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: MyFWC.com 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 (Craig.Cockrell@noaa.gov) or Peter Cooper (Peter.Cooper@noaa.gov)

JustNews.com (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 staff@sharkfreemarinas.com

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.

Oregon - Bagging White Sharks Nets Fine

An Oregon fisherman from the town of Warren will pay a fine of $299.00 for harvesting a 12-foot Great White shark August 8, 2009 and gutting it on the docks at Depoe Bay.

Angler Jason W. Robinson, age 32, of Warren, Oregon, told an investigating state police trooper that he responsible for the shark, and that it become entangled in their crab gear and was pulled to the surface when they were bringing in a crab pot.

An OSP Fish & Wildlife trooper working on routine patrol at the docks responded to the location after hearing about the catch. The trooper saw what he believed to be a Great White Shark that was already gutted, according to Patricia Bauer with the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division.

"Our investigation indicated there was no obvious self-initiated attempt by Mr. Robinson to contact any authorities after he caught the shark before bringing it to the port. If our trooper wasn't at the right place at the right time then we believe he would have unlawfully kept the shark for his own personal interests," said Captain Walt Markee, director of the OSP Fish & Wildlife Division.

Robinson reportedly told the trooper that the shark had been gutted so it could be eaten.

Prior to seizing the shark to confirm it was in fact a Great White, the OSP trooper reports having shown Robinson a portion of the Marine Zone regulations on page 101 of the 2009 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations prohibiting the possession of Great White and Basking Sharks and that one must immediately release them unharmed.

OSP Fish & Wildlife troopers took the shark to the Hatfield Marine Science Center On August 9th, where it was positively identified as a Great White by the National Marine Fisheries Service and ODFW.

On October 1st, Robinson was cited to appear in Lincoln County Circuit Court on October 8, 2009 for the violation offense of Unlawful Possession of Great White Shark.

Oregon State Police want to issue a reminder that anyone who discovers a dead Great White Shark or a Basking Shark should call the Oregon State Police toll free at 1-800-452-7888 to report the discovery and obtain further instructions.

Complete Story