Friday, April 30, 2010

Eli: well said!

Back to the positive news.

I'm frankly stoked!
A post by Underwater Thrills leads me to a stunning post by Eli Martinez, publisher of Shark Diver Magazine, he of the baseball cap put on in reverse. It's titled April 27, 2010 and the way that blog is set up, you'll have to scroll down and search for it as time goes by.
Please go and read it.

As of late, I have not been kind to Eli.
In essence, I do not like his advocacy of what some call extreme Shark diving and the ensuing consequences, i.e. what I consider to be dangerous Shark diving procedures and hopelessly failed Shark media and messaging.
What I however, and maybe contrary to others never questioned was his passion and his love for the animals - I just thought that much of his actions were, for lack of a better term, pretty darn stupid!

As an aside - and granted, this may not really be the place to re-hash it all: as a conservationist and especially, as a Shark diving operator, I take equal exception with both the thrill seekers and the huggers within the Shark diving movement.
Funny how both extremes then end up doing the exact same thing: to pet, ride and otherwise harass the animals and to endanger themselves, the industry and the movement in the process!

Anyway, back to Eli and I must say that this time, I'm impressed.
In essence, his post touches on the following
  • The need to curtail frivolous science, squandering of resources and duplication
  • The need to work together and to share one's insights
  • The need to set up MPAs
  • The need to provide for adequate enforcement (read this)
  • The need for sponsoring scientific research to provide the decision makers with the appropriate data
  • The benefits of Eco-Tourism
Sound familiar?
Anyway, awesome!

Now of course words are cheap and need to be translated into action.
But from what I can see, the man usually follows up on his decisions, so chances look good.

Eli, best of luck in your endeavors!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hawaii - Riki Karamatsu's defining Moment!

Well what did I tell you.

After being against the bill and trying to stall it, Riki Karamatsu voted in favor of it whilst in committee, only to then stand up and hold a long speech against in in the House.
I've seen the speech and unsurprisingly, it panders to the fishermen, to the Chinese community (Feng Shui beads made of rubies, no less!) and to Xenophobia whilst slamming the conservationists and trying to re-interpret scientific insights - pretty revealing and if you ask me, pretty pathetic on top of it.

It's nothing more than unabashed politicking and electioneering and lemme tell you: it aint working!

In sailing, multiple changes of course are often conducive to reaching one's destination.
In politics, it's called flip-flopping and leads to lost elections.

Turns out that on top of being a Shark hater and convicted felon, Jon Riki Karamatsu is a flip-flopper - hardly the mettle of a leader!

Please, give your vote to someone else.

Left to die

Got the following two e-mail messages today.

I am sad to report that on Tuesday evening a pregnant Bull Shark was killed in the keys from beach shark fishing activities.
The fishermen were using two 16/0 "J" hooks to catch the animal. The animal was caught in the gills with the J hook and left to die on the beach. As you can see from the pictures, there were 12 pups ready to be born (6 male, 6 female). Very sad and wasteful.
This is a nightly occurrence!

Sadly we have a very similar report from Delray Beach today.
A pregnant Great Hammerhead washed up on shore in Delray a little before 2pm.

The Shark was hooked in the mouth with a large J Hook.
I don't know the specifics about the hook, but we have the hook and the line that was attached. A friend happened to be at the beach when this happened and called me. She said that the shark looked pregnant. Somebody asked me to bring a knife so that we could try to save the pups if they were still alive. There were 35 pups -- 21 male and 14 female -- all fully developed and ready to be born.
Unfortunately they were all dead already.

The measurements of the mother were 13 feet total length; 10 feet 4.5 inches fork length and 9 feet 8 inches pre-caudal.

This is another example of why female Sharks need to be protected in Florida, especially in Spring and Summer when the females come close to shore to give birth.
Sorry to have to share this sad news.

Are you as angry as me?

This may surprise you but I'm actually an avid game fisherman.
Being a Shark conservationist, I obviously don't target Sharks - but even as a "sportsman", or whatever, I personally believe that Shark fishing really sucks: they are way too easy to attract and catch, with the exception of Makos they put up a very poor fight, many end up being gut hooked and perish even when released - with land based fishing for Sharks being even worse since the big ones need to be completely subdued in order to be landed, meaning that many are likely to die of exhaustion.

But that's just my personal opinion which is certainly not shared by many game fishermen.
I must also acknowledge that there is a movement from within aimed at reforming Shark fishing by promoting less invasive methods like e.g. catch & release and circle hooks.
Pragmatically speaking, it's unfortunately the only way forward, at least in the short term - but I still don't like it and have thus refrained from promoting any Shark fishing and specifically, the new format of Shark tournaments, forward looking as they may be. Thing is, I'm still not convinced that they are not merely the brain child of some clever businessmen who want to establish, market and exploit a new business niche by pandering to the eco movement, as opposed to the genuine desire to reform the existing kill tournaments.
I would however be convinced if the net result would be a) existing kill tournaments being reformed, b) no new Shark fishing tournaments being established and c) less people game fishing for Sharks. Anybody taking bets?
Yes I'm digressing and as always, we will see!

But wherever you're coming from - this cannot be tolerated anymore!
This has catapulted the reputation of land based Shark fishing back to the stone age and confirmed all of the anti-fishing stereotypes.
If those people ever want to rid themselves of the stigma of being nothing more than primitive murderous yahoos, their associations will have to do much, much better. Let us see the immediate and unequivocal public condemnation of these shameful events; let us see them issue regulations aimed at ensuring that despicable shit like this will never happen again, coupled with sanctions against any transgressors.

As to the targeting of pregnant Sharks - how can anybody possibly justify that?
Do I really need to spell out the ethical implications and the value of mature breeding females for endangered stocks?

And yet, by its very own regulations, the IGFA still promotes this abomination.
All-tackle record Sharks will always be pregnant females and as long as those shameful records are being certified, game fishermen will continue to specifically target those animals. Can you imagine the reaction of the public and even, the hunting community if similar "feats" had been perpetrated by hunters?

All very sad, really.
My only hope is that those 49 dead Sharks will serve as ambassadors, like other dead Sharks have done in the past: for credible reform among the fishermen and their associations and failing that, for better legislation aiming at protecting those valuable animals when they are most vulnerable.

PS: also posted by Neil Hammerschlag here - read the shocking testimony of a beach cleaner in the comments section and yes, Shark fishing is illegal in Delray Beach.

Sun Sentinel article here.

PS2: great blog post by Mary here.

PS3 toothy comments on SDI's new blog!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Stop Press - Hawaii: passed!

Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle now has 45 days to sign it - and why wouldn't she!

The Shark Finning Bill has passed!

Unanimously in the Senate - one No vote in the House.
And guess who the one No vote was! Yes, none other - as always, the proof is in the pudding and boy, was I right the first time around and this post, highly optimistic!

Awesome - but it aint over til the Governor sings - uh, signs!
Fingers crossed!

More as I hear from Stefanie.

Attention Deficit Disorder?

No way!

That is not an attribute of Bull Sharks!
Where I may be willing to make a concession is that the animal depicted is a) Bahamian (any associations being strictly yours, not mine) and b) obviously a sub-adult that may still have heaps to learn.

Other than that, nice job by George Schellenger of the Shark Task Force!

BTW that big Shark at 0:46 with the funny nose is Bumphead, and she always chews her food like that.
Go wonder!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Diveme Magazine!


I had NO idea!!!
Tourism Fiji has released its first-ever online dive magazine, Diveme Magazine, and our friend Lill has somehow managed to smuggle us into the first issue! This is a massive spread and you can check it out on page 11 and following.

Well what can I say.
Apart from us BAD boyz and girls, Lill is probably the one other person with the greatest experience of the Fiji Shark Dive, to the point that she may well be able to identify more individual Sharks than most of our feeders - and it clearly shows both in her stellar pics but above all, in her narrative.
Yes there's an embarrassing plethora of citations - but still, the girl just understands.

Kudos and Vinaka Lill - we owe you big time!
And a great compliment to Tourism Fiji and Diveme coordinator Thomas Valentine for this bold and innovative initiative!
Job very well done!

Yeah, right!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Not just a pretty Face!

No, great cleavage, too! (she's gonna KILL me for this...)

Meet Karen, marine conservation activist in Vava'u!

But before you get too excited & start booking tickets: looks are deceiving!
Dunno what possessed her on that day she posed in Tahiti, but trust me, dare walk up to her and whisper sweet nothings and she'll scratch your eyes out! Plus, there's hubby Paul and lemme tell you, never has a friendly all-American smile been more misleading - suffice to say that he hails from North Carolina, home to obscure Special Ops boot camps, WWE wrestlers and true Southern gentlemen!
Romeo beware!

Anyway, where was I.

Karen and Paul are the owner's of Dive Vava'u, by far Tonga's best dive and Whale watching operator - and yet, life is tough.
The local palangi expat community can be safely described as the South Pacific epicenter of, in no particular order, potheads, drunkards and Prozac junkies, new age whackos and neo-hippies, second-rate snake oil peddlers and scamsters, all fatally mired in smallville soap operas and drama and engaging in rabid backstabbing and gossiping and what an Italian friend once called la guerra dei poveri, a simply brilliant description - and I'm being uncharacteristically mellow!
Not a good backdrop for trying to run, let alone grow a business whilst keeping one's sanity!

And yet, whilst I decided to bolt, they doggedly persevere.
And more than that: against all odds and whilst Paul is trying to make a contribution to the Tourism Industry, Karen has continued to pursue an agenda of small, step-by-step conservation milestones.
It was her who convinced Henk and Sandra to act as the trailblazers for the Shark Free Marinas Initiative in Tonga and who then went to talk to Chris, the second registered operator; it was again her who took the initiative to join the Year of the Shark where she held several Shark presentations; and I also see her on the board of Vavau's new NGO, the Vava'u Environmental Protection Association where I also find Don Blanks, another one of the few that have not gone troppo; and if you read her blog, you will always find her at the center of initiatives educating the Tongan public about the need to assume the stewardship for their environment.

But above all, there's her love of Cetaceans.
Readers of this blog know that I'm not a fan, this mainly owing to what the whackos have done to them - must be that I just can't cope with preternatural beings, religious or otherwise. Consequently, my discussions with Karen have always been, uh, interesting, sometimes highly emotional - tho, and this is rather surprising, never abusive! Must be the effect of the ever-present Southern gent lurking nearby!

And yet, slowly slowly, we seem to be inching towards a common understanding.
This was great, as it totally coincides with my firm belief that we must first clean up in our back yard, where we hold some sway, before embarking on exotic, and often utopic crusades.
This however just blew me away! Bravo!

But why I'm actually writing this post, apart from having an obvious death wish is this: please, if you plan to travel to Vava'u, give Karen and Paul your business.
Not only because they really are by far the best, starting from the trivial fact that they are one hundred percent honest - and Vava'u insiders know what I mean. But principally, because they really are good people who care for the Environment and put their energy and their money where their mouth is.

People like that deserve our solidarity.

PS taken up by Patric here - with some noteworthy additional comments.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Shark Talk!

FLtR: Shark men Rusi, Alex and Gary

Great to see the Sharkman on Maltese TV!

And not only because of the Fiji footage!
Thing is, Alex is truly one of the nicest, most sensitive and most charming people I know and on top of that, a true Shark lover who devotes all of his spare time to Shark Conservation. I don't speak Maltese but from what I can gather (Alex: how about some sub-titles?) , this was yet again an occasion for Alex to educate the public about the true nature of Sharks and the absolute need to preserve them.
As always, well done and thank you!

Puss in Boots is Malta's animal welfare program.
Presenter Moira Delia is an avid conservationist and when googling her, I came across this.
Once again, the Maltese government is being exposed as little more than a rabid bunch of Nature haters which like in the case of the Tuna and the Angel Sharks display a staggering, and very much Southern European propensity for shenanigans.

But I'm digressing - as usual!

Sharks up close!

I just received my copy of Jimmy's book.

In a nutshell, it's the best book about Sharks, ever.
I understand that it may have been intended for children - but it's exactly the simplicity of its language and the clarity of its message that make it so compelling. No Shark hugging pseudoscience and exaggerated doomsday scenarios here, just a depiction of what Sharks really are: charismatic and awe inspiring, essential for maintaining the balance of their habitats and at the same time, fragile and highly endangered.

And then, there's this:
The true and gentle nature of Sharks is not typically captured or conveyed to the public. Their fundamental character is one of curiosity and innocence, similar to most animals', not what the media portrays.
Yes, this man truly understands!

And how about the photography: simply outstanding!
Maybe with the exception of some of Wolfgang's pix that are completely different and in a league of their own, the portrait on page 78 is without a doubt the best picture ever taken on Tiger Beach, period; the Stingray on page 42 and the Remora cleaning station on page 35 may well be the first ever published records of those behaviors; and I love that Dog and what it stands for!

Valerie who saw the book and was equally impressed commented that everybody should have it and give it to all of their friends - how about that for an endorsement to complement the others!
I fully concur: cheap and highly effective, it could well create more Shark lovers than all of our clamoring and petitioning combined!

My only regret: it's way too small!
Jimmy, where is the coffee table book???

Friday, April 23, 2010

Kiss your Oysters goodbye!

Well, here we have it.

The Oyster industry in the Pacific Northwest appears to be the first spectacular casualty of Ocean Acidification, the sinister cousin of Anthropogenic Climate Change.
You can read the full sad story here.

When following the links, I came across this informative video by the NRDC who have also published this fact sheet along with a list of publications providing for the scientific evidence. More related videos can be found here.

This is truly frightening stuff, stuff the could very much end up by wiping out all the advances we've made in Marine Conservation - if the building stones of Oceanic habitats are literally being dissolved, all life that depends on them is doomed.

Yes it is long - still, please take the time to watch, this is really important.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Shark BS

To me, surfers look like, well, surfers.

But granted, I'm not a Tiger Shark.
Apparently, to Tiger Sharks, surfers look like Turtles - this according to the expert opinion of some surfer gal who happened to be in the vicinity. Because Turtles routinely surf the waves? Because Tiger Sharks don't know what Turtles look like?

And to top it off, some biologist dude from Save our Seas seems to agree!
Save our Seas - as in SOSF??, thinks me and goes rummaging in the web.
Turns out that there's another SoS based in Hawaii, and I spare you any ulterior comments. You can check out their website here, and here are the credentials of the bio dude. He seems to be a passionate guy who loves Sharks and is trying to fight the usual stereotypes, for which he needs to be commended.

But please, not like this!
Yes, that Shark had very likely no intention to eat a surfboard and as such, it is certainly plausible (not certain!) to call this a case of mistaken identity.
But that's all we can assume, full stop.

Do you know cedar plugs?
They're fantastic trolling lures for anything from Tuna to Sailfish. Lately, they have been engineered to look like a variety of Fishes but the original ones are just weighted wooden cylinders and certainly equally effective.
Thing is, they don't need to look like any specific prey species: to be effective, it's enough that they convey the sense of some generic prey skipping at the surface. In fact, they only work when trolling, i.e. when their speed will prompt the predators to attack without prior inspection - and thus, unsurprisingly, they will be ignored when stationary.
Think about the Tiger Shark vs surfer situation and draw your own conclusions.

I say this because we must stop making up this kind of pseudo-science on the fly.
Yes we want to combat the notion that Shark seek out and hunt humans - but in doing so, we must remain fact-based or we will lose all credibility.
Nobody knows what that Shark was thinking, whether it was "thinking" at all and what triggered that attack. Maybe it hated surfboards. Maybe it didn't want to be disturbed whilst hunting and was trying to bite away a perceived competitor. Maybe it wanted to play. Maybe it got startled and acted on a reflex. Maybe it thought that it was attacking a Dolphin, a species that sometimes rides waves.
Who knows - and, ultimately, who cares!

Tiger Sharks are alpha predators and as such, they will attack prey at the surface.
Sometimes, they will attack a human and sometimes, they will feed on it. It's an incredibly rare event but it happens never the less.
That makes them neither bad, nor good - they are just being Tiger Sharks.

Those are the facts - no need to always try and put some spin on it.

PS video here.

Hawaii - it's a Yes!

The bill has passed!

And Riki has voted yes!
So, maybe, he's a good guy after all!

More as I get additional info from Stefanie.

PS details here and here: to be law, there needs to be one more vote by the full House and Senate and then it goes to the Governor.
Fingers crossed!

2010 - so far, fabulous!

The BAD team and Royalty - click on it!

Wow - what a start to the year!

Summer is traditionally Fiji's "slow"season - but I promise you, not for us!
Maybe because of the El Niño, the number of Bulls has been nothing short of spectacular, to the point where we've had to add a new category to our database, as in Too many to count: certainly more than 40 and very possibly, more than 50 Bull Sharks of all sizes on selected days! We now have more than 90 named individuals - and still counting!

Needless to say that Juerg is delighted!
He was here in February to essentially wrap up the first phase of the small scale movement research using acoustic monitoring and to start concentrating on our work in the rivers. Going forward, we will complement our DNA sampling for Mahmood with other research on the riverine life history of Bull Sharks, this involving acoustic transmitters and video. On Shark Reef, we continue sampling DNA but will only resume any tagging once we've addressed some technical matters.
But that's another story for another post - keep watching this space!

The traditional Fish count yielded another 30+ species.
This means that Shark Reef harbors more than 460 species - and believe it or not, this isn't the end of it! This time, we had the pleasure of hosting he of the squeaky voice (trust me, you DO want to open this link!), non other than the infamous Richard Pyle himself!

Richard is quite a guy - and he loves Sharks!

He is John's regular deep diving buddy and they and the Geek turned up with Poseidon Cis Lunar Mk6s, very nifty, small and user-friendly Nitrox rebreathers which are rated to 40m.
So far, I've been extremely wary of those gizmos but I must say that I'm impressed: despite of Richards best attempts at rigorous testing (and yes that would be a euphemism!) they did what they had to do and provided him with the correct gas mix throughout the dive. I hear that there will be a new model allowing for deeper dives and once that happens, I'll be the first one to buy one.
Very nice toys indeed!

Apart from the science, we hosted several film productions (with several more forthcoming), welcomed many diving journos and VIPs and initiated some truly ground breaking exciting conservation projects which we plan to roll out later this year. Some of them are BIG - and you're going to like them!

Other than that, we've been literally swamped - and yes, it's a great problem to have!
The immediate consequence has been that we now schedule afternoon coral dives on Shark diving days, this in order to accommodate a maximum of Shark aficionados on our two boats. It has also prompted us to hire more staff, purchase a second big compressor and add more rental gear.

Where we will not compromise, however, is on safety and quality.
We will continue to limit the number of divers on the Fiji Shark Dive to 20, this principally because of safety considerations but also, because we want our clients to have a first class experience as opposed to having to fight for space on a cattle dive. Likewise, we will not relax our procedures, especially not those concerning the separation of clients and animals - ambitious image hunters are once again reminded of the consequences this entails.

And finally, the BAD Boyz and Girls have turned six years old.
We were honored to celebrate in the company of Ron and Valerie who have been staunch supporters of the Fiji Shark Project since its inception.

And the adventure continues!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hawaii - Riki Karamatsu in deep Trouble!

Betcha he aint smiling now!

Well well.

Informed circles whisper that Riki is outraged.
He apparently feels unjustly targeted and claims to have nothing to do with Hawaii's Shark finning industry.

As they say, the proof is in the pudding.
Clearly, the word is now watching (see below) his every move.
Like it or not, this may well be the defining moment of his political career and decide the fate of his bid for Assistant Lieutenant Governor - and it sure aint looking good!

Here's some strategic advice, f.o.c.: stop the dithering and the obstructionism!
Wanna play the role of conciliatory statesman? Abandon the pathetic politicking and respect the will of the majority! Were I a cynic like Niccolò, I'd even be tempted to suggest becoming a champion of the pro-Shark agenda - howz that for a career-saving Hail Mary!

Among many, here are some new media about the Hawaii Shark finning Bill.

Underwater Thrills (bravo Patric!)


Honolulu Advertiser

KHON2 Report and here

Star Bulletin


HSUS statement

RTSea - as always, too polite!

Old, but a must-read about Shark finning!

The wording of the Bill.

More info and many more media here.
Let's keep up the pressure!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hawaii - Riki Karamatsu exposed!

Good on Patric!

He did some digging and came up with plenty of dirt!
Turns out that the Hawaiian Shark hater Riki Karamatsu is a convicted felon and embroiled with the Hawaiian Shark fin industry - and who's surprised! Does anybody know a good investigative journalist willing to get his hands dirty on this?

It also turns out that the Chair of the judiciary committee is pretty way out there in la-la land and believes that ghosts prowl the State Capitol! Wow - talk about being uniquely suited for aspiring to the position of Lieutenant Governor!

Patric is right: time to give Riki a piece of your mind!
But as usual, he's being to karmic-minded, undoubtedly a consequence of residing in California and sipping all that hippie stuff like chai-flavored latte!

I say: let it rip!
The more since Riki only wishes you peace and happiness!


Isla del Coco - me gusta mucho!

Nice clip!

Story here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hawaii - what is Riki Karamatsu's Agenda?

From Stefanie, unabridged.
Lots of additional information here.

Hello everyone,
Unfortunately, I need your help again.

Yes, we made it through the House vote with the shark finning bill, but that was not the end of it.
The bill is now in conference where a final version is being discussed between Representatives of House and Senate.
There is very strong push back from the same House members that tried to kill it in the first place. If the conference committee can't come to an agreement, the bill dies.

Deadline is next week.
We don't have much time.
In the meantime we have addressed the concerns and talked to all opposing groups. Most are now on board with this bill.However, there is STILL a strong push against the bill from a few members of the House. We are not sure who is influencing them. But they are willing to go against the overwhelming majority of the public that is in support. The problem is that they are able to influence a large portion of the House votes, due to their position.
It is hard to understand, and VERY frustrating.

We cannot let this small group of Bullies win!
Why do we bother to have 50 Representatives when one or two guys can abuse their position to keep the rest in check?Why go through the hassles of committees and hearing and votes when it all comes down to a power play amongst the Representatives?
We have scheduled a press conference for Sunday where we will show the depth of support that we really have. We have invited members of the community to represent the Hawaiian and the chinese culture, as well as representatives of conservation groups. We will have videos, photos and articles available. Anyone that would like to be there, contact me for info.

We have talked, explained, and negotiated for weeks.
Reasonable discussion is obviously not enough! We need to bring down a storm of letters onto the House Representatives AGAIN, so they will get on with it once and for all. If we can get the majority of the House to see the light, then they will be able to outvote the few stubborn opponents.

But first we have to get this bill out of conference- intact and on time. (by next week Thursday)

Here is how you can help me:

1) Please write a letter in support .... again.
Of course you can use what you wrote before, but keep it short and to the point. (half page or less)

Here are a few points that are important:

- Ask the members of the legislature to please make sure SB2169 will move ahead and become law. Don't let this important opportunity slip away.
- Legislators, please listen to the majority, and not to the interests of a small group that is trying to hold up this ground breaking movement.
- The world is watching. Hawaii can make a difference. Legislators can show great leadership by taking a strong stance... etc

It is important that they realize how many people are watching this effort, here in Hawaii, nationally and internationally. And how much impact this will have.

Address it to:
Hawaii State Legislature
State Capitol Building

Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

Re: S.B. No. 2169, Relating to Shark Fins

Dear Members of the Hawaii State Legislature,

Make sure you send the statement to me ( before Sunday the 18th. I will print them out and make sure the media gets them. I will also make packages to pass on to the governor and other important people that can influence the outcome. Then send a copy to all the representatives at this address:

If you live in Hawaii you can also call or email
your district's representative and tell them that you are one of their constituents and that you would like your voice to be heard. (find your Reps and Senators here )
If you get to this after the 18th, still go ahead, because the meetings will continue next week.

2) If you have time, and feel strongly about this,
give these offices a call ASAP.
They are the House Representatives on the conference committee that are making things difficult. Speaker Say is not on the committee, but he is the speaker of the House, and therefore influences all Reps.
Feel free to ask some tough questions and demand answers on why they are hesitating to support this bill.

I have included email addresses in case you want to follow up with materials etc.

- Representative Jon Riki Karamatsu ph 808 586-8490 e-mail
- Representative Ken Ito: ph 808 586-8470 e-mail
- Representative Angus McKelvey ph 808 586-6160 e-mail
- House Speaker Calvin K.Y. Say ph 808 586-6100 e-mail

Call or email me if you have questions 808 778-6740

Also, do any of you have contacts to any clever investigative reporters that would like to sink their teeth into this?

Despite absolute majority in support of this bill,
one guy, Riki Karamatsu, keeps trying to kill this measure.
He did the same thing with other animal cruelty bills (dog fighting, cock fighting, dog tethering).
They all had massive public support and they all died in Karamatsu's committee. Apparently he only answers to the members of his constituency/district. But in his position as judiciary chairman, he is supposed to consider to the wishes of the whole State (and in this case, the nation). I just don't see why he should get away with it. Especially when he is planning on running for Ltd. Governor this year. It's time to bring on the heat!

Any advice and input is appreciated.

Thank you for your patience


Case in Point!

Sorry for the silence!
Thing is, we're currently hosting Royalty and also, incredibly busy cooking up some real cool projects (watch this space!) and it's just very difficult to find the time!

But I saw this and just wanted to make the point.
This would have been a Fijian all-tackle record and yet, they let the Shark go.
They of course being Bite Me, Fiji's top game fishing operator and together with Matava, the coordinator of the Fiji roll-out of the Shark Free Marinas Initiative22 supporters later, Fiji is by far the most active region and well on its way to becoming the first Shark Free country.

I just discovered that the SFMI website has been completely re-vamped and is now even more user friendly.
And yet, when you check out the Registered Marinas, nothing much has changed: a paltry 7 in the USA, a measly 3 in the Bahamas where Shark diving is a mainstay of tourism - not a single one in Australia,  New Zealand, Africa, Asia, Europe, South America: entire continents featuring less supporters than the tiny Kingdom of Tonga!
How pathetic is that!

I've said it before, this is without a doubt one of the most efficient and effective Shark conservation initiatives around. The concept could not be simpler, it costs absolutely zero and it immediately saves Sharks that would otherwise get killed - and yet, nobody seems to care.

Let me cite from another post.

Having searched for "names" and having looked at the websites of the plethora of self-professed Shark lovers, savers, warriors and protectors out there, I'm starting to wonder: where are they?

Where are, to name but a few, the Funds, Allies & Alliances, Societies, Foundations, Initiatives, Conservancies, Institutes, Projects and Trusts, the Backbiters, Savers, Preservers, Spotters, Angels, Shepherds, Aiders, Stewards, Researchers and all of those other orgs that solicit donations from the public for safeguarding Sharks?
Where are all those prominent photographers and cameramen that draw their sustenance from taking images of Sharks?
Have the Shark diving operators and the Travel agents that book them bothered to mobilize their clients?

Questions questions - and I spare you the answers! 

Friday, April 09, 2010

Our Website...

... has been hacked.

Please bear with us whilst we strive to get back online.

Thank you!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Hawaii - good News!

From Stefanie.

This is one small Shark operator showing the world how to get the job done: to care about conservation, to take on important issues in one's back yard, to show leadership, to cooperate and network, to persist doggedly despite of the adversities.
Kudos to everybody involved!

Good news again!

The Shark fin bill SB2169 made it through the third reading and House vote yesterday.
This is truly a minor miracle, because last week, the bill died in the last committee. We thought it was over. But we were able bring it back to life through some exceptional pressure from a few key people. The judiciary committee brought it back reluctantly, then finally voted to move it out. Just in the nick of time.

Yesterday, during he House vote, there was only one "No" vote.

We can all have a quiet cheer for a partial victory, but of course we are a long ways from being done. Next, this measure will go in to conference, where Representatives from the Senate and the House side will get together to come up with a final version. Once we can wrangle it through the conference meetings, it can move on to a Senate vote. After the Senate vote it will be sent to the Governor.

Thank you so much for your support and for all the great letters and statements.

I am not sure if and when we need more testimony sent in. I have to have a meeting with all the people involved in this measure to talk strategy. Will let you know in another update if there is anything else you can do to help.



Full story here.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

I still like them - very much!

Epic: award-winning GW portrait by Terry Goss.

Well, here's the clip!

I still like those guys and I just love the general pro-Shark and anti-stereotype message!
Kudos to both: to Mike, for his insightful comments (I totally agree!!!) and to Cooper, for having had the guts to do it and above all, for providing a fabulous global platform for pro-Shark messaging - again! And: great marketing for South Africa's Shark diving industry!
Very very well done!!!

The difference to this?
Listen to the commentary: Mike does not conduct cageless dives commercially.
This is a targeted film shoot - along with research, one for the accepted reasons for deviating from standard commercial Shark diving protocols.

Did it maybe include some (and I would add: extremely mild!) macho posturing like some of the comments here suggest? Sure did - but let's be honest, much of the attraction, and fun of Shark diving consists in the adrenaline rush of being in the presence of apex predators. Doing what those two guys, and the cameraman did takes some mighty cojones and being amped up before the plunge is the most natural of reactions.
I say, not to worry, no harm done whatsoever!

And as to who conducted the first cageless dive with GWs, it was either Ron or Giddings, and the first ride, Jeremiah, not Hartman - which in no way detracts from the fact that Andre is one of the true Shark diving icons! Now it's Mike's turn to shine and I say, good on him!

But I'm digressing as usual - Enjoy!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Fiji's Shark Reef!

Did you deem the coffee table book to be just a tad too big and too pricey?
Look no further than Timbo's Fiji's Shark Reef!

This condensed and smaller format book of our coffee table version "Fiji's Beqa Lagoon" celebrates the unique ocean region of Fiji's southern coastal reefs and sea mounts off the island of Viti Levu. This vast region is part of the southern and central Beqa Lagoon.
Big sharks, scenics, overlooks, reefs, caves, aerials, culture, dance and much, much more can be found in this special region of the lush island.

Every year people flock to Fiji and many of them are divers.

Known for its soft corals and stunning reef life, the Pacific Harbour area and Beqa Lagoon's Shark Reef Marine Reserve are gaining great fame. This is the one of the few places on Earth that you can dive with eight different species of shark on one dive and see them in their environment.
It's an amazing sight to watch the grace and power of the big, deep water sharks and the swift and silky movements of the upper reef sharks.

This is due in a huge part to the efforts of Beqa Adventure Divers who have established the Shark Reef Marine Reserve.
This special reserve would not have been possible without the involvement of the Fiji Department of Fisheries and the traditional owners of the reef, the villages of Wainiyabia and Galoa. It is to them divers can extend a special thanks. Both villages have agreed to relinquish their respective fishing rights to Shark Reef and in exchange, every diver who participates on The Shark Dive pays a 'Shark Reef Marine Reserve Levy'. This money is collected by Beqa Adventure Divers and deposited monthly into each village's community bank account.

Quite honestly, I like this smaller book even better.
Condensed down to the essentials, it is eminently readable and visually compelling - and yes, great value too! Plus, it talks about us!
Once again, great job Timbo, Vinaka Vakalevu!

Preview here (use the "full screen" option).

Hawaii - more Action required!

Stefanie continues to show us the way forward.

Whilst others pout and whine, she takes the inevitable setbacks in stride, re-groups and forges ahead with renewed vigor.
Good on 'ya girl!

Here is her most recent message.

Hello everyone,

Yes, the shark fin bill died two days ago in the Judiciary committee, but we were able to get it back to life.

It was scheduled for a decisions making meeting today and the committee voted to pass it.

This means the bill is officially alive and moving ahead!! This is a pretty miraculous turn of events.
It will now go to the House Floor for a vote (probably Tuesday). If it survives the vote and is passed out of the house, it will go into conference, where representatives from both the Senate and the House side will get together to look at all the different versions the bill has gone through and work on final draft that everyone can agree with.

Getting it out of Judiciary committee was a HUGE step, and certainly the most difficult one so far.
But we can't celebrate yet. Lots more work to do.
You can help us tackle the next hurdle by urging the representatives to vote in support during the House vote next week.

Before Tuesday, April 6, send a message to the representative of your district and ask them to vote in support of SB2169 Relating to shark fins.
Here is a list of all the representatives and the districts they have, and here
is all their contact information. If you are not from within any of the districts, or would like to send a message to all representatives that will be voting on the bill, send your message to:

TO: House Representatives RE: House floor vote on Measure SB 2169 Relating to shark fins

Let them know that this is an important step not only for Hawaii, but also for the rest of the world.
Hawaii can be a leader and send a strong message by helping this ground breaking bill pass into law, or something like that.
I think it is not necessary to write a lot. If your message is short and to the point, it is more likely to be read.

If you have any questions, email me or call at 778-6740

Thank you


Friday, April 02, 2010

Doha - pathetic!

No, this is not yet another post slamming CITES!

From a message by a friend.

The environmental issues need to get into the realm of either the more ruthless, more effective or more monetarily concerned or a combination of all three.
From what I've read, it seems the pro-fishing folks obviously had a strategy and agenda for this meeting. It seems the anti folks just went with their own agendas and hoped to meld once they got there.
It's a full-time job for hardened old internationally experienced, economically savvy lobbyists, not concerned PR grads and volunteer sculptors.

I've been of two minds about this post as once again, it'll get me in trouble for taking on fellow conservationists. I had fervently hoped that somebody else would finally address this total failure of the Marine Conservation movement, or that one of the people involved would have had the courage and the humility to do a proper post mortem and show a modicum of accountability.

Alas, no such luck.
All I get to see are the continued ramblings of the pundits slamming the Japanese and depicting unhelpful doomsday scenarios - and lemme tell you: I am not impressed!
Ocean Death Panel? Sushi-Cide? Tunapocalypse? What's this, a high school poetry contest to complement the pathetic home movies?

It's Copenhagen all over again.
There, everybody and his dog flocked to Denmark, protested, pontificated and vociferated, only to achieve less than nothing - whilst incurring a stunning aggregate expenditure in the process and even more disturbingly, burdening the Planet with a stupendous incremental aggregate Carbon Footprint.

Here, it appears, a motley uncoordinated naïve and clueless group of amateurs paid themselves a trip to Doha in order to protest, pontificate and vociferate - and by those metrics alone, the output has been impressive indeed!
Not however the end result: Zilch, Zero, Nana de Nada!

I say, there has to be a moment of accountability after a failure of this dimension.
It's time for those righteous and self-congratulatory folks to stop whining, to climb off their high horses and to have a hard look into the mirror - and yes, if they dare doing so, what they will see is a bunch of total and utter losers!
Time for the Director of Conservation Strategies to acknowledge that the "strategy", if ever there was one, sucked; time for the Campaign Manager to realize that her "managerial skills" were pathetically inadequate and the campaign, a total fiasco; time for everybody who made the trip on other people's money to tell them how much the debacle cost and to explain why going to Doha was a good idea in the first place and why the public should continue to send money to finance those useless exercises; time for replacing the failed managers and for abandoning the failed strategies in favor of new, pragmatic approaches with a chance of success.
And please, learn something from the world of sports: there, the losers do not rant and ramble but instead, they learn from their mistakes and progress to win the next match!

Does the defeat make me angry?
No, it really does not. It just sadly reinforces my reservations against some of those NGOs who are so long on pontificating and so short on tangible results. And I certainly will never, ever bequeath, or otherwise deed or gift any cash, securities, real estate or other tangible personal property to them like a particularly brazen one solicits!

The fact is that to everybody with a brain, CITES was always gonna be a very long shot indeed.
Yes it was a great utopia and a bold move which would have provided for a relatively simple solution to overfishing, one of the most complex and intractable policy and conservation challenges. But fisheries are often the major source of income for maritime countries and big business on top of that, and trying to simply pull the rug from under those interests was inevitably going to generate some determined opposition.
In that regard, the whining by some quarters that business succeeded in trumping conservation looks at best naïve and at worst, just plainly stupid - certainly when compared to the Japanese delegation who understood and deftly exploited the unease of many of the delegates.


The good news is that the need for Marine Conservation has been clearly put on the table.
The good news is also that contrary to the usual stupid stereotypes, Fisheries officials very much understand the need to fish sustainably (read this, very interesting!).

Yes that very much comprises the much maligned Joe Borg (to include him, and some of the delegates in this list is just plain stupid - what possible benefit will conservation derive from antagonizing the very people who will make the decisions) who has done some real good things, and his successor Maria Damanaki! And yes, that includes the Japanese, too!
Very much like New Zealand and others, they rightly argue that the best way to manage stocks is to do so via treaties among the nations concerned - in the case of the Northern Bluefin, ICAAT and GFCM.

ICCAT has been widely criticized for failing to achieve its objectives, and rightly so.
But once again, the situation is far from being simple. If you take the time to read the executive summary (page 12) of its own external audit, much of the deficiencies is attributable to non-compliance by some of its members, including some astounding scams by the fisheries industry. In essence, it is the Europeans themselves, and not the much maligned Asian consumers that have created the problems.
When it comes to the fisheries for Bluefin (page 53ff), the problems are complex and manifold and primarily concern the fisheries in the Eastern Atlantic and especially, the Mediterranean.

But contrary to the doomsday scenarios, not everything appears lost.
Read page 69ff and you will find that a whole host of sensible recommendations has been put forward, a fact that was echoed in Doha.
Some forward-looking NGOs like the WWF have recognized this as an opportunity and added some recommendations of their own.

All now depends on the delegates.
ICAAT will meet this November and you can find the list of contracting countries here, and here, the members of GFCM - and yes, both lists feature Japan, like it or not!
It will be those people, and not some clamoring NGO that will seal the fate of the Atlantic Tuna - and the sooner we recognize that and play the role we can play, the sooner we will succeed in influencing them in favor of some tangible progress.

Japan-bashing and insulting the delegates is clearly not the way to go.
One must always keep in mind that since civil societies do not hold the institutional power to make any such decisions, their role can only be to try and influence the vote by convincing the parties that sustainable fishing is ultimately very much in their own interest. To be righteous and confrontational is a clear recipe for failure - as amply proven in Doha!

Luckily and contrary to CITES where many delegates were not fisheries experts, the delegates attending the ICCAT meeting will most likely know what they're talking about. But like in Doha, they will be civil servants acting on instructions from home, so trying to sway them during the meeting will be way too late.

The strategy?
Look no further that the successful campaign by Japan, Inc.
Whilst the Europeans were still bickering and the USA, still pondering its stance, Japanese lobbying started months ahead of the conference when various smaller countries were approached and ruthlessly and charmingly "convinced" that it would be in their best interest to vote in line with the Japanese. At the conference itself, veteran negotiators ensured that their allies would not stray and then orchestrated a veritable ambush where the pro-ban countries were dealt a defeat of truly epic proportions.

The lesson to be learned is that the pro faction needs to be better prepared, better coordinated and more ruthless - and possibly also more charming!
Europe needs to become tougher with members who stray, like Malta and Spain. Europe and the USA must start lobbying the other members well ahead of time and must be willing to apply the same kind of political pressure, including leveraging their development aid.
At the same time, negotiators should explore any avenues for reaching a preemptive agreement with the suspected nay-sayers like Japan - and that includes being open for compromises but at the same time, very much explaining that both Europe and the USA wield a mighty big stick inasmuch as they have the power to ultimately decide to implement unilateral restrictions if pushed too far, as has already been suggested.

When it comes to those NGOs, what can I say.
For once, try to be useful by helping when asked, by not voicing extreme and childish viewpoints and above all, by discreetly staying where you belong: in the background, acting as valued counselors and facilitators as opposed to vociferous self-promoting agitators!
I'm obviously critical of all that publicly funded convention tourism - but if you really deem it necessary to be represented: coordinate among you, formulate a common strategy and then send over a few seasoned, well prepared and above all, credible lobbyists.

I however see the real chance for the civil societies in quiet, polite and persistent lobbying "on the ground", flanked by developing, financing and implementing economical and social solutions for the fishermen, country-wide education campaigns and above all, money and hardware for effective enforcement and policing.

The good news is this: the arguments in favor of a drastic reduction in quotas or a moratorium altogether are compelling.
After all, at current rates, those countries are at risk of completely losing their fishing industries as the Tuna and other Fishes will eventually become commercially extinct. Most fisheries officials understand that - but whereas wealthier countries can afford to pay off the fishermen and to set in place an effective enforcement regimen, trying to implement the necessary measures in lesser developed countries is extremely difficult.

Other, more effective and pragmatic and at the same time, less vocal NGOs like SOSF, SF, the Pew or the incredibly impressive IUCN have recognized this and quietly pursue local and regional agendas yielding long-term sustainable results, some of which spectacular. No instant gratification here, no grandiose "statements": just a lot of persistent, difficult and tedious work which is conducted for the sake of the cause and not with personal aggrandizement in mind.
This, I believe, is the way to go - no need to re-invent the wheel.

But back to the principal topic of this post.
Guys, please, spare us the "statements" and the pouting!
Coming from you, the losers, they are frankly embarrassing.

The idea of jetting to Doha, making some noise and then coming back for a victory lap has sorely backfired. Veni vidi should be followed by vici - defui is just not good enough, sorry.
Show some humility. Be accountable.
Maybe, then, you will regain some credibility.

(down off soap box)

PS: Wolfgang has weighed in here - much too kind as usual, thank you!
PS2: another must-read by Mark Harding here!
PS3: SouthernFriedScience's take here.