Wednesday, December 29, 2010
White sharks in Mexico are under siege, making sites like Isla Guadalupe rare safe areas in the life cycle of these magnificent animals. This shark was taken in February of 2010:
In the annals of sideways media reportage on sharks this particular article got the attention of one Doc Gruber. His article comments serves as a smart, fact filled template, on effective pro-shark media response.
Hattip:Mike over in Fiji.
Doc Gruber on Sharks
Dear Voice of Russia: Thank you for allowing me to comment on your article Meeting a Shark: Be Prepared. In all my 50 years of professionally studying sharks I do not think I have ever read an article so full of clichés and downright misinformation than reporter Yelena Kovachich has produced. Russia is a nation with many experts on shark biology (for example Dr. Feodor Litvanov firstname.lastname@example.org) so it is clear to me that Yelena did not do her homework.
I will give a few examples but one concern is the swindle that the Sochi Aquarium seems to be running. Training divers on how to respond to sharks is just a scam. The explanation given by your reporter shows that the Sochi program directors know noting about swimming with sharks or shark behavior. They seem to be just pandering to the fears caused by such mythical stories as Jaws which irrationally frighten the public. Then they have the nerve to charge them to play right into the fears that they themselves created. Just one more point: thousands of divers spend tens of millions of rubles annually to swim with sharks and they mainly prepare with cameras!!
Ok—on to some of the misinformation: Yelana states that Divers show people how to hide from them among coral reefs—do you think someone could actually hide from a shark? They can sense you sounds and even the electrical signals from you metallic dive gear!! Why would someone need to hide from a shark?
Your chances to survive if attacked by these creatures are slim to none-- Patently untrue. You chances of surviving an attack are better than 100:1 as the three Russian shark attack survivors learned. On the other hand your chances of being attacked while in the water are about 5,000,000:1.
Sharks can sense tiny amounts of blood - even a single drop - in the water up to 5 kilometers away and trace them back to their source. Again patently untrue. Shark can not detect blood at all. They do sense amino acids present in some kinds of blood but do not seem that interested in human blood. In any case sharks detect dilutions of around 1 part amino acid to 1,000,000 parts of water. This means that if you dilute a drop of blood in 1000 liters of seawater a shark could barely detect it. Can you imagine the amount of water in 5 km of ocean? Pure nonsense.
Three people will be enough to scare a shark away. Where did this number come from? There were more than three people in the water when the unfortunate Russians—all three were bitten.
The largest sharks known - the great whites - dwell along the east coast of the USA. They regularly attack people, confusing them with their top menu selection - sea lions and seals. Here is a sentence with four pieces of misinformation. 1 The larger shark is the whale shark Rincodon typus; 2. White sharks being warm blooded dwell pretty much where they want—inshore to open sea, topical or temperate seas. 3. Great whites do not regularly attack people and even considering the tiny number of attacks, are not even in first place. That dishonor belongs to the bull shark, Carcharhinus leucas. 4. Great whites are not confused by people nor is their main food sea lions which incidentally are only found off the west coast of the US, not the east coast. And while they do eat seals and sea lions during the pupping season they also eat many varieties of fish and other sharks.
Need I go on? Here is my thought on the subject: How many citizens of Russia and the Ukraine have enjoyed holidays in Egypt’s Sharm area? Of those how many have been bitten by sharks? Nearly all of them have been exposed to sharks while swimming in the Red Sea with no negative experiences. However when humans enter the sea they enter the realm of the shark as well as myriads of other potentially dangerous species. You take a chance albeit infinitely small when swimming in the ocean. You main concern should be drowning or getting hit by a boat. Enjoy the ocean! Live to the fullest!!
Dr. Samuel H. Gruber
Division of Marine Biology and Fisheries
Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences
University of Miami 33149-1098
Bimini Biological Field Station
9300 SW 99 St
Miami FL 33176-2050
305 274 0628 fax or phone
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
That's when things got very, very interesting:
Face to face.
Underwater photographer Daniel Selmeczi came back with this image (click for larger size) after a trip to the Red Sea and we would like to offer it up as Shark Picture of the Year.
It's hard not to like an image that captures "a day in the life" - shot from the plankton's eye view.
See this is full size and spend a minute taking it all in. If this shot was a meal it would be something straight out of California's famed French Laundry.
Kudos to Daniel.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Fifty years ago, the Arabian Gulf was full of sharks, but now no one knows how many are left.
Kuwaitis who once lived off the Gulf's fish and pearls seem not to know or care. Only a few individual voices and small NGOs call for conservation.
Environmental filmmaker Zeina Aboul Hosn joined an expedition to search for the forgotten sharks of the Gulf. She and expedition leader Richard Peirce find sharks lying dead in Kuwait's fish market, their fins cut off for soup.
Zeina had to dive into an aquarium in front of gawping tourists to film her first live shark before she finally got to swim with a small group of sharks in the wild waters, bringing us the full emotion of this story of devastation:
Friday, December 24, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
It’s a dance never before imagined. These massive predators — lions of this oceanic food chain — swimming on the Atlantic’s surface by night and by day, sinking blindly to its inky depths, so far down no light could ever reach them, no creature could ever be seen.
And it’s a winter ritual that has scientists amazed.
"Nobody had any idea they were doing this," Steve Campana, head of the Dartmouth-based shark research team that made the discovery, said in a recent interview.
"We found that all of these sharks are leaving Canadian waters in the late fall and when they swim out, they inevitably run into the Gulf Stream, this giant current of warm water that comes up from the Caribbean. Within a day or two of hitting the Gulf Stream, every single blue shark started this wild diving behaviour whereby they would spend the night up in the surface waters — in the top 30 or 50 feet (nine or 15 metres) — and every day they would spend down in incredible depths, as far as a kilometre below the surface.
"Thou shalt not allow or enable images and video that depict operations doing bad things with sharks"
Simple enough rule and yet too many industry members seem to forget that we live in a hyper connected media environment. An environment where videos and images of sharks smashing into cages, or worse, are transmitted around the world to waiting agenda based groups, and on to agencies tasked with providing the frame work and guidelines for our industries continued existence.
This weeks series of videos featuring white sharks thrashing against shark cages are another reason for operations to take a hard look at how they bait animals and why they are doing it.
Shark diving, done right, is a first class educational tool for thousands of divers worldwide. Additionally shark research efforts in tandem with operations helps the species with regional protections based on solid data.
Our industry has much to offer sharks in a time of profound shark crises. But only if operations can find their way past cheap stunt work with sharks and see the broader vision of sustainability.
FORMAT: Multi-Camera, HD, 16:9. Field produced & shot by the Paxton Brothers in dual role as Science Party Crew and Presenters.
STATUS: Project available for co-production & development, programming content & distribution, news/media stock footage and certain educational applications.
The team at Think Out Loud Productions is focused on innovative outdoor adventure & wildlife footage, still and textual content to support non-fiction or documentary television programming and / or other multi-media educational opportunities.
Contact: Info@ThinkOutLoudProductions.com for details.
For More Information Visit: ThinkOutLoudProductions
The Shark Conservation Act will bring the Pacific fisheries into line with the rest of the country’s fins-attached policy, and strengthen the U.S. position in international shark conservation efforts.
Shark Conservation Act
- H.R. 81, introduced by Rep. Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam, had the bipartisan support of 30 cosponsors and passed the House by voice vote with an amendment offered by Rep. Eni Faleomavaega, D-American Samoa, on March 2, 2009.
- S. 850, introduced by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., had the bipartisan support of 33 cosponsors.
- H.R. 81, with Senate amendments, passed the Senate by unanimous consent on December 20, 2010.
- Up to 73 million sharks are killed each year in targeted fisheries and as bycatch. Shark finning is a major cause of massive declines in shark populations around the world, since retaining only the fins allows fishing operations to kill many more sharks at a time (filling their onboard freezers with just the fins while dumping the bodies overboard).
- When sharks’ fins are cut off and their live bodies are thrown back into the water.
- As top predators, sharks play an important role in maintaining ecosystem balance. The killing of large numbers of sharks already appears to be affecting other marine species and commercial fisheries. When shark stocks are depleted, their natural prey proliferate and can have a devastating impact on the species they feed on – for example, fewer sharks mean more skates and rays, who in turn have taken a large bite out of scallop and other shellfish populations.
- A national fins-attached policy will provide for improved conservation and management of steeply declining shark populations. It is often impossible to identify a shark species solely by looking at its fins, so landing sharks with fins attached is crucial for tracking which species are caught.
- The Senate-passed bill includes an exemption for smooth dogfish sharks, which are typically caught along the East Coast primarily for their meat. The exemption will put the onus on that fishery to ensure that no fins from any other species are included in smooth dogfish landings.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
One type is a satellite tag that includes a GPS receiver and transmitter, and signals via satellite the location of the shark. The other type is a small acoustic tag or pinger that transmits a signal that can be detected by a permanent or hand held receiver, so showing that the animal is near.
The acoustic tags ( pingers ) can be used to detect movements on a finer scale, providing a more detailed picture of the behaviour and movement of the tiger sharks while they are in Cayman. They will show which sea areas they actually use, and at what time of day.
The sharks, a ten feet female called Tina and a seven feet younger, immature female Luiza, will help the researchers understand their species' migration patterns, movements and behaviour when they are in Cayman.
"Both of them seem to being doing fine. Tina has reported in several times a day while moving around the island; she seems to be deep during the day, coming into shallower water at night to look for the stingrays and turtles on which these species normally feed," said lead researcher Dr. Mauvis Gore.
"Tiger sharks like many other species are increasingly endangered, as a result of intense overfishing globally. In fact large shark species are becoming so scarce globally that in many countries they are either fully protected, or else their fishing quotas have been reduced to zero," she added.
Only in the last few years have scientists discovered that tiger sharks can make extensive annual migrations between countries or even across oceans. The tracks revealed by the satellite tags results will show whether the tiger sharks that are sometimes observed in the Cayman Islands move around or between the islands, and whether, as suspected, they are here for only part of the year, and then migrate elsewhere.
International efforts to protect dwindling shark populations have come to the fore in the last few years because of the dramatic crash in shark populations that has taken place globally. Unlike bony fish, sharks mature very slowly and reproduce only once every one to two years, producing only a small number of pups. Yet over the last decade or two 70 million sharks per year have been fished and killed, almost entirely for their fins that are in demand as a component of sharks' fin soup.
"Even if we agree to exploit sharks," said Dr. Gore. "We want to do it sustainably, not in this crazy way that will see the resource completely destroyed in another 10 years. As it is, sharks are now far more valuable in the sea, than in the fishing boat. Divers will pay good money to dive in places where they have a chance of seeing such iconic wildlife, and the same sharks can be seen over and over again - whereas once it's dead that's it, and it fetches very little in the market."
"Tiger sharks are one of my favourite animals;" added Guy Harvey, whose Ocean Foundation provided the satellite tags, and who helped the team catch Luiza.
"They are the most handsome of all the sharks, and I just love painting them. It's just unfortunate they have these stripes that give rise to their name, making people think they are much more dangerous than they really are."
Guy, a well-known artist and local resident, has also assisted with tagging of tiger sharks in Bermuda and the Bahamas.
The tiger shark study is part of a project that is being undertaken by a team from Marine Conservation International led by Dr. Gore. The project is funded by UK Overseas Territories Environment Programme ( OTEP ) together with the Cayman Islands Department of Environment, the Save Our Seas Foundation, and the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. The team have been working in the Cayman Islands over the past year and a half to assess the species and abundance of species of both sharks and rays as well as whales and dolphins.
"We are very pleased with the preliminary results of this work," stated Gina Ebanks-Petrie, Director of the DoE, "it is our duty to manage our marine environment in the best interests of the people of the islands; it makes sense to find ways of managing our resources so they benefit us in the long-term, not destroy them; and we also have international obligations to protect these threatened species."
Sharks, because of media "hype" and their "Jaws" image, often cause public concern. But shark attacks on man are in fact very rare, typically causing only 4 - 6 fatalities throughout the whole world per year.
The resident project officer Mr. Oliver Dubock explained that people's fear of sharks was greatly exaggerated. "Of course they can be dangerous," he said, "but no more than fierce dogs. You need to know how to behave and how to handle them. Just as an example, in Florida on average over 70 people per year die from boating accidents, but less than one every two years as a result of shark attack."
Tim Austin, Deputy-Director at the DoE, added "We plan to keep people informed about the behaviour of Tina and Luiza. We hope to be able to keep the press updated with maps of their migrations. Of course it is essential that they are not harmed. All past experience has shown that killing local tiger sharks does not get rid of them; others simply come in from elsewhere. We urge fishermen and divers to join this important conservation effort and help look after these two beautiful animals."
Monday, December 20, 2010
Drumlines and shark nets are antiquated shark protection systems, a 1950's solution to issues between sharks and commercial tourism.
Frankly, we can do better.
The image featured here is a Gold Coast caught white shark from 2009 on a drumline set to "protect" bathers from these animals. Typically these sharks are disposed of at sea, the public is largely unaware that just off their pristine beaches, sharks are being killed indiscriminately.
So you can imagine the head shaking going on after reading an article this week where shark net managers along the Gold Coast are noticing smaller numbers of sharks caught in their nets...and are blaming commercial shark finners for sharks disappearance.
"Startling figures yesterday revealed shark nets had caught 40 less sharks in the past 12 months compared to the same period in 2001/02"
"In the 2001-02 financial year 78 sharks were caught in nets off the Coast but by 2009-10 the number had dropped to 37."
You can files these observations under "WFT".
Perhaps shark finning has something to do with the drop in numbers, or perhaps breeding populations, after close to 50 years of slaughter in the name of shark free beaches, are finally crashing. Perhaps it is an ugly combination of both factors and a few not yet identified.
The point is, this weeks article from shark net and drumline mangers is a bit much, even to the eyes of the most jaded shark conservationist.
Let's start rebuilding local Gold Coast shark populations by removing the shark nets and drumlines, because any data coming from these "merchants of death" is suspect and absolutely not a solution, except for smaller populations of sharks.
Featuring 25 tagged Bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) and one of the most in depth looks into the migration and movement patterns of this unique shark species.
Shark researcher Dr.Amy Smoothey and her team have been on the Clarence River since October of this year catching primarily female sharks and tagging them.
Additional listening stations will be places all over the region to determine the sharks movement patterns over the next decade.
Unlike most sharks, bull sharks tolerate fresh water and can travel far up river systems making this species unique.
More on the project.
More on dead shark discovered in November.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
When the fishing is this good you'll travel miles to get it and a Big D delivers time and again. 8-12lb 30 inch plus Steelhead are the draw with line clearing runs that leave you gasping for breath.
Some of these animals are two and three salts, really smart fish.
My favorite online fly fishing gear company Red Truck posted another in a series of amazing fly fishing videos. If you want to know what Steelheading is all about, look no further, and welcome to one of my favorite rivers, the Big D:
Just in time too, as the local situation by all accounts was getting to the point where police had to be called in to separate feuding operators. At dispute were price cuts, non regulated site drop ins, and animal stunts that had operators lifting animals out of the water, and feeding animals mouth to mouth.
This weeks final meeting was heated again, but the new rules and regulations agreed upon by the majority should be beneficial for all parties - including the stingrays.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Harold Hix, 56, of Panama City Beach, sold 56 shark fins, shark meat and king mackerel to FWC investigators on Sept. 8, Oct. 1 and Oct. 9, according to a news release from FWC. He routinely fished from the Panama City Beach City Pier and the Bay County Pier, where he caught several species of large, coastal sharks, including hammerhead, blacktip, tiger, nurse and bull. He then sold the fins and meat.
Florida law prohibits recreational anglers from selling full or partial sharks without the proper license. Those with a license can only sell some species during the appropriate seasons.
“This is part of our ongoing effort to curb unlawful sales of saltwater products by unlicensed people and unlawful sale of protected marine species,” Capt. Bruce Cooper, leader of FWC investigations in Northwest Florida.
Editors Note: Total fine? $650. Not sure if this fine is a deterrent or not given the market value of shark fin. Additionally not mentioned anywhere in the mainstream media are the commercial sources Mr. Hix sold his shark fin to. It would be interesting to following the supply chain back to his primary customer base in the region and see if there are others making a living from the fining of sharks in Florida's waters.
Friday, December 17, 2010
NEWS RELEASE For Immediate Release
Sharm El-Sheikh Shark Attacks: Update
Between November 30 and December 5, 2010 there were 5 unprovoked shark attacks reported from Sharm El-Shiekh, Egypt. Following these attacks the Egyptian government assembled an international team of experts to conduct a forensic analysis of the attacks: Ralph S. Collier, President of the Shark Research Committee and Director of the Global Shark Attack File; Marie Levine, Executive Director, of the Shark Research Institute; Moustafa Fouda, MSEA; Mohammad Salem, EEAA; and Nassar Galal, CDWS.
The team gathered eyewitness testimony, examined the attack locations, and reviewed the forensic evidence, including all environmental factors present prior to each of the attacks. The following is a list of those factors they believed to be contributor to the attacks:
* The illegal dumping of sheep carcasses by animal transport vessels within 1.2 miles of the shore.
* The unique underwater topography of the area; i.e., deep water very close to shore allowing pelagic sharks and humans to swim in close proximity.
* Although fishing is restricted in the Sharm El-Sheikh region, unrestrained fishing in the Red Sea has depleted fish stocks and reduced the amount of natural prey available to sharks.
* Shark and human population dynamics, i.e., 5 million people visit Sharm El-Sheikh annually and numbers of sharks migrate through the area each year.
* Feeding of fish by glass bottom boats and swimmers drew the sharks close to the beach.
* Elevated sea temperatures resulted in higher metabolic rates of the sharks and increased their energy (food) requirements.
* Although prohibited, it is believed that some dive operators have been feeding the sharks, which could have habituated the sharks to humans as a source for food.
It was determined from forensic evidence and eyewitness testimony that two species of sharks were responsible for the attacks; shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrinchus, and oceanic whitetip, Carcharhinus longimanus. Historical data obtained from the Global Shark Attack File for Egypt confirmed additional incidents from 2004 to the present (www.sharkattackfile.net).
Suggestions to reduce the potential for such future events were provided to officials for review and implementation.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Sharks are found in association with main Hawaiian Island ocean fish farms more frequently and at higher densities than is typical for coastal Hawaiian waters. Sharks attracted to fish farms could potentially threaten human water users, interact negatively with other fisheries, and seasonal migrations could be disrupted if individuals become entrained around farms throughout the year. We hypothesised that smaller coastal species would reside near farms, whereas more wide-ranging species would associate with farms only for short periods. We utilised passive acoustic telemetry to monitor the movements and behaviour of sandbar (Carcharhinus plumbeus) and tiger (Galeocerdo cuvier) sharks adjacent to two open ocean fish farms in Hawaii. Approximately half the tagged sandbar sharks showed site fidelity to the farms, with some individuals being detected repeatedly for 2.5 years. Sandbar sharks moved seasonally to the west coast of Oahu, suggesting that fish farms are not disrupting natural seasonal cycles in this species. Tiger sharks tagged near the cages were more transient, and showed much shorter residence times although some individuals returned sporadically to the cages over the 3-year period. Ocean fish cages appear to aggregate sandbar sharks, but are only ‘visited’ by tiger sharks. Although threats to public safety are probably minimal, the ecological effects of aggregating top-predators are still unknown.
Published: 13 December 2010
Yannis P. Papastamatiou, David G. Itano, Jonathan J. Dale, Carl G. Meyer and Kim N. Holland.
Marine and Freshwater Research 61(12) 1366-1375 doi:10.1071/MF10056
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Here's the company she went with - North Shore Shark Adventures.
Here's the NGO she's working with to save sharks, one PSA at a time:
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The future of our planet in immutable, stark, and realistic terms.
Open a fine vintage tonight, watch this film, and celebrate our magnificence as a species.
The past 60 years have been a wonderful party.
The next 60?
Let's all hope we can find that 100th monkey...soon.
Monday, December 13, 2010
In a rather non scientific main stream news piece this week, more a hysterical diatribe, he makes assertions based on his first hand hearsay that operators in the Sharm el Shiekh region are filling wetsuits with meat to attract sharks.
"I've heard stories of people wanting to film fake shark attacks, and actually stuffing diving suits full of meat and chucking them in the sea to provoke one".
Stunts With Sharks
Stunt work with sharks is nothing new, but usually these stunts are well known and well publicised and our industry generally views those who conduct stunts with sharks with complete disdain. In a time of profound shark crises, stunt work with sharks does nothing to help the animals "professional" shark tourism operations make a living with.
Stuffing wetsuits with meat of any kind to provoke a shark attack is not only disrespectful to the animals, it is the hallmark of self centered, ignorant, and sloppy operations.
Perhaps Mr.Crimmen is confusing stunt work with sharks at other sites to recent attacks in the Sharm el Shiekh region, or perhaps Mr.Crimmen, who is a staff member at Natural History Museum in London, should stick to facts and not publicly slander our industry without substantive proof.
It is one thing to come to the most unfortunate series of shark attacks in recent recorded history with facts, like the discovery of dead sheep dumped in the region in the months prior to these attacks. It is quite another to pull unknown and unverified factoids about meat filled wetsuits and inject them into the already over sensationalized discussion of what caused these sharks to attack swimmers.
Let's try and bring the conversation down a few notches. The commercial shark diving industry is not to blame in Sharm el Shiekh, as yet known, and any major media conversation to the contrary, without all the facts, damages the efforts responsible shark tourism operations worldwide are currently engaged in.
Finder of cool shark content, content delivery without the hype:
The bill was originally introduced by Representative Diego Tenorio Benavente into the CNMI House of Representatives, where it was approved on November 17th.
The landmark bill recognizes sharks to be “an essential element of the ocean’s ecosystem” because of their role as apex predator of the sea. It seeks to stop the severe over-fishing of sharks that occurs worldwide in order to feed the status-driven demand for shark fin soup.
The bill makes it “unlawful for any person to possess, sell, offer for sale, trade, or distribute shark fins in the CNMI”. The bill is similar in that regard to one recently passed in the State of Hawaii. If signed into law, the CNMI will join another Pacific island nation, Palau, which has also taken a bold stand to protect its nation’s sharks.
“The Senate’s move today takes the CNMI one step closer to stopping the shark fin trade, perhaps the most wasteful and destructive practice affecting ocean life”, said Peter Knights of WildAid. “It’s heartening to see the CNMI taking the lead among Pacific island nations to adopt tough anti-shark-fin-trade laws to protect their nation’s wildlife and resources from such destruction.”
The bill goes on to explain that sharks are especially vulnerable to overfishing because they reproduce slowly. It is the combination of overfishing and inability to overcome it via reproduction that has resulted in alarming shark population declines in recent decades.
“Increasingly, the countries most dependent on the ocean are rallying to the defense of sharks, perhaps the ocean’s most important inhabitants,” said Michael Skoletsky, of Shark Savers. “The CNMI’s intelligent decision to preserve sea life will benefit future generations and attract lucrative underwater tourism, rather than allowing foreign fisheries and shark fin cartels to plunder its resources.”
Sharks, as apex predators, play a vital role in regulating the health of important commercial fish species, population balance, and coral reefs. Despite this importance, up to 73 million sharks are killed annually for their fins, with some shark populations declining by as much as 90%. Stopping the shark fin trade is seen as a critical means to stop the depletion of shark populations.
The bill still needs to be reconciled with the slightly different version approved by the House before being signed into law by Governor Benigno R. Fitial.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
In 2005, I began filming what was to become Island of the Great White Shark, a documentary on the white sharks of Isla Guadalupe, Baja and the important working relationship that exists between the shark diving operators and Mexican researchers.
It took several seasons of filming at Isla Guadalupe, returning year after year, looking to grab one more shot that was needed for editing - at least that was always the excuse. Actually, any chance I got to see these amazing predators first hand and up close, eye to eye - well, I took it.
During one particular trip to the island, during the second season of filming, I had one of those special encounters, the memory of which has stuck in my mind and I hope I never give it up. We had been seeing sharks all day and, as is the case at Isla Guadalupe in the latter part of the season, they were mostly large females. Due to the rough and tumble nature of shark mating, mature females are often badly scared. This comes from amorous males who secure their grip on the female prior to mating by biting her around the head and gills.
On this trip, I was filming within the cage - although I use that term rather loosely. Professionally, I tend to not use a cage but in my earlier years working with white sharks I would at least use the cage as a secure platform from which I would lean out into open water to get striking close-ups of the sharks as they pass by. Familiar and, for the most part, totally disinterested in the cages or the divers inside, the sharks, however, would become curious about this large protrusion (me!) extending from the cage into their domain.
Following a lull in shark activity, I was about to surface when out of the depths below a large female rose up to see what was going on. Attracted by the scent of fish (this was before restrictions were imposed on chumming), this 16-foot leviathan came into view and she was truly magnificent. At around 3,000 pounds, she was fully mature and perfect in shape and proportions, with hardly a scratch on her - absolutely stunning. I started to roll tape, hoping I would get a shot or two before she moved on.
Her name was "Mystery", given to her by researchers who have studied and cataloged the great white sharks of Isla Guadalupe. Sharks can be easily identified by various body markings and scars. Even the pattern of gray above and white below that runs along the side of the shark's body acts like a lasting fingerprint.
Mystery was quite curious with me and provided me with a wonderful close pass right in front of my lens before sniffing the bait floating in the water and then gliding off into the gloom, out of sight. "That was a really great shot," I thought.
And then she returned. Another close pass, another swing by the bait, and then you could see her cruise just along the edge of visibility. I was beginning to get a feel for her whereabouts, her preferred movement patterns, so I could anticipate her approach and ready myself for when she either approached the bait and then swung by to take another look at me, or vice versa.
Each encounter I expected to be the last and she would then move on to more interesting opportunities. But she stayed. And for the next hour and a half, I had an ongoing love affair with a gorgeous animal, the likes of which I have never seen since. When I returned home, I had marvelous new footage to add to my documentary. Mystery became the leading lady of Island of the Great White Shark and much of the natural beauty of these animals that I was able to convey to the viewer I owe all to her.
Mystery appeared the following season at Isla Guadalupe but, sadly, I have not seen her since nor have I heard of any reports of her being seen by other divers. The great white sharks of Isla Guadalupe are pretty regular in their migrations - from the island to the mid-Pacific and back again, over and over. It's been several years since I have last seen her and I worry that she may have met her end, perhaps at the hands of poachers or illegal shark fishing operations. White sharks are protected at Isla Guadalupe and within U.S. territorial waters, but their annual migrations take them well into unprotected waters.
Mystery. She may truly be a mystery now, but the memory of our brief time together - not as predator and prey, but as two intensively curious fellow creatures - will always remain as one of the highlights of my underwater filming career.
Island of the Great White Shark is available on DVD at Amazon.com and in gift shops at several major aquariums across the country. Learn more about the film and the white sharks of Isla Guadalupe at www.islandofthegreatwhiteshark.com.
Shark finning is banned in the EU but under present rules member states may issue special permits to exempt fishing vessels from the finning-at-sea prohibition.
Sonja Fordham of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Shark Specialist Group is calling on EU member nations to close the loophole.
As with any multi-national conservation agreements, the devil is in the fine print. Closing loopholes and enforcement are the second act to serious shark conservation efforts.
Industry generated analysis has been for the most part excellent, and yesterday Da Shark in Fiji wrote some of the best shark attack coverage and analysis yet.
Update: Two different pelagic species have been confirmed in these attacks.
We are leaning towards conditioning as a main driver for these attacks. A cargo ship carrying 120,000 head of sheep dumped an unknown number of dead animals several miles off the coast at Tiran Island in the weeks prior to these attacks. This carcass dump may have provided the floating conditioning opportunity, over time, to radically change pelagic sharks normal caution towards unknown objects in the water.
Da Shark on Sharm el Shiekh 2010
Time for a preliminary post mortem.
Like everybody interested in Sharks, I’ve been closely following the news tidbits trickling out from Sharm El Sheikh and the various opines in the media and the blogosphere.
There’s much of the usual fluff and idiocy - but there’s also some stellar stuff.
Take the “experts”. Whilst many prate and pontificate, I found this remarkable interview with Avi Baranes. Now THIS is the kind of person you gotta consult, a highly reputable Shark researcher who has been investigating those very waters for a very long time – and accordingly, the interview brims with factual information and quietly addresses and dispels the usual myths.
Equally noteworthy are the posts by Richard, by the SOSF and by Michael Scholl - however with some caveats that I’d like to address below.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Instead this video is a snapshot of daily life in the region, taken by photojournalist Alex Hofford.
Welcome to the sidewalk of tears:
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
9/25/2010 9:45:00 PM
CAIRO, Sept 25 (KUNA) -- The Egyptian authorities started Saturday clearing the Straits of Tiran, northeast the Red Sea, of dead sheep thrown into the sea by a cargo vessel recently.
The move aims to prevent the carcasses being drifted towards the tourist resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, at the southernmost tip of Sinai Peninsula, Minister of State for Environment Affairs Eng. Majed George told reporters here.
"We have contacts managers of all hotels of the city, which overlook the straits, as well as the nature reserves there to inform them of the problem and coordinate steps in this regard," the minister pointed out.
"Reacting promptly to complaints from some hotels in the area, the operation room of the crisis-management unit adopted measures to retrieve the carcasses and bury them at an ecologically-safe site," George said.
"Measures are underway to assess the environment damage and sue the owner of the vessel Badr 3," he disclosed adding that a survey of the area showed 33 carcasses scattered off Ras Mohammad National Park.
Boats belonging to the Ministry of Environment and vehicles of the South Sinai Governorate take part in the clearing campaign.
The ship, owned by an Australian company and carrying The Bahamas flag, was reportedly carrying 120,000 heads of sheep when the accident took place.
This is a dynamic map of the region, you can zoom in and move around the area for a better view:
What is not being discussed are the numerous eyewitness reports of dead farm animals floating in local waters prior to the attacks. The animals were first sighted in the Tiran Strait off Tiran Island (top right of image) with reports of a commercial vessel dumping dead animals at sea.
At least two eye witness reports say that dead sheep washed onshore during the preceding week not far from where the first attacks took place. What is absolutely sure, looking at the facts through a commercial shark diving lens, is that something caused a normally curious and manageable shark population to suddenly "turn on".
A floating train of large dead farm animals with sharks feasting on these remains in the days prior to encounters with swimmers, might be the trigger.
We decided to explore the "theory" that dead animals dumped at sea off Tiran Island could in fact end up close to shore off Sharm el Shiekh. We asked John Amos from Sky Truth to review satellite data from the region to see if wind and current could move dead animals, floating on the surface, in the right direction. The answer was yes, theoretically animals dumped in the Trian Strait might end up in the most populated regions off the coastline off Shark el Shiekh.
The first step in proving the dead farm animal theory is done. The next step would be to track back the offending vessel by reviewing cargo manifests of all vessels in the region during the preceding two weeks to see if any were:
1. In the Tiran Straits
2. Had a cargo of sheep and perhaps cows
The notion that commercial diving operations could radically alter sharks normal cautionary behaviour towards swimmers and divers with some basic chumming has been put forward by those with little to no experience with sharks. In short, this kind of shark behavior has never happened during past chumming efforts by local dive operations, so why would it now?
The animals who encountered surface swimmers in and around Sharm el Shiekh were in full predation mode, the unfortunate loss of an arm and leg to a 70 year old German swimmer is testament to animals that were recently accustomed to large volume surface feedings.
These were not frenzied animals as has been suggested by the main stream media, rather, these were conditioned animals.
We're leaning towards the theory that multiple sheep and perhaps a cow carcass, bloated by the sun, and floating in a current and wind driven southbound train, was followed and consumed by a number of Oceanic Whitetips (Carcharhinus longimanus), and Makos (Isurus oxyrinchus) which is absolutely normal for these species. This carcass train eventually found it's way closer to heavily populated areas off Sharm el Shiekh with the now conditioned sharks in tow. When these sharks, in full predation mode, encountered swimmers, normal cautionary behavior sets towards unknown objects in the water had been turned off.
An unprecedented series of attacks on swimmers and an ensuing media frenzy.
The facts about this case need to be known as it's impacts are already being felt worldwide. Our industry will have to remain vigilant against theories put forward by non-industry members who see sharks though a 1970's era lens of frenzied or rouge animals. .
Hopefully the shark attack specialists who are now in Sharm el Shiekh will find the answers.
Extensive coverage from RTSea Productions.
Update: Dead sheep story confirmed, September 26, 2010.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
If there was an award for this kind of front line reporting and presentation fact, the team behind this video would get it. Perhaps we should start with something like this?
Sit back and ab-sorb this, once you're done we defy you not to want to "grab a flight to join the fight".
Sunday, December 5, 2010
The mainstream media's coverage has been typical, covering these ongoing attacks with no real background or substance.
Obviously something has changed in the region and with the sharks off Sharm el-Sheikh.
We chose Red Sea Diving College, a 20 year dive industry veteran, and for the past 4 years winner of the "Best Dive Center Award".
We interviewed dive center manager Jochen Van Lysebettens who has been diving Sharm el-Sheikh for the past 5 years to get a better idea of what is happening on the ground level.
Ocean and beachfront based tourism in Egypt accounts for $10 billion dollars of the Egyptian economy. The stakes for these recent shark attacks cannot be understated or underestimated.
Worldwide, shark attacks resonate though the entire shark diving industry, four attacks in one region and in one week are "unprecedented".
Jochen was forthcoming and frank. In his opinion "something must have triggered these attacks". He is also a pro-shark and pro-industry advocate with a deep understanding of conservation and the impact these unfortunate attacks have on the perception of sharks globally.
Interview with Jochen Van Lysebettens
Shark Diver: So, there's a lot of media focus on the shark species responsible for these attacks with Oceanic Whitetips (Carcharhinus longimanus) being the prime culprit here. What's your take, is this the species responsible?
Jochen Van Lysebettens: A diver took a some pictures of Oceanic Whitetips in the area of the first shark attack minutes before it happened, so I am comfortable that is was an Oceanic responsible for the first attacks. There has been no positive identification on the fatal attack yesterday.
Shark Diver: How rare is this for Oceanics to be behaving in this manner in and around Sharm el-Sheikh?
Jochen Van Lysebettens: Very, very rare. Oceanics never attack divers, they are curious in the water, but we just do not see this kind of behaviour, we also don't bait the sharks.
Shark Diver: So what is happening in Sharm el-Sheikh, what's the word on the street, what are the local dive shops talking about?
Jochen Van Lysebettens: There are rumors, Chinese whispers, of sheep floating in the water.
Shark Diver: Sheep in the water? How does a sheep get in the water?
Jochen Van Lysebettens: One instructor from another dive shop says he saw a dead sheep floating in the water a few days before the first attack, could have been transported and fallen into the water. Is it chumming or not, I do not know. But, as I said these are rumors only.
Shark Diver: What about the targeted shark killings by the Egyptian government? Was that necessary? What has been the local response?
Jochen Van Lysebettens: We are against it, all the dive shops are against it. Publicity killings. Public relations. When the shark killings started by another government agency we, along with other dive shops, contacted The Chamber of Diving and Watersports and they put a stop to it right away.
Shark Diver: They killed two sharks looking for evidence of the attacks, what was your alternate plan?
Jochen Van Lysebettens: The CDWS gathered together 40 dive instructors from all the dive shops and conducted a complete dive survey of the attack sites, looking for anything that might indicate a trigger for these attacks. We spent time in the water observing the sharks and looking at everything.
Shark Diver: Did they find anything?
Jochen Van Lysebettens: N0 they didn't, but we did stop the publicity shark killings, we are totally against any shark killings in Sharm el-Sheikh.
Shark Diver: After yesterdays fatal shark attack on a German swimmer, what's the next step?
Jochen Van Lysebettens: Tomorrow we will conduct another complete dive survey, this time with 40+ dive instructors in the water. Something triggered these sharks.
Shark Diver: Is that is what your gut is telling you?
Jochen Van Lysebettens: Yes, I am convinced something is triggering these sharks, the next step is to have a marine biologist come in and have a look at the area, maybe he can get some answers for us.
Shark Diver: In your opinion how has the mainstream media handled these tragic events?
Jochen Van Lysebettens: The coverage has been good and bad. It's important for the media to include a marine biologist or someone to defend the sharks. People do not have to be afraid of sharks.
Shark Diver: I know you have a lot of work ahead, what's your takeaway quote for now?
Jochen Van Lysebettens: Humans enter into the sharks territory, we want to keep shark encounters natural and safe.
Our impression from this interview was that the dive shops in Sharm el-Sheikh are fully invested in finding out why their sharks are behaving in this manner and are very pro-shark. As time moves forward we will get a better understanding of what, if anything, triggered the sharks. In the meantime dive operations are defending these animals from the kind of knee jerk government response that would have them fished out of the water.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Our entire industry will have to do a lot better in response to the perception that we condition sharks, exploiting them for personal gain.
That process might start with individual operator website outreach.
More on the controversy of chumming.
Jim Bullard on Shark Baiting
I am neither a marine biologist nor a psychologist. I am not even an animal rights activist. I am a scuba diver and an outdoor enthusiast, and these two endeavors have brought me in close proximity with a myriad wild animals, in their natural habit.
Over the thirty-eight years I have been diving, I have seen many sharks, but I have never been tempted to offer these magnificent creatures anything to bite. Just to clarify my position, I do not fear any animal in the sea, but I do respect them and their habitat. My very first dive instructor advised not to drag around dead fish while diving and that blood would attract sharks and other unwanted visitors. These practices, which I have avoided during my diving career, are now used by dive operators to intentionally attract and feed sharks.
The practice of shark feeding is nothing but an exploitation of a shark’s natural behavior for the dive operator’s personal gain. Though observing a shark feeding is an exhilarating experience, I believe the participants take part unaware of lasting and potentially dangerous effect this activity has on the natural feeding habits of these predators.
In the 1901 Ivan Pavlov developed the concept of "conditioned reflex", meaning a response controlled by a stimulus, by studying the gastric function of dogs. Pavlov externalized a dog’s salivary gland in order to s analyze what response it had to food under different conditions. It is popularly believed that Pavlov always signaled the occurrence of food by ringing a bell. However, his writings indicate that he used of a wide variety of stimuli, including electric shocks, whistles, metronomes, tuning forks, and a range of visual stimuli, in addition to a ringing bell.
The United States Forestry Service has observed a similar Pavlovian response in the activities of bears in national forests. The signs cautioning "DO NOT FEED THE BEARS" are not there because peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fried chicken are bad for the bears (though they may not be their natural diet), but because the bears’ keen sense of smell and desire for an easy meal have resulted in injured tourists and some vehicles becoming "pop top" food containers.
Shark feeding is just another example of animal behavior being altered by humans. These animals will, if they have not already, associate boats and divers in the water with food. Research continues to be done on sharks’ feeding patterns, and we do not yet know how far each species of shark range in their search for food. However, I cannot help but be concerned that the boat and the divers I am with may be mistaken for a shark feeding when diving in waters where shark feeding is permitted. I fear that a shark feeding will go badly and an observer will be injured or killed, or a diver will be attacked by a hungry shark that has lost some of it natural ability to hunt its normal prey. The inevitable human response to this would be something like what was seen in the movie Jaws - an outcry of "Kill the Sharks!"
The consequences of shark feeding would have an adverse effect on the institutions that implemented it. It will become even harder to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. If a dive operator can take divers to an area where sharks are known to gather, and can show divers sharks without interacting with them, then so be it. However, in my experience, most shark encounters have been pure happenstance; I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.
History has repeatedly demonstrated that when humans intercede in animal behaviors, there are consistently devastating consequences for the animal. It seems that the only animal that has not learned from this behavior is the human.
New research plan provides a blueprint for addressing shark issues in the western and central Pacific
If international commercial fisheries have no solid idea what regional shark stocks look like, how do we begin the process of evaluating effective conservation initiatives and sustainable fisheries?
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) has taken a major step toward addressing concerns about shark populations with initial approval of a three-year Shark Research Plan by its Scientific Committee.
The plan will be led by the Oceanic Fisheries Programme of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, and will contain assessment, research coordination and fishery statistics improvement components. The overall aim of the plan is to evaluate the status of blue, mako, oceanic whitetip, silky and thresher sharks in the western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) and to establish better datasets to support future assessments. Following its recent endorsement by the Scientific Committee, the Shark Research Plan will be presented for full Commission approval at its annual meeting in Hawaii in December.
This article outlines the background and context of shark issues in the WCPO, introduces the key species and previews the forthcoming assessment work.
Sharks are among the species to be managed by regional tuna fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) but little has been done worldwide by these organisations to manage shark catches. In fact, because so few national fisheries catch reporting systems record sharks, RFMOs often lack sufficient data upon which to draw conclusions about the status of shark stocks. At the same time, there are increasing concerns about fisheries targeting sharks and about continued growth in the shark fin trade. In the WCPO, two species of sharks are categorised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as globally endangered and another sixteen as globally vulnerable and it is not difficult to predict that catch limits may, in future, be required to safeguard some stocks. The current challenge facing the WCPFC is to find the proper balance between shark conservation and utilisation, given the considerable uncertainty regarding the current status of stocks.
Complete Research Plan.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
The Shark Trust magazine is issued three times a year and contains all of the latest news in shark conservation and research. You can also find out what the Shark Trust has been up to over the past couple of months and keep informed about our latest campaigns.
Shark Focus is the perfect read for shark enthusiasts of all ages; this November issue is brimming with a range of interesting articles written by experts in the field and accompanied by some stunning photography.
In this edition, the Scubasigns Foundation and the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme provide us with an insight into the remarkable relationship that fishermen in Indonesia share with an aggregation of Whale Sharks. We investigate why some species of shark enter into a natural state of paralysis, known as tonic immobility, learn why the Hammerhead Shark has such a bizarre shaped head and discover more about sexual segregation in Chimaera.
The fifth series of Shark HardTalk features interviews with George Burgess (from the International Shark Attack File), eco-tourism operators Chris Fallows, Mark Addison and Craig Ferreira and Shark Trust member, Danny Aslan, as Chairman Richard Peirce debates the pros and cons of the baiting, chumming and feeding of sharks.
Shark Focus 39 is guaranteed to be an exciting read!
To become a Shark Trust member and receive your free copy of Shark Focus please, click here
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
And a few weeks ago they added Mote Marine Laboratory research team to their bios.
"I'd say it was like going on the greatest field trip ever," said Sean Paxton, 44, about the five-day trip the brothers spent with a Mote crew the Gulf searching and sampling for signs of oil impacting marine life, with a special focus on sharks.
"They're (sharks) feared, but they're also a threatened species, so they do need our help," Brooks Paxton said.
Mote used Brooks, 40, and Sean's expertise in catching and releasing large sharks.
"The first animal was a tiger shark in excess of 10 feet, a beautiful male specimen," Sean Paxton said.
The brothers also filmed some of the trip. The footage shows that big tiger shark slamming his jaws shut as Sean headed toward him on board the research vessel.
"The other animals we encountered in the world of sharks were silkies, a scalloped hammerhead, a mako," Sean Paxton said.
Bob Hueter, who is the director of Mote's Center for Shark Research, led the research trip.
"Yes, the fish can look healthy, but inside the liver, inside the blood, reproductive organs, for example, we can find residues of the contaminants of the oil," Hueter said. "Or their behavior changes and they don't go to the right places to feed and possibly shifting not only populations but the whole ecosystem out there."