Monday, March 16, 2009

Sea of Cortez - Production Adventure 8

Good friend Captain Greg Grivetto of Horizon Charters is on another eco adventure and this time in the company of the BBC as they film their much acclaimed series,“Last Chance to See”. Biologist, naturalist, writer - Mark Carwardine and esteemed actor Stephen Fry host this series and will be aboard as we search for blue, sperm and humpback whales

For the next two weeks he'll be sending us his "notes from the field":

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

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

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

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

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


Captain Greg

Shark Conservation Message - You Tube

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

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

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

The Today Show - Shark Media Gone Bad

"When you play with hungry can pay the price"

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

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

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

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

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

Extreme Shark Diving

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

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

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

The Bahamas

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

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

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

Dangerous Shark Species Interaction Warning Letter 2006-7

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

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

To Whom It May Concern;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mr. Neal Watson
Bahamas Diving Association