Monday, October 31, 2011

Protected White Sharks Targeted in S.A?

Riaan Engelbrecht has been a very busy South African white shark fishing machine going back to 2009.

He's also the owner of South Africa's Extreme Fishing.

Targeting white sharks in South Africa his Facebook site reads like a one man ecological disaster for animals that are supposed to be protected in his home waters.

As the owner of Extreme Fishing you might think that Riaan is aware of the protected status of white sharks. Perhaps he is, or perhaps the four images he recently posted of different white sharks stranded on local beaches with his smiling face are just a fluke, an accident, and not a targeted trophy fishery.

We have been here before, last month, when the conservation world became outraged at the sight of another white shark harvested by trophy seeking locals with little regard to the health and welfare of the animals they sought.

It's officially a problem when you discover a guy like Riaan Engelbrecht who posts four white sharks with the title "Tight Lines" on his Facebook site with no media backlash, no government intervention, and no conservation push back.

We said it last month when the first locally white shark was caught and photographed, a rally call for local shark conservationists.

Here is our post again and perhaps this time these images can motivate those who claim to love sharks into action:

Wolfgang Leander, the wizened sage of the shark conservation movement, has been raising awareness about the tragic S.A shark disappearing act for several years now and yet it still happens, and now we have the visual proof to back his many blog posts up.

So before one more so called shark conservationist in S.A stands up to cry about sharks, before we are subjected to another pretty You Tube video from S.A featuring a bimbette riding the fin of a now dead and poached Tiger shark, let's get real about shark conservation.

It starts with this guy and a call for prosecution, the ensuing media madness, and a follow through to see that it is done. This cannot stand.

We understand that S.A is a world away from conservation norms, but to those who would claim that they are the leaders of any conservation movement with sharks in S.A we say "show us what you got".

It's your backyard and this guy just took a great big dump in it.

For these many white sharks at least - time has run out.

Update: The South African Shark Conservancy is on the case and looks like they know a range of illegal fishermen, fishing groups and websites promoting illegal white shark catches in South Africa. Their Facebook site has all the details, if you can support or help their ongoing investigations in any way please contact them it is time to put an end to trophy white shark fishing in S.A and it starts with some media pressure.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Shark Diver and CNN Preview

Check out tonight's CNN Presents with Kaj Larsen and the crew of Shark Diver who were tapped to provide the background for this terrific pro-shark, pro-industry media expose.

Luke Tipple, the Director of the Shark-Free Marinas guides Kaj through the world of sharks, shark conservation, and shark fishing tournaments explaining the Shark-Free Marinas concept and its success along the way:

Friday, October 28, 2011

CNN and Shark Diver Airs Sunday Oct 30th

Got the following email this week from the fine folks over at CNN.

This fall we were asked to help with a pro-shark conservation piece covering shark fishing and Shark-Free Marinas.

Over the past year we have done four such programs with various media outlets from the US to Brazil in hopes that positive media for sharks helps folks understand the many complex issues sharks are facing.

With our always ready A-List shark crew we headed out to the Bahamas to highlight a place that is doing shark conservation right and shot reef sharks over two days with their show host.

Luke Tipple was gracious enough to carve out some of his busy conservation and filming schedule to guide CNN around sharks and the Shark-Free Marinas. For the past two years Luke has been the Director of the SFMI and the heart and soul of the program. You not going to find a better media spokesman for sharks, delivering sound bytes and hard facts without the hype.

Thanks to Scotty from Blue Iguana, MoonDog, Capt Rob and the rest of the crew for making this important show work under tough local conditions and chum that was peeling the paint off passing cars.

Thanks as well to Old Bahama Bay Resort for once again providing top notch hotel accommodations to wayward film crews from the mainland.

The story airs Sunday, check it out if you get a chance because this is about as good as it gets for mainstream shark conservation footage and analysis.

Also check out Richard Theiss from RTSea Productions who shot footage for the plastics segment.

Hi Pat, 

Hope you're well. 

Our shark story premieres this Sunday at 5; 8pm PST. I'm very happy with the story...only wish I had more than 6 minutes to work with!

All is good here. Rich and I just returned from Belize. We went back to dive the reef off Placencia...large scale development going on and it is starting to trash the reef. 


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Commercial Shark Fin Sales and - Update

Shark fin for sale under another name?
 In 2010, an online B2B vendor and the second largest in volume to, declared that they would stop selling shark fin online.

The move was lauded by the shark conservation community who posted the TradeKey press release and moved on.

Since that time no one has gone back to to see if they had removed shark fin from their massive B2B listings.

We did, and what we found today after a brief search was shark fin for sale (sourced 10.26.2011) including the image of a dried shark fin from sources in India, Maldives and Mexico.

These sources sell up to 10,000 kgs of shark fin at a time.

But it goes beyond these overt commercial ads on TradeKey. In fact many sellers of "dried fish products" or "fish maw" sell shark fin and TradeKey has no mechanism in place to stop potential buyers from "asking about" dried shark fin from vendors.

In fact TradeKey offers no alerts or internal guidance that we can find at all regarding shark fin, the sales of shark fin, or the trade in shark fin on their site.

As conservationists we cannot be satisfied with partial solutions to the online sales of shark fins, we have to dig deeper and adopt the mindset of the buyers. Shark fin sales are a multimillion dollar global enterprise and the trade does not just vanish because of "a promise and a press release."

It needs to be monitored.

We will say this, has pulled the vast majority of shark fin ads from their site but that does not make them partners in the war on shark fin sales, more like unwilling conservation participants.

For the dead shark featured in this weeks TradeKey B2B ad from India, that partnership has not fulfilled the promise and needs to do better.

They can start with the following:

1. Internal guidance for dried ocean product sellers listing the items that cannot be sold on the TradeKey site with a fine or banishment if they are discovered breaking the rules.

2. A "smart search program" that watches internal emails between sellers and buyers for keywords like "shark fin," and an auto email sent to both parties warning them of TradeKey policies.

3. A revocation of all monies for transactions done with shark fin.

4. A public banned list on TradeKey for companies that break TradeKey policies.

The technology and web programming to completely banish shark fin, educate millions of buyers and sellers, and become an online B2B conservation leader exists - and it's cheap.

Additionally TradeKey could consider adopting a top tier conservation partner like Oceana or PEW to develop out long lasting internal shark policies and forward thinking outreach.

TradeKey are not the bad guy here, they just associate with folks that indiscriminately kill sharks for fins. In a global climate where sharks are rapidly becoming protected and even admired, the ongoing sale and trade of shark fin on massive B2B sites is something we all need to pay attention to.

In summation TradeKey has two options, adopt a strong conservation leadership position or continue with their current and "partially effective" effort to stop the sale and trade of shark fin on their site, which as we have seen this week is not meeting up with the press release and conservation hype.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Barry Bruce on Shark Culls - Video

Berry Bruce deep inside his subject matter 2009
Barry Bruce, never heard of him?

Well you should as he's one of those quiet industry types who does great work with white sharks, shuns the limelight, and occasionally comes forth in the media to knock a few homers out of the park.

In short our kind of white shark biologist.

This week Barry jumped into the political morass of recent shark attacks in Australia with the latest happening at Rottnest Island.

A world on Rottnest if you please. It's no secret that white sharks inhabit this island in the months of Oct-Dec and later each and every year. White sharks have been known in these waters going back to the late 1800's.

We posted this video back in 2008 of whites at Rottnest.

So, we're asking why dive boat operators are dumping divers into white waters in the first place? It's a question that NO ONE has asked and should be asking instead of baiting long lines to kill animals that are just "doing their thing."

Anyway back to Barry, his latest media foray  has been picked up by the shark blogs, namely The Dorsal Fin and Da Shark and Andrew Fox and we would like to add our voices to the collective as well. This is great stuff and it's unfortunate that we don't have another three or four dozen Barry's out there to help turn the political tide back from the "kill order" for protected white sharks to a broader understanding that perhaps, just perhaps, during certain months we should just leave the hell alone and not put non caged divers into the world of the white shark.

Monday, October 24, 2011

"We Don't Wanna Hurt Ya" - Cute, Virally So

If cute had a name, it would reside here with this little video. Thanks to Amanda Cotton for the video discovery and to the 7 year old who came up with this concept.

We're seeing a Shark Emmy for this one:

Exploring the limits of biochemical madness, one bubble of CO2 at a time

Shark Diver Labs 2011 TM
Here at the Shark Diver Labs we have been tinkering with biochemical frontiers.

You might think that that sounds "a bit wonky" coming from a shark diving company but ever since our foray last year into big biochem and the Gulf Oil Spill the basic tenants of biochemical reactions and what they can do for us has stuck around.

This month we're tinkering again with "fundamental creation" and producing what we think might be a hit on the West Coast. What it is we cannot say, just yet. We can say that the basic reactions are happening, all the right elements are in play and this week we watched the first bubbles of creation burst forth.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Like the guys at the CERN reactor in Europe, they don't know what they are doing either, but they have the equipment, the theory, and the drive. We do too and hopefully we'll have something groundbreaking to report in a few weeks from now:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Positive Shark Encounters vs Longline Culls

While Australia races headlong to hunt down and kill a white shark that recently attacked and killed an American diver last week let's take a moment to see how positive shark interactions can change perceptions, starting with the very young.

Note:  If you want to send an email to stop the shark cull here are the folks you need to reach, please be respectful:

Email of Collin Barnett (WA Premier): 

Email of Norman Moore (WA Fisheries Minister): 

Email of William Marmion (WA Minister for the Environment): 

This video from is Compass Key, Bahamas known as the "Shark Diving Capitol of the World," here at least sharks are sources of tourism revenue and when unfortunate encounters with sharks occur, they are not hunted down with indiscriminate baited longlines.

You might say that the Bahamas carries an enlightened approach to sharks understanding that they inhabit the same oceans with us and that selectively removing them when it is politically expedient to do so does nothing to ensure that these rare negative encounters will not happen again.

Tragedies with sharks will always be just that, tragedies.

Our responsibility to the oceans eco system is to work in harmony with sharks. Rottnest Island has a long and storied history of white shark encounters going back to the late 1800's. If there is blame for a tragedy with sharks let's start by asking why dive operations in the area, who know of white sharks at Rottnest, are taking divers into the realm of the white shark.

There's simply no such thing as a "rogue killer shark".

There is, unfortunately, such a thing as poor decision making:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Terry Howson Hates White Sharks - Australia

Terry would like to see inshore white sharks destroyed. Image Perth Now
It's tough if you own a dolphin watching company these days.

Used to be back in the 80's and 90's that dolphins were all the rage, and an operation could make a lot of money interacting with our perennially smiling ambassadors of the oceans.

Then along came a few early pioneers who sought commercial encounters with white sharks. At first these few were considered "crazy", out there, not mainstream.

Crazy has a way of catching on and slowly over the past 30 years crazy became mainstream, refining techniques, adding conservation and research, and growing.

Today, "crazy" is a thriving multimillion dollar global industry called shark diving and the pioneers like Rodney Fox in Australia are now under siege from a variety of sources including this guy, Terry Howson, who runs one of the aforementioned dolphin watching companies and who now is calling for a return to killing white sharks in inshore keep the public safe.

"We suggest the Department of Fisheries treat sightings of great whites close to shore or aggressively approaching boats in inshore waters as an opportunity to dispatch that individual shark and prevent the risk of future attack."

Of course Terry has absolutely no proof that commercial shark operations are responsible for inshore white shark sightings:

"Common sense suggests that these cage diving operations are unwittingly conditioning great white sharks to associate boats and people with food. I may be wrong, but until proven otherwise I would prefer that we err on the side of caution and follow existing legislation regarding other native wildlife which makes it illegal to feed them."

But that does not stop the Terry's of the world from demanding justice and blaming our industry for wildlife encounters miles away from operations sites. We have seen "The Terry's" from Hawaii to South Africa banging the same media drum, making the same arguments, as if they are all reading from the same script written on the back of a pizza box that still has the cold remains of last nights cheese toppings on it.

Australia's Gold Coast 2009
These are not savvy arguments for killing sharks and shutting down commercial shark diving operations. They lack data, they lack intelligence, and killing big charismatic sharks because they have arrived to a place where we have deemed them unworthy to be is flat out wrong.

It is unfortunate that many ocean agendas come to play when commercial shark diving becomes established in any given region. It is doubly unfortunate that those who hate sharks will use our industry as the reason to kill these magnificent animals.

Blame the industry for conditioning them, then kill them because it makes $ense.

Maybe if you own a dolphin watching company.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lionfish Invasion? Bring on the Panko Crust!

Guy Harvey "Invasive Gourmet" 2011
We wrote a small but rather viral piece on the Lionfish invasion in the Bahamas and solutions for it a few months back.

While the piece elicited a few chuckles and more than a few raised eyebrows the concept behind invasive species and creating markets for them are sound.

It's something that Guy Harvey understands and this week he unveiled his signature Invasive Species Grill in the Bahamas.

Think of it as taking a bite out of an invasive species problem and helping at the same time take the pressure off regional species like Grouper and Hogfish.

It's brilliant, easy to adopt, and the right solution to a regional invasive species epidemic that is harming the Caribbean.

Now all Guy and Co have to do is package these tasty Lionfish Nuggets and get them into Trader Joes all over America.

If you want to try these at home and happen to have a Lionfish problem in your backyard here's the recipe, it's does not stop here, try your own and share them on Facebook, together we can rid the oceans of the Lionfish, one tasty fried nugget at a time:

Lionfish Nuggets:
  • 4 oz of Lionfish
  • Flour
  • 1 cup liquid egg
  • Panko breadcrumb
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Cajun seasoning
In 3 separate bowls place your liquid egg, flour and breadcrumb. Cut Lionfish into small bite sized pieces and season with salt & Pepper & Cajun seasoning. Dip pieces into flour, shake off excess flour, and then dip into liquid egg and then into Panko breading. Once covered in the breading they are ready to take a long hot bath in some hot oil at 325 degrees until crispy golden brown.

The Official Shark Divers :: Guadalupe Island 2011

August 2011, Isla Guadalupe
The 2011 white shark season at Isla Guadalupe is winding down with just a few more weeks of incredible shark encounters and thrilled divers from around the world.

Once more Isla Guadalupe has delivered the finest combination of animals and education.

Here's a small sampling of the faces and trip reports from the 2011 white shark season. There's more to come and we haven't yet called an end to the fun.

"Day  two had gotten off to a great start, but it got even better, when a few hours later, we had a juvenile get a little frisky with our cage. Seeing a great white that close to the cage, mouth open, ready to have a go, was priceless!  I could not have asked for more!"

- Michelle M
September 2011, Isla Guadalupe

"Shredder is definitely the comedian of the shark world!  Occasionally he would give a smaller shark the chance to say hello but chased them off the minute he felt he was missing the attention of his adoring public.  For eight hours he was cruising around the boat and cages and once the cages had been lifted for the night, he breached next to the boat almost as if to say, ‘hey guys, what are you doing, I’m still here!’  Apparently this was the best ‘sharking’ day of the season so far as 13 different sharks were identified."

- Bev D

"Most importantly, every member of the crew seemed to be there because they love the sharks and love what they do.  They made sure we had almost as much fun out of the cages as in them."

- Sarah F

As we wind down 2011 and look forward to 2012 we have to give a big kudo to our divers and the entire crew of the M/V Horizon.

October 2011, Isla Guadalupe
For the past decade the Horizon and crew have been the longest running dive operation at Isla Guadalupe.

The first vessel to ever do shark cage diving at this remarkable dive site and we are proud to be working with them still - after all these years.

And to our new minted Shark Divers and to all those who have come before them. It is your good cheer, lust for adventure, and love of sharks that has allowed Shark Diver to be the company that it is today.

We honor all those with a dream and say, "If you dream, dream big".

To those who fly halfway around the world, to those who have saved every penny for the past two years in a jar, and to those whose experience with the white sharks of Guadalupe have lead them to  help save sharks around the planet.

You are Shark Diver, and we are proud of you all!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Myth vs Reality - Images and Google

We're asking a question here.

Why is it if the shark fin industry is so vast that we see so few images of the industry in action?

A Google image search for shark finning reveals 98,500 results.

A Google image search for Bigfoot? 2,380,000 results.

If you asked folks on the street if they believed in Bigfoot you'll probably get at least a 98% awareness of the Bigfoot myth.

And shark finning?

Food for thought.

Bill Wasserman "The Sharkman" 2011

Bill Wasserman and crew joined us at Isla Guadalupe in the fall of 2011 at Isa Guadalupe and captured the full grace and power of the white shark. This is as good as it gets.

Tonight - Working with White Sharks, Ca

"Working With White Sharks." 

7p.m. today in the Seminar Room at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, 8272 Moss Landing Road, Moss Landing. 

John O'Sullivan will be talking about his adventures over the last ten years and his experience as manager of the juvenile field research and exhibit collection program of the Aquarium's "White Shark Project." Free. 

Reservations: 771-4464.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Man Catches Protected White Shark?

Image Ocean Research
The prize this week for "Simian, Rock Squatting, Douchebaggery with Sharks" goes to this guy.

Yes he's South African, and yes he's just caught himself a nice healthy white shark so he and his son could pose with this "protected animal" before watching its bleeding carcass come off the rocks and back into the ocean whence it came.

To say that we're angry about this is a disservice to the word angry, and you should be, because this is part of an ongoing pattern of animals killed in S.A that apparently enjoy some measure of conservation protection. On paper at least.

"The unidentified man, who told locals he was from Cape Town, apparently spent nearly an hour getting the shark on to the rocks, where he measured it before posing for pictures on Friday." 

Image Ocean Research
Wolfgang Leander, the wizened sage of the shark conservation movement, has been raising awareness about the tragic S.A shark disappearing act for several years now and yet it still happens, and now we have the visual proof to back his many blog posts up.

So before one more so called shark conservationist in S.A stands up to cry about sharks, before we are subjected to another pretty You Tube video from S.A featuring a bimbette riding the fin of a now dead and poached Tiger shark, let's get real about shark conservation.

It starts with this guy and a call for prosecution, the ensuing media madness, and a follow through to see that it is done. This cannot stand.

We understand that S.A is a world away from conservation norms, but to those who would claim that they are the leaders of any conservation movement with sharks in S.A we say "show us what you got".

It's your backyard and this guy just took a great big dump in it.

For this shark at least - time has ran out.

Giving Away URL's - For the Sharks

Years ago when shark conservation was not "in vogue," we were at the forefront of a nascent movement with a few others in the industry to create conservation change.

We started with the Isla Guadalupe Fund back in 2006 and responding to a Tiger shark killed in the Bahamas were the brainchild behind the Shark-Free Marinas Initiative.

Along the way we acquired a number of first rate URL's for use on shark conservation projects that ranged from a set aside global fund for sharks to a social network for sharks.

Alas, time was not on our side, and as it turned out there's only so much one company can do in any given calendar year. Our time has become increasingly limited as Shark Diver grows and we celebrate a decade of shark diving.

To that end we are offering up three URL's to those who might like them in the service of sharks.

The caveat is these URL's will only go to funded entities with a written game plan. We would like these URL's to work for shark conservation and to ultimately be succesful.

Let us know if you are interested by sending an email to

USA Today Shark-Free Marinas 2011

The revolution continues with 110 marinas now signed up to be Shark-Free and growing. 

Not mentioned in this article are the many folks world wide who became early adopters of the Shark-Free Marinas Initiative along with the fine folks from Fiji who saw this initiative and adopted it, creating the first actual Shark-Free Marinas in the world back in 2009.

Additionally kudos to Old Bahama Bay Marina in the Bahamas who went Shark-Free in 2010.

Less than two years after its creation, lists more than 110 marinas and businesses from eight countries — including 78 in the USA— as either shark-free or shark-friendly.

The initiative, organized by the Humane Society of the United States, the animal-welfare grantor Pegasus Foundation and the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, which raises funds for marine-conservation research, works to persuade marinas to either refuse to allow sharks to be landed at their docks or to discourage the recreational killing of sharks. Marinas are registered as shark-free in the first case, shark-friendly in the second.

"This is a way to help the shark population, to save species of fish in our waters," said Tibe Larson, manager of shark-free Bonita Bay Marina in Bonita Springs, Fla.

Bob Hueter, a shark specialist at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., which supports the initiative, said he's not against bringing a shark in once in a while for food. "I've published recipes for shark," he said. But, "too often," Hueter adds, "people bring a shark in, hang it up to show it off, maybe take the jaws, and then dump it."

Without a place to show off a dead shark, fishers are more likely to practice catch-and-release, he said.

"We used to fish for sharks, but I got out of that business close to 20 years ago, when it occurred to me that sharks were being depleted," said Phil Lobred, general manager and partner at H&M Landing, a shark-free sport-fishing landing in San Diego. "Usually, it's the younger crowd who wants to say they caught a shark: It's a macho kind of thing," he said.

In its most recent study on shark depletion, the National Marine Fisheries Service said that recreational fishermen along USA's Atlantic and Gulf coasts killed more than 200,000 sharks per year from 2004 through 2008. members get signs with their shark-free or shark-friendly status, free ads on the initiative's website and educational literature.

Initiative director Luke Tipple, an Australian marine biologist and TV personality, said he doesn't expect the program to stop the recreational harvesting of sharks. However, he said he thinks it can have a positive impact on an important segment of the shark population: big breeding adults that trophy hunters target.

"They are selectively removing sharks that can contribute to the recovery of their species," Tipple said. "It's not how many sharks we save. It's how many we can protect."
Contributing: Lollar and Ruane also report for The News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Shark Fin Workaround - Where There's a Market

The shark fin legal game - fins attached?
"Foreign fishing ships are bringing in shark skeletons – the flesh shaved away – with just their fins attached to the body. Local fishermen see this as another way that fishing fleets are evading shark finning laws."

This mornings news from San José, Costa Rica is a lesson in real world shark fin management with an apparent workaround to new shark fin laws that require the fins remain attached to the shark.

But what constitutes a whole shark?

That questions will have to be decided by the court system in Costa Rica while Taiwanese ships find creative ways to continue the shark fin trade unabated and it's not the first time this has happened:

"After Incopesca and the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry finally ruled in December 2010 that foreign fleets must unload at public docks subject to inspection, the first boat to unload was caught with illegal fins onboard. Shortly afterward, the fleet started showing up at the dock with only other species and no sharks. At the same time, huge shipments of shark fins began being imported to Costa Rica from Nicaragua."

The news from Costa Rica serves as an abject lesson to shark conservationists worldwide, we have to be looking a better ways to enact laws as seen through the lens of fishing fleets whose livelihood depends on shark fin. Additionally conservation groups need to refocus on recent vast tracks of declared shark sanctuaries around the world.

While these sanctuaries look great on paper only a small percent have any capability to actually monitor or enforce these areas. The new focus should be for long term funding and enforcement by outside agencies and NGO's.

Fisheries laws are made to be circumvented, and ignored.

Phase two in the global race for sharks begins now with this wake up call.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Man in the Picture - Shark Diver Colin Ball

Colin Ball is the man on our homepage at Shark Diver giving the thumbs up to an experience that, over the past decade, we have offered to divers from around the planet.

We choose this image shot by Derek Heasley from Seapixels as the front page image for Shark Diver for a number of reasons, primarily because it says everything about the dive site, the experience, and the curiosity of our white sharks, seen here checking out the port side floatation pod.

The image was shot way back in 2007, and we're still going strong this season with another group of divers at the island and a sat phone call this morning with a report of a 17 foot female, the largest of the shark diving season, joining our divers for moments that you can only comprehend if you have been in the cage staring a white shark in the eye.

Here's to all the Colin Balls who have joined us over the years. It is because of you that Shark Diver has become the "little shark diving company that could," and we're looking forward to minting a new round of official Shark Divers in 2012.

Let's go shark diving!

Shark Productions with Shark Diver - 2009 Tiger Beach

2009 shark productions Tiger Beach with Mythbusters for Shark Week

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Global shark conservation, and then there's Australia

The head of a gravid Tiger being dumped. Image Michael Ross
A 12 foot Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) was caught on drumlines off the Gold Coast of Australia this week with authorities "shooing away" photographers in an apparent attempt to conceal the size of the animal.

The female Tiger was found to have 30 pups inside her.

We have covered the ongoing devastating effects of drumlines on shark off the Gold Coast for several years, and it's not just an Australian problem with South Africa employing the same techniques to manage their regional "shark issues".

What makes today's story particularly frustrating from both a conservation and shark diving industry perspective is the apparent shark psychosis that Australian management officials suffer from. On one coast it is o.k to kill white sharks, tigers and just about any other shark species that is unfortunate enough to bite down on baited hooks, while on other coast where tourism with sharks generates million of dollars sustainably, authorities are attempting to shut some operations down and reduce the numbers of days they can operate - all in an effort to protect sharks.

White shark caught on Gold Coast drumline in 2009

While the rest of the planet marches headlong into new an uncharted territory for shark conservation with the addition of millions of square miles of shark sanctuaries, byzantine hold outs like Australia and South Africa are setting new lows for shark management policies.

Your either protecting sharks, or not.

In Australia it would seem that at least when sharks are commercialized sustainably with conservation minded shark diving operations, sharks need to be studied, protected, and managed. But in areas where humans demand high dollar value for beachfront housing and waters to wade in, shark conservation begins and ends with a baited hook.

Welcome to the world of Australian shark management, if you're a shark, take a left turn at Sydney, because that's the only way you'll survive Gold Coast shark management.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bahamas Sharks, Hooks vs Tourism

In 2011 Michael Coughlin captured this image of a Lemon shark with a hook in her face at Tiger Beach.

Mt Biking in S.A Dangerous? Oh Yeah!

Thanks to Moondog for the video find of the day...week...month:

Friday, October 7, 2011

2011 Tiger Beach, Bahamas - Tagged Tiger

The 2011 commercial Tiger shark diving season was one of the best on record for us here at Shark Diver thanks in many ways to the amazing divers we entertained this season.

Here's one image that brings it all home:

Michael Coughlin at Tiger Beach, Bahamas with - Tagged Tiger

Institutionalized Bias? - Australian Commercial Shark Diving

With some alarm we watched the following ABC news piece this morning on Australia's white shark tourism industry. Well known for "doing things right," leading the rest of the global industry with initiatives that run the gamut from embedded research to advances in cage diving technology.

It would appear that Australian government scientists are now releasing data showing that white sharks are being impacted by these operators and that this data will be used to drop two operations from the area and reduce the number of days the last surviving operations can operate.

Is this institutionalized bias?

We tend to think so as we have seen this same brand of anti-shark diving creep before. Most notably at the Gulf of the Farallones islands off the coast of California where laws and regulations make it impossible to attract white sharks in any manner save static decoys and have enforced a 164 foot rule as of 2009.

Operations must now stay 164 feet away from white sharks at this site at all times.

We will be keeping a wary eye on events as they transpire in Australia as elsewhere with white shark commercial operations. Australia, with folks like Rodney and Andrew Fox remain beacons within an industry often maligned and attributed with all manner of institutional and media bias.

What happens in Australia resonates across the rest of the planet for our industry, and this weeks news is not good.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Urban Carp - LA's Finest Fishing?

Guide Steve Blair with a LA River Mud Marlin 2011
The Urban Carp is LA's newest fly fishing guide service hunting down LA's Mud Marlin.

Mud Marlin in the parlance of the fly fishing community are in fact carp, big fat, 10lb carp.

Make no bones about it the LA river is a cesspool, it's one of the most degraded habitats in all of the western United States and yet one enterprising visionary and guide, Steve Blair, is now LA's finest hunter of the catch and release Mud Marlin.

And his new website is open for business.

A lot of folks outside of the fly fishing community will not understand why anyone would want to fish these toxic leviathans of the deep, but to understand that you also have to understand the geography of LA.

For an avid fly fisherman in LA the closest trout waters are 10 hours away, in traffic, and it's usually a three to four day schlep to get into the Eastern Sierra where the waters are pure and the trout big fat and happy.

If you can sneak out of work early in downtown LA and bag a 10-15lb  Mud Marlin it takes the edge off that "Jones for the outdoors" that all fly fishermen suffer from.

All laughing aside the Urban Carp is a serious endeavor lead by a top class guide into a river system that is in many ways as wild as anything you'll find in the Eastern Sierra.

Leave your spray cans at home and go have some Mud Marlin fun!

Cristina Zenato - The First Lady of Shark Diving

Image : Eddy Raphael
"I view them in a different way – sharks are animals, and like any other animals, we just need to learn how to interact with them, live with them, we can't wipe out the ocean of sharks just to make it safer, and educate people about how can we do that safely... There's times when you can be in the water with sharks and there's times when you don't see them and you should not be in the water. It's all about knowledge. Without knowledge, we fear." 

A quick quote from this weeks Freeport News article featuring UNEXSO's shark programs manager in residence Cristina Zenato.

The article is as good as it gets and a tribute to the shark diving industry, if you have 5 minutes today you'll want to be reading this. Cristina manages to bring home the balance between humans and sharks without any of the standard anthropomorphological quotes you tend to see in the industry equating sharks to anything but what they truly are - predators.

If you're looking for talking points for your next shark diving interview the 5 minute read is all but mandatory, spoken by a shark diving professional whose world is fortunate enough to intersect with these magnificent animals on a daily basis.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Shark Film and Television Productions Bahamas - Popeye

Popeye the "friendliest shark" in the Bahamas
Her name is Popeye.

Named for a jaw wound that has left her with an unmistakable look, she's quickly becoming the Bahamas most filmed Tiger shark.

The wound is courtesy of a what we assume to be a fishing episode gone bad, but it could also be the result of any number of accidents waiting to happen for a curious Tiger shark in the Bahamas.

And curious she is.

Popeye as it turns out is the most inquisitive animal we have met to date at Tiger Beach, a world class dive and production site for sharks off Freeport. She likes close interactions with divers and cameras and is the perfect shark for film and television projects.

We enjoyed her company this spring on several productions with sharks that included an award winning Gillette commercial where she got top billing at the end. With a mug like hers you can understand why she got the final credit (click image for full size).

Most recently we worked with Popeye on a high energy commercial with an "international brand" and she literally saved the production by arriving early and staying late in conditions that made for tough shooting.

She needs an agent.

She works for fish.

This is one great shark.

She's also a terrific ambassador for shark conservation being a "survivor". That unfortunate hooking experience and her subsequent adoption by the dive community at Tiger Beach has produced a remarkably seasoned animal and we're thrilled to see and work with her when the opportunity presents itself.

Popeye is one of the reasons why Tiger Beach has become the place to film big charismatic megafauna, and they don't get more charismatic than Popeye.

Looking forward to seeing you soon big gal, try and stay out of trouble in the meantime.

Mexico's Big Shark Conservation Announcement - Politics or the Real Deal?

Last week we jumped into the shark conservation world of SINO's with a specific focus on Mexico and their inability to enforce conservation laws for sharks.

As we have been documenting for the past several years white sharks are frequently taken in Mexico's waters, leading us to questions a recent announcement out of Mexico that would protect all sharks and rays in Mexican waters starting in 2012.

It seems that we were not alone in this line of questioning and as it turns out the entire announcement of a vast shark sanctuary in Mexican waters may be premature or downright politics as usual in Mexico.

For an in depth update on Mexico's ongoing shark problems read Serge Dedinas blog post from the NGO Wildcoast, one of the the most credible sources for front line shark information in Mexico.

The Mexico Shark Fishing Moratorium Fiasco

So is the shark moratorium truth of fiction?

These types of policy “wars” in Mexico over proposals used to be carried out domestically in the state-run media. Different newspapers would publish policy proposals by competing factions in a government agency (the Mexican government under the PRI essentially bankrolled the press).
You would always know an article was a political message because it would appear without a byline with a very forceful and badly written statement about a very obscure policy. Another newspaper would carry the same type of article from a competing faction of technocrats calling for a different obscure policy.

Then the issue would vanish from the public spotlight.

What is unfortunate is that in the past, Mexico used to pass far-reaching conservation initiatives because it was worth the positive international media exposure it received–and then those plans would be implemented (to some degree).

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bucket List Shark Diving - Shredder is a Star

Shredder with his namesake fin, photo by Sarah Fuller
When we arrived back from the Bahamas and ten days of filming sharks we had to "wade through" an email box filled with white shark trip reports and emails like this one from Michelle M.

Michelle joined us this fall all the way from Trinidad and was one of the most enthusiastic shark people I had the pleasure of speaking with last year on the phone.

Congratulations to Michelle our latest Shark Diver and her face time with Shredder, Isla Guadalupe's most famous resident:
Hi Patric, 

OK... I know it's taken me a while, but better late than never right? :) 

When I booked my trip with Shark Diver last August, I had a whole year to read all the blogs and trip reports and whatever else I could find about the sharks at Guadalupe.  I thought I had an idea of what it would be like and what to expect, but having finally made it out there in September, I can honestly say that the experience was so much better than I could have possibly imagined! 
Once you've been out there, you know you're going to go back!

The whole trip was amazing, but I think the highlight for me was definitely the second day of diving.  Anyone heading out to Guadalupe, would have heard about Shredder.  Everybody knows how he got his name.  Having him show up on day two was just awesome!  

It's almost as though he knows we came out there to see him and he does not disappoint.  He takes his time cruising past the cages and I was just mesmerized by him. Here is this massive 16 foot great white just a few feet away from the cage, and he is looking at me, straight in the eye! The first time he makes eye contact it's like wow, really?? But then he does it again and again, and it's unbelievable!

So day  two had gotten off to a great start, but it got even better, when a few hours later, we had a juvenile get a little frisky with our cage. Seeing a great white that close to the cage, mouth open, ready to have a go, was priceless!  I could not have asked for more! Of course Martin and the rest of the guys are on deck, keeping an eye on the sharks and he had to give it a little nudge away from the cage but what a fantastic experience!

I think we had a total of 8 different sharks over the 3 days, I had some really great people in the cages with me, but the Horizon crew deserve a special mention. They are exceptional at what they do!

Every single crew member went out of their way to make me feel at home and comfortable and they made sure I enjoyed my vacation. They really looked after me for the entire time I was on board! I wouldn't want to go out there with anyone else!

So thanks again for everything, Shark Diver and the Horizon made this my best vacation ever.  I may have been the first Trini to make it out to Guadalupe, but I am pretty sure I won't be the last! 



"Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever."  Mahatma Gandhi

Voting For Shark Research Excellence - GEERG

GEERG is being considered by the Aviva Community Fund in order to launch the world's first webcam shark monitoring system in the St. Lawrence Estuary (Quebec, Canada).

If their bid is successful, the GEERG HD video feed and webcam will be online and accessible to everyone 24/7 on the GEERG website.

In order to become a finalist, their project requires as many votes as possible. We have been big fans of GEERG for the past 7 years and the work they do in Canada.
This is one research team worthy of your support, and that includes you, the 2.38pm latte drinker who dips into this blog from time to time to "get your shark on."

A vote for the GEERG project is a vote for shark conservation. Please register and VOTE ONCE A DAY for the duration of the contest starting Monday, October 3 and please ask all of your friends and shark enthusiasts to do the same. Help GEERG protect sharks.

Voting starts on Monday, October 3, at 12 PM ET

Start the clicking now.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Visionary Shark Shooting - Trying Something New

Why do we love our Shark Divers?

This is why. Got an email from a diver who'll be out at the island with us in a few weeks with a "plan" to shoot white sharks in a way never tried before.

Yes this is the mock up, and yes, Michael has spent the last month planning, refining, and playing with this set up in his back yard.

Now all we gotta do is deliver two white sharks in perfect harmony, both equidistant from the port and starboard cages and from the looks of things Michael wants each animal to be about 20 feet long.

No problems we can do that, let's go shark diving!

Cool rig Michael.

The Trip of a Lifetime - The White Sharks of Isla Guadalupe

Sarah Fuller gets her close up shark moment, yes she was in a cage, we hope!
When Sarah Fuller called us way back in 2010 to go white shark diving at Guadalupe we were more than happy to oblige. 

Over the past decade in the shark business we have noticed the rise of solo female Shark Divers. Women like Sarah who will travel 210 miles into the middle of the Pacific not knowing a single soul to dive with Great White sharks. 

Women like Sarah are not your mothers adventure seekers, they are the new generation of traveling cool:

In the summer of 1975, my parents took me to the drive-in movie theater to see Jaws.  I was three and a half years old.  And we were spending the summer at Cape Cod.  Fortunately, what could have been a major childhood trauma, instead launched a summer of fun at the beach as we all played Jaws, swimming in the ocean and grabbing each other by the ankles.

This Labor Day weekend, after more than a year of planning, with the help of Shark Diver, I got to meet the magnificent sharks I'd been fascinated with for most of my life.

The trip started out a bit rocky for me. Thinking, "I like boats and I won't get seasick," I waited until I was on the boat to put on the seasickness patch and take my Bonine.  Big mistake.  I basically threw up all the way to the island.  Mark in the galley took good care of me, offering crackers and even finding me a can of ginger ale.  And after about 24 hours, I finally managed to keep down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

But as soon as we got to Isla Guadalupe, I felt great.  The cages went in the water as soon as we arrived and I went in on the second rotation.  Dive Master Martin took time to help each of us get used to breathing through the regulator and to make sure we felt comfortable in the water.  From the first dive, safety was the focus and we knew that people were watching from above and making sure we were OK.  I didn't see any sharks on my first dive, or nothing I can be sure was a shark, there were some shadows moving well below us.  But on the second dive, Pablo Escobar and his distinctive white nose arrived at the cages.  We saw five sharks on our first day and nine on the second.  Shredder was a group favorite, spending lots of time with us throughout the trip.  We also got to spend some quality time with Bite Face.  An unknown shark tried to get a little frisky and take a nibble on the cage, but he was gently guided away with a big stick.

While the sharks were the headliners of the trip, it would not have been the fantastic experience it was without the truly amazing crew.  They were very attentive (almost too much sometimes, I can get up and get my own water you know, I don't need to be waited on hand and foot). Captain Cary worked so hard the whole trip to make sure the boat was running safely. Little Kyle had boundless energy and was completely fearless, especially when he got on top of the cages to try and get some photos of a new shark (something I am certain none of the passengers would have been allowed to try).  Nick had a great self deprecating sense of humor and constantly positive attitude and he looks pretty fantastic without a shirt (he doesn't wear one often).  Captain Kyle was part Julie McCoy and part Merrill Stubing, all for fun, within reason.  Most importantly, every member of the crew seemed to be there because they love the sharks and love what they do.  They made sure we had almost as much fun out of the cages as in them.   A really interesting group of people with great stories to tell.  And they play a mean game of charades.

The island, for being a rocky, inhospitable place, also turned out to have amazing beauty to offer.  The sunset's are nice, but it's the sunrise that has the real wow factor.  You just have to get up at 5:30AM to see it.  And the night skies are just as impressive.  If you can stay up until about 1:00AM and watch the moon set behind the mountain, you're rewarded with more stars than you ever thought possible.

I'm looking forward to going back to Isla Guadalupe with Shark Diver in 2012 to see my shark friends Pablo Escobar and Shredder and Bite Face, and to make some new ones, both below and above the water.

Sarah Fuller
Los Angeles, CA