Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Waiter? There's A Cesium-137 In My Sushi

 It is the end of the world!

Forget your 2012 Mayan Prophesies this is actual "cats and dog living together" kind of doom as researchers have discovered Cesium-137 and Cesium-134 in Bluefin Tuna off the coast of San Diego.

Yes, that's radiation people, and not the good kind either.

Apparently the stuff has come from Japan and the Fukushima power plant disaster of last year. The media is having a field day and as we speak Tuna NGO's the planet over are rubbing their hands together to capitalize on Radioactive Bluefin story lines.

But wait, hold on a sec, take a deep breath and go get a cup of coffee because this is not as toxic as you might think.

Let's start by examining your coffee and that deep breath you just took.

Did you know that most American homes contain over 1000 toxic airborne chemicals that you inhale every single day?
  • Toxic chemicals in household cleaners are three times more likely to cause cancer than air pollution. (EPA)

  • Most homes have airborne concentrations of hazardous chemicals that are three to 70 times higher indoors than outdoors. (EPA)

  • Women who work at home have a 54% higher death rate from cancer than women who work outside of the home. The higher death rate is believed to be due to daily exposure to chemicals found in ordinary household products. (Toronto Indoor Air Commission)

  • In the past 14 years, there has been a 75% increase in asthma; 29% for men; 71% for women. The higher rate for women is believed to be due to women’s longer exposure times to household chemicals. (Center for Disease Control)
And then there's your coffee. Most coffee for purchase contains at least four pretty nasty chemical compounds put there by the grower to ensure your coffee is free from the wild things that like coffee as well.

Not to mention any home in America built after 1986 using PVC piping instead of copper. PVC is how water is transported into your coffee machine and PVC leaches some pretty interesting stuff into your cuppa Joe each day.

So back to those Tuna. In terms of radioactivity, it's more of a science experiment then actual doom, sorry for the scare. The trace amounts of Cesium-137 are far less than the 149 topside nukes launched on American soil during the 50's-60's when towns downwind were bathed in radiation levels that would make health and welfare folks today fall over dead.

At least the folks back then had copper piping.

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at sharkcrew@gmail.com.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Death of Intellectual Curiosity

Intellectual curiosity is a term used to describe one’s desire to invest time and energy into learning more about a person, place, thing or concept.

On this day, May 29th, 2012 we are hereby declaring Intellectual Curiosity - Dead.

And what, pray tell, caused this statement of fact to surface on our hallowed blog you may ask?

It is an email circulating about a recent story in the Santa Cruz Sentinel. One that made outlandish and completely unsupported claims of a shark tag found on a recently caught white shark in the Sea of Cortez.

What's at stake is everything we know about white shark movements in the region and as the author of this email rightly points out, "falsified data may lead to the misinterpretations that could take a generation to correct."

Hello Oxygen Shark Myth.

The story about the tag caught our full attention many weeks ago when it first ran. Unlike far too many who accept as gospel fact the forthright media drivel being spoon fed to conservationists, a sorry state of affairs we call "The Sea Shepherdization" of conservation. We have always reserved the right to ask questions and drill down into the facts.

It's called intellectual curiosity. 

In the hands of those who propagate conservation nonsense it has been re-branded as, "meddling, jealousy, and hate."

The persons penning the email put forth a well known character in shark conservation and politics Dr.Michael Domeier. You may recall our blow out with him over the Junior Affair at the Farallones in California a few years ago.

Say what you want about that particular timeline our argument was with the animal and methods of tagging. What has recently transpired in the Sea of Cortez at a little place called El Choyudo will undoubtedly go down as the worst of shark conservation and science and a complete validation of how in today's media environment those who would invent utter conservation nonsense can in fact, be heard, be accepted, and be considered relevant.

Again, when Paul Watson can fake being assassinated to secure a second season of a reality tv show and NO ONE in the wider conservation sphere calls him or his organization on it, the world pays attention. 

And those who do - emulate.

Welcome to the death of intellectual curiosity. 

Fortunately Dr. Michael Domeier expresses a deep and abiding intellectual curiosity for sharks and was unwilling to accept a story that suggested that one of the largest recorded sharks in the Sea of Cortez history had a tag on it from California. 

We too were dubious, but our investigations only followed up to images of the tag.

What caught us were the nature of the images. In one, the alleged tag was in place with a small knife for perspective. Something only a researcher would do, certainly not a small village fisher-woman in Mexico.

Our inquiry ended with several conversations with the reporter at the Santa Cruz Sentinel and was left unfulfilled. Until the industry email we read today.

Kudos to Dr.Domeier for following up on this story, his efforts are to be lauded. He has exposed a lie pure and simple and one that causes the world as we know it to be diminished. Made smaller and cheaper by the fact that this animal was attributed to places and people it had never encountered.

We can all learn a lesson from this. This is the titular "Emperor with No Clothes" moment displaying to shark conservationists worldwide how the death of intellectual curiosity is hurting is all.

Don't drink the Kool-Aid.

Stand and be curious. 

More from Da Shark in Fiji NSFW.


About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at sharkcrew@gmail.com.

Dr Dení Ramírez Whale Shark Paper - Great Stuff

Back in 2009 we had the distinct pleasure of meeting Dr Dení Ramírez at the Socorro islands in Mexico.

She was on an exploratory trip to the islands studying the elusive Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus).

Dr Ramírez latest focus is on Holbox, well known to shark fans the world over as perhaps one of the best places to interact with and see large groupings of these magnificent critters. She has recently publish a new paper on her findings in the Journal of Fish Biology.

Sadly there's growing evidence of vessel strikes on these animals that may be attributed to commercial shark tourism in the region.

Patterns in composition, abundance and scarring of whale sharks Rhincodon typus near Holbox Island, Mexico

Abstract

Photo-identification and conventional tagging were used to estimate population size and structure of the whale shark Rhincodon typus near Holbox Island, Mexico. From 2005 to 2008, photographs of spot patterns behind the last gill slit and in a lateral view on the left side of each animal were used to identify individuals. Additionally, 578 R. typus were tagged using conventional marker tags. Of these and the 350 R. typus that were identified from 1184 photographs, 65% were male; 27%, female and 8%, indeterminate sex. Photographed R. typus ranged in size from 2·5 to 9·5 m total length. Size was bimodal with a large peak at 6 m and a smaller peak at 7 m. Photo-identification showed that there was considerable loss of marker tags. Few of these remained on the animals for more than a year, so that interannual re-sights using tagging could not be used in population modelling. Forty six interannual re-sightings were found in the photographic library; the interval between these re-sightings was typically 1 year. It was estimated that the R. typus aggregation near Holbox Island ranged from 521 to 809 individuals, based on mark-recapture models. From 13 to 33% of R. typus photographed had scars that were attributable to boat strikes. This study provides a baseline for assessing the status of R. typus near Holbox Island. This information is useful to understand drivers of local population size and distribution and potential concerns about increasing effects of tourism on R. typus in this area and for designing better management programmes for R. typus conservation.


Paper here.

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at sharkcrew@gmail.com.

Grass Roots Shark Conservation - California Style

 By the numbers:

2 - The primary movers behind Spinning to End Finning

73 million - The number of sharks harvested for the shark fin trade each year (give or take)

1268 miles - The distance from Colorado to Kentucky

Grass roots California based shark conservation initiative Spinning to End Finning will be holding a fundraising event in Paso Robles, California to promote the group’s bike ride from Colorado to Kentucky this summer to raise awareness of sharks and funds to support shark protection projects in Costa Rica. 

Click here to donate to the group’s efforts.


About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at sharkcrew@gmail.com.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Shark-Free Marinas Initiative 70+ Added

Back in the spring of 2008 when word surfaced of not one, but two breeding aged Tigers caught and killed at a local marina in the Bahamas I was like everyone in the region - shocked.


The Tigers that had been killed were most likely from an area that we run commercial shark diving operations in, a place called Tiger Beach. 

It was this singular event that put us into motion as a commercial shark diving company to develop the master plan for what became the Shark-Free Marinas Initiative.

SFMI became a way to bypass local governments, enacting metrics based shark conservation with the help of local marinas who would demand that their sport fishermen did not come back to their marinas with dead sharks.


In the hands of Luke Tipple a marine biologist the SFMI became a living breathing entity that quickly partnered with the Humane Society, Guy Harvey and PADI, who provided this nascent NGO with the broad based funding and backing it needed to grow and prosper.


Today the Shark-Free Marinas Initiative continues to grow celebrating another 70+ marinas last week. Saving sharks and educating a fishing public one marina at a time.

It must also be said of this initiative that Fiji's role was absolutely critical in getting the SFMI off the ground and into a broader acceptance. Fiji is home to a 73 million dollar shark diving industry and is a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation thanks in part to a small, discreet, and very powerful group within Fiji who have been mapping out this transformation for the past decade.

Additionally the help of two members of the shark dive/film community in the Bahamas must be recognized as well. Duncan Brake and Jillian Morris (recently married) helped bring the Shark-Free Marinas Initiative to their home waters signing up the first Bahamian marinas.

The push to bring the SFMI to life was not limited to just these people and organizations, bloggers, divers, photographers, and Facebook friends all contributed and all helped in ways that brought an idea to life. They laid the groundwork.

The Shark-Free Marinas Initiative truly came to being when the very best of our industry came together to grow and foster a conservation idea that was born from our own industry and actual disaster.

Metrics based conservation initiatives always start with an idea, some action, and some help from the wider community.

Looking back at the past four years of activity and growth I am proud to see what this effort has become. Back in 2008 we were at a complete loss, we had no idea how to stop the slaughter we just knew that something had to be done. Fortunately others saw the vision we put forward and together we're pushing back against the tide, one marina at a time.

More from RTSea Blog here.

Cheers,

Patric Douglas CEO
www.sharkdiver.com
www.sharkdivers.com
415.235.9410


About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at sharkcrew@gmail.com.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mark Healy and Roberta Mancino - Nifty Stuff

Once in a while along comes some truly great underwater footage - this is one of those times.

What's not to like about Roberta Mancino and Mark Healy, two consummate underwater folks, doing their thing in the Bahamas?

As we said a few months back about Mark Healy:

"Mark should get his own television show, soon, because he's that good on camera."

Kudos to this duo for working with sharks without the "moronic messaging" that all too often goes along with those who interact with sharks. A world where sharks cannot be sharks, they need to be redefined and reintroduced to the public as mobile plush toys that just need a hug...all in the name of conservation.

Interacting with sharks in the pursuit of a stunning image without the messaging is in its own way far more impactful than the overt in-your-face new shark realities foisted on a public that all too often finds them hard to absorb.

Watch this video and be sure to voice your opinion for more.

Clearly this team is on to something here and it's a formula we could all use more of.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Is Shark Finning OK?

Finned Reef Shark
According to an article in "Forbes":
  
Just this week, four of the five largest Chinese-language newspapers in shark fin capital Hong Kong rolled out a high-profile ad campaign that blasts the global anti-shark fin campaign as groundless, and intended “to incite the public to discriminate our own eating culture.”  It claims Western conservation groups “use the shark issue as a fund-raising gimmick.  We now we made a vow to voice out and unveil those lies.”


I have to admit that I've become a bit cynical with the media when it comes to how they portray anything to do with sharks. It seems that they're mostly interested in shocking headlines and have very little substance in the article themselves. So that's why today's article in Forbes came as a pleasant surprise. It is very informative, doesn't use hype and is well written.

In 10 years of working with Great White Sharks this is one of the best articles I've read on the complex subject of shark finning.

Well done Forbes.


Cheers,

Martin Graf
Dive Operations Manager
Shark Diver/Horizon
Isla Guadalupe, Mexico

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at sharkcrew@gmail.com.

Old School Diving with Sharks

As the owner of a commercial shark diving company I marvel at many of the images I see these days of divers with sharks.

There's a grace and fluidity in these images that stops you in your tracks sometimes.

Not too long ago divers had a very different relationship with the oceans and sharks limited by technology and the lack of understanding about sharks in general.

The fundamental change in perceptions about our toothy friends started almost 30 years ago and has continued to change exponentially over the past decade to today.

The growth of shark diving as a sport has been a bright spot in the dive world. In a time when scuba shops and dive operations all over the world have been feeling the effects of dramatic global economic change, commercial shark diving for the most part has seen growth.

Yes, growth.

A few years ago when the economic winds of doom hit the US I was quick to point out that in a time of downturn divers would flock to adventures and marine encounters that delivered real and lasting vacation memories. I was correct.

As a growth potential commercial shark diving has yet to fully hit its stride, but that does not stop me for longing for the days when hard hat divers in old school Mark V diving helmets scoured the ocean depths perchance to encounter a curious Tiger and come back with tales of extreme danger, romantically spun for anyone who would listen.

We have come a long way since then.

 Cheers,

Patric Douglas CEO
www.sharkdiver.com
www.sharkdivers.com
www.sharkdivers.blogspot.com
www.guadalupefund.org
415.235.9410

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Refreshing Documentary Work - Sandgrains

Almost every week we get asked to post a new conservation documentary trailer on our website and blog. Most never make it, there's a vetting process here as we look for documentaries that are in a word, "refreshing."

We're looking for subject matter that matters. We generally pass on self promoting media foks who have little to offer the wider conservation scene aside from a pretty face, some pablum based conservation talking points, and a website.

Instead we tend to admire and promote those who take the craft of documentary work with all the seriousness it deserves and Sandgrains is one of those well crafted works that deserves a first, second, and third look.

Kudos to the entire team from Matchbox Media who are behind this.




About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at sharkcrew@gmail.com.

Ilaitia Turagabeci Fiji Pro-Shark Media Hits?

When you have been around the shark media landscape as long as I have you get a tad - jaded.


Basically the world of shark media can be distilled down to a few fundamental attributes coming out of well worn media playbooks.

That's why when I see shark attack headlines I rarely post about them anymore, ditto goes for the breathless and somewhat myopic attempts by a few well known conservationists to re-brand sharks into cuddly plush toys.


So when I read last weeks news coming out of Fiji I was stopped cold because this is how you do shark media, and where has the writer Ilaitia Turagabeci been for the past six years?

Ilaitia covers the world of sharks from the commercial shark diving space and there's plenty to write about when it comes to Fiji. In case you have missed it we have been huge fans of at least one operation in Fiji and very impressed with the quiet efforts by power players in the region to radically change the world of Fijian sharks for the better.

While some look at commercial shark diving as a liability, clutching to outdated 1970's views towards sharks and shark behaviors, a revolution has been happening in our world.

As it turns out lots of people want to see sharks, safely.

Thanks to a few industry leaders over the past decade the desires of a few have morphed into a global multi-million dollar dive segment and growing. One that has adopted conservation and one that is now seeing acceptance globally.

But the stats coming from Fiji tell an all too familiar black and white tale:

Ministry of Fisheries and Forests statistics show that earnings from shark fin exports from Fiji to the world's shark fin capital Hong Kong pale in comparison to earnings from the shark-diving industry in Fiji. 

The annual income from shark's fin trading averages $F8million while income generated by the shark-diving industry is at $US42million ($F75million), according to the recently-released study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

But while the export price of shark's fin has increased, from $HK377.12 ($F89.57) per kilo in 2001 to $HK678.30 ($F161) in 2011, and the shark-diving industry continues to reap bigger rewards with the growing popularity of Fiji to the world, the sharks are getting smaller and disappearing from some areas.

Read Big Bite this week by Ilaitia Turagabeci and immerse yourself in the facts and figures of our industry along with some great regional quotes and some hope for sharks on the horizon.

Being jaded does not necessarily mean that I have stopped being impressed by those who are tackling our industry and conservation in methodical ways to distill out the essence of what this very complicated global movement is all about.


Cheers,

Patric Douglas CEO
www.sharkdiver.com
www.sharkdivers.com
www.sharkdivers.blogspot.com
www.guadalupefund.org
415.235.9410

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at sharkcrew@gmail.com.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Disturbing Great White Shark Video?

"Shredder" picture by Cary Humphries
An article in the Herald Sun (Australia) described a video that shows a Great White Shark, eating a blue shark hooked by a fisherman,as:

"A Disturbing Video"



What I find disturbing  is the fact that a newspaper describes the natural behavior of a wild animal in this manner.

Of course a shark will not refuse an easy meal but there is hardly anything disturbing about it.

In 10 years of observing Great White Sharks at Isla Guadalupe, I have learned that sharks are actually more attracted to a hooked fish than any chum that cage diving operators are using. One day in 2005 there was a time we had great difficulty attracting the sharks, while a tuna fishing boat, less than 1/2 mile away, complained that most the tuna they were catching, were being eaten by the very sharks we were waiting to see.

Sharks will be sharks. The mainstream media will describe incidents like this as “disturbing” and will try to get you to buy into it. You can believe the unsubstantiated nonsense or you can be amazed by the truth about sharks. If you are truly interested in sharks and their behavior and/or if you are an enthusiastic shark observer as I am, take time to find reliable sources and get to know the facts.


Cheers,

Martin Graf
Dive Operations Manager
Shark Diver/Horizon
Isla Guadalupe, Mexico


About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at sharkcrew@gmail.com.

Friday, May 18, 2012

121 Great White Sharks at Isla Guadalupe?

Don't forget to count us!
 Note: Apologies to George Probst who runs the fine blog Dorsal Fin Blog for the original image mistake on this post.

The pictures donated by our shark divers from the past ten seasons have been evaluated.

Last Monday Nicole Nasby-Lucas, the scientist I'm working with on the

We now count 121 individual Great White Sharks at Isla Guadalupe.

By evaluating those pictures, we  not only keep track of the numbers of sharks, but can also track how many years they have been at the Island. Some, like our buddies Shredder, Bruce, Jacques, etc. have been there every year since 2001.

Another interesting fact that has been discovered, is regarding adult females.

While males come to the Island every year, the females come every other year. In the "off" year, they give birth along the Baja coast and in the Sea of Cortez.

This research is only possible with the assistance of our shark divers.

Thanks.

Cheers,

Martin Graf
Dive Operations Manager
Shark Diver/Horizon
Isla Guadalupe, Mexico

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at sharkcrew@gmail.com.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Satellite Tracking of Manta Rays Highlights Challenges to Their Conservation

We just finished reading an amazing paper on Manta birostris (thanks Gabriel Fava) written by Rachel T. Graham, Matthew J. Witt, Dan W. Castellanos, Francisco Remolina, Sara Maxwell, Brendan J. Godley, Lucy A. Hawkes.

For fans of in depth research data on very cool critters this is as good as it gets.

Manta gill rakers are another in a series of culinary and medicinal treats sent to Asia and the market is growing putting pressure on these magnificent animals.

Abstract

We describe the real-time movements of the last of the marine mega-vertebrate taxa to be satellite tracked – the giant manta ray (or devil fish, Manta birostris), the world’s largest ray at over 6 m disc width. Almost nothing is known about manta ray movements and their environmental preferences, making them one of the least understood of the marine megavertebrates.

Red listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as ‘Vulnerable’ to extinction, manta rays are known to be subject to direct and incidental capture and some populations are declining. Satellite-tracked manta rays associated with seasonal upwelling events and thermal fronts off the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico, and made short-range shuttling movements, foraging along and between them. The majority of locations were received from waters shallower than 50 m deep, representing thermally dynamic and productive waters. 


Manta rays remained in the Mexican Exclusive Economic Zone for the duration of tracking but only 12% of tracking locations were received from within Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Our results on the spatio-temporal distribution of these enigmatic rays highlight opportunities and challenges
to management efforts.


Complete paper here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

White Shark Cage Diving Australia - Reprieve?

All's well that ends well, sort of.

As you know we have been following the twists and turns of the State Governments decision to cut two commercial shark diving operations from Neptune Island in Australia.

A recent research study that suggested commercial white shark operations were in fact changing the behavior of the animals on site the decision was, as industry observers have noted, not greeted with much enthusiasm.

The good news is all the operations have received five year extended permits, the bad news is they have all been reduced to 5 days a week, dropping 288 collective days from operational calendars.

What makes this decision notable is the shark research component. For years commercial shark diving operations have extended an open door policy towards research teams seeking to study sharks.

Is it time to reconsider this policy when single point research data impacts operations?

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at sharkcrew@gmail.com.

Stefanie Brendl - Pretty With Tiger Sharks

"Stefanie Brendl swims with Tiger sharks when conditions and behavior allow it, and ONLY after years of experience. Do not try this unless you know a lot about sharks."

We like this for the simple reason it is visually appealing to watch "as is" without the re-branding messaging about sharks "just needing a hug" that we see all too often.

Sometimes it is o.k to just share an exquisite moment with sharks without having to hit the viewer with propaganda. Nicely done.

Enjoy:


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Can Magnets Really Save Sharks?

There is an interesting article on BBC news about rare earth magnets repelling sharks and preventing attacks.

Having observed Great White Sharks for the last 10 years at Isla Guadalupe, I have a couple of  questions. A lot of times a shark is initially repelled by something, but after the initial "flee" reaction and the realization that it is not something trying to attack it, the shark is actually attracted to it. I've observed many, specially young sharks, that are initially afraid of the shark cages, but after a while, come back and start investigating.

I'm not saying this is the case here, but it certainly needs to be investigated.

For me, the more interesting part in the article deals with the reduction of shark by-catch by the long line fishermen!

"We realized we could magnetize the fishing hook, and coat it with a rare earth metal," he says. "It looks just like a regular hook. Several countries are now testing his so-called SMART hooks to see if they work. Some tests show a 60 to 70 per cent reduction in the number of sharks caught."

Here's the complete story.

If this research proves correct, I wonder if this would be cost effective. Would the long line fishermen actually buy those hooks? Food for thought.

Cheers,

Martin Graf
Dive Operations Manager
Shark Diver/Horizon
Isla Guadalupe, Mexico 

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at sharkcrew@gmail.com.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Cristina Zenato Commercial Shark Divings Great New Voice

Baiting at Isla Guadalupe 2005
Thanks to some simply awful self inflicted media coming out of South Africa this month the world of sharks, commercial shark diving, and yes shark baiting has blown up again.

We go through this cycle once a year, but this time thanks in large part to Chris Fischer and the circus surrounding the tragic death of a young South African at the hands of a white shark, this cycle seems a bit more frantic with anti-cage diving folks finding some wind in their sails to produce an onslaught of hysteria that would make even Peter Benchley cringe.

Thankfully the commercial shark diving world has Cristina Zenato who has begun to post her observations on our industry in a way that's refreshing, to the point, and for those who have an issue with commercial shark diving, informative.

We have been fans of Cristina for quite a few years and watched her quiet rise through the industry with anticipation. She's a smart, edgy, no nonsense kind of person who speaks to the issues surrounding sharks with a compassionate voice.

Read her latest blog post  Shark Diving, Shark Feeding and Common Sense.

This is as good as it get's and for our industry the timing is perfect.

Simply defining the interaction with all sharks as a feeding or a non-feeding situation is too simplistic. It would collect approximately 400 species of sharks under the single umbrella of generalized gray, tubular, finned, toothed creatures who just swim around the oceans behaving as we would want them to behave. Instead we can, and should, take the time to learn how each and every shark species behaves. This can be a controversial and difficult topic to present -- please understand that there will always be unique situations and habitat niches. As with any complex issue, knowledge and understanding are key.

 Kudos Cristina.

Albert Falco and Cousteau Dancing in Heaven

If you missed it last week here's the very cool video that undoubted has a whole room full of deceased underwater explorers dancing in heaven. Say what you want about deep water oil and gas exploration, the last five years have yielded up a cornucopia of deep water video that simply boggles the imagination.

This video stands at the pinnacle of simply stunning animal discover and interaction.

Go to 1.50 to start seeing this critter in all it's mysterious glory:

 

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at sharkcrew@gmail.com.

Best of 2011 at Isla Guadalupe - Martin Graf

A couple of days ago I talked about how I got started at Isla Guadalupe.

Today I'm going to share a couple of things I do during those trips. I'm always collecting pictures and videos from our Shark divers, both for our photo database and a trip video. Our database identifies the sharks, by looking at the transition from the grey to the white, which is like a fingerprint and different for each shark. So far we have identified over 120 different individuals, some of which we have seen every single year for the past 10 years. If we have a new shark that hasn't been identified, the photographer whose picture we use to identify it, gets to name the Shark. How cool is that?

I compile pictures and videos for a slide show/video and burn it onto a DVD for each Shark Diver to take home. The following is an example from last season!

Cheers,

Martin Graf
Dive Operations Manager
Shark Diver/Horizon
Isla Guadalupe, Mexico





About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at sharkcrew@gmail.com.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Watching Sharks, Sharks and Watches Bahamas

Luke Tipple from What We Do Media has been busy on the commercial side this month with an underwater time piece roll out at Tiger Beach, Bahamas.

Actually the MTM Special Ops Watch is far more than an ordinary time piece.

If Darth Vader owned a watch this is what he would carry.

For industry guys and gals this commercial is a tribute to you and your lifestyle. Only you know what it is like to "get the call" and have to jump out the door on another shark adventure, enjoy:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Guadalupe Island, 10 years of staring down Great White Sharks

 My name is Martin and this is my story

10 years ago, I boarded the "Ocean Odyssey" in San Diego, heading down to Isla Guadalupe to see the Great White Sharks. I was working as a deck hand and had no idea what to expect and couldn't have imagined how that trip was going to change my life.

Once we got to the Island, we started to put our cages into the water. Back then I had to lean over the rail and pretty much hang upside down, my face just a few feet from the water, in order to unclip the cage from the hoist cable.  That was when it happened! An enormous Great White Shark (OK, so it was only about 11ft. long) swam right by me and looked straight into my eyes!

After changing my shorts, (just kidding) I worked on deck all day. We had sharks swimming around the cages and even had a breach.  The following day I got to go into a cage. Within minutes a shark swam right by the cage and again, looked me straight in the eye. I thought I was going on this trip to check out Great White Sharks! I didn't know they were going to check me out! Needless to say I was hooked.

I only got to go to Guadalupe 3 times that first year, but by the end of the 3rd trip I knew I wanted to go back for more. Just before we returned to San Diego, I talked with Patric Douglas from Shark Diver about working the following season as the Dive Operations manager.

Martin Graf, hard at work at Isla Guadalupe

That was 10 years ago. We have moved the dive operation over to the MV HORIZON and I no longer have to dangle over the rail to launch the cages. That first shark that checked me out that day is still around and has become my favorite. His name is Shredder (you just have to come out on a trip and I'll tell you how he got his name) He's been there every single year since we first saw him.

Shredder the undisputed "King" of white sharks!
I've gotten to know Mauricio, the local scientist and over the years have worked with him on tagging and DNA sampling the sharks. With the assistance of our shark divers, I also helped Nicole Nasby to expand a photo ID database to over 120 individual Great White Sharks. It's a really rewarding experience, not just for me, but for a lot of our shark divers, to be able to assist in the research, all while having the time of our lives. We found out that some of the sharks leave Guadalupe in the summer and go to Hawaii (who can blame them!) and always come back to Guadalupe in the fall.

Every year I'm anxious to see if all "my" sharks have made it back.

I cannot wait for August 2012 to celebrate another season at the island!
 
About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at sharkcrew@gmail.com.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Catalina Shark Nibbles and Good Media?

Fortunately when occasional shark attacks occur in Southern California there's a few solid voices out there with ready quotes for the media.

This week was no exception and the quotes given were without the typical "re-branding effort" of top order predators that we are beginning to see in the conservation space.

Sharks are sharks, occasionally they attack things and sometimes those things happen to have a human element to them.

Sharks are not misunderstood, they are not soft and cuddly, and they are toothy.

Accepting the basic tenants of sharks does not make them less viable for conservation, but it does allow people to make "informed decisions" about where they should be when sharks are present.

More from RTSea Blog here.

Catalina Shark Nibbles, Whoa Nelly!

A young paddle boarder was lucky this week after a hair raising encounter with what most likely was a juvenile white shark at Catalina Island.

Pete Thomas has the scoop:

The shark reportedly bit the paddleboard more than once about 200 yards offshore, beyond a remote stretch of coast a mile from Avalon.

The size or type of shark is not known, but great whites have been known to mistake surfboards as prey, and are ambush hunters that strike marine mammals from below.


Catalina has been the stage for numerous shark/seal predations over the years many of which caught on tape. A paddleboard underwater tends to look like a seal and younger white sharks are known to be "frisky" with seal shaped objects on the surface.

Welcome to the start of Shark Summer in California. This video is purported to be a Mako shark and seal at Catalina in 2010:

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sharks with Frickin' Lasers - The Website

Wait, there's a website?

Of course there's a website, you don't think a new fin clip innovation that will revolutionize shark research as we know it would rely on a few images in three thousand print media outlets plus mainstream media video to make the case did you?

Never.

Oh, and by the way enjoy. No sharks were harmed, inconvenienced, delayed, disrespected, and or annoyed in the making of this video. As it turns out Mr.Biggelsworth has a bit of a thing for our buddy Luke Tipple.

The Mr Biggelsworth Website

The Mr Bigglesworth Facebook Page

The only shark on the planet with this much pro-shark media around him. How's that for amazing?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sharks with Frickin' Lasers - The Video

Wait, there's a video?

Of course there's a video, you don't think a new fin clip innovation that will revolutionize shark research as we know it would rely on a few images in three thousand print media outlets to make the case did you?

Never.

Oh, and by the way enjoy. No sharks were harmed, inconvenienced, delayed, disrespected, and or annoyed in the making of this video. As it turns out Mr.Biggelsworth has a bit of a thing for our buddy Luke Tipple:

Shark Fins, Shark Media, and those Frickin' Lasers

As expected the mainstream media is in a complete frenzy over the Sharks and Lasers video and story.

If you want to introduce a new way to add research packages to shark fins without drilling into the dorsal or jamming a titanium dart into a shark THIS is the way to do it.

Yes, there was another reason for attaching a laser to a shark and it took Luke Tipple and his crew to mastermind the media roll out.

Part of the ongoing debate within the shark community has been over invasive research packages on shark fins. The only way to solve that problem is to innovate your way out of it, and the only way to get your idea out there is to create a media firestorm.

At least that's the idea.

Clips on fins are not new, this fin clip is. Additionally the size of research packages are getting smaller and smaller each and every year. It is time for the research community to start developing multi-purpose packages that are even smaller and more robust for the fin clip methodology. 

We can innovate our way out of almost anything, it takes vision, leadership, and in some cases some good old fashioned stunt work.

For Mr.Biggelsworth here that green laser was pointing to a bright new future for shark research
and a generation of sharks without corroded wires sticking out of hides and destroyed dorsal fins in the name of science.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sharks With Frickin' Lasers - Wired Magazine


Relax, Dr Evil. Your inspired request for “sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached” has finally been fulfilled in the real world.

Marine biologist-cum-TV personality Luke Tipple attached a 50-milliwatt green laser to a lemon shark off the coast of the Bahamas in late April.

The escapade was sponsored by Wicked Lasers, a consumer-focused laser manufacturer based in Hong Kong that produces some of the most brilliant — and potentially dangerous — handheld lasers in the world.

“This was definitely a world first,” Tipple told Wired. “Initially, I told them no. I thought it was a frivolous stunt. But then I considered that it would give us an opportunity to test our clips and attachments, and whatever is attached to that clip, I really don’t care. It was a low-powered laser that couldn’t be dangerous to anyone, and there’s actually useful application of having a laser attached to the animal.”


Tipple said the experiment was instructive in a number of ways. For starters, he was able to further test his clamping apparatus, which is typically used for traditional data-aquistion equipment.

He also wanted to verify anecdotal evidence that sharks avoid laser energy of specific spectrums and wavelengths. Curiously, at least with the Wicked Lasers model, he found the opposite to be true: “Although further testing is necessary, time and time again, sharks were actually attracted to the laser beam,” he said.

Finally, he said the experiment was helpful in measuring a shark’s velocity and trajectory in real time. “We were able to see how their body positioning relates to a target,” he said. “You can get a very clear description, via the laser, of what the shark’s body is doing.”

Other experts find the Wicked Lasers stunt of dubious value, and we’ll get to those criticisms soon. But for now, let’s describe exactly what went down in the Caribbean on Apr. 24.

Wicked Lasers supplied Tipple with the lowest-powered version of its S3 Krypton green laser. Where a simple laser pointer might generate a beam measuring about 2mW in power, the shark-deployed model, operating on its low-power setting, emitted a beam in the neighborhood of 50mW. This isn’t a beam that can be safely shined in anyone’s eye, but it’s nowhere near as dangerous as the 1-watt Krypton model Gadget Lab tested in October 2011.


Tipple says the laser was attached to a lemon shark’s dorsal fin via a “non-invasive clamp” applied by a diver to ensure correct positioning. Tipple says he chose a lemon shark — Negaprion brevirostris — for its “predictable and relatively docile swimming behavior during the day, ease of access in shallow water, and size of the dorsal fin.”

In other words, the shark was easily corralled and size-appropriate, and probably wouldn’t stray very far during the stunt. And, indeed, Tipple’s team was able to retrieve the host shark by the end of the experiment, and remove the clamp.

“The clamp has specially designed gel pads on the inside of its jaws that create a tactile surface interaction with the dermal denticles of the sharks skin, so basically it doesn’t move,” Tipple says. “Zinc elements of the spring device within the clamp are designed to corrode and would lessen the grip of the clamp within a week. In around a month, the spring would be rendered useless, causing the clamp to simply fall off.”

So how did the shark respond to its evil laserfication?

“The shark didn’t really like it when I initially deployed the clamp,” says Tipple, “but after a few seconds it returned to normal behavior. The clamp itself isn’t strong enough to cause any pain, and the dorsal fin is actually not very sensitive due to it being composed primarily of cartilage.”

During our interview, Tipple went to great lengths to explain that neither the shark, nor Caribbean sea life, nor his team of divers were at ever at risk from the laser. “The laser we were using wasn’t strong enough to cause ocular or thermal damage to other sea life,” he says.

What’s more, his credentials as an animal rights advocate are strong. He holds a degree in marine biology from James Cook University, and is the managing director of the Shark-Free Marina Initiative, an organization dedicated to lowering worldwide shark mortality rates.

Granted, these bona fides are tempered by Tipple’s status as a celebrity shark handler — he’s appeared on Mythbusters and various Discovery Channel “Shark Week” shows, among other TV appearances. It all begs the question: What’s the real value of attaching a laser to a shark, other than to generate publicity for Tipple himself, and the Wicked Lasers brand, which organized a Facebook promotion around the stunt?

“Is there a point of it? It has to have an objective,” Neil Hammerschlag, an assistant professor with the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, told Wired.

“I would say the attachment process sounds non-invasive,” Hammerschlag said. “I don’t think it’s going to cause any damage to the shark. It’s temporary. In terms of the goal, without knowing the specific scientific or educational application, it’s hard to say. But if this is just to respond to a scene in the Austin Powers movie, I don’t see value. You’re just causing unnecessary stress on the animal. It’s not respectful.”

Sean Van Sommeran, executive director and founder of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation, said he was interested in Tipple’s efforts to build a better fin clamp. “I like the idea of the spring-loaded hinge that’s going to break down over time in the salt water,” Van Sommeran told Wired. “It’s a good alternative to drilling holes through the fins. Sharks are slow growing so something attached temporarily, for even a month, isn’t necessarily going to harm the shark, or impede its growth.”

Still, Van Sommeran said, were the shark to be armed with a laser for an extended period of time, the animal would find its new life in the sea quite challenging.

“The animal would essentially be carrying a roof rack of lights, atracting attention as it swims around,” he said. “Any time the animal goes deep into the water column, it will be more apparent. Predators can notice and take interest. Hammerhands might eat that lemon with a laser on it. And animals that the lemon may want to stalk can see it coming.”

But even serious hardcore shark experts like Van Sommeran can relish in the bold absurdity of a laser-equipped shark: “Everything tilts toward this being a disadvantage for the shark. Its laser might blind a pilot and piss off the FAA. Or North Korea might counter-attack it,” he said.
And, of course, Wicked Lasers, the instigator of Tipple’s stunt, can’t help but have fun with the evil implications of laser-weaponized sharks.

“Depending on the power of the laser that they are armed with, the sharks could be significantly more dangerous,” Steve Liu, Wicked Lasers CEO, told Wired. “If there was a way the shark could operate the laser on its own accord and use it against humans, we wouldn’t even attempt this.”

WIRED News.

We Need Your Help! The Big Day Has Arrived in Fiji

Bula Shark Defenders!

The most important day of the campaign to create a Fiji Shark Sanctuary is TOMORROW.  And vosata for the extreme late notice, we just found out ourselves.

Mr. Inoke Wainiqolo, Permanent Secretary for Fisheries & Forests, issued a notice today that there will be a stakeholder consultation to discuss the protection of sharks in Fiji waters tomorrow, May 2, 2012, at 10:00 AM at the Suva Holiday Inn.

This is how you can help:

1. Attend the public consultation
2. Bring two friends to the public consultation with you.
3. Bring a letter or make a verbal statement of support to the public consultation.

Some of you may not be able to attend the public consultation in Suva on such short notice.  If this is the case, you can still help:

1. Write a short letter to the Fiji Times explaining why you support shark protections.  If you don't live here, say that you can't wait to come visit our sharks.  Email your letter to: editor@fijitimes.com.fj.

2. Post our public service announcements to your Facebook wall.  PSA #1 and PSA #2 talk about the importance of sharks, while PSA #3 (starring shark champion Senator Tony DeBrum from the Marshall Islands) talks about the importance of banning bycatch and transshipment.
3. Update your Facebook and Twitter status to "I love Fiji Sharks #FijiMe."  Then Like, Share, and ReTweet the message everytime you see it!

Vinaka vakalevu!

If you have any questions, please contact Kelly at fiji@sharkdefenders.com.  Stay tuned for an update after tomorrow's meeting.

Kelly Thomas Brown is a Masters candidate at the University of South Pacific and is the Manager of Fiji Shark Defenders.

Star Wars Holiday Special - The 1978 Freakout

As Pete Thomas says, "it's a slow news week." So we dug up this video gem. The Star Wars Holiday Special, complete with the original commercials aired in 1978 (worth watching for those).

Warning: If you are a fanboy/girl of Star Wars this special will make you cringe. It's also got everything packed in it, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, the entire Wookie clan, Harvey Korman, R2D2 and Cirque du Soleil with Boba Fett.

Got a morning to waste? Sit back and enjoy: