Friday, July 31, 2009
Coming back from months of negative pitch forks and flaming brands anti-shark diving sentiment in Hawaii will be hard...but they are officially on the right track:
Why Sharks Matter
It is now the first Shark Free Marina in Massachusetts. Soon there will be signs and other paraphernalia proclaiming the fact, all courtesy of the Shark Free Marina Initiative.
This doesn’t mean sharks themselves couldn’t swim around the boats – they just can’t arrive via hook.
“Sharks are not really a big thing here on the Cape,” noted boatyard owner John Our. “But we all know there is a growing problem, especially with shark finning; catching the sharks and cutting the fins off. So when (Kate Metzler) came to me, it was easy for us.”
Metzler is a sometime Harwich resident who has a lifelong fascination with sharks.
“I love fishing for marlin or tuna,” she explained. “But things are not the way they used to be. We need to correct what’s going on if we can.”
Marlins and sharks can be caught on a catch and release basis.
“Shark fishing is not a bad thing if it’s catch and release,” Our noted. “But cutting the fins off and sending them back is morally wrong. This just shows that we care.”
Even the Martha’s Vineyard shark tournament is doing more measurements by photography and then releasing the sharks, Our noted.
“We can change our fishing philosophy,” Metzler said.
So she set about doing just that.
“I’ve been passionate about sharks since I was young. I was wondering how I can make that my lifelong occupation, waiting for a job like that to come to me, and I thought why not take it upon myself and go before other people. It opened my mind that I don’t need a job, title or organization. You can benefit from all those groups that are out there and on the right path,” Metzler reflected.
Metzler is a dedicated shark advocate.
“I started out a lot different from my sisters; they all liked whales and dolphins. I liked sharks,” she recalled. “As I got older I learned how important they are and I came to have a great appreciation for them as marine animals. I feel we’re killing them from fear or a macho philosophy.”
Not everyone appreciates sharks, although we’re sure Steven Spielberg does, but they have crucial functions.
“They’re an apex predator and they’re an important check and balance on everything below them,” Metzler said. “Everything about them evolved very slowly and they don’t reproduce quickly because you don’t want an abundance of apex predators.”
Metzler summered in Harwich for many years and her parents moved here, from Connecticut, full time in 2001. She currently interns at a nonprofit in New York City.
Despite her interest in sharks, she had never heard of the Shark Free Marinas Initiative until recently, partly because it is an initiative organized in 2008 in the Bahamas to prevent the overfishing of sharks. Sharks are popular sport fish off the Bahamas. Initiative co-founder Patric Douglas was appalled by photos of a hooked 13-foot tiger shark, a threatened species.
“I love sport fishing and I’m always checking web sites and I found one web site that will bring up any article for sharks. I read an article about the Shark Free Marinas Initiative,” Metzler explained. “We still have a huge shark tournament on Martha’s Vineyard and it takes a lot of sharks out of the water because sharks are migratory so they’re taking them from everyone else’s areas and we’re at the point with shark numbers that every one does count.”
Sharks range from the extremely rare (some deep water sharks have never been seen alive) to the relatively abundant (dogfish).
Sharks such as the blue, bull, great white, hammerhead, lemon, white tip, shortfin mako, spiny dogfish, thresher and tiger are caught for sport or fins for shark fin soup, teeth for decoration, salted or smoked meat, liver oil, fish meal or even making “leather.”
There are nine critically endangered sharks and eight endangered ones. Many of the sport sharks fall into the vulnerable category.
Last April, U.S. Sen. John Kerry introduced the Shark Conservation Act with the purpose of closing loopholes in laws banning “finning.” Fishermen chop the fins off while the sharks are still alive, then toss them back into the water to bleed to death. The bill requires fins aboard vessels to be naturally attached to the shark. The Animal Welfare Institute estimates 73 million sharks are killed each year by finning.
“We need to set an example for other nations,” Metzler said.
Metzler decided to set her own example at her home base. Her family keeps their boat at Stone Horse Yacht Club on Wychmere Harbor.
“I call that harbor home,” she said. “I know John Our is very concerned with environmental issues and wants to protect our environment. I felt that was a very good starting spot and can be used as a jumping platform. Kids can learn from this so I thought it would have a strong impact.”
Sharks are not as warm and fuzzy as puppy dogs or even as cheery as dolphins. Conservation-wise they fall into the same category as rattlesnakes and spiders – unloved.
“I understand sharks are scary,” Metzler conceded, “but we have put them in situations that bring them closer to shore. They’re not getting the same food in the ocean so they have to come closer and more people are swimming and surfing so there is a greater chance of contact. But they serve a greater purpose. We need them there. If they don’t eat the seals, the seals will take our cod.”
The Harwich Port Boat Yard is just step one in the campaign.
We'll be writing up a full trip report this week once the crew has had a chance to get settled.
Right now it's this critter we're most interested in.
On day three of our five day expedition this little squid drifted past our cages and was scooped up by an alert diver.
Absolutely translucent with internal organs on display (click image for larger view) this squid came with bioluminescent gel packs on the undersides of it's eyes - one very interesting cephalopod.
We're giving away a DVD copy of the Island of the Great White Shark to the first person to positively ident this critter.
The tail fin arrangement was also very cool.
O.K, we'll also throw in a Shark Diver hat and t-shirt as well. We have a boatload of shark divers who want to know.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
THIS is what the entire year of 2009 means to us. Three glorious months of the worlds most stunnning human and animal interactions. Here's a trip report from 2008 to tide you over until we get back with a full update:
Thought you might be interested in a few words about my recent return to Guadalupe. I tend to be rather wordy, but with everything that happened I'm not sure how to condense it.
We were haze gray and underway, bound for Isla Guadalupe on Saturday, SEP 27. Despite the cloud cover, our crossing was unusually calm. It set the stage for what was to be an interesting excursion. The cover didn't let up, and so we missed the usually spectacular Guadalupe sunrise that I remember from last year. It did make for a very atmospheric arrival at the island, with clouds clinging to the cliff sides. We geared up and hit the cages. Diving in the second group, my first sight of the sharks this year was from the surface about 15 minutes into the first rotation. I couldn't wait for my time in the cage!
The sharking was fairly quiet that first day. They made a few passes near the cage, but remained below the divers for the most part. But then, all the fishes were acting rather odd (okay, I didn't know that at the time, but the crew of the MV Islander enlightened me at the end of the day). As Luke stated, when the experienced crew of a fishing boat tells you that the fish are behaving strangely, you know that something must be up. Maybe it was the new moon, or maybe it was the cloud cover. Or maybe we just weren't that interesting that day. During one of the afternoon dives, I happened to look up to see a carcass floating just next to the cage. It turns out that someone had noticed the elephant seal carcass floating nearby, and arranged to have it towed to our boat. Needless to say, we were all interested in what this might bring. As it turns out, for that first day, not too much. One shark nosed around the carcass briefly, but seemed to lose interest and swam off. After the day's diving was concluded, we decided that the carcass was worth hanging on to for the night, despite the rather interesting aroma it brought to the deck. We all went to sleep wondering if it would be there in the morning.
Day 2 started early for me. I was out on the deck at about 0600 talking with the other early birds and waiting for breakfast (excellent as was every meal, thanks, Skippy!). I happened to be gazing toward the carcass (which had indeed survived the night), when suddenly a white pointer hit the 'head' of the dead seal. I can't possibly describe the power as the shark breached, and then arced over the seal. With a shout of 'Shark on the carcass!' I ran to grab my camera and wake up anyone still asleep. The shark circled the seal for about 10 or 15 minutes, and devoured everything except the entrails. Definitely one of the most incredible things I've ever seen. This set the stage for another interesting day of diving.
Once again the sharks were quiet, staying relatively deep. When the sharks were out of sight, we were treated to another amazing sight. Several yellow fin tuna took an interest in us, and in the hang baits. They put on a spectacular show, moving around at incredible speeds. I saw as many as four tuna around the cages when the sharks were away. Though I missed it, one diver saw a shortfin mako make a quick circuit beneath the cages before heading away. Divers also witnessed what might have been mating behavior, with a male great white nipping at the fins of a female. Definitely an interesting sight seeing the same, larger female submit to these attentions by rolling on her back under the Islander. The highlight for me, though, had to be the afternoon arrival of one of the largest sharks I've ever seen. She was 15 or 16 feet, and as big around as my Wrangler! It's strange how easily I forget about the girth of these animals. She moved gracefully around the cages, showing a modest interest in the hang baits. Comparing notes at the end of the day, we divers were fairly certain that this was Sarah, one of the known returnees to Guadalupe. Even Luke and Oscar thought this might have been she.
A quick digression. The opportunity for education on these expeditions is incredible! Last year we were treated to a presentation by Mauricio Hoyas, a doctoral student studying the feeding habits of great whites at Guadalupe. This year we were incredibly lucky to be joined by renowned shark researcher Dr.Oscar Sosa. I thought that I would wear out my welcome with Oscar, cornering him at every opportunity to discuss great whites and sharks in general. Mr. Sosa never seemed to grow weary of talking with me, or any my fellow divers, and graciously shared his great knowledge with all who were interested. Definitely another reason to do everything I can to continue diving with your operation.
A rapid change in weather, and the advent of a strong and very hot wind blowing over the island, forced us to change our anchorage during the evening. Day three got off to another quiet start, but Sarah's return and evident interest in the divers quickly cheered everyone. Exiting the cage after the expedition's last dive, I begged 'Daddy' Luke to stay out for just 10 more minutes. Sadly, we prepared for a return to Ensenada. After a brief sea tour of the island, we departed on seas that were, once again, unusually calm. Our journey home included flying fish, a lone blue shark on the surface, and a blue whale off in the distance. It almost made up for having to leave the island.
Though it's the norm for them, I still feel the need to comment on Luke and the crew of the MV Islander. Being lucky enough to return for the second year, I felt a kinship with the crew. And they were kind enough reciprocate. All behaved professionally at all times, and went out of their way to attend to the comfort of the divers. Friendly, knowledgeabe, hardworking... go ahead and throw out any other cliche because it will be true of this crew. From the wonderful meals to spending an evening on the bridge with Captian John (who indulged my need for a Monday Night Football fix by listening to the game with me), every aspect of my time on the ship was, once again, one of the most enjoyable times of my life. I'll continue to dive with sharkdiver.com as long as I can, and will plead with everyone to experience this at least once. See you at Tiger Beach!
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Here's one example:
"Human and shark, who is the real predator of the sea? Almost 100 million sharks are killed by human every year because of shark fining."
As the 2009 commercial white shark season begins (T-minus 3 days) we'll be spending time in Ensenada and the fish market to see if measures we put in place last season had any effect on the take of juvenile white sharks here.
We have been keeping track of the Ensenada Fish Market for the past three years.
The issue here is the sale of white shark pups as "swordfish". We have been documenting each and every trip we take down to this market with images of the animals we find on site.
Typically we are seeing a minimum of up to 5 animals for sale at any given time. We also enjoy the local Baja Fish Tacos (non white shark) while we're here...if you have not yet had a Baja Fish Taco in Ensenada, go here first.
Over the years we have uncovered one family who are the prime shark fishery here. These are hard working folks who know where to find sharks and how to fish them. For them it's a tough livelihood-they barely make a living.
Where some people see a travesty, we see an opportunity. Very little is known about young of the year in Mexican waters. Monterey Bay Aquarium is leading the charge along with TOPP's and a small group from Mexico working the Sea of Cortez.
One of the primary goals for this fish market should be DNA sampling of these sharks. As a ready made sampling site-this fish market is more than the final destination for white sharks, it could also be useful to research.
This image has been attributed to the tournament.
Is it a juvenile white shark?
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- NOAA’s Fisheries Service is proposing several measures to end overfishing and rebuild blacknose sharks and other shark populations. Nine public hearings will be held on the proposal, from New England to the Gulf of Mexico, in August and September. “Our latest stock assessment found that the blacknose shark is depleted and the rate of fishing, both directed and incidental, is unsustainable,” said Jim Balsiger, acting NOAA assistant administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “Blacknose sharks are vulnerable because they bear few young.
The proposed measures will help rebuild the species, an important part of the ecosystem in the south Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
Attention people of earth, your oceans are filled with UFO's:
The records dating back to soviet times were compiled by a special navy group collecting reports of unexplained incidents delivered by submarines and military ships. The group was headed by deputy Navy commander Admiral Nikolay Smirnov, and the documents reveal numerous cases of possible UFO encounters, the website says.
Vladimir Azhazha, former navy officer and a famous Russian UFO researcher, says the materials are of great value.
“Fifty percent of UFO encounters are connected with oceans. Fifteen more – with lakes. So UFOs tend to stick to the water,” he said.
On one occasion a nuclear submarine, which was on a combat mission in the Pacific Ocean, detected six unknown objects. After the crew failed to leave behind their pursuers by maneuvering, the captain ordered to surface. The objects followed suit, took to the air, and flew away.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Is this new shark series the right time to feature out-of-cage encounters with sharks given the shear amount of negative press being levied against operators here?
"Hell's Kitchen" producer A. Smith and Co. is swimming with sharks for its next series.
The company is developing the project "Shark Boat," which revolves around the only company in America that allows people to free dive with sharks.
Docu-series is set inside Hawaii Shark Encounters, run by world-class free diver Stefanie Brendl. Show will focus on the struggles that Brendl and her staff face as they attempt to stay in business following the death of her boyfriend and business partner.
Brendl and Jimmy Hall launched Hawaii Shark Encounters in 2002; Hall, a Discovery Channel personality, died in May 2007 after a base jumping accident.
Show would follow Brendl as she takes divers outside of the cage to swim with sharks, as well as the interaction among her staff.
Hawaii Shark Encounters (which operates at least three miles off Hawaii shores) and another company have received scrutiny from some Hawaii lawmakers, who have expressed concern that the companies feed the sharks in order to attract them -- something the companies have denied.
According to the Honolulu Advertiser, a recent study by Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology researchers also said the shark-cage dive tours pose little risk to public safety.
A. Smith founder Arthur Smith will exec produce with Kent Weed; Frank Sinton is also an EP. A. Smith's other credits include "Kitchen Nightmares" and "I Survived a Japanese Game Show," as well as next month's "Crash Course."
Some are not so sure - some have never seen a white either.
We ask you - is this a Great White or not?
This week sharks made the cut.
Greenland sharks, and an idea that we say "tell us more" right out of the gate.
Some suggest using sharks like cordwood is not a solution to the current energy crisis, after reading the initial draft proposal we're not so sure:
At the Arctic Technology Centre (Arctic Technology Centre) in Sisimiut in western Greenland, researchers are experimenting with ways of using the animal's oily flesh to produce biogas out of fishing industry waste.
"I think this is an alternative where we can use the thousands of tonnes of leftovers of products from the sea, including those of the numerous sharks," says Marianne Willemoes Joergensen of ARTEK's branch at the Technical University of Denmark.
Joergensen, in charge of the pilot project based in the Uummannaq village in northwestern Greenland, says the shark meat, when mixed with macro-algae and household wastewater, could "serve as biomass for biofuel production."
Thursday, July 23, 2009
For those of you who will be joining us this season here's a first person trip report from 2008 by Shark Diver Olivier:
It has been about two weeks now since I got my first fix. The world then rocks for about 2 days which makes every simple task somewhat of a challenge. Then the rocking stops, but the static images flashbacks in my head have not stopped, if anything they increased.
Hi my name is Olivier and I am a great white sharkholic.
I work in an environment where I deal with sharks every day, mean ones too . And I do it without the safety of a cage. The TV business is full of them, one hungrier than the other. The hours are very long, the pace is at best hectic, the tension high and my imagination is always on demand but I love it all.
Every time Shark week hits the discovery channel, I hit that either live or with TiVo. "Cage diving with great whites, I really wanna do that!" My wife of 11 years, the woman who I love more than life itself looks at me with her beautiful blue eyes and in unison we start reciting a couple of line of jaws:" You go in the cage, the cage goes in the water, our shark is in the water too?" Yeah... I really wanna do that.
I asked her a few days ago if she really thought I would go through with it. "of course I did, I know you."
There is now a beautiful great white on my enormous computer monitor. Enormous, I'd say about a 17 footer. Powerful, majestic and I took that shot as it swam toward the cage to check me and the other sharkholics out.
Guadalupe Island is truly magical. It is a place of beauty. The perfect setting for this adventure. You forget why you are there, until the first fin appears, even then what a rush. The journey was pure and fantastic, I found myself for 5 days with people sharing the same interest or fascination. There is nothing like your first time they say. well I had my first time 5 or 6 hours a day every day for 3 days straight and every time I stepped in the cage my heart was pumping like my first dive. Not out of fear though which surprised even me. It is one thing to say you want to step in a cage where at times 3 or 4 great whites are swimming around the cage, it is something else to do it all together. The critters all have different names and personalities. Jacques, Bruce, Pablo, Lucy, Shredder among others, My favorite? "Jacques" of course. He came by quite a few times, seems he was as curious about me as I was about him. Now it is entirely possible he looked at me and saw lunch. Why not? I looked like a seal and he is the predator of all predators. Yet in the cage I was never afraid, always in awe, but never afraid. I can't even tell you how many times the soundtrack of jaws played in my head and I am willing to bet that every single diver who has stepped in a cage with a great white heard that soundtrack at least once if not 12 times. I am so glad I did this.
The Crew of the Horizon was perfect in every way. They know the animals and their behavior, they surely respect them all. They had great humor were very supportive and so helpful. On my trip there was a marine biologist who was nothing short than a shark encyclopedia . Perfect. Every question I had was answered. he was there to film, photographs the great white for a future documentary he is making. I gladly offered my services for any help he may require and I do hope he takes me on my offer.
Quite frankly I can't wait to go back and do it again And I will. I went from a sharkholic to a sharkaddict in one minute and I bet I am far from the only one. My beautiful wife got it and as much as she made sure every single part I was born with was still attached to my body when I got back, she seems to understand why I went even more than I do and for that I am and will be eternally grateful.
Unfortunately local operators have not managed to self regulate the encounters at this site leading to a remarkable and industry eye opening government intervention this week - The Cayman Elasmobranch Police:
The Department of Environment has hired a full–time enforcement officer to ensure the well being of stingrays at the Sandbar.
Part of his job is to make sure operators and visitors do not lift stingrays out of the water, that boat operators are licensed and that vessels do not anchor on the shallowest part of the sandbar, potentially injuring the stingrays.
KADAVU, FIJI ISLANDS – 14 July 2009 – Matava – Fiji’s Premier Eco-Adventure Resort and Bite Me Gamefishing Charters are proud to take a world wide leading role in the the international Shark-Free Marina Initiative.
The international Shark-Free Marina Initiative works with marinas, boaters and fishermen to develop policy designed to protect a vital component of the oceans health, our sharks.
Matava Director Stuart Gow said:
"We have worked hard over the past few months in Fiji at certifying many marinas and charter fishing boats as ‘Shark-Free Marinas’ and so far have more than any other country worldwide".
Matava and Bite Me Gamefishing Charters was the first in Fiji to sign up and is actively promoting, coordinating and distributing information about the Initiative. We are working towards when Fiji can be the first country to be proud to announce itself as a ‘Shark-Free Marinas’ Country!” he continued.
The majority of shark species caught by recreational and sport anglers are currently listed by the IUCN as ‘Threatened’ (or worse) and each year an average of a ½ Million of these sharks are killed in the United States alone. It is estimated that 70-100 million sharks are killed yearly world wide!
Bite Me Gamefishing Charters actively avoids fishing for any species of shark and encourages this practice to be followed by all. By encouraging non-lethal ‘catch-and-release’ shark fishing fishermen and those sharks inevitably caught accidentally can enjoy their sport while ensuring that shark populations are not further diminished. By promoting sustainable practices of ocean management we hope that sharks will be around to keep our oceans healthy for generations to come.
Many Fiji marinas and charter operations are already listed on the Shark-Free Marina website as well as having the right to use the SFMI logo and signs for their own publicity. We are now in the process of distributing the stickers, posters and metal dock signs to registered businesses, charter boats and marinas.
The SFMI website also has an education centre that we hope everyone will find useful, it includes tips on how to catch and release shark, a list of Endangered and Threatened species plus information on how they can help protect the ocean.
“At Matava, and Bite Me Gamefishing Charters we are of course both happy and proud to be spearheading this initiative in the South Pacific and indeed the World” said Matava Director and Bite Me Gamefishing Charter Captain, Captain Adrian Watt.
“We also see this as a great step forward and opportunity for all gamefishing and sportfishing charter boats, both on Kadavu and in the Fiji Islands, to move forward in their standards to achieve truly world class levels of service and capabilities demonstrated by the ‘catch and release’ programs.”
Captain Watt finished by saying “We would like to thank all friends and clients of Matava and Bite Me Gamefishing Charters past and present who have contributed to the success of our ecotouirsm principles and the resort and we look forward to exciting times ahead.”
The Shark-Free Marina Initiative has a singular purpose, to reduce worldwide shark mortality. We encourage shark conservation at sport fishing and resort marinas by prohibiting the landing of any shark at the participating marina. The SFMI works with marinas, fishermen and like minded non-profit groups to form community conscious policy and increase awareness of the need to protect our sharks, our ocean and our legacy.
Matava – Fiji’s Premier Eco Adventure Resort, is an eco adventure getaway offering you a fun and unique blend of cultural experiences and adventure activities in the environmentally pristine and remote island of Kadavu in the Fiji Islands. Matava – Fiji Premier Eco Adventure Resort is a PADI Dive Resort as well as a Project AWARE GoEco Operator. With more than 12 years experience in the Fiji Islands, Matava is recognized as a leading educational dive centre. Matava offers accommodation for up to 22 guests in lush tropical surroundings in traditional thatched Fijian ‘bures’ with hardwood polished floors, louvre windows and private decks offering privacy, comfort and superb ocean views.
Bite-Me Gamefishing Charters is our on-site IGFA game fishing specialists offering the best of superb record breaking blue water game fishing for tuna, wahoo, sailfish and marlin. As an active member of IGFA and The Billfish Association we advocate tag and release of all billfish and Trevally not deemed to be a National or World Record.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
There are "things" in the deep ocean that boggle the imagination and raise the normal oceanic cool factor to 11.
So pay heed divers, ocean lovers, and those that like the things that go "bump in the night" because as the guys over at the Deep Sea News blog tell it - your world is going to get rocked August 14th:
The Eye-in-the-Sea camera will be freshly baited with a frozen sea lion carcass in a camera deployment set for August 14th, in the deep Monterey Canyon. Mark your calendars and tune in to the Ocean Research Conservation Organization (ORCA) website for updates on the event. The ever fascinating Dr. Edie Widder, the ORCA President, will be your host.
A great white shark about 6 feet long and 150 pounds was caught by a fly fisherman off La Jolla last week.
It's believed to be the first great white taken off the California coast using a fly rod and reel.
Jeff Patterson, director of sales for reel manufacturer Abel Automatics, was testing company products about five miles offshore when the white shark hit.
"The grab was instantaneous, and the shark cooperated with a quick left turn to allow the proper hook set," said Patterson.
The fight lasted about 25 minutes. Patterson thought it was a mako shark until he got it close enough to the boat and skipper Conway Bowman identified it as a great white.
The Shark Free Marina Initiative has a singular purpose, to reduce worldwide shark mortality. The not-for-profit company recently launched its strategy intended to prevent the deaths of millions of vulnerable and endangered species of shark. The initiative aims to win over the fishing community by working with game fishing societies, tackle manufacturers, competition sponsors and marinas to form community conscious policy.
In the last five years over a half million sharks on average were harvested annually by the recreational and sportfishing community in the United States alone. Many of these were breeding age animals and belong to vulnerable or endangered species. Research has shown that removal of adult sharks from the population is occurring at such an extreme rate that many species stand no chance of survival, severely damaging the delicate ecological balance of the ocean's ecosystem.
"There’s a lot of talk about the atrocity of shark fining and fishing worldwide," says the SFMI’s Board Director, Marine Biologist Luke Tipple, "but not a lot of measurable action towards reversing the damage. The time has come to stop simply 'raising awareness' and start implementing sensible management techniques to protect vulnerable species of sharks from inevitable destruction."
The Shark Free Marina Initiative works by prohibiting the landing of any caught shark at a participating marina. By promoting catch-and-release fishing the sport of shark fishing can actively participate in ongoing research studies and collect valuable data. The initiative is based on the Atlantic billfish model which banned the mortal take of billfish in response to population crashes in the 80s.
Harwich Port Boat Yard on Wychmere Harbor (see aerial below) in Harwich Port is the first Cape Cod marina to support the initiative. Shark Free Marinas acknowledges the support and perseverance of Kate Metzler who encouraged the marina to join the initiative. Metzler also donated the signs that will be displayed at the boat yard.
"Although the number of sharks killed by recreational fishermen each year is dwarfed by commercial catches, the current crisis facing shark stocks requires action wherever possible," says marine scientist and SFMI Advisor Edd Brooks. "We are not asking fishermen to stop fishing, only asking them to start releasing their catch."
Collaborating with the Cape Eleuthera Institute in the Bahamas and the Fisheries Conservation Foundation in the USA the SFMI has had an early impact with interest from marinas and non-profits nation-wide. Currently Shark Free Marinas is able to subsidize the cost of signs and literature but hope that future investment will help make a nationwide impact.
"Shark Free Marinas is a necessary response to the culture of mature shark harvest," says Tipple. "Our effect will be immediate, measurable and, together with saving millions of sharks, will establish a new global standard for responsible ocean management."
Visit the Shark Free Marina website at www.sharkfreemarinas.com or contact the director at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Divers from all over the planet got our final Shark Kits and phone calls this week while our shark cages were pulled from storage and polished.
It's an exciting time. Going into our 7th year at this site we have come to know many of the seasonal animals that appear "like clockwork" at this pristine and unique island.
Shredder, Fat Tony, Bruce, The Russian, Naf Naf.
For me it's a reminder of the oceans mysteries. These are magnificent animals on an epic migration to as far away as Hawaii, moving through an ocean of hooks and mans influence, to reappear once again, a bit heavier, a bit longer, and always visually stunning at Guadalupe's Point Norte - Shark Fin Rock.
2009 is another season at Isla Guadalupe and we're looking forward to it, to old friends, to another season of mysteries.
Of all the adventures on the planet, for me - this is the Grandaddy of them all.
Patric Douglas CEO
The news rules will ban heavy oil and require vessel hull strength to be doubled.
In a strange twist of fate two of Japans whaling fleet vessels will no longer meet these new requirements and will presumably be banned from Antarctic waters, shutting down whaling for the first time in 20 years.
Presumably, as Japan also has political strength within the U.N.
I've been finning around quite a good deal, but so far no goblin sharks. I need to get equipment to be able to dive deep, I guess. Now I'm waiting until I can put the children in bed so I can continue my quest!
I also have the game "Fishing Master". Somehow you will be able to see goblin sharks in the fish market, but so far I haven't found out how. Has anyone else tried these games?
Saturday, July 18, 2009
There is a massive debate raging about whether cage diving is causing shark attacks to increase in frequency.
The cage diving detractors say that we are conditioning sharks to associate humans with food because many of the cage diving operators use food thrown overboard into the water to attract the sharks closer to the boats. This practice is known as chumming. They also make use of bait on a hook to bring the sharks closer to the cage once the divers have climbed inside.
The reasoning is that when the sharks find humans in the water at other times they will be expecting food too and this causes attacks on swimmers and surfers in the area to increase.
South Africa is at the forefront of these allegations because the cage diving industry is based on the Western Cape shoreline there and the shark attack figures show an upward trend from the time that the industry was established and become more active. There have been nine attacks in all between the years 2000 and 2005 and three of them have been fatal.
Not a great number by any stretch of the imagination but more than there were before the time of shark cage diving which plunges about 100 000 people into the ocean per year to come face to face with these huge predators.
So if you want to go cage diving anywhere in the world, should you be worried from an ethical point of view that you might be the cause of a shark attack on a swimmer somewhere in future?What The Research Says
No less than the World Wildlife Federation has done research on this issue and they report that there is no scientific link between cage diving and shark attacks.
And the Shark Trust based in South Africa concludes the same thing from their research. Not enough evidence especially seeing as though most of the attacks take place away from cage diving locations.
The city of Cape Town has also done its research since 1998 and they also conclude that those who are talking about a causal link are clutching at straws.
So from the scientific community’s point of view there is no link between shark attacks and cage diving. So Why Are The Number Of Attacks Increasing?
There is no definitive answer to that but these are some of the theories put forward by the International Shark Attacks File (ISAF) foundation: There are simply more people swimming, surfing, body boarding and windsurfing in the ocean which means that the chances for an encounter with a shark are statistically increasing.
In addition, due to recent technological advances in the manufacture of wetsuits people are able to stay in the water for longer periods.
Something else that has improved is the efficiency with which shark attacks are reported and recorded worldwide in the last decade which could also account for a seeming up tick in attacks but which in reality was an under reporting in the past.
So for the moment (there might be some scientific evidence that proves to the contrary in future) there is no link between cage diving and shark attacks so if you want to go and experience these amazing predators at close quarters you can do it with a clear conscience.
If your nerves can stand it that is. . .
Friday, July 17, 2009
This week Felix Leander, son of Wolf Leander wrote an article for Deeper Blue that begins to answer the question of why some people want to conserve sharks.
Seems "Sympathy for the Devil" began at an early age in the Leander Clan:
In my family I had little choice not to develop a relationship with the Ocean. I was born in the Bahamas, and our back yard was literally a reef. Before I could walk my parents introduced me to the water - you could say even before that - my mom would dive while pregnant (not with tanks), and apparently I "saw" my first shark while in her belly - my dad loves to tell the story of her starting to paddle back to the boat like a crazy woman and that he had to grab her by the fin to slow down and relax.
After leaving the Bahamas, every vacation we took brought us to the Ocean - in those days you had to be 13 years old to be certified by PADI - which forced me to freedive until then. To my father's disappointed and my mother's delight (I became her buddy) I received my Jr. Open Water certification in Bonaire (which I still have to date). My SCUBA days did not last long, and by the time I was 15 I was once again relying on my lungs.
The Federal Fisheries Council (CFP) has established fishing guidelines that aim to drastically reduce waste and discards of short-tailed river stingray (Potamotrygon brachyura) and sharks owing to the delicate state of these species in national waters.
The measures adopted are aligned with the International Action Plan for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (IPOA-Sharks), set forth by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Said Plan details the principles, legal framework, objectives and application procedures for the conservation and management of the resource.
Resolution 13/09 of the CFP, published in the Official Bulletin, prohibits the finning of sharks, a practice that consists of removing the fins - of high market value - and the subsequent discarding of the body.
In addition, it bans the use of bicheros or boat-hooks used in ray discarding manoeuvres, and puts forth the obligation of returning live sharks of more than 160 centimetres in length to sea.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Known as "The Goo" scientists and Coast Guard officials do not have a clue to what this 25 mile slick is:
Nobody knows for sure what the gunk is, but Petty Officer 1st Class Terry Hasenauer says the Coast Guard is sure what it is not.
"It's certainly biological," Hasenauer said. "It's definitely not an oil product of any kind. It has no characteristics of an oil, or a hazardous substance, for that matter.
"It's definitely, by the smell and the makeup of it, it's some sort of naturally occurring organic or otherwise marine organism."
Something else: No one in Barrow or Wainwright can remember seeing anything like this before, Brower said.
Gathering up a group of well known shark attack survivors to plead the case for shark conservation before congress on Senate bill is S. 850 was a brilliant idea and effective.
The media had a field day and this story got as much one day press as the Sotomayor confirmation hearings.
Unfortunately MSNBC decided to add a well know industry generated cage breach video to their coverage both online and on national television.
This videos appearance on a hot media topic presents, once again, our industry negatively to millions of viewers, policy makers, and the general public.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Patric Douglas CEO
From the RTSea Blog this week:
From time to time, I have the pleasure of speaking about shark and ocean conservation issues at various venues, particularly aquariums. Sometimes it is a formal affair - a screening of my white shark documentary, Island of the Great White Shark - and sometimes it is a more casual event, often including groups of younger children - the all-important next generation of ocean conservationists.
At the end of the month I will get to do both at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, TN. I will arrive at the end of the month to do local media interviews and then on Friday, July 31st, I will be speaking with a group of Aquarium "day-campers" ages 7-10 and will conduct a private screening/Q&A with staff, volunteers, and patrons that evening.
On Saturday, August 1st, I will be conducting two public screenings and Q&A's with the Aquarium's visitors as part of their regular admission.
The Tennessee Aquarium is a marvelous venue in that it is essentially two separate aquariums - one building devoted to a worldwide examination of freshwater (and not just guppies and trout; how about 10-foot long beluga sturgeons!) and another for saltwater. I visited the Aquarium for the first time in June and was very impressed with its scope and the dedication of its staff in getting people to appreciate aquatic life not only in their backyard but globally.
So, if you are in the area, come visit the Tennessee Aquarium on Saturday, August 1st. As many aquariums do this time of year, the Tennessee Aquarium piggybacks on the popularity of Discovery Channel's Shark Week and I am happy to be part of their campaign to educate the public to the reality of sharks, their importance, and the threats and challenges they face.
Maybe I'll see you there!
To learn more about the Tennessee Aquarium, visit their web site. Click here.
The study concluded that existing commercial shark diving operations pose little risk to public safety.
This landmark study has come at a time when a virulent anti-shark diving effort has been pushing to have commercial shark diving banned in Hawaii's waters.
The relentless anti-shark diving campaign has culminated on the island of Maui, which has no commercial shark diving in its waters, proposing a bill to ban it.
There's still time to save two very good shark diving operations in Hawaii. Follow the media trail and make a few of your own. The major news media has grabbed on to the Meyer study (which makes for great reading) and have positively reported the conclusion.
The news of this study should be posted to every chat room, scubaboard, and social network site for divers as soon as possible. The anti-shark diving lobby plays one card and one card only - fear.
Without the fear of sharks commercial shark diving wins on the argument of sharks=tourism=economy.
Help Hawaii make the right decisions about the future of off shore (3 mile) shark diving.
Monday, July 13, 2009
The power of images to open minds:
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Compelling and reasoned discussion of the future of sharks and one direction for shark conservation:
Well folks, when it comes to sharks - we have some good news and some bad news.
The bad news is that sharks - like most other big fish in the ocean - are not long for this world if we continue overfishing on an industrial-scale.
The good news is that because driftnet and longline fishing are banned in the Bahamas, our shark populations are relatively stable. In fact, National Geographic described Bahamian waters as a relative "Eden" for sharks compared to the rest of the world.
"Soft cage" shark encounters. The company behind the innovation is not really a shark diving company at all but the conservation group Sharklife in tandem with a few industry insiders:
Sharklife has teamed up with Debbie Smith and her operation, Africa Dive, to run the soft-cage trips. After a 20-minute trip in our inflatable vessel, we dropped anchor and soon a group of black-tip sharks weaved their way under the boat. We were in luck. Sharks have a phenomenal sense of smell, but it can take an hour to lure them with chum — mainly pieces of sardine.
Grant and the team assembled the cage as we adjusted our masks and flippers and slid in. After less than a minute, I wanted out of the cage and plunged into the sea.
In the thrill of the deep blue, black-tip sharks performed a graceful ballet, swirling and twirling around us, tearing at the bits of sardine with ferocious speed.
A special thanks must go to Kate Metzler who took it upon herself to speak on behalf of SFMI, encouraging the marina to register, she even donated the signs that are now being sent to Cape Cod!
Thanks a lot Kate
- Luke Tipple, Director of SFMI
A little about the Marina:
Harwich Port Boat Yard is at beautiful Wychmere Harbor on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. This man-made harbor was once a horse race track, then cars were raced around once the advent of automobiles came about. Now, dredged (by hand in 1887) and channeled to accommodate boats to 65 feet, it provides access to Nantucket Sound and the islands of Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and Monomoy. Harwich Port Boat Yard began in 1932 as the Lee Ship building Company and then sold to Watt Small who began Harwich Port Boat Works. In 1977, Arthur Cote purchased the property and ran it until November of 2004, when John Our bought the business, changed the name, and has since worked hard to place his mark in Harwich maritime history. Our facilities improvements include a new bulkhead, a new boat ramp that can accommodate boats up to 45 ft., a new fuel system with capacities of 8,000 gallons of diesel and 4,000 gallons of gas. We have purchased a newer fork lift with negative lift capacity for smaller haul outs and some drysailing. We have 19 slips and seasonal moorings as well as transient slips and moorings when available. In the early spring of 2007 we installed a security camera system so our customers know their investment is being protected.
Please take the time to visit their site and drop in if you’re in the area
Friday, July 10, 2009
But is it too little too late?
The National Marine Fisheries Service closed the Atlantic commercial fishery for non-sandbar large coastal sharks on July 1, after catches in the first half of the year met the weight quota for 2009. The closure -- which includes all state and federal waters from Maine to Florida -- applies to silky, tiger, blacktip, spinner, bull, lemon, nurse, scalloped hammerheads, great hammerhead and smooth hammerhead sharks.
Shark species not listed, such as mako and thresher, can still be landed.However, Mike Luisi, deputy assistant director of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said the closure would not have much effect on local fishermen.
San Onofre State Beach -- On June 7, 2009 Rudy Fontes was surfing at 'The Point ,' San Onofre State Beach. It was 7:15 - 7:30 PM and he had been on the water about 90 minutes. The water was 8 - 10 feet deep with a cobblestone reef bottom and an estimated temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The sky was clear with a light breeze and a air temperature in the mid-70s Fahrenheit. The ocean was glassy calm with a 3 - 4 foot swell. Fontes reported; "I had been surfing, but was now waiting in the line-up, maybe 100 yards off shore, between sets and looking out to the horizon. There were maybe a dozen others within 30 yards of me when an estimated 6 foot White Shark hit the surface of the water and became completely air borne above the water, maybe 5 feet above the surface. Its belly was facing all of us and you could see the shape of its mouth (jaw) very clearly. It was moving wildly as if it was attacking a fish or something from below the surface. an awesome site and we were all 'buzzzzing' for a while, never seen that before. I guess it swam off, that was the last of it." Please report any shark sighting, encounter, or attack to the Shark Research Committee.
San Onofre State Beach -- On July 7, 2009 Parker Redmond was surfing 'The Point' at San Onofre. It was 2:00 PM and he had been on the water about 10 minutes. Air and water temperatures were estimated in the low 70s and 60s Fahrenheit respectively. The sea was 'choppy' with a 2 - 4 foot South swell. Redmond recalled; " I was looking off towards Lowers and saw a 4 - 5 foot White Shark leap about 4 feet out of the water. Its tail was inverted just like the Discovery Channel sharks. I knew instantly what I had seen. It had a white underbelly and its back was grey. About 20 minutes after the shark breach 2 Dolphins cruised through the line-up. That made my encounter seem even more absurd, but I promise you it was definitely a White Shark." Please report any shark sighting, encounter, or attack to the Shark Research Committee.
The post was heated, as this issue has been "sticking in my craw" for a while. But for a few other enlightened members of our industry - today's post and many similar posts have fallen into the "industry black hole".
The place operators and those who do questionable things with sharks run to with hands on ears crying out, "La-la-la-la-la-la".
One person, who I have come to respect, Felix Leander, questioned the wisdom of going back to "events of the past". Here is his post and my response.
It is time for industry members to hear, listen and act. Shark Week is entirely our industries problem. We enable the very programming so many of the industry are properly howling about. If we want to see positive changes to the image of sharks it starts here, with us:
Felix Leander said...
Why is there a constant reminder of incidents that happened in the past to operators and not more of a focus on what can be done in the future.
I find your posts and ideas (shark free marina, contract, etc.) that are thinking about how to fix the porn and help sharks - much more interesting and productive than reminding people of what they already know.
What is the status on the contract that is being drafted for operators to abide by in selecting production crews?
Need positive vibes my man.
Shark Diver said...
Felix, as you well know by now we call it as it is, and as it is happening.
Right now this is happening...again.
Stop putting sharks in cages and take full ownership of it when it does. Explain to the media how this happened and what steps are being taken to ensure it never happens again, leadership.
NOT allowing the anti-shark diving folks any use of a shocking piece of video.
Do you realize this video is being used as a case point to shut down the operators in Hawaii? I am sure the operations in Hawaii are thrilled about that.As we stated at the beginning of the year - what happens in one place resonates in another.
And what of Shark Week and the additional 30 million who will see this video?
For a few months Felix, I was in talks with folks in Florida about a complete reversal of the ban on shark diving in the region. Think about that, leveraging a downturn economy to change a tourism killer and open commercial shark diving back up. They were listening and we had next phase meetings set up.
Then an industry member did something stupid in the Bahamas on a well known morning show that also showed this infamous video.
The next day? All talks were off and I do not see Florida EVER having shark diving in it's waters again.
Clap. Clap. Clap.
Well done folks, another proud moment for the shark diving industry and the potential resurrection of a $50 million dollar statewide industry.
The power of images, video and the anti-shark diving lobby.
This is not an "event from the past" Felix.
This happens to be a current and toxic industry event happening right now and with lasting consequences.
Do we ignore it and move on?
When this video stops showing up for the consumption of 30 million viewers I will be happy to stop blogging about it.