Monday, August 31, 2009

“No Caught Shark Allowed”: Matava leading the Shark Free Marina Initiative in Fiji

Matava and Bite Me Gamefishing Charters in Fiji are taking a leading role in the international shark conservation efforts, organizing Fiji to become the first country to fully participate in the Shark-Free Marina Initiative (SFMI).

The SFMI works with marinas, boaters and fishermen to develop policy designed to protect sharks as a vital component of the oceans health. The SFMI has a singular purpose, to reduce worldwide shark mortality. Working with marinas, fishermen and like minded non-profit groups, the Initiative forms community conscious policy and increase awareness of the need to encourage shark conservation.

Shark Free Marinas work with, not against, the recreational and commercial fishing community, in order to raise awareness of the importance of a healthy shark population for our oceans, and to contribute to their ongoing survival.

Matava, together with partners in Fiji, has helped many marinas and charter fishing boats become SFMI certified, and Fiji now has more certified Shark-Free Marinas than any other country in the world. Stuart Gow, Director of Matava, said that his team has been actively promoting the SFMI, and distributing information about the Initiative, with the long-term goal of making Fiji “the first country to be proud to announce itself as a ‘Shark-Free Marinas’ Country”.

See the map of current Shark-Free Marinas

The majority of shark species caught by recreational and sport anglers are currently listed by the IUCN as “Threatened” (or worse) and each year, half a million of these sharks are killed in the US alone. It is estimated that 70-100 million sharks are killed yearly worldwide.

See IUCN Red List of Threatened Shark Species

About Matava

Matava is an eco adventure getaway in Fiji, offering a unique blend of cultural experiences and adventure activities in the pristine and remote island of Kadavu, Fiji. Matava is a PADI Dive Resort as well as a Project AWARE GoEco Operator, a title awarded to demonstrate a commitment to conservation and provide customers with experiences that enhance visitor awareness, appreciation and understanding of the environment. Matava is also one of the supporters of the Fiji Shark Conservation and Awareness Project, which aims to raise global awareness of their imminent extinction of sharks and the crises facing our oceans.

With more than 12 years experience in the Fiji Islands, Matava is recognized as a leading educational dive center. Matava is participating in TIES ecoDestinations project (currently featuring “beaches, marine and coastal ecotourism experience”) as one of the Summer Special 2009 sponsors.

Mako shark haul could be record catch

To prevent scenes like these industry leadership will have to happen.

Starting with the IGFA who should cease record keeping for the following species of sharks by 2010:

1. Tiger
2. Mako
3. Hammerhead
4. Bull
5. Blue
6. Thresher

These are the primary species caught in shark tournaments across the USA.

As long as records continue to be kept the industry will have no reason to modify tournaments that kill sharks for sport.

While the rest of the sport fishing industry are beginning to talk shark conservation, leadership begins at the top.

Let's start by asking the IGFA to lead that change:

Captain Tom King, Captain Taylor Sears, and the Mayo family from Dartmouth – Bob, Pamela, Ian and Elizabeth – returned to the Mill Wharf Marina in Scituate with a 624-pound male mako shark, believed to be the largest of its kind ever caught and brought to shore.

“We hooked up a nice tuna, probably 160 or 170 pounds,” Sears said. “It started coming up to the surface a little weird. The tuna popped up, and there was a mako shark right behind it eating its tail off. You could see it come up, maybe 100 feet off the back of the boat.

Complete Story

White Shark Cafe - New Film


Great white sharks have captured people's attention for thousands of years. They are mythologized by native groups all over the world - feared and revered in equal measure. But the scientific study of these giant predators is less than 50 years old. The film profiles 2 pioneers in the field - both doing research in California at the Farallon Islands.

It also looks at today's research - greatly improved by advanced technologies that allow scientists to track the sharks migration patterns. Once thought to be coastal animals, biologists have found out they in fact travel thousands of miles. One area they go that is a complete mystery has been dubbed the 'white shark cafe'. Scientists presume they are feeding or mating there.

At the same time, science journalists are trying to affect the negative images great whites have acquired. They are showing images of sharks doing more than eating or attacking - like swimming and migrating. One of these sharks, Omoo, has even acquired his own FaceBook page. Also, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has been able to keep a juvenile white shark for more than 100 days, giving the public rare, up close experiences with the great white.

Guadalupe Island - Rochelle's Adventure 2009

Rochelle F, just got back from an expedition to Isla Guadalupe with her father. Here's her trip report:

My father just turned 75. What better way to celebrate than to go diving with great whites?!

The crew was fabulous (can’t say enough good things!), the weather sunny, and the sharks plentiful. My dad and I had a great time in the cages making the acquaintances of Bruce, Mau, Flipkin, Bullseye, Geoff Nuttall, and five other sharks who were newer and not yet in the i.d. books.

At one point we had four sharks with us and everywhere we looked we saw a sleek sharks.


Being in the water with great whites was a lot calmer than I would have thought. This may have been due to the lack of a soundtrack. These sharks are true masters of their environment and it was fantastic watching them appear and disappear at will. In general they were very cautious and triple checked everything. One shark however, gave us several reminders of why white sharks are called ambush predators.

He would circle/hide under the boat and the cages before making a vertical rush at his prey in front of the cages, breaching half of his body out of the water in the process.

It was a fantastic trip that I would highly recommend to anyone considering it. Thanks Patric, for making it possible and for advocating for sharks around the globe!


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Re purposing shark fisheries - Mexico

We have long been advocates of re purposed shark fisheries. As is the case in Holbox, Mexico where many of the local shark fishermen now take paying tourists to see whale sharks.

In the past 5 years this unique site has gone from a regional coastal shark fishing hub to a multi million dollar shark tourism mecca.

Worldwide coastal shark fisheries can be re purposed to service a growing $300 million dollar commercial shark diving industry, but time is running out.

The dollars and sense of re purposed shark fisheries make sense for local and regional economies. Fishermen typically make a few dollars per pound of sharks fin and meat.

Commercial shark diving delivers from $40-80 per diver, sustainably.

This week a feature story about the human cost of shark fisheries was highlighted in a great article by Kevin Sieff in The Texas Observer.

We can re purpose shark fisheries, easily, and quickly with some political will and a little bit of vision. Sustainable tourism is as simple as making a cell phone ring and it will be up to our industry to lead the way:

“They’re fishing in a prime habitat for juvenile sandbar and blacktip sharks,” says Karyl Brewster-Geisz, a biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who produced a 15-page report on illegal shark fishing along the U.S.-Mexico border in 2005. “And unlike the U.S., where permits are issued for particular species,” she says, fishermen in Playa Bagdad “take whatever they can get.”

Scientists say a growing trade in shark fins is depleting shark populations around the globe and disrupting ecosystems long dependent on the predator’s presence. On the Texas-Mexico border, shark fishing threatens more than the environment. “This is our sovereignty we’re trying to protect,” says Lt. Mickey Lalor, commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard’s South Padre Island station. “These are our resources. These are our waters.”

Complete Story

Shark cage diving: an eco-ethical perspective

Found on the web over at the Afika T Blog a pro-shark diving industry response by Helen Turnbull and Alison Tower.

Detailed, reasoned, and passionate reasons to why commercial shark diving, done right, is good for local, regional and global economies and for the conservation of species:

I got some flack for a recent post on white shark cage diving, which is a tourism experience that I still am not entirely comfortable with. In that post, I referred to the two South African shark diving operators who have received Fair Trade in Tourism accreditation. As part of the process of evaluating these operators, FTTSA commissioned a research report into shark cage diving, including a review of scientific literature.

I asked Helen Turnbull, one of the authors of that report (along with Alison Tower), to share her perspective on this segment of the industry. Helen is a marketing and business consultant working on sustainable tourism development in southern Africa. She has been a judge for the Imvelo Awards and is a national trainer for FTTSA, as well as a member of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism-South Africa.

In the interest of full disclosure, she's done work for both of the companies she mentions in her article.

Below is the piece she forwarded.

Fear or fascination, there is simply no middle ground when it comes to the Great White shark. It is undoubtedly the most fearsome fish in the ocean. This animal simply demands respect by its mere presence. But this apex predator is, in actual fact, often a victim of bad press, mixed hysteria and intensive trophy fishing. Eco tourism has become a fast growing industry over the past decades, but still the question remains; what is the real truth about the Great white shark? Furthermore, by observing the sharks in their own environment can the ‘menacing man-eater’ label be pushed aside to reveal them as the cautious and elegant animals they truly are?

Dyer Island is a small nature reserve located 7-9kms off the coast of Gansbaai in the Western Cape of South Africa. Every year Great white sharks frequent the shallow waters around the island to feed primarily on cape fur seals and their pups. Next to Dyer Island is world famous ‘Shark alley, known as one of the worlds leading hotspots for encounters with Great White Sharks.

Cage diving companies run scheduled eco trips to the surrounding waters of Dyer Island everyday in hope of sighting and offering cage diving with the sharks in the area. One company at the forefront of this field is Marine Dynamics. A business built around employing local people, Marine Dynamics promotes sustainable conservation, with numerous active projects constantly being driven forward in order to protect the highly diverse local marine life in the area. Every morning, guests are met by a marine biologist at the Great White House in Kleinbaai and are given an awareness-based presentation on the mysterious fish, including their biology, ecology and conservation. Once complete, clients are escorted to the boat which is launched from the nearby harbour and then anchored out at the island (approximately half an hour from launch). The primary aim of the day is to promote responsible tourism and to allow viewing of the sharks in the least damaging way.

In that respect, all divers are reminded throughout the trip not to touch the sharks whilst in the cage. Fish oils (note: not blood) are occasionally added to the water and after a wait of on average a few hours Great whites sharks start to graciously ascend from the murky depths. The sharks are attracted to the this chum slick and appear inquisitive yet cautious to the potential scavenge of a free meal. They are curious about the form of the boat itself, and will always explore the shape before deciding what to do.

Unfortunately, like most situations where man interacts with nature, controversy surrounds the cage diving industry in Gansbaai. However, a closer look at the facts, and recent scientific investigations quickly dispels myths that this causes a conditioning of South Africa’s Great whites resulting in them associating humans with food. Ongoing research indicates that sharks would need to be properly fed intensively for a prolonged period of time, in order to develop the ability of coupling an alien stimulus with food. Interestingly the Dyer Island population of Great whites is non-residential, and individuals have been identified moving out of the area every two to three weeks. Sharks can exist with long periods without food, and can therefore travel vast distances.

Taking a closer look at the anatomy of this ultimate predator, it can be said with certainty that Great white sharks are a work of ‘evolutionary genius’. They are perfectly designed to hunt and scavenge prey in temperate and sub tropical oceans around the world. Analysing their design closer reveals bundles of intricate gel-filled pores peppered around the animals snout. These sensory pits called ‘ampullae of lorenzini’ allow the sharks to detect even the smallest of electrical currents created by a struggling fish. In fact, so highly acute and developed are the senses of the Great white shark, it is believed that they can detect as little as one drop of blood in a billion drops of sea water. Not only can they expertly smell prey, but they can also see much better than previously believed. Their eyesight is actually similar to that of humans, they can see in colour. An extra layer of cells behind the retina enhances the shark’s vision in low light conditions producing a similar reflecting effect to cat’s eyes. In terms of hearing, great whites do not require the use of external ears. Instead, they practically ‘feel’ the movements of others around them. This incredible adaptation is actually common amongst most fish and is achieved by a length of sensory receivers stretching down the flanks of their bodies. The ‘lateral line’, as the organ is known enables the sharks to detect temperature and pressure changes in the water, along with vibrations.

On board Shark Fever, Marine Dynamics 10.7m-catamaran vessel, divers are given the option to view the circling shark from beneath the surface, in a five man, rounded steel cage. The cage is attached to the side of the boat by thick nylon ropes, and it is in this way the apex predators of the sea can be observed in their own element. On descending into the cage, divers may watch (some more at ease than others) as the sharks pass by at close proximity and approach the hanging bait with awe-inspiring elegance and grace. Great white sharks are streamlined to perfection, their slender torpedo shape perfectly equipped for effortlessly slicing through the water, enabling short powerful bursts of up to 50km an hour. In the animal world, it has one of the most efficient and incredibly powerful tails for a fish. The highly adapted shape of Great White Sharks is said to be the very basis of aeroplane and submarine design of today. In recent testing, it has been shown that sharks are incredibly curious and organised, they will frequently approach any item in the water, be it organic or inorganic to try and identify what it is.

Evolution has allowed the species to adapt into a highly effective apex predator with very few rivals in the marine environment. Estimates from fossilised teeth indicate early ancestors of the species arrived on earth even before the dinosaurs some 330 million years ago. Watching the Sharks circle the boat near Dyer Island one can see their behaviour is much in contrast to the image created by Peter Benchley and Spielberg a few decades ago. In their nature, they are naturally very cautious. Unfortunately, on developing the interest to investigate an object, sharks will bite and taste to determine what the object is, leading to some horrific wounds if the unintended victim is a soft fleshy human. However, watching underwater it becomes apparent to some divers that the reputation Great Whites have accumulated over the years is largely unfair, and down to ignorance and misunderstanding of the animal.

Surfers and spear fisherman receiving bites in the past have been positioning themselves much in a situation as a human walking around a lion pen with a zebra suit on. If the lion bites and then realises it is nothing but false prey, does it then spit it out? Often in a dark wet suit with fins, the silhouette of a spear fisherman or surfer represents a close resemblance to a seal; great whites only have teeth and a mouth to find out as they approach the prey.

After climbing out of the cage, most divers expressions say more than words. Often marine dynamics guest books are filled with comments such as ‘fantastic incredible creatures’, ‘ Awesome, an experience of a life time’.

It is these tourists and their money can just contribute to the status of Great Whites in the eyes of the South African Government, they will then be reinforcing a crucial message for the species survival and future protection. ‘Great White Sharks are worth more alive than dead ’.

In terms of conservation, South Africans were the pioneers in protecting Great White Sharks in their waters. After the film jaws was released in the 80’s every fisherman wanted a trophy on their boat. So bad was the damage to the existing populations, the species became almost extinct in some areas of the world. In 1991 the Maldives, USA, Australia, Malta and New Zealand followed South Africa to fully protect the species in their waters.

Great whites sharks are not cute and cuddly like dolphins, and so promoting their protection is a battle in itself. However in 1996 another step forward was taken in conservation when they were placed on the IUCN red list as a ‘vulnerable species'. Not only are White Sharks slow growing, late maturing animals (often termed as k-species) their population counts are also difficult to estimate, as they are trans oceanic, and highly migratory. However finally, in 2004, a landmark was reached in global conservation, and Great Whites were placed on the CITES appendix 2 to regulate international trade of their fins, teeth and body parts. Especially in some areas of Asia, shark fin soup sells as a highly expensive delicacy, and the damage to shark populations as a result of this industry has been hugely detrimental. CITES was an extremely valuable step in the right direction for Great White sharks. The last decade has concluded some break through results for Great Whites, however to be fully effective protection in the future, efforts need to be globally integrated, incorporating the negative impact of foreign fishing gears on the entire shark species.

Despite the image of a Great White Shark generating interest and fear in the minds of many people, research and knowledge of the animal is still very much in its early days. Still, many questions remain unanswered. Biologists working with Great whites in South Africa’s waters have recorded, and continue to discover fascinating behaviour. One individual tagged on Dyer Island swam 22,000km to South Australia and back again between 2003 and 2004. Data received from the expensive satellite tag indicated that sharks can swim deep down to depths of almost 1000m where water temperature drops below 4 degrees C and light starts to diminish. The 4m female responsible for this record journey was named ‘Nicole’ easily recognised by her distinctive serrated dorsal fin. After visiting the island annually previous to this journey, the record-breaking shark has not been sighted since, and speculation indicates she may have become entangled in fishing gear during migration.

Research is conducted by the Marine Dynamics crew daily, of which clients can participate in, to identify individual sharks and factors affecting their behaviour around the boats. Dorsal fin identification photos are taken and individual scar markings; sex and length data is recorded. Comparative studies of underwater behaviour, in artificial (or chummed water) and natural conditions are to be conducted in the winter season, when water visibility of eight meters and more makes for excellent viewing of the Sharks.

In the Gansbaai area, a few privileged and experienced divers have dived with the Great Whites without the protection of a steel cage. Approaching the sharks with nothing but a stick in ones hand, these professional individuals have proved time and again that Great Whites will readily give way to a human, once satisfied it is not recognisable as prey. It is all about understanding and interpreting behaviour, which as yet we are only beginning to unravel. Furthermore, when an accident occurs between a shark and a human, media coverage immediately generates the emotion of fear and horror; the headline ‘Shark Attack’ sells newspapers. In reality, a human consists of too much bone and muscle, with not enough fat to sustain a great white shark, therefore even in the unfortunate event of a human being bitten, only very rarely do they disappear. Every year more research indicates that man is not on the menu for Great whites as previously feared and believed.

Marine Dynamics aims to dispel these untruths created by films such as ‘Jaws’, and hopes to show people what these powerful, misunderstood creatures of the sea truly are. Statistics show that only one person per year is killed by sharks, whereas 40,000 unfortunate individuals meet their end after a fatal snake bite.

Considering that globally over 100 million sharks are being slaughtered annually due to fin poaching and destructive commercial fishing, somewhere along the line we have to acknowledge there is a severe injustice. Hopefully, by promoting awareness and education through responsible tourism, effective support can be given to conservation efforts in an effort to redress the balance.

Most shark populations are in decline these days by up to 90% or more. So little is known about the Great White, like the Blue Whale, biologists have no documented evidence of where white sharks go to breed, and up to now have never witnessed two individuals mating in the wild. One thing that becomes evident is that more action needs to be taken to allow our future generations to enjoy and observe these solitary lords of the sea. Simply watching the sweeping tail of a Great White shark, instils an appreciation of the sheer power and grace of the species, and on visiting the Gansbaai area any true diver will agree that this fish is most certainly an animal worth saving.

Sixty percent of the planet’s surface consists of ocean more than 1.6 km deep. Yet our knowledge of the vast seas and life as it happens under the water is minimal. In fact, we know more about the emptiness of space.

This is where the role of marine tourism is vital, especially when the focus is on education and conservation, helping to address the need for balance between social and economic development as well as environmental protection. The sea itself provides food for our communities and promotes our well-being, but will only continue to do so if we make an effort to protect its resources and make a decision to support the operators that are at least trying to get things right.

Discover & Protect.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Shark Free Marinas - Sport Fishing Magazine

Sustainable shark conservation efforts begin with "One". All it takes is one person with one idea to begin an entire conservation movement.

We would like to salute Doug Olander from Sportfishing Magazine this month for being that "One".

The sport fishing industry in the USA has many industry leaders, those few visionaries that are not afraid to take on serious conservation issues and talk about them.

Doug is one of those leaders and this month wrote full page editorial in Sport Fishing Magazine about the Shark Free Marinas Initiative and others who are working to protect and promote sharks as a sustainable resource.

Unfortunately for Destin Florida they are too late to hear the industry news and act on it. But we have next year and hopefully they will eventually come around to realize that sharks are worth more if we manage them sustainably and not as one time takes for jaws, images and fins.

Kudos to all those who have been the "One" this year from Fiji to the Bahamas and Massachusetts.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Industry "Quote of the Week"

"The world is always in trouble when dilettantes mess with professionals.... "

-Wolfgang Leander August 26, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Isla Guadalupe - Wildcoast Conservation Media

Richard Theiss will be on our next expedition to Isla Guadalupe with an interesting group this week:

I will be offline for a few days as I will be returning to Isla Guadalupe with Shark Diver aboard the Horizon to film great white sharks for, Televisa SA, and Telemundo. is a California- and Mexico-based ocean conservation group that tackles a wide variety of ocean conservation issues but with a decidedly Spanish-speaking emphasis. That gets them involved in issues ranging from Baja, Mexico throughout Latin America and anywhere worldwide where a Spanish-speaking perspective can be effective. Televisa SA is one of Mexico's largest broadcasters and Telemundo services Hispanic U.S. and Mexican communities and all through Latin America. is working with these broadcasters to promote stories about shark conservation and shark ecotourism. While there is not a major market for shark fins in Latin America, there are commercial operations that engage in shark finning to meet Asian demand. Within their borders, there is primarily a limited demand for shark meat and then there is the greater lost tourism dollars from shark ecotourism when compared to the value of a dead shark. Along the coast of Baja, juvenile white sharks are caught for their meat and teeth; because of the white shark's slow rate of reproduction, this can have a profound impact on overall populations.

Whether or not a country is a major consumer of shark products, it's important that everyone understands the critical and necessary role that sharks play as ocean predators and scavengers.

The oceans can't do without them.

Hawaii - Shark Task Force - Political Embarrassment?

They say the best way to know someone is by the "the company they keep".

We have been covering the ongoing battle in Hawaii to save two shark diving operations from overzealous politicians who are using the fear of sharks to sell a homemade political agenda.

That agenda will turn 40,000 shark tourists away from Oahu at a time where tourism dollars are at an all time low, in the worst economy Hawaii has seen in the past 40 years.

Here's the good news. After face to face meetings with Rep.Gene Ward in Hawaii last week, the anti-shark diving mandate from his office has been clarified from a complete "ban on all shark tours" to a "ban on chumming" which will culminate in proposed legislation that local operators can get behind and work with politicians for win-win tourism solutions.

Rep.Gene Ward should be thanked for taking this stand. It shows he is a politician that understands all points of issues and someone who is pro tourism, even if the touristic endeavor is "out of the box".

40,000 shark diving tourists and the money they pump into Oahu's economy is a hard number to work against politically - some will try, but the old argument of "it's the economy stupid," trumps most agendas.

But back to the "company you keep" discussion.

Rep.Gene Wards office is also the home of the Shark Task Force and it's close affiliation with two virulent anti-shark diving websites Safe Waters Hawaii and Stop Shark Feeding Hawaii. These websites feature an overflowing bacchanalia of misinformation, shark attack hype, and toxic quotes from some of the worst sources on the Internet.

A quick look at Safe Waters Hawaii shows an affiliation with the Pelagic Shark Foundation out of Santa Cruz and here's where "the company you keep" begins to embarrass Rep. Gene Wards offices:

Santa Cruz Shark Research Group Draws Big Fine

June 21, 2003

Release from:
By Clarissa Aljentera
The Monterey Herald

Helping an entertainment company film great white sharks has landed a hefty fine for a Santa Cruz-based research group.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Friday that it has levied a $21,000 fine against the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation for violating its research permit while helping a film company obtain footage of a shark near Año Nuevo north of Santa Cruz.

The spot is within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Ray Torres of NOAA said the violation was discovered last August after the Discovery Channel aired the shark video, which was filmed in 2001.

"We would never do anything to hurt a shark," Sean Van Sommeran, executive director of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation, said Friday. "In our permit it says a film crew can visit us. We followed standard operating procedure."

NOAA said Van Sommeran's group violated two terms of its research permit when it allowed Shark Entertainment to accompany foundation researchers into the sanctuary to film sharks for entertainment purposes. The company was producing "Air Jaws II," a film about great white shark behavior in South Africa, Australia and California.

The foundation was also fined for using a "Hollywood mock-up" of a seal to lure sharks. The permit forbids use of lures in connection with a media venture.

"It was a violation of sanctuary rules," said Torres, a special agent for NOAA.

Although the film was shot in October 2001, it wasn't publicly aired until 2002. Torres said phone calls from researchers and shark enthusiasts helped alert the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Torres is unsure whether the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation's permit will be revoked but there could be more restrictions placed on the foundation.

The Pelagic Shark Foundation received a permit in 1999, primarily to be used for tagging, behavioral observation and photo identification of white sharks in the area.

Rep.Gene Wards office should reconsider all affiliations with anti-shark diving websites and web pages that feature groups that may cause his office political embarrassment now and in the near future - including staff members from his offices who are working with these websites.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Guadalupe Island - "Mau" takes a a hit

One of Isla Guadalupes seasonal male sharks "Mau" is well know to the operators here.

As a younger male he's at risk of aggression by larger males on site and this week learned a valuable life lesson.

As shark diver Stephanie Seely shared with us in an email today, life for a Great White shark at the island can be harsh sometimes:

Ouch! Poor Mau!

I treated my husband and myself to a fun week of shark diving as a 40th birthday gift for him. We had an amazing time! The crew was fantastic…we could not have had better service!

The shark viewing was just as awesome. We saw about 10 different sharks and at one point, we had up to 5 sharks in the water at the same time! One of the sharks was badly injured and Martin (Horizon Dive Operations) thought it was Mau. From my perspective underwater, it looked like he had been bitten. From Martin’s perspective, above the water, it looked like a boat had gotten him…turns out it might be both. What a bad week for poor Mau!

Here are some photos of him and his injuries.

Although the wounds seemed extensive and relatively fresh, Mau appeared to be strong and I am sure he will survive his ordeal.

Thanks for an amazing trip!

Steph and Chris Seely

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Moments like these...

We could all use a few more of, as free divers basked in this remarkable encounter with Humpbacks in the South Pacific:

This is the unbelievable moment a diver came face to face with a 50ft female humpback whale, as she swam in the South Pacific.

Cameraman Marco Queral, who has dedicated the last 17 years of his life to ocean photography, looked awe inspiringly small, as he dived along side one of great giants of our seas.

More images.

Isla Guadalupe - August 2009 - Shark City

The crew of Shark Diver have had a busy month. Most of our crew are at Guadalupe island with our divers, others are also at the island on "special projects" this year.

After a noticeably slow start to the 2009 shark season - the first in eight years out here - it would seem we're back in business with typical animal numbers and encounters each day.

When we get emails from divers like this one, we know 2009 is once again going to be a stellar year:

Good afternoon Guys,

I'd like to thank you for an incredible experience with Shark Diver. The Horizon staff were phenomenal and went above and beyond their duties to make me (all of of us I hope) feel safe and prepared for what was to come. Jeff "The Deckhand" and Mark "The Greenhorn" made the experience seem as if I grew up them and they were buddies of mine sharing another adventure with me.

Mark's choice of menu and skillful cooking kept my appetite more than satisfied and I can't even imagine what the trip would've been like without his help with my motion sickness. Martin's expertise in both water/scuba equipment and jokes let me know if anything unexpected happened, he was ready... and some. Spencer and Cary kept us company when they could and I'm grateful they were able to get us there and back safely.

I would like to be notified of other adventures Shark Diver provides in the future. Please keep me posted. Thanks again so much!!!


Isidore Rodriguez
A Very Satisfied Customer

Friday, August 21, 2009

Goblin girl on... a mysterious fin!

Last week I got an e-mail from two sport fishermen who had been fishing on the west coast of Sweden, quite near the Norwegian border. They were fishing for Atlantic mackerel when a fin showed up. They managed to snap a few shots before the dark shadow disappeared. The question now is: what is it? Some say shark other whale... Most people doesn't even dare do hazard a guess! So... what's your opinion? Let me know!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Richard Theiss - Talking Shark Policy With Politicians

Richard Theiss, filmmaker, producer, and blue blogger, has been a tireless champion for the global shark diving industry. Using his latest pro-shark, pro-industry film, Island of the Great White Shark as an educational tool Richards work continues to benefit the industry:


Sacramento, California, August 18, 2009 – California Assembly members Nathan Fletcher (R, 75th Assembly District) and Jared Huffman (D, 6th Assembly District) will be sponsoring a special screening/discussion of RTSea Productions’ Island of the Great White Shark for invited members of the State Assembly and Senate on Wednesday August 19, 2009 at the State Capitol.

The award-winning documentary film is a comprehensive look at the great white sharks of Isla Guadalupe, Baja, exploring the true nature of these critically important animals and the ongoing scientific research intended to secure their survival. Following the screening, RTSea filmmaker Richard Theiss, world-renown shark expert Dr. Peter Klimley from UC Davis, and eco-tourism operator Greg Grivetto from Horizon Charters, will discuss and field questions about the film, the important conservation and eco-tourism issues facing these ocean predators, and what the future of these animals means to California.

“These are absolutely magnificent creatures living on a razor’s edge of possible extinction. And there are some very dedicated people working tirelessly to prevent that. This is a story that needed to be told because their fate can have an impact on California, ranging from tourism and fishery economies to fragile marine ecosystems,” says Richard Theiss, RTSea Productions, executive producer and cinematographer.

Theiss has filmed the great white sharks that migrate in the fall to Isla Guadalupe for over five years. During that time, he not only completed the documentary, Island of the Great White Shark, but also became aware of the plight of these ocean predators and how their future is tied to environmental, conservation, and tourism issues between both California and Mexico. Relying on assistance from Dominique Cano-Stoco, Associate Director of Government Relations, UC San Diego, initial contact with several California legislators proved there was positive interest regarding the issues, which has led to Assemblymembers Fletcher and Huffman taking an active role in arranging this screening/discussion in addition to proposing other measures.

“Of all the animals in our planet, sharks are among the most recognizable, yet they remain remarkably misunderstood. Island of the Great White Sharks packages a message of science education and ocean conservation inside quality entertainment and cinematography. As an outdoorsman and as a surfer in particular, I appreciate that this film shows the truth—that sharks are critical players in maintaining balance in our marine ecosystems. The cause of conservation is important, and I am happy to use this event to encourage continued learning about these iconic creatures and smart steps to protect their place in our world,” said Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher.

"This film illustrates the importance of international cooperation in wildlife conservation, including the need for better understanding and appreciation of the vital role this unique species plays in the ocean ecosystem. Wildlife conservation and eco-tourism are also major contributors to California's economy, and for that and many other reasons deserve our support and encouragement, said Assemblymember Jared Huffman."

Following on the hype and hysteria of Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week television programming, this event plans to present the facts regarding a critically important and highly misunderstood shark. The film highlights the value of shark eco-tourism and the importance of conservation, while the discussion will bring out the need for cooperation between California and Mexico’s regulatory agencies involved with eco-tourism, research, wildlife conservation and protection of threatened species.

The screening and follow up discussion will take place in Room 126 of the State Capitol from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Those wishing to attend or to arrange interviews with the participants should contact Heather Koszka in Assemblyman Fletcher’s office at 916-319-2075.

About RTSea Productions

RTSea Productions, based in Irvine, California, ( is dedicated to capturing nature and underwater images that will impress and move viewers to preserve and protect our precious natural resources – above and below the waves. RTSea has provided footage for National Geographic, Discovery, Animal Planet, Google Earth, Aquarium of the Pacific, and others.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Africa - White shark cage diving permits

The Department of Environmental Affairs in Africa will commence with the application process for boat-based whale watching and shark cage diving operating permits on Thursday 27 August 2009 as stipulated in the Government Gazette published on Friday 14 August 2009.

The policies on Boat-Based Whale and Dolphin Watching and White Shark Cage Diving gazetted last year in 2008 are aimed at providing and improving regulatory and compliance frameworks in both sectors, growing both sectors through the allocation of a greater number of permits and transforming the industries.

Permits will be allocated under section 13 of the Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA) for a maximum period of one year. Successful permit holders will be re-allocated their permits each year for five years from the date of the first allocations, provided that they fully complied with permit conditions.

Complete Story

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rep Gene Ward - Political Tourism Killer

When Rep Gene Ward started sending one sided, anti-tourism flyers (click image) to the general public in Oahu for "staged town hall meetings" he forgot to add these statistics.

Oahu, Hawaii is currently suffering through it's worst tourism declines since the Great Depression.

Rep Gene Ward wants to hurt the economy further by halting 40,000 annual tourists from seeing sharks from cages.

Is this the face of a politician who is in touch with the realities on the ground?


The number of visitors arriving in Hawaii by air in October with the percentage change from the same month last year:

Domestic 190,215 -15.9%
International 122,923 -8.9%
Total 493,506 -13.5%
Overall total * 511,518 -13.5%
by island
Oahu 313,138 -13.3%
Kauai 75,119 -25.9%
Lanai 6,404 -29.7%
Maui 147,977 -20.5%
Molokai 4,672 -35.9%
Big Island 96,366 -19.7%

* Includes passengers arriving by ship
Source: Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism

District 9 - It's got da critters!

As you are aware this blogs love of cephalopods knows few boundaries. When were not talking about sharks these critters are high on the coverage list.

Naturally when a new film arrives featuring "crabby alien cephalopods", we had to take a gander. We were not disappointed at what we saw. For all the right reasons go see District 9:

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Shark Conservation - As easy as "starting something"

A note to all those in the shark diving industry. Sharks are under assault, and we will lose them unless we push back on every front and in every region.

While many industry folks support global efforts to protect and save sharks, funneling money into front line NGO's - we should be looking to our own dive sites. To the animals we know intimately, to the places where we make our living from. There are no better places to begin outreach and education, in fact, this is where we begin.

Here's a great example.

This blog has harped on this message since it's inception. Regional shark conservation is our obligation, not our burden. We start saving sharks by "starting something" in our own backyards.

It can be a website, a research effort, a photo id program. There are many of you who have lead this effort, and to those few Kudos. There are also many more who publicly decry the taking of sharks and yet, do nothing coherent.

It all starts with "One".

Tomorrow, be that "One".

Isla Guadalupe Research and Fund

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fiji - Evolving Shark Tourism

Shark tourism is a $300 million dollar worldwide industry. Done right, shark tourism has long lasting positive effects on local economies, shark conservation, and regional fisheries.

Fiji has been at the forefront of the evolution of commercial shark diving thanks to the tireless efforts of a few industry visionaries who pushed for change.

Worldwide, shark tourism efforts run the complete spectrum from "business only models" where the sharks are the subject of for profit enterprise, to a newer breed of operation that includes shark research, conservation and outreach.

Change to any industry comes slowly and is lead by risk takers and industry movers.

As a template for sites like Tiger Beach, Bahamas the set aside Shark Reef Marine Reserve Fiji model is in need a few regional champions.

Welcome to industry change.

Welcome to Fiji (click image)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rep Gene Ward - When Politicians Kill Tourism

This is the actual promotional flyer put out by Rep Gene Wards office in Hawaii this week.

It is one sided, anti-tourism, anti-shark diving and designed for one purpose only - to inflame an already angry populace (click image).

"Should Shark Tours be banned? If so How so?"

This is not the face of balanced tourism discussions. This is political theater, stoking an already angry mob to further anger and distrust of two operations in Hawaii that have been on the forefront of shark tourism in the region for the past 10 years.

Rep Ward is a savvy politician, like recent health care town hall debates across the country he knows what buttons to push and how to work the crowd. The people he has brought to these town hall meetings he is calling "his constituents," hoping to use their anger as justification and a shield for killing shark tourism in Hawaii.

Unfortunately the anti-shark diving sentiment being raised by Rep Wards efforts and staff has gone past coherent discussion and is now a full fledged witch hunt of epic proportions. In the long multi-million dollar history of tourism in Hawaii no single politician has gone after small business owners with this kind of directed public anger and mistrust. Using the fear of sharks three nautical miles off the mainland as his "wedge issue".

All is not lost.

The industry has seen this kind of effort before. A quick look into Rep Gene Wards political career shows a politician who sees tourism vision for Hawaii, as in his support for Spaceports on the islands.

We're pretty sure Rep Ward is not completely anti-tourism, as he is presiding over the worst tourism economy in the past 40 years with Hawaii suffering a 25% loss in revenues since 2008.

What is needed in Hawaii right now is rational discussion not political theatre. Meetings with officials and operators to define shark tourism in Hawaii and abide by hard and fast rules and regulations that keep 10,000 shark diving tourists coming back to Hawaiian waters year after year.

Miss Universe® Contestants Visit Bimini Sands Resort & Marina

Shark Free Marinas supporter and member Bimini Sands hosts Miss Universe® contestants this week:

Bimini, Bahamas (PRWEB) August 13, 2009 -- This past weekend several fortunate contestants of the 2009 Miss Universe Pageant paid a visit to the island of Bimini as part of the events leading up to the competition on August 23rd.

A total of twenty contestants from around the globe were welcomed to Bimini including Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Georgia, Ghana, Great Britain, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Solvenia, South Africa, Spain and Sweden.

The Miss Universe competitors attended a number of cultural activities on the island and ended the day with an excursion to Bimini Sands Resort & Marina,

There they were picked up by the Bimini Sands Magic Bus, a tourist favorite with its colorful neon paint scheme. After a scenic tour aboard the Magic Bus the contestants arrived at the picturesque Bimini Beach Club. At the Beach Club they danced to live music by the local band Prime Time. The Bimini Sands resort staff even got in on the action and led the contestants in a number of Bahamian dances. The Miss Universe party was also treated to delectable cuisine from the Beach Club Restaurant, with the fresh Sushi Bar being a big hit. Rounding out the event was a visit to the popular Mackey's Sand Bar for a little R&R before leaving the island.

Bimini Sands wishes them the best of luck in the upcoming pageant and hopes to see them in the future. These lovely ladies will always be welcome on Bimini.

About Bimini Sands Resort & Marina

Bimini Sands Resort & Marina is located on the island of Bimini in the Bahamas, just 50 miles from the US. The full service resort features luxury one and two bedroom suites and protected deepwater marina. Nestled on a picturesque Bahamian beach, all suites have direct ocean or marina views. Amenities include the Petite Conch Cafe, Mackey's Sand Bar, the Beach Club Restaurant & Sushi Bar, poolside Tiki Bar, the Bimini Nature Trail, two pools, tennis courts and a lovely white sand beach. The resort maintains a full service Recreation & Activities Center that specializes in guided eco-tours such as snorkeling, sea kayaking, shark encounters, nature walks, boat tours and more. The Recreation & Activities Center was recently nominated for a prestigious Cacique Award for sustainable tourism by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.

Bimini Sands Marina is a proud member of the Shark Free Marinas Initiative.

Frank Cooney Jr.
Bimini Sands Resort & Marina
Bimini, Bahamas

Local sport fishing company's employee figures in shark "beat down" video

The power of new media and You Tube to effect conservation change has been well known. Savvy NGO's and conservationists have been using this format to "spread the message" cheaply, organically, and effectively.

Another, often overlooked aspect of this new media is enforcement. Video's posted to You Tube and picked up by social networking groups that highlight misdeeds with shark at the hands of fishermen, commercial operations, and the general public lead to effective change as well.

No one, it seems, wants to be caught with a viral video highlighting bad things with sharks.

We live in a new and exciting media times.

This week another example of negative/positive shark conservation media from Canada. Fortunately for the company involved they pulled the offending video in time to defuse a much larger outcry, but not quickly enough to make the daily news:

Sarah Douziech, Westerly News

A local sport fishing company has disciplined an employee after an online video depicting him smacking a dogfish on a ship's deck and throwing it overboard surfaced on CTV news this week.

The video, called "Ucluelet July 25. 2009 Mud Shark Beat Down," was posted to the popular video website YouTube. Brian Clarkson, manager of the Canadian Princess Resort in Ucluelet, said he saw the news report and followed up with an investigation at work because the man in the video is on one of the resort's boats and is wearing a sweatshirt with the resort's logo.

Complete Story

Shark Conservation Messaging, Fiji, Imagine

We have been continually impressed with the ongoing commercial shark diving and conservation efforts of Beqa Adventure Divers in Fiji. They have been innovative leaders in the community.

From set aside regional shark reef reserves, to refusing Shark Porn in film and television, they often do what is right, rather than what is easy.

In our industry you lead by example.

This week we want to highlight BAD on a recent shark conservation PSA. Once again setting the bar for conservation messaging by a commercial shark diving operator - this video is short, visually stunning, and meaningful to a broad range of viewers.

Watching this clip you cannot help but imagine the force multiplier effect of 500 similar PSA's featuring worldwide sites and guest speakers from the global shark diving community.

Like we said many months ago in a post “Noblesse Oblige" this video represents the finest example of that ethic. Operators on the front lines of an issue taking a stand for what is right, for the betterment of the entire shark diving community and for the sharks themselves:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

L.A Times - Tiger Shark

"Can you keep a secret?"

That was the question Steve Blair asked me several months ago. Steve is a good friend and Assistant Curator at the Long Beach Aquarium.

When not fly fishing some of California's finest blue ribbon streams Steve is putting together the unique shark programs at the aquarium.

The "big secret" was a new Tiger shark that was in seclusion for a summer debut, the only Tiger in the continental USA on display.

As you can tell I kept the secret - hard to do with a blog that enjoys 25k reader a month. This month the little female Tiger was introduced to the public and she's a great little shark.

L.A Times

Tiger shark. A voracious predator known for traveling the world's oceans and consuming everything in its way: smaller sharks, boat cushions, license plates, copper wire, shipwrecked sailors.

But on a recent Tuesday, the new 5-foot-long tiger shark at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach refused to even acknowledge a chunk of restaurant-grade ahi tuna dangled in front of its broad snout.

Complete Story

A Reminder - Sharks Are Predators

By default public Aquariums educate and entertain. Charismatic megafauna, like Tiger sharks and Hammerheads are becoming frequent visitors to aquarium collections.

This week, the children visiting the Georgia Aquarium discovered the complete range of shark behaviors, much to the obvious shock of the parents and one very unlucky stingray. Warning Graphic:

Monday, August 10, 2009

Great White - Oregon - Sad News

DEPOE BAY, Ore. -- KATU News has "quite a fish tale" from the Oregon Coast.

KATU viewer Zak Retherford sent us photos after his unusual day on the water at Depoe Bay. Clearly pictured is a great white shark.

A YouTube video shows the shark being dragged ashore and displayed for onlookers (CAUTION, video is bloody in some sections).

Retherford said he had just finished salmon fishing when another boat came in, dragging this 12-foot-long shark. It had been tangled in a crab pot line and was presumed dead.

However, the shark sprung to life in the parking lot pictured, thrashing around and almost biting someone. It eventually died.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Cornwall Cage Diving Operators Association

A new association is being set up to monitor operators who run shark cage diving in Cornwall. Since 2005 locals and visitors have been able to go cage diving with blue sharks. It's hoped it'll ensure high standards in this new type eco-tourism.

Blue shark cage diving first started in Cornwall in 2005. It was set up by Richard Peirce, who is an acknowledged expert on sharks.

In 2006 he set up Shark Cornwall to promote shark eco-tourism in Cornwall and the rest of the UK and to increase public awareness of sharks in British waters.

Richard says: "We're very keen that people who are going to do this should learn how to do it from somewhere. There is only two ways to get involved in something new. One is trial and error and the other is by having someone tell you how to do it. Trial and error is a very dangerous thing to do in a game like this."

Complete Story

VIMS Shark Research Program - 1.5 Million

How to get funding for shark research - ask for an earmark. Source Washington Watch please vote for this earmark.

Rep. Rob Wittman (VA-1) requests $1,500,000 for:

National Shark Research Consortium/Virginia Institute of Marine Science Route 1208 Greate Road
Gloucester Point, VA 23062

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) Shark Research Program is the longest continuously running shark assessment program in the US. The VIMS program is part of the National Shark Research Consortium (NSRC) of four research institutions, which conducts research on sharks and related fishes in order to provide information to the National Marine Fisheries Service to better manage and conserve these important species. The NSRC has been funded by Congress as part of the NMFS budget under Highly Migratory Species.

Previous research has chronicled the serious decline worldwide of sharks and their relatives due to overfishing and habitat destruction. Some species have been listed as endangered species under the US Endangered Species Act or by the IUCN. Studies have shown that apex predators are essential to maintaining the diversity and productivity of marine ecosystems. The NSRC Highly Migratory Shark Fishery Research Program provides NOAA/NMFS with multi-regional biological research and the information necessary for effective management and conservation of shark fishery resources.

Consortium projects involve NMFS-related research activities required for assessing the status of shark stocks, managing U.S. shark fisheries, and helping our nation take the leading role in worldwide conservation and management of shark populations.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Stephen Colbert - Sharks Love You

Think of him as the "Dixie Chicks for Sharks". When Stephen Colbert starts talking about Shark Week you know something has gone horribly wrong in the programming department.

As we pointed out last week "Discovery Networks cannot sell fear and loathing of sharks...and then push for conservation."

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Human Week
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTasers

Kudos to Chum Slick for the find.

Chlamydoselachus africana

David Ebert and Leonard Compagno.

"Chlamydoselachus africana, a new species of frilled shark from southern Africa
(Chondrichthyes, Hexanchiformes, Chlamydoselachidae)"


Frilled sharks (Chondrichthyes, Hexanchiformes, Chlamydoselachidae), long
believed to be a monotypic family and genus, consisting of a single wide
ranging species, Chlamydoselachus anguineus (Garman, 1884), is now known to
contain at least two species. A new species of frilled shark,
Chlamydoselachus africana, sp. nov., is described from five specimens
collected from southern Africa. The new species, although difficult to
distinguish externally from the well known C. anguineus, differ internally
by the structural differences in the chondrocranium, lower total vertebral
and spiral valve counts, and pectoral-fin radial counts. The new species,
Chlamydoselachus africana, is known from off southern Angola, Namibia, and
South Africa.

Zootaxa 2173: 1–18 (2009).

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


2010 International White Shark Symposium



The Organizing Committee invites participation in the 2010 International White Shark Symposium: Resetting Research and Conservation Objectives.

The symposium will be held 7-10 February at the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel, on Waikiki Beach, Hawaii. Our understanding of this magnificent apex predator has been hindered by its large size and uncommon occurrence.

Through technological advances and sheer perseverance, white sharks are suddenly revealing some aspects of their secret lives. What was once an exceptionally difficult animal to study in the field has now been thoroughly tracked moving between coastal and pelagic habitats. What was once an impossible animal to maintain in captivity has now successfully been displayed in public. These major advances define the purpose of this meeting: a gathering of leading white shark researchers from around the world, to share the latest findings and discuss how they should influence modern research and conservation goals.

Time will be dedicated to round table discussions of important issues, including hotspots, cage diving, modern threats, research ethics and conservation policies. All participants are encouraged to submit manuscripts for what will be an important dedicated book of the proceedings.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Guadalupe Island - Shark Conservation Video

Stunning images of great white sharks at Isla Guadalupe, Baja from RTSea Productions.

This video was compiled for Google Earth's new ocean layer. "Glimpses of Beauty" presents the most majestic and misunderstood ocean predator as it truly is: graceful and powerful - and critical to maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem.

To learn more, visit Google Earth's new ocean layer and visit

Reinventing Sea Monsters

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Douglas Kiesling - Whale Shark Video

In a controversial video bound to raise a few eyebrows underwater photographer Douglas Kiesling takes us into the world of unregulated shark encounters:

Here is the video from this past weekend while I was out on location in the
Gulf of Mexico with our Southwest Florida Weather Paparazzi, Brian. We were working on a Coral Reef video project when we encountered a pair of the largest sharks in the world, Whale Sharks. The first Whale Shark was about 25 feet in length and the second Whale Shark was at least 30 feet in length.

The most amazing thing that happened was that when the group of divers we were with in the water got near the larger Whale Shark, it stopped and let everyone rub its back and head. It acted as if the divers were there to clean it and must have thought we were a cleaning station. This gave everyone that was in the water with the larger Whale Shark a once in a lifetime experience since this was out in the wild and is an extremely rare event.

In the video below, I shot the footage in the water while Brian was on the boat and shot the topside footage. That is until put his camera away and jumped into the water with the rest of us to swim with the gentle giants.

Guadalupe Island Mystery - Leachia dislocata

The great Guadalupe Island Squid Mystery seems to be solved with an email we received this morning and it looks like we might be contributing to science.

Aloha Annie et al.,

The squid is Leachia dislocata . It is the third arms that are elongated, not the fourth but this is difficult to tell from the photograph. The squid looks (pigmentation) like it is close to maturity. I hope that it was preserved. It is a valuable specimen and should be sent to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (c/o Dr. Eric Hochberg).

Best wishes,

Editors Note: The specimen was saved, and then thrown out last night as it was sitting in the chefs freezer on board the MV Horizon. The good news is the crew went "dumpster diving" as soon as we called and our little Leachia dislocata has been brought back for the nick of time.

Science ain't pretty sometimes but the crew of the MV Horizon and Shark Diver will go to almost any lengths to help it along.