Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Australian Institute of Marine Science

We're baaack. Sorry about the three day delay, but the woods and mountain peaks of California's Big Sur called and the dogs dragged me out of the office to heed that call - glad I did.

With no access to media at all, not even cell, it was an interesting three days.

Meanwhile in the shark world:

Research from the Australian Acoustic Tagging and Monitoring System (AATAMS) shows the effect of water temperature on the movement and distribution of sharks.

The movements of reef sharks at Ningaloo Reef are being tracked by AATAMS, part of the nation-wide collaborative Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS). Long term patterns of habitat use and dispersal will help manage the populations in areas where sharks are vulnerable to habitat degradation due to climate change.

Shifting current patterns, seal-level rise and increasing temperatures affect the availability of prey and suitable habitat for shark populations.

Scientists from Charles Darwin University, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the University of Adelaide and CSIRO have so far tagged 83 sharks and collected thousands of detections of their location.

Patric Douglas CEO

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Q and A with Shark Diver - The Reef Tank

From time to time we do online interviews with unique websites.

Last week it was with The Reef Tank a website and online community devoted to the world of aquaria. Online articles allow us as a company to expand on who we are outside of our own website, and introduce others, who are perhaps not as understanding of our industry to a view of it.

Working with The Reef Tank crew was fun and kudos to Ava for reaching out. You may want to check this site out. It's in-depth look at the world of aquaria covers everything from fish to the marine geology of tanks - until last week we had no idea there was even such a thing marine geology in fish tanks.

This is definitely not your fathers goldfish bowl website.

Online Article

Hot Manta Passion - Warning Graphic

It had to happen, eventually. Since 2000 the numbers of divers entering the ocean with cameras has grown exponentially. Thus the chance encounter with two animals enjoying a "moment of bliss" was bound to happen. In this case, turns out these critters are even more graceful when caught in flagrante delicto:

This video footage shows the mating and copulation of manta rays (manta birostris). Shot in HDV 1080i in Rangiroa, French Polynesia. It is the first time that such behavior was filmed in wildlife.

Further information also at:www.underwatercam.tv

Port St.Johns Beach SA - Shark Solutions

With another fatal attack attributed to Zambezi sharks in Port St.John SA, the question of nets vs nets is becoming almost inevitable.

We blogged about this a few months back after the first fatal attack with some viable solutions.

Regional tourism is important to local communities, unfortunately when sharks attack swimmers at regional beaches sharks become the target. As we pointed out back in early February there are inexpensive and viable solutions to the wholesale killing of animals at this site. Understanding and political will help move the conversation forward.

Let's hope calmer heads prevail.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Shark Diver in new book "Travel Therapy"

A few months ago Karen Schaler called us about a new book she had in the works. As the owner of the hugely popular travel blog Travel Therapy - how could we refuse?

Karen, as it turns out, is a smart cookie. Aside from being one of the best looking writers to ever grace the genre, take THAT "Ms.Devils Teeth", she also knows the ways of the broken heart.

Karens newest book takes women on a journey to the best places on the planet to get over a break up. One of those places is Isla Guadalupe with the crews of Shark Diver. Not to say that our crews know anything about break ups, but we do know sharks.

If there's one thing a broken heart does know it's "beating". Think of us as the "crash cart of love". If your heart has stopped beating for lack of love, one day with a 15 foot great white shark will get it going again.

Kudos to Karen for the book, and thanks for the section in it!

Christie Fisher - "Schleprock" To You

Christie Fisher we miss you. This is one of her shots of Shark Fin Rock- a towering monolith guarding the entrance to Isla Guadalupes north point. Christie is one of the few shooters we have met that has captured this rock and the sharks of Guadalupe in ways that few can.

She is what we like to call an "organic shooter".

This week both Christie and Shark Diver are featured in the new book Travel Therapy by Karen Schaler under "Isla Guadalupe".

Christie has been AWOL from our adventures for a year now and every once in a great while we extend an offer-you-cannot-refuse to our long time friends and guests.

Here it is:

This blog post entitles the bearer (Ms Fisher "Schleprock") to one complimentary trip to Isla Guadalupe, Mexico in 2009.

Your sharks miss you, and we miss you. Dust off that camera gear and come and join us. We'll be waiting!

Captains Log - Clean Up Decks 1-20

Captains Log

"Arrived in port today. Bit of a mess on decks 1-20, actually, the engine rooms got a spot of water in it as well. Come to think of it, we're also missing a few windows, deck chairs, and what is that smell?"

Cape Cod Great White 2004

Reports of a great white shark swimming in an estuary at Naushon Island on September 21, 2004 and the subsequent media storm that followed, was a highlight of the shark world that month. The back story to this incredible shark tale has never been told, until now.

This week reporter Jeff Harder dipped into the unlikely events of that September, when a 14' white shark was discovered, tagged and released almost 10 days later. Some interesting side interviews with Tom King of New England Sharks and Dr. Greg Skomal:

Staring in awe, Skomal mouthed an expletive. “It wasn’t a report. It wasn’t a rumor, you know?” Skomal says today. “It wasn’t a mystery fish . . . it was a 14-foot, almost 2,000-pound great white shark swimming in a salt pond, in an estuary, where people swim all the time.” The estuary was an ideal place for an up-close glimpse of the free-swimming female great white, which stayed until scientists coaxed her into open waters on October 4 of that year.

Complete Story

Friday, March 27, 2009

Put you off your Cioppino - Forever!

More than a right of spring, the annual Dungeness Crab feast up and down the coast of Oregon and California is a sight to behold.

We're partial to the two lb monsters that arrive in the dead of winter up in Oregon. Vessels laden down with thousands of pounds of delectable crustacia kept us slavering like idiots at the docks waving $5.00 bills at passing fishermen...until today that is.

Thanks to Underwater Times we now know that crabs feel pain, and remember things, like pain.

With the main method of crabby dispatch still the BBP or "Big Boiling Pot" this latest news is enough to put you off your Cioppino. Seriously!

Iron CO2 Experiment - Damn Copepods!

What happens when you "seed" a 300 sq km patch of ocean with iron dust?

If you're a scientist you hope it will spur on algae growth and absorb vast quantities of CO2...at least that's what you hope.

Researchers in the southern ocean did just that this month and, as hoped, algae did bloom, but it was quickly digested by non CO2 absorbing Copepods and other marine life that eat algae. BBC News has some great coverage.

Now if we could only get rid of the damn Copepods with the addition of genetically modified fish?

Shark Attacks Up - So Are Swimmers

For all the anti- shark media bashing we do here - rightfully so- once in a while the major media get sharks right. Today is one of those days.

A recent study in Australia reviewing the controversial shark netting program shows shark attacks up from the 1970's by a clear 28%. Where this study is absolutely correct is to also correlate the increased numbers of swimmers in the oceans as well:

Coming after a summer that has left even the most hardened surfies asking why there have been so many attacks, the draft report stresses it is simply because the state's increasing population means more people are going into the water.

Comprehensive shark management plans begin by understanding the roles humans play in tandem with shark attacks.

Hey, didn't we just post something similar last week?

Complete Story

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Island of The Great White Shark Documentary - U.K

Island of the Great White Shark is a pro-shark, pro-industry, documentary by RTSea Productions. It has been shown to rave reviews across the United States and has recently began it's european tours.

This week IGWS was featured in UK's Lifestyle Magazine. The article is touches many of the standard conservation themes cementing the role of eco tourism at Isla Guadalupe, in tandem with ongoing and supported shark research, as a template for worldwide shark diving operations.

Kudos to Richard for this film and to the many operators at Isla Guadalupe who had a hand in it's creation. Without the ongoing support of forward thinking shark operations these kinds of films cannot be made.

Sadly, major media sources remain uninterested in straight talk films about sharks that celebrate, as commercial shark diving operators do, the beauty - not the "beast" of the shark.

Read the article online here pages 8-9.

Bollywood and Sharks - Odd Combination

Perhaps the most talked about shark production in the past ten years wrapped in the Bahamas last year.

The new multi million dollar Bollywood epic "Blue" features underwater sequences with up to 40 sharks at the same time. Shot on location at Stuarts Cove we cannot wait to see this unlikely fusion of Bollywood dance numbers and...sharks.

Like adding raisins and bananas to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich - and then deep frying the whole thing.

Don't knock it until you have tried it:

Bollywood macho men, two sizzling beauties and one Australian pop diva didn't seem a tough bet for debut director Anthony D'Souza, wielding the megaphone for 40 sharks for an underwater action sequence for Blue surely gave him the jitters.

"The scariest part of Blue' was in fact the sharks. Getting them to act in my film was not easy," said D'Souza.

The particular scene with sharks has actors Sanjay Dutt, Akshay Kumar and Zayed Khan in the frame and it called for a lot of safety measures.

Complete Story

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kudos From Beqa Adventure Divers - 1000

We remain big fans of BAD in Fiji, and this week received some high praise from an operation that has been "leading by example" in their region. Thanks guys:

Patric of Underwater Thrills has just reached this milestone and we feel compelled to shout a big Kudos and Congratulations!

I've said it before, the blog by Shark Diver is as good as it gets: always up-to-date, always interesting, sometimes funny, often brilliant and visionary. And thankfully, often controversial, scathing and unflinching - the way a Shark Diving and Conservation blog should be!

Shark Conservation has recently made very satisfying inroads and we should be thankful for that - and persevere and redouble our efforts!

Sharks continue to be brutally slaughtered by the tens of millions - not only by the industrial Shark finning mafia but also, by the members of the oh-so-noble IGFA.

And they continue to be demonized by the mainstream media - and alas, also by Shark-related media like Discovery's Shark Week who I hear will insist on producing this season's idiotic anchor show "Deadly Beaches" in spite of the outrage by the Shark Conservation Community. Have we managed to keep them out of Fiji or are they trying to sneak in under the radar? Keep watching this space!

And there remains a sad and increasingly lonely group of yesteryear's Shark Diving Operators who insist on tarnishing the reputation of the whole Industry with their reckless cowboy antics and still treat Sharks as mere ATM machines. Which begs the question, who will facilitate Deadly Beaches in the Bahamas?

And whilst this is going on, the relevant Authorities continue to dither and precious resources keep being squandered on frivolous science.

All very dire.

Much to do for people who care. Like Patric. Buddy, very well done and may you continue to entertain, amaze and inspire us for many years to come!

Editors Note: Oh, we will;)

The End of Shark Diving - Farallones?

The commercial and political winds of change are blowing again.

The Farallones Islands are one of the west coasts hot spots for simply titanic sized great white sharks. After years of legal wrangling the anti shark diving folks at the Farallones have succeeded in a series of new regulations guaranteed to all but kill this shark diving site - according to local news sources:

As part of the changes, great white sharks are now protected from people who want to get a closer look at them. There is now a prohibition against getting closer than 50 meters - or 164 feet - of a white shark within 2 nautical miles of the Farallon Islands. The rule also bans the practice of using decoys or chum to lure sharks.

"We have had cases where people in vessels come charging up to the sharks, scaring them away from food they have just caught," said Mary Jane Schramm, spokeswoman for the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. "These activities threaten the health of the species."

"They have been working on the regulations for some time and put a lot of effort into it," said Terri Watson of San Rafael, executive director for the Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association. "I'm confident they heard all the issues from all sides."

Sanctuary officials will work with the U.S. Coast Guard as well as researchers to help enforce the new rules. Violations are subject to citations and fines.

"There are many things affecting the sanctuaries: tourism, proposals for wave energy, invasive species, oil spills, they need to be better protected," Schramm said.

Regulations here.

"Noblesse Oblige" - I.G Operators

Our blog is getting a once over from a number of operators at Isla Guadalupe this week.

We would like to direct your attention to our "Industry Thoughts" section and to read this post from 2008. Distilled down to it's source, this is what Shark Diver believes in.

It's a long bet.

In our world you're either working towards viable solutions for long term shark site viability, as most of you have been doing organically. Or you are treating the resource as a Biological ATM Machine. The long term bet says that this site will be enjoyed for the next decade with shark science and shark conservation measures integral to shark eco tourism. In that regard we are all in this together.

The short term bet says we one more video disaster away from a full court shut down.

“Noblesse Oblige"

There's an old French saying “Noblesse Oblige". It roughly translates in to Nobel Obligation. Those that are on the front lines of an issue and can effect change have a nobel obligation to do so.

Which gets us to the state of commercial shark diving worldwide. The industry is valued at $200-300 million dollars and for the most part, operators are content to show divers sharks, make money and repeat. Without a doubt the current state of “Noblesse Oblige" in our industry is at an all time low.

Let me qualify this statement before the angry emails start. In our world effecting change with sharks goes beyond just interacting with these animals on a commercial level or aligning ourselves with non profits who are doing all the heavy lifting. You have to be engaged, you have to create directional focus and motivate people-who might not consider it-to be active in the shark community. Let's face it with 80 million sharks being killed each and every year there's little room anymore for fence sitters who are content to just make money diving with sharks.

Operators should be bound by “Noblesse Oblige" to create conservation efforts outside their operations. Real and lasting projects that further the protection of sharks, shark science, and conservation.

Having said this there are some simply stunning projects out there that are fully supported by many forward thinking commercial shark diving operations. They are, unfortunately, the minority of the industry and we can do much better beyond a few online petitions, some POS material on a vessel, and an eco chat with our guests.

As front line sentinels, operators from California to South Africa are often the first to report trouble, and have a key insight into the health and direction of local shark populations. One of the misnomers is that real and effective shark conservation costs a lot of money, it does not. It does take time and effort beyond operations.

There are many within the shark community who are trying to make 2009 The Year of the Sharks-to that may we add “Tiburon Noblesse Oblige". The hope that operations worldwide look to where they can become involved, create local efforts, websites, focus and direction.

We cannot allow NGO's to shoulder the shark conservation burden alone. Noblesse Oblige can and will effect lasting change for shark conservation. Time is a luxury that sharks are in short supply of.

Patric Douglas CEO

Shark Defenders - The Pharmaceutical Defense?

"Treat the symptoms not the problem".

This is the heart of a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry, treating the symptoms of a problem one pill at a time. Have heartburn? Take meds at $6.00 per pill to slow down your acid reflux - instead of loosing weight and modifying your diet.

What does this post have to do with sharks?

Recently an article came out about shark defense technologies. This is nothing new. For years humans have been trying to find ways to stop shark and human interactions, from chemical studies, to sound waves and rare earth magnets. Our company was involved in a week long study with sound waves and big sharks.

Meanwhile, humans occasionally get attacked and killed at sites that, if we dug a little deeper, the data might show were avoidable.

From storm drained waters, to seal haul outs and seasonal migrations, we know where sharks are and most often we know when not to be in the waters. It is unfortunate that few local governments have the will power or the direction to modify human behavior first. Rare earth magnets, chemical bombs, shark nets are not a solution and only treat a symptom.

On a side note the application for rare earth magnets in gill netting, or chemically impregnated anti shark fishing gear is interesting science and should continue.

Let's re-think the Pharmaceutical Defense for sharks and look at a tiered system of anti shark protocols that start first with swimmers and surfers out of the water. It's a bold idea.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sea Shepherd - Your Money Wasted at Auction

As the tragic consequences of a failed eco strategy engulfs Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in Australia - with a recent Federal Police boarding and seizure of all material relating to the reality television show Whale Wars - and in Canada with the $800,000 vessel Farley Mowat going to auction, perhaps it is time to rethink the "direct action" eco movement.

The policy of "direct action" fails when direct action fails to adapt.

For many months we have openly decried the near useless tactics of titular head Paul Watson whose messianic vision of saving the planet has delivered a slew of faked press releases, a faked assassination attempt, dead whales, dead seals, and a vessel now up for auction.

The world has changed around Mr.Watson, the media has changed for that matter as well. What worked in the 1970's has all been abandoned by the rest of the NGO community as they have adapted to a changing world. Meanwhile SSCS continue on a path that has now lost its donors close to $2 million dollars this month as the Farley Mowat goes up for auction.

The change that is needed with direct action campaigns must come from the next generation.

Clearly Paul Watson, who decries corporations and greed, is willing to sell his soul to Animal Planet and Whale Wars. While the horrors of whaling take a back seat to a quick cut and edit, we are transported from a dead and dying whale, into a new living room set and an actor selling us pharmaceuticals, advertisements from Chevron, or chemical maker Dow.

Where does Watson and SSCS think the reality television Whale Wars is anything but an eco org being callously used by big media and big corporations? Or has Watson been so co-opted that he fails to even see it?

Watson has run SSCS into the ground. He was come up against an unyielding wall, and his unyielding program is to bash SSCS against the wall and continue to bash SSCS against the wall until the org shatters. Step one, the loss of the Farley Mowat to a back drop of a continued seal slaughter. This is a tragedy that could have been avoided.

The next generation needs to be savvy, they need to foster new media. Most critically they need to stand alone, clear of one man and his policies, whose time has come to an end. The future of conservation is in the hands of everyone.

Send your money to where it counts and not to an eco org that trades your dollars for advertising on prime time and spectacular financial losses at the end of an auctioneers gavel.

Captains Log - "Not feeling the best"

Captains Log

"After dinner tonight I noticed I was not feeling myself. Must have been that Salmon in the Green Curry Sauce. Got a lot of compliments on the all new dress whites I am wearing though."

Shark Fins - A Question of Poverty

We all know the financial incentive for sharks fin is hard to pass up. We also know an estimated 60-100 million sharks are taken each and every year...but is anyone addressing the 300lb elephant in the room, regional poverty?

Last week Why Shark Matter blog touched on the topic of subsistance fishing and how shark fins are changing the game. Too often people dismiss the issue of regional poverty and sniff at the idea of poor fishermen.

Without effective and long lasting financial re-incentives, these poor fishermen will continue to kill sharks for fins in a bloody and ongoing race for quick cash.

We're glad to see someone talking about it. While you're there watch the video.

YellowPages.com - Shark Media 101

One of the highest trafficked web sites on the Internet, besides porn, is the good old Yellow Pages Online.

So, how do you get your company on the homepage of this website and why would you want to?

For the answers to those questions and more, sign up for our six week course in Commercial Shark Diving Marketing 101.

Or if you are a friend of Shark Diver all you need to do is ask. We're pretty good at this stuff and yes, we always share.

Kudos to Jenna Rose Robbins for the set up!

Cookie Cutter Shark Attack!

One of the strangest man vs shark encounters took place on a recent moonless night in the Alenuihaha Channel, Hawaii.

Swimmer Mike Spalding was attacked by this unlikely shark, known for taking "quarter sized bites" from it's victims and ending his long distance swim attempt.

This critter is known as the Cookie Cutter Shark and no this blog post is not an Underwater Onion.

As a shark diving operators we see many Elephant Seals at Isla Guadalupe with round bites all over them - but as far as we know humans are rarely ever on the menu.

Kudos to shark attack blog (yes one exists) Swim at Your Own Risk for the in depth coverage.

Baby Makos and Blues - Post 1000!

A little over one year ago a friend suggested that I start a blog on shark diving. At the time I said "Another blog? waddaya, new?". Now, a thousand posts later and 15k readers a month, we are Underwater Thrills:Swimming With Sharks

What began as a lark, seriously I had no idea where this was going, has become the accidental industry blog with a rabid following and rightfully so. Until we started talking about our 200 million dollar industry in depth, no one had been talking about our industry in terms of it's international scope and regional conservation efforts. The idea of being interconnected and how media effects us all are standard themes here.

So - here's to 1000 posts, not all were as pithy as I had hoped, and some downright silly. For the most part I think we have hit our mark here at UT. Looking forward to another 1000 posts in the near future because as we have come to discover, there really is a lot to blog about:

Patric Douglas CEO

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Murray the "Little Monster" - Op Ed

Well lookee here. Just when you think Floridians are incapable of any "nuanced thought" concerning sharks and conservation, along comes writer Ed Killer (seriously that's his name) and an Op Ed worthy of any shark conservation NGO:

The great shark debate: To kill or not to kill

Nothing generates a media sensation like a shark. A shark bite, a dead shark, a shark migration, aerial spinner sharks, Shark Week — ratings grabbers all.

This week, it was a shark caught by Aidan Murray Medley, 13. The young teen made NewsChannel 5 when word reached producers of his Tuesday catch of a 340-pound bull shark off Palm Beach. Last year, Medley also made the news when he reeled in a 551-pound bull shark.Both sharks were killed — brought in and hung at Sailfish Marina as trophy catches. Medley said he mounted last year's shark and will mount this one, too.

The news generated as much interest for its controversy as for its subject. Not only are we fascinated by terror-inducing man-eaters, but we love debating the ethics of when it's considered OK to kill one.

Complete Story

Editors Note: Parents, beware not letting your young sons meet girls. The results can sometimes be troubling, as is the case with young master Murray here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Shark Alliance - Illegal Basker Kills, Greece

The Shark Alliance, a coalition of NGOs dedicated to restoring and conserving shark populations, yesterday condemned two illegal landings of basking sharks, both over seven metres and weighing roughly two tonnes, taken from waters off Greece within the span of a week.

The sharks were reportedly taken unintentionally by net fishermen off the coast south of Athens, one on 12 March and another just two days later.

The basking shark, the second largest fish species on earth, is protected under EU regulations and classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as “vulnerable” to extinction in the Mediterranean.

Ali Hood, conservation director for the Shark Trust, a founding member of the Shark Alliance with a long history in basking shark conservation, said: “There are so few safeguards for sharks in Europe. It is critical that all existing regulations, particularly those for endangered species, are strictly enforced and that fishermen are educated about them.

“Fishermen must be made aware of the need to avoid netting basking sharks and the importance of carefully releasing and reporting any that are caught accidentally,” Mr Hood continued.

The basking shark landed on 12 March was sold at a local fish market. The shark’s huge liver is valuable for its oil which is used in cosmetics and pharmaceutical products.

After School Programs for "Little Monsters"

The State of Florida's - "State of Sharks" is at an all time low and we have been covering the decline.

As you know Florida banned all commercial shark diving in 2001, opening the door to 70's self styled shark killers, media seekers, and commercial tournaments.

This month thirteen year old Aidan Murray Medley reeled in another breeding aged shark for the media frenzy and a few moments of glory.

Young Aidan also wants to be a marine biologist when he grows up. For now though he's going after even bigger kills, claiming that the Great Hammerhead is next on his after school program "wish list".

Note to parents - have you considered team sports as a reasonable alternative for your sons continuing education?

Hottest Summer Travel Bargains - Tonga

The all new Dark Sands Vulcanus Resort and Spa in Tonga will give guests a $900 resort credit when they book a stay of five nights or more between March 29 and April 15, 2009. Nightly rates at the five-star luxury resort start at $1200 double occupancy (see video).

The credit can be used for a variety of amenities, dining and services, including treatments at the newly expanded, 27,000-square-foot Venus Volcano Spa - recently rated by Zagat as the hottest mud and steam treatments in the world:

The following Underwater Onion was brought to you by Shark Diver. We hear the mud baths at this resort will take your skin off.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Big Teeth, Big Bucks - Industry Media

Millions of sharks are killed every year by shark nets, recreational anglers and commercial fisheries. Many of the last use only the valuable fins, cutting them off and throwing the definned sharks back in the water — sometimes still alive. It’s the sharks that should be afraid.

Today's homerun media article comes from South Africa and Jennifer Stern who wrote an in-depth expose on commercial shark diving in the region. Pulling few punches she details the humble beginnings of a unique industry that lead the current global demand. The few early pioneers in 2000 who, as it turns out in some cases on a "wing and a prayer" built the foundations of what we have today.

Kudos to Jennifer for the article, makes for fine reading.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Jeff Dudas - Humoring a "Bad Thing"

In response the the ongoing "anger and bewilderment" at a recent Today Show expose of our industry that portrayed it in the worst of lights - Jeff Dudas, driving force behind Underwater Times, came up with an industry disclaimer for media misfires.

We have adopted this disclaimer and feel that it clarifies misunderstandings about the shark diving industry, images and video provided by industry members to the media, and the ongoing media myth that our industry is populated by a bunch of radical and somewhat half witted miscreants "who do bad things with sharks".

Hereto be known as "The Dudas Media Disclaimer":

Man-eating white sharks not included in this trip. White shark cage
incident, though real and part of a similar trip with thrill-seeking
tourists and baited sharks, occurred elsewhere in the world.

Any implied or real references to the deadly danger imposed by baited sharks
was intentionally and formally disclosed to all participants as a
precondition to the shark diving.

No sharks were killed in association with this production. Markus Groh was
not killed in association with this production, but was killed by a baited
shark in an area not far from where this segment was filmed, in association
with a similar trip, with similar thrill-seeking tourists and baited sharks.

Eli's statement "I think they're completely harmless" may not be true in
certain circumstances. See Groh, Markus.

There were no real or subliminal references to mako sharks in this segment.
We apologize on behalf of the aggressive, temperamental, and
terrorizing mako sharks (ht, Capt. Tom) around the world if they were in any
way besmirched by their unintended association with "completely harmless"
sharks in this segment.

Tiger beach, not associated with man-eating white sharks or mako sharks, is
associated with man-eating tiger sharks and bull sharks; reef sharks
and lemon sharks, though not considered to be man eaters, could eat a man in
certain circumstances.

Robotic sharks or CGI were not used in this production. A common
post-production special effect was used during this feature: some footage
was speeded up to make slow moving sharks appear to move faster, even appear
more menacing than they are in real life. For other examples of this
technique, see any movie featuring a shark (or diver) since the invent of
such movies.

Though the reporter disclosed his minimal dive training, none of the
thrill-seeking guests had to disclose their minimal dive training.

During the time it took to film this segment, falling
coconuts killed two people around the world. By the way, we have no way of
verifying the coconut claim. For that matter, the risk of falling coconuts
is in no way related to the risk of baited shark diving. Coconuts do seem
less harmful than a tiger shark, which is used by some to confuse the matter
of relative risks.

During the filming of this segment, hundreds of thousands, if not millions
of sharks, were killed by various fisheries around the world to support the
trade of shark fins. Though in no way directly related to the central
"thrill seeking" theme of this production, some feel this fact should never
be left out of any report on sharks, lest the production be ridiculed as

Palau's Shark Conservation Under Siege?

With the good news from the Maldives this month of island wide shark protections, comes disturbing news from Palau about an attempted policy shift away from shark protections in favor of commercial shark fining.

The story was broken by the Shark Talk blog this week and has a list of contact emails to voice your opinion on this shift from conservation to one time take.

A good friend once said, "Shark conservation is like playing a global game of Whack-a-Mole, just when you think you got it hammered down, another disaster surfaces".

Please take a moment from your day to read up on this latest game changer in Palau and send a few emails to speak out against against the proposed Senate Bill 8-44:

Belau Tourism Association: bta@palaunet.com
Palau Chamber of Commerce: pcoc@palaunet.com
Palau Visitors Authority: pva@visit-palau.com

Kudos to the Shark Talk blog for this concise and well researched post.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Today Show - Industry Speaks Out

Continuing fallout from The Today Show

It may surprise you to discover that the $200 million dollar global shark diving industry does not have a governing body.

It does not even have a membership email list.

Our industry exists as an amorphous and growing group of well meaning entrepreneurs - worldwide.

Throughout the years this most unlikely of international adventure travel industries has seen it's share of regional political defeats, accidents, and triumphs. For the most part, and most remarkably, the industry has organically evolved into what you see today.

This "evolution" away from the early days of the Commercial Cowboys offering extreme encounters for quick bucks and notoriety - has lead to a more modern and media savvy commercial shark diving industry guided by the "Three Tenets" adopted by forward thinking operations:

1. Commercial shark diving operations

2. Local and regional conservation efforts

3. Local and regional shark diving politics

Our industry is also under siege. Externally, by a rampant media machine that hungers for anti-shark and sensationalist shark stories, and internally, by a few misguided and abjectly ignorant shark diving operators who fail to think beyond tomorrow and into the next decade.

They are the holdovers of the Cowboy Shark Diving Era.

It is time for this to end. We, as commercial operators, are the masters of our own destiny and 2008-9 has been a bad year for industry shark media both in the mainstream press and elsewhere. What is bad for our industry is ultimately bad for sharks.

For those who have not yet come to understand how our industry has evolved we will say it again. EVOLVE - your antics are being watched, recorded, and used in ways you have never imagined to the detriment of us all and to the ultimate detriment of the very animals we make a living from.

Today another industry voice weighed in on this issue. We are glad to see industry members demanding change - hopefully these demands will not fall on deaf ears. The industry can ill afford more ongoing and negative press seen around the globe - generated by a few bad actors.

RTSea also weighed in this afternoon.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sea of Cortez - Production Adventure 8

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":

Well howdy sports fans, and welcome to Islas Cedros! After an absolutely beautiful ride north from Cabo San Lucas we made the power decision to stop on the north end of the "Big Island" for a bit of sanity and water sports!

Mark whipped up a scrumptious chowder while Aaron and Kyle jumped in to the briney aquamarine for a couple hours of fun. Aaron just arrived back from his dive sporting a large smile with stories of bullseye rays, huge kelp bass, batrays, octopii and much much more! Kyle is still out paddling about. Captain Greg might even jump into the abyss for a swim about...crazy!

If I sound a little loopy, well it's due to the 48 a** kicking we received after reaching the 24 degrees latitude line. Approximately 280 miles of "Hold on to your hats!" to be exact. I knew that 10 days of beautiful weather on our southern transit and then Sea of Cortez jaunt would be tempered by reality. So now we sit, debating the merits of stabbing forth into the ocean north of Cedros or possibly spending the evening, getting a few hours of normal sleep and then venturing forth en la manana. Hmmm...the second option sounds much better.

I'd like to say we saw a bunch of cool stuff on our way north, but the windows were so wet we couldn't see out so well. The goodship Horizon resembled more of a submarine than a boat! BUT alas, we did see a couple cool sites along the way; marlin on the Golden Gate Bank and then a tremendous amount of life as we ventured up Cedros' leeward side a couple hours ago. Shearwaters by the thousands, Pacific white-sided dolphin, sea lions and now on the beach just to our west, northern elephant seals. Cedros is an amazing island which has me wishing we had the time to venture up the islands Gran Canyon for a trip to the summit. The view from the top is breathtaking and worth the 2 hour trek!

I'll check in at our next calm weather anchorage with a report from Baja's northern Pacific coast!


Captain Greg

Some Warm Thoughts for an "Old Wolf"

Got the news a few hours ago of Wolfgang Leanders sudden and unexpected hospital stay. For an industry that is filled with many voices, most pretty passionate, I have always thought of Wolf as being closer to the "soul" of what most shark people are all about.

In a person Wolfgang embodies that primal urge we all have to reach out and connect with the shark.

I hope you can take a moment today to pass on a warm thought for an Old Wolf. Karma does great things when were all in it together.

Patric Douglas CEO

Shark Conservation Message - You Tube

For a few weeks now we have been wondering a loud where all the smart, edgy, pro-shark conservation messages are on You Tube.

Funny thing about You Tube, most often the things you wish for magically appear. Riffing off the runaway viral hit of "Woman in airport" Doc Martin HK has produced "Woman wants shark fin soup". Since it's launch in February of this year it has been seen by 350,000 and by all accounts this video will see a million viewers in the next 6 months.

Welcome to organic pro-shark messaging, where the message is everything. Kudos:

The Today Show - Shark Media Gone Bad

"When you play with hungry sharks...you can pay the price"

Recently we blogged about the "Sin of Media", the promotion of negative shark media to main stream sources for personal gain. We have also blogged about the main stream medias bias as primarily anti-shark.

There are very few credible shark diving operators that do not understand this basic fact and yet this morning one of the worst shark diving pieces to air on national television was seen by an estimated 4 million viewers, anti shark diving advocates, the Bahamian Government, and others.

We are not content to sit by and entertain the thought that this operation did not know who The Today Show was, or had no media control over this piece. The number one rule with mainstream media is, if you are not sure, do not do it.

The Today Show, not surprisingly, introduced this piece with one of the worst cage breaches to have ever been caught on tape, and then ended this piece with the Markus Groh shark diving death. Once again framing an entire 200 million dollar global industry in an extreme and negative light.

The result this morning was an absolute black eye for the entire shark diving industry.

Extreme Shark Diving

The Extreme Shark Diving agenda hurts our industry. It it indefensible. It skates on a thin veneer of legitimacy and when inevitably it fails, and someone is bitten or killed by a shark, our industry and those in it who have moved past the experiment of Extreme Shark Diving are harmed. Not to mention the perception of sharks in general, thrown back to the stone age as little more than ravening killers.

As each piece of recent video seen on this mornings Today Show attests, these negative shark diving elements just serve to add to the argument against shark diving. There's a theme here, and it is our own industry members who are providing the basic framework for this theme. The time for this has ended.

If operators want to offer Extreme Shark Diving encounters they are entitled to, as are the divers and photographers who are drawn to these encounters. What they are not entitled to do is take the rest of the industry down with them by propagating media that harms the industry regionally and internationally.

The Bahamas

In 2006-7 the Bahamas Dive Association sent a Cease and Desist order to all operators at Tiger Beach and vessels that used this site - the details were specific. The operators who come in from the USA are guests in the region, nothing more or less. It boggles the imagination, that even after an operator shark death, US operations have not only failed to acknowledge the C and D but have ramped up extreme operations to a level that is clearly not sustainable.

Worse yet they are promoting these activities on national television effectively thumbing their noses at the Bahamas Government and Tourism Bahamas whose lively hood depends on tourism and whose balance of dollars comes not from US based shark diving operators but from a multi million dollar hotel industry.

Commercial shark diving operations are built on three foundations. Commercial encounters, regional conservation efforts, and regional politics. As a commercial shark diving operator you ignore regional politics at your own peril.

Dangerous Shark Species Interaction Warning Letter 2006-7

To: All Dive Operations Conducting Questionable Dangerous Species Shark Interactions in the Waters of The Islands of The Bahamas

From: Bahamas Diving Association, Official Recognized Diving Association for 36 members of The Islands of The Bahamas

To Whom It May Concern;

We have become aware that some dive operators have chosen to disregard standard safe-diving practices as it relates to interactions with Tiger Sharks and other potentially dangerous species of Sharks, in various locations within the waters of The Islands of The Bahamas.

The Bahamas Diving Association endorses and suggests all dive operators in the legal waters of The Islands of The Bahamas follow GMAC guidelines for conducting potentially dangerous marine-life and human interactions.

In such, we recommend all operations immediately cease and desist conducting open-water non-cage Shark Diving experiences with known species of potentially dangerous Sharks, such as Tiger Sharks, Bull Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks, Lemon Sharks & Mako Sharks.

Species that we have determined safe to interact with outside of a cage are Caribbean Reef Sharks, Black Tip Sharks, Black-Nose Sharks, Nurse Sharks and Silky Sharks.

Many operators in the Bahamas conduct shark diving interactions with ‘safe’ species, and have done so for over 25 years without a major incident. However, due to the potential negative behavioral reactions of Tiger Sharks, Bull Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks, Lemon Sharks & Mako Sharks, purposeful feeding or interaction with these species without a proper shark cage is highly discouraged.

The Bahamas Dive Association (BDA) would be glad to help communicate industry-standard safe shark interaction practices, should you need any assistance with your procedures.

This letter will be copied to the Bahamas Government, plus all diving insurance and training agencies serving The Islands of The Bahamas.


Mr. Neal Watson
Bahamas Diving Association

Friday, March 13, 2009

Speaking of Media - "Gannet Man?"

Attention Discovery Networks:

Kudos to Blogfish for pointing this out.

Shark Kill - The "Sin of Media"

Last month we blogged about an Outside Magazine article called Ready, Aim, Sushi. The story was about a group of professional spearos caught in a "life and death" moment with a large tiger shark.

Shark Perceptions

At the time we wanted to know more and called Ryan McInnis who shot much of the video of this tragic event. Ryan was upset about this, in his world the killing of a tiger had never happened and according to him it was unavoidable.

In fact none of these free divers had ever encountered a tiger at this site.

Some of the video supports Ryans claim that this animal was ready to attack - from his perception. A large tiger coming in danger close, frantic voices can be heard in the distance. To others in our industry who have had 100's of hours with tigers this video shows nothing more than a curious animal.

For a spearo who has never encountered a tiger having an animal this large come within six inches, head on, might be considered a prelude to an attack, justifying a kill.

That fact of "justified kill" remains debatable depending on your perception of sharks. As this story has blown up in the media those with many hours of experience with tigers are calling foul, or worse. Those with many hours of experience are in the absolute minority as well, and come to the table with a full understanding of these animals under a range of conditions that few in the general populace understand.

The Sin of Media

What I think is more to the point in this discussion is not what happened, or even why it happened, it is the "Sin of media". This absolutely sad story about a split second perception of a large predatory sharks "intentions" was well documented by the spearos. In fact one might argue too well documented. As these spearos recount, the final death of this animal took two hours, after six shafts were put into the shark, it was dragged behind the vessel, and finally was put to rest with a dive knife to the brain. Horrific.

In my opinion, where this group goes completely wrong, nine months after the event, is to appear on major news channels to recount their stories. In effect being used by a biased anti-shark media to regurgitate a man vs shark 70's story that pushes the perception of sharks back into the stone age. The "Sin of media". There's really no point for being on television with this story but for the two minutes of fame it generates.

This story has been picked up by the British tabloids and has migrated to the US where these spearos are on the morning talk shows and CNN. The "Sin of media" is taking a negative shark event and allowing it or promoting it to a wider audience, where sharks are once again seen in the worst light.

Did these guys stage the whole thing? They might have. In my conversation with Ryan he was verbally upset and even broke down on the phone. If they staged the event - why wait nine months to get major media attention?

I keep coming back to the "Sin of media". These guys documented an unusual event in great depth. They killed a tiger they felt was going to attack. All of that is horrific enough. The real sin is showing this to the world with the perception that tigers in close proximity are "going to attack".

Shark Diving Industry

Industry members are outraged as we suggested they would be last month. We know the worlds perception of sharks is ultimately negative, and these stories serve to cement that perception into the zeitgeist. As an industry we can help change this, media is not a one way street. We need more pro-shark 2 minutes PSA's on You Tube and elsewhere. We need more pro-shark dive media everywhere. We need effective counters to media stories like this when they break, from credible sources.

If we want to see change to the perception of sharks, we have to make that change. Getting in front of the major media with our own pro-shark stories would be a good first start.

Being reminded that we already have the images to make the case, even better:

Amanda Cotton

Frederic Buyle

Patric Douglas CEO

Photo DJ Struntz

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hawaiian Butterfish - Gastronomic Revelation

A few days ago I was enjoying Sushi with friends in San Francisco. One of the friends ordered a fish I had never heard of called Hawaiian Butterfish.

When it arrived as sashimi it was presented alongside some firm red tuna. The fish itself was light and creamy in texture, not firm like tuna, and I thought to myself "where does this fish come from?".

Fortunately I had my trusty iPhone close by and a few screen taps later quickly came to realize Hawaiian Butterfish is in fact a deep water species of fish called Escolar.

Normally this kind of gastronomic revelation would pass as a mere curiosity but for the troubling news this week about deep water fisheries. Needless to say, while an interesting experience, I will not be enjoying Hawaiian Butterfish in any of it's many named forms any time soon.

Patric Douglas CEO

Wild Ride - Bitter, Broken, Filmmaker?

We read with some interest about a new shark doco in the Daily Telegraph today.

David Ireland, the Original Wildlife Man, is promoting a new shark film having just returned from Bora Bora in French Polynesia where he was filmed "shark wrangling" as part of his next project - a movie which combines fictional drama and wildlife documentary:

The story revolves around a bitter, broken documentary maker, living as a recluse, who is convinced to make another wildlife film to fund an operation to save a sick little girl.

Editors Note: Show us one serious documentary filmmaker who is not living as a recluse, and very bitter to boot. Apologies in advance the many filmmakers we know and love;)

Editors Other Note: Seriously, who read THAT show pitch and decided to fund it?

Why marine biology is hard

I just finished reading "Mapping the Deep: The Extraordinary Story of Ocean Science" by Robert Kunzig. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the oceans themselves, but it doesn't include much about marine biology. The book did, however, have one passage that summarizes very well why it is so difficult to study life in the oceans. It specifically is referencing the deep sea, but the same principles apply to studying sharks. Much of the general public is flabbergasted when they hear scientists say that we don't know the answers to so many basic questions. I hope this passage helps clear up why marine biology is hard.

"Trying to find out what lives on the ocean floor, and how it lives, is hard. Think about what it would be like to study our own world the way biologists must study the deep sea. Imagine that a race of space aliens, discover Earth and, being scientifically inclined, set out to understand life on its surface. These unfortunate aliens, however...cannot wishstand the crushing pressure of our atmosphere. It is utterly opaque to their eyes... they decide to blindly drag a large, sturdily framed net from their spacecraft as it cruises safely above the clouds.

The net touches down one evening in Tyler, Texas, where it first clips a flagpole off the top of the courthouse. Next it bounces through a playground in Bergfeld par, scattering children and parents without snaring a one; collects a dog that is studying a soup bone on college street, and swoops into a backyard a few blocks later, picking up an azalea bush, a clothesline bearing assorted lacy underwear, and a patch of lettuce with its associated rabbit. Finally it nearly comes to grief in a dark corner of the Sears parking lot, where the weight of a 1979 Chevy Nova and the teenagers in its backseat cause the net cable to groan audibly. The aliens quickly reel in their catch- one quadrupedal carnivore, one quadrupedal herbivore with food, assorted mysterious shell fragments, and a large metal crusted animal (the Nova) whose source of food remains obscure, but which seems to be serviced by remarkably sophisiticated intestinal endosymbionts.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

4m Croc Eats Leprechaun Shark Study

Barramundi, Australia - Shark researchers at the North West Fisheries Laboratory near the Wildman River, 100km east of Darwin, discovered a 4.2 meter saltwater croc in their ponds today devouring a rare shark species under study.

"We are the only laboratory in the region studying the endemic Leprechaun Shark (Triaenodon Leprechus) and this croc finished off the lot of them", said Ann Roman spokesperson for the lab.

The Leprechaun shark is a native freshwater shark similar to the bull shark and is named after a green bio luminescent gel it excretes. The species was discovered in the Wildman River basin in 1936. Researchers in Australia think the bio luminescent gel might have commercial applications and have been studying this shark at the Wildman River lab for the past four years. It is the only known shark species to excrete a gel.

"When we arrived at the lab this morning we noticed a thrashing around in the 4 hectare pen, that's when this great huge croc reared up with a 1 meter shark in its jaws. By the time we got a team in there the crocs mouth was stained green and it had finished off most of our control group. Given how rare the Leprechaun shark is in Australia, this is a real set back".

Efforts to remove the massive croc by Department of Fish and Resources personnel have met with little success.

The following Underwater Onion was brought to you by Shark Diver. Sometimes the "pot of gold" at the end of a story remains elusive, happy St. Patricks Day;)