Saturday, March 27, 2010

Beqa Lagoon - The Book!

Behold the Book!!!

Welcome to God's Country! Fiji.
This beautiful full size hard cover book offers 200 pages and 316 photos above and below the sea in Beqa Lagoon and south Fiji. The photography is by internationally published photojournalist TIM ROCK.
This book is a visual trip to the south of Viti Levu, its people and its undersea attractions in the famed Beqa Lagoon. See the land, the coral reefs and marine creatures, the wonderful people and Fijian culture, aerials and overlooks and, most of all, the amazing sharks.

I can't even begin to tell you how proud we are!
Timbo and I started hatching the plan last September and his latest visit was entirely dedicated to developing a "feel" for the Country and to capturing all the required images - which being the consummate professional he is, he did absolutely brilliantly! As well as the writing and the editing!
Absolutely stellar - and yes, I am very very biased!

But judge for yourself.
You can preview it here and I strongly recommend that you use the "full screen" feature.
BAD aficionados will discover many old friends, both above and below the surface - and newbies will get an excellent impression of what's awaiting them should they decide to visit our shores.
All are in for a feast for the eyes.

So what are you waiting for - go and get your copy!!!
(Yeah I know that's pretty pathetic marketing... but still!)

Thank you Timbo - we owe you big time!


Don't quite know what to think about this.

I like Rutzen, I like Cooper - not sure I like this.
Guess I'll have to wait & watch 60 minutes.

Story here.

How about some Accountability!

Patric is not letting go and I say, well done!!

Several months after the fact, there's still no news about that Shark.
Or is there? And if so, why is it not being released, the more considering the fact that this was one of last year's major, and I may add: self inflicted media disasters?
Fishy business - or just the same old hubris?

Just as a reminder of what this is all about.

This is not about the professional qualifications of Michael Domeier as a scientist - in fact, I find his research interesting and I mostly like his interviews and the fact that he always tries to weave in a pro-Shark message.
And his White Shark Symposium in Hawaii has been stellar.

This is also not about whether SPOT tags are generally useful or whether the data collected are valuable, or not.

This is about a fishing show where research was used as a pretext to go angling for record sized Great Whites within two marine parks.

This is about the self serving and unethical mindset of the researcher who partook in it and the agency who gave the according permits, and the arrogance they displayed once it became clear that one of the animals had been grievously injured.

This is about about the brutal procedures employed, where an endangered animal was hooked and subdued and then hoisted upon a naked wooden platform where it was left to fight for its life whilst somebody drilled holes into it.
  • Likewise, there was no need whatsoever to brutally manhandle the Shark onto the platform, let alone to hoist her aboard and torture her for 20 minutes. It is well established procedure to bring big Sharks to the vessel and to keep them submerged, often even in a soft cradle whenever applying tags - yes, including tags that need bolting on, as amply demonstrated here by Richard Fitzpatrick!
This is about the need to finally abandon the antiquated view that research data are all-important and that they warrant treating animals as mere objects regardless of the consequences to them.

And finally, this is about accountability.
Domeier was not dragged, kicking and screaming, into the public domain - he himself chose to go there in the first place. Pity it didn't turn out as planned and that instead of the expected accolades, he got heaped with scorn once he botched it.

It's high time to stop pouting, to man up and to accept the consequences of one's doing.
If the Shark is alive and well - prove it. And if the Shark has died as the result of the injuries it has sustained, own up to your responsibility, apologize and learn the lessons that have to be learned.

In case you have forgotten, this is what Accountability is all about.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hawaii - Vote Vote Vote!!!

From Stefanie

Subject: Immediate quick action in the next 3 hours!!!!!! KHON News

The shark finning news story was on the 6pm news.
It came out great! They are keeping a running vote on the bill on the website to see how the public support is for the bill. The results will be broadcast this evening at 10 pm. We have 2 hours to boost this vote.

Please chime in and pass this on to EVERYONE you know.
PLEASE go the site and click on the "Cast Your Vote" on the right hand side.
Above you can watch the shark finning piece.

Vote here - video here.

This popular vote could be very powerful.
I can't believe 33.7% have already voted AGAINST the bill!!!!
We can do better!!!!

Hawaii - Shark Conservation!

Speaking of effective Conservation.
Did somebody say: regional efforts?

Stefanie in Oahu has been campaigning relentlessly for pro-Shark legislation.
As per the following, she is only inches away from success.

Please extend all the help you can!

Hi everyone, The nearly impossible happened today.

After days of struggling we were nearly defeated.
It seemed the shark finning bill had completely stalled and was going to die a horrible death because the committee chair didn't want to give it a hearing.

But thanks to an overwhelming amount of letters and phone calls to the legislature, the committee chair has changed his mind and has added bill 2169 to the meeting next tuesday!

This is awesome news, because we are back in the game and will now have a way to continue the fight.

So THANK YOU to all of you who responded so quickly and wrote letters to Karamatsu's office.
It worked!

We can now lay off him and concentrate on the hearing.
Please hang in there with me. We are sooooo close to making this happen.

If this bill goes through, we will have been part of ground breaking legislature for the protection of sharks. This will make a difference not only in Hawaii. It will also help federal legislation in the US and will set a precedent that many countries can refer to or use as an example. How exciting would it be to have Hawaii as a brave little state that dared to pass something that nobody else would or could!?

So here is the plan:
We need EVERYONE's testimony ONE MORE TIME. (None of the previous letters will be going to this hearing, so you can re use what you wrote before)
We have to come in with an overwhelming force of support, both in written testimony and in people attending the hearing.

If you live on Oahu, please consider taking part in this hearing.

It will be at the State Capitol, Conference Room 325 (3rd floor), 415 South Beretania Street on Tuesday, March 30, at 2:30 pm We can assemble in the hall way outside the conference room. Call me if you need more directions (778-6740). There is limited parking in the basement (entrance on Punchbowl St, right across from Queens
hospital) or at the Queen Emma Palace, or street side parking around the neighborhood. Either place, you will need lots of quarters to fill the meters.

You also have to submit written testimony 24 hrs in advance if you want to speak.
But you don't have to speak if you don't want to. When they call your name at the hearing you can simply say "I stand on my written testimony", that way they will know that you have nothing else to say, but that you are there to support the bill in person. As a matter of fact, the committee does not want someone to get up and read the same letter that they had already submitted. I usually cover the logical and boring points in the written testimony and then try to cover an angle that someone else isn't likely to bring up when I get a chance to speak. We want to try to cover many different points of view.

I have no delusions that this hearing will be easy, because we know that there is opposition in the House leadership that has tried to influence this committee to stall the bill.
But if we have an overwhelming majority in support, then they will hopefully have to pass it out of this last committee. After that there will be a few more steps, but this one hearing is where we can have our last and most powerful influence to pass this bill into law.

So please send in written testimony before Monday morning to the following address:

Testimony for:

Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu, Chair Rep. Ken Ito, Vice Chair
DATE:Tuesday, March 30, 2010
TIME:2:30 p.m.
RE: IN SUPPORT of Measure SB2169, SD2, HD2 Relating to Shark Fins

Thank you

Conservation Fail - three

The Porbeagle decision has been overturned.

This means that not a single one of the proposed Marine species has been granted protected status: not the Northern Bluefin, not the eight species of Sharks, not the 31 species of red and pink Coral.

More later.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Job well done!

Mea Culpa!

I obviously only watched, and ranted about the beta version!
Here's another cut of what is basically the same footage: but boy, what an improvement!
Good script, great footage, excellent narration and editing, a lucid and uncompromising synopsis of the principal problems without coming across as being overly maudlin - in brief, eminently watchable and an excellent resource for anybody wanting to highlight the topic!

Well done!

And just in case you may think that I've gone soft: it's 50, not 100!

Conservation Fail - again!

Seven to one.

Not protected: Scalloped, Great and Smooth Hammerheads, Oceanic Whitetip, Spiny Dogfish, Dusky and Sandbar Sharks.

Listed on Cites 2: Porbeagle.

Over my dead Body!

Lemme try and be clear about this one.
Absolutely, unequivocally, emphatically: not with Beqa Adventure Divers, ever!!!

I feared something was brewing ever since some dude came to our booth at DEMA.
He claimed to be some travel agent for Ritter (surprise surprise: I'm quoting CDNN - and boy, did they nail this one!) and our reception was, uh, less than welcoming.

Looks like he then got lucky elsewhere.
According to this website (bottom - and no, do NOT bookmark it!!!), the only professional shark-human interaction specialist, or whatever, and his groupies are planning to come to Fiji next year.

Howz this for conservation snake oil!

Here's a piece of free advice to whoever may have taken that booking: You may as well kiss your reputation goodbye - the good news being that there's plenty of time to reconsider!
And yes, enough said!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Media Fail

I've said it before, we need to be credible.
This is especially true since we lack the institutional power to sanction the changes we seek but instead, need to convince others of our viewpoints.

That includes the media we produce.
WildAid and especially, SOSF understand that and have produced some stellar PSAs. Oceana regularly produce excellent pro-Shark publications, latest of which this one for the CITES convention in Doha.

This however is pathetic, sorry.
What is it anyway: Greetings from the Doha Summer Camp??

Is this indicative of the caliber of the Oceana delegation?
More about this once the conference is over.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Conservation Fail

The proposal to list the Northern Bluefin under CITES 1 has been crushed.
Background info here.

Makes you want to roll over & puke!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Breaking News!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Malta - again!

The Maltese shenanigans continue.
That Country sure brings out the worst and the best!

If you want to keep abreast of what's going on in Doha, please consult this informative website - or enjoy the toothy comments by Lesley Rochat!
It's same-old same-old, with a defeat for Shark Conservation (good comments here) the latest bad news.
Thank you China, Russia and Japan!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

No, really!

This thing is for real!

Found on the very cool Tree of Life!
(Yes I'm bored to death...)

Report from Fiji

Tomas is on its way out.

I just watched the BBC who reported on the current State of Emergency.

So here's where we stand:
  • Tomas was a Cat 4 and has devastated the Northern and Eastern Divisions comprising the second and third largest islands, Vanua Levu and Taveuni, and the eastern hi-end tourist retreats like Wakaya and Laucala. Damages are likely to be very important and will be known as communication is being restored thanks to the heroic efforts of a few dedicated individuals. This is where the State of Emergency has been declared. Don't go there or at least, give a call to make sure that your individual destination is OK.
  • The eastern side of Viti Levu where we're located and, hopefully, Beqa and Kadavu have largely dodged the bullet as the cyclone veered south from its predicted path at the very last minute. We had power and communications throughout, have stocked up on fuel and filled our tanks and are basically good to go. There's a curfew in place but I expect it to be lifted shortly, allowing us to resume normal operations tomorrow. I expect Wednesday's diving to be sub-par due to the surge but as winds subside, so will the swell and visibility will get better.
  • The Western side has been largely unaffected, meaning that the Nadi airport is fully functional and that you can look forward to spending a fantastic holiday in Denarau, the Mamanucas and the Yasawas and also the Coral Coast.

Fishing for Tuna

Photo: Jonathan Clay

I don't like preaching to the choir.
So, no I'm not about to bore you with yet another larmoyant piece about the decline of global Tuna stocks. Anybody interested in Marine Conservation knows that anyway.

But if you should be the exception, you can read about the status of the various Tuna fisheries here.
As you should know, CITES is meeting in Doha and, among other things, deciding about the fate of the Northern Bluefin. The situation is unequivocal (pdf here!) but alas, I'm not holding my breath that the news will be good as the Japanese are already engaging in the usual shenanigans and the Europeans are still not playing their role despite the fact that it is very much their own fisheries which are at risk of disappearing forever.

But enough pontificating.
Why I'm writing this post is because I want to showcase another one of Jon's stellar video clips, this time about pole & line fishing for Skipjack.
This is one of the more selective and thus, more sustainable techniques, very much unlike the widespread usage of the devastating method of purse seining.

So, without further ado: unbelievable images and fantastic messaging!

Pole & line Tuna Fishing from Jonathan Clay on Vimeo.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The BBC Clip!

Ηὕρηκα - literally!

I didn't believe that I would ever find it online - but here it is!
Jon has posted the Fiji clip of Fragile Paradise, his contribution to South Pacific by the BBC.
I must say, this has been one of the highlights in the short history of our company, the more as Jon and cameraman Richard were as nice and humble as they come and a real pleasure to work with!
Epic stuff!


Fiji Shark Dive from Jonathan Clay on Vimeo.


Scarface, by Sasha - click on it!

Yes, believe it or not, we're still waiting for Tomas!
Looks like we may have dodged the bullet as it may pass further to the east - fingers crossed!

Anyway, I was just idly leafing through the web when I came across this remarkable post.
It's old so you may have already seen it: somebody has ripped my Naughty File and boiled it down to a Tiger Shark dive featuring heaps of footage of Scarface! It's completely out of sync but having said that, I must approve of his choice of music - very relaxed and mellow, just like the big lady!

Check it out and then, compare it to the original!


Sunday, March 14, 2010


Yup it's not a question anymore!

Some dude in Lupe is wrangling Sharks for the photographers - and judging by this pic, he's not only stupid and disrespectful, but also pretty bad at what he does on top of it!
Is that a hand in the mouth of that GW? From a shaking cage?

Bravo George for having dug a bit deeper.

Thank you Walt!

Well I guess Tomas is nothing but a good Fijian.
He's in no hurry whatsoever but just creeping along in Fiji time and gathering strength in the process - and vae victis when he finally decides to unleash!

Time for one more pre-cyclone post.
Walt Stearns' Underwater Journal has just published a lengthy piece about Shark Reef Marine Reserve featuring some stellar pics by Lill Haugen. Nothing really new for readers of this blog - but hopefully, a further contribution to spreading the word about our conservation initiatives here in Fiji.

Thank you Walt for having given us this opportunity!

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Click on pic for better view: horrible!

Fiji: batten down the hatches!

This is really gonna get bad!

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Pew Charitable Trusts: excellent Stuff!

Quick-quick before we batten down: I'm increasingly impressed by Pew.

Not only because they're filthy rich, but because they very quietly (and one could say: humbly) sponsor some of the very best Marine conservation projects around and notably, excellent things for Sharks.
In fact, if you looks further than what's being said at the surface, you can discern them behind the historical Palau Declaration and more recently, the decision by the Maldives to establish a Shark Sanctuary in all of their waters.

The news could even get better if the UK decides to turn the Chagos Islands into a Marine Reserve as recently announced.
Chagos is the Maldives' southern neighbor and the resulting Shark Sanctuary would truly be of epic proportions - with the added bonus of Diego Garcia and the ensuing patrols by the British and Americans! The French did very much the same during the inglorious Mururoa episode and unwittingly contributed much to the present health of the Tuamotu Archipelago in the process.

Like always, there's controversy.
The Chagossians claim that they want to go home.
"Home"? As in Madagascar, Mozambique and Mauritius? Or are they really aiming to resettle in the Archipelago in order to be economically nonviable and threatened by Sea level rise? Really???
Or may this be, horribile dictu!, merely about money and passports?

Who knows!
In any case, this scribe fervently hopes that the clamoring subsides, that the Chagossians get their money, or whatever, and that Planet Earth gets its biggest Marine Protected Area!
Fingers crossed!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Click for better detail!

For our Fijian friends!

Keep an eye on the NZ Weather forecast!


Good news for Sharks!

The Humane Society of the United States has taken on Shark conservation and instead of trying to re-invent the wheel like so many others, it has decided to join the Shark Free Marinas Initiative.

That is very much right down my alley, the more as I believe the SFMI to be a simply brilliant example for smart, efficient, effective and inventive Shark preservation. This truly is Conservation Bootstrapping at its very best!
And at the risk of repeating myself: I remain perplexed at the fact that all those Sharkitarians haven't picked it up and spread it all across the world!
Go wonder!

Anyway: Kudos!
Let us all look forward to a miraculous increase of registered US marinas and charter services!

Full story here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Shenanigans in Lupe?

Interesting pic!
I found it here, along with a heroic tale of a man fending off a big GW.

Well well.
Would that be a camera with a wide angle lens?
And somebody touching the Shark's nose to make her open her mouth, in order to capture one of those tooth-studded wideangle closeups?
Or may it be even more stupid and disrespectful, as in plain & simple macho bravado?

Honi soit qui mal y pense!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Hawaii - Urgent!

From Stefanie, unabridged.
You know what this is about - right?


Great news.
The shark finning bill has moved one step further.
It survived the Senate vote and crossed over to the House. Hearing date for the first committee is Tuesday 3/9/2010. This is great, because that means it is moving quickly, which is important, because it has to make it through 3 committees by March 19.
It also means there is hardly any time to send in testimony since it should be submitted 24 hrs before the hearing. That means Monday morning.

Testimony from previous hearings in the Senate are no longer attached to the bill, so we have to start over.
That means you can send in the same testimony you wrote before.

McKelvey said the more variety and different angles we cover the better, so feel free to write your own personal reasons why this bill is important.
You do not have to stick with the global conservation issues only. If you live in Hawaii and have personal experiences, go ahead and state those. Maybe you want to save the ocean for your kids, or maybe you are a diver and want to prevent a loss of bio diversity. If you like fishing you can say that you want to protect sharks because they will keep the fish populations healthy.
You can also state moral reasons why finning should be stopped.

Also, if you keep it shorter, and make one or two points instead of covering all the reasons you can think of, it will be more likely that your statement will actually be read.

Send the statement to:


-(your name with position/title and organization) TO: Committee on Economic Revitalization, Business & Military Affairs Chairman Angus L.K. McKelvey Hearing on Tuesday, March 9, 2010, 8am MEASURE SB2169, SD2 IN SUPPORT

I know this is short notice, especially since it is the weekend, but if you can get it there before Monday 8am Hawaii time, it will be part of the hearing record. Even if it gets there later, I am sure they will try to include it, it just won't be guaranteed.

Thank you for your time. Just remember that this bill is a HUGELY important step for shark conservation. It will be the strictest protection sharks have seen in any US State so far. It will also help pass legislation in other US States.


Bravo, Bravo, Bravo!

Sorry for neglecting the blog!

It's just that we're currently incredibly busy with projects and then, I got sidelined into trying to formulate a major policy post in an acquired language. Challenging and time consuming to say the least!
In any case, there's much to report - this week, promise!

But first things first.

See the pic above? Click on it! Fabulous!
That's the Best of Show of the 2010 iDiveSharks Imaging Festival - and did, or did I not tell you that we needed to keep an eye on Sasha? Did you click on the last link: is that a photo blog - or what?
Well, with us being the sponsors of that prize, we'll have the pleasure to welcome him back sooner rather than later - the more as he now lives in Hong Kong and will thus be able to profit from Air Pacific's newest direct flight at unbeatable prices!
Can't wait, it's been far too long!

And more than that: the Best Wide Angle is a portrait of a Fiji Bull Shark, Nick, by our friend Sam, and the Best Portfolio includes my favorite pic of Scarface, by our friend Terry!

Bravo guys - yer making Fiji proud!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Dear Mary

Bravo Terry: great Photography amidst a deluge of forgettable pics from Lupe!

I must apologize for the delay in answering your comments.
Thing is, we’re currently incredibly busy (95% doing, 5% ranting) - and I felt that I needed to devote some time to formulating a more exhaustive response.
So there.

First of all, I really want to thank you for having raised your voice in protest - and I commend you for having done it openly.
I know who you are and admire you for your passion, commitment, eloquence and intelligence. We’re clearly not on the same page on this one – but I very much welcome this discussion as I strongly believe that we will only progress by engaging in dialogue, some of which needs to be controversial and robust. And yes, that sometimes includes ranting, especially in the context of a blog like this one!
Let’s however never forget that in the big scheme of things, we’re on the same side and that this is a squabble between friends, not foes!

Let me try to put things into context.
As you know I’m basically a full-time Shark conservationist. I do what I do the way I do it , and I say what I say based on a specific set of assumptions.
Please bear with me if I try and describe them as follows.

Assumption 1

The Big Gorillas are Population Growth and even more problematic (and largely overlooked), the fact that everybody is striving to attain a “better” life which in practical terms translates into increasing one’s Ecological Footprint.
That is simply not sustainable and if left unchecked, the future looks grim indeed – as in: there will be no future!
If so, we will descend into Chaos and Anarchy, and Conservation will be the least of our concerns.

Assumption 2

One of the immediate consequences of the above is that Life expressed in terms of Biodiversity is experiencing a severe bottleneck, especially when it comes to terrestrial habitats where anthropogenic extinctions are rampant.
Hopefully, we will come to the conclusion that this is not what we want (Ed Wilson’s Biophilia) and if we do, the future will consist in some form of less diverse “Nature” which will however not just “be”, but which we will have to actively manage.
Yes that includes Shark stocks, too!

Assumption 3

When it comes to the Oceans, I believe that the situation is somewhat different.

I believe that we generally grossly under-estimate the size, fecundity and regenerative powers of Marine ecosystems.
Yes there’s widespread pollution, habitat degradation and blatant overfishing: but despite of our best efforts, it appears that we’ve “only” managed to exterminate a small number of Marine Mammals, no Marine Cetaceans and, possibly with the exception of some obscure deep-sea Sharks, zero Marine Fishes!

Yes the Cod, Orange Roughy and Chilean Sea Bass fisheries have collapsed and the Northern Bluefin Tuna appears to be critically endangered – but there are still Cod, Orange Roughies and Chilean Seabass and Northern Bluefins and if we just leave them alone, populations will very likely recover. We may pollute and bomb a Reef to smithereens: but just leave it alone, and it will miraculously recover within the shortest period of time.

Those, I understand, are the facts – I’m not saying that this is great and that we should thus feel free to continue to reap and pillage: but anthropogenic terrestrial and marine extinction rates are clearly very different.

Consequently, I advocate the creation of a multitude of MPAs (the more and bigger, the better) where Biodiversity can shelter in order to re-colonize the surroundings once we finally decide to just leave them alone.
That’s the good news.

Assumption 4

The bad news is that anthropogenic Climate Change and especially, its ugly cousin Ocean Acidification (read this!) may indeed tip the scale towards a total collapse of Marine habitats and related widespread Marine extinctions.
If so, all for which we so valiantly fight (and rant) will have been for naught.

But one has to choose one’s fights and like in the case of the Big Gorillas, this is not where I’ve chosen to be active. We at BAD are however certainly trying to make a (ridiculously small) contribution by always trying to reduce our Carbon footprint and advocating a greener lifestyle.
Let’s just hope that a Nobel Prize and an Oscar will prove sufficient to sway the masses (and the politicians!) to do the right thing – tho after Copenhagen, I’m far from believing that this is anywhere close to being a done deal…

Assumption 5

Species protection does not work. What works is habitat protection.

Assumption 6

I believe that the totality of resources (as in people, brain power, time and money) available to Conservation (and incidentally, to Research) is finite.
And not only that: the sum has been decreasing due to the global recession and also due to the plethora of other competing “worthy” causes, as in Haiti, AIDS, teenage pregnancies, poverty alleviation and-so-on-and so forth – many of which, alas, are directly contributing to making the Big Gorilla even bigger!

If the above is true, and I believe it is, we are looking at a classical zero sum game whereby if we invest any resources into a particular project, we are automatically crippling other projects.

To me, the inevitable consequence of the above is that we must define our priorities and invest those resources prudently and with a view to attaining the best possible results in the most effective and efficient way – very much like the ROI in the “real” world.
And like in the “real” world, we have an obligation to question the efficiency and effectiveness of those different projects and to hold the project leaders accountable - for their success but also for their failure, and this in absolute terms but also, in relative terms when compared to possible alternatives!

Take The Cove: all that hype and praise irritates me!
The movie decries the fact that some Japanese trap some Dolphins, a non-endangered species, in Japan. Some are exported for Dolphin shows; some are killed in unethical ways and then eaten. Certainly all very disturbing - but that's a (legitimate) animal welfare and not a conservation issue!

Did I hear: "sentient being"? And the Vaquita? Please read the link!
Couldn’t all those resources have helped in trying to reverse the decline of the Vaquita, maybe the most critically endangered Cetacean – the more as its demise is very much happening just south of the border? And who, please, is fighting for the Yangtze Dolphin?

Am I entitled to ask those questions?

I also believe that in this day-and-age, the only justification for investing those scarce resources into biological Research is that it directly benefits Conservation and that it satisfies the most stringent ethical imperatives.
And, we must strive to avoid redundant duplications (please, no more tagging of Pacific GWs!), we must oblige scientists to collaborate (which they mostly do) and we must ask that those scientists we finance produce regular results as expressed in scientific publications, etc.

As an example, I’m highly distressed when I hear that Taxonomy, the science that documents Biodiversity, is on the decline, to the point that an increasing number of Institutions are dropping it from the curriculum, that the current Taxonomists have issues of succession and that funding for expeditions is drying up.
Did you know that Jack Randall, the greatest Fish Taxonomist in history, is currently unemployed and unfunded? How is that possible???

And why are there so many competing research projects, NGOs and initiatives targeting the very same issues and incidentally, squandering so much money on aggregate overhead? How can that be beneficial to the cause?
In that regard, Kudos for having established the SSN – very much the way to go!

Now when it comes to Shark Conservation, which is what I do.

Assumption 7

I believe that apart from the doomsday scenarios of Climate Change and Ocean Acidification, the biggest threat to Sharks is overfishing.
In that, I’m partly contradicting my previous argument about the Ocean’s unbridled regenerative powers. I do this in view of the fact that Sharks have a much lower fecundity than most Fishes and that some populations seem to be quite small, as in, apparently, 3-4,000 in the case of GW and maybe even less for some deep-water species.

Assumption 8

I however also believe that the status of Shark stocks is not uniformly catastrophic but that it varies according to species and to regions.
The consequence is that in order to be credible and efficient, we should prioritize our resources in order to direct them to the preservation of those species that are most threatened.
Trivial – but are we doing so?

Assumption 9

The ultimate solution to overfishing is not prohibition, it is to fish sustainably.
This is a central theme of this blog.
The sooner we accept that, the sooner we'll be able to help the Sharks.

In a nutshell, I believe that killing Sharks for food is OK as long as it is done sustainably.
This means that where they are depleted, stocks must be allowed to recover and after that, fishing quotas must remain below the rate of replenishment. I believe that to be true of all fisheries, be it for Sardines, Tuna, Sharks or, yes, Whales!

The practice of finning however is a completely different topic: it is ethically reprehensible for being both wasteful and extremely cruel and needs to be stopped.

Assumption 10

I believe that the fisheries for Sharks (i.e. mainly for their fins) is supply limited, meaning that the demand for Shark Fins greatly outweighs the supply. This is why Shark fins remain one of the most expensive marine commodities.

No clue why the soup has gone down-market.
Maybe because the Shark fishermen catch more Sharks? Maybe because they have reduced their overhead/fin by becoming more efficient? Maybe because cheaper soups contain less desirable and thus cheaper fins? Maybe because there are less fins in one unit of cheap soup?

Anyway, if that is true, I believe that targeting the demand is a very very long shot indeed!
Take your example: 200 posters were noticed by 19% of Beijingers, of which 82% said that they would forego the soup – gives a penetration of 16%.
Now, as I said, if the demand were 4 times the supply, you would need a penetration of more than 75% before a single Shark (!!!) would be spared! How many eaters of soup are there? How many is 75% of that? How many posters would have to be deployed where? How much would that cost?
Is that realistic? Is that the best possible way of investing those resources?
And if it is not – may I criticize it?

One common friend sent me a message stating that when Shark conservationists squabble, no Sharks are being saved.
I disagree! “Squabbling” about the most efficient strategies does save Sharks if it improves the strategies and saves more Sharks! And again, this is never meant ad personam, at least not by yours truly – tho I understand that it may come across as such, which is deplorable but sometimes inevitable!

Anyway, with that in mind, I believe that Shark Conservation should target the supply side by concentrating on the Countries where the Sharks are being caught and exported from and where their demise is creating the biggest negative impact.
Yes that may sometimes be a long shot, too – but I strongly believe that given the right amount of resources and flanked by education and alternatives for the fishermen, it still is the better strategy.

I believe this to be true because it is in the ultimate interest of those Countries to preserve their stocks at sustainable levels and to avoid the collapse of their Marine Ecosystems.

The bulk of the consumers, on the other hand, must only contend with issues of availability and price, and if you’re lucky, with ethical considerations - IMO, not a very strong motivator for changing one’s habits.
Sure did nothing for Rhinos and Elephants, another supply limited commodity – whereas protecting them in Africa seems to work.

And talking of ethics: this is why I did propose the certified Shark Fin soup as an alternative to changing habits altogether.

With that in mind, I believe that the way to go is as follows – and yes, think “Rhinos and Elephants”.

A. The establishment of MPAs in order to preserve the Sharks’ habitats.
Here, I believe that we already dispose of a global network that needs to be activated, and that is us in the Dive Industry. Every single dive operator should be held accountable for protecting the resource he derives his sustenance from – this not only because it’s only fair and ethical, but also because it’s good business!

As an example, the single most photographed, filmed and loved Shark in the Universe is Emma.
So, why are all those countless Emma- and Shark-loving bigwigs not actively engaged in getting Emma and Tiger Beach protected – or are they, very much silently, petition-less and behind the scenes? Yes the “political” situation is complicated and some feathers may well get ruffled – but then, when was Conservation easy? And how much sweeter could success possibly be?
Or am I just ranting – again?

B. The establishment of pro-Shark legislation.
No widespread conservation is possible without the adequate legislative framework.
Achieving this is not trivial but certainly not impossible. Most Governments are open to good arguments, the principal one being that the indiscriminate slaughter of Sharks has devastating effects rippling down through the trophic chain, all the way to the demise of entire Marine ecosystems.

Generally, this consists in advocating sustainable fisheries and ideally, moratoriums (all the way to Shark Sanctuaries) as long as some stocks are too depleted or until there are sufficient data to determine sustainable levels.
The recent protection of Lemon Sharks in Florida is an excellent example of the former and the Honduran moratorium, an excellent example of the latter.

Can this be replicated in, say, Yemen? I betcha it can – but somebody has to go and do it! Who, and who’s going to pay for that?
And how about Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico where the fishermen are slaughtering “our” Scalloped Hammerheads? Don’t know if it has: but if not, shouldn’t Sharkwater rather be translated into Spanish and be shown there, where it happens?

How many Shark fishing countries have no pro-Shark legislation and what can be done to change that?

C. Which leads me straight over to the need for effective enforcement.
Now this is really the biggest challenge of them all. Here, we are confronted with a lack of resources, often coupled with indifference and corruption, especially in lesser developed countries. This I believe is where we need to direct the bulk of our resources, be it in terms of personal efforts, funds and hardware but also, education and the establishment of alternatives for the fishermen.

In Fiji, we currently compensate the fishermen for not fishing in the MPA but also employ Fish Wardens who have the authority to enforce the law.
And we’re pretty big in outreach, via the local media all the way to a local PSA but also, our youth sponsorship program and presentations to local communities.
In the future, we would like to expand Shark awareness to the school curriculum – but we simply lack the necessary time and manpower and are thus currently trying to outsource it to one of the local NGOs.

D. We should also sponsor research so that our decisions are backed by objective data.
As you know, this is one of the cornerstones of our Fiji Project.

E. "Other"?

Shark Free Marinas Initiative anybody?
Yes the initiator may, or may not be the Antichrist – but is it saving Sharks? Incredibly efficiently so, as signing up costs precisely zero?
21 in Fiji – and how many in the USA? Australia? South Africa? Asia?
How about that for petty squabbling and tribalism huh.

My hunch is that they only make sense when coupled with real action “on the ground”.
Thus, I believe that the Florida Lemon Shark petition and the Hawaii Shark Preservation letter campaign were useful in reinforcing the arguments of the people pursuing those local projects. I believe that the Discovery petition was largely a flop because nobody really cared to go and pursue any direct follow-up with the network – though having said this, I hear that things there may be changing, hopefully for the better.
The other petitions, to me, are just a total waste of time – especially all those competing “stop finning” gigs! More than happy to be proven wrong though!

Not convinced!
Conservation is about hard facts, hard and often tedious work, perseverance and commitment, often difficult negotiations.
Yes, and of course passion – but passion alone just aint good enough!

All-to-often, activism is just too hopelessly amateurish, too emotional, too little fact-based, too confrontational and too little solution-oriented. Too often, I fear that it harms rather than being helpful. Too often, I get the impression that the perpetrators are mainly interested in personal aggrandizement and that the initiatives are nothing but marketing stunts – and this includes many of those pro-Shark websites which are so long on pontificating and petitions and so short on results!

And what about our own ideologies and stereotypes. Very unhelpful.
“Sharks” are not “misunderstood”, at least not by the people who take the time to learn about them! People who don’t take the time to learn about dogs “misunderstand” them – wow, what a profound message!
Which species are we talking about anyway: Whale Sharks? Cookie Cutters? Swell Sharks?
Do we “understand” them?

Yes I’m being facetious - but seriously: our biggest capital is to be honest and objective, especially when we are trying to counter the anti-Shark stereotypes!
Romanticizing interactive encounters with large predatory Sharks is stupid and as such, bad marketing. Using numbers that are based on conjecture and untested (although certainly plausible) hypotheses is counter productive. Right now, the only verified number is approx. 30 to 70, which is 50 and not 100, full stop – and that’s just a number, it says nothing about sustainability which is all that counts!

Can we maybe just be a little more humble and less righteous, the more since Conservation is so complicated? Maybe progress towards more facts and less truthiness (read this!)?
Can we maybe just open our eyes and wonder at the magnificence of what is instead of trying to make things up?

In a way, it is the very deluge of platitudes, pseudoscience and exaggerated doomsday scenarios in all those pedestrian wannabee Sharkwater clones that has helped spawn rubbish like Shark Con – and I’m certainly gonna leave it at that, the more as I firmly believe that we should just ignore it and not contribute to its marketing by engaging in the usual vociferous con-troversies!

We are the amateurs.
Can we please listen to what the professionals are telling us – the principal message being that extreme positions (on both sides!) are inhibiting Conservation and appropriate Management measures?

There you have it Mary!
This is basically where I personally come from - and yes, alas, it includes a lot of skepticism!
But having said this, we’ve certainly come a long long way and I remain very hopeful that we will succeed in turning things around!

Dunno if I’ve managed to adequately address your reservations.
But I’m thankful for having been given the chance to put things into context.

You too, take care!