Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Could be another reason not to eat these critters.
"Drugs given to humans could simply be excreted and eventually find their way into the ocean. Or bacteria in humans could acquire the resistance, be excreted, and then colonize fish that sharks eat, or the sharks, themselves. Some antibiotics are routinely dumped into aquaculture to help prevent infections -- that could be a source for some of the resistance."
Many years ago I wrote an Op Ed for a local San Diego paper titled "When Filmmakers Attack."
The article, written five years ago, was way ahead of its time looking into the the ongoing production slide at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico.
In the ensuing 5 years since then at Guadalupe many productions have sought lowest common denominator anti-shark programming with no end in sight. Note to the underwater cameraman who shot this garbage, and you call yourself pro-shark? Waddaya, new?
Chris Palmer knows of what he speaks as the author of the book "Shooting in the Wild: An Insider's Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom" he has the insiders eye to wild animal productions.
With the obvious value of these productions to behemoths like Discovery Networks there's little chance we'll see substantial changes anytime soon, but its nice to have voices like Chris Palmer adding weight and mainstream media to the discussion.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Dr Andrea Marshall, also known as Queen of the Mantas from the BBC’s 2009 documentary film, has attached a satellite tag to a giant 4meter manta ray off the coast of South America. This ambassador for Brazilian manta ray conservation is the first manta ray in the Southern Atlantic Ocean to be satellite tagged and another first for Andrea, who originally discovered and tagged this second species of manta ray, Manta birostris, in 2009 in Mozambique.
The tagging is a fundamental part of a comparative worldwide research campaign called ‘Ray of Hope’ funded by the Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF) and conducted by the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF), which is investigating the behaviour and movement patterns of the newly-described giant manta ray. Andrea and colleagues Dr. Simon Pierce and Dr. Juerg Brunnschweiler are travelling to several locations across the globe, teaming up with local researchers or dive operators along the way to locate these mysterious and severely understudied mantas. In Brazil Andrea is collaborating with the Laje Viva Institute and researchers from their ‘Mantas of Brazil’ project.
“This achievement is a piece of manta research history but more than that it is the start of my collaborative work in South America on this species which is currently the only research being conducted on manta rays in the southern Atlantic Ocean. It is a really important step in trying to understand how this species uses the coastline of Brazil, if it travels distances offshore, where their seasonal movements take them and what threats they face on their journeys,” said Andrea.
The tag was deployed last week on a large mature male at Laje de Santos, the largest documented aggregation site for the Manta birostris species in the Southern Atlantic Ocean, and is programmed to stay on the manta ray for 180 days. For the next six months the tag will accompany the manta on its journey through the oceans, functioning like a mini-lab and storing data critical to the investigation. As well as recording the water temperature through which the manta swims and the depths the animal reaches, it also records the light levels and its GPS position every time it breaks the surface, information used in determining the individual’s actual track.
Almost nothing is known about the lives of manta rays in South America and Andrea hopes the study will help answer a series of questions aimed at providing invaluable information for managing the region’s manta ray population and better protecting them from fishing pressure and other human induced threats such as shipping traffic. “As we continue to learn more about these ocean giants, I also continue to learn and grow as a scientist. Patience is an important skill in field research as is the determination to see difficult projects through to completion. In the end, persistence will pay off, and although we sometimes feel that we are racing against time, we are ultimately at the mercy of the animals that we study and the elements of nature. Sometimes sitting back and waiting for them to come to us is the only solution,” said Andrea.
The research is funded through the Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF).
To many this blog is unique, compelling, and daily feed. To others who prefer blogs that are simple "look-at-me-and-what-I-did-this-week" formats, what we do and say here is cause for much industry grumbling.
This week a post by the ever interesting David Shiffman over at the Southern Fried Science Blog gets to the heart of conservation. What is conservation success?
He tackles one of conservations "sacred cows" Dolphin Safe Tuna. For those currently in the shark conservation world this look back at the success or failure of Dolphin Safe Tuna is a cautionary tale about conservation success and the reality of laws without overall enforcement.
For the Dolphin Safe folks Davids look into this world is perceived as a threat, for us there are no "sacred cows." We should, as conservationists, be able to look at, review and modify the efforts we put forth for better conservation.
Fine post, great reading. Provoking thought.
Monday, July 26, 2010
"Arrived in port today. Bit of a mess on decks 1-20, actually, the engine rooms got a spot of water in it as well. Come to think of it, we're also missing a few windows, deck chairs."
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Heresy! to many within the shark conservation world whose "line in the sand" more often then not ends with bans on all manner of shark fishing from tournament to the commercial.
Here's what he had to say about it, a fine read and food for thought.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
"In speaking engagements, I have often said that shark conservation is a tough sell. To be sure, there are dedicated shark advocates who understand both the important role that sharks play in a healthy marine ecosystem and the many threats these animals now face – but that represents a small number compared to the general viewing audience. Sharks are not afforded the “warm and fuzzy” factor that many terrestrial animals enjoy – the cuddly bear, the cute fur seal, or the seemingly wise and sociable whale. Sharks can seem cold and, as predators, lie just below the surface – waiting for us. That’s a tough image to work around."
Friday, July 23, 2010
Next stop? Isla Guadalupe.
Engaging the global Asian community on their own terms, in their own language, confers respect and strategic understanding.
From Shark Savers?
Yes, and a radical departure from Shark Angels a conservation concept I (and many others) had a hard time wrapping my head around.
This PSA is the brain child of Wildsphere Productions.
Welcome to a steaming bowl of of smart conservation messaging, with hopes for second helpings soon. Nicely done.
It would seem easy enough to apply a set of new catch and release standards for records that were incentivised by the fishing industry. Perhaps if the IGFA added a new category with an iPhone app that allowed fishermen to instantly record and send in their virtual catches...at sea?
The IGFA will soon find themselves in direct conflict with a host of newer and more activist shark conservation groups should they choose to stick to catch and kill modelling with sharks.
The ocean environment of 2010 is a different place from 1939 when the IGFA came into existence.
Perhaps now is the time for new thinking, and new directions?
As we have long said whale sharks, Rhincodon typus, represent instant tourism wherever they are found in concentrations that allow divers a 90% chance of encounters.
This mornings news from Mexico affirms the best of what the industry has to offer.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — A county proposal to regulate shark fishing from shore may be dead in the water.
After two months of debate, the County Commission majority voted Tuesday to reject County Attorney Alan Polackwich’s draft ordinance without asking for a revision.
“(Am I) disappointed? I can’t understand it,” Carlton condominium manager Doug Distl said. “This is Indian River County. We’re known for recreation, retired citizens and good things.”
Distl, who had sought an ordinance to ban the chumming and baiting for sharks off swimming beaches, said he didn’t want the county to gain new recognition as a shark fishing destination.
He said he would focus now on getting the Vero Beach, Orchid and Indian River Shores councils to regulate shark fishing through municipal ordinances.
In a 3-2 vote, commissioners approved a motion by Vice Chairman Bob Solari for “no ordinance,” effectively rejecting Polackwich’s draft.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
As to his image and video expose of Japan's involvement with sharks?
Why are folks getting so riled about this?
Aside from the obvious, yes this is a commercial shark fishery. This is what it looks like.
Let's delve into what's being done about it specifically on the money side.
The shark conservation world does not have the money it needs to effect conservation change. Unlike the fisheries side which has millions at its disposal. Millions generated daily with scenes like these.
For the most part the shark conservation movement is still running with non budgets that limit most efforts trying to stop the shark crises. Fund raising strategies that are governed by three sad, worn out, and laughable tactics:
1. Street level begging from large funds and wealthy donors.
2. Sales of plush toys and T-shirts at dive shows.
3. Entry level begging from the general public.
That's it. This is how we fund the global push back to a multi million dollar industry with well established trade agreements, partners, and the ability to modify conservation efforts like CITES - at will.
If the recent CITES debacle was not a global wake up call to conservationists, then I fear image and video exposes like Alex's will do no better.
Still, shark groups sprout up every single day with great ideas and conservation goals, stymied by lack of funding. This has lead to the reliance on "The Petition." As French serfs were to 15th century Feudal Lords (who were also presented with petitions), the conservation movement sends shark petitions out for just about everything these days.
Last week I was asked by nine different groups circulating four petitions to help save sharks. The week prior it was six petitions. While I am certain at least one petition has made a difference in my decade long inundation with these well meaning requests, I know of many more that have been discounted and left by the wayside by those with the power to effect real and lasting conservation change.
As the French peasantry discovered in the late 17th century, it takes a revolution, not a petition to effect change. The shark conservation movements revolution will be lead by those who develop strategies for long term conservation funding that deliver uninterrupted funds.
Funding is the key to saving sharks.
Until that time, until conservationists can match, dollar for dollar, the kind of unrivaled commerce with sharks we saw coming out of Japan this week, we will remain angry with the images, frustrated with CITES, and witness to the global decline of a magnificent species.
Oh, and we started our own petition this week, if you want to sign it.
Got a dollar?
SharkDiver is the journey of a scientist training his mind and body to adapt and be ready for a life threatening dive with Great White Sharks. We’re dealing with real people and real events, to ensure a smooth, engaging flow ‘SharkDiver’ will follow a structured treatment as Luke trains and learns each lesson. Intentionally lacking a formalistic script I allow the characters full freedom to use their own words. They’re experts who know the subject matter better than we can script.
To engage the audience I’m adapting a proven technique from similar documentary dramas, the same technique which made ‘OWNED’ an award winning film. I use three shoulder-mounted cameras, blocking through each scene multiple times with different camera angles to capture moments missed through traditional ‘camera on sticks’ style. Unaware of the cameras position the characters are free to feel their character. While the hand/shoulder held ‘shaky camera’ may seem trivial, a simple look at the first 5 minutes of Saving Private Ryan stands as testament to the emotion that may be conveyed through camera style.
In ‘SharkDiver’ I create a stark contrast between the presumably safe environment above the water and the traditionally dangerous water scenes. Paradoxically the surface style will evoke an almost claustrophobic state of mind, causing an edginess in the audience until we dive underwater where we switch to longer cuts and smoother pans, soothing the audience while in reality Luke’s risking life and limb to follow his dream. Subliminally the audience will experience an increasing comfort level underwater while in the presence of sharks, a message that will promote our goal of conservation and education of the aquatic realm and it’s Apex Predators.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Join them on a 10 day live-aboard expedition and freediving course that will start in San Diego California and finish up in Cabo San Lucas Mexico.
Fred and William are teaming up with World Champion freediver Pierre Frolla and Marine Biologist and TV personality Luke Tipple to bring you this unique expedition based breath-hold diving adventure.
The one-way format of this trip gives us the time to intimately explore remote areas of the Baja coast as well as offshore destinations interacting with some of the oceans top species from whales to sharks this expedition will do it all.
2010 Expedition Team Leaders
World renowned underwater photographer and 4 time world record holder, Fred Buyle has been freediving since his childhood. He is a committed educator and environmentalist, assisting scientists in their research through his exceptional breath-hold diving skills.
Considered one of the best overall competitive breath-hold divers in the world, William is also an avid conservationist. He has been using his breath-hold skills in shark-tagging expeditions along with fellow waterman Fred Buyle, to assist marine scientists in their efforts to protect these widely endangered animals.
A marine biologist passionate about the ocean and its conservation he has been involved with the Ocean since the age of 5. Luke has worked and dove with over 12 species of sharks and is considered an expert when working with Apex predators. He is also the Director of the Shark Free Marina Initiative.
Friday, July 9, 2010
It is to these first pioneers that a global 400 million dollar industry was born.
I received a post in my Facebook account about an article in the online version of the Pasadena Star News regarding shark diving. My comments in the article were taken from a discussion I had with the author, Margo, about what attracts divers to sharks. Reading this got me reminiscing about my earliest shark diving and how I got started leading groups of divers to see sharks in the wild.
In the early 80’s I was the owner of a dive store that, coincidentally, was in Pasadena California. Always looking for new adventures for my dive friends (my customers were always my diving buddies too), I began taking divers to the Coronado Islands in Mexico aboard Dick Howard’s Hustler dive boat to feed….morey eels. We brought along anchovies and showed divers how to feed the eels, bring them out of their lairs, without losing fingers. I had learned this technique from the divemasters in Bonaire, actually. We ran many successful trips and many divers got a close-up, new found respect for these maligned animals. It really was fun!
After a year or two of this activity, I was lamenting with Dick on his boat, “What do I do to follow up morey eel feeding and keep my divers excited and learning?” “What about shark diving?” Dick blurted. Now, remember, this was early 1982 and shark diving was virtually unheard of. “You’re out of your mind!”, says I. But, after talking more about it I started to think it was not a bad idea. So, I contacted Jack McKenney, a filmmaker friend and borrowed his cage, put some dates together, picked a small group of close dive friends, and 4 weeks later we were on our first trip. We chummed for about 3 hours while the Hustler drifted along with a sea anchor and, voila, we had plenty of blue sharks all around us. We even had a visit from a couple of Makos.
That was the beginning of an adventure that would last a few years as I brought customers out to see sharks, first hand, in the wild in cages (the divers were in the cages). What grew out of this experience was a profound new attitude and respect for sharks, and marine life in general, from all who were fortunate enough to join in. I even ran into a fisherman/diver in another dive shop who was boasting about catching blue sharks on hook and line. “Hey”, I said to him. “You wanna really be macho and dive with the blues? Why not join us on one of our trips?” He did, and he never fished for sharks again! I am quite proud of that!
I chronicled my experience with the blue sharks in an article I titled, Into the Blues and submitted it to Steve Werner at Outdoor Photographer Magazine, a new photo magazine that remains my favorite to this day. Steve’s rejection letter contained words of reckless, crazy and liability…. Steve, you actually made me feel on top of the world….
A lot of time has passed and shark diving is still an amazing adventure. SharkDiver.com and many other organizations are bringing the plight of sharks everywhere directly to those who can help them the most, you and me! No longer viewed as eating, destructive machines, sharks are seen for what they really are. Majestic, awesome, even spiritual creatures that have earned a place on this planet. I hope all of the divers who joined me in those early days, and all the divers who have enjoyed encounters with sharks, are doing all they can to save these animals from disappearing forever.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
What stuck me was the reaction this video is having on people across the web. For the most part folks are satisfied to believe this orca is "playing with" the dog, a curiosity based on some form of communication, or in some extreme postings a mutual cross species love.
Few who have seen this video it seems have considered this animal might in fact be looking at the dog as a potential meal. The vast comment base have concluded this is anything but a predatory investigation.
My view is more balanced. Animals, especially whales, are capable of a vast array of complex behaviours. Humans, on the other hand consistently "box in" different species to fit into emotional categories.
Whales are good, sharks are bad, and the emotional baggage each animal is assigned will determine our global conservation responses to them.
Some better news coming out of Hawaii for the entire shark diving industry this week. It would seem for now the specter of Hawaii enacting any laws banning commercial shark diving is off the table.
Sadly, the island of Maui in a fit of anti-shark diving zeal, made the mother of all tourism mistakes earlier this year. A mistake that has not been adopted by the state as a whole.
Has this anything to do with recent legislation banning shark fins and the intimate involvement of one of Hawaii's commercial shark diving companies making that legislation a reality?
No one is saying, but we have our suspicions. Chalk this one up to Hawaii politics with a double win at the end of a very long road.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
SHARKS. When most people think of being in the water with them, they react with fear. But, if you talk to scuba divers who make a point of seeking them out, they'll react with such words as "graceful, compelling" and even "beautiful."
Ty Sawyer, long time diver and editorial director for Sport Diver Magazine, encountered his first shark at 15. In the 32 years since, his passion for diving with sharks has not waned.
"Given any opportunity, I will jump in the water with sharks," says Sawyer.
"It is absolutely thrilling to see this well-honed ancient predator in the water doing its thing. When you see them in action the water becomes electrified and it is hard to take your eyes off of them."
As with many terrestrial apex predators like tigers and lions, sharks have an inaccurate, bad reputation. The more we learn about sharks, the more we learn it's not we who should fear them, but they who should fear us.
What sharks need is our understanding, not our fear. This goes beyond understanding their behavior, but also their value. There is no better way to gain that understanding than by seeing them in their own habitat. You can only do that by diving. Many who dive with sharks, like veteran diver and underwater photographer Budd Riker, discover that they are graceful and powerful animals, more curious than ferocious.
Image by Christy Fisher
Where: Isla Guadalupe, Baja
When: October 10th – 14th
You’ve spent thousands of dollars on underwater video equipment and now you’re wondering, “What do all these buttons and switches do?” And how will you make a video that your family and friends will be truly interested in or perhaps even moved by where you’ve been and what you’ve done?
If you or any of your friends have been tinkering with underwater video - either as a hobby or with hopes of becoming a serious filmmaker, here's an opportunity to learn some skills while at the same time getting a chance to behold one of the most magnificent of ocean predators.
Shark Diver, in association with RTSea Productions, will be holding an Underwater Video Boot Camp aboard the MV Horizon as we make our way to Isla Guadalupe, Baja to cage dive with great white sharks. These amazing sharks migrate to Isla Guadalupe during the fall months and we will be there during the height of the season (Oct. 10th thru 14th); so you can expect plenty of frisky male and large female sharks.
The Underwater Video Boot Camp is a comprehensive look at underwater documentary filmmaking, designed to not only help make your videos technically better but to also deliver powerful and dramatic messages to best suit your medium of interest: television, online, and more. In fact, much of what you'll learn is just as applicable above the waterline as below.
1. Tips on focus, iris, gain, white balance, manual and auto functions.
2. Effective underwater filming techniques – working with light
3. How to develop a dramatic storyline or powerful message
4. Effective editing – cinematic or MTV style?
5. Video formats – making the right choice for distribution (YouTube, online, TV).
In addition, Boot Camp members will be eligible for a "mini-film festival" by submitting a 5-minute video of their trip. The videos will be judged by a panel of independent UW videographers and the winner will receive a FREE trip to Isla Guadalupe in 2011.
Your Instructor: Richard Theiss is a cinematographer whose work has been utilized by Discovery, National Geographic, A&E, Google Ocean, and others. He is one of the leading videographers of Isla Guadalupe’s great white sharks and has produced an award-winning documentary,Island of the Great White Shark.
All of this is included in the regular trip price of $3100!
Sign up today by calling Shark Diver at 415-235-9410.
Who knows? You could be the next Jacque Cousteau, Steven Spielberg, or James Cameron waiting to be discovered!
Sunday, July 4, 2010
From the soft launch of the Shark Free Marina Initiative last year Mike (Da Shark) has shown how the concept works and it's broad appeal beyond US shores. Mostly due to his efforts the SFMI has grown to include a high percentage of local marinas in his region.
SFMI works with existing fisheries bases to educate and adjust behaviors of fishermen for the ultimate benefit of regional shark populations.
This week makes 24 marinas in Fiji who have joined the SFMI to ask local fishermen and sport fishermen not to bring dead sharks, or shark parts back to their marinas.
Adding to the list are:
Copra Shed Marina
The SFMI is an innovative shark conservation tool for use by anyone worldwide. The concept works and after a year of field testing has shown appeal not only in the USA but globally as well.
Regional shark conservation efforts start with initiatives that show metrics for success. SFMI endeavors to deliver lasting shark conservation and education, one marina at a time.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
It might even sell a few more papers.
Kudos to underwater photographer Brian Skerry (we're huge fans) for getting in the shark conservation messaging he did and great quotes by Doc G talking about shark declines in the region.
Also continuing fantastic Oceanic White Tip images coming out of Cat Island (just a wild guess) in the Bahamas.
In all a balanced piece with a major media outlet seemingly biased towards selling shark horror and not the actual shark. While the article tries to paint sharks badly the images and direct quotes tell a different story.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Hoffmayer and Earle recently spent three days in the Gulf of Mexico where they discovered an extraordinary gathering of more than 100 feeding whale sharks 90 miles south of Grand Isle, La., and approximately 60 miles west of the oil spill.
“This may be one of the largest gatherings of whale sharks in the northern Gulf of Mexico observed by science,” explained Earle.
Hoffmayer and Earle photo identified scores of whale sharks and tagged four of them. One of the tags was equipped with satellite tracking sensors. Those sensors allow anyone to follow the shark over the Internet via www.GTOPP.org and Google Ocean.
“Whale Sharks are presently considered a ‘vulnerable species,’ which is a mere single notch down from being considered an endangered species,” said Hoffmayer.
Earle, who is currently an explorer-in-residence at National Geographic, is a highly respected and influential oceanographer. “I can only hope to do in my career a fraction of what she has done. Hopefully her involvement will help bring resources to the study of these threatened animals,” said Hoffmayer.
Whale sharks are filter feeders, meaning they siphon marine organisms at the surface of the water as food. With dispersed oil floating on the water surface, whale sharks will ingest the chemical substance along with their food.
“Some have said that these are death row whale sharks in the Gulf of Mexico, and that could be true,” said Earle. “Because of their feeding habits, skimming right at the surface where the oil accumulates, they’re in harm’s way.”
Indeed, since the tagging expedition, Hoffmayer has heard reports of whale sharks swimming in oil near the Deepwater Horizon spill site. “I don’t think there is any question we’re going to lose whale sharks to this oil spill. That’s why we need to tag these sharks so that we can determine how they are impacted by the oil,” said Hoffmayer. “Whale sharks are gentle giants that grow between 40 to 50 feet long and aren’t aware of the oil spill around them,” explained Hoffmayer. “They are very susceptible to the oil because they spend so much time at the surface of the water.”
The entire Whale Shark tagging expedition was captured by film director Robert Nixon and an Insurgent Media film crew which is filming Mission Blue, a feature documentary following Earle on her quest to protect the world’s oceans.
“Interacting with these death row whale sharks was a transformative experience. We may not be able to save these gentle giants from the oil. We do hope our underwater footage of Dr. Hoffmayer tagging whale sharks will galvanize the public to act to save the oceans, our life support system,” declared Earle.
For more information on the research underway by Hoffmayer visit here.
For more information on Insurgent Media and Mission Blue, contact director Robert Nixon at
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.
We have been fortunate enough to spend nine years here, and I have considered myself one of the most fortunate to own a company that allows me access to these magnificent animals year after year.
The 2010 season will feature an Underwater Boot Camp with Richard Theiss and RTSea Productions, offering novice to beginner underwater filmmakers the chance to film sharks and learn how to make documentary style films.
Here's a small sample of his work: