Monday, November 28, 2011

Micro Bikini's and the Politics of a Vote

Girl with the 30 million dollar bikini sez vote!
It has come to this. The venerated Shark Diver blog offering up jewel clad string bikini images to capture the last few of you out there who have not yet voted for David Shiffman.

Who's David you ask?

Only one of the smartest ocean science bloggers out there and oh, so close, to winning a much needed $10,000 blogging scholarship so he can continue to be innovative and science-y.

You want David to win this scholarship because he has promised to invite all of us to Miami for an all expenses paid weekend to his new tricked out Science Blogging Crib on Miami's South Beach with a one of a kind flowing Cristal Olympic Swimming Pool and 24 hour lectures on Cephlapodia.

Actually we made that part up, but, you can do your part by voting here today.

Takes but a minute and there's $10,000 great reasons why David should win this award.

Seriously vote, today!

PS: Hope this post will do David. You have no idea how hard it is to blog from 36,000 feet, they say they have Internet, but try and load up an image or two, oh and suffer the disgusted looks from the nice Mormon family across the way in seats 42 CDE who think you're looking at porn.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hugh Miller and Doug Anderson - Lords of the Documentary

When it comes to amazing in the documentary field two names stand out, way out. Hugh Miller and Doug Anderson have come back with some of the best underwater footage we have seen in a while.

Kudos to the entire team for this unique underwater expose shot near Little Razorback Island, close to Antarctica's Ross Archipelago. About as good as it gets:

Shark-Free Marinas and NBC Miami

Congratulations to Dr.Neil and to NBC Miami for this great little pro-shark conservation media hit with the Shark-Free Marinas Initiative this week.

Growing one marina at a time with the focus this year on Florida, thanks to everyone who has helped this initiative save sharks and educate the public from Fiji to Panama and now Florida:

View more videos at:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Australia - No to cull, yes to text?

Shredder says "thanks mates!"
Just when you thought the voices of reason had fled Australian politics and the Fox News "Shark Attack Media Machine" had dealt another blow to our favorite shark species, a reprieve, and some good news.

As it turns out and after some soul searching done at the end of a double barrel of worldwide outrage regional politicians in charge of a proposed white shark cull have walked back their position opting instead for a $14 million dollar pre-emptive shark warning system that also includes a SMS system that would alert ocean users of tagged sharks movements.

Is this a good plan?

Hell yes it is, and some kudos to be sent to the many emaillers, letter writers and media placers who gave those with the pen in government an earful.

Protected sharks need to stay that way, and if you want to stop shark attacks, stop humans from using the places where white shark congregate, like, um, Rottnest Island during certain months of the year.

Just our two cents in a debate that has already enjoyed enough coinage for one year already.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Carcharhinus longimanus to get a break? Fingers crossed one more time

The Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPFC);
Noting the Scientific Committee’s concern about the steep declining standardized catch rates and size trends of oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus) in longline and purse seine fisheries in the western and central Pacific Ocean and the Committee’s recommendation that the WCPFC consider mitigation measures for the species at its eighth regular annual session;

Recognizing the resolution of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) on oceanic whitetip shark and desiring conservation and management measures that are consistent with those of the IATTC;

Adopts the following measures in accordance with Article 10 of the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (Convention):

1. Members, Cooperating Non-Members and Participating Territories (CCMs) shall prohibit vessels flying their flag and vessels under charter arrangements to the CCM from retaining on board, transshipping, storing on a fishing vessel, selling or offering to sell from on board a fishing vessel or landing any oceanic whitetip shark, in whole or in part, in the fisheries covered by the Convention.

2. CCMs shall require all vessels flying their flag and vessels under charter arrangements to the CCM to release any oceanic whitetip shark that is caught as soon as possible after the shark is brought alongside the vessel, and to do so in a manner that results in as little harm to the shark as possible.

3. CCMs shall estimate, through data collected from observer programs and other means, the number of releases of oceanic whitetip shark, including the status upon release (dead or alive), and report this information to the WCPFC in Part 1 of their Annual Reports.

4. This Conservation and Management Measure shall enter into force on January 1, 2013.
Source:  Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Baited Shark Diving - The Controversy

One of the better looks at the controversy surrounding commercial shark diving. Wherever you have commercial shark diving you will also have those who do not understand it, or who feel negatively impacted by it.

But at the end of the day, done right, commercial shark diving delivers a suite of positive results for sharks in any given area, it's all on how you look at it:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Calling All Film Makers - Dugongs Calling

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) would like to call for tenders from qualified and experienced film makers and producers who can offer their services to provide a documentary on the Pacific dugong.

The successful applicant will need to provide a completed documentary by 31 December 2012. 

Please read Attachment Annex 1 for full requirements for tender submissions.

Lui A.J. Bell
Marine Species Officer
Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP)
PO Box 240

Phone: Direct-+685 66281; +685 21929 Ext 281
Fax: +685 20231

Brazil Tiger Shark Values - Jaws and Fins

Called a "Flat Head Shark," residents of the coastal town of Juréia, Brazil quickly take apart this Tiger (Galeocerdo cuvier) for its most valuable parts - jaws and fins.

We might suggest a third value for this animal, commercial shark diving, as commercial Tiger sites like the Bahamas benefit greatly from sustainable, live Tigers and other shark species:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Battleground for sharks Western Sahara?

Shark Fishing in Africa circa 1876
The shark population in occupied Western Saharan waters is under threat by Moroccan and European fishing. That is one of the many disturbing conclusions of the independent post-evaluation report on the EU's fish deal with Morocco.

Through targeting sharks, rays and skates, European vessels fishing in Western Saharan waters have adopted the same exploitation strategy as the Moroccan vessels, says the evaluation report from Océanic Developpement - an independent consultancy firm hired by the European Commission to review the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA).

The Moroccan fleet has long-time held a special interest for sharks. Up to 4.000 tonnes are landed each year to accommodate the demands for shark of the Asian markets. Particularly the deep sea species are targeted, as their large liver makes them interesting for the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry.

Deplorably, the EU fleet is not lagging behind. No less than 70% of the total catches of the three Portuguese vessels active in Saharawi waters, consists of sharks, rays and skates. That's well above 450 tonnes of endangered species. This is said to be the findings of the independent study written for the European Commission. The report mentions that one single Spanish vessel fished about 60 tonnes of sharks and rays, equalling 30% of its total catches.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers sharks, rays and skates to be in danger of extinction. These species are highly vulnerable in terms of reproduction, and are as a consequence in danger of extermination when exposed to over-fishing. And that is precisely the case in Western Sahara: the EU's evaluation study concluded that the fish stocks of both Moroccan and Saharawi waters are either fully exploited or over-exploited.

In order to protect sharks and rays, an International Plan of Action for Conservation and Management of Sharks was adopted by the FAO in 1999. The catches of sharks, rays and skates by European vessels are furthermore in violation of the EU’s Action Plan on Sharks, adopted in 2009. That same year, the Moroccan government issued a set of guidelines to reduce the fishing impact on sharks, but the evaluation report found no information as to whether and how these measures have been implemented.

Since sharks, rays and skates are already in danger of extinction, continued fishing will have detrimental effects on all ongoing attempts of conservation. Three out of ten sharks captured by the EU fleet are of types that are considered 'vulnerable' by the IUCN, meaning that their population has already been reduced by 80%.


Gulf Oil Spill Research "Cornucopedia?"

What do you get when dozens of researchers from a variety of oceanic disciplines drop hundreds of pages of fresh research content on the Internet representing thousands of hours of field work...all in the space of a week?

Why that would be a veritable 
"Cornucopedia" of study material, and folks it is time to get busy with the answers to many of the questions we have been wondering about concerning the Gulf Oil Spill of 2010.

Of course the big answer, "did the oil spill have an impact?" is here in stark black and white.

Yes it did.

If you ask a BP rep/lawyer/evil incarnate baby eater the same question the answer will be vastly different and that, people, is why we have scientists to break it down for you.

But this work is absolutely no good to anyone unless it is read, dissemintaed, and talked about and that's where you come in. Now if you're some of the folks we know in the shark biz, forewarning this link contains big words and some numbers that go as high as 12, as in 12 pack beer. So you might want to wait until others have posted on Facebook pages with big glossy pictures of oiled seabirds so you can get angry, otherwise you'll just get lost with this stuff.


If you're the other folks we know in the shark biz, the majority, read on, and pay close attention to the next few months with fresh papers coming out concerning Whale sharks in the Gulf.

We hear tell this is going to be some interesting stuff. Then again we have been watching closely since this event broke in 2010 helping to drive the media where we could in response to these magnificent animals who, at the time, were migrating right through bands of oil.

For these animals it would appear they suffered greatly.

Tagging Tigers Guy Harvey's Clan Returns Home

Three tiger sharks tagged off  the coast of Grand Cayman as part of a collaborative research project have returned to local waters after almost a year travelling around the Caribbean. Although Tina was last tracked off the coast of Jamaica, Coco is in the deep water off Grand Cayman at present and Luiza, who was last heard of off Honduras – Nicaragua in the summer, has come home for a visit and officials are watching to see when she will leave again on her voyage around the Caribbean. The three sharks were given satellite tags as part of an extensive survey of the sharks around the Cayman Islands, which has revealed information on what species there are and some of the threats to Cayman’s large marine animals.

The project is a joint effort between the Department of Environment (DoE), Marine Conservation International (MCI), the Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) at Nova Southeastern University and the Save Our Seas Foundation.

Studies elsewhere have shown that where large sharks have been fished out, the resulting catch of desirable fish for the fishers has drastically changed and reduced in species and numbers. The current study will provide information on the situation in the Cayman Islands and help to prevent such a disastrous situation for our waters.

The long migration paths of the three tigers show the sharks use a large part of the Caribbean Sea. Dr Mauvis Gore from Marine Conservation International said the tracks show the extensive areas that the tiger sharks need to patrol for food and in turn help to keep a balance in the seas.

Despite their precarious situation, there is no law to protect sharks in Cayman waters but hopes for the species have been raised in the region following the ban on shark fishing by Belize, Mexico, St Maarten, Honduras and the Bahamas. Timothy Austin, Deputy Director of the DoE, welcomed the ban by neighbouring countries.  “This will give a boost to the health of the marine environment for the Caribbean,” he said.

A boost to shark conservation has also come from the Cayman Islands Brewery, which is donating five cents to the project from the sale of every can of its new award winning White Tip lager.

You can watch the Tiger tracks here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Could tilapia help save endangered sharks? Market driven solutions

The most popular farmed fish species in Taiwan may soon help save endangered sharks.

It turns out that the caudal fins of Taiwan tilapia -- a hybrid of Oreochromis mossambicus and Oreochromis niloticus niloticus -- can replace shark dorsal and pectoral fins in the highly sought-after shark fin soup, said Wang Yi-feng, general manager of the Kouhu Fisheries Cooperative in Yunlin County and a Taiwan tilapia expert.

Just over a year ago, Wang began studying how to turn tilapia tail fins into something very similar to processed shark fins. Tilapia fins are already on the market as a substitute and their increasing popularity could lower the demand that has been driving the overfishing of sharks, Taiwan Today reports.

“Caudal fins of Taiwan tilapia are a perfect stand-in for shark fins because they have the same appearance and texture,” said Wang. “Most importantly, the fact that Taiwan tilapia is a farmed fish guarantees stable supplies of the delicacy, which could prevent sharks from being wiped out.”

Just like shark fins, tilapia fins are made up primarily of cartilage, which is flavourless but has a desirable chewy consistency, Wang explained.

As opposed to shark fins, which can be extremely harmful due to the high levels of mercury accumulated by sharks, Taiwan tilapia fins pose no threat of heavy metal poisoning, he explained.

Founded in 1997, the Kouhu Fisheries Cooperative is made up of more than 200 fish farm operators from three southern Taiwan counties with a combined pond area of 2,300 ha, and represent a fourth of the country’s total tilapia farming area. Wang specified that the cooperative is Taiwan’s largest exporter of frozen tilapia fillets and also runs in compliance with European Union (EU) food standards while offering traceable product resumes.

Notably, shredded fins cost around USD 120 per kg -- one-quarter the cost of shredded shark fins. However, tilapia fins can only be used shredded because they are much smaller than shark fins, Wang pointed out.

The product is becoming increasingly trendy in Hong Kong, Japan and many five-star hotels in Taiwan.

Currently, the Tilapia fins’ monthly output stands at 1 ton, but this is expected to double or triple by next year to meet growing market demand now that the manufacturing process has matured, Wang said.

“I believe there is great market potential for tilapia fins and I’m confident that consumers will love them,” he added.

Wang is now researching the use of hyaluronic acid extracted from the crystalline lens of the Taiwan tilapia eyes to create cosmetic products.

Content source FIS.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Dive Sentry - See it. Report it.

Dive Sentry - See it. Report it. 

1.2 million active divers from around the world are the eyes and ears of Sanctuaries, set aside areas, and Bio-Spheres.

In the beta testing phase.

The main two elements of this initiative will allow divers to anonymously post fisheries violations from around the world to a central RSS media site which in turn allows the major media, conservation groups, and secondary media (blogs, You Tube) free access to all images, content, and video of violations.

The second element will automatically email regional authorities submitted violations including images and video in english and the native language. Reports will automatically be paired to Google Earth coordinates for ease of tracking.

Dive Sentry is fully integrated on primary social media platforms and has a beta iPhone app that allows divers to upload video, content, and images automatically.

Dive Sentry enguages the major media with fresh global conservation content daily.

Dive Sentry provides a timeline and archive for regional repeat violations in a public format.

Dive Sentry engages regional agencies responsible for fisheries protections and mgmt automatically.

Dive Sentry - See it. Report it.

CNN Sharks: From predator to prey

Shark Diver was asked to help CNN this summer with an investigative report into the state of sharks.

The team, featuring CNN's Kaj Larsen, was introduced to the sharks of the Bahamas by Luke Tipple the Director of the Shark-Free Marinas Initiative. The Bahamas remains one of the most forward thinking governments in the Caribbean when it comes to sharks, conservation, and commercial shark diving efforts.

This is why we do conservation pieces for sharks and when it comes to shark conservation media it doesn't get much better than this. Kudos to everyone who worked on this piece:

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research and Jeff Corwin

NAPLES  -- Shark research at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) will have the national spotlight tomorrow in a segment of Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin. The new production, launched jointly by the Georgia Aquarium and Litton Entertainment, is part of the Litton Weekend Adventure Saturday morning three-hour educational programming block on ABC. The shark research episode, featuring RBNERR’s fisheries biologist Pat O’Donnell, along with Mike Hyatt and Paul Anderson, PhD., two of the other researchers involved in the study, is scheduled to air tomorrow Saturday, Nov. 5.
“We are thrilled that the Rookery Bay is being recognized in this production,” said Rookery Bay NERR Manager Gary Lytton. “Millions of TV viewers nationwide will have a great opportunity to learn more about sharks and the importance of mangrove estuaries as shark nurseries through our collaboration with Corwin and the Georgia Aquarium.” 
Five years ago, Rookery Bay NERR’s long-term shark monitoring program caught the attention of Florida Aquarium veterinary staff working to improve captive shark handling techniques. Subsequently, Rookery Bay NERR entered into a cooperative research effort with the Florida Aquarium, the Georgia Aquarium and Shedd’s Aquarium in Chicago. The collaborative shark stress response project required access to wild-caught sharks, such as those encountered monthly in RBNERR’s project.
As production plans got underway at the Georgia Aquarium for Ocean Mysteries, the Rookery Bay shark capture project became the perfect opportunity to put Corwin in close contact with wild sharks. Filming took place aboard a Rookery Bay NERR research vessel in the Ten Thousand Islands in August 2011. The crew encountered four sharks:  two lemon (Negaprion brevirostris), a bonnethead (Sphyrna tiburo) and a blacktip (Carcharhinus limbatus). While the cameras rolled, the sharks were measured, weighed and had other data recorded before being tagged and released with Corwin’s assistance and enthusiastic explanation of their significance to the ocean ecosystem.
Programming times vary during the Saturday morning Litton’s Weekend Adventure on ABC. Check your local listings.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Shark Fishing with Shotguns?

Yup, once more You Tube has provided us an ugly window into the grunt filled world of lower organisms and the manner in which they fish:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hagfish vs Shark - Cool Video

 So we all know the Hagfish as a disgusting relic of the Devonian era. They are basically the critters who will consume your mortal remains should you be unfortunate enough to perish at sea.

But there are other deep water critters who also vie for that honor as your mortal remains sitting down at 2000 feet represent a veritable cornucopia in the desert like environment of the cold dark deep.

To combat this underwater arms race and to not become part of the movable feast, Hagfish have developed a unique slime that until very recently researchers didn't know a lot about.

The following video aptly reveals the Hagfish defense mechanism when a deep water shark shows up and thinks it will make an easy meal of the eel like critter it has just discovered at a research bait station.

 Great stuff and kudos to the team behind the video from Australia:

North Shore pro surfer Jamie O’Brien needs a media team - and a condom

Raising awareness?
I wish you could make this stuff up but sadly you cannot, and thus begins today's lesson about wildlife, media messaging, and stupid animal tricks.

Folks, we have said it before and will say it again, there's something wrong with the media message out there.

First a bit about this image.

Pro surfer Jamie O’Brien is trying to get folks to understand Fibropapillomatosis which is causing an epidemic amongst sea turtles.

Fibropapillomatosis is most likely caused by a herpes-type virus.  

He chose this image of him engaged in a sex act with a turtle, no wait, he was just riding the turtle, no, it's a sex act, to convey the conservation message.


This is on par with, if not as moronic as, recent media hits that were meant to convey important conservation messages such as:

1. Playing a guitar underwater while crooning to white sharks in a protected Bio Sphere Reserve. The message was, "white sharks are not dangerous." Since that video there have been 6 fatal white shark attacks and 11 non fatal predatory events on surfers and divers worldwide.

2. Holding up pizza box lids with lip stick on them to convey complex messaging about shark nets in South Africa. Since that media image over 2000+ sharks have been killed in shark nets all over the world.

3. Placing billboards at recent shark attack sites with the message, "Payback is Hell". We're not even going to go there.

The list goes on.

It's not like we don't know media messaging and complex conservation management. We have been involved in it for the past decade and while images like this one with Jamie O’Brien elicit giggles, web traffic, and a bunch of kudos from your particular tribal group, they don't last, and ultimately they are not effective.

You want to save turtles? This is not the way to do it. 

But that does not stop folks from trying. Media messaging is as complex as the issue you are trying to get across and you have to play to a much wider audience than just the folks who reside in your smart phones contact list. It's a point that seems obvious but far too many within the conservation community miss it time and again.

Hits on a You Tube videos do not translate into conservation laws. Quasi-sex turtle images do not translate into grants and funds for long term studies. Awareness is not worth a dime unless it translates, and translate into something that will actually help.

Conservation messaging needs to be done without the "stupid pet tricks with wildlife."

We can do better than we are with smarter messaging that actually translates into conservation gold.

Highlight the issue. Create the solution. Translate into action.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Himalayan Griffon Vulture vs Russians

You know, occasionally we break format here at the Shark Diver Blog to bring you something that defies description, fortunately for you there's a video.

Welcome to Russian para-gliders vs Himalayan Griffon Vultures, a smack down that will leave you wishing you understood Russian swearwords:

Barry Bruce and Russell Bradford CSIRO Industry Study

The effects of berleying on the distribution and behaviour of white sharks, Carcharodon carcharias, at the Neptune Islands, South Australia, August 2011


Research Summary
A study by Barry Bruce and Russell Bradford of the CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources South Australia
Cage diving at Neptune Islands
Seas and sealions (pinnipeds) form part of a white shark’s annual diet, and sharks may spend from days to months per year at pinniped colonies. Between these visits they travel to other locations seeking other sources of prey. They can swim thousands of kilometres, from temperate to tropical waters, and across the open ocean during these annual travels.

Pinniped colonies that are regularly visited by white sharks can be ideal for shark-viewing tourism. White shark cage diving activities are established near to such pinniped colonies in South Africa, Mexico, California and Australia.

In Australia, white shark cage diving occurs only at the Neptune Islands Group Marine Park (60–70 km south of Port Lincoln, South Australia) comprising the North and South Neptune Islands.These islands host Australia’s largest pinniped aggregation.

Commercial tour operators involved in white shark cage diving must be licensed under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 and, if berleying to attract sharks, must have an exemption under the Fisheries Act 1982.

Berleying practices
In South Australia, shark cage diving provides an opportunity to view white sharks in their environment.The sharks are commonly attracted to the viewing vessel through the use of berley (chum), a mix of chopped or minced fish and fish oil. Berleying attracts sharks that are already present in the area to the shark cage-dive vessel and increases the chances of a shark being seen.

Increased frequency of berleying
The shark cage diving industry has worked under a Code of Practice since 2004 to ensure that its operations minimise negative impacts on sharks. Permit requirements also restrict the type of berley than can be used to fish-based products only and these products must be kept refrigerated prior to use.

Days of berleying activity in the SA shark-cage diving industry had remained reasonably stable at an annual average of 128 days from 2000 to 2007. However, the number of days of berleying activity at the Neptune Islands significantly increased after 2007, reaching 270 days in 2009–2010. Berleying activity increased over this time both within the main bay at North Neptune Island and at a second site outside of the bay.

This increase in berleying activity has caused some concern as wildlife tourism that attracts or rewards the target animals, such as through provisioning (feeding), can cause changes in behaviour.Worldwide experience suggests that such changes in behaviour, if they occur, can often have negative consequences for the target animal.

Increasing interest from potential new operators to enter the SA shark cage dive industry combined with concerns regarding the potential for negative impacts on sharks from berleying operations, prompted the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Primary Industries and Resources South Australia (PIRSA) to set research on the impact of berleying on shark behaviour at the Neptune Islands as a high priority. Such research was also consistent with objectives under the National recovery plan for white sharks as a listed threatened species under Australia’s Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

White shark research at the North Neptune Islands
The North Neptune Islands is a key site for many white sharks in Australian waters and have been the focus of CSIRO-based research on white shark movement patterns, behaviour and habitat use since 1993.

Sharks tagged with electronic tags (satellite, archival and acoustic) have been tracked from the Neptune Islands to Exmouth in north-western Western Australia and to Rockhampton in central Queensland. Sharks tagged with other (non-electronic) tags at The Neptune Islands have also crossed theTasman Sea to New Zealand.

A 2001–2003 CSIRO study at the North Neptune Islands found that the level of berleying at that time had a localised and short-term effect on the distribution and behaviour of sharks and that the effects were concentrated in the bay of the main island where most berleying and shark cage diving activities occurred. Having the results of this initial study provided an opportunity to examine if white shark behaviour had changed at the North Neptune Islands since the 2007 increase in berleying effort.

Acoustic monitoring study: 2010–2011
The purpose of the 2010–2011 study was to see if there had been any changes in the amount of time (residency) white sharks spent at the Neptune Islands since the previous study in 2001–2003 and if there had been any changes in their movement patterns or behaviour.The 2010–2011 study observed the movements of 21 tagged white sharks ranging from 2.8 metres to 4.8 m.  The sharks were tagged with acoustic transmitters each of which produces a unique signal that can be identified by moored acoustic receivers.

The presence/absence of individual tagged sharks was monitored by arrays of acoustic receivers at both the North and South the Neptune Islands from December 2009 to April 2011.These receivers were removed at the end of the study so that the data they collected could be examined.These were complemented by monitoring data from a single satellite- linked acoustic receiver maintained inside the main bay at the North Neptune Islands since 2008.The satellite linked receiver automatically sends information on sharks present in the bay each week to researchers at CSIRO in Hobart. Daily logbook records of shark cage dive operator activities from 1999–2011 were also used in the analysis to identify when operators were present and to monitor the number of sharks sighted each day.

Acoustic receivers identical to those used in this study also form a network of stations around the Australian coast as part of the Commonwealth Government funded Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS).The acoustic receivers form part of the Australian AnimalTracking and Monitoring System ( and allow researchers to monitor the long- term movements of tagged sharks after they leave the Neptune Islands.

The tagging procedure
Acoustic tags were attached to a small stainless steel arrow head by a short tether. Sharks were attracted to the vessel using fish-based berley and tags were attached externally to each shark as they swam past by using a tagging pole.

What did the monitoring reveal?

General shark movements
As seen in previous research, white sharks tagged during the study were found to be temporary residents of the Neptune Islands. Despite berleying, sharks continue to arrive and leave the Neptune Islands. As in previous years, the number of sharks present at any one time was highly variable.There were some periods when no sharks were present.These patterns are probably driven by differences in the ocean conditions between years and seasons.

Increased berleying has not led to sharks taking up patterns of permanent residency and sharks left the Neptunes Group for other destinations across their Australian range during the study period. For example, three tagged sharks were detected by acoustic receivers moving through south-western Western Australia after leaving the Neptune Islands during the course of the study.

When resident to the Neptune Islands area, some sharks made return transits between the North and South Neptune Islands which are 12 km apart. This occurred regardless of berleying activity and appears to be normal behaviour for sharks in this area.

Changes in shark behaviour


Despite sharks continuing to arrive and depart the Neptune Islands during berleying periods, the 2010-2011 study identified some significant changes in shark behaviour at the North Neptune Islands since berleying effort and regularity increased in 2007.
These changes in behaviour were not observed at the South Neptune Islands where berleying effort has not markedly changed since 2007.
The study found the following changes in the way sharks used the Neptune Islands:
  1. The average amount of time (residency period) that individual sharks spend at the North Neptune Islands has increased from 11 days in 2001- 2003 to 21 days in 2010-2011. 
  2. The average number of consecutive days (visits) spent at North Neptune Island during residency periods has increased from 2 days in 2001-2003 to 6.5 days in 2010-2011. 
  3. The average number of sharks seen by operators has increased from 2.2 per day prior to 2007 to 3.4 per day after 2007.This does not mean that the abundance of sharks has increased but reflects that they are staying for longer periods and that each individual is seen more often. 
  4. The daily movements of sharks has changed to more closely match the arrival and departure of shark cage dive operators, so that now sharks arrive in the berleying areas at about the time operators arrive and leave the area after the operators leave.This pattern now occurs on days where operators are present and also on days when they are not present.
Why is it important to take notice of these changes?
These observations all suggest that berleying operations have changed the way sharks use the environment at the North Neptune Islands. 

At present, there is no evidence to suggest that these changes have been harmful to the sharks or that they may lead to changes in their behaviour at any other location. Many of the sharks also visited South Neptune Island and their behaviour at that site was not significantly different to the behaviour of sharks in the 2001–2003 study.

Understanding the impacts of such changes is complicated because each shark is only a temporary visitor to the Neptune Islands and thus is only exposed to berleying for the short time they are there. Also, although berleying provides an attraction for sharks, by itself it provides no reward in the form of food. Small ‘teaser’ baits used by operators to lure sharks closer to the vessel offer some form or reward but this is small compared to the source of natural prey in the area.

Research in other areas of the world has identified that a variety of problems can occur where marine wildlife has been attracted for tourism purposes. For white sharks and their environment at the Neptune Islands, this may include increased aggression between sharks if more sharks remain on site, distraction by tourism activities resulting in fewer opportunities to feed on seals and sealions, changes in predation pressure on seals and sealions, sharks provisioning on a food source (teaser baits) that is not as nutritious as their natural prey and increasing the abundance of fish life that can feed on the small particles that make up berley. These problems can lead to unintentional impacts on the overall health of sharks and to changes in the ecology of the area.

White sharks are a listed threatened species and protected in Australian waters. Minimising identified impacts on them and the environment within which they reside is important, particularly when the implications of such impacts are unknown.

In the case of shark cage diving, all parameters measured in this study suggest that berleying operations have changed the way sharks use the area at the North Neptune Islands. Reducing the impacts of these operations on sharks is thus important to ensure that there are no long-term negative effects on sharks visiting this area or the marine ecosystem of the region.

The challenge for government agencies and the SA industry will be to reduce the impact of shark cage diving on sharks and the ecosystem while maintaining a world-class diving experience that contributes significantly to the local economy and provides a platform for education, research and conservation. Achieving this balance has the potential to provide a benchmark for managing cage-diving tourism worldwide.


The study makes the following recommendations:
Reduce berleying/provisioning effort
The current level of berleying should be reduced, or at least capped, to minimise further behavioural changes.‘Teaser’ baits should be of a minimum size required to be effective and all reasonable efforts should be made to minimise the number of baits taken by sharks.

On-going monitoring of shark behaviour
Shark residency periods, duration of visits and daily patterns of movements should continue to be monitored to evaluate the sharks’ response to any mitigation actions and enable feedback to managing agencies and industry to ensure such actions are effective.
The most cost-effective monitoring approach would be to maintain the satellite-linked receiver at the North Neptune Islands and to continue to tag sharks with acoustic tags. Additional satellite receivers should be installed at the second berleying site at the North Neptune Islands and at South Neptune Island, (the latter to compare shark behaviour).

Education and awareness program 
The shark cage dive industry in South Australia should be provided with educational material for clients that explains:
  • shark ecology, movements and conservation
  • the risks posed to sharks by excessive berleying or provisioning;
  • the importance of minimising the impact of shark cage diving on sharks
  • the industry and management actions used to achieve this.

Edwar Herreno Great Stuff - Baitball Video

Hat Tip: The folks over at the Guy Harvey Blog for bringing this video to our attention, nature at it's finest and rawest, a video by Edwar Herreno: