Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hawaii - Chumming=Sharks=Attacks

As expected on a vote of 11-2, the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board approved a resolution calling for a statewide ban on shark-feeding tour operations. This is the "opening salvo" of a long term battle for the right to dive commercially with sharks in Hawaii. Currently there are two existing operations who are under siege.

This battle will be won or lost in the mainstream media. Unfortunately the operators on island have been slow to realize this and have done little to change the current anti-shark diving media platform of:


Where operators should focus is on the economic benefits of commercial shark diving on a statewide, regional, and local level. Following the shark diving tourism dollars as they flow through the worst economic downturn in 30 years is a media point that few politicians want to argue against. The pro-shark diving media platform of:

Shark Diving=Tourism=Economy

As with all media campaigns timing is everything and as the weeks drag into months and neighborhood groups band together gathering political and media steam - the likelihood of changing the media's focus becomes more and more distant.

The commercial shark diving industry saw this same anti-shark diving roll out in Florida from 1999-2001. Let's get to work.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Beqa - Talking Shark Conservation

Becoming a fan of the ongoing shark conservation and industry blogging going on over at Beqa Adventure Divers is as easy as clicking a link. Remaining a fan is as easy as reading this weeks post about shark finning.

Coherent Op-Eds are hard to find in our industry, fortunately for the rest of us there's the BAD Blog who took a smart conversation going on over at Southern Fried Science and jumped all over it:

If this is true, many of us got to seriously re-think our approach to Shark Conservation.

It says that many fisheries, Shark fishing included, are completely supply limited.
In a nutshell, it would mean that the demand for Shark fins greatly outweighs the supply and that consequently, even if we managed to convince a lot of people not to consume Shark fins, it would have little to no effect on the market and thus, on the supply side represented by the size of the Shark fishing industry.

Couple that with the fact that price elasticity for Shark Fins is probably very close to zero (meaning that prices will rise as stocks get depleted, always balancing, or even outpacing the rising cost of having to find increasingly rare Sharks in an increasingly empty Ocean) and that fishermen are perfect examples for the Tragedy of the Commons, and we are faced with a problem of truly epic proportions.

Complete Post

Sea Shepherd - Hemorrhaging on the Law

As the months grind on for Sea Shepherd and titular head Paul Watson, you have to ask the question "do they even have a plan anymore?".

As we have documented over the past year SSCS direct action policy is floundering both in Canada and Australia where the SSCS have come up against something they frequently demand International adherence to - the rule of law.

It would seem when SSCS quote the rule of law it justifies almost any action from ramming vessels to fabricating media output. When the rule of law is against them, those "others" are quickly and skillfully transformed into pirates, evil doers, and eco monsters by the SSCS media machine. Often to little effect as the rule of law grinds on and over the SSCS.

Your ongoing donations are fueling this wholesale direct action disaster.

In Canada, direct action vessel Farley Mowat was seized and auctioned off to howls of protest by SSCS who devoted their time to rewriting and blogging about the "facts" of the encounter and Canadian rule of law. The vessel was caught breaking the law and in due process lost SSCS donors close to one million dollars when this vessel was sold off last month. Fact is the SSCS anti-sealing plan failed in a spectacular gamble that might have worked better if SSCS had just handed a cool million to the sealers and told them to go home.

To add to the ongoing gamble, Captain Alex Cornelissen of the Netherlands and 1st Officer Peter Hammarstedt of Sweden failed to appear in Canadian court on April 27th. They will be tried in absentia and most likely found guilty, banned from Canada forever as fugitives.

Direct Action Policy

The rule of law is not pretty, particularly when applied to wildlife. Treaties and governments often produce rules and regulations that do great damage to wildlife. These are also the constraints that all eco group with credibility operate under. There is a playing field, there are rules. If you want to get anything done in the eco world you have to build alliances, consensus, and work within the confines, or just outside the confines of the rule of law. This works and groups help wildlife everyday, changing rules, saving wildlife.

SSCS failed 1970's direct action techniques are costing donors millions, and as with the case in Japan have now opened near shore whaling operations - handing down a death sentence to whales off the coasts of Japan. This is the true face of direct action when applied without skill, and without a coherent plan with an eye to the rule of law.

Let's rethink the plan. Hemorrhaging eco dollars and media into high profile wildlife issues gains little and helps no one.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hawaii Shark Diving - An Angry Mob

With the news coming out of Hawaii for existing commercial shark diving operations sounding grim, the old adage "a good offence" is "good advice".

Still buzzing from a failed commercial roll out last month, islanders and the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board will decide tonight on a resolution measure that will ask for the closure of all shark diving activities in Hawaii.

The same pitchforks and flaming torches anti-shark diving "resolutions" that forever closed commercial operations in Florida back in 2001. This is the most serious challenge to commercial shark diving seen in many years and operators need to move fast now to head off possible closures at the hands of those few who see commercial shark diving as negative. Chumming data from credible sources worldwide exists to counter many of the arguments, but this challenge will not be met in public meetings, the media will decide the fate of operations on these islands.

Food for thought - and a clarion cry for serious and lasting action:

The Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board will consider a resolution to support a
statewide ban on commercial shark tours during its meeting tonight.

The meeting begins at 7 at Hahaione Elementary School.

The resolution is in response to community opposition to a proposed shark
tour operation outside Maunalua Bay, and to questions raised about the
legality of existing shark tours on Oahu's North Shore.

State and federal laws currently prohibit feeding sharks within 200 miles of

More than 300 people attended a community meeting on the issue at Kamiloiki
Elementary on April 16. Opponents of shark tours said that sharks learn to
identify the sound of vessels that have chummed the water, that chumming
causes sharks to associate feeding with humans, and that sharks have been
observed to follow shark tour boats back toward shore.

The Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board resolution calls for "city and state
legislation to effectively ban commercial shark tours in Maunalua Bay and
throughout the state."

To close existing loopholes, the resolution also calls for legislation to:
"(1) prohibit use of public facilities such as parks, piers, ramps, and
harbors by shark tour operations; (2) prohibit advertising of commercial
shark tours in any print and electronic media; and, (3) prohibit commercial
use of shark cages or other devices designed to place humans in close
proximity to sharks or within shark habitats."

The public is invited to attend the meeting and offer testimony.

Complete Story

Monday, April 27, 2009

Juanmi Alemany - "In Search of the Great White"

Not long ago the crews of Shark Diver introduced underwater photographer Juanmi Alemany to the white sharks of Isla Guadalupe, Mexico.

For a commercial shark diving company like ours fully supporting efforts that show sharks in a positive light has been a big part of our operation. Juanmi's shark images will serve to enlighten and educate thousands of viewers in the coming months. Kudos.

Juanmi's white shark expo opens in Spain from May through June. If you happen to be in town please feel free to join him, here's the invite:

Hi Shark Diver,

I am pleased to be able to invite you to the opening of the exhibition "In Search of the Great White." After much work the next day will be presented May 15 at 20.30 hours in Conference Room of the Convent in Granadilla de Abona. Please forward this email to all the people you think they would like to attend. A big hug, I hope to see you there.

Juanmi Alemany

C / Garajonay 2
38600 Granadilla
S / C de Tenerife / Spain
Phone: 649.50.39.62

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hawaii Shark Diving - Media

Blow back from a failed and spectacularly poor commercial shark diving roll out continues to haunt existing operations on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

As we have long said within our industry - actions taken as an operator affect not only your operation but those around you. The media, the public, and lawmakers see "one group" when the subject of commercial shark diving comes up and rarely see individuals or businesses.

This week as expected reporters in Hawaii closed in on the legal side of existing operations and an apparent loop hole that exists in the federal Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act which states it is unlawful to use food or any other substance in federal waters off Hawaii to attract sharks unless they are being caught or killed for human use.

Bizarrely, if existing operations killed sharks on their tours what they would be doing would be deemed legal according to this federal law. As long as this law exists lawmakers have the right to exercise it. With several Hawaiian lawmakers up for reelection this is a bad time for loop holes in Hawaii.


Operators in Hawaii will need to work in concert to fend off this upcoming storm. Easier said than done as with most sites worldwide operator mistrust and long standing competition has not created the atmosphere for such an alliance. Regardless, an active and positive media campaign rolled out now will help fend off future attacks by anti shark diving advocates, malcontents, the uninformed, and the media whose anti shark diving bias runs deep.

"Setting the table" now will help the existing operations in the long term work through the loophole and the battles that are sure to come. Ignoring this issue and hoping it will go away is the last thing these operators should be doing.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Not Quite a "Pandemic" - Mexico

"Pandemic" - a word not used in the major media since WW1 when a swine flu raged around the planet drowning it's victims in less than 72 hours.

The World Health Organization stopped short today of calling Mexico's recent outbreak as a "Pandemic" even though this strain kills and kills fast. While Mexico City is in shutdown mode with children's parties cancelled and bars closed, you may want to consider hand washing protocols for the next few months.

Kansas has four known cases already.

The last great pandemic in 1918 killed an estimated 30 million people.

Cephelapod Use #22 - Brain Booster

Depending who you speak with - and we speak with absolutely everyone, rising squid populations are responsible for fisheries collapses worldwide.

The theory goes something like this:

Sharks (who eat squids) are being killed off leaving an open predatory niche in the worlds oceans. Unfortunately squids reproduce at the rate of millions and without sharks to control populations, swarms of these critters are taking over delicate feeding chains decimating fish stocks...or so this theory goes.

We submit to this theory, mainly because the folks behind it are smarter then we are. So it is with little surprise that researchers at the Council of Agriculture’s Fisheries Research Institute in Taipei have found the brain boosting compound PL-DHA (phospholipid docosahexaenoic acid) in squid skins.


If you want to eradicate anything commercially from the ocean, you need to first come up a with a financial reason to do so, thank you researcher guys in Taipei. Now we can all be a bit smarter while doing the job sharks used to do before we killed them all off...back in our dumber days that is.

Once in a Lifetime Trips - Shark Diver

A stunning new adventure travel book available at at all major book sellers across the USA has a chapter devoted to - shark diving.

Fly-fish in the virgin waters of the Chilean fjords, arriving by helicopter; navigate Alaska on a boat as luxurious as a four-star hotel but small enough to sail where the big cruise ships can’t; embark on a private-jet tour to the great opera houses in Europe with behind-the-scenes passes: experience the classic links of the British Open. Once in a Lifetime Trips is a trove of ideas for travels that are unique, decadent, and off the beaten path.

Shark Diver, your favorite neighbourhood shark diving company, was featured to talk about our shark diving operations at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico. The chapter is all about big encounters at remote locations with Great Whites, we're pretty happy with it.

As we're fond of saying around here "If you're going to discover adventure travel, make sure your next adventure stays with you for the rest of your life".

Friday, April 24, 2009

EU Shark Conservation Politics

"Ach Aye Laddie, yer shark plan works fer me!"

That's the good news coming from Scotland this week - recently signaling government approval to tougher shark fishing restrictions on a comprehensive shark management plan coming out of the EU. The Shark Action Plan has been hailed by many as a good first step to curbing rampant and unrestricted shark fisheries across the entire region:

Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead today welcomed the decision to adopt the European Union's Shark Action Plan. Speaking from the Fisheries Council in Luxembourg today, where he signalled Scotland's support for tougher restrictions, Mr Lochhead said:

"I welcome and support the decision to prioritise this Shark Action Plan which is a well-balanced approach.

"Our scientists tell us that some shark populations are critically endangered, and we need to respond to that advice.

"In Scotland we are working closely with the industry and NGOs to ensure that sharks are given adequate protection and that our waters remain healthy and our fish stocks sustainable.

"We are one of Europe's most important fishing nations and we have a huge interest in maintaining the sustainability of our seas, their stocks and the wider marine ecosystem."

Sen John Kerry - Sharks

Let's face it, he would have made a terrible president, but as an advocate for sharks we like him a lot.

This week Sen John Kerry introduced a bill - The Shark Conservation Act, to the senate following the houses o.k that will hopefully slow down shark takes in US waters:

Bill Number: H.R. 81/S. 850
Bill Status: Passed House
Bill Sponsor(s): Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU), Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)
Legislature Status: In Session

To protect sharks from the cruel practice of shark finning (cutting off sharks' fins and throwing the sharks back in the water, often while still alive). Congress banned this practice in 2000, but enforcement is complex and there is room for cheating. This legislation closes a loophole that currently permits a vessel to transport fins obtained illegally as long as the sharks were not finned aboard that vessel.

Editors Note: The Humane Society USA has been following this issue closely.

Hanging with the Vandenberg

Local Florida dive boat captain Scotty Grey has been closely following the twists and turns of the Vandenberg Project soon to be the second largest reef project in Florida's history and an amazing dive site. Scotty has worked with us on a few film projects over the past two years in the Bahamas:

Hi Shark Diver,

Today I got to take a private tour of the Vandenberg. She is sitting at the Truman waterfront in Key West. Thanks so much to Joe Weatherby of Reefmakers, your twelve years of hard work and dedication has really paid off. Joe took Captain Slate of Atlantis Dive Center, Mike Hanna of Tusa Dive Gear and myself for a private tour from bow to stern. All I can say is the old girl sure is impressive. There are so many rooms and hallways; it’s going to be a diver’s paradise. We took lots of pictures so be sure and check them out on the Blue Iguana webpage photo gallery.

The biggest diving event of the year is happening in Key West near the end of May. A chance of a lifetime to see this magnificent vessel slipping into the sky blue waters of Key West to become a major attraction for millions of divers to explore. This multimillion dollar event is a onetime offer for the bragging rights to say “I was there” and be among some of the first to get to dive the old girl. This will be in every dive magazine in the industry for years to come, don’t read about it, live it, and be a part of history.

Blue Iguana Charters is offering you a chance to be a part of this with ring side seats. We will be as close as possible so bring your cameras and let’s watch history together from atop of the lido deck of the MV Kate .

We are going to spend ten days diving some of the best shipwrecks the world has to offer right here in the Florida Keys. We will dive all the major wrecks from Key Largo to Key West with the Spiegel Grove and Vandenberg being the anchor ship at each end. The price for this trip is $3,500 per person. This price includes all your meals, lodging and diving onboard the liveaboard vessel MV Kate. We will have nitrox available for an additional fee on this wonderful journey. We only have a few spots left so if you are interested please contact us as soon as possible.

If you would like more information about this trip just drop me a email at or you can give me a call at 561-385-2385.

Capt Scotty

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sea Shepherd - Japans Coastal Whale Slaughter

When direct eco action fails - it usually fails spectacularly. Case in point the ongoing "Whale War" with Sea Shepherd and Japans whaling fleet in Antarctica.

For the past two seasons SSCS has been "wagging the conservation dog" with a series of staged media events, massaged and frankly erroneous news reports, and continued vessel rammings that have caused Japan to, for the first time in decades, kill whales within its territorial waters.

Unintended consequence to a failed direct action eco policy that has handed down a death sentence to the whales off the coasts of Japan.

To the architect of this disaster, Mr.Paul Watson and his television show Whale Wars, the 2008-9 anti whaling effort remains an expensive and media costly Pyrrhic Victory. On blogs and news sites across the world SSCS is claiming to have actually saved whales this season while at the same time failing to discuss this new and unfolding whale killing disaster in front of them. Perhaps it is best to focus on what eco wins you can get. For us at this blog and the many posts we have devoted to SSCS direct action policy failures - it is not so simple.

Paul Watson media quote, 4.16.2009 Telegraph U.K:

'People say I manipulate the media,' says Watson, who speaks calmly with an undertone of anger and lofty scorn for anyone who doubts or opposes him. 'Well, duh. We live in a media culture so why on earth wouldn't I?

Will SSCS join Japans fleet and renewed killing effort off it's territorial waters this season to save whales yet again?

With one vessel at "reluctant auction" in Canada at a loss of $800,000 to SSCS and donors and with the Steve Irwin banned from Japans waters - the chances of SSCS being there to save whales being needlessly slaughtered off Japans coastlines is as likely as Paul Watsons assassination claims of 2008.

It is high time to rethink direct action. The world has changed, conservation policies need to change with it or fade into the sunset.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wayward Hammers - Australia

About the only place on the planet where simply enjoying a morning shower nets you a tub filled with sharks, Australia is one sharky place.

Not surprisingly the news coming from the land Down Under this week is all about Lake Macquarie and an ongoing series of shark sightings that has locals and the media doing what they do best...screaming about it.

This weeks encounters feature a wayward Hammerhead or two that found themselves Easter weekend checking out shore lines filled with families BBQ'ing and waiting for their turn to get into the water:

Glenn Wilson, of Floraville, photographed a three-metre hammerhead from the fly-bridge of a cruiser near Summerland Point on Good Friday.

"We saw it 200 metres from the boat, we cruised in and it came straight up to the boat," Mr Wilson said. "It was looking for a feed. I'd say it was pretty hungry.

"If I had my game-fishing gear, I would have caught it." It was the first time he had seen a shark in the lake, despite cruising almost every weekend. "I've been a bit sceptical about sharks in the lake, but they're out there," he said.

Complete Story

5 Meter Whites in NZ - Hotspot

Just when the politics of the new white shark dive site in New Zealand seemed like it was going to terminate one of the best new dive sites on the planet, co-owner Peter Scott has found a way to make it happen. He's also reporting 5 meter white sharks on site this week

Without a doubt the hottest white shark diving ticket right now for film and television and shark research lies not in Mexico but in New Zealand:

Hiya Shark Diver,

Things are going well but not doing tourist as yet due to still working through all the legal side of things.
Numbers have been good with 18 regulars. Department of Conservation tagged 9 with satellite tags. We've had a few 5 metre ones around the cage, coming really close, keen to show the dentistry but appearing inquisitive rather than aggressive. Changed our burley from mackeral to Albacore tuna with great results. May come and visit when the unrest in Mexico settles. Still monitoring but the temperatures have now dropped to 12 degrees C. Will keep you updated.

Also if you go into, Saturday 19th April you will see a photo that we took 2 weeks ago that went in the newspaper with an article.

Peter Scott

Monday, April 20, 2009

Larval Critters - The Ocean's "Itchy" Feeling

If you do not pay attention to Stumble Upon then you're only using a small fraction of your brain power. Seriously, since we started Stumbling a year ago we now know more than most about absolutely everything.

Take that Mesa punks.

We also know a great ocean based website when we see one and this week found a unique site that features oceanic critters we most like to eat when they are too small to eat.

Case in point this critter here - known as the Slipper Lobster (ate more than a few of these in Australia) it's larval stage looks like cut crystal and the website it is found on hosts a veritable treasure trove of deep sea critters only surfers and the occasional long distance swimmer ever encounter.

Think of this site as plankton porn for the whale shark set. Kudos to the folks over at Image Quest Marine.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Great Turtle Race - Conservation Media

Without a doubt the most successful media and conservation outreach effort can be found at The Great Turtle Race online over the next few months. This is the races second effort and by the looks of things even better than the first.

As media guys and shark guys we think this is the most impressive interactive conservation site going.

You may be asking "You're a shark blog, why the turtle talk?"

As a template for ongoing shark conservation efforts TGTR is a home run idea and concept that engages the public, drives conservation messaging, and puts charismatic mega fauna in it's proper place.

Kudos to both Conservation International and Nat Geo for this years race. With only one comment about allowing embedded content for a larger viral push (you guys need to do this) we'll pass this concept on to the shark world at large.

For those shark NGO's looking for the next big thing - this is how you do broad based, lasting, species awareness and conservation messaging. Any takers?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hawaii Shark Diving - RTSea's Take

Gotta hand it to Richard Theiss over at RTSea's blog this morning for summing up the current commercial shark diving blow back in Hawaii in a nice little bow.

Well reasoned and to the point - when you see an Op-Ed like this one it's hard to do anything but re-post the whole thing, Kudos:

Once again, because of lack of foresight combined with glaring local media coverage, shark ecotourism has taken another hit, this time as a local issue in Hawaii with implications that could impact responsible operators statewide.

In Maunalua Bay on the island of Oahu, a boat owner faced a room full of 200 angry residents protesting his proposed shark diving operation. With one man against an angry mob and news cameras at the ready, it was destined to be a one-sided argument (see story and video). After reading more articles to gather additional details, it would appear that there are two issues at work here.

First, the critics are citing the two common arguments in opposition to shark ecotourism: that the activity disrupts the natural feeding behavior of the sharks, thereby jeopardizing the sharks; and that the activity makes the sharks associate humans with food, thereby making humans a preferred food source.

Secondly, this brouhaha once again points to the importance of shark ecotourism operators to consider the conservation and political components of shark ecotourism, not just the commercial aspects. Better planning and solicited expert support on the part of the boat operator could have avoided all of this.

Okay, first issue: chumming/feeding disrupts the sharks' normal feeding behavior. Well, it's not that simple. First, there are several methods for attracting the sharks: using fish oil as a scent attractant, using ground or cut up fish, and/or using hang bait (for larger sharks) or feeding by hand (for smaller reef sharks). Secondly, what is the frequency? Several boats a day to the same location, feeding the same sharks day after day? Or occasional trips, sometimes dictated by seasonal shark migration patterns. And lastly, what shark species are we talking about? Feeding a white shark with 2-3 pound tuna or bonito scraps or feeding whole fish to small whitetip reef sharks?

There are many recognized shark researchers who will support the contention that, unless done with high frequency and volume, sharks will not become detrimentally dependent on the food sources of shark ecotourism operations. While I have my own personal and scientifically unsubstantiated concerns about some of the stingray tourist attractions that see a steady stream of visitors, my anecdotal experiences in filming great white sharks at Isla Guadalupe, as an example, indicate that the small hangbaits the sharks occasionally succeed in catching do not disrupt their normal predation of seals, sea lions, large tuna or floating carrion like dead whales. And again, there are recognized scientists that will back up that contention.

The other criticism leveled is that shark ecotourism makes the sharks associate humans as a food source. This accusation plays on the fears the uninformed public has about sharks and once again there are experts who will debunk the myth. As a filmmaker, I have been exposed to sharks much more so than the typical cage-bound diver and I have yet to see a shark behave in a manner that says because of chumming/bait in the water it has re-programmed itself to select humans as a primary food source. Could a shark mistakenly bite a human in the presence of bait or some other attractant? Of course; mistaken identity is the cause behind the vast majority of shark-human interactions worldwide, regardless of shark ecotourism activities. In addition to my open ocean activities with sharks, I have spent over 8 years in aquarium settings feeding fish in the presence of sharks or feeding sharks specifically and never did I see the sharks make the A=B connection (food=humans) that critics propose.

One of the news articles cited a comment from a critic at the meeting who compared the situation to the dangers of feeding bears at Yellowstone Park. Apples and oranges. Mammalian intelligence is different from shark intelligence. Bears have a broader taste palette and due to their foraging through trash can develop a taste for the foods we eat - so they will tear apart a tent or rip off a car door to get at a bag of Famous Amos cookies or Oscar Mayer hot dogs. While it is true that bears can attack humans and even develop a taste for human flesh, that has not proven to be the case with sharks: we are not on their menu.

This takes us to the second major issue and the one that is at the crux of this incident. The boat operator failed because he did not have the foresight to see that shark diving is evolving into shark ecotourism - and with that evolution comes greater responsibility on the part of the operators regarding supporting and promoting safe protocols, providing conservation education, and considering the political/PR interactions with various factions (pro & con) and the media.

It would appear that the boat operator did not have all his ducks in a row and found himself up against a hostile crowd, totally unprepared and without any sound arguments or strategies. First, for any successful ecotourism operation there is site selection (as with any business: location, location, location). I'm not familiar with Maunaloa Bay, but perhaps it is not the best location for viewing sharks. Human use density, shark biodispersion/density, dock facilities in relationship to other tourist activities (politics) - all have to be considered beforehand. And consideration must be given as to the species of sharks the operation intends to attract and the methods by which it will be done. Next, getting the support from recognized experts to counter the arguments mentioned earlier. Followed by developing relationships with local conservation, scientific, and community groups regarding educational opportunities and providing logistical support for scientific study. All has to be done before you put out your shingle and the first cage is lowered into the water.

All of this might seem to be a pain in the rear to someone who just wants to cash in on the growing shark craze but, sorry, that's where we are at today. The pure adrenaline adventure of seeing a shark is being supplanted by the opportunity to be enlightened to the beauty and importance of these animals which are vital to a healthy marine ecosystem. That's the difference between shark diving and shark ecotourism. And for the sharks, this extra burden of responsibility is a good thing.

An important sidebar to this entire incident has to do with an unfortunate loophole in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act which prescribes some very important marine conservation regulations but, as often is the case with other legislation, was subject to amendments which generate loopholes. From 3 miles (beyond state regulated waters) to 200 miles offshore, the Act limits shark feeding to only harvesting or research. In other words, if you want to hook and either catch or release a shark, baiting/chumming is okay. But if you only want to observe and appreciate the shark, baiting/chumming is illegal. Shark ecotourism operators therefore must either operate illegally, or hook a shark (which runs counter to its conservation position), or insure that there is some valid research taking place on each boat trip.

How this loophole might be corrected is of major importance to all shark ecotourism operators in Hawaii and conceivably elsewhere. What the shark ecotourism operators need to do is to come together and agree on a set of responsible protocols regarding their operations, safety, conservation education, research support, and public relations so that they can present a unified position, backed by sound arguments and expert support, to local, state, and federal politicians and decision-makers. This may be asking a lot of local small businessmen, but it is what they are now faced with.

As a filmmaker, I have seen the advantages of responsible shark ecotourism in promoting shark conservation to the benefit, not the expense, of both sharks and people. I do not have a personal financial interest in any shark ecotourism operation but, as someone with a media and marketing background, I am willing to put my opinions forward as to the future direction of shark ecotourism.

The real tragedy in all of this is what is happening to sharks populations right now worldwide. Responsible shark ecotourism can be one component in combating the slaughter of tens of millions of sharks.

Goblin girl on... sharky holiday destinations!

I'm suffering from allergy, so now when it is spring time I walk around like a zombie, always tired and with a runny nose. The last days I have started to hallucinate about a long sandy beach, some palm trees and lots and lots of sharks! Somewhere in this picture I can see myself as well... The question is: where do I go?! I have a few criteria: it must be affordable for a poor swedish marine biologist, not too advanced when it comes to diving since I'm only a open water diver and there should be A LOT of sharks! Any suggestions? Anyone that needs some sharky field work done?!

This picutre is taken in paradise! Five years ago I went there on a job. We made a shark film in Rangiroa, French Polynesia. It is sometimes shown on Animal planet. "Science of shark sex" it is called. Anyway, there are lots and lots of grey reef sharks in the famous Tiputa pass, and the mating of these animals was all that this film was about. The problem for me was that the sharks gathered at 50 m and deeper. I didn't get to see any of these at all! Instead I snorkled with blacktip and whitetip reef sharks and fed some lemon sharks - which was still better than nothing.
I've been thinking of liveaboards in the Red Sea, but my ears always tends to be a problem after a few dives... The Maldives could be nice I guess, but not cheap... Any ideas of where I should go?!

Flying Sharks - Evolution in Cyberspace

From time to time we check in on the Swim at Your Own Risk blog covering the world of shark attacks and the media surrounding them.

Occasionally we're surprised at the content - like this morning.

Cool image guys, thankfully you'll never have to throw 2lb chunks of bloody fish parts at this critter the next time to take the Staten Island Ferry.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Shark Diver on Playboy TV

Last month Shark Diver was featured in Playboy Magazine - a fluff piece (no laughing please) on shark diving with great whites at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico. At the time we were setting up the article we had an interesting conversation with the fine folks over at Playboy TV.

As it turned out they wanted a full length video for the soon-to-be redesigned Playboy website.

Asking a shark diving company to film sharks is like asking Baskin and Robbins to make good ice cream. Better news for the production was Richard Theiss from RTSea Productions was willing (yet again) to set himself between sharks and camera housings to bring back some simply amazing footage.

Playboy launched their all new website and this month and Playboy TV got the "back story" of sharks at Isla Guadalupe. In all we're pretty happy how things came out, the sharks, weather and crew conspired to make it another fantastic adventure.

For the complete video click on our media section.

Hawaii Shark Diving Under Siege?

The most serious challenge to US based commercial shark diving since the Farallones final shark diving policy last month is now unfolding in Hawaii. An angry crowd gathered this week to shut down a commercial cage diving effort on the island of Oahu - opening a renewed and heated conversation about shutting down existing operations as well.

We have said it before and we'll say it again, commercial shark diving efforts must be guided by conservation efforts with a strong political game plan in the matrix. This recent commercial efforts failure was at the hands of poorly guided media output and a complete lack of local outreach and education efforts.

You fail to properly roll out a commercial shark diving company at your own peril.

Just how the owner of this new company ever manged to find himself in a room full of angry locals with the major media on site is a testament to poor planning and execution. Unfortunately the rusted can of anti-shark diving sentiment opened by this effort is effecting all operations in the region. We'll be following this closely:

Like blood in the water an angry crowd of about 200 people converged on a town hall meeting about shark tours.

The shark tour owner told them the business is done. Koko Marina already pulled his boat slip because of the controversy. At issue is the proposed shark tours and feeding them to bring them closer to spectators in cages. Iolani Lewis is the man with the plan. Its tough to say what's more intimidating, swimming with the sharks or facing a crowded cafeteria full of people looking to run him out of town.

"You have immense nerve coming in here telling us how to enjoy the ocean," scolded one unidentified man to Lewis.

Complete Story/Video

Mantripping - Shark Diver Interview is a website for guys who travel. Let's face it, your average red-meat-eating guys travel needs are different from girls. Heck we deserve our own website dedicated to the coolest guy travel adventures around.

Not surprisingly that's where you'll also find Shark Diver this month talking sharks with the crew from The online interview talked a lot about our industry, the past, present and future of shark diving and some off hand observations about travel in general.

For all you sharky gals out there, we know you like to shark dive as well - look for an article next month in a well known gals magazine. We'll tell you about it when it launches.

Mantipping Interview

Monday, April 6, 2009

FINS Blog - Homerun Activisim

Authorities in Palau are on a roll - and it is time to send a clear message to them - this is no kids game:

Following moves to repeal laws protecting sharks in the waters of Palau, authorities there have now proposed legislation to exempt fish exports from tax, thereby making it cheaper for big fishing fleets to target fish in the area.

Full text below via the Shark Talk blog.

The Pressure Mounts on Palau’s Sharks and Other Marine Species!

On the heels of recently proposed legislation (SB8-44) that would undo Palau’s ban on shark fishing comes yet another threat to Palau’s marine resources and national treasury by way of proposed legislation (SB8-50) to exempt fishing companies from export taxes on fish caught by purse seining and to allow those fish to be off-loaded at a foreign port(s).

SENATE BILL S-44 proposes:
“To amend Title 27 of the Palau National Code to allow for the commercial fishing of sharks within Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone, to impose a tax on the export of sharks and tuna-like species, and for other related purposes.”

SENATE BILL S-50 proposes:
“To exempt, for a period of five years, the export of tuna and tuna-like species caught using the group purse seining or handline fishing method from Palau’s fish export tax, to allow for an alternate transshipment port for fish caught using the group purse seining or handline fishing method, and for other related purposes.”

The bill goes on to say in Section 4: “For five year from the effective date of this Act, the export of any fish caught by a commercial fishing company using the group purse seining or handline fishing method shall be exempt from the fish export tax”

If these two proposed bills pass in to law, the combined effect will be:

* To permit and encourage the killing of sharks in Palau’s waters
* To promote shark finning
* To promote fishing methods that according to Monterey Bay Aquarium “result in large amounts of unintended catch” including sharks, dolphins, turtles, rays and juveniles:
* To exempt fishing companies from any export taxes on fish taken from Palau’s waters
* To make it practically impossible for Palau’s law enforcement personnel to successfully prosecute alleged violators in the courts
* To risk destroying Palau’s sustainable tourism industry
* To risk destroying Palau’s marine resources through unsustainable practices
* To gamble on all of the above for no apparent gain to Palau or Palauans.

Both proposed Bills are conspicuously absent of any information, explanation or data to demonstrate a positive benefit to the People of Palau and or Palau’s National Treasury from passage of these Bills. Meanwhile, members of Palau’s tourism industry are becoming increasingly alarmed at the potential severe negative impacts on tourism and the pristine marine environment that underpins that industry, if these Bills pass in to law.

There are very active negotiations underway between Palau and The Philippines at this very time to enter in to commercial fishing agreements and clearly there are elements of strong political support for the fishing companies as indicated by SB 8-44 and SB 8-50.

The private industry organizations Palau Chamber of Commerce ( and Belau Tourism Association ( and the government tourism office Palau Visitors Authority ( are urging those around the world opposed to shark fishing, shark finning and unsustainable fishing practices to please express their concerns immediately by e-mail to all of the respective organizations.

It is ironic in The International Year of The Shark 2009, that Palau, the worlds very first winner of Sharkprojects “Shark Guardian of The Year Award” is considering legislation that could potentially put it at bitter odds with the international shark conservation community and destroy its reputation as a world class dive destination known for abundant sharks and large pelagic animals.

Deni Ramirez - Mexico's Shark Research

A few years ago we got to meet Mexican shark researcher Deni Ramirez while on a pleasure cruise with the Nautilus Explorer to the Revillagigedo Islands.

Mexico is filled with dedicated biologists who lead the front line boots on the ground efforts to save and study it's endemic flora and fauna.

The week long meeting with her and her cohorts was a highlight of the trip and Kudos to Mike Lever for providing a platform for Mexico's researchers.

Today we got an exciting email about a new shark website Deni has launched:

Hello Shark Divers,

I hope that everything is ok for you! My whale shark project have a
web site. We are starting a whale shark adoption project. Our goal is
to collocate satellite tags in whale sharks from Mexico. We already
tagged 2 Whale Sharks and we will tag 4 more soon!! I hope that you
find it interest and probably you know people how find it interest!
here you can check the web site:

Whale Sharks Mexico

Best wishes!

Dení Ramírez Macías

Mike Rutzen Get's a Message - Loses Point

"Oh fickle media, why doth thou play so cruelly against our shark diving industry?"

An admirable industry lament these days - especially if you are famed S.A shark diver Mike Rutzen. Seems that we are one of the few industry people to point out the growing trend of "cageless without a point". The headlong rush by members of our community to get in close and dangerous with large predatory sharks, for the sheer pleasure, and media of it.

Mike Rutzen's ongoing media line "I do it to prove these critters are misunderstood"- fails to move us.

Until today and an article in the that rang with conservation messaging worthy of any NGO:

Mike Rutzen dives with great white sharks — without a cage. While he isn’t the first to do it, he’s taken shark diving to a previously unimagined level. He does it not for fun, to win bets or for the adrenaline rush, but to prove a point. And the point is that great white sharks have a gentle side to their nature.

It’s largely to campaign for the removal of the nets that that Rutzen wants to change the image of sharks.

Great Googly Moogly, famed shark diver Mike Rutzen has a conservation message and one that makes sense - now we're talking.

For a moment, an all too brief moment, we were about to pass on a Kudo to the man and his cageless with a point message in S.A. Unfortunately we read the rest of the article and it's devolution into a bunch of ridiculous half baked industry clap trap about the "quest for tonic immobility", "communicating with sharks through body language" and a series of other half brained media nuggets that do little but marginalize the one time beauty and imagery of interactions with big predatory sharks.

Here's our take on the whole thing. If you want to do it, go for it. There's nothing on this planet, except yourself, stopping human interactions with large predatory sharks. There we said it. On the flip side, if you are going to interact with large predatory species and become a media diva in the process, do not propagate groundless "media bites" about the suppposed or imagined worth of this activity.

As Mike sums up at the end of this article all too well - once and for all destroying the initial pro shark conservation message:

"We’ve just done the longest dorsal fin ride I’ve ever ridden. It’s surreal, it’s super-peaceful. It feels like you want to stay there.”

Did anyone ask the sharks opinion of this uninvited simian fin rider? Mike, stay on message and drop the PT Barnum act. Getting the media stage with the activity is the easy part. Getting a real and lasting conservation message to stick is the hard part.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Goblin girl on... her absence!

Someone - not only my fellow co-bloggers ;0) - might have wondered where I've been the last month or so. I've been attending an International Training Programme regarding Marine Management, but now I'm back home again. I will, in the next few days, try to describe what it was all about.

"Big Ian's" Rhina Ancylostoma

The last time one of these critters was caught was off Bangladesh April 10, 2007. Of course that didn't stop two locals in Australia from trying.

This week a rare ray shark (one of our personal favorites) was caught and thankfully released. The ray shark is listed in the International Red List Book of IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) as a vulnerable species.

Note to Conservationists: This image strikes us as worthy for conservation messaging - if you switched the two subjects.

Complete Story

Friday, April 3, 2009

Palau's Shark Shame - Tourism Blowback

RTSea's Blog summed up the recent shark conservation policy shift in Palau. As always they distilled this issue down to what matters and why:

Palau has been a favorite dive tourist destination for many years because of its wonderful reefs and bountiful fishlife. And the island has, in the past, taken active steps to protect its shark populations with aggressive action against illegal shark finning operations. All of these efforts have contributed to the island's tourist economy and sound conservation policy.

But that all could potentially be undone with recent legislation that was introduced to both allow for commercial shark fishing and allow for the use of purse seining - a method that brings in a large amount of by-catch. Palau commercial fishing interests have been working with Philippine fishing groups and the combined influence on Palau legislators has produced SB8-44 (which drops the ban on shark fishing) and SB8-50 (which drops an export tax on fish caught by purse seining).

According to FinsMagazine, the collective result of the laws would be:
  • To permit and encourage the killing of sharks in Palau’s waters
  • To promote shark finning
  • To promote fishing methods that according to Monterey Bay Aquarium “result in large amounts of unintended catch” including sharks, dolphins, turtles, rays and juveniles:
  • To exempt fishing companies from any export taxes on fish taken from Palau’s waters
  • To make it practically impossible for Palau’s law enforcement personnel to successfully prosecute alleged violators in the courts
  • To risk destroying Palau’s sustainable tourism industry
  • To risk destroying Palau’s marine resources through unsustainable practices
  • To gamble on all of the above for no apparent gain to Palau or Palauans.
This issue has made the rounds of several shark blogs recently, but opinions from everyone - from divers to land-bound ocean advocates - are needed to remind the Palau government that the negative impact on tourism and the island's marine ecology will ultimately outweigh the short-term gains in a working relationship with Philippine commercial fisheries.

Email to make your voice heard:

Palau Chamber of Commerce (
Belau Tourism Association (
Palau Visitors Authority ( .

Shark Allies - Commercial Conservation

As a long running theme here at this blog we have advocated for commercial shark diving involvement and leadership in conservation efforts.

Last week we got the following email and announcement from Stefanie Brendl, owner of Hawaiian Shark Encounters.

Shark conservation, outreach, and education is best served by the front line operators in the region.

Welcome to the new conservation website Shark Allies and Kudos to the guys in Hawaii for dreaming this up:

Hi Guys,

At last, our non-profit "Shark Allies" is getting off the ground. We have been tinkering around with websites and organizational stuff, but at last, we are going official. We have a booth at the Ocean Expo in Oahu this weekend where we will hand out a lot of info, introduce our first three projects, have some petitions to sign and hopefully get some members and volunteers.

Our first projects are:

A) Supporting and expanding the Marine Science Program at Waialua High School. We gave them money from Shark Encounters last year so they could start. The students love it and it has been very successful. They need more money to expand it so more students can sign up.

B)Supporting research for the study of the movement of sharks in the Hawaiian islands. Shark Encounters has been supporting a tagging project done by the Shark Lab of UH for two years that has given us a lot of new data for Galapagos and Sandbar sharks. We want to expand it to tiger sharks and beyond the North Shore.

C) Shark Fin legislation in Hawaii. Right now Sharks have to be landed whole, but it is not illegal to bring in or transship fins. So containers packed with fins still come into Hawaii.
We want to work towards a ban on all shark fin products in Hawaii.

This is a very small and humble start, keeping it local at first. But hopefully it can grow into an organization that can make a difference beyond Hawaii.


Editors Note: You had us at Shark Allies;)

What "You Tube" Does For Enforcement

Interesting news this week from You Tube and NOAA. Turns out videos posted on You Tube and other online media sites are being watched by enforcement officials - against illegal dolphin feeding.

As a case point to the commercial shark diving industry, we too are being watched. Video's posted to You Tube and other online media sites from South Africa, to the Bahamas and Mexico are being used in ways that are detrimental to our industry.

Viral video spreads faster than traditional media and is more effective in making a case for or against commercial shark diving:

Wildlife protection agencies have a new tool at their disposal - YouTube.

The video-sharing Web site allowed Al Samuels, a special agent with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's office for law enforcement, to find a record of a Georgia shrimper and guests on his boat feeding dolphins near Tybee Island.

"They had taken the bycatch and were using it to feed dolphins, and that was on YouTube," he said. "I got in touch and issued them a warning." Because the investigation remains open, Samuels could not disclose the name of the shrimper or any other details.

However, a video that fits the description was still posted Thursday on YouTube. The 18-minute clip shows a family on the boat holding fish overboard as dolphins beg and jump out of the water.

What looks like harmless fun is not, wildlife officials say.

Complete Story

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Shark Diver - Men's Journal March

In case you missed us in March, we almost did, writer Travis Marshall covered shark diving and the ongoing politics of Isla Guadalupe, Mexico.

Shark Diver has been outspoken about this site from our inception. Guided by the principal that it is up to the operators on any shark site to protect and engage.

As front line sentinels we are often the first to notice problems or political issues that directly impact the sharks we work with. Last years ban on chumming at the island was one of those moments.

As we have long advocated within our industry shark diving operators can no longer afford the luxury of "fence sitting" at shark sites. We need to be engaged on the commercial level, the conservation level and the political level for the betterment of sharks both locally and regionally.

At Isla Guadalupe many of the forward thinking operators have done this organically, but much more work needs to be done.

When we first proposed this "idea" many years ago we were laughed at by many. The funny thing about "ideas" is that they often take on a life of their own - when the global reality of sharks becomes apparent to all.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

White Shark Discovered in Hotel Pool

Sydney Morning Herald, Australia - A strong storm system that lashed the Northwest coast of Australia this week provided a moment of "sheer terror" for a local pair from Germany staying at the Four Seasons hotel in Cowaramup Bay, near Gracetown this morning.

The recently completed mega hotel in Oceanside, known for it's 3.7 million litre interactive salt water swimming pool, had an unexpected and unwelcome guest that arrived sometime during last evenings tempest.

When Dieter Franz and his wife got up early for a swim they saw something that chilled their bones, a 5 meter great white shark in the pool. "At first we did not know what it was, but then it turned and swam towards us at high speed, we thought this was not mentioned on the holiday brochure".

The shark was reported to police and sea rescue about 7:00am by hotel management who arrived on site and promptly shot the massive shark. "If we get a confirmed sighting of a large shark in the area then we just get on the water, patrol around, sometimes with boats moving around and that sort of thing," said police Superintendent Robbie Taylor. "This was something we never expected".

A local fisherman told police the a shark of similar size had followed his boat as he was leaving the bay the week prior. Police think the massive predator was somehow washed into the pool during the height of the storm and that the animal survived only to be discovered by the German tourists.

The shark was donated to a local research lab who took samples from the animal. The jaws were donated to the holiday makers by the hotel management. "We have one of the best holiday stories ever when we get home!"

The following Underwater Onion was brought to you by Shark Diver. Yes, it is the 1st of April what did you expect?

Discovery Coelacanth - Puget Sound

Stunning eco news this week from the MBSLS Blog of an actual Coelacanth discovered in Puget Sound:

Approximately 12 minutes into his swim, Powell spotted a meter long shape emerge from the Puget Sound murk. "At first I thought it was a cusk or perhaps a salmon," said Powell, "It might have even been a hake or cod. But imagine my shock to discover it was a coelacanth!"

Quick thinking and MacGyver-like ingenuity on Powell's part allowed him to quickly affix his underwater camera to a channel buoy using a piece of kelp. Herding the coelacanth into the frame, he managed to snap a picture (above) and secure conclusive evidence of his discovery.

"We swam together for at least five minutes," Powell is quoted saying in The Seattle Times, "It was one of the most transcendent moments of my life swimming alongside the bluish-gray fish. At one point, the coelacanth lifted one of it's paddle-like pectoral fin towards me and I instinctively reached out to it as well."

Complete Story

Breaking News - Extreme Poolers Meet U.K

(CMN) April 1, 2009 - The 1st annual Extreme Kiddie Poolers meet was held in Durbanshire, UK this week.

The group, comprised of 14 members, ranging from an ex SAS Marine, to a defrocked Catholic priest met this week for the "Guinness Book Extreme Pool-Off".

The Kiddie Poolers, formally Darwins Evolvers, held a 48 hour beer and bratwurst sit in where members enjoyed cases of beer and grilled bratwurst while giving interviews to the media.

"Some guys think they're all that diving with sharks", said David Pinerose, a metal fabricator and part time electrician, "but we think we got them beat".

Unfortunately the groups efforts to be recognised by Guinness were cut short when fifty thousand volts of power surged through their kiddie pool during hour 14 of their vigil, shorting out the entire county block. Local supporters described a horrific and chaotic scene. Group members were carted away by ambulance suffering from alcohol poisoning, hypothermia and shock. All are expected to make a full recovery and try again next year.

The following Underwater Onion was brought to you by Shark Diver. Most often "extreme" has a shelf life, happy April 1, 2009;)

The Underwater Channel - Sharky

We have been watching the evolution of the Underwater Channel for a while now. Launched at the same time time as a few other online underwater sites, for a while there we were unsure of this online ventures future.

Oh, how a few months can change things.

For the past year we have been kvetching about the lack of pro shark, pro industry PSA's on the Internet. As it turns out they are on the Underwater Channel this month.

It would look like U.C has found it's stride and now has the content, and the direction, missing from other underwater media sites out there, Kudos.

Double Kudos for the cornucopia of shark conservation content this month.

Editors Note: An idea you guys you might want to take to heart. Make all your video content "link and embed" ready. A conservation video is only as good as the viewing numbers behind it.