Friday, October 30, 2009

Sea Shepherd Crushing Dissent?

We have been critics of Sea Shepherd for the past year at this blog. Along with a growing number of others we have been hammering away at what appears to be a conservation org based on media fabrications, distortions, and an ongoing complete lack of credibility.

SSCS manages a 1970's direct action eco strategy that has all but failed to effect real conservation change. This strategy has been wildly successful in attracting millions in conservation donor dollars and a reality television show.

Dissent and Conservation

It is important that dissent is kept alive and well within the conservation community. Dissent and critique are the twin guides by which the conservation world polices itself. Or should be.

Global strategies and conservation efforts should be guided by clear and definable metrics for success. This is the basis of conservation. Choose targets well and roll out a careful and successful strategy to effect conservation change.

When conservation orgs fail to deliver conservation change they, as public entities, should be held to account. The money they accept is public money.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society does not like dissent, or opposition to any of it's ongoing and very public conservation antics. We have discovered this first hand.

This blog is re posted on a series of blog aggregators and other sites. Over the past year SSCS has been quietly emailing and demanding these sites take our critiques of SSCS down.

The implied threat is one of legal action by SSCS.

Using vague and varied legal terms, SSCS has accused this blog of falsely reporting "facts" and basic muckraking against SSCS.

These are counter accusations coming a conservation group featuring Paul Watsons ongoing claims and faked video that he was "shot by Japanese whalers." A media "fact" that has all but been completely discredited including most recently by popular media's South Park.

When conservation critique is quashed, we lose the ability to guide the overall direction of conservation efforts. The very efforts that the public funds through donations.

We are all in the business of real and lasting conservation change - or should be.

This blog will continue to point out failed eco strategy in the hopes that change will happen. The fact SSCS chooses to deflect dissent is one indication that we are on the right track.

Faked hostage events, faked attempted assassinations, and made for television vessel rammings do nothing to save whales, sharks, seals or change eco policy in any country. Recently SSCS suffered a multi million dollar loss when the Canadian Government sized their sister vessel the Farley Mowat and sold it at auction. Seals will be slaughtered again this spring and the entire SSCS seal campaign was a loss, both monetarily and to the conservation movement.

To those few who support SSCS the world has changed since the 1970's. We need new strategy, new conservation goals, and new direction, not hyper inflated eco media.

Consider what you are doing, what you have been doing, and ask yourself...has anything really changed? Where are the solid, lasting metrics for conservation change?

Mossel Bay Shark Death Confirmed

Images like these serve as reminders that big sharks are not safe anywhere.

Rumors of a large shark caught in Mossel Bay, S.A home to several commercial shark diving companies have been floating around the industry for weeks:

"Commenting on the shark in the photographs, Geremy Cliff, head of research at the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, confirmed that the 4,3-metre shark was caught in the shark nets off Zinkwazi beach on August 31."

We have been posting about how the death of just "one shark" can become the instrument for shark conservation change. Perhaps this shark will be that animal. For the many commercial shark diving companies in that region the loss of such a big animal will be felt. In the end it will be up to them with a coalition of NGO's to seek the regional changes necessary to save these magnificent animals from further catches.

S.A newspaper, The Witness, has the complete story.

Editors Note: See surprising update.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sea Shepherd - Popular Culture and South Park

When Sea Shepherds plans for a new reality television show with Animal Planet were announced - we had to the following to say about it:

"Perhaps one of the most chilling departures from the entire 40 year global eco movement was this year when Sea Shepherd traded it's last shred of dignity and credibility for the cameras of Animal Planet and thus began Eco-Edutainment Television, where media messaging and outright fabrication of events have subsumed the horrors of actual whaling. Where dead whales and story lines are traded with advertisements for SUV's and laundry detergent. This is a meeting of eco media and horror that never should have happened and now that it has will change the landscape of the global eco movement for years to come."

No truer words have been written about the ongoing embarrassment to the global eco movement that is Sea Shepherds Whale Wars.

We're not the only ones to take notice, popular culture commentators South Park decided to expose Sea Shepherd this week in what can only be described as "Skewering the Emperor with no clothes."

We have been covering Sea Shepherds media rise and mistakes for the past year in an ongoing series of blog posts. In one year Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd have managed to completely redefine the term for "conservation," taking the concept from quantifiable metrics for eco success to a series of often inane talking points and million dollar media spectaculars that leverage main stream media's desire to sell advertising as their conservation vehicle.

Meanwhile whales keep being killed, year after year, while Whale Wars ratings climb. It is high time we discuss and enable real and lasting conservation efforts. Reality television shows are not conservation, and fortunately South Park has just embedded that idea with the next generation of conservationists.

Sometimes the best way to enact conservation change is with a popular culture backlash.

Unfortunately Sea Shepherd is soon to announce a new reality television show with sharks in the coming weeks. We're pretty sure the folks at South Park are looking forward to that announcement as well, while the rest of the shark conservation world cringes at the prospect.

See complete Whale Whores episode here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Australia's "Monster Shark" - The Facts

The news media is having a field day with the story of a 10 foot white shark with two giant bites out of its side, indicating that perhaps a much larger shark, as large as 20 feet might have been involved.

We took a look at the images this week and came to the conclusion "if" this animal was in fact 10 feet long, these bites could be the result of a very, very large white shark.

Some have cried foul and declared this image to be photoshopped, others have suggested this image is a complete fake. Still others have said that men, not a shark, carved up the carcass.

We decided to find out the truth and made a series of phone calls to various agencies in Australia today and here's what we know:

1. This is a real image, or so says The Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries manager Tony Ham who told us "this is a confirmed 3.3 meters white shark, caught by our contractor, he measured the primary bite mark at 50 centimeters or twenty inches."

2. The sole contractor who catches sharks in the region has been doing so for Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries since 1986.

3. Tony Hams team estimate from the 50 centimeter bite radius, the feeding shark was in the 5.2 meter range or 16-17 feet.

4. Samples were collected from the bitten shark. The shark was dumped at sea following standard protocol. The bites were so severe that the head actually fell off the animal during transit shortly after this image was shot.

5. These are not man made holes in the side of the shark according to Tony Ham, "it is not a faked photo, the photo is absolutely genuine."

Tony Ham went on to say after they released this image to the media and the estimated size of the feeding shark "the sharks size grew by a meter overnight."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thresher shark research & conservation project

Of the myriad of shark conservation sites worth visiting, none come better then the Thresher shark research & conservation project.

We have been following this site for the past year and are always happy with the vibrant field updates, images, video and news.

This months newsletter is a must read.

Consider taking the time to get to know the team behind the Thresher shark research & conservation project.

Shark conservation efforts are hard enough to get traction with, in places like the Philippines doubly so.

It's takes determination, good outreach, and a serious research program to make a difference.

Casting White Sharks as Villians...Again

We have been keeping tabs on a new production in the works called The Reef.

This mornings news from Australia confirms suspicions that another "white shark attack film" is in the offing, just in time for 2010:

AN overturned hull is causing some consternation near Shelly Beach but the person most affected by the makeshift shipwreck is a movie character. Thankfully.

The character shall remain nameless. Best to say he or she meets a “grisly demise” in the waters of Hervey Bay this week and a great white shark is probably involved at some level.

Complete Story

Body Glove Knows Shark Diving

It is refreshing if not downright appealing to notice the stance wetsuit maker Body Glove has taken in regards to the shark diving industry.

Where many makers of water apparel and dive gear shy away from commercial shark diving - Body Glove embraces it.

Kudos for the industry vision and the upcoming blog posts featuring twin shark expeditions with Body Glove, whale sharks and white sharks.

The commercial shark diving industry needs more outreach within the manufacturing side of the dive, surf, and water sports worlds.

As high profile ambassadors for our industry forward thinking companies like Body Glove can begin to dispel many of the myths surrounding commercial shark diving.

What begins as a blog post today, with a little vision, often becomes much more.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Shark Trust Wines - Stocking up at $3.00?

Around this time of year we stock up on Shark Trust Wines. With the holiday season just around the corner, gifts, parties, and good old fashioned nights at home with a roaring fire call for wine...and lot's of it!

Melanie Marks, CEO of Shark Trust Wines emailed us this week with her seasonal offer to all our shark folks out there and yes, we know you like to drink.

For a limited time Shark Trust Wines is offering an outstanding deal for their 2007 Great White Chardonnay from Western cape, South Africa.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, they are offering it at $3 a bottle.

Yes, that is correct - 70% OFF. Order for holiday gifts, your company holiday party, or just stock up your wine cellar. With this offer, you must buy by the case (12 bottles) and be willing to pick up the wine at the warehouse in Petaluma.

Get a group of friends to order together and make one trip to the warehouse. Please contact Melanie directly to order and make arrangements for pick up.

619-994-5933 or

Happy Holidays!

Melaine Marks - Shark Trust Wines

That's One VERY Big Critter!

According to the always hysterical shark media in Australia this week, a 20 foot Great white shark is stalking the waters - or at least something as big as that with teeth.

This time though we had to pause for a moment.

The image of a ten foot white shark with two simply titantic bites out of it was enough to make us church going believers in "20 foot sharks."

The thing that got to us was the fact these bites appear to be singular events. What animal on the planet, aside from a killer whale, could possibly take 200-300 pound bites out of prey items in one pass?

Now where's our shark cage?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Research on "shark risks" South Africa

With the anti-shark diving lobby in Hawaii now in "full hysteria mode," pushing shark attacks and a somewhat nebulous public safety argument - South Africa is quietly setting an example.

Missing from the Hawaii debate about commercial shark diving is definitive data. The anti-shark diving lobby has little interest in research and data, while in other countries, some might even suggest, more enlightened countries, the balance between sharks and man is one that will be decided by long term research and study:

WITH Nelson Mandela Bay positioning itself as the water sport capital of Africa, the municipality has given the go-ahead for research on sharks in the city.

This follows reports over the years of shark attacks at coastal towns around the country. At a sports, recreation, arts and culture committee meeting yesterday, councillors agreed the research was necessary to reduce the risk of attacks.

The committee agenda, signed by executive director Zolile Siswana, said “the objective of achieving the position of water sport capital of Africa could be threatened by the possibility of frequent shark attacks in the city”. “A single shark attack would have a negative impact on water, sports and tourism"

“This has prompted various interventions by the KwaZulu Natal Sharks Board and Cape Town Uni-City Shark Spotters programme. These efforts (shark nets and drum lines) reduced shark attacks tremendously.” Marine scientists in Nelson Mandela Bay do not have enough information on Great White sharks or data to establish the possible risk to the public and open-water events in the city.

They do, however, have information on shark populations, migration and behavioural patterns. According to Siswana, the economic development and recreational services shark contingency plan addresses the first-response aspect of shark attacks.

“This emergency plan is simulated regularly. As great white sharks are the biggest threat to the public, safety research would ensure a more efficient response time by our lifeguards and emergency services.” The municipality will commission a shark specialist and marine scientist to conduct the research.

Complete Story

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

WWF Understands Shark Tourism - New Report

A new WWF report in tandem with James Cook University highlights what the global commercial shark diving industry already knows, sharks are in decline everywhere.

What makes this latest report interesting are the drill down tourism numbers for live sharks vs fisheries.

Where short thinking, hyper political doom predictors in Florida, and now Hawaii seek to ban commercial shark encounters at least one credible NGO understands why shark tourism is good for local economies and yes, sustainable shark populations:

SHARKS are worth more alive than dead.

New research shows the ocean predators draw a healthy chunk of the tourist dollar.

WWF Australia spokesman Nick Heath says shark tourism is on the rise but shark numbers are declining, with estimates placing reef shark populations at three to 12 per cent of their original size in some parts of the Great Barrier Reef."We must do more to protect these top predators from disappearing on our watch, if not for the benefit of the environment, then at least for the benefit of the back pocket," Mr Heath said.

"A guaranteed shark sighting is worth its weight in gold to the tourism industry."

He said recent research by James Cook University found potential shark sightings were a major drawcard to the diving sector, with tourists willing to pay thousands of dollars to see a shark in the wild.

The researchers estimated up to 25 per cent or $1,375 of each visitor's expenditure in Cairns and Port Douglas in far north Queensland went towards the opportunity to see a shark.

Divers mostly want to see hammerhead sharks followed by whale sharks and tiger sharks, the study found.

The group says more than 70,000 sharks are taken by fishermen each year in waters off north Queensland, many inside the Great Barrier Reef area.

Sharks thus come under particular threat because of slow growth rates, late sexual maturity, long gestation periods and birthing only a few young at a time.

Complete Story

Monday, October 19, 2009

Maui Bans Shark Tourism - Surfer Attacked by Shark

Not weeks after Maui City Council members voted to ban non existent commercial shark diving to "protect swimmers and divers" in Maui - a surfer was bitten this morning by an estimated 6-8 foot sand shark.

He was surfing in the "Kalama Bowls" area of a local beach park shortly after 6:00 a.m. when he was bitten on the upper right thigh and the lower part of his right ankle, according to Maui County officials.

The unfortunate negative intersection of sharks and humans will continue to happen regardless of commercial shark diving operations in any given area.

Maui has never had commercial shark diving in it's waters.

Shark do not target humans as a general rule.

Maui's political decision to ban shark diving was just that, a political decision, and with this mornings unfortunate incident proved one thing for certain...sharks do not regard political decisions.

Commercial shark diving is under assault by a global anti-shark diving lobby that trades in on the fear of sharks. When bans are proposed "public safety" is touted as the net benefit to the community at large.

With this latest case in Maui, the anti-shark diving lobby has been exposed for what they are.

Simply put, purveyors of fear based nonsense.

Dr. Sylvia Earle's Deep Search Foundation - Whale Sharks

Isla Holbox is perhaps the best known commercial whale shark encounter sites on the planet. A surprising success story of commercial shark diving and growing site research and conservation.

With little known about these "gentle giants" a scientific expedition lead by Dr. Sylvia Earle's Deep Search Foundation chronicled it's time here from July 11th - 15th, 2009 in an in depth series of blog posts.

Great reading for those desk bound shark adventure seekers.

About Deep Search Foundation

Founded in 2008, Deep Search is dedicated to exploring and protecting Earth's ocean, the cornerstone of our planet’s life support system. More than 70% of Earth is covered by ocean, and 94% of our habitable space is in the seas. Yet, we have explored less than 5% of the ocean and protected only a fraction of 1%. These figures pale even further when one considers the deep sea.

Brazil - Blue Shark Nursery?

With Blue shark (Prionace glauca) stocks plummeting worldwide, new discoveries like this one off the coast of Brazil might help turn the tide.

If protections can be put in place in time:

New evidence suggests a blue shark nursery exists in the Southwest Atlantic
near Southern Brazil, according to a paper accepted for publication in the
journal Fisheries Research.

Scientists Santiago Montealegre-Quijano and Carolus Vooren of the
Universidade Federal do Rio Grande monitored the composition and magnitude
of blue shark accidental catches by longline fishery operations off the
coast of Brazil. (At least something positive can come from such data.
Bycatch has really put a dent in shark populations worldwide.)

The researchers determined that large adult blue sharks were not present in
the suspected nursery region, only juveniles. Size appears to be very
important to life stage shifts in these sharks, as the small juveniles were
found to remain at the site until they reached lengths of around 4 feet or

"After that stage," the scientists conclude, "the large juvenile males
disperse northwards, whereas the large juvenile females move to the south,"
and wind up going all the way to the southeast Atlantic off Africa.

The scientists added, "The subadult females move northwards in late summer
(March) to areas beyond latitude 25°S."

Complete Story

Media 101 - How "not to" promote a reality show

Hands up, who did not watch the "Balloon Boy" media sensation last week either live, or on hand held devices like a Blackberry or iPhone?

One...two...three...o.k, four of you. Thanks.

For the rest of us, a few hours spent following what seemed like the gripping story of a flying saucer balloon with a wayward six year old child inside had at least 200 million Americans and a handful of Dutch enthralled.

Sadly it was a hoax. Remember the Bigfoot scandal, yes we covered that too.

There's a point to this post. There are good and bad ways to promote a show concept to the major media and without the proper media guidance, stunts like these set very bad examples with serious consequences.

The family is facing $500,000 in fines and a minimum of 6 months jail time. Our guess after the dust settles will be a quick documentary, bankruptcy from legal bills, and a divorce.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Great White Sharks - Julie Hazards Adventure

When the office phone rang this summer within minutes into the conversation we knew we had a shark fan on the other end of the line.

Julie Hazard turned out to be one of those shark people you come to love, and cannot wait to meet.

This is her story, encounters with the Great whites of Isla Guadalupe -2009

Julies Story

I have always loved sharks. I remember watching Jacques Cousteau and then 'Shark Week' as a child...I though shark diving was so cool and as I grew older it became an obsession.

When I was a senior in high school, I wanted to study Marine Biology and was warned by someone that it was hard to get a job...because you basically have to wait for someone to die to get a good field position. It turns out studying sharks wasn't a job you ever gave up once you had it.

So instead I became a member of a few shark conservation groups and I even have a shark tattoo on my ankle...did I mention that I love sharks?

A few years ago I decide to go dive with Great whites. I didn't know anything about the dives and wanted to get a great price for the dive so, I did some homework. Last year I found two companies that had pretty good shark diving deals and called to talk with them in person.

Unfortunately I was also in the process of changing jobs and decided to wait one more year. Let me tell you, that was one very looong year. I was laid off in November but I had saved the money for the trip and I was going to go.

I started talking with Patric the CEO of Shark Diver in Feb and I was so excited when I got the confirmation that I was going. Since I had no job at the time, it gave me something to look forward to. Imagine booking a trip with no job? Did I mention I really love sharks?

I had booked this great trip and was so excited I told everyone I knew what I was doing, twice! They all thought I was crazy!

Turns out the Shark Crew were very sweet to me as a single girl far from home, 210 miles in the middle of no where, surrounded by white sharks. They kept you very well fed, the beds were comfy, and of course the SHARKS were great. Something I could never see except in real life a 15 foot white shark face to face. The second day there was 8 sharks at the back of the vessel - eight!

I was so amazed as they swam by and looked at you. Not as "food" but more curious than anything, I was not afraid, they were simply beautiful. We dove with these amazing animals for three days and I did not want to leave.

I have decided that I want to go again, and again. I am looking into getting a group together to come see them next year. I learned a lot this year with the whites, Discovery Channel just does not do it justice.

It was a great adventure and a chance of a lifetime. I will never forget it!

Shark News Roundup - RTSea Productions Blog

From RTSea Productions - this weeks shark news roundup:

Scotland to ban shark finning:
In a bold and welcomed move, Scotland has proposed a total ban on shark finning by Scottish or any other registered vessel operating in Scottish waters. European Union nations constitute the largest exporting group of shark fins to the Asian marketplace and their has been discussion for a new EU policy regarding sharks, but Scotland decided that there's no time like the present.

"As one of Europe's most important fishing nations we have a duty to show that we are serious about protecting the sustainability of our seas, their stocks and the wider marine ecosystem, not just through words but with action," said Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead.
(BBC News story.)

Shark nets to stay in Queensland:
According to the Brisbane Times, sharks nets in Queensland, Australia will remain for now. There had been discussion about their removal - albeit temporary - due to a higher number of whale calves that have been caught in the nets during the whale's migration season.

Shark control program manager Tony Ham says, "
The program has been in place since 1962 and in that time we've had one fatal attack on a protected beach, at North Stradbroke island in 2006. There were a number of attacks prior to the program going in - some of those were pretty horrific and fatal. We believe the program does work."

Shark nets have often been controversial because on the one hand, they seem to prevent unwanted shark-human interaction, but on the other hand, it prioritizes the rights of humans to enter the ocean over the rights of sharks to be in their natural habitat.

Spanish supermarkets to no longer sell endangered shark:
Two of Spain's larger supermarket chains, Alcampo and Sabeco, have decided to no longer carry endangered shark meat in their stores, only distributing species that are not threatened (effectively eliminating all commercial shark species). One year ago, the same chains decided to stop selling bluefin tuna, which has been pushed to near extinction in European waters.

The stores are promoting the sale of sustainable or aquafarmed species such as talapia and farmed cod, in addition to working with smaller companies to supply mussels, trout, and salmon. In September, Spain's Ministry of Environment and Rural and marine Affairs initiated a ruling to begin on January 1, 2010 that prohibits Spanish fishing boats from taking thresher and scalloped hammerhead sharks - two species that have suffered major population declines.
(FiS Worldnews story.)

Petition to protect Lemon Sharks:
In the winter, lemon sharks congregate off the east Florida coast and with the demand of shark fins combined with the decrease in numbers of many other commercial sharks like the sandbar shark, the lemon shark is coming under consideration by local fisherman as a way to meet demand.

A coalition of scientists, divers, and shark conservation groups have enlisted the aid of to help circulate a petition to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, asking for the commission to take action on behalf of the lemon shark by adding the species to the Prohibited Species List. The coalition is hoping to generate 10,000 signatures and they are currently about a third of the way there. To sign the petition, click here.

Worlds Largest Oil Spill - By The Numbers

55 - Number of days the Montera Oil Platform spill has been sending oil into the Timor Sea.

18,000 - Number of kilometers the spill now covers (the size of Phoenix Arizona).

924,000 - Estimated number of gallons of crude oil spilled off the coast of Australia.

We covered this ongoing oil disaster back in September and watched the main stream media turn its oceanic eye away from coverage here.

With what is now the world's largest oil spill, in it's 55th day, why is the major media in the USA not covering this ecological disaster?

To get updated here is a small sampling of the media coverage from Australia:

Indonesian fishermen say oil spill is destroying their catch

Fifty-five days and counting: oil still spewing from rig

Third attempt to cap leak

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Jost Images - White Shark Calendar

When it comes to monthly calendars there are those who lean towards the ordinary - puppies, horses, small woodland creatures.

Then there's underwater photographer Klaus Jost who brings you the world of the white shark in his new 2010 underwater calendar featuring these simply amazing critters.

Call us biased (and we are), but we're never tired of seeing white sharks shot brilliantly. One look at this calendar and you can begin to see why.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Swimming with the sharks for science

These are the kind of stories shark diving folks like to read. Found on the Big Island Weekly Blog this week - kudos to Nick Whitney and team:

A whitetip reef shark research project has some Big Island photographers literally swimming with sharks in the name of science.

Nick Whitney, a postdoctoral scientist now with the Center for Shark Research Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., started a Hawaii whitetip photo identification project in 2002 as part of his Ph.D. research at University of Hawaii at Manoa. The findings of the project, which required the help of several underwater photographers around the state, will be published in a scientific journal within a year and will be available on the Web site,

"I was planning to do a telemetry (tracking) project on whitetip reef sharks to study their movements, but found that while it was easy to dive with them and take pictures of them, it was very difficult to catch them in places that were good areas for tracking," Whitney said. "I was also looking for a way to involve the community in my research, and since these animals are easy to photograph and have unique markings on their sides, photo-identification seemed like a great way to do that."

Whitney been involved with studies on tiger sharks, sandbar and Galapagos sharks in Hawaii. He said that while he's interested in all these species, whitetips are the most intriguing because there has been little research done on them. As an added bonus, they can frequently be seen while diving in shallow water and don't immediately swim away like other species.

Whitney was able to identify at least 178 individual white tips throughout the state. Most were only sighted once, but over 50 were sighted multiple times.

"A few individuals, usually adult females, have been seen repeatedly -- seven to 10, up to 13 times for one individual from 2001 to 2008. That was an adult female at the dive site called "Suckemup" near the Honokohau/ Pine Trees area on the Big Island," Whitney said.

The project revealed that whitetip reef sharks move around more than anyone expected.

"We found movements of as much as five to six miles to be more common than we expected, and one animal moved over 16 miles along the coast," Whitney said. "We also had two animals cross a relatively deep, 450-foot, channel between Molokini crater and Maui, which certainly isn't the same as an inter-island crossing, but our genetics study indicates that the inter-island channels are not significant barriers to gene flow. It turns out to be true that some sharks will return to the same area for years, but they're not always there and will often be absent for months at a time before returning."

On the Big Island, Cynthia Hankins, Dee Wescott, Vicky Newman, Bryce Groark and Porter Watson contributed photos for Whitney's project. Divers on other islands also contributed significantly. The Honokohau area was one of the spots where many of the Big Island images came from, Whitney said.

"We only got a few photos from other sites which were often a long way from Honokohau, which meant we had a very low probability of detecting any movements," Whitney said. "Fortunately we had a few very dedicated photographers working the Honokohau area and were able to find out that at least two females seem to repeatedly use this area as a place to gestate, and possibly give birth. Also most sharks give birth every other year, and that seems to be the case for whitetips as well, but our photos from Honokohau show that at least one female was able to get pregnant two years in a row. She was photographed very late-term in both years."

Hankins, a Kona resident, has photographed the Kona Coast from as far south as Paradise Pinnacle (Near Paradise Park) and as far North as Malae Point in North Kohala.

While Hankins says she can recognize some of the whitetips she photographs, the tracking and information gathering is best left to Whitney. She first learned of Whitney's research when a friend who knew of her shark fascination introduced her to the project. Whitney taught her about reef sharks and she provided him with sighting data and images to aid in his research, she said. Hankins has been forwarding him photos for the past four years, and encouraging other Big Island divers to do so as well.

Hankins said when she's taking photos for the project, it's important to get certain angles, so that Whitney can identify the different whitetips. Taking photos for scientific purposes requires a different approach than normal underwater photography.

"I recognize a few individuals by sight and have seen them repeatedly, frequently at the same couple of sites," she said. "I've also been adding tiger shark photos to a new page on Nick's sighting Web site. The tigers aren't seen as frequently as the whitetips, but I have seen the same animals on several occasions."

Hankins said she's seen and photographed pretty much everything one would expect to find in Hawaii waters -- and then some.

"I've seen most everything in the fish and creatures ID books for the Hawaiian waters. One day I found a new species of nudibranch (sea slug) which is sitting in a lab in California waiting to be described," Hankins said. "I've seen a juvenile humpback whale being attacked by 25 tiger sharks. I've watched octopus mating; Manta rays breaching; turtle trying to mate; eels attacking each other; and so many more amazing things."

When it comes to swimming with sharks, Hankins has her own rules of engagement.

"The whitetip reef sharks are pretty harmless if you don't provoke or disturb them. They are usually resting in the mornings, which is when I dive most often and we find them sleeping in the shadowy areas under arches, ledges or in lava tubes," Hankins said. "If you approach slowly you can get quite close. It's always exciting to see an animal as big as yourself with the ability to inflict damage. You always want to approach with a respect for their space and try not to disturb them or corner them."

Some of her other subjects, however, are not as friendly.

"The tiger sharks on the other hand are very scary. They are twice to three times the size of the whitetips and have a stealthy and menacing look," Hankins said. "I try to remind myself that they are not interested in eating me, they are just curious. None the less, the adrenaline always rushes and my heart pounds. Rarely will they linger for very long so the shots need to be quick."

To view and purchase underwater images from Hankins, visit

Whitney cautioned that taking photos of sharks can be dangerous, if not done correctly.

"Any large, wild animal -- and many small ones -- has the potential to be dangerous in one way or another, but whitetips are very docile and I would even say 'tolerant' of human activity to a large extent. Over the course of trying to tag them and collect tissue samples for our genetics study I've done many things that should've gotten me bitten and didn't," Whitney said. "They're not teddy bears though. Grab one and hold on long enough and it will grab you back."

Although Whitney's completed his studies at UH-Manoa and now works in Florida, he wants to keep the whitetip reef shark project going. The long-term data complied is very valuable, he said.

"I hope to keep collecting photos and information and publish additional studies on whitetip reef sharks of Hawaii in the future," Whitney said.

People can submit photos at or can e-mail them to

Australia's "Shark Stone Age"

After months of public pressure authorities in Australia have decided to leave shark nets in place citing safety concerns yet again.

Shark nets and drum lines kill sharks indiscriminately along the Gold Coast and there are viable and alternate solutions:

Shark nets along the Gold Coast will not be removed, despite yet another young whale being caught in a net off Burleigh Heads on Tuesday - the fifth so far this migration season.

It took just an hour to free the seven-metre juvenile, which shark control program manager Tony Ham said was probably one of last year's calves.

"This animal was calm and quiet, even though it was windy and conditions were difficult, so that helped the release," he said.

"Happily the mother was there to keep an eye on the young whale, and that usually gives them an opportunity to calm down... so that's usually a good thing for us."Mr Ham said despite the number of young whales being tangled up this season, the shark nets will not be removed.

In fact the damaged net off Burleigh will be replaced before the end of the day.

Mr Ham denied the shark nets are being maintained simply because of political pressure and said their value in stopping shark attacks is well documented.

"The program has been in place since 1962 and in that time we've had one fatal attack on a protected beach, at North Stradbroke island in 2006," he said."There were a number of attacks prior to the program going in - some of those were pretty horrific and fatal.

"We believe the program does work."It does catch sharks and it does catch dangerous sharks (so) to remove the nets even for the whale migration season is not an option."Mr Ham said the argument that not many people swam in the surf during the migration season was simply wrong.

"We have people bathing on Gold Coast beaches year round," he said.

"People come to Queensland for the very reason that we have safe swimming beaches.
"He said it was "unacceptable" to remove the safety equipment, particularly with school holidays coming up.

Complete Story

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Shark Free Marinas - Captain Slate’s Atlantis Dive Center

From the Shark Free Marinas Blog, more good news from Florida:

Another day another marina. This time it’s Captain Slates dive center, home to passionate scuba divers from all over Florida and a marina dock that services it’s boats. As a potential docking point for fishing boats with access to the rich fishing grounds of Key Largo this is a great addition to the Shark-Free Marinas program.

Their decision to join up makes an obvious point: although shark fishing, or any fishing, may not be a regular source of commerce for the marina, they should still register with SFMI. Consider the no-smoking sign, we see it everywhere and register subconsciously that smoking is bad for our health and the well-being of people around us. It is therefore not socially acceptable in public places. I mean really, who these days would light up a cigarette in an elevator? Most likely no-one, but yet there is a sign to make sure.

Shark-Free Marinas is like that. It sets socially responsible standards of conduct when dealing with threatened species of shark. The more marinas that register the more it becomes socially accepted that killing sharks is not good for our environment.

That being said not every single marina will be Shark-Free. But if 1 in 10 allows caught sharks then policing standards and fishing codes becomes that much easier, and everyone wins.

Thanks to Captain Slate for setting a standard, check out their business here:

Are you a marina owner/manager? Follow their example and register your facility with Shark-Free Marinas today.

Want to get involved with SFMI? Visit our Regional Ambassadors page for more info.

Free-Gaffed Giant Mako Shark - Field and Stream Weighs In

The venerable Field and Stream Magazine weighed in on the issue of a recently free gaffed breeding aged Mako shark in part due to coverage from Peter Thomas at the L.A Times:

Okay. I'm about to get a little rowdy. This week, someone forwarded me a news article about a 748-pound mako shark caught in South Florida. My initial thought was "there's been a lot bigger caught this year," but I checked it out anyway. After watching the video below and reading the story, I have decided that these guys deserve the title of "Most Amateur Idiots on the Water." See for yourself. They didn't "catch" anything. They free-gaffed a hot mako.

What surprises me most is how fast the local news jumped to glorify these guys. The line that sums up the mentality of this crew is when "fisherman" Jamie Bunn says, "I vividly remember the quote 'we might as well gaff this thing, someone's dying today.'" Dude, you are an inspiration to anglers everywhere. Good work. I'm not the only one who thinks this whole dog-and-pony show is a disgrace. And guess what? This may have been illegal.

From the Los Angles Times:

Florida anglers are being sharply criticized after apparently free-gaffing a 748-pound mako shark while fishing this week off South Florida...

Making note that no rods or reels appear to have been used in the capture of the mako, at least one shark conservation website claimed the anglers were in violation of state and federal law and implied it would follow through with authorities...

I've mentioned in the past that I'm very into shark fishing. Standards in practice when doing so is to have a rigged pitch-bait ready to go in case a fish shows up right behind the boat. This mako was eating a dead swordfish and these guys had plenty of stout rods onboard. So why not cut a piece of the sword, rig a rod, pitch it over and put your back into it for a couple hours?

Then my hat would have been off to you. Not too mention, free-gaffing a fish like that is asking for death, lost appendages, or at least some boat damage. Genius. -- JC

Editors Note: It is notable that Field and Stream Magazine and a series of fishing news outlets have all condemned this catch, showing industry leadership, kudos.

Hawaii Shark Diving - Shark Diving Bill "Thrown Out"

This mornings text message from Hawaii:

"FYI, The bill (banning commercial shark diving in Oahu) was thrown out and deferred to state."

Proving that Hawaii City Council members are not the same as those in Maui, Council members decided, after receiving an unprecedented amount of interest in the form of letters, emails, Op-Eds, and phone calls about commercial shark diving on Oahu to kill the issue before them and "punt it" back up to the state level and Rep Gene Wards office.

To refresh your memory the ongoing saga over the fate of commercial shark diving looks like this, dates are approximate:

1. March-2009 Rogue commercial shark diving operation decides to open cage diving operations Hawaii Kai neighbourhood and kicks off a political brush fire.

2. April-2009 Incorrectly sensing a political gain, Rep Gene Ward uses this regional back lash to propose legislation to prohibit all shark diving in Hawaii.

3. April-2009 Several dubious and linked anti-shark diving websites spring up with loose ties to Cyber Diver Network, and Rep Gene Wards office.

4. May-2009 Long term U of H shark study by Carl Meyer et al shows sharks that are being interacted with 3 miles off shore are not habituating to vessels and following them back into shore as was charged by Rep Wards "Shark Taskforce." Wards office decides to ignore and discredit the study as bogus science, stirring up further controversy.

4. August-2009 Meetings are held with the commercial operators and Rep Gene Ward, pressure in the form of pro-shark diving business owners call Wards office, the theme of "it's the economy stupid" resonates.

5. August-2009 Maui City Council members watching Rep Gene Wards grandstanding, decide to ban shark diving. Shark diving that does not exists on Maui at this time. As one person states "they might as well ban time travel as well."

6. September-2009 Maui's bill passes.

7. September-2009 Rep Gene Ward, sensing a hard political fight over the commercial shark diving issue, punts local issue of banning cage diving on Oahu down to Oahu City Council members.

8. September-2009 Oahu City Council members propose bill, receive sharp backlash from community, they quickly realize this is a "no win" bill on many levels.

9. October-2009 Oahu City Council members throw bill out and refer the entire issue of commercial shark diving and the fate of 40,000 seasonal shark diving tourists back to the state.

10. October-2009 Saga continues.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sustainable "Shark Soup?"

The post title seems like the magic bullet for shark finning, and in some ways it is. Tourism with sharks, because in our world sustainable "shark soup" looks something like this - and it lasts forever:

Hat Tip: Dorsal Fin Blog for the find and to shark diver Joe Prieto for shooting this stunning video.

L.A Times Covers "Free Gaffed Mako" Controversy

L.A Times Pete Thomas is an outdoor writer who knows controversy when he sees it. He also knows conservation sense when he sees it as well. This week he covered the ongoing fall out of a video now on You Tube of what appears to be an illegal take of a breeding aged Mako shark off the coast of Florida this week.

His continuing coverage of the oceans at the Outposts Blog is a must read for ocean folks worldwide.

Industry Conservation Leadership - Fiji...Again!

A conservation milestone was reached this month on the islands of Fiji as the Shark Free Marinas Inititiative was adopted by the 20th marina here.

Of course this milestone could not have been reach without a Regional Ambassador, Stuart Gow and the resort Matava who have been pushing the SFMI concept all over these islands in a tireless four month sign up campaign.

Kudo's to all in Fiji who, once again have shown industry leadership and who remain a "shining beacon in the hill" for conservation.

Da Shark summed up the progress in his own way at Beqa Adventure Divers Blog:

Check out the list of Shark-Free Marinas!

Yes, that's twenty Fijian operators that have made a commitment for Shark conservation by pledging not to allow any dead Sharks to be landed at their dock. And I just hear that one more has agreed to sign up - and counting!

Is that cool - or what?

This is foremost the direct personal success of Stuart and Matava who have taken the initiative, done most of the leg work and tirelessly promoted the concept.

But this is also a testimony to how much Fiji cares about Nature in general and Sharks in particular.

This is a country that thanks to a visionary network of locally managed MPAs, is well on its way to protecting 30% of its reefs and that has declared all of its waters to be a Whale Sanctuary - and may hopefully once do the same for Sharks.

This is the country that has embraced the International Year of the Shark, with the who's who of conservation, diving and tourism signing up to its local initiative, the Fiji Shark Conservation and Awareness Project. This where local television and the main media support Sharks and where a locally produced pro-Shark PSA has been a roaring success among the indigenous population, many of which revere Sharks as Gods and Guardian Spirits.

And finally, our thanks need to go to Patric and Luke who have come up with this brilliant initiative and have invested their time, energy and money into what is a fabulous example of smart and inclusive conservation!

Stuart tells me that thanks to a generous grant by PADI Project Aware, the signage is being printed and that it will be distributed within the next two weeks.

A big Vinaka Vakalevu to everyone involved!

I'm sure that Dakuwaqa is smiling!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Vic Hislop - Quote of the week 2009

In case you did not know who Vic Hislop was, he's featured this month in Edit International magazine which poses the question "Are Sharks Targeting Humans?"

Vic Hislop Quote:

"When people put down shark cages for their thrill-seeking clients some of the burley (blood and cut up fish bait and meat) travels up to 40 kilometers away, say Hislop. These people would like you to think they are conservationists because they don’t kill sharks – but they are using thousands of edible fish as shark bait.
He adds, Sharks pick up the scent, become aroused and are ready to eat by the time they reach the cage containing a human. If the cages were not strongly made, or fell off to the bottom, those stupid people would be goners in seconds. Meanwhile the sharks are not killed after the event. They are simply being trained to hunt humans.”

Editors Note: It is media quotes like these we are reminded of the commercial shark divers prayer - "Lord protect us from the small minded and the dim."

Mako "Gaff Kill" Florida - In Depth Look

What started as an email this week about a breeding aged Mako shark "caught with a gaff" off the coast of Florida may well have documented a fisheries crime.

Luke Tipple, Director of the Shark Free Marinas Initiative and marine biologist, went in depth today at the SFMI blog and looked at the fisheries ramifications of killing sharks with gaffs:

It’s not usually our style to let others speak for us but in this case I think a YouTube user said it the best:

"I have been big game fishing for 25 years and this is the most amateur kill i have ever seen. No wonder they have never seen anything like this before. They gaffed a green mako feeding on roadkill and were lucky they weren’t pulled in or worse, get there boat torn up after pulling him aboard. Drunken morons with no skills that are lucky that Mako didn’t tear them a new ass. What a disgrace, the fish deserved better. – YouTube user Zencaster"

While that is an interesting (and colorful opinion) I’d like to point out that the real issue here is that several fisheries laws may have been broken. First, watch the video…carefully.


Video time 1:10 (Reporters Voice): the crew wounds the shark with a gaff…

Here is the case to be made against the fisherman’s actions which appear to have been at least initialized by an illegal fishing method, free-gaffing or using a pole with a hook to capture the animal in such a way that it led to the animals harvest.

Case 1: How they might have broken the law in State Waters

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission manages their State waters (shore to 3 miles out) while being coordinated by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) through an Interstate Fishery Management Plan. While the plan has undergone a series of recent revisions the current regulations clearly define that a shark may not be speared.

Current regulations define the term SPEARING as:

The catching or taking of a fish by bow hunting, gigging, spearfishing, or by any device used to capture a fish by piercing the body (gaff hooks .ed). Spearing does not include the catching or taking of a fish by a hook with hook and line gear, or by snagging (snatch hooking).

They further go on to clearly state:

Regulation #68B-44.003: Bag Limit Applicable to State Waters, Gear Restriction.
(2) The harvest or attempted harvest of any shark in or from state waters by spearing is prohibited.

Thus in State controlled waters the fishermen might have broken the law by ‘free-gaffing’ the shark, ie they did not use a permitted method of capture, therefore they broke the law. Check out the regulations for yourself here: or download the PDF version here: Current shark regulations (Note, even though there are currently amendments being discussed to these laws they only serve to strengthen the current regulations and do not in any case permit free gaffing sharks)

However: The video clearly starts with the disclaimer that they were 18 miles offshore, is this a loophole?

Case 2: How they might have broken the law in Federal waters

Federal waters are controlled by NOAA who run the Fisheries Office of Sustainable Fisheries: Atlantic Highly Migratory Species and have published the Guide for Complying with the Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish, Sharks, and Billfish Regulations (DOWNLOAD HERE)

Within this guide is given the strict instructions (click here for the most up to date digital version):

No person may fish for, catch, possess, or retain any Atlantic HMS (Highly Migratory Species .ed) with gears other than the primary gears specifically authorized in this part. Consistent with paragraphs (a)(1) and (a)(2) of this section, secondary gears may be used at boat side to aid and assist in subduing, or bringing on board a vessel, Atlantic HMS that have first been caught or captured using primary gears. For purposes of this part, secondary gears include, but are not limited to, dart harpoons, gaffs, flying gaffs, tail ropes, etc. Secondary gears may not be used to capture, or attempt to capture, free-swimming or undersized HMS. Except as specified in this paragraph (b), a vessel using or having onboard in the Atlantic Ocean any unauthorized gear may not possess an Atlantic HMS on board.

Let’s make sure you caught that:

Secondary gears (gaffs) may not be used to capture, or attempt to capture, free-swimming or undersized HMS

By capturing a free swimming shark without the use of primary gear they may have broken the law in both State and Federal waters leaving no real argument that could be made for where they were or what permits they were operating under.


It is clear that these fishermen, knowingly or not, might have broken the law. As the NOAA documents clearly state: Since fishery rules frequently change, it is your responsibility as a fisherman to become familiar with the latest regulatory updates and to comply with the current official regulations.

Since the fishermen were so kind as to video and broadcast their video it should be an open and shut case for someone who knows fisheries laws.

SFMI will be writing to the following people and urge you to do the same:

NOAA’s Highly Migratory Species Management Division at:
Phone: (301) 713-2347
Fax: (301) 713-1917
Email: Craig Cockrell ( or Peter Cooper ( (the agency that made the news report)
Phone: 954-364-2500
Email: Click Here


I’d hazard that I’m not the first to pick up on these fine points of the law but if the video does indeed tell the full tale then these laws need to be enforced. If however the fishermen can provide video evidence of them using PRIMARY tackle (ie hook and line) to initialize the capture then they would be within their rights to have landed the shark. If this turns out to be the case then I will instead turn this report into a cautionary tale of how the media should be more responsible in reporting on shark harvests, particularly when dealing with species considered by some to be globally threatened. If you’d like to comment you can reach me at

Luke Tipple
Director of Shark-Free Marinas

Another Reason For Shark Free Marinas

Sadly, this breeding aged female Mako was "taken by gaff" and tail rope in Florida this week.

Shark Free Marinas Initiative

Hat Tip: Pete Thomas for the video find.

Bogus Anti-Cancer Chews for Doggies?

Here's the website link and here's the product description, selling the dried spines of Thresher Sharks as an anti-cancer treatment for your doggie.

"The Anti-Cancer Supplement from the Sea!"

The company, Canine Caviar should know better and now with your help they can. Please send a polite email today asking owner Jeff Baker to stop selling dried sharks spine to consumers.

Anti-cancer treatments from sharks cartilage was debunked, and double debunked back in 1994 for humans, it looks like they have re purposed this medical fantasy for pets.

With the prescribed chew dosage of "one a day" and an estimated 72 million dogs in the USA you begin to see how this market driven demand might harm sharks.

Please send that email today.

Canine Caviar Pet Foods
3100 Airway Ave
Suite 107
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Tel: 714.223.1800
Fax: 714.223.1801
Toll Free: 800.392.7898

Scott Suzuki-Jones Understands "Aumakua"

As the ongoing debate in Oahu about commercial shark diving rages on, a lone voice in the wilderness comes forth with probably one of the best counters to the issue of "Aumakua" we have seen yet.

The anti-shark diving lobby, increasingly using any excuse to ban shark diving in Hawaiian waters has put forth the tired and hackneyed "Aumakua defense."

To suggest to lawmakers native Hawaiians are "offended" that tourists cage dive with sharks is this arguments strong point.

The "Aumakua defense" is well worn in Hawaii, stopping developments, road signs, health care for the aged, and even access to clean drinking water. The defense works when politicians cannot see through proper and respectful use of Aumaku vs media hype.

Today one voice knocked aside the anti-shark diving "Aumakua defense" and offered up some well thought words on the matter.

Kudos to Hawaiian resident Scott Suzuki-Jones, here is his Op-Ed from this weeks Honolulu Weekly:

Despite the fear and fanfare, there is no reliable scientific evidence, empirical or anecdotal, showing that shark tour activity is hazardous or causes harm to sharks, to people taking shark tours, to people engaged in other water activities in deep-water, to people in or around the reefs, or to people on the beaches.

Shark tours are conducted in deep-water, miles from shore. Sharks encountered in deep-water are deep-water species, not near-shore or reef sharks. Deep-water sharks do not follow boats back to shore. They stay in the deep-water because that is their natural habitat.

People taking the tours are in protective cages in which they cannot be harmed by or do harm to the sharks. People stay in the cages and the sharks stay out.

Shark tours are not an offense to traditional Hawaiian culture or religion. Akua, God, is revealed to us spiritually, through our fellow human beings, and through every manifestation of Nature. Aumakua, our Hawaiian “saints,” reveal them selves and intervene on our behalf through specific manifestations in nature, such as sharks. If the Aumakua revealed in certain sharks were offended, they would avoid and refuse to participate in the activities related to shark tours.

Because Aumakua are revealed in sharks does not make them stupid. Aumakua are not animals or plants or inanimate objects. They are spirit-beings. They are the revered ancestors of human beings. To think otherwise is to cater to long-standing intellectual bigotry by non-Hawaiians that, because someone is Hawaiian, he or she is stupid.

If anything, I imagine Aumakua would approve of shark tours because they invariably instill in participants a reverence for nature in general, for the ocean in particular, and especially for the sharks encountered. In other words, in the Hawaiian scheme of things, shark tours would instill a greater reverence for Akua, God.

For those of us honestly concerned about protecting people from sharks in the ocean, all reliable empirical and anecdotal scientific evidence suggests we should ban all near-shore human activity in the ocean, as opposed to deep-water activity like shark tours. This means all human activity in the reefs, the open-water inside the reefs, and the open-water just outside of the reefs. Virtually all shark attacks occur in the reefs or in the open-water just outside of the reefs. The victims are almost always surfers and swimmers, and to a lesser-degree divers, especially divers who are spear fishing and drawing blood from their catch.

When sharks do venture into open-water inside the reefs, it is usually because they are following spear-fishermen, who are swimming back to shore with their bloody catches, or because of fish that surf-fisherman have hooked and are reeling into shore. Every experienced spear or surf-fisherman can tell you stories of catches they have lost to raiding sharks in the reefs and surf.

In other words, if we are honest about doing something to reduce the danger to people posed by sharks, we need to ban all forms of near-shore surfing, all forms of near-shore swimming, all forms of near-shore diving and all forms of near-shore fishing. Of course, this ban would be ridiculous, just as ridiculous as the proposed shark-tour ban.

If we are just as honest about protecting people in the ocean, and protecting the ocean environment overall, then we will have to ban motorized boating, Jet Skiing, and similar motorized ocean activities. Every year, more than a few people are killed, several people are catastrophically injured, and innumerable people suffer serious injury in Hawaii because of motorized boating and jet-skiing.

Compare that with the extremely low incidence of shark attacks and their related injuries and deaths. Further, these motorized ocean activities seriously endanger other people recreating in the ocean, they pollute the ocean with petroleum products, and they make deafening noise. This ban would also be ridiculous, if only because no elected official would ever get re-elected if they supported it.

Finally, if our motive is to protect the sharks, then we need to ban all forms of fishing and hunting for sharks and their prey, both of which have decimated the Earth’s and Hawaii’s shark populations in the last 50 years. And we would be well-served to remember this the next time we barbeque shark or ahi fillets over the grill during the holidays

Scott Suzuki-Jones

Follow Up Lee County Shark Tournaments 2009 - Lasting Conservation Success

When Jack Donlon first met Sean Paxton and Brooks Paxton II, none of them realized exactly what they were getting into. After hearing a radio spot for the ‘Are You Man Enough Shark Challenge’ and ‘Shark Fest 2009′ in early May, the Paxtons, aka ‘The Shark Brothers’, immediately contacted Donlon, the tournament and festival’s founder and director, to introduce themselves and to offer their support. After a first meeting, the trio agreed a collaboration made perfect sense.

Initially, the brothers were set to share their entertainment background and unique, hands-on experience with sharks, as part of an educational presentation for festival goers. By this time, as a result of a packed field of competitors and massive media coverage, the tournament (in its third year) and inaugural festival, being held in Fort Myers Beach, were attracting mainstream attention and wide-spread popularity.
Click to read official

View Official Lee County Resolution Recognizing the USC Tournament Directors

Then, just 11 days before the event, Jack Donlon was invited to meet with public officials of Lee County and Fort Myers Beach to discuss certain aspects of the tournament format. Although, he had made key changes for 2010, and already had in place specific rules designed to limit the number of sharks competitively harvested, Donlon, with close support from the Paxtons, decided it was as good a time as any for conversion to a 100% catch & release format for 2009. The three took part in a press conference that day at City Hall to make the announcement, which included news of an even more exciting tournament with bigger prizes and special categories for sharks caught, tagged and released.

Inspired by what was a sold-out tournament and huge festival attendance, Donlon and the Paxtons have formed a development committee to create what will be, ‘The Next Generation Tournament Shark Fishing Model’.

Strategic alliances in this ambitious effort include:

Mote Marine Laboratory and the Director of its Center for Shark Research – Robert E. Hueter, Ph.D

Lee County Commissioner – Ray Judah

Director of Shark-Free Marinas – Luke Tipple

Talks are also under way with international corporations and individuals interested in sponsoring an innovative effort like this. Donlon says that, ‘Specific details will be announced in the coming weeks, but I can tell you, it’s been completely re-branded as: “The Ultimate Shark Challenge”.

The new tournament will be a series of three invitational competitions with the last anglers standing going head-to-head in a Grand Championship showdown. The finale will be surrounded by the highly anticipated return of the two-day ‘Shark Fest’, which is a family-friendly, educational and entertaining event for all ages’.

Already plans are underway for a major television broadcast which promises to deliver an adrenaline-fueled mix of extreme angling, cutting-edge documentation, research and wildlife management efforts. The show will be co-anchored by the Shark Brothers and Marine Biologist, Luke Tipple who says, ‘In these days of technological connectivity we will, for the first time, be able to put spectators right into the action, above and below the water. Our viewers will experience the sheer power and raw beauty of these animals, while seeing scientists and anglers working in concert to protect and understand their world’.

The tournament’s organizers confidently claim, ‘For the first time, what we like to call, ‘A Love em & Leave ‘em’ shark tournament will be transformed into a true spectator sport. Our goal is to give participants and viewers the most interactive, entertaining and educational shark-infested, multi-media spectacle found anywhere on the planet’. This is not your grandfather’s fishing contest, but something completely new that will establish the leading edge of a responsible future for tournament catch & release shark fishing.

By breaking some long-held traditions, and embracing the future with an innovative commitment to the environment, ‘The Ultimate Shark Challenge’ will be a ground breaking wildlife interaction experience for all ages that will leave audiences cheering for man and beast, alike.