Thursday, September 30, 2010

That Travel Chick Joins Shark Diver 2010 - Part Two

That Travel Chick aka Fort Lauderdale's Amanda joined us at Guadalupe Island in 2010 for the ultimate shark encounter. This is Part Two in her ongoing series diving with great whites and Shark Diver.

Her travel series is a must read for budding shark fans worldwide:

Guadalupe Islands bound!



We don’t actually leave the dock till well past midnight but it doesn’t really matter since we don’t get to Ensenada Mexico til 830am the next morning to go by customs and such and pick up an observer to make sure we don’t do anything illegal. Hehehehe.. The sleeping on the boat with the rocking was quite calming. I did have a few beers before hand so I was up a few times which isn’t easy when sleeping quarters are downstairs and bathrooms are up and down the back fo the boat. My bunkmate/roommate for the stay is Souxie, a Canadian from Alberta. Such a sweetheart and she was on this trip a year ago so that gives me more confidence as I picked the right vessel to hit my top bucket list item on.



I slept till about 6am. I had gone without sleep for 24+ hours so that still wasn’t enough. Once we left Ensenada though is when the waters started to get rough. I actually had a very large breakfast. Potatoes, pancakes and bacon. Probably not the best Idea I had but I didn’t realize I would get so sea sick. I was better when I was laying down so I skipped lunch and dinner since I didn’t want to bring it up again and slept from 3pm till 5am the next day. Waking up long enough to pee and back to sleep. Boat was rocking sooo much that I nearly rolled off and had to position my feet in the right areas. It was surprisingly comfy though. I did however get to see Blue Whales as we were about an hour or so out of Ensenada. They are pretty common to see there so it was a real treat. Ive never seen Blue Whales just Humpbacks and an Orca.



One of the funniest introductions was with Sue, when the boat rocked and she went flying right into me. I was up against the guard rail. I said “ gee.. buy me a drink first at least” and told her to sign my bruise since it was inevitable. It was a good laugh. She was a good sport. She has such a great laugh too.



Next - Day One White Sharks

Can tourism save sharks or can sharks save tourism?

From the Dive Hub Blog this morning some smart industry analysis:

A recent study on the economic potential of shark tourism in Spain has found that this type of tourism supports hundreds of jobs and generates more than €17 million to the Canary Islands economy each year.

The study was carried out by researchers at the University of La Laguna and the New Economics Foundation. It suggests that there is potential for developing ecotourism around the species of sharks and rays found throughout Spanish waters but highlights the urgent need to protect these species. The findings suggest that the wonderful marine wildlife that exists close to the UK’s coastal communities could provide great benefits for local tourism and increased protection of the marine environment. The UK has 21 types of sharks and 16 of skates and rays in its waters, including the Basking Shark which is the world’s second largest fish and already supports wildlife tourism activity in the UK.

The research found that sharks and rays offer economic benefits through diving tourism and that approximately one-third of Canary Islands diving activity is linked to these species.

“Studies such as ours reveal that sharks offer economic benefits beyond food; left alive, many species can provide a source of long-term income and employment through diving tourism,” said Aniol Esteban, Head of Environmental Economics for the New Economics Foundation. “When all tourist expenditures are taken into account, we estimate that €17.7 million (£14.5 million) of the €97.2 million that divers bring to the Canary Islands can be specifically attributed to the presence of sharks and rays.’ These are significant amounts of money.

There are several other examples of shark dive tourism creating economic benefits, as well as conservation and marine habitat proetction. The Shark Reef marine reserve in Fiji is an example of this, as is the whaleshark watching industry at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. Many divers will visit specific areas just to catch a glimpse of a particular shark. From hammerheads and great whites to basking sharks and threshers, sharks have a powerful pull for dive tourism.

Complete Post.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Gulf of the Farallones - Hooking Sharks Round Two?

Research teams are back at it with a new draft proposal to bait, hook, and tag more sharks at the Gulf of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary.

The draft proposal is here.

Public comment can be emailed to sanctuary staff member Carliane.Johnson@noaa.gov until October 12, 2010.

Last years effort was well documented when a breeding aged white shark was foul hooked, and the hook had to be cut free with a pair of industrial bolt cutters.

The hook was embedded so deeply that cutters had to be pushed through the sharks gills.

Only a small percent of the hook was recovered and the rest was left inside the animal.

Apparently, and much to the research teams relief, the animal lived. It still has a man made hook embedded deep in its throat prompting Maria Brown, Farallones Sanctuary Manager, to give the following assessment of this kind of research:

"I equated it to, it felt like what it's like when I go to the dentist; when you go in, you get a cavity filled, it's something that maybe you don't want to go do, but you do it, it's quick, it's over, it's done."

Please read that statement again. It was for the record to ABC News in regards to a throat hooked protected species in a National Marine Sanctuary. The 2009 permit was issued for a research/television show called Shark Men.

A team of expert anglers, a renowned shark scientist and a Hollywood heartthrob join forces to unmask the mysteries of the world's largest predatory fish. Their bold expedition includes a unique vessel with an unprecedented way to lift Great Whites out of the water for examination.

The ensuing foul hooked shark media calamity was a black eye for both the Farallones, the entire NOAA sanctuary system, and invasive shark tagging programs. Our views on the matter were for the record and we were one of the few commercial shark diving operators to take a public stance against this kind of research. For reasons that remain obvious to this day.

No one can guarantee a hooked white shark will not suffer grievous damage with this kind of work.

In the end this brand of invasive research/television programming will have to be decided by interested parties, use groups, other researchers, and the general public.

Should be an interesting few months.

Age and growth of the great hammerhead shark, Sphyrna mokarran, in the north-western Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico

Abstract


The great hammerhead shark, Sphyrna mokarran, is a cosmopolitan species that is caught in a variety of fisheries throughout much of its range. The apparent decline of great hammerhead shark populations has reinforced the need for accurate biological data to enhance fishery management plans. To this end, age and growth estimates for the great hammerhead were determined from sharks (n = 216) ranging in size from 54- to 315-cm fork length (FL), captured in the Gulf of Mexico and north-western Atlantic Ocean. Growth curves were fitted using multiple models and evaluated using Akaike’s information criterion. The von Bertalanffy growth model was the best fitting model, with resulting growth parameters of L = 264.2-cm FL, k = 0.16 year–1, t0 = –1.99 year for males, and L = 307.8-cm FL, k = 0.11 year–1, t0 = –2.86 year for females. Annual band pair deposition was confirmed through marginal-increment analysis and a concurrent bomb radiocarbon validation study.



Great hammerheads have one of the oldest reported ages for any elasmobranch (44 years) but grow at relatively similar rates (on the basis of von Bertalanffy k value) to other large hammerhead species from this region. The present study is the first to provide vertebral ages for great hammerheads.



Study Link.

BBC tackles shark finning in Mozambique

In the Indian Ocean, as elsewhere in the world, shark fishing has been increasing at an alarming rate with tens of millions being caught each year worldwide. Visiting a small community in Mozambique, where shark fishing has only recently become an established practice, Philippe Cousteau Jr and his team discover what is driving the trade:

Shark Research and Conservation Intern Bahamas

Position Summary: The Cape Eleuthera Institute is accepting applications for Research Internships within the Shark Research and Conservation Program. Successful applicants will gain a wealth of hands on field-based experience in addition to a solid theoretical foundation from the scientific literature, through readings and group discussions.

Primary Responsibilities: Field work will primarily focus on conducting scientific longline surveys around South Eleuthera. Candidates will learn how to deploy and retrieve lines, and handle and tag sharks in a manor that will ensure the safety of the sharks and the crew. Non-field based duties will include the maintenance of field equipment and data entry. On occasions Research Interns will also have the opportunity to assist in the field or lab with other Cape Eleuthera Institute research initiatives, such as the flats ecology, aquaponics, sustainable offshore aquaculture and permaculture programs.

The normal working week is five and a half days, however all research is weather dependent and Research Interns should expect their work schedule to be flexible. On occasions, Research Interns will be required to work weekends.

AVAILABLE INTERNSHIPS
Spring January 5 - June 17,2011
Summer Session 1 June 13 - July 25, 2011


Qualifications: Applicants must be a minimum of eighteen years of age and should have completed, be planning to complete, or in the process of completing an undergraduate degree in a biology related field. Candidates with previous research experience and an active interest in marine research will be given priority.

Skills: This position requires long hours of physical work in a variety of sea and weather conditions. As such applicants must be in good physical condition, and feel comfortable working on boats for extended periods. Boat driving experience would be a benefit, but not essential. Applicant should be proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel, and Power Point.

For the right candidate there is the opportunity to gather data for an undergraduate thesis. This will be assessed on a case-by-case basis following discussion with home institutions and supervisors.

Cost: $500 month which covers room and board at CEI. Email contact below to find out additional information on scholarship opportunities.

THE THRESHER SHARK RESEARCH and CONSERVATION PROJECT

VOLUNTEER DIVERS and RESEARCH ASSISTANTS


Dive and shark enthusiasts are requested to assist the 'Thresher Shark Research and Conservation Project’ (TSRCP) in conducting fieldwork in the Philippines from January – September 2011. This is an unique opportunity for individuals with a keen interest in diving with sharks to gain hands on experience in shark survey methodology, behaviour, biology, ecology and conservation. Volunteers will be based on Malapascua Island (Cebu) and shuttled to Monad Shoal aboard a dedicated research vessel. Ops will run from 05:00 to 20:00 five days a week and include SCUBA survey, underwater video observation, tagging (pending funding) and photographic ID databasing. Evenings will be spent in academics, training, reviewing video observations, analysing data and preparing for the next day’s ops.

All volunteers will receive comprehensive hands on training in shark research methodology, marine wildlife photography, marine videography and analytical approaches to understanding shark behaviour. Volunteers will also receive academics in shark biology, ecology, conservation and ethology (behaviour) and will apply learned concepts to the analysis of real data that they acquire on a daily basis. Members will benefit from a close working relationship with a specialist.


For expedition dates and details please visit The Thresher Shark Research and Conservation Project at:

www.threshersharkproject.org

Best Wishes

Helen King

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Who are The Black Fish?

When it comes to Direct Action, I tend to like mine with a healthy dose of kick ass.

If you're going to pull out the stops on what should be the last resort for conservation initiatives, ensure the action is short, sweet, and delivers the goods in one round.

Not episode by useless episode, and never into a third season on a major broadcast network.

For your consideration this week, Taiji Japan.

According to media reports The Black Fish Group, perhaps tired of standing around, got into the action with some Direct Action and swam out to release a few dolphins.

That's why I want to know who these folks are - The Black Fish.

"Divers from the European conservation organisation The Black Fish have last night cut the nets of six holding pens in Taiji, Japan, that were holding dolphins caught during a dolphin drive hunt a few days earlier. During this hunt a number of dolphins were selected for the international dolphinarium trade and transferred to these holding pens. In rough weather conditions the divers swam out and cut the nets of six of these holding pens, allowing a number of dolphins to swim back out to sea. No arrests were made."

By the way if you want to make a donation do so here.

Chances are you will see more of this single punch style Direct Action from these guys as time moves on. If you're going to be credible source in the Direct Action arena...you actually have to save a few critters from time to time not sit by and "document" a slaughter that already has worldwide attention.

Asking for donations for said "documentation" is a height of disrespect for animals that need intervention, not more media sound bytes.

Palau - Still Shark Finning?

View from the Blue Blog reviewed Palau this month and commercial shark diving with a disturbing postscript:

For all its wonders Palau still sits on a knife edge. Like many of us they have been struggling lately and they hope that shark tourism will be a route out of recession. They certainly need to be supported for their stance. Well run shark eco-tourism can be positive for all parties. The tourists, the local economy and of course the sharks all benefit. If however Palau don't see a marked improvement in their economy rest assured that the fishing fleets of the world are ready and waiting in the wings. It would take maybe as little as a couple of years to turn Palau into 'just another dive location', rather than the incredibly special oasis that I witnessed during my time there.

Update

Disappointingly I've been hearing strong rumours that shark fishing/finning continues in Palau waters with the fishing fleets using a 'mothership' set up outside of Palau's territorial waters to stop them having to land the sharks and fins in Palau. Like I said these are just rumours that I'm hearing, but it shows just how hard it is to police marine areas even when protection is in place!

Monday, September 27, 2010

CNN and Shark Divers - Part Two

Part One in a recent report on a shark shoot we just completed with CNN as part of a larger documentary series to air soon.

Part Two - Sharks in Da Watah

Day two in the Bahamas last week as the crew of the MV Kate with Blue Iguana Charters, Shark Divers crew (Simon and the Gortons Fisherman), CNN's topside shooters Lando and Leon and Luke Tipple left Grand Bahama to find sharks.

As I mentioned I have never been a fan of one day shoots with animals, for a myriad of good reasons.

Leaving the channel marker this morning was one of them, as the big seas we had encountered in the stream yesterday, driven windy conditions, were on site and jacking up the MV Kate like an old school County Fair Tilta-Whirl.

I have to hand it to all the crews who had never worked together and who were tasked with not-so-prime conditions to work with.

They got the job done.

Lando and Leon being topside guys who had to look through an eyepiece had the worst job on the entire vessel. As anyone who had tried to shoot something on a heaving deck will attest, it takes a special kind of constitution to shoot, stand in place, and still bring home the action. Looking over their passports earlier and seeing all the places they have shot you begin to understand why CNN's news reports are so credible, their shooters are the best in the business.

The underwater team were in 7th heaven as soon as the sharks appeared, which, thanks to Capt Rob from the MV Kate who was pre-prepping the site didn't take long.

Luke Tipple had planned two main experiments with sharks to highlight shark technology. Both experiments were carefully planned and executed by him and his team with meticulous attention to details right down to the color of the underwater rigging.

With the additional distraction of a small high pressure hose issue (by the way Luke we're going to do "something" with that video) the shoot went about as well as you can get when professionals are running the show.

They got the job done in two dives. That's the team.

I was equally impressed with the two CNN producers who joined us as well. Matt S, Jennifer H both worked with their shooters and Luke to ask great questions and really move the storyline to get the best they could out of every minute of the time we had.

In short this was a great shoot with top notch crews.

The trip back to port was uneventful, and after loading up a complimentary case of CNN Pirate Booty (aka Kalik Gold) the vessel was off to Florida and I was on an island hopper with Simon back to Florida as well.

While this latest shoot has not changed my views on one day productions with animals, it is nice to see professionals in action. When the chips are down it's a team effort that keeps it all together and this really was a great team effort.

Cheers,
Patric Douglas CEO
www.sharkdiver.com
www.sharkdivers.com
415.235.9410

Studying tourism's bite on sharks

Very interesting article this week on a new shark chumming study being done in Australia.

Kudos to the Rodney Fox operation for being involved in this study which will inevitably benefit the entire industry worldwide.

Great industry quotes by Andrew as well.

Image Andrew Fox:

SCIENTISTS are circling cage-diving operators as they try to find out how regular visits from tourists are affecting the behaviour of great white sharks.


Shark ecologist Dr Charlie Huveneers, from the South Australian Research and Development Institute and Flinders University, is leading the study.



The study aims to ensure cage-diving is safe for both the tourists and the sharks because great whites are a protected species threatened with extinction.



He said both of the existing tour operators used berley - a mixture of tuna blood, mince and offcuts - and baits to attract sharks without feeding them.



Preliminary research, in Australia and overseas, suggests sharks lose interest over time.



"The shark seems to come close to the boat for the first three or four days," he said. "After that they don't seem to be attracted by the berley as much."



Complete Story.

Mexico Premier - SharkDiver.com Trip Report 2010

If you're looking for information on travel and adventure in Mexico look no further then the good folks over at Mexico Premier Online.

This week they printed a 2010 Isla Guadalupe trip report penned by newly minted Shark Diver, Drew Grgich.

Our 2010 shark diving season has been one of the best on record. Many thanks to the shark divers from around the planet (as far away as Hong Kong) who joined us this season to experience Carcharodon carcharias at the greatest site on the planet.

We have exactly two spaces left on the 2010 season. These are deep discount spaces on an expedition we just added to the line up October 9-14 departing from San Diego, Ca.

Join us.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Whale Sharks Killed, Displaced by Gulf Oil?

When the BP Gulf Oil Spill began, soon to become Americas biggest oil disaster, this blog quickly focused attention on a small research team out of the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory who had been studying Whale sharks in the region for the past several years.

Their research site turned out to be an oily ground zero.

Our coverage, with the help of several other blue bloggers, lead to timely mainstream media pieces that picked up this unfolding eco disaster and followed it to its frustrating conclusion.

Or was it?

National Geographic has a first rate follow up about the effects millions of gallons of spilled oil has had on these gentle giants in the region and is a must read:

Though much of the Gulf oil has disappeared from the surface, the spill isn't going away—and scientists are still trying to uncover the extent of its invisible effects on Gulf wildlife.

(Read about the Gulf oil spill in the October issue of National Geographic magazine.)

For instance, certain toxic ingredients of oil—and even the chemical dispersants used during the cleanup—could potentially cause long-term problems for whale sharks and many other species. Those may include compromised endocrine or immune response systems, scientists note. (See related blog: "Gulf Seafood With a Side of Oil Dispersant?")

Whale sharks filter a lot of water through their mouths and gills—almost 160,000 gallons (605,000 liters) of water an hour—as they feed on tiny plankton and fish.

Complete Story.

Shark Free Marinas - Jillian Morris

As a marine biologist, diver and videographer I have the good fortune of routinely travelling to the most wondrous locations. When I stop to think about where my favorite places are, I realize that many of them – the best places on the planet – are right here in the Bahamas.

These islands offer beauty and adventure – including a diverse range of shark encounter opportunities, such as the world famous Tiger Beach – which is a Mecca for shark enthusiasts. People travel from around the globe to catch a glimpse of the big beauties that inhabit the waters at Tiger Beach.

Film crews, television hosts and scientists alike revere this site as the ideal location to film, observe and conduct research. I have been blessed to spend quite a lot of time at this special place and I must confess that each time I visit it is completely different. Tiger Beach is really an irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind natural resource. Tiger sharks and lemon sharks are the primary species, but great hammerheads, Caribbean reef sharks and nurse sharks are also known to make appearances. Part of the excitement lies in never knowing what you might find when you slip beneath the surface!



As Jacques Cousteau astutely once said “people protect what they love,” and so I got involved with the Shark Free Marina Initiative because I love sharks. This campaign was designed to reduce the worldwide shark mortality rate by working with cooperating marinas. In the Shark Free Marina Initiative making the commitment means that no caught shark can be landed within the marina for any reason. There is no processing of meat, removal of the jaws of stringing up of the animals for photographs. Fishing for sharks within the participating marina is also prohibited. (This encourages fisherman to catch and release if they do insist on catching sharks at all.)



The program also works to teach proper techniques for catch and release, in order to increase the chance of survival for a caught shark. And while they have been historically, albeit incorrectly, perceived as monsters, sharks are extremely sensitive to being caught on a line. Just because they are released and not killed at the time of that release, does not guarantee they will survive at all. The Shark Free Marina Initiative also encourages fisherman to tag the animals with simple dart tags, as a means of increasing data collection.



Complete Post.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Shark Diving Industry Trends - Black and White

Coming home from a shark shoot in the Bahamas this morning I have been mulling over the series of emails and phone calls that I received over the past few days.

At hand a recent expose of a well known SA shark diving operator/conservationist and images that depict sharks being mauled over baiting practices that are inconsistent with the words “shark diving operator” or even “conservation.”



The expected blow back has been heated even by industry standards with counter allegations and straw man defenses put forward by those whose friendships with the SA operator seek grey areas in what is a glaring black and white issue.



Collateral Damage



After seeing images that Wolfgang “sat on” for many months while he tried to affect SA baiting changes quietly, the response to his expose reveals an industry disconnect that needs to be remedied. Every time a shark is mauled by poor baiting practices, a shark becomes stuck in a cage, a shark is teased into tearing into a baited wetsuit for film and television, or baited into all manner of situations for film and television that further “the vicious shark” scenario - our entire industry is diminished.



We are, supposedly, the industry leaders, the conservationists, the ones who are on the front lines for sharks. So why is it o.k. to allow them to be tangled in ropes, crash into cages, or be filmed in the worst case scenario for productions time and again?



Honest mistakes in any wildlife industry can be tolerated and even understood with industry leaders, but brushed aside, enabled, and even apologized for?



Friendships within our industry are legendary but all too often cloud the greater good.



When websites like the recent STOP Shark Cage Diving SA attract media attention I want to know, as an industry member, that the allegations contained are absolutely false. I want to be certain that we are doing our level best for the sharks on a commercial level.



Are we?



Personal Attacks



Changes within any industry are painful but oftentimes necessary. When wildlife is at stake any expose is painful. Wolfgang was not personally attacking anyone with his images; he was trying to effect change. Testifying to what he witnessed firsthand as a potential catalyst. Those who came to the defense of his graphic black and white images of a tangled shark with a bloodied face and missing teeth missed a point, and in turn have diminished their ability to speak effectively on shark conservation issues. Putting friendship ahead of the very thing they profess to care about, the sharks.



You cannot have it both ways. There is no such thing as a Judas Shark in our industry, or at least there never should be.



Every industry negative Shark Week show, You Tube video, still image and media report resonates on for years, affecting our ability to speak for sharks in a credible manner. Better an industry insider take the reins to try and change practices then a main stream media outlet or even a complete industry outsider with an agenda.



What Next?



How about we consider change for a moment?


What harm would it be for the SA operator to come forward and say “Yes, as frontline resource users who have long advocated for the removal of sharks nets, we will change what we do…for the sharks.”



As a media guy allow me to suggest this course of action would be a huge win and media worthy. SA shark operators modifying shark diving operations to make a broader point about shark conservation and improved animal husbandry in the region.



What harm would come from the media, and the world, understanding that our industry is adaptable, flexible, and has the very best interests of sharks and the environment in mind.



Instead? The last 72 hours has seen a circled wagon mentality, base accusations flying back and forth, and all manner of simian grunting and chest beating under the banner of “mind your own damn business.”


Have we been here before? You bet we have.



Someone even suggested the tangled sharks were the fault of the photographer. Shooting the messenger, in the face of stark and graphic images in this case, is as productive as shooting yourself in the foot revealing the true face of this ugly industry disconnect.



This is not leadership. This is not our industry, and those who saw Wolf’s images and who can find a way to defend them need to take a serious look in the mirror, it is gut check time. We all profess to love sharks but that love for sharks starts at home - with our industry.


For Want of a Few Leaders



Industry leadership is conferred by doing. We cannot self anoint a leadership mantel upon friends and industry cohorts in the hopes the broader community will go along. There is also no grey area when stark black and white images, video or negative media reports about our industry come forward. Real leadership requires those in the crosshairs of either unfortunate circumstance or self inflicted wounds to stand and be counted - to be leaders.



This is one of those moments. So let’s get busy and leave the old school dive industry “I just want a pat on the back at DEMA this year,” garbage behind.



Postscript: Just finished reading an open letter to operators in SA addressing this issue head on. Kudos to the operator in question who initiated this email. Leadership.



Note: This blog has featured the dive site and operator positively in the past. Here, here, here and here .

That Travel Chick Joins Shark Diver 2010

That Travel Chick aka Fort Lauderdale's Amanda joined us at Guadalupe Island in 2010 for the ultimate shark encounter.

Her site series is a must read for budding shark fans worldwide:

Countdown to the Great White Shark dive



It all started when I was 7 years old. My pop-pop (grandpa) would take me to the beach every week to collect shells. Thats what you do when you grow up in south Florida. One day I came across a shark’s tooth. I asked my mom to take me to the library (no internet back then) to see what type of tooth it was. I quickly learned it was a Tiger Shark. Gorgeous creatures by the way. In no time, I came home with every shark book I could find to learn more. I became a bit obsessed with sharks. Not much has changed since then. I started to read more and more about Great Whites. As a kid, I had a big love of dinosaurs and of course the T-Rex was my favorite, so it wasn’t hard for me to quickly fall in love with both the Tiger and Great White shark.



Since then, I’ve had dreams of swimming with a Great White. More occasions then not, being told I’m out of my mind, crazy, nuts, stupid. You name it, I’ve been told I am. I am stubborn and never listen. I constantly in the ocean swimming with nurse sharks and touching them when people swim the other way. I can’t help it. I just love all sharks. The way the move is so beautiful and graceful and so powerful. They feel amazing and to feel their muscles as they move is even more breath-taking.



I’ve been wanting to do a Great White shark dive for years but the trip to South Africa or Australia is loooong. Being a Shark Week geek, I never miss an episode and have seen many taking place in Mexico at Guadalupe Islands. I did some research and came across Shark Diver among a few others. I ended up with Shark Diver because the owner, Patrick, was a lot of fun to chat with, actually takes action on helping save the sharks and his package is all-inclusive. I also saw them on Shark Week. I decided that this was the year. I wasn’t going to wait any longer. What better way then to go for my birthday. I couldn’t have thought of a better gift to myself.



Complete series post.



Image Christy Fisher

At the start line - Tracking sharks

Off the coast of Ireland Blue sharks (Prionace glauca) come under scrutiny:


THE ODYSSEY undertaken by two female blue sharks from Irish waters around the north Atlantic this winter is being tracked by University College Cork (UCC) scientists, following a successful tagging project off the south coast.



The two sharks were named Granuaile and Queen Méabh by the UCC team during the encounter off Cork’s Old Head of Kinsale a week ago.



While blue sharks have been tagged here before, this marks the first satellite-tracking of the fish with archival “pop-up” tags. Such tags detach after a specific time period, having collected and stored data on temperature, depth and light as the sharks migrate.



UCC scientist Dr Tom Doyle of the university’s Coastal and Marine Resources Centre hopes that the two sharks will “capture the imagination of Irish school children” during their voyage and will also raise awareness about the need for conservation.



Dr Doyle, who is an expert in tracking marine species including leatherback sea turtles and oceanic sunfish, says both sharks face a “real challenge to survive and reproduce in the coming years”, as blue sharks were caught for their fins.



Complete Story.

Friday, September 24, 2010

CNN and Shark Divers - Part One

Day One - The CNN crew and our crew board the MV Kate in Florida for an overnight trip to the Bahamas. We have been tasked with delivering a shark story as part of a larger documentary for CNN.

We have one day to shoot it.

I have never been a fan of one day shoots with wildlife. For reasons that run the gamut from poor weather, to badly behaved animals. We did a shoot in June with AT and T that required the full 5 days worth of commitment to get the right animals to do the right things.

The ace in the hole for this trip was the MV Kate and Blue Iguana Charters and an A list shooting crew we put together (Gorton's Fisherman, Simon) along with CNN's topside shooters Lando and Leon.

Add to that CNN's Bahamas show host Luke Tipple who is one of the best wild animal front men in the industry right now for both delivering serious minded shark content and for natural camera ability...we had the deck stacked.

Crossing The Blue

The crossing this week was brutal. The recent hurricanes in the region jacked up waves to 12 feet and we took most head on, flooding the top side AC in the process at 2am. You know you're in the middle of it when the top deck takes a wave that rearranges almost everything.

Arrival to Port Lucaya was met with a weary relief, tough crossings through the stream are not much fun and we have done a few over the years. I rated this one a 7 out of 10. We docked and CNN started shooting Lukes stand ups and intro to the shark piece. We had planned for at least 24hrs to let the weather settle and grab a beer in town.

The beer was welcome, Kalik Golds at Shenanigans, with a surprise visit from the Queen of Bahamian shark diving Cristina Zenato who spent some time with us talking shark shop. Cristina is one of my personal favorites in the shark diving industry ever since I met her a few years back.

Enthusiasm is a word that barely explains her love for Bahamian sharks and just listening to her talk shop is always a welcome moment to anyone in the industry visiting the area. Her recent conservation work will be newsworthy and exciting when it becomes public.

Dinner was perfect tonight and the crew came home to the Mighty Kate for a nights rest. Tomorrow's 6.30am start would begin a grueling shoot day.

Part Tw0 - Sharks in Da Watah

Cheers,
Patric Douglas CEO
www.sharkdiver.com
www.sharkdivers.com
415.235.9410

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Off to the Bahamas - Sharks

We're on another tight project schedule for Shark Divers this week somewhere in the Bahamas.

Once again sharks are the primary focus for us and we'll be sure to throw a few pithy conservation quotes in for the mass audience.

We'll update you when we get back from the always exciting shark filled waters of the Bahamas.

Our 2010 white shark season with the extra date is almost sold out, congratulations to Sarah from L.A and Paul from the U.K who joined us on our just announced Oct 9-14 expedition to Isla Guadalupe.

We have two more spaces left for that departure at a $300 discount, join us.

While we are offline we'll do a neat hand off to Da Shark in Fiji who is back online and has a few things to say about Wolfgang's recent industry expose.

Should be an interesting week.

Image by Christy Fisher.

Gen Mod Salmon - Symptom of Overpopulation

The US Food and Drug Administration has been asked to weigh in on the health effects of a genetically modified salmon for public consumption.

As a person who has spent the past ten years quietly working on trout and salmon habitat reconstruction, even protesting Bush era water diversions on the Eel River in California, I am seeing this new development not through the lens of conservation but through the lens of planetary overpopulation.

Yes, too many people on the planet. There I said it, and the world did not collapse...well not just yet.

If you stop and think about 99% of every conservation initiative on the planet right now and draw a line to its source, you come to overpopulation. Try it today. Water quality. Habitat. Global warming.

Shark finning is a perfect example of this. 40-70 million Sharks are harvested each year for just their fins, leading to drops in regional populations of up to 80%.

Meanwhile a massive grassroots campaign is trying to stem the shark killing tide, but the tide owes it entire existence to overpopulation in Asia, and the rest of the world.

Getting back to genetically modified salmon. I am 120% against this. For reasons that run the gamut from poor science, to lousy animal husbandry, to the simple fact that we as a species far too often rush ahead with a scientific answer to the challenges of our existence. We marvel at our own brilliance without the ability to look ahead 80 years or look back 80 years to learn from previous generations.

Make no bones about it. Overpopulation is here, it is now, and it is an issue we all need to start talking about through the lens of our individual conservation agendas. When we see media pieces about genetically modified salmonids that grow to ten times market size in half the time we should be saying "let's figure out a way to work with the resources we have now, instead of building another shaky bridge for subsidized population expansion."

Not a very popular thought. Try engaging friends with children on this issue. But we must, and we must also push back when the US Food and Drug Administration is asked to weigh in on another genetically modified life form.

Cheers,
Patric Douglas CEO
www.sharkdiver.com
www.sharkdivers.com
www.sharkdivers.blogspot.com
www.guadalupefund.org
www.islandofthegreatwhiteshark.com
415.235.9410

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday - Back to the Roman Galley, Row!

A very good friend sent in an image of "his cubicle" this week and I was struck by the sameness of the cubicles that preceded his.

An endless parade of corporate cubicles...what a depressing sight on a Monday.

If there's an outlet for corporate misery it has to be You Tube. So, to all you cubicle workers both great and small, know that your plight was once much worse than it is now and here to highlight that is your Ben Hur moment from 1925.

"Deep-locked in the heart of each ship, a hell of human woe"


When One Shark...

Great story from Australia today as one image sets the table for stronger regional shark protections:

A PHOTO of a grey nurse shark with a gang hook protruding from its eye has helped convince the State Government that more needs to done to protect the endangered species on the Mid North Coast.



The government has assured environmental groups it will consider tightening fishing restrictions off South West Rocks where the critically endangered sharks exist.



At the same time, greater protection for grey nurse shark colonies may follow off Coffs Harbour as the government reviews its Solitary Island Marine Park policy.



Environmental groups have welcomed news that Primary Industries Minister Steve Whan will look at tightening fishing restrictions.



Fish Rock and nearby Green Island near South West Rocks were declared as critical habitat for the sharks in November 2002, resulting in fishing and diving regulations.



Complete Story.

Follow up Blog Post.

Shark Feeding Zeitgeist Monday

We will be posting Wolfgangs industry observations about Tiger feeding today. In a case of Monday Sharky Zeitgeist Why Sharks Matter covered the same issue from a different angle.

Commercial shark diving and research. It is hard data that helps our industry counter the hysterical anti-shark diving sentiment that often finds its way into the media mainstream:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Red Truck Fly Fishing - Why We Fish

As the CEO of a shark diving company I have what many consider an "odd hobby" that has nothing to do with sharks, conservation, or even the dive world.

It is a hobby that has found me over the years at 12,000 feet chasing Golden Trout
on the side of a mountain, and on backwoods "roads" in the western states where only a Toyota 4Runner could navigate. It has found me on more rivers and lakes then I care to remember all over the planet, on snow lined banks in the dead of winter where the deep freeze crystallizes the earth, and sleeping trout slurp buggy nymph patterns. It has found me camping overnight on stream sides where the morning dew coats everything in a rain forest like embrace of perfect wetness.

My hobby is more than a hobby.

Over the years it has turned me into an entomologist, a naturalist, a geologist, and a river keeper. Up until now I have not been able to share my hobby with those outside the fly fishing world because it is a world that is hard to describe and even harder to capture visually...until now.

The good folks over at Red Truck Fly Fishing have managed the impossible and have captured my other world in fantastic and riveting detail.

Welcome to my other world:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Oceana, Gulf Oil, and Sharks

Thanks to Shark Diver Gabriel Beyrent for the Oceana media find this morning:

Oceana have deployed underwater sensors in the area where a B.P oil rig exploded and collapsed nearly five months ago, spewing 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

They have used underwater cameras to check out an area called the Alabama Alps. They have sent divers down to look for evidence of dead sea life on the floor of the Gulf. Now scientists will be going shark fishing next week to see what effects, if any, the nation's worst oil disaster has had on those creatures.

"I think the picture is still cloudy,'' said Michael Hirshfield, the chief scientist at Oceana, an international conservation group.

Hirshfield made his comments earlier this week aboard the Oceana Latitude as it was about 20 miles off the shore of Mobile, Ala. The ship is expected to dock in St. Petersburg this weekend as the crew gets ready for the next leg involving sharks.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, scientists from Oceana and the National Aquarium will team up to head into the Gulf to fish for sharks. "We'll have to see what we can catch,'' said Elizabeth Wilson, a marine scientist and fisheries campaign manager for Oceana. "Our hope is we can find hammerhead and bull sharks.The sharks will be measured, logged and tagged and released back into the Gulf. If they are ever caught again, researchers can compare the original data. They can see how much they have grown, where they have moved to, and if they have suffered any ill health effects."It's a big unknown, but it is definitely something that I am concerned about,'' Wilson said of possible consequences from the oil in the Gulf.

The 170-foot Latitude vessel has been at sea in the Gulf since earlier this month and will be at sea until early October, except for the brief pit stop in St. Petersburg.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

2010 Isla Guadalupe Season Sold Out - But Wait There's More!

Our 2010 Isla Guadalupe white shark season has been "sold out" for quite a while.

In fact we have been actively booking 2011 shark diving dates since August, that's why the sudden news of a "off calendar date" that has just come on the market is good news.

Horizon Charters and the MV Horizon have opened Oct 9-14 2010 to interested divers, and we have sold 9 of these coveted spaces since yesterday.

Departures are from San Diego, Ca bypassing the traditional long bus rides into and out of Mexico.

The 2010 season is unique because of the limited loads we are taking, 12 instead of 16 divers, and for the $300 discounts we are offering to last minute divers.

Interested?

Please contact us asap, these last three spaces will be gone by the end of next week. Discounted dates include everything listed on our website including wetsuits, permits, and unlimited beer and wine.

Our 2010 shark diving season has been one of the best on record. White shark diving seasons like these are not to be missed with some of the bigger females cruising the waters of Point Norte at this time.

Let's go shark diving!

MPA Update and appeal for assistance: Maldives

In June 2009 as part of its commitment to CBD’s Programme Of Work on Protected Areas the Maldivian government gazetted three new MPA’s; two in Baa Atoll and one in South Ari Atoll. At 42km² South Ari MPA is the largest MPA in the Maldives. It encompasses a stretch of epipelagic reef that forms the primary whale shark aggregation site in the Maldives and one of only a couple of sites in the world where whale sharks can be consistently encountered year round.

Over the last 10 years South Ari’s reputation as a site that can reliably provide opportunities for people to swim with whale sharks has grown and now supports one of the largest whale shark-focused tourist industries in the world attracting between 60,000 and 90,000 visitors per year. Unfortunately despite the existence of codes of conduct, with no monitoring or enforcement to back them up the volume and behaviour of tourists seeking encounters is currently unregulated. As such tourist encounters are unsafe and invasive and long term are likely to prove unsustainable in their intensity.

The Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme is an NGO that since its inception in 2006 has been researching whale sharks and conducting community outreach in South Ari atoll and elsewhere in the Maldives. Working alongside the local community the MWSRP lobbied the Maldivian government for this area of South Ari to become an MPA and provided the whale shark data that helped to define its boundary.

Citing an acute lack of resources the Maldivian government has been unable to follow up the declaration of South Ari MPA with the actions needed to develop the proposed collaborative management structure. This is unfortunate as it is an area with a huge amount of potential. With an ever-present iconic species, existing tourism infrastructure, receptive local island communities and the successful piloting of a tourist contribution funding mechanism, South Ari has all the ingredients for a sustainable, self-financing, community led solution.

We believe this false start belies the potential of the MPA to become a model upon which a network of collaboratively managed MPA’s in the Maldives can be based. The MWSRP would like to use this portal to invite any person or parties to get in touch that would be interested in helping us to build upon the strong bonds with have forged with the local communities and the national government and help us to assist the South Ari community to source the expert guidance and funding needed to take this MPA to the next level.

Richard Rees
Director

Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (charity no. 1130369)

Maldives: +960 7542243

richard@maldiveswhalesharkresearch.org
http://www.mwsrp.org/

Dorsal Fin Scoop - Sharks in the Bay Area

The Dorsal Fin Blog got the scoop on a new media piece (NBC) on whites in the Bay Area. Tis' that time of year once again when "The Man in the Grey Suit" prowls the coastlines here:

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcbayarea.com/video.

STOP Shark Cage Diving - Target S.A

A new website is making the rounds with a familiar logo and a familiar theme.

Fear.

STOPsharkcagediving.com offers up a non scientific page of anti-shark diving hysteria with the help of a few industry generated videos from You Tube. A WHOIS search finds the owner(s) of this page have opted to remain anonymous.

Here's the homepage propaganda:

We as ocean lovers know sharks are not out to get us, we co-exist, and through conscious raising of awareness we will fight this pseudo-environmental practice making millions of dollars in the name of environmental research. We are not against research, we support boat-based shark viewing and free-diving, but we are vehemently against the cage and the taunting of these great creatures with bait to try get a good photo for your holiday album. Just watch a few of the cage-dive videos on YouTube and see for yourself, most people wouldn't even treat a large dog like that, taunting it repeatedly with food until it snaps. The only people who seem to support it are those who make a fat profit. Remember, us surfers and spearfishermen are the ones who remain in the waters daily, without a cage, and any change in behaviour is going to affect us, not you.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Shark Diver - Celebrating 10 Years and Thanks to Fiji

This morning posts by Da Shark over at the Beqa Adventure Diver Blog was one of the nicest in the longstanding online friendship that has developed over the past two years.

It's a friendship between operators who see eye to eye on many issues facing our industry, conservation, and the state of the union for sharks worldwide.

Some wonder about the nature of the "relationship," alternately asking if this is a business deal between operators, or an investment, anything but what is really is.

Respect.

As the CEO of Shark Diver I have come to respect quite a few folks in the industry, Da Shark being one of them. My respect is not given on the mere suggestion of others, nor do I give my respect freely without some deep thought and consideration about who or what the respect is for.

I respect industry thinkers and leaders. I respect those who work outside their comfort zones and who make smart, edgy, choices about their businesses and conservation. I respect what I came to define as Shark Divers mantra, "Noblesse Oblige" or Nobel Obligation. Both towards sharks and towards industry members who lead by example.

For Mike and his operation that comes naturally.

So to Mike and company - thanks. The past decade of commercial shark diving has been one of the greatest adventures one could ever hope to have. It was the meeting of those who I have come to call "friends" that has made this journey worthwhile.

Let's make that bottle the Château Pétrus. As you and I both know no one does a Merlot like these guys, and they have had it perfected since 1868. Of course they didn't really start swinging for the fences until just before the start of WW2.

Must be something in the soil;)

Cheers,
Patric Douglas CEO
www.sharkdiver.com
www.sharkdivers.com
www.sharkdivers.blogspot.com
www.guadalupefund.org
www.islandofthegreatwhiteshark.com
415.235.9410

Guadalupe Island - Diving With Great White Sharks 2010

When Drew Grgich called us many months ago to book a shark diving adventure we knew we had a budding Shark Diver on the line.

His enthusiasm for sharks you could "feel" all the way from Arizona.

He was also a non certified diver, one of the many we "train" to become Shark Divers each and every season.

Today Drew can call himself an Official Shark Diver having encountered the top shark species at the best site for them on the entire planet.

This is his 2010 trip report with image by Christy Fisher:

Day One (and a half)


We came from all over - - Michigan, New Jersey, Nebraska, the Bay Area, Vancouver, Maryland, and Arizona - - and all of us had one goal in mind … swimming with Great Whites. Mind you, none of us had death wishes so our goal was to do this swimming carefully ensconced in a steel cage. Nonetheless, we would be in the water with them and thus, they would be in the water with us! Our journey began in San Diego out of H&M Landing. Our vessel was the MW Horizon, an 88-ft. dive boat.

We boarded at about 10:30pm and were underway just after midnight. The first night was spent in fitful sleep while trying to detect whether or not the queasy feeling in our stomachs was the beginning of seasickness or just nerves. We arrived in Ensenada the next morning at around 9am. A quick check with Mexican customs officials sent us on our way to Isla Guadalupe, the fall home of some 100+ Great White sharks. The trip was uneventful if long - - 18 hours long to be exact. We were told that the ride was among the smoothest our captain had experienced. A few of us succumbed to seasickness but for the most part, all was well. We saw some remarkable sights - a blue whale, a thin whale, pods of fast moving and high jumping dolphins.

What I remember most about that day is how excited I was.

Few people in life are blessed with the sure knowledge of knowing exactly what they want most in life and even fewer get to experience that desire. For me, my most fervent wish was going to happen in a matter of hours. That's pretty heady stuff!

Day Two

At around 3am, the engine shut off when we arrived at our destination. I went up top a couple of hours later and was not surprised to see other early risers. We attempted to wrestle our cameras into taking decent photos - - not an easy feat at 5am before the sun had even made a token appearance - - and imagined that the murky waters surrounding us were teeming with sharks, each hungry for the first shift of divers.

The shift happened to include me!

Our divemaster, Martin Graf, took me into the cage and had me try a regulator for the first time. I did okay with the regulator but before Martin would declare me dive-worthy, I had to flood my mask and clear it through my nose. I gave it a good effort but sadly, I panicked when my first attempt resulted in a nose full of salt water. I shot to the surface and for a brief moment, wondered if I was going to be able to succeed. Martin was extremely patient and knew exactly how much space to give me in to get over my fears. My second attempt was successful. The secret was to get a steady rhythm breathing through my mouth to gain confidence, close my eyes, and exhale through my nose while tipping the mask.

We didn't have to wait long. The first Great White appeared within a few minutes, circling the cage a few feet below us in its graceful way. That shark was followed by another shortly behind. Both sharks hovered below and made lazy trips around the cages and all too soon, our first hour's rotation was over. All of us were fortunate on this trip. Two people had to cancel so this meant we had 10 divers instead of 12. The cages fit four people each. This meant that we could effectively have as much dive time as we wanted.

I took an extra shift that first day so I had five hours in the cages. We saw seven different sharks the first day. Most kept a respectable distance from the cage but some ventured close enough to touch if we were really inclined to do so. No one was. :) We knew that they were different sharks as the patterns of markings around their gills and fins serve as a sort of fingerprint. These sharks are in turn named by the people who first see them. Scientists do this so that they can identify populations and measure data points such as the number of years that they have been coming to the island, how much the sharks are growing, and how many sharks are seasonal residents.

Some come every year while some visit more irregularly. For the record, the sharks we saw on Day One were Jacques, Bite Face, the Russian, Johnny, Cris Cross, and a new unnamed male. We don't know who gets to name that shark . . . the suspense is delicious. :) The highlight of Day One -- aside from the fact that I was diving with Great Whites! -- was a rotation where Jacques circled the cage for the entire hour. I was able to shoot forty minutes of video going from one side of the cage to the other. Some passes were within inches of my video camera - - I got some great shots!

Day Three

The next morning, I took the first rotation of the day along with two other brave souls. We saw some sharks but they were far below. We tried a variety of tricks to attract the shark's attention - - stomping our feet, hitting the cage ladder with some of our lead weights, singing show tunes - - but nothing enticed the sharks closer that first shift.

Following shifts were much more productive. I spent the first three hours of the day in the cages and shot more video. I grabbed another three shifts after lunch for a total of six hours in the cages. There were two highlights on day two. The first was that I happened to be looking in the exact direction necessary to witness a full breach. This is when the shark completely propels itself out of the water while in pursuit of prey. The prey happened to be a seagull and it got out of the way just in time to escape the leaping shark. I was one of two people onboard who saw the breach and it was truly a magnificent sight.

It was a smaller shark - - maybe 6-8 feet - - but it was a full breach!! The second highlight was more ignominious. We saw a new shark -- Gunther -- who was kind enough to - - - well, poop - - - directly in front of the cage next to us. It was amusing to see and pleased the 10-year old children inside my cage mate and I . . . until the current pulled us directly into it. I can thus say that I was blessed enough to be pooped on by a Great White.

Day Four


I only took half of the sharkwatch shift. It was okay - - nothing really when compared to the first couple of days. I took two more shifts for the day before we had to leave. We did get a great couple of close passes by Bite Face and Jacques. This was especially memorable for me as Bite Face was a featured shark on Expedition Great White, a show about scientists tagging Great Whites at Isla Guadalupe. It was fun to see the satellite tags that they had attached to Bite Face to track him. It is also cool to know that if they show his progress in a future show, one of the lines will cross where I saw him. :)

We left for home following the morning drives and have a rough patch of choppy water to look forward to. I'm writing this as we make our slow way north across the Pacific. I can honestly say that there are four events in my life that top my list. The first would be my wedding with really, a tied two and three being the births of my kids. Close behind would be this trip. I was a little worried that I'd be petrified of going into the water with the sharks but I didn't have even a lick of fear. The sharks are obviously curious about we monkey folks in the cage - why would they stick around if they weren't?

They certainly did not make any attempts to harm us and I didn't hesitate to hang my arms out of the cage to hold my camera for a better picture. That said, I wasn't stupid - - - no dangling legs over the side of the cage, for example.

Final Tally on how many hours I dove - - 15.5 hours!

My favorite Martin Graf quote - Sharks are like babies. There are only two types of items to a shark -- things that fit in their mouth and things that might.