Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Welcoming the New Guys - Nantucket Shark Divers!

It's been a long time coming but through it all Captain Bryce Rohrer has maintained a steady head of steam and enthusiasm you only find from truly dedicated shark diving folks.

The end result is Nantucket Shark Divers the place to be for shark diving in the USA off the East coast in the summer and fall:

Nantucket Island is home to many species of sharks during the warmer months of the year. From June through October species such as blues, makos, threshers, great whites and basking sharks call the waters off the island home. Nantucket Shark Divers has perfected the game of finding and interacting with these animals both above and below the water. With years of experience and a flawless safety record we are able provide novice and experienced divers alike a world class day of adventure on the water. Whether you are a professional looking for photographs or a beginner looking to get in the cage we have over 10 years of experience to make sure you get as much out of the day as possible. Our aim is to provide our clients with a first rate safe and successful wildlife experience. We also offer shark and whale watch viewing trips from the safety of the boat. For an experience you won't forget book a trip with us in search of sharks and witness nature at it’s peak. Sharks and whales are guaranteed on every trip.

We wish these guys the very best and good luck with the white shark hunt that kicks off in a few months from now, make the industry proud guys!

Diane MacEachern Firing on all Cylinders?

Beware the Nurse shark encounter experts
As much as we dislike the current trend within the the shark conservation community to fabricate facts, inflate research numbers, and simplify complex issues down to the level of single celled organisms, we're no fans of those who take on the commercial shark diving industry either.

Enter Diane MacEachern, a blogger who dropped a stinker of an article onto the Internet this week with all the grace and finesse of a Hakapik wielding sealer on a Canadian ice flow.

The article is called Shark Cage Diving: Helping or Hurting? and it's filled to the brim with assumptions, non facts, and a quote from a guy who's selling a book:

“In general, people are intruding upon and disturbing wild animals far too much. We need to leave them alone and in peace far more than we do. Shark cage diving is a good example of how we are messing around with great white sharks too much, habituating them to people, having them associate chum (bait) with people, and drawing them to locations where surfers and divers are recreating.

Yes, yes, we have heard this all before, but has anyone heard of the great pro-industry research data into white shark habituation from Australia?  How about Isla Guadalupe?

The fact is articles like these, written by self avowed sharks divers (Diane's total shark experience was a fetid pool with a lone Nurse shark in it) do a lot of harm to an industry that we recently blogged about. One that suffers, three decades on, from an almost complete lack of regional and government/tourism support.

Globally our industry generates tens of millions of dollars and educates tens of thousands of divers, and remains one of the safest adventure sport industries out there. That's a fact. The rest of it, the assumptions that regionally our industry is responsible for shark attacks on surfers, divers, and little kids on inflatable dinosaurs is just, "pull it out of your ass media meat grinder material". There's nothing to back any of it up, not a single paper, no data, just good old fashioned hysteria.

Unfortunately it plays, and plays well, especially when Nurse shark diving experts, afraid of attacks, decide to get busy with blogs.

What our industry does not do well is handle mainstream media output. In terms of an international body we handle the few ridiculous industry videos, idiotic images, and industry/conservation messaging with the same care and preparation that a five year old exhibits with a set of overlarge paint brushes, three color paint, and small black and white images asking one to, "paint in the lines".

We need to do better.

In terms of a global industry, after 30 years, it is high time to create an industry body. One that works with regional government and tourism members for support, action, and one that handles the global media output. A few images and video, some shot years ago, are still being used today to malign an entire industry worldwide. These images appear for simplistic reasons, and no one is ever held accountable. But they do damage none the less.

It's an interesting thought, a global commercial shark diving body, and a bold vision, we wonder if anyone is up for a challenge?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sustainable Shark Fishing? Starts With a Study

Sustainable shark fishing? You need data first
A MURDOCH University PhD student will spend a year living among Indonesian shark fishermen to investigate their impact on shark populations and the effects of conservation efforts on fishing communities.

Vanessa Jaiteh hopes her project, beginning at the end of this week through Murdoch’s Asia Research Centre and Centre for Fish, Fisheries and Aquatic Ecosystems, will contribute to future sustainability of declining fish stocks in Indonesia that support thousands of villagers living in poverty.

“I’m trying to identify trade-offs between shark management initiatives and their impact on the livelihood, security, and economic welfare of remote shark fishing communities,” she says.
Ms Jaiteh’s 14-month field research involves her living in three or four remote fishing villages in the Maluku Spice Islands and West Papua for several months at a time, going on fishing expeditions and doing fish market surveys.

Once she has a feel for how they live she will conduct structured interviews and focus group discussions.

Ms Jaiteh will also assess shark numbers and sizes from fixed camera footage and onboard observations of captured sharks to gain some of the first significant data on Indonesian shark populations and uncover the effectiveness of conservation areas and how much fishing pressure it can sustain.

While Indonesia is the world’s largest harvester of shark fin, the industry remains largely unregulated with no legal framework beyond a 2006 national action plan of only a few pages that are not based on scientific findings.

However, Ms Jaiteh says marine management efforts “are often based on biological data alone, and therefore do not take into account the livelihood requirements of local fishers as stakeholders”.
“If fishers are not considered in management decisions, the result could be illegal fishing or greater poverty among fishing communities,” she says.

She says livelihoods are already under pressure due to Coral Triangle marine protection areas in traditional fishing zones forcing fishermen travel farther on increasingly expensive fuel.

Ms Jaiteh says a potential way to improve the situation would be to get villagers out of shark fishing and into aquaculture, especially as Indonesia wants to double its fishing productivity by 2014.

Ms Jaiteh’s research is made possible by the Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Outgoing Postgraduate Award, which provides financial support for Australian postgraduate students to do research in Asia that works towards strengthening the relationships between Australia and Asian countries.

Complete story here.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Shark Diving Industry Thank You to Tourism Minister Gail Gago!

Tourism Minister Gail Gago's new shark plane, this is how you do it folks!
Mention commercial shark diving and we'll show you years of media turmoil surrounding any particular site on the planet.

Except for Fiji.

Most of the media discontent is based on one simple fact.

Regional politicians and tourism officials are usually too timid to stand behind our industry.

In some places politicians even callously use our industry as a wedge issue, calling in and stoking what amounts to media air strikes on operations that have exhibited nothing but 100% operational excellence. Believe it, it happens.

But thankfully we have Australia this week to show the way. 

Tourism Minister Gail Gago has unveiled a new, rare, and forward thinking partnership with regional shark diving operators and airlines to bring more tourists to where the sharks are in the form of a white shark cage diving airplane:

"Ninety nine percent of tourism is marketing, is selling a message. We know that people fatigue to messages very quickly, so the trick is to try to keep creating novel and clever, and new and innovative ways to get your message across", says Minister Gago.

We could not have said it better, and Kudos to Minister Gail Gago from an entire global industry this week.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Russell Easton...of all the sleazy shark divers

Russell Easton's stolen shark attack image?
The dive industry is a funny place.

For the most part folks are content to experience the wonders of the undersea realm, rinse, and repeat.

Then there are folks like Russell Easton who are a newer kind of diver, ones who are seeking to "make a name" for themselves.

You almost can't blame small minded shark divers like Russell. For the past decade a few within the shark world have schooled guys like him with a never ending parade of stupid stunts with sharks.

We have all seen the images and sadly the videos too.

These shark stunts get picked up by the mainstream press, usually to the somewhat hollow industry member howls of, "we didn't know the press was that bad!" and then broadcast all over the world.

Guys like Russell here are just waiting for their chance to be a media big shot.

And they get it from this gal, Alison Smith-Squire, who is a writer, journalist and media agent selling exclusive real life stories to newspapers, magazines and TV. She owns the Sell My Story website Featureworld.co.uk, which was set up to help ordinary people, like our friend Russell, sell their stories to the press for as much as $9000 USD.

Not bad stuff if you can get it.

Problem with this months mega viral "shark attack story" featuring Mr.Easton is the fact that he allegedly ripped the images of him getting mauled by a Tiger in the Bahamas from another diver who was there on the same dive. The one who took these images of Russell in the first place.

It's a bit of an industry blow out right now.

You have Tiger shark image sets that malign a perfectly good and safe shark diving site, the shark attack subject which makes everyone involved look like rank amateurs, and the fact images were allegedly stolen, sold to the highest bidder, and then regurgitated onto the main media stage like the stomach contents of an overheated Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus).

By the way Condors are vultures that feed exclusively on rotted matter so we thought the analogy was spot on.

Is there a solution to this?

Probably, if we can get past the howls of "we didn't know the press was that bad!".

We might suggest that Russell appear on some sort of Banned Forever Shark Diving List, his dreams of going to Cat Island should be crushed, and if he ever finds himself at at DEMA with a name tag that says "HI, I'M RUSSELL EASTON," taken out the back and dumped into the nearest trashbin.

Hopefully one that is packed full with the stomach contents of several overheated Andean Condors (Vultur gryphus).

You get the picture, and sadly for the rest of us, we get to clean up what Russell's picture left behind.

UPDATE: We also called and emailed Alison Smith-Squire to ask her how this story came about, including the shocking images and storyline, here was her immediate response:

"Russell Easton signed a form saying he had the rights to sell the photos and you must take this up with him.The copy was read back to him and I spoke with Russell just 30 mins ago and he is absolutely happy with his quotes, I am sorry but I can't help or go into it any further."

01727 841811
07979 750616
Alison Smith-Squire

Featureworld Ltd
Registered in England no: 5826131

Frazier Nivens - Helping Out a Good Friend!

Frazier Nivens in the center, celebrating the completion of another commercial production in the Bahamas, 2011.

For those who know him they know he's one of the last, truly, great guys in our industry. He's also extremely talented underwater and we have thoroughly enjoyed the time we have spent working with him in the Bahamas.

Unfortunately Frazier suffered a setback this month in the form of a detached retina and whopping medical bill.

The eye will heal and for an underwater cameraman shooting RED this is great news indeed.

The whopping bill is another issue all together.

If you want to help there's a fund that's been set up to help Frazier out. We're in, and with the help of friends, he'll fully recover this setback as well.

Online Benefit Donation Page 

Or checks can be mailed to:

First State Bank
101433 Overseas Hwy.
Key Largo, FL 33037

Make checks payable to: Frazier Nivens Benefit Account

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sharks and the Global Supply of Oxygen?

Dwindling sharks = no oxygen, the quote that will not go away
It started as a throwaway conservation quote a few years ago.

Completely devoid of any facts, empirical data, or even common sense, it has since snowballed into shark conservations most enduring media quote.

Much to the chagrin of serious shark conservation folks who would rather it go away - forever.

We're talking about the great non debate of Sharks and Oxygen, you know the one:

"If we lose the worlds sharks, we will run out of oxygen!"

The phrase was first uttered in it's most simplistic form back in 2008 during the promotion of the film Sharkwater (go to timeline 3.13). It has since taken on a life of it's own among those who trade in rumor, hysteria, and Facebook tribal gatherings where facts, common sense, and the twisted logic of gasbagging conservation statements are rarely considered.

But consider them we must, because the playing field for shark conservation has changed dramatically since the early days of 2008 and now we have an actual movement on hand, one that is being eyed at by big fishing interests and politicians.

It's a conservation nexus where words matter and facts even more so.

I would like to propose that we do away with or retire this poor excuse for a media quote:

"If we lose the worlds sharks, we will run out of oxygen!" 

Perhaps to be replaced with something a bit more tidy?

Sadly, the gulf between those who are relevant in the shark conservation movement, those who get things done vs the loony fringe who cling to outdated media quotes seemingly designed and crafted by the Paul Watson School of Media WTF!? is growing on a daily basis.

Adopting a straight and universal media narrative for sharks is not only important, it is imperative, if the movement is to stay relevant and frisky into 2013 and beyond.

Brother, you got a good shark quote?

Last Stand for Sharks January 30th , 2012

Film: Last Stand for Sharks

Monday, January 30, 2012
6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Embarcadero Center Cinema, One Embarcadero Center, Promenade Level, San Francisco, CA 94111
Landmark Theatres
San Francisco, California

About Sanctuary: The Last Stand for Sharks
This film portrays the underwater world of sharks and paints a global picture of the threats they are facing worldwide. Globally shark populations are declining, but there is growing momentum to protect sharks. Many locations are recognizing that sharks are worth more alive than dead, contributing both to the economy and the stability of crucial marine ecosystems like coral reefs. Some countries have even established shark sanctuaries throughout the entirety of their waters.

A shark sanctuary is a place where sharks can live and reproduce without the threat of fishing. Since many shark species are migratory, the establishment of small protected areas or breeding closures is not enough to protect sharks that may leave the boundary of safety. Shark sanctuaries present an opportunity to protect sharks over a larger scale before it is too late.

About the Pew Environment Group
The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a nongovernmental organization that works globally to establish pragmatic, science-based policies that protect our oceans, preserve our wildlands, and promote clean energy. For information, visit http://www.pewenvironment.org/.

About the Coral Reef Alliance
The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) unites communities to save coral reefs. CORAL provides education, tools, and inspiration to help local communities become passionate environmental stewards of the reefs. Together, we develop well-managed marine protected areas and sustainable businesses to benefit coral reefs and people. For more information, visit http://www.coral.org/.

Registration is required for this event. Use the link below to register. Please RSVP by Friday, January 27, 2012.

The Pew Charitable Trusts makes every effort to comply with federal, state and local government ethics rules when hosting events. Please make sure that your participation is consistent with applicable ethics rules.

Shark warning website planned - Cool

Co-Direct of Sustainable Tourism Research and Development at Curtin University, Professor Carlsen is working on an interactive site which would post warning and then sent out that information by email.
Currently, around 100 people have signed up to both send and receive information about shark movements.

"I feel that if I had had some knowledge about the presence of the shark I would have exercised more caution before going into the water."

Do people have information, wonders Professor Carlsen, "particularly whether they're are able to tap into local knowledge and any local sightings".

At the moment, the site is in development, he says. The next stage is to prove the concept.
"We're looking for surfers to sign up to sharkwatch.info. I'm pleased to say we've just hit 100."
The site needs to be interactive and to get the message out in the most effective way explains Professor Carlsen. "At this stage, we're looking at email alerts.

"Further down the track, we could be doing all sorts of things like SMS alerts and dedicated web pages and links to popular sites that surfers use such as Coastal Watch and Sea Breeze and so on"
When the site is operation, people will be able to report a shark sighting and to have that sighting confirmed by others. Professor Carlsen is also hoping to provide maps to specify locations.

"Anyone that signed up and has nominated that beach as one of their local beaches will get an email alert about the sighting.

Complete story here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Shark Diver in Afghanistan? Oh, Yeah!

Right next to the bomb shelter, nice!
A good buddy at the Bagram airfield in Afghanistan, home to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing and several thousand of our hard working military decided to plant the Shark Diver flag week.

As you can see, once again, Shark Diver wins the award for appearing at the least likely and most remote places on the planet.

We now have Shark Diver awareness on two research submarines, on road signs all over Iraq, Bagram airfield, Cuba, and even on the back of a Taiwanese shark fishing boat somewhere in the South Pacific.

Just wanted to let those shark fishing bastards know we're watching them.

Thanks again to the Major, hope you liked the t-shirts we sent to you and your crew. Stay safe.

For Want Of A Shark - Brilliant Blogging!

Every once in a while along comes some great shark blogging and this week it is our high honor to introduce you to some thought provoking stuff from Deep Sea News and rickmac.

For Want Of A Shark

Causal relationships can be fiendishly tricky. Spend an hour watching any of Star Trek Voyager’s time travel episodes and you begin to understand why the show’s writers often resort to lines such as, “It’s better if we don’t talk about this too much.” Consider another example of causality. I’m hammering-out this post at home with a real doozy of a head cold. My sinuses are completely congested. I can feel a chest full of gunk as I breathe. And my body generally feels achy and sore. Retracing my steps, I might place contraction from surface contact or airborne transmission at work where one of my officemates was complaining last week of “a cold.” Or it may have been aboard the overheated, moist Petri dish of my commuter ferry. Or maybe it was from the plates, silverware, water, or food from any of the restaurants I visited last week.

Not having the Center for Disease Control’s Epidemic Intelligence Service activated at every case of the common cold, I will likely never know the ultimate cause of my dreary, mucus-filled weekend. But I can connect enough dots, enough small actions, to construct a few compelling transmission scenarios that might hold water. The more dots I connect, however, the more provisional and potentially implausible my scenarios might become. Causally, they may seem tenable. But at some point, the casual relationships become so tenuously hair-thin that it simply strains credibility.

Red complete post here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bahamas Tiger Shark Tagging Video

Gotta say we like this video and the current work being done with Tigers in the Bahamas by this entire team. Dr. Mahmood Shivji with NOVA Southeastern University and Dr. Brad Wetherbee with the University of Rhode Island are tracking the animals as part of their research for the Guy Harvey Research Institute.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Shark Finning Bans by Da Shark

Facts, deeper thought, reality, nooooo!
There's a few folks out there who have had some dim words as of late for Da Shark and his firebrand way of "telling it like it is". Covering a wide range of topics from commercial shark diving to conservation initiatives the reason we like Da Shark and his blog is the simple fact he brings thought to the process.

In a world now dominated with hysterical Facebook conservation postings that offer little in the way of hard facts and drill down analysis, his blog brings the deeper understanding and real world practicality to the issues of the day.

Case in point, this weeks post on shark conservation and shark fin bans. This is about as good as it gets and a great read that will undoubtedly get lost on many who would rather add their obligatory "like" to a picture of a dead shark or "click" a petition that is hard on emotional kick but short on hard facts.

We need more of Da Shark and we are getting it in the form of blogs like Office to Ocean but sadly these are now just "pets tourbillonnant dans les grands vents de la bêtise" in the wider non-discourse out there.

Like it or not, thought matters, as do blogs that spend the time on the issues. You may not like the delivery but for the record, we'll continue to "like" Da Shark and his blog.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Carl Safina, Dropping the Hammer

What's all the fuss about this fish?
Read Carl Safina's regular blogs on Huffington Post because if you are not a fan yet you soon will be.

For readers of this blog and others on our blogroll you'll note a tendency for irreverent blog posts skewering many of the Titans of Media and the gasbagging program decisions that make up our wildlife programming media landscape these days.

Carl is on board and this week we found him harpooning, with the finesse and grace of Japanese Research Whalers, recent programming choices by National Geographic Wild.

In Carl's cross hairs this week a decision to highlight the take of endangered Bluefin Tuna in a new show called Wicked Tuna. Naturally this show has raised the ire of many in the conservation world, and not the simpleton Green Gotcha ire we recently witnessed with the pseudo anti-lesbian Rosie O'Donnell shark hysteria either.

This is good old fashioned main stream ire that only comes from poor programming choices by Nat Geo and a brand that has devolved in the form of Nat Geo Wild the ugly step child of the wildlife media stage.

Frankly it is refreshing to see this kind of smart, targeted, media push back and kudos to Carl for this post and others. Let's hope 2012 sees more of this from Mr.Safina because every street protest needs a leader out front defining the issues and Carl has a nice way with words.

Why shoot productions with sharks at Tiger Beach, Bahamas?

Mythbusters 2009 Discovery Networks
Film and television productions have come to realize that Tiger Beach, Bahamas is perhaps one of the best sites to film shark productions on the planet, and for good reason.

Shark Diver has been involved with top rated productions for the past seven years at this unique dive site and we have listed just a few reasons to consider your next shark productions here.

1. Ease of Production

Tiger Beach sits just off the shores of Grand Bahama Island. With top rated hotels for talent and crews like the Old Bahama Bay Resort and Marina as your base of operations and medium sized dive vessels for productions, from concept to shoot day this site has everything you will need. Additionally the Bahamas Film Commission is perhaps one of the most production friendly government agencies in the Bahamas and has gone to great lengths for every production they service to make things happen.

2. Multi-Species Encounters

Few dive sites on the planet can offer guaranteed big animal encounters with Tigers, and even fewer offer multi-species encounters all within a short distance of each other. From Reef sharks to Tigers and even clouds of Lemon sharks, Tiger Beach and the surrounding reefs offer shark filled productions in short order.

3. Dive Site Magic

At a maximum depth of 20 feet Tiger Beach offers an encounter space tailored for novice to serious talent. Visibility at Tiger Beach is 80% blue water, additionally the vast majority of Tiger Beach is white sand bottom allowing for additional objects and production development for larger commercials and product placement. Consider Tiger Beach a blank canvass for commercial productions that seek live sharks in the environmentally friendly environment they develop.

4. Cost Benefit

Most shark productions originate out of the USA. From commercials to documentaries flights, accommodations, and time are of the essence once you decide to do a shark production. With ease of travel to Freeport, Grand Bahama from multiple major airports in Florida the Bahamas makes the most production sense. We like to call this site a one-stop-shop for unique productions.

In 2010 Shark Diver was the driving force behind an award winning Gillette commercial at Tiger Beach, developing the site, building cage systems, talent choices and dive safety crews. In tandem with a top Los Angeles based commercial agency the following Gillette commercial set the bar for live action shark filmmaking and won a prestigious award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Where are you going to shoot your next shark production?

White Sharks vs Snappers - Great Video!

We have always said the easiest way to find a white shark is to follow the fishermen. It was how Isla Guadalupe was "discovered" many years ago and if you happen to be in Arno Bay, Australia this time of year, finding a white shark is as easy as snapper going fishing.

"A 4 metre great white shark circles the boat waiting for an easy feed as we have a double hook up of big snapper at Arno Bay"

Fisherman's gold: Shark fin hunt empties west African seas

SAINT LOUIS, Senegal: Retired fisherman Sada Fall is upbeat. His two sons are returning from sea with a boatload of “gold”, as he calls shark fins, whose value has near-obliterated the ocean’s top predator in these seas.

Fall, 62, walks along the beach in this fishing village in the north of Senegal, his blue-grey boubou flapping in the dry, dusty wind, a bright red flowered umbrella shielding him from the scorching sun.
“This is the great shark cemetery,” he says waving his hand dramatically across the beach where dried hunks of shark meat are piled up, filling the air with a musty, acrid odor as suffocating as the heat.

Colorful painted pirogues line the beach where children play and sheep wander around. A giant pelican is curiously tethered to one of the crumbling houses. Saint Louis is one of the biggest shark landing sites in Senegal and one of scores along the west African coast where the predator is quickly disappearing.

Fall’s sons have been gone for two weeks deep into Mauritanian waters for a voyage which, including food, water, fuel and salt to pack the fish, can cost more than 500,000 CFA (750 euros/$1,000).

Spurring these fishermen on is the insatiable Asian appetite for shark fins, which make their way onto ostentatious dinner tables in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. “The fins don’t stay here, they are worth a lot of money,” says Fall. He explains that when a boat lands, amidst the chaos of bartering and buying shark meat to be dried, smoked and sold in the region, the fins are swept away by intermediaries to Dakar, and treated very carefully.

“The fins are gold, sometimes we keep them in our own living room – with the air conditioning on,” he laughs. Often the intermediaries will meet with Asian businessmen in a Dakar hotel to hand over the booty. “You bring the bags, go into the hotel, hand over the bag, they hand over the money.” Mika Diop, a biologist and coordinator of the Sharks sub-regional Action Plan (SRPOA-Sharks) says that depending on the size and species of the fin involved, they sell for up to 100,000 CFA (150 euros) per kilogram (2.2 pounds).
But it is the men further up the chain who benefit the most, as many fishermen don’t realise exactly how valuable their product is. Some restaurants charge more than $100 for a bowl of sharp fin soup. “We catch them, but I couldn’t afford a small bowl of soup,” says Fall. ‘Mercenary mindset’- many fins are also exported fraudulently through normal channels classified as dried fish, says Diop.
In West Africa, shark fishing began in the 1970’s, booming in the nineties due to rising demand from Asia for shark fins, according to a report entitled “30 Years of Shark Fishing in West Africa” co-authored by Diop in 2011. Since 2003, shark catches have plummeted. This is not good news but a sign that there are less to catch. These days fishermen can spend up to 20 days at sea, heading as far west as Cape Verde or south to Sierra Leone in search of their gold, with what Diop bemoans as an often “mercenary mindset”. Diop explains that sharks are particularly vulnerable because it can take more than 10 years for them to reach sexual maturity and their fertility rate is very low, making recovery from overfishing all year round near impossible.

“On average the weight of the fin represents only two percent of the total weight of the animal, so you can see the massacre needed to keep up with the demand for shark fins,” he tells AFP.
In Saint Louis, Fall finally gets a phone call from his pirogue. Days of bad weather have hampered fishing and even the good days have yielded no sharks. The boat is now expected the following day. A fisherman for more than 30 years, he has seen first hand the worrying drop in shark numbers. “We are obliged to catch small sharks. We know its not good but if one person doesn’t, the next will… “It brings in a lot of money, so we don’t see the importance of the shark.

We earn and we will keep on earning until the sharks disappear,” he says sadly. The shark fishing report talks of days when hammerhead sharks up to six metres long (20 feet) and one-tonne sawfish were caught in these waters. The sawfish-printed on the back of Senegalese bank notes-hasn’t been seen since the early 1990s in coastal waters from Mauritania to Sierra Leone, except for Guinea-Bissau.

According to the report, the value of sharks landed annually in 2008 in Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde is estimated at 8.5 million euros ($11 million).
Diop’s shark project has published an identification guide for fishermen and has helped west African nations put legislation in place, most importantly to ban “finning”. In Senegal this legislation is still in the pipeline. Finning is the practice of cutting of the shark fin while at sea, and tossing the rest of the shark back into the ocean to face a cruel death by suffocation or blood loss. Despite the laws, it still continues.

If shark-hunting, in Senegal and the world over, is not brought under control, Diop and other experts predict dire results for a marine ecosystem regulated by the predator for some 400 million years. A report by the Pew Environment Group in June 2011 estimates some 73 million sharks are caught annually and 30 percent of species are threatened with extinction.

The fisherman Sada Fall becomes anxious and harder to get hold of. The “big shark guy around here”-his distributor-has left back to Dakar after hearing the fishing trip has not gone well. Three days after the boat was supposed to land it reaches shore just after midnight. With no sharks caught, it quickly refuels and heads out again for several more gruelling, and expensive, days in search of fisherman’s gold.

From PRI.

Mercury bioaccumulation in elasmobranchs? Study

Conservation sources have been waging a war on shark products for the past five years saying that shark fins and meat for human consumption are loaded with mercury. Here's another first rate study that backs those assertions up.


 Nicholas Kutil and David L. Taylor.


Mercury (Hg) is a toxic environmental contaminant that bioaccumulates in fish tissues,
including numerous marine species. Cartilaginous fish of the subclass Elasmobranchii are important ecological constituents of marine ecosystems, yet the fate of Hg contaminants in their body tissues is largely unknown.

In this study, four species of elasmobranchs: little skate (Raja erinacea), winter skate (R. ocellata), smooth dogfish (Mustelus canis), and spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias), were collected from the Rhode Island/Block Island Sound, and the Hg content (ppm wet wt) of white muscle tissue was analyzed using automated combustion atomic absorption spectrometry. Diet and feeding habits for each species were also assessed by stomach content and stable nitrogen (δ15N) and carbon (δ13C)
isotope analyses. Mean Hg concentrations differed significantly among species, with highest
levels measured in smooth dogfish (mean Hg = 0.680 ± 0.107 ppm, n = 15), followed by
spiny dogfish (mean Hg = 0.312 ± 0.034 ppm, n = 44) and skates (mean Hg = 0.110 ± 0.008
ppm, n = 78 and 0.069 ± 0.005 ppm, n = 56 for little and winter skate, respectively). The Hg
concentration of skate muscle tissue did not vary by body weight, suggesting that Hg does
not bioaccumulate in these species.

Conversely, smooth and spiny dogfish bothbioaccumulate Hg with respect to body size, although smooth dogfish have a higher Hgcontent relative to spiny dogfish. The elevated Hg concentration of smooth dogfish may beexplained by their higher trophic level status, as determined from δ15N signatures (meanδ15N = 13.29 ± 0.88, 11.82 ± 0.60, 12.33 ± 0.65, and 12.12 ± 1.06 for smooth dogfish, spiny dogfish, little skate, and winter skate, respectively). The enriched δ13C values of skates and smooth dogfish indicated benthic foraging (range of mean δ13C = -16.39 ± 0.32 to -17.42 ±0.46), which was further confirmed by the dominance of decapods and crustaceans in the
stomach contents. Conversely, squid and butterfish were the principal prey of spiny
dogfish, and the contribution of these pelagic prey was reflected in the depleted δ13C
signature (mean δ13C = -21.97 ± 0.83). Future work includes researching the effect habitat
use and prey Hg to better understand bioaccumulation patterns in these species.

Presentation at the 2012 Winter Meeting of the Southern New England Chapter (SNEC).

January 26, 2012

University of Rhode Island

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Is Tourism Good for South Africa’s Great White Sharks?

Gansbaai, South Africa — Sharks have taken a big hand in the fortunes of this fishing village on the southernmost coast of Africa.

Fishing used to be the lifeblood of Gansbaai (meaning Goose Bay), and to an extent it still is. But nowadays some of the smartest boats slipping out of its rudimentary harbor at high tide in the morning bear tourists who want to experience the thrill of close-up encounters with sharks, particularly of the great white variety.

Shark cage-diving has become big business, luring visitors from all parts of the world. It is also carried on along other parts of the South African coast. But the reason for Gansbaai’s success in particular is that the bay it overlooks is claimed by marine biologists doing research there to have the world’s biggest year-round concentration of great white sharks.

Complete story here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Shark Diving, Why Choose Sharkdiver.com?

There are two types of vacation seekers. Those who are content with the ordinary, the explored, and the predictable.

Then there are the vacation seekers who look for the extraordinary. The unique off-the-beaten-track adventure experiences that create lasting vacation memories.

This is who we are. This is Shark Diver, and for the past decade we have prided ourselves in offering destinations and guaranteed big shark encounters that attract real adventure seekers.

Our newly minted Shark Divers are unique in so many ways, but they tend to share one distinct feature, they are the people that you meet at parties, backyard BBQ's and friends houses, the ones you always say, "I can't believe you did that!"

Yes they did, and each year we enjoy reading the flood of trip reports that come back from our boats and from our first time Shark Divers.

2011 was another banner year for us and we have chosen a just few of our diver trip reports for your review. Written by our divers in their own words you can begin to understand why so many people are beginning to seek extraordinary travel destinations.

Maybe 2012 will be your year, or maybe after reading these trip reports you will add one more item to your bucket list. Either way we'll be here when you decide that this is your year for extraordinary adventures:

Sarah Fuller 2011 - Living The Dream

Michelle M 2011 - Bucket List Scratched 

James Woodhead 2011 - From U.K to Mexico

Bev Downie 2011 - Sharks and More Sharks

Tammy and Wayne - Getting Their Shark Groove

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Helen Sykes, Making Sense of Sharks

Bahamas Tiger, commercial shark diving
Great article this week from Fiji and the value of live sharks. The international media is slowly adopting this valuable storyline and its first rate articles like this one that "kick the can down for road" for sharks in ways that open minds and spur debate :

A NADI resident who has been closely following the Shark Sanctuary Campaign was disgusted to find that the bodies of mutilated baby sharks are regularly on sale at the Nadi fishmarket.

Lavenia Mataitoga had been made aware of the issues with shark fishing in Fiji through The Fiji Times Save the Shark Campaign and the screenings of the Coral Reef Alliance documentary Shark Hope.
The dive operation she works for, Reef Safari Diving in Port Denarau Marina, also has an active environmental education program for all its staff led by marine biologist Maddy Carse.

Consequently when Ms Mataitoga encountered juvenile whitetip reef sharks and endangered hammerhead sharks in the market, she was outraged.

Complete article here.

Brother, Can You Spare Some Authentic Cuban Food?

Authors Note: Cuba today is a country of deep social, economic, and political contrasts. Trying to get a handle on Cuba in ten short days of travel is akin to trying to explain the Superbowl to others while viewing it live through a sheet of paper with a single pin hole in it. I am sure we missed much in Cuba on this first trip, but what we did see made us curious for more.
Part Three - Brother, Can You Spare Some Authentic Cuban Food?
If you want to see a great, if not slightly sanitized expose on Havana, look no further than Anthony Bourdians show No Reservations one of the best travel/food shows on television right now. On our last night in Panama before we jetted off for Cuba we watched his show in our hotel room. It was an eye opener and an instant bucket list builder because we both fell in love with the bar Puerto de Sagua, skip to timeline 5.40 to see the place.

Oh yeah, the Mojito drink source!
Sometimes ya just gotta track a place down and on our third day, tired of government bars with notoriously overpriced and horribly weak mixed drinks, we went on a mission to get drunk on real Cuban Mojitos at Puerto de Sagua. 

Quick note here, I am a stone cold fan of the Mojito. As a drink there are few cocktails that match its crisp freshness and powerful kick. I have been seen heroically tackling 64 ounce Monster Mojitos in South Beach, Miami but a simple well made Mojito is my drink of choice on any given day.

Puerto de Sagua is not too hard to find. Hail a horse drawn carriage at Central Park downtown and say "take me to the train station" the bar is on the left about a block away and features a 1945 art deco style building painted in Caribbean style blue complete with  porthole style windows with fish tanks in them. At night this place is an atypical 40's watering hole with glowing tropical fish windows and one of the last working neon signs in the entire city.

Havana today
When you open the door take a last look at the street with the vintage cars going by and you are transported back in time. Cuban time travel is a pretty neat thing when you hit a bar like this one.

If you are lucky you'll meet Raul who was the bartender on duty for Anthony's show. We were lucky and apparently the first who have seen the episode to enter his bar and recognize him. After explaining he was famous in America Raul treated us to several vintage Mojitos (with lots of rum) and we settled in for an afternoon of lazy conversation in a wood paneled bar that was very much the same as when Hemingway dropped by for a drink or two back in 1956. 

Yes, dammit, apparently Hemingway hit this bar as well.

Kudos to Anthony's production staff because they found the only real gem of a bar in all of Havana and if there's only one thing you do in Havana it's go to Puerto de Sagua and say hi to Raul.

Hot Tip: The drinks get stronger if you mention you saw Raul on American television.

Street food with a side of fly?
Anthony's show also featured Cuban food but finding real Cuban food in Cuba is hard these days. It's  all about the ingredients. I encountered the same thing in China in the late 90's as a tour guide. The Chinese agricultural system at that time was wrecked so the food we ate at hotels was sub par at best inedible at worst. 

Cuba is going through the same thing right now so if you are looking for a Miami style Cuban meal in Havana forget about it. I don't care if you are Gordon Ramsey, if you give a chef two rocks and some salt and pepper to work with the results will inevitably be culinary crap and we found most of the meals outside our hotel to be the same.

Maybe after Cuba opens and produce flows into ports from around the world we'll see a quick return to the sumptuous Cuban flavors that made this country famous. But as long as locals have to pay 3-6 pesos for a pound for locally grown second rate tomatoes on a monthly average salary of just 20-90 pesos that's not going to happen anytime soon, which was o.k by us, because the vintage Mojitos in our own out of the way time warp bar went down great.

Next: Valedero, Ship in a Bottle Tourism

Friday, January 13, 2012

Holy Cow! When it's this good...

Perhaps some of the best white shark and freediver footage on the planet today...from this duo would you expect anything less?

Ford Commercial, White Sharks and 'Lupe

Latest commercial work, hats off the all the guys on the M/V Horizon who busted a serious hump for this little Ford commercial. Not the biggest production in the world but they got it done in a single day in November. For anyone who knows 'Lupe, ya gotta have some pretty big balls to pull off a production in one day at the island in November with our notoriously cranky female whites.

Special nod to Cary for the pole cam work.

Viva La Funky Old Revolution - Part Two

Typical street scene in Havana
Authors Note: Cuba today is a country of deep social, economic, and political contrasts. Trying to get a handle on Cuba in ten short days of travel is akin to trying to explain the Superbowl to others while viewing it live through a sheet of paper with a single pin hole in it. I am sure we missed much in Cuba on this first trip, but what we did see made us curious for more.

City Sized Descriptions
For the past couple of days I have been trying to come up with two words to encapsulate what we have been experiencing in Havana - living decay.

I understand that's an oxymoron but trust me that's Havana in a nutshell.

At first light my wife and I joined an informative three hour city tour on a Chinese made tour bus. As an ex tour guide I am usually loathe to join any kind of guided bus tour, especially if its on a Chinese Yutong bus, but if you're going to visit Havana do the city tour to get your bearings and before you even enter the country read the book The Sugar King of Havana. John Paul Rathbone authors this rich in depth historical tome that rockets the reader though 300 years of Spanish rule into the American years and seamlessly through to Castros Cuba.

Trust me you'll be happy you did.

Havana Today

The place is a wreck. 53 years of communism and embargo have left Havana a tangled disaster of falling down buildings, iconic American cars from the 1950s, horse drawn carriages with an infrastructure that makes Mogadishu look like the French Rivera.

Everything in Havana has that feeling of twice used duct tape, bits of random string, and the kind of glue that used to be made from horses hooves. You have to be a product of the American school system and over 40 to understand that last bit.

A family lives on the third floor
There's no getting around it because Havana hits you with both a left and right of urban decay the second you leave your hotel, and that's the utter charm of the place. The Living Decay of Havana as ordinary Cubans full of life, music, and busy with their lives move about in this extraordinary city sized vintage time capsule. The layers of decay are awe inspiring because you have 300 years of Spanish architecture in the mix prior to the 1930's and 40's retro look. For 300 years the Spanish, flush with millions of dollars in gold and silver from Latin American mines built a huge and architecturally stunning city unlike anything ever seen outside of Spain.

Most of these old buildings take your breath away even if there's a tree growing out of the second story balcony. Like many places in Cuba mixed in with the decay are small bright spots of revival like the Central Park Hotel restored to its former glory and open for business and a few buildings downtown declared by UNEXCO as world heritage sites. Evidence of the Cuban spirit of revival, just sprinkle investment dollars as liberally as water to an indoor plant and watch Cuba grow.

Detroit's 53 Year Old Cuban Stimulus Plan

Cubans take great pride in their ancient metal behemoths from Detroit and seeing these iconic vehicles everywhere adds to the surreal experience not just in Havana but in all of Cuba. Ordinary Cubans are fanatical about their machines. Fortunately you can take as many pictures as you want and ride in almost any car because Havanas current economy feeds hungrily on side money and tips.

The cars showcase the entire country
Most of the vehicles in Havana are now privately owned under recent relaxations by the Cuban government. Cab drivers have leeway with how much they charge to get from place to place and if you are not rolling in a mint condition 55 convertible Buick you just are not having an authentic Havana experience. Always get the convertible because closed cab cars often have exhaust systems tied directly and inexplicably into the air vents so unless you want to finish your ride light headed and slightly nauseous convertibles are the way to go.Usually you can track down a driver who speaks passable English and who will take you to a local bar that has something to do with Ernest Hemingway.

Apparently Hemingway the writer was also a prolific bar hound while in Havana and images abound of him at every drinking hole in the city. Like Che Guevara and Castro, Hemingway holds an almost mythical status in Cuba. Hemingway drank here, Hemingway ate here, Hemingway fathered six children on this couch. For world travelers like us icons sometimes get a bit tiresome, apologies to the Hemingway estate in advance but we just don't care for his current tourism status in Cuba. 

There is actually such a thing as too much Hemingway.

Cuba is still a Communist/Socialist country and one of the last on the planet, so very few people actually own anything like a business or a house, hence almost everything you see for sale goes to the government who then do something with it for the people, at least that's the idea. It makes for strange pricing in this city, at some places a dinner might run you $50 convertible pesos at others $10.00. Of course we didn't know this first hand as being Americans and not wanting to break Americas embargo or run afoul of the Trading With The Enemy Act we didn't spend any money in Cuba, a nice couple from Canada told us about their financial transactions instead.

Communist Art and Venezuelan Oil

There's a huge art market at a converted and crumbling port facility in Havana Harbor. On the other side of the harbor is a Soviet era oil refinery feeding on Venezuelan oil which makes for another in a series of strange scenes in this fantastically weird city. Inside very talented young Cuban painters and wood carvers hawk oil on canvass originals and hardwood carvings while across the bay massive refinery gas flares stab at the clear blue Caribbean sky leaving behind a dark black wavy line of spent hydro carbons.

Original signed art, and yes Hemingway drank here too!
Original art runs about $60-100 convertible pesos and are worth every penny spent according to our Canadian friends.Unlike many global travel destinations where locals flog made in China crap on street corners everything you'll find for sale in Cuba is Hecho en Cuba a refreshing change for wary travelers like us. You can also find Cuban rum and cigars at international prices but be careful of big cigar purchases in Cuba. Unless you know who you are buying from you may be getting knock off products certainly not the Cuban cigars of legend.

Horse Carriages and Cuban Politics

For 20 Convertible Pesos you can ride around the old city in a horse drawn carriage with a driver. Ours told us candidly of life under Castro and after a few stops with watery Cuba Libras (rum and coke) he told us that along with most Cubans they have had enough of the current state of affairs. He had to be careful though as we quickly discovered all of Havana is under the watchful eye of the government. Along the way he pointed out the 10 or so video cameras mounted discreetly on tumble down buildings, "we are being watched all the time" he confided in a low voice. We soon became adept at spotting cameras and took great pleasure in photographing them. With the ordinary Cubans we spoke with at length there's a real sense of guarded optimism you do not find anywhere else in Latin America. Cubans want change, they look towards the future and like so many other places I have traveled, China in the mid 1990's still reeling from its experiment with Communism and Vietnam Nam in 1998 they are dreaming of a new life.
Playing "spot the police state"

Cubans can sense the end of a terrible social experiment is near, but after 53 years and an entire generation used to just making do, most are trying to figure out what's next for their country and what an open Cuba might look like. The government is also looking towards the future and they are allowing a few small experimental businesses to open.

You see a few independent restaurants called Paladars out of houses on the street and vegetable sellers on ramshackle carts in the avenues, a slow and careful start on the road to some kind of hybrid social system. If China and Vietnam are any examples it will not take long for Cubans to realize their potential as mini business entrepreneurs and then the game will be on.

Another reason we are here, right now, at this pivotal time in Cuban history.

Next: Brother, Can You Spare Some Authentic Cuban Food?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Americans in Cuba, A Time Travelers Guide

Classic image set up in Havana, yes Che is everywhere.
Authors Note: Cuba today is a country of deep social, economic, and political contrasts. Trying to get a handle on Cuba in ten short days of travel is akin to trying to explain the Superbowl to others while viewing it live through a sheet of paper with a single pin hole in it. I am sure we missed much in Cuba on this first trip, but what we did see made us curious for more.

Part One, Random Travel

When you travel like we do you never pass up the opportunity to change plans in midstream. Once I was misdirected in Australia by huge and unyielding saltwater croc who had taken up residence in the middle of the only road leading to a local airport.

That little adventure lead to the missing of a flight and my subsequent discovery and wonders of diving on the great barrier reef, a life changing side trip.

So it was on Christmas day 2011 while the rest of the planet were opening gifts brought to them by a mythological Norseman my wife Jeanne and I were being entertained by the rich travel stories of Cuba our Panamanian hosts told over a lavish breakfast.

It didn't take long for us to decide to change flight plans opting out of our previously arranged adventures in Costa Rica, apologies Lonely Planet Travel Guide, for a visit to Castro's Cuba before this mysterious country opens, as it will inevitably, to an embargo lifting USA. After all how angry can 80,000 expat Cubans in Miami be almost 60 years later?

For those of you wishing to see Cuba before the onslaught of mega corporations, big billboards, golden arches, and star-lattes I documented our travels in a series of blog posts to help guide you along the way.

I see today's Cuba through the lens of East Germany when the wall came down in the late 1980's. If you were within 100 miles of that historic event and did not make the effort to go see it and mingle with the people, shame on you. There's ordinary vacation travel and then there's brief moments in time where extraordinary events change the course of history, Cuba is on the threshold of those changes now.

Getting There and "The Man"

Outside the old Romeo y Julieta cigar factory in Havana
Getting to Cuba is as easy as booking a flight, as long as it does not originate from the USA and while we're on that subject lets talk embargo. For folks like me in my early 40's the USA embargo on Cuba seems almost quaint when you measure it against other world actors like Iran, North Korea, and al-Qaeda.

Seriously, Cuba is still a threat?

None the less the State Department guided no doubt by a few dusty sitting Senators who have been in politics far too long have denied Americans direct access for the past 53 years. Seems the American government knows better then the citizenry when it comes to travel choices. Yeah, right.

Fortunately this will not stop you from traveling by third country to Cuba, the minor detail is a missive from the Department of State and the "Trading With The Enemy Act" which categorically forbids ordinary Americans without special permission from the US to be in Cuba and spend money there. For example you can travel and spend money in Cuba if you happen to be part of a major US telecommunications business:

"Employees of a U.S. telecommunications services provider or an entity duly appointed to represent such a provider traveling incident to: 1) the commercial marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied delivery, or servicing of authorized telecommunications-related items; or 2) participation in telecommunications-related professional meetings for the commercial marketing of, sales negotiation for, or performance under contracts for the provision of telecommunications services, or the establishment of facilities to provide telecommunications services".

If you're like us though and anyone asks, you didn't spend a dime, we didn't.

Our flight originated out of Panama on COPA Airlines, but you can get them out of Cancun, or even Nassau Bahamas with a number of travel companies.

We flew over a cloudless Caribbean sea and arrived at the outskirts of Habana as the locals call it about two hours later. The local airport is fairly modern with just a whiff of soviet style architecture. There looks to be new construction in the works with several plastic wrapped arrival gates ready for new terminals to be built. For now we were treated to an old fashioned tarmac deplaning. I was surprised to see made in the USA Dell computers being used at passport control complete with mini cams for taking pictures and a sophisticated Microsoft empowered program for tracking visitors. Our entrance into Cuba was a breeze and after a quick paperwork inspection the smiling passport control gal waved us through to baggage and on to the main terminal.

It seemed like she was happy to see two War Mongering American Imperialists which was not necessarily the response I had imagined.If she wasn't we were going to be the last to know about it. She also didn't stamp our passports which as I understand is a wink and nod for Americans who travel to Cuba.

Locals interested in iPhones
Let me first say I was half expecting to see ragged clothed locals suffering under 53 years of a failed Communist revolution, instead I was greeted by a Miami South Beach looking crowd of healthful looking Cubanos. In fact everywhere we went well dressed Cubans greeted us, this is a country that may not have water you can drink without boiling it first, but the locals keep up appearances as a point of pride and have very clean streets.

We got a transfer to the Melia Havana Hotel on the main tourist drag and discovered one of Cubas monuments to tourism. The Melia is the Great Pyramid of Giza of hotels, it's well appointed rooms and Stalinist block architecture was something to behold.

Frankly I  was not expecting this place. I was however fully prepared for the congestion at the front desk, confusion with the rooms, and the 100 or so Europeans flanked by the two or three Armani coutured flight crews from Italy who were in the middle of creating a mini United Nations crises of voices, accents, and tired pouting that only comes from 17 hours in the air.

Our room (when we got it) was huge and faced the ocean so every night we were serenaded to bed by the waves crashing on the rocky beach outside. Excitement and anticipation ruled the day so we wasted no time at the hotel and quickly raced to a local cab and off into the night to go and try some local Cuban cuisine.

Hooters Cuban Style

Dinner is served at the "Zona Oficial"
To get around the US embargo after the sudden vaporization of soviet aid Cuba has fallen into tourism, by all accounts it's a work in progress, at least in Havana. There are a few state run restaurants where tourists are taken en mass located in special zones but we were looking for something more authentic. Sadly our cab driver misinterpreted our desires and drove us through the dark night in Havana to an out of the way place he said had "better food" . What he took us to was Cubas first Hooters.

Yes Hooters, there I said it.

Inside what was once a massive warehouse for storing tobacco back in the 1800's was a cross between an Argentinian Steak House complete with flamenco dancers and long hair guitar playing boleros mixed in with dozens of Cuban Hooters girls wearing white see through miniskirts, push up bras and, wait for it, santa hats.

To make the scene even weirder in the background between sets American music blared down on the tourism mass, mostly from Europe, with songs like "Jagged Little Pill" and "Gangsters Paradise". Meanwhile a very buxom waitress asked us/told us what we'll be eating tonight and we settled in with two watery Sangrias seated next to a table of jacked up Australians recounting tales of drunken adventures all over Cuba with their tired looking tour guide.

The santa hats really threw me off and I wondered in the middle is this bizarre scene what Castro thought of this new, hybrid Cuba. This was a man who once railed against the big American Casinos of the late 1950s calling them bourgeois. While I  am not a bourgeois aficionado by any stretch this looked and smelled pretty decadent to me and I wondered if Castro for all his revolutionary zeal saw this new Cuba in the same light as the past, present, or future.

That's the funny thing about a political construct like communism or even capitalism.

You can get folks to go along for just so long before their very human nature starts to break apart the mold you set the human spirit into. At least for this small piece of Cuba hoovering up tourist dollars with watery Sangrias, mediocre food, and santa hats perched on top on young waitresses dripping sexual innuendo tonight "viva la revolution" seems a long time ago.

Dear Shark Conservationists, Lay Off Rosie O'Donnell

After 25 days being offline enjoying the joys of random travel from Panama to Cuba I finally powered up my iPhone at the San Francisco airport to get caught up on some shark news.

2012 will be a pivotal year for new initiatives and I was keen to see how many of the groundbreaking efforts of 2011 were shaping up for the new year.

What I soon discovered was a group of rabid and misguided shark conservation loons going after talk show host and comedian Rosie O'Donnell over pictures of her taken three years ago with a dead shark.

Three years ago, really? And you call this conservation? So much for 2012.

Rosie caught the sharks under the tutelage of Mark the Shark a well known Florida based shark fisherman who likes to goad the shark conservation world, and a few special individuals in particular, into foaming at the mouth indignation over dead sharks on docks.

The mainstream media is having a field day with this non story and Facebook, sadly, is in its usual righteous fury over images that have nothing to do with the Rosie O'Donnell of today, or even the news that as of 2012 Tiger sharks and Great Hammerheads are now protected in Florida waters.

Lead by You Tube video sensation, "Mr. How To Speak Australian" Erik Brush, an overly passionate under-informed shark gadfly who, when not on You Tube with his starkly creepy basement videos, can be found hawking his second rate book about the end of the planet. The rabid shark conservation community is joyously shooting themselves and the shark community at large in the foot.

It is time to stop.

Like a bad smell emanating from the sewers of a slow news cycle, shark conservationists are latching on to this ridiculous story with the ferocity of a ragged street dog in Latin America who has found something rancid in the gutter to eat.

Images from three years ago do not make for a news story and I am pretty sure that the serious shark conservation world could do without side shows like this one that make Sea Shepherd and Paul Watson's brand of "make it up as we go along" media output look like University of California - Berkeley's School of Journalism.

We can do a lot better in 2012. We have to, because this was a piss poor way to start the year.