolved about 450 million years ago, is the oldest vertebrate to have "the colour vision system we know as humans", says David Hunt at University College London.

Until now, ancestors of modern sharks from 374 million years ago were the oldest known creatures to have both rods to see in dim light and cones, for bright light.

Now Hunt's team has found that the elephant shark, (Callorhinchus milii), has rod pigments. It also has two copies of the long-wavelength cone pigment gene, a duplication which may have given them trichromatic vision like primates (Genome Research, DOI: 10.1101/gr.084509.108).

S.F Bay Sharks? We Got 'Em

For shark guys who spend a lot of time looking for sharks in far flung places it's reassuring to discover that our very own San Francisco Bay, with an average depth of 21 feet, is home to some very big sharks.

In fact 13-14 foot critters are being discovered on a weekly basis prompting a research team from U.C Davis in tandem with the Aquarium of the Bay to try and discover more about our homegrown super predators. Naturally if there are sharks and science going on in San Francisco you'll find David McGuire front and center with camera and editing bay in hand to cover it.

Join him this weekend during the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival - this years festival contains 30% more sharks:

Jamie Proctor - On Sharks

With the kind of interest you reserve for those with those who exhibit a stunning intelligence and yet choose to wear Speedos as daily wear - we set about reading the free form sharky zeitgeist of Jamie Proctor the other day.

Who is Jamie Proctor? A blogger, who apparently loves sharks and hates dolphins:

"Don’t fear the sharks. You don’t have to love them, cherish them, and try to give them huggles (that last one’’s a bad idea all around), but you don’t have to fear them. And you definitely should not hate them. Ever. If you have to hate something, hate dolphins, because we all know what smug little buggers they are, with their cutesy faces and high levels of intelligence and apparent attitudes of friendly curiosity that make forming anthromorphic attachments as easy as playing pin-the-tail-on-the-elephant. At least hating dolphins is a challenge, with a lot of mental effort going into forming delusions that large. Hating sharks is like hating people who don’t quite agree with you: it’s easy to do and a sign that you are a major-league dip with the intelligence of a fruitcake. And if you don’t quite agree with that, I hate you. "

Editors Note: We're curious to see Jamies take on animatronic sharks vs dolphins.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Speaking of Media - Beqa Again

This month we announced our fluff piece in Playboy Magazine (no puns please). From time to time we do "big media" with a primary focus on the adventure of shark diving.

For the most part these are fun articles that have little time to focus on shark conservation issues, or research. Fortunately we also get to balance that media with pieces like the one we did two months ago with Scientific American 3.0.

But if you really want to see what good industry media looks like, look no further than Beqa Adventure Divers this month on Mai Life Magazine. Naturally they got the good quotes, the great industry scoop, and what looks to be four full pages of fantastic press.

How did they do it? Ask Mike. The trick to media is not getting it, that's about as basic a proposition as harvesting apples from a sun ripened tree. It's what you do with it once you have it that defines good industry media.

For the folks over at BAD we're thinking their media fruit never tasted so good. Kudos.

World Blog Archive - Shark Bloggers

If you are serious about blogging, and that would be any of you industry types who post more than 5 times a week the good news is that Greg Davis has created a new website tailored just for you.

Welcome to the World Blog Archive from the creator of

A few weeks ago we called Greg Davis "The smartest guy in the room". He is and this is why. Blog content is only as good as the eyeballs that see it. The World Blog Archive helps get your content seen.

Now before all you post-every-two-months folks get too excited - this site will do absolutely nothing for you and your lame, sad little blog, that sits like a wet animal you forgot to feed on your back porch. Blogs, like all animals need to be fed, regularly, so go feed your blog!

Kudos to Greg for building this new site.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

San Franciso Ocean Film Festival - Sharks

Filmmaker, shark conservationist, and activist David McGuire has set up a noted shark conservation panel to discuss sharks this month in tandem with this years Ocean Film Festival.

The festivals short films are shark heavy so naturally we'll see you there:

Join me at the Cowell Theater with shark films and an analysis of sharks Myths and Misconceptions with shark experts and filmmakers following the films February 21 at the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival.

The panel discussion will begin at 3:15 PM in Room C260 at Fort Mason Center – opposite the main
entrance to Cowell Theater.


Dr. John McCosker, Senior Scientist and Chair Department of Marine Biology, California Academy of Sciences

Dr. Scot Anderson, Shark Research Scientist, Point Reyes Bird Observatory

Dr. Leonard Compagno, Shark Taxonomist, Board Member Save Our Seas Foundation, Curator of Fishes in the Division of Life Sciences and Head of the Shark Research Centre (SRC), Iziko Museums, Cape Town

Maria Brown Superintendent, Gulf of the Farallons National Marine Sanctuary

Lesley Rochat, Filmmaker, Manager and Director Education & Awareness, Save Our Seas Shark Centre (SOSSC), Founder, AfriOceans Conservation Alliance (AOCA)

Shark Research in Action CICIMAR

Since 2004 shark researcher Mauricio Hoyos has been doing battle with wind, rain, unstable fishermen, and a critter infested "love shack" on the north end of Isla Guadalupe, Mexico.

He also makes do with a tiny seasonal budget, Mexican politics, and rampant equipment failures.

Why, you may well ask, would anyone put themselves though this kind of privation all in the name of shark research?

Because it is important. It's important that a Mexican lead program spearheads efforts at what has become the most robust and accessible white shark site on the planet. It's important that several of the local shark operators support this effort, and they have, to the tune of thousands of dollars in materials and conservation websites like the Isla Guadalupe Fund.

It is important because the second phase of any successful commercial shark site is, stewardship. Without ongoing research and data these sharks remain at the whim of politicos and shark fishing agendas. Proof of migration, proof of feeding patterns, proof of behavior patterns all feed into the larger plan for site stewardship.

Maurico Hoyos is doing his part to ensure these magnificent animals, at this rare and pristine shark site, remain for generations to come.

As rare as this site is to white sharks, Mauricio and his ongoing efforts are to the world of shark research. Kudos.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Advert Sharks - On The Media

This is a classic video highlighting sharks and advertising. While amusing, you have to wonder what the shark conservation playing field would look like if we had efforts as slick as this out there. 35 seconds of smart in-your-head-messaging.


The Power of Shark Tourism

What began as a few online posts exposing shark fishing in Pulau Mabul by concerned divers has grown into a bit of a movement.

A movement that Tourism Minister, Datuk Masidi Manjun is taking seriously.

"Nature lovers and the global conservation community are fast becoming an influential lobbying group who could hurt the state tourism industry if they decide to boycott Sabah in protest against such activities."

Malaysia needs tourism, but tourism alone does not provide enough money to stop shark finning in the region. So, what is the solution?


As we have long pointed out where local fishermen see the financial incentive to keep sharks alive they do. Maylasia has discovered the power of shark tourism to increase tourism dollars to the region and the eco centric divers shark tourism attracts. Our industry needs to provide Tourism Minister, Datuk Masidi Manjun with the tools he will need to effect change in his region for continued and better tourism with sharks.

Some suggestions:

Park Fees and Outreach - Worldwide pilot programs providing local populations with money not to kill sharks are showing promise. Western tourists will gladly pay more money into regional parks if they know these monies will help preserve the environment.

Education and Redevelopment - Tourism in undeveloped regions is always a first step. Providing incentives to local resorts with tax beaks to help develop "off site" dive sites in regions where shark finning is happening is a viable solution. Add to that a partnership with an NGO or better yet direct engagement by local resorts in the region to educate local fishermen to the lasting value of sharks.

The growing calls from the dive community for a ban on dive tourism in the region is a "one trick pony" and serves only to provide a laser focus to the shark finning issue. Viable tourism solutions need to be forthcoming to move this regional issue into the next phase, direct and lasting action.

Complete Story

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Whale Shark Research Industry Co-Op

One of the better shark research and outreach programs we have come across this month.

Earthwatch, with financial support of Woodside Energy Ltd is offering professional development opportunities to Western Australian teachers.

Translation - they will fully fund eight teachers from rural and remote regions of Western Australia to participate on the research project Whale Sharks of Ningaloo Reef in May 2009.

The research program is also spearheaded by several commercial shark operators in the region.

Earthwatch engages people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment. The value of taking rural teachers through this program cannot be underestimated. As a force multiplier these teachers will in turn engage classrooms full of young minds to educate and inform about sharks.


Goblin girl on... sharky items!

It's Friday, the sun is shining outside (but it's cold) so I just want to make a "light" blog post today, not talking about threats to sharks.

If some of you have gotten curious about who "Goblin girl" is, you might have found my homepage and seen that I like to buy sharky things. I started to blog about all my things in 2007 and still find new sharky items in boxes and cupboards at home... And sometimes I buy new things. Mainly stuff I can use - not many china figurines make it into my home! The exception is goblin sharks. There I buy EVERYTHING I can find! Sometimes I'm talking artists into making stuff for me, like jewelry.

So, my latest find from Japan is trucks with sharks in tanks. They have either a goblin shark, a megamouth shark, a hammerhead or a great white. They are sold in sets of all four and I can't wait to get them!

World shark collection from Tomica gift (Takar Tomy) or in Japanese トミカ トミカギフト 世界のサメコレクション (タカラトミー)

More photos on my blog.

If you happen to find something that you think I might like OR if you live in Japan and knows how to get me the goblin shark Animal kaiser cards - drop me a line!

Editors Note: What kid/shark diver would not want that toy? Way cool GG;)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Great White Shark Conservation Project

Brought to you by South Africa's White Shark Projects the ongoing and highly regarded GWSCP.

As a template for ongoing commercial shark diving business models featuring hands on education and outreach - we like it:

The Great White Shark Project is dedicated to the exploration and conservation of the world’s greatest predator, the Great White Shark, and its environment. The project works with students, eco-tourists, scientists, conservation organizations and marine resource users (subsistence fishermen, sport divers and dive operators) to gather data on Great White Sharks, correct negative misconceptions about sharks, and stop the needless slaughter of over 100 million sharks annually.

Current programs involve eco-tourism, public education, environmental advocacy as well as various social up- liftment programmes. White Shark Projects is a world leading organisation focusing on the Great White Shark. Founded in 1989 purely as a research centre, since 1989 it has grown and broadened its services to include an excellent film department, a commercial diving and viewing centre and a separate conservation and educational department.

Media Disasters - Elvis Has Left The Building

Last night along with some 4.7 million viewers we watched in horror as actor Joaquin Phoenix imploded on the David Letterman Show. Clearly suffering from metal illness and or chemical abuse Phoenix stumbled through his interview like a homeless person. Letterman, sensing blood in the water, parried with quips about his unkempt appearance and the Unibomber. Letterman is a skillful master of the game and kept this "dead man walking" three ring circus going for as long as he could.

So, what does this have to do with shark diving? As a commercial shark diving operation your brand, your identity, and your credibility is tied into the media, like it or not. Yesterdays debacle by
Phoenix serves as a reminder to the dangers of failing to pay attention to every aspect of your media output.

For Phoenix his star power will inevitably lead to a "come back". For shark diving operations that follow the same path, the "come back" is not so easy:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Cricket Two - 50K Final Bid?

When word came out notorious shark killer Frank Mundus estate was to sell the Cricket Two, as media folks, we became very interested.

As a pro shark media platform this vessels sordid shark history and back story would have been be a slam dunk. The vessel and captain that inspired the character Quint from Jaws made the acquisition of this vessel for shark conservation efforts more than an idea.

That's when things went wrong for us. The vessel went on the auction block with final bid numbers as high as 300K being tossed around by the media. We wanted nothing to do with that and made a preemptive offer in December of slightly more than 150K to the auctioneer via the Mundus estate.

We were turned down. Then a few weeks later out of the blue asked again if we wanted to get involved in the auction for the Cricket Two. The answer from our side was no, but was the estate looking for a preemptive buy out? No.

The auction for the Cricket Two is officially over. The winning bid $50,000. Less than the minimum 100K wanted by the Mundus estate. Today, as we feared, locals in the region are discussing a series of memorial shark fishing tournaments to raise the other $50,000 for the Cricket Two.

It would seem shark conservation will take a back seat to the Mundus legend - all for the lack of imagination of one auction house and the Mundus estate.

The offer was valid. Greed got in the way of acquiring the Cricket Two.

New Shark Species - "Single Toothed Carcharodon"

Santa Cruz - Shark researchers with the Pacific Coast Research Center have announced the discovery of a new white shark sub species at famed California big wave surf spot Mavericks. Following a recent attack on a surfer where a single 2 inch tooth was recovered from the surfers leg, marine biologists have confirmed this attack was from a hereto unknown subspecies now being called the "Unidenta'tus Carcharodon" or "Single Toothed Carcharodon".

"We estimate this animal to be at least 14 feet long with one very large tooth in the middle of it's mouth" said David Munns spokesman for the PCRC. "There's really no other explanation for the single tooth and corresponding video we saw on You Tube":

The following Underwater Onion was brought to you by Shark Diver. Always check your media.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme

There are shark research websites and then there's the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme website.

Perhaps one of the most exciting and well conceived shark research websites we have come across in the past year - even though it's still in development.

This is how you do online shark conservation messaging and web outreach. Simply gorgeous shark images tell the story while up to date news and reports keep interested media and the public informed and engaged.

We are also not surprised to see this program as a member site to the Shark Alliance, kudos.

MWSRP Mission Statement

The Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP) exists to facilitate perpetual whale shark research projects and to foster community focused conservation initiatives within the Maldives.

The whale shark - the largest fish on our planet. Despite their great size very little is known about these colossal fish. We know they swim the oceans, potentially covering vast distances, eating only plankton, tiny fish and squid; but questions like how long they live or where they reproduce still remain unanswered.

Florida Tourism - Dying For Imagination

With the news of a 16 foot Great Hammerhead caught and killed off the Miami coast yesterday we thought this would be a good opportunity to look into the state of Florida's tourism.

Florida Tourism by the Numbers

57 Billion - The economic impact of tourism in Florida

6.9% - Current decline in hotel revenue for Miami-Dade region, Florida's largest

10% - Overall decline in tourism since 2007 and falling

Florida needs tourism dollars. The state is in free fall with sharply declining tax revenue, the housing debacle, and in some regions of Florida a shocking10% unemployment rate. It is time for Florida to reevaluate every tourism option they have and that includes shark tourism.

We have been harping on this for a while now. Since the ill fated decision in 2001 to ban shark diving in Florida's waters millions of tourism dollars have gone to places like Bahamas where divers enjoy safe encounters with sharks. Shark tourism, done right, could be plugged into Florida's existing scuba community to begin major tourism revenue generation in one year or less.

Those numbers include hotels, airlines, taxi's, restaurants, time shares, the economy. Since 2001 the state of commercial shark diving worldwide has "matured". With the proper protocols in place, oversight, and even stiff fines for operations that fail to follow shark protocol Florida could become a world leader in safe shark encounters drawing tourists from all over the planet.

One final number to consider - 200 million. The estimated value of commercial shark diving worldwide and growing. In countries like the Maldives, shark tourism already accounts for 2.1 million dollars in tourism revenue, an estimated 100 times more than the export value of shark meat from the region.

Looking at the Great Hammerhead caught yesterday by one tourist from Illinois it becomes elemental to estimate the ongoing value of that animal just as easily. Unfortunately for the struggling hotels, restaurants, and unemployed in the Miami region the only value they will ever see from that shark is on the Channel 6 news archives.

Let's begin to rethink shark diving in Florida.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Whale Wars Season Two - Cut, Print

As Sea Shepherd departs from the Southern ocean, once again, claiming to have saved whales from evil whalers let's take a look at their anti whaling efforts in perspective.

This week titular head of organization Paul Watson rammed his vessel into whalers with Animal Planet film crews capturing every moment for season two of Whale Wars. Classic Wagging the Conservation Dog moment with just days to go for Sea Shepherds departure from the area.

The conflict of interest with their reality television relationship goes beyond mentioning, suffice to say it begs the question "what is real and what is staged?"

After this weeks boat ramming spree Watson then claimed "the situation down here is getting very, very chaotic and very aggressive". This statement is tantamount to anti meat protesters ramming their cars into the side of beef processing factories and claiming the same. Add to that a waiting reality television film crew and you begin to see not only the uselessness of actions like these but the abject media fueled cannibalism of the entire event.

What you are looking at is staged eco theater with a side of dead whale at a cost of millions of well meaning dollars from people who really want to see and end to whaling. Like us.

To put this into perspective, this year Watson and company will claim to have saved perhaps 60 whales, that claim, like so many others from Sea Shepherd, will be seriously contested. Meanwhile Watson and company dangerously and egregiously risked a fuel oil breach from either his own vessel or those he rammed in the Southern ocean this year.

In the time it took Sea Shepherd to elicit funds, build a campaign, invite a reality television crew aboard and pump out a mass of seriously massaged media sound bites-whales died worldwide:

48 Sperm Whales Stranding

2 Right Whales Stranding

65 Pilot Whales Stranding

10 Sperm and Pilot Wales Stranding

150 Pilot Whales Stranding

At what cost per whale will donors continue to subsidize and support ineffective media theatre brought to you by Sea Shepherd and company. For us the equation is simple:

Has whaling stopped? No.

Will season two of Whale Wars have moments of high drama with vessels being rammed? Yes.

Is this quality eco work? The answer to that question can be answered with the contents of your wallet or your check book. Place you bets where they will be most effective. For our money Sea Shepherd is out of touch, out of game, and out of time.