Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sunburnt Redneck and Sharks - Bad Combo? Always

Thanks to Dorsal Fin Blog for the video find this week. Sadly the shark had to endure this beer fueled miscreants unwanted advances, fortunately the shark got the last mouthful:

Monday, March 28, 2011

New 640,728 gallon oil spill in the Gulf?

During the Gulf Oil Spill last year one media source was on target and on the numbers, and that was the blog site Sky Truth.

While NOAA was still towing the BP corporate line of 5000 barrels a day, it was Sky Truth and their dedicated team who first estimated the flow rate was many time higher than that.

This week Sky Truth took a look at a mysterious oil spill near Grand Isle L.A, one that regional oil experts from Anglo-Suisse said was a minor event with just 4 gallons spilled.

After analysing NASA/MODIS satellite imagry Sky Truth estimates this spill to be an astonishing 640,728 gallons.

If we were betting folks in a contest between the government, who should be minding oil in the Gulf, and Sky Truth we would go with Sky Truth, the question now is, who's going to clean all this oil up?

The 2011 Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge


Coming to Punta Gorda, FL May 13th - 15th, 2011

The 2011 Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge Tournament & Festival

After its history-making debut in 2010, the Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge Tournament and Festival is back and bigger than ever. By combining the high-stakes allure of competitive, big-game sport fishing with cutting-edge science, practical conservation principles and informative entertainment, this trend-setting event is pioneering its way as an industry leader and model for the Next Generation of Shark-Release Tournaments.

According to USC Creators and Directors, Sean Paxton, Brooks Paxton II and Capt. Robert Moore, “We were blown away watching how our teams stepped up to the challenge last year, and how well they did so many things that had never been done before in a professional tournament setting. The bottom line is great anglers make great tournaments and we can’t wait to see it unfold this time around. The level of participation and competition is heating up, big time.”

Teams in 2011 will have the option of entering a two-day eliminative competition with either 2 or 3 anglers and will be competing for $15,000 in cash and prizes. A dozen shark species are eligible for points, but finding and catching them aren’t the only challenges teams will face. To qualify, eligible sharks must meet a minimum total length of five feet. The animals will be measured in the water using a device, custom-designed and provided by the USC, before they are conventionally research tagged by the team and released back to the wild. In some cases, candidate specimens may be handed off to a research team to be outfitted with a satellite tracking tag.

Robert Hueter, Ph.D., director of Mote Marine Laboratory's Center for Shark Research and his staff are the USC’s chief science and research partner, and will oversee those aspects of the tournament, including all tagging operations. Plans call to outfit a number of sharks with satellite-linked transmitters that will track their movements after release. Hammerhead and bull sharks will be the focus of the satellite tagging efforts, but other species, such as tigers may be tagged as well. These tags are designed to transmit location and other valuable information about the shark's travels. Once the satellite tags are deployed, the public will be able to follow these sharks' travels on the internet.

"This format provides a breakthrough in collaborative research involving the marine science and recreational fishing communities," Hueter said. "The fishermen deserve great credit for embracing this new approach.”

An Observer, professionally trained and certified by USC Staff and the Mote Center for Shark Research, will accompany all teams throughout the competition. Accepted Observer applicants must successfully complete a mandatory course in: shark species identification, proper tag and release procedures and tournament rules.

Other USC protocols mandate the use of heavy conventional tackle to reduce the time between hook-up and release of all animals and inline, non-stainless steel circle hooks to avoid the internal hooking of sharks.”

While competition heats up on the Gulf of Mexico, there will be plenty of action and lots to do on shore at the tournament and festival host location in Punta Gorda. Laishley Crab House at Laishley Park has teamed up with the USC to provide an exciting and entertaining festival for the entire family that will take place at the venue’s picturesque waterfront location all day Saturday and Sunday.

Event organizers are especially pleased to announce that world-renowned marine artist, angler and tournament partner, Guy Harvey, will be making a personal appearance during the weekend to meet with fans and to promote the tournament’s shared mission.

Harvey, a longtime marine conservationist and founder of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, said the tournament will increase global awareness of the important role that sharks play in the world's oceans and our ecosystem.

"The Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge Tournament and Festival will be a uniquely exciting event for participants, spectators and everyone who cares about the future of our oceans," he said.

The Ultimate Shark Challenge festival will also feature competition highlights broadcast to digital displays on site, allowing fans to cheer on their favorite teams all the way to the end. Event sponsors will be on hand to conduct product demonstrations and sales, along with a wide variety of merchant vendors, unique attractions like Mote’s Mobile Aquarium, entertaining and educational shark-centric exhibits, interactive demonstrations, and of course, lots of delicious food and cold beverages.

Tournament and Festival Info:

- Website: www.UltimateSharkChallenge.com

- When: May 13 – 15, 2011
- Where: Laishley Crab House at Laishley Park, Punta Gorda, Fla.

- Team Entry: $950

- Festival Admission: Free to the Public

- Sponsor Opportunities: Contact: Directors@UltimateSharkChallenge.com

941-416-1788, 941-416-5073, 941-628-2650

- Festival Vendor Inquiries: Contact: Directors@UltimateSharkChallenge.com

Media Contacts
Tournament & Festival: Directors@UltimateSharkChallenge.com

Mote Marine Laboratory: Hayley Rutger, 941-374-0081, hrutger@mote.org
Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation: 1-800-288-1227, info@guyharveyoceanfoundation.org

History of the Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge
After years of interaction experience with sharks as recreational catch & release innovators, volunteer researchers and advocates for practical conservation principles, USC tournament architects, Sean and Brooks Paxton, began leveraging their entertainment background in efforts to deliver their shark-release concept to a wider and more mainstream audience. The brothers recognized effective and credible collaborations would be essential so they set out to assemble a core team that would share their ambitions to effectively combine the goals of sport, science and conservation.

In 2009, they approached Robert Hueter, Ph.D., director of Mote Marine Laboratory's Center for Shark Research. The brothers already knew Hueter, and that he had run a successful research-driven, catch & release shark tournament from 1989 to 1998. After further refinements to the brother’s concept, the trio contacted renowned marine wildlife artist, scientist and conservationist Guy Harvey, Ph.D., who enthusiastically supported this innovative tournament model. In early 2010, the Paxtons met Capt. Robert Moore, an accomplished southwest Florida charter captain, guide and catch & release shark specialist. After productive discussions and shared philosophies, Capt. Moore rounded out the team as an instrumental collaborator and partner in delivering this Next Generation Shark-Release Tournament model.

About Mote Marine Laboratory
Founded in 1955, Mote Marine Laboratory is an independent nonprofit marine research organization. Mote is dedicated to advancing the science of the sea through the study of marine and estuarine ecosystems, through our public Mote Aquarium and through an education division that provides unique programs for all ages. Throughout 2010, Mote celebrated its 55th Anniversary with special events highlighting its groundbreaking ocean research and outreach.

About Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation
Founded by marine biologist and artist Guy Harvey, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation is an organization of philanthropists, conservationists, scientists and educators focused on developing sensible strategies for promoting the conservation of our oceans and nurturing the next generation of marine scientists and guardians of our seas.

Nuclear Boy Japan Video - Hat Tip Blogfish

It's Monday ya'll and Blogfish has the video find of the week.

Behold Nuclear Boy, Japans simple explanation for kids on an unfolding disaster, even we get it now:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

2011 Tiger Beach Expeditions - Trip Report

It's been a busy few weeks for the crew of the M/V Kate and Shark Diver as our first divers are coming back from Tiger Beach in the Bahamas this year having once again had the time of their lives.

As April approaches we're looking forward to meeting our next months batch of shark divers at perhaps one of the planets top Tiger sites.

Newly minted Tiger diver Brad Bamford was with his buddies last week not sure what to expect, what he got was shark diving in paradise:

March 15-22 Tiger Beach Trip Report

The week our group spent a Tiger Beach was incredible. We had excellent weather the entire trip and lots of shark action. We had 5 different Tigers ranging from 10-13 ft and anywhere from 20-30 big Lemons.

Even when we went off Tiger Beach to dive the various reefs we had big Tigers show up!

I was surprised at how massive some of these sharks were. They were extremely curious which gave us lots of close-up encounters and great photos.

To mix things up we went swimming with the dolphins for an afternoon and dove a pristine reef with giant Loggerhead turtles. This was definitely the most extreme shark adventure I’ve been on and can’t wait to get back out there.

The food aboard the M/V Kate was excellent and the crew worked tirelessly to make sure we had an awesome trip.

They did not disappoint!

Miss you guys and hope to see you again real soon!


Brad Bamford

Friday, March 25, 2011

Gulf of the Farallones White Shark "Junior" - It's Official, Now What?

The resident Gulf of the Farallones white shark we featured last week called "Junior" was purported to be a shark that was badly hooked by a hybrid film and television/research production in 2009.

For the past week we have been seeking confirmation that these incredible images were in fact the same shark, returned to the islands in 2010 emaciated and with a terrific wound/tumor on the side of its face.

Today we got confirmation in post by Marine CSI, responsible for the research side of this hybrid project in California and Mexico.

At stake, a career, scientific gravitas, and many unanswered questions.

Foremost, why did Marine CSI researchers who have been sitting on these images since 2010 only come forward now to ultimately defend their work and put forward an ad hoc series of unlikely reasons for Juniors current mangled condition?

Additionally why did sanctuary management not update their initial independent review document which was released to the public on September of 2010 when one month later, in October of 2010, became aware of these same images?

What we Know

We know this animal was a healthy breeding aged animal in 2009. In 2010 after being badly hooked in the esophagus with 98% of the hook left inside its body (over two pounds of steel), the same animal returned, emaciated, with a massive wound on the side of its jaw.

How that wound came to pass and how this animal came back seriously underweight is a matter for conjecture and debate. What's not up for debate is this sharks condition as of October 2010, grave.

After reading the post from Marine CSI this week we would like to frame this debate.

This debate is about is "cause and effect" not "unfortunate circumstance" as Marine CSI might have it's readers believe. So let's start there, cause and effect.

Guy Harvey and Shark Tournaments - Leadership

March 25, 2011
Written By: News Editor, Shawn J. Soper

OCEAN CITY -- In an effort to build on an already solid conservation ethic, organizers of the annual Ocean City Shark Tournament are partnering this year with the well-known Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation to increase payouts and prize packages for the release division of the popular event in June.

The Ocean City Shark Tournament returns to the host Ocean City Fishing Center in June with even stronger conservation measures in place than in years past. While there will still be some large sharks weighed at the scale during the four-day event in June, the cash payouts and prize packages for anglers and boats that opt to release their catches will be more than doubled, thanks in large part to the new partnership with the conservation-minded Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation.

The Ocean City Shark Tournament was started 31 years ago as a small club tournament with a few trophies and rods and reels handed out as prizes. Over the last three decades, the tournament has evolved to become one of the largest events of its kind on the east coast and last year doled out over $142,000 in prize money to the winners in several categories.

While much of the drama surrounding the event includes the weighing of large sharks at the scales at the host Ocean City Fishing Center, from the beginning the tournament has been rooted in a strong conservation effort. Last year, for example, just 18 sharks were brought to the scale, while 146 were released during the three days of fishing and the tournament boasts a 95-percent release rate in its three decades of existence.

“Just like sharks, the Ocean City Shark Tournament’s success can be attributed to long-term adaptation,” said tournament co-founder and director Captain Mark Sampson. “From the beginning, we made a commitment to run an event with an eye to conservation and serious effort not to adversely impact shark resources.”

Efforts have been made over the years to help ensure participating anglers are bringing back to the scales only the right size and type of sharks. For example, the tournament has maintained minimum size limits higher than what the federal government allows, made certain species eligible for catch-and-release points only, and increased the prize money payouts for the release division.

“By proactively adapting the tournament to address critical issues with sharks and within the shark fishery, we’ve been able to keep the event on a track that’s been fun for fishermen, educational for spectators and a little more successful every year,” Sampson said.

This year, however, tournament organizers, with the partnership of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, are expanding on the conservation effort with greater incentives for the participating boats and anglers to release more sharks and bring fewer to the scales.

“We haven’t done away with the two divisions that allow anglers to bring sharks to the scales, but knowing the tournament anglers tend to pursue categories that offer the biggest payout, we’re looking to make the Release Division cash and prize packages so attractive that, by their own choosing, fishermen will opt to release more sharks,” he said. “That should be a win for fishermen and a win for sharks.”

Sampson said in discussions with Guy Harvey it became clear that his Ocean Foundation and the Ocean City Shark Tournament shared the similar goals of minimizing shark mortalities and maximizing educational outreach about shark conservation. It was determined the best way to encourage tournament anglers to release more sharks was to boost the prize packages in the Release Division. To that end, the Guy Harvey Foundation has offered to more than double the amount of guaranteed payouts in the release division.

“We’re really excited about this support from such a well-known and well-respected leader in marine conservation and wonder if this sponsorship might prove to be infectious as recently the makers of “Fish Bomb” fish attractant also signed up to be a sponsor of the Release Division,” said Sampson.

Sampson said while just a small percentage of the sharks caught during the tournament each year are brought to the scales and far more shark mortality is attributed to wanton slaughter internationally, tournament organizers hope altering the payout formulas will help in a small way and send a message about the importance of conservation.

“The take of sharks by sport fishermen is miniscule compared to what is killed about commercial vessels around the world, but if shark populations are to survive, no one who engages in the fishery can be exempt from the burden of providing at lease some additional measure of conservation,” he said. “Everyone needs to evolve in the right direction. That’s the message we at the Ocean City Shark Tournament and the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation hope to get across during our event this June.”

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shark Finning Legal in NZ? Peter Bethune we have a job for you

While the rest of the planet is moving in lock step to prohibit the sale and trade in shark fin, New Zealand remains a growing and isolated outpost, completely out of step with global changes.

Remarkably New Zealand not only allows shark finning, it has a managed and growing quota for shark fin with 100% of exports going to Asia.

We happen to know this first hand having spent 2010 in New Zealand discovering this fishery, and the statistics are not promising.

New Zealand protects just two shark species, the great white shark and the basking shark, while 28 of the 79 shark species caught commercially in New Zealand are listed as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Many of those species are finned and fins are sent to Hong Kong for shark fin soup. Additionally New Zealand exports tons of shark liver oil and shark cartilage as part of this Asia trade.

For New Zealand fisheries this is a sweet, if not ugly deal, as global markets are shutting down, and traditional shark fin regions are declaring themselves shark fin free, New Zealand fishermen enjoy a higher cost per metric ton of shark fin, applying more pressure for higher quotas.

Which begs the question, who's looking after sharks in New Zealand?

Recently Peter Bethune aka ex-Sea Shepherd staff member declared his public divorce from said organization in a very nasty falling out. Peter has moved on to focus on his new direct action organization Earthrace Conservation based in New Zealand.

As we're not in New Zealand, we nominate Peter Bethune to take on shark finning. These are his home waters, this is his backyard, and the perfect stepping stone to launch his new conservation org.

The good news is he has an ally in the Green Party so this should be a slam dunk.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

When Shotguns and Sharks Do Not Mix

Hat tip to Dorsal Fin Blog for the find. The following video makes even well known Floridian shark fishermen like Mark The Shark look almost respectable.

As for these guys, feel free to express your opinion on the comments section:

Gulf of the Farallones White Shark Policy - Stunningly Poor Management Decisions?

In 2009 NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries enacted a series of white shark viewing and interaction protocols at the Farallone islands that, by any account, were the most restrictive on the planet.

New regulations prohibited "all activities that would attract white sharks anywhere in the Farallones sanctuary. “Attracting” the sharks means any activity that lures or may lure a shark by using food, bait, chum, dyes, decoys (e.g., surfboards or body boards used as decoys), acoustics or any other means."

Additionally it became illegal to "approach a white shark within 50 meters or 164 feet within two miles of the sanctuary (15 CFR Part 922)."

While sanctuary managers were congratulating themselves on these new rules, they were also green lighting a unbelievable hybrid film and television/shark research project that would allow film crew members (not researchers) to actually bait, hook, and land white sharks within sanctuary waters where a team would then drill into the sharks dorsal fin attaching tracking devices.

One of the team members for this project was in fact a Hollywood actor.

White sharks have enjoyed protected species status in California waters since Jan. 1, 1994. Title 14, California Code of Regulations, Fish and Game Code Section 28.06 on page 25 of the California Sportfishing Regulations states that "white sharks may not be taken under a sport fishing license. Commercial fishing operations may not target white sharks, either."

The management team at the Farallones made the decision to allow invasive research within the sanctuary in 2008/09. At the same time they were shepherding in additional rules and protocols for viewing and interacting with white sharks that would keep the general public 164 feet away from these same animals.

Sanctuary Superintendent Maria Brown's staff were also on the film vessel as observers when the first shark was badly hooked in the throat. To release the animal film crew members (not researchers) had to push a pair of industrial bolt cutters through the sharks gills cutting only 10% of the massive hook, the rest was left inside the animal.

When word of this disaster leaked out Maria Brown made the management decision to continue with the project. The next few days saw another shark hooked and tagged within the sanctuary boundaries.

Maria Brown then went on record in an ABC News interview to describe the process "as a minor dental procedure," see video.

As images surface this week of a shark named Junior with what looks like one of the tags that were placed in 2009 and a simply massive infection/tumor on the side of it's face we are calling for a complete investigation of Maria Brown and all documents, emails, contracts, letters and digital media involved in this project.

The public deserve a complete and transparent accounting of how this project came into being and what sanctuary managers were thinking at the time. A recently released and almost amusing "independent review" by Maria Browns office is a case study in political CYA and does nothing to enlighten the public trust in NOAA or the sanctuary system.

Researchers estimate that there are as few as 300 white sharks at the Farallone islands and surrounding region. This underweight animal, if in fact is confirmed as the shark that was badly hooked in 2009 with Maria Brown watching, will not survive much longer in this state. It is no longer a robust breeding animal and as such can be considered a loss to the entire population base.

Will NOAA rise to the challenge for a protected species?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Gulf of the Farallones White Shark Disaster Redux

The following images are as shocking as they are hard to comprehend. The damage to this shark is simply stunning.

They are purported to be "before and after" images of a protected white shark that was mauled at the Farallone islands in 2009.

A shark by the name of Junior.

The shark was badly hooked by a hybrid shark research/film crew in the fall of 2009. The hook was set so badly in the animal that a pair of industrial bolt cutters had to be pushed through the gills of the shark to cut the hook.

Two thirds of the hook was left inside the animal.

If this is in fact the same animal and these images can be verified, it is clear evidence that this brand of hybrid film and television shark research should be banned from the Sanctuary.


Maria Brown, Farallones Sanctuary Manager, gave the following assessment in 2009 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."

This blog will be following up on the series of recent images we have uncovered featuring an emaciated white shark with what looks like a tumor on the side of it's mouth and will be reporting the details as they can be verified.

Stay tuned.

Update Gulf of the Farallones White Shark Policy - Stunningly Poor Management Decisions?

Update Gulf of the Farallones White Shark "Junior" - It's Official, Now What?

Guadalupe White Shark Cage Diving Dates 2012

Shark Diver is proud to announce our 2012 shark diving dates for Isla Guadalupe, Mexico with the M/V Horizon.

Yes, we're booking for 2012 in 2011!

We're 80% sold out on all our 2011 expedition dates, thanks to the many divers and groups who will be joining us again this year.

If you cannot make it this season join us in 2012. Same great dive operations, same pricing as 2009, 2010, 2011 and yes, we will be departing directly from San Diego again next year with no buses into Mexico.

Peak shark season dates are August-September when weather and numbers of sharks are at their absolute peak. Divers seeking the really big females should join us in October. We are accepting $500 fully refundable deposits to secure your next shark diving adventure.

Let's go shark diving!

Playa Bagdad Back in the News 50,000 Sharks?

Back in 2009 we posted a story about a small fishing camp called Playa Bagdad in Mexico, a place where shark fishing was rampant and perhaps a suitable candidate for a shark tourism conversion, similar to what we have seen in places like Isla Holbox.

This week Playa Bagdad made the news again, this time with biologists warning that 50,000 sharks a year are taken from this one small camp to fuel the shark fin trade, a trade which is now spilling illegally over into U.S.waters.

The Washington Post has an in depth look into this issue.

“Those guys are north of the line,” said Petty Officer Andrew Watzek, squinting at the 25-foot Mexican skiff and then at a radar screen, where the border is a bold line extending off the coast. “They’re definitely in American waters.”

Complete story here.

Great White Shark Research Internship 2011

Interns will be joining dedicated scientists who are conducting accredited research projects in some of the world’s most challenging, beautiful and remote environments.

The projects demand significant scientific and practical responsibilities from participants, however, the demands are well within the capabilities of most students, and whilst being challenging, are enjoyable and exciting. As part of this program, interns can expect to be important members of a focused and dedicated research institute and partake in ground breaking research. It is an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to exciting marine research, as well as experience the frustrations, the highs and the lows, and the achievements associated with ambitious and challenging marine research in Africa.

Oceans Research has established a strategic network of two research stations situated within the unique marine biomes of southern Africa, namely, Skeleton Coast Marine Lab and Mossel Bay Marine Lab. At each laboratory, researchers are conducting ambitious ecological, physiological and biological studies on resident marine top predators and their associated ecosystems.

Mossel Bay Marine Lab is the flagship and most established research laboratory within the Oceans Research network. It is also home to the institute’s central office and management. The research laboratory is situated along the southern coast of Africa in a warm temperate marine biome that attracts numerous temperate water fish species. At the top of the food chain is the Cape fur seal that resides on Seal Island, the Great white shark that frequents the bay to hunt fur seals, numerous fish species and a semi resident population of bottlenose dolphins.

Interested interns can also get involved with our educational program, where we educate mostly underprivileged schools regarding the importance of ocean conservation and the vital role sharks play in both the marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

Skeleton Coast Marine Lab is situated along the desert coast of Namibia at Walvis Bay, a worldwide mecca of dolphin watching and desert tourism. The Benguela current is the driving force behind one of the world’s most abundant marine environments and attracts dense populations of marine mammals such as the Heaviside’s dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, Cape fur seal and humpback whale. The Namibian coast line is considered one of the most undeveloped, beautiful places in the world. The Namib is the oldest desert in the world and is characterised by the conjunction of large fields of sand dunes meeting one of the world’s richest marine environments, the cold currents of the Benguela ecosystem.

The internship program is aimed at assisting in the development of students training in the area of biological science. However, we willingly invite applications from all students and enthusiasts who have a passion for the oceans and want to extend their knowledge through real life experience.

Further information is available on the Oceans Research website.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Oceana and the Chilean Shark Fin Bill

The Fisheries Committee of the Chilean Senate voted on Friday in favor of placing a bill aimed at protecting sharks by banning finning (cutting the shark’s fins and then throwing the carcass back into the ocean) on the legislative agenda.

The bill was favorably voted by the Senators who attended the session: Antonio Horvath, Jaime Orpis and Fulvio Rossi, and now it must be voted in the Senate chamber.

“Chile has become a large shark fin exporter, which is severely threatening their conservation. The unanimous vote of the Committee is an encouraging signal and we hope that our country can soon pass a law banning such a brutal practice,” stated Alex Muñoz, Executive Director with Oceana in Chile.

The bill, promoted by Oceana, was introduced to National Congress last January, sponsored by Senators Antonio Horvath, José Antonio Gómez, Jaime Orpis, Hosain Sabag and Carlos Cantero, and is aimed at putting an end to increasing finning practices in Chile. Of the 30 species of sharks caught in Chilean fisheries, at least 15 are subject to finning, with the blue shark (Prionace glauca) and the mako shark (Isurus oxyrhinchus) as the most affected species.

Shark finning, among other activities, is responsible for a 90% global decrease in these animal populations. Fins are exported to Asian countries, mainly China, where they are used for culinary purposes.

A Freedom of Information Act request filed by Oceana to the Chilean National Customs Service revealed that between 2006 and 2009, 71 tons of dry shark fins were exported and corresponded to eight different species.

In 2006, the Chilean Government pledged to take conservation measures for sharks through a National Action Plan for Shark Conservation which, among other goals, considers the integral use of caught and retained sharks. To do so, one of its goals is to eliminate finning, encouraging the landing of fins together with the body.

Sharks are top predators in marine ecosystems and as such, they have a critical role in maintaining trophic balances and the promotion of biodiversity. In fact, their disappearance can bring instability to the food chain and have large and negative ecological impacts on the structures and functions of marine communities and ecosystems. Unfortunately, they are highly vulnerable to overfishing and require many decades to recover. Compared with other fish, sharks grow slowly, become sexually mature relatively late, have a long life-span, have long pregnancies and generally have low reproductive rates.

If the bill is approved, among others, shark finning will be banned and sharks will have to be landed with all their fins naturally and completely attached to their bodies. Also, the presence of loose fins on-board, or the transportation or transfer of cut shark fins between vessels, will be totally prohibited.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Shark Cage Diving Trip Report - Guadalupe Island 2010 "White Shark City"

When we got the phone call from Jan Millhauser this year, we knew we had a special mom on the phone.

She was interested in taking her 19 year old daughter shark diving.

What a mom!

Even rough seas could not keep this NY mother daughter pair down for too long when it came to meeting the "Man in the Grey Suit."

This is Jan's 2010 Shark Trip Report:

Ariel wanted to go dive with great white sharks for her graduation from high school. We researched for many of hours till we found “Shark Diver” and they were rated 5 out of five. I have to say the rating was accurate.

We flew on Jet Blue from JFK on an 8:30 am flight that got us to San Diego around 11:30am, after wrestling with local hotels and a mean front desk clerk and a quick trip to the Gaslamp district we got our ride to the dock where we were greeted by a friendly and kind “Horizon Charters” crew who were totally in control and knowledgeable. My fear of claustrophobia and not being able to get to the head (bathroom) in time in case the sea sick patches were not sea worthy was on my mind.
As we were walking to the “MV Horizon” (boat’s name) the crew Mark and Kyle were joking with Ariel and I making me feel like all was going to be just fine. This was the first time either of us had been diving, let alone 210 miles off the coast with white sharks!

The 84 foot Horizon had two very large cages on the deck. Upon boarding we met some of the other crew and passengers. Everyone was friendly and supportive. There were a few others with the same fears as I had.

There was Alec (whom I kept calling Eric, he took it in stride) and Lisa his wife from England, Marcus from Ireland, Mark from Canada, Jeff from Tennessee, Steve from Maryland, William from San Diego (who was originally from Panama until he moved to CA at 16; army brat), John from NY with his father Bob from Chicago and Ka-Hay from Hong Kong (best line “I was like what the f@!% is this shit?) That broke the ice for all.

Customs came on the boat went through all the official stuff and then took off for the 16 hour journey to the Guadalupe Islands. Mark and Beth the kitchen crew made us delicious pancakes for breakfast. On the way there we saw whales sprouting but we couldn’t find them so we continued on after a few minute detour whale watching. Spinner dolphins joined us for a while playing in the wake of the Horizon. Two more meals, diving lecture, getting fitted for our wet suits, a few laughs with the rest of our dive partners and of to bed.
We woke up with cages being put into the water and Mark and Beth were taking breakfast orders we had arrived after months of preparation to Isla Guadalupe.

All of a sudden we hear “White Shaaaark”(Ariel was the first person to spot the shark) everyone darted out onto the deck to watch a beautiful great white shark swimming around the boat. It took all the energy of the boat crew to keep all 12 of us from jumping in the water to swim with the shark. His movement in the water was so graceful it was like watching a ballerina dance at Lincoln center. We ate breakfast, lectured on safety rules of appropriate cage entry, exit, picture taking and NO hanging out of the cage for pictures which I must say only a few of the divers actually followed that rule (not Steve, Ariel or myself; we were a naughty shark cage team.)

Martin the Dive Master made a scheduled one hour in the cages one hour out with a half hour for lunch so we got in the cage several times on the first day.
We saw 14 different great white sharks over the 3 days of cage diving.

On my second dive a large great white was coming head in to me and I was just about to do the most “not allowed move” by kissing his snout when my regulator hose broke off my mouth piece and I had to get out of the cage till it was fixed. After I got out Kyle and I were on the side of the boat talking when two sharks had a fight and both breached right in front of us. Of course neither of us had a camera to get it on digital but it will be in our minds eye forever.

I had a few more really close encounters with a few white sharks but none close enough to actually kiss. Most of the sharks came within 1 – 2 inches from the cages.

We were allowed to get in the shark cages before our rotation if we got up early enough. There were a few seagulls swimming in front of our boat when a great white shark came up from underneath it and lifted the bird and its nose right out of the water that someone got video of!

Very cool.
We saw a few sharks 10 – 20 feet below our cages swimming around. We spent one dive where all we saw were mackerel while we prayed for a shark but none came. Steve our dive mate fixed our hoses when they got tangled; we took pictures of each other and played hand games while we waited in the cold water -down time after a hot shark first day. We ate dinner exchanged memory cards to see each other’s video and pictures. The camaraderie was at an all time high and no one refused to share their amazing shark pics.

I got up early to get into the into the cages early and got a wonderful show. A sea lion came up under the boat and to visit our cages. Then he got a visit from a young great white about 9 feet and the seal and shark where playing tag with the seal doing most of the chasing it was amazing. After my allotted time and the first rotation came in a second great white shark came to join the game and we saw a little bit of the play looking down into the water from the boat deck. On our rotations first dive we saw a few great whites not close up but not far either. The second dive we saw nothing and the third dive Ariel and I decided to shower and just watch from the deck, read and relax. It was a very smart move because some rough current was coming in and the cages plus boat started to rock.

Before we left Captain Spencer said we were going to be heading into rough waters. A few of us loaded up on the bonnine and other sea sick pills plus vied for position on the rear deck for a view of the horizon. When we left Captain Spencer drove by the shore so we could see the sea lions and elephant seals then headed back to Ensenada Mexico to go through customs.

Overall we had an indescribable experience that words cannot do justice to. Great white shark diving is an experience that must be done first hand to understand the feeling of euphoria.

Jan and Ariel 2010 Official Shark Divers!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles - Take two Dramamine First

Like you, I like a good Sci-Fi flick. In fact if it's got aliens and a pulse I am usually at the front of the line next to the really geeky kids with my wife in tow on opening day. Cloverfield? Loved it.

So it was yesterday, with a line up around the block at our local multiplex, that I found myself with great anticipation for Battle: Los Angeles.

That's when it all went downhill.

Shaky Cams

A word about the advent of the "shaky cam." Used correctly the shaky cam can really deliver a first person feeling to a film. Shaky cams are when the camera lens floats and zooms in and out, the idea is to recreate how a human sees the world, always subtly tracking the environment.

Used badly and the shaky cam can deliver a Grade A migraine to the back of your left eyeball.

We knew we were in trouble with Battle: Los Angeles when an opening character staging shot at a cemetery featured:

1. Eleven different angles
2. 420 switch ups
3. 30,000 shaky cam moments

And this was just one guy talking to a damn headstone. Seriously.

Less than 10 minutes into this film I began to feel as if someone was pushing a red hot poker into my eyeball. In fact this film could not even focus on one object in a single fluid tracking shot anywhere which is sad because Aaron Eckhart, who plays the main character is excellent. He carried the movie with a gritty character portrayal, that's when you could see him between shaky cam moments.

It was like watching a disaster alien movie shot during a 9.5 earthquake.

Michelle Rodriguez plays the same character she always plays in every single film. Here is an actor who could not do a break out character if she was asked to play herself. The rest of the cast does well in a classic war movie setting but unfortunately the aliens are doughy half mechs who bobble about the shaky set with little credibility.

Maybe it's just me, but why the hell would aliens, who have comparable technology to us, want to declare war on the planet, when a nice virus would do the trick?

More here.