Sunday, May 30, 2010

Just 200 left - maybe!

Check this out.

This is happening 200 miles from San Diego.
As always in real conservation, the situation is complex and riddled with setbacks: no instant gratification here, no fashionable posters, certainly no Oscars - just a lot of tedious, dogged and often frustrating work with little to show for in the short term.
But it is critically important - and you can help!

There are just between 150 and 200 Vaquitas remaining.
It is the World's rarest and most endangered Cetacean, to the point where it may well go extinct during this decade.

Japanese Dolphins are not endangered - and Taji is 8,000 miles away.
Just wanted to put things into perspective.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Hawaii - DONE!

Governor Linda Lingle has signed the Bill!!!

Hawaii has become the first state in the USA to prohibit the possession, sale, trade or distribution of shark fins. Huge Kudos to everybody involved!!!!
Crack open the Champagne!!!!

Oh, and do not vote for Riki!

Story here.

Friday, May 28, 2010

LEK and TEK - now online!

Brilliant pic by Lupo!

From the paper.


Local ecological knowledge (LEK) and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) have the potential to improve community-based coastal resource management (CBCRM) by providing information about the presence, behaviour and ecology of species.
This paper explores the potential of LEK and TEK to identify shark river habitats in Fiji, learn how locals regard and use sharks, and capture ancestral legends and myths that shed light on relationships between these animals and local people.

Interviews with representatives from 22 villages, communities and fishing settlements associated with seven riverine areas on Viti Levu and Vanua Levu confirmed the presence of sharks in estuaries and rivers on Fiji.
Hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna spp.) and larger sharks were reported being close to the rivermouths, whereas an unknown species of small size with a rounded snout was reported up to >30 km upriver.

Local people consume shark meat as a source of protein, but sharks also have a rich background in ancestral stories and play an important part in Fijian myths and legends, resulting in the support of conservation measures by local villagers.

To our knowledge, our data currently constitute the largest data set of its kind for Fiji and provide the foundation for future investigations into Fijian shark river habitats.
These results encourage consideration of ecological knowledge as an important source of information in data-poor areas. They can advance community-based coastal resource management by making a valuable contribution to the body of knowledge concerning critical habitats and their fauna, and offer insight into how conservation measures can best be implemented, taking into account local people’s needs, traditional values and beliefs.

Keywords: ancestral myths, bull shark, Carcharhinus leucas, community-based coastal resource management, local ecological knowledge, nursery ground, shark god, Shark Reef Marine Reserve, traditional ecological knowledge.
Building on Victor's initial term paper, this is both Victor's and Eroni's first proper scientific publication, and Juerg must be commended for having generously relegated himself to third rank, and for having patiently (!!!) coached them through the extremely tedious editing and peer reviewing process.

In the meantime, progress has been extensive.
Since we first blogged about it last year, our rivers work has been the subject of a brilliant local TV show and developed into a fully fledged own project whereby we continue to catch and analyze the juveniles and will shortly start new research aimed at documenting their life cycle in the rivers and eventually, if we're incredibly lucky, even at tracking their way out into the Ocean.
Wouldn't it be just so cool if one of them ended up coming to Shark Reef!

As always, keep watching this space!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Please read this press release by Mote.
It really looks like the Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge has been a total success.

From an e-mail by a friend.

On a positive note, I went to Sarasota this weekend to the Guy Harvey USC...

I was able to watch Bob Hueter SPOT tag a young female great hammerhead. She was about seven and a half feet, so not exactly a baby, but maybe not quite sexually mature yet (they mature at @ 92 inches). Anyway, the shark looked to be in good shape when she swam off. Overall I'm really, really happy that I went...

Anyway I guess you can see that I was impressed.
Hopefully I'm not being naive or overly optimistic, but I really do feel good about this. I'm glad I got to see the hammerhead release, because that is one of the biggest concerns. This was a relatively small one. I know they'd like to tag a big pregnant one, so they can find out where they go to pup, etc.
I am still nervous about that, but definitely less nervous than before.

What a remarkable change!
Like me, this particular gentleman was initially skeptical and to see him so totally converted is truly remarkable! Good on him for having conducted his personal due diligence, and for having kept an open mind about the issue!

Me, too, I'm really impressed - so far!
Due to my personal distaste of game fishing for Sharks, I shall never quite warm to the concept.
But having said this, my hope is that this will establish a trend and that the existing kill tournaments will gradually switch to the catch and release formula - hopefully, without any new Shark tournaments being established.
If on top of that, the IGFA could be convinced to stop certifying those disgraceful all-tackle records for Sharks, then this would really be huge progress over the current status quo!

Fingers crossed!

Monday, May 24, 2010


Michael Field is an asshole.

He's an infamous, and pompous journo who snipes at several SoPac countries from the safety of some couch in New Zealand.
His pieces are essentially copy/paste excerpts from other media, garnished with hearsay from the coconut telegraph and libelous personal attacks against people he dislikes - in brief, total and utter rubbish!

Case in point: this stupidity about the Lagoon case.
Apart from being blatantly misleading, it puts Jim in a big pickle.
He's in the middle of a court case (against a bank, not the military regime or whatever) aimed at reaching some form of a compromise and must surely be very unhappy about a piece aimed at stirring up some totally unhelpful emotions. As to the Suva sources: shame on them for being either totally naive or the usual stupid purveyors of gratuitous gossip!
Thanks for nothing!

As to this piece on CDNN, what can I say except for it's on CDNN!

For the record, Beqa Adventure Divers were closed for one day and have been fully operational, and I may add, incredibly busy ever since. We have a direct agreement with the bank and will continue to operate normally regardless of the outcome of the court case.

Of course, not a single one of our clients was left to fend for himself!
Those who were turned away were offered alternative dives, or given a full refund; thanks to the exceptionally generous help of the other resort in Pacific Harbour, we were able to re-locate all of our pre-booked clients at no incremental cost and in some cases, clients even ended up by getting an upgrade; there have been no cancellations but if so, we would return any money in full.
Oh and the shoot was a successful wrap - and we're already hosting the next one!

Back to the Sharks - and let's hope this is the last such post I have to write!

PS as anticipated: Jim's reaction here.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Click on it for more detail!

True or fake: it's a very cool pic!
Hat tip: Blogfish.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Oceanic Sharks - shifting Baselines!

I was very impressed by Lupo's latest portfolio.

Great pics and I particularly liked this.
Of course when diving with sharks you always treat the shark with respect. You keep an eye on them and enjoy their beauty - Neither side were prey or predator, competitor or enemy. Both sides were curious and we were obviously more excited about seeing them than they were seeing us.
Well said my friend!

On a personal note, that portfolio is also pretty scary!
Thing is, I did like the Oceanic Whitetips - but what really got me excited was this pic of a Blue!

How sad is that!
It seems like yesterday when Blues were everywhere and such pics, hopelessly commonplace.
There was a thriving Shark viewing business operating out of San Diego and the Blues were merely the garnishing for the coveted Shortfin Makos and many other oceanic denizens like Billfishes, Basking Sharks, Mola Molas and big schools of Yellowfin.
All gone now, the Sharks and as a consequence, the businesses - and this in the USA, not some impoverished third world country lacking the resources to implement meaningful conservation measures!

Oh well.
Once again, and like in the case of the European Eel, I'm being confronted with my very own personal amnesia. It's a case of shifting baselines and a reflection of the big picture whereby all fisheries are severely depleted, to the point where some argue that most will collapse by the middle of this century.
Solutions? Read this and explore the link! Hat Tip: Mark!

But I'm digressing as always.
Lupo: well done!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Big Shark in Florida!

Look at the size of that dorsal fin!

Hat tip: The Dorsal Fin (talk about nomen being omen...)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sasha in Fiji!

Sasha and the BAD boyz - didn't know that Silio was such a poser!

The man is back!

That would be Alexander Safonov, proud Best of Show winner of the 2010 iDiveSharks Imaging Festival.
He is here to cash in on the prize, sponsored by you-know-who, and to upgrade his portfolio - with 30-40 Bulls and scores of smaller Sharks on each dive, timing could not be better!

Sasha is of course a repeat customer, friend, co-blogger and multi-awarded photographer and as such, we will always make a special effort to try to put him in the best position for the next stellar shot.
And lemme tell 'ya, I've had a peek at some of his raw files and I can confirm that he has already bagged some absolutely spectacular stuff! His laptop screen is not calibrated and we shall thus have to wait til he gets back to HK - but we're all in for a treat!

So far, he's published the one below - and he tells me that it's actually not so good. Right...

The comment being, courtesy of Babelfish (sic):

Bula of from Of fiji!
In Pacific Of harbour cost extraordinarily remarkable weathers, and practically each day in me is a possibility of [semki] in the rip shoal, which is accessible only into the calm. A quantity of rip sharks from last year as me seemed as the minimum it was doubled, to [beloperok] of those being attempting to get in armpits and constantly giving out slaps by my tails I no longer turn attention. Much I ex-changetar with light and [semki] technique [fishaem]. Excellent company here was gathered, [vrochem] about this I perhaps will describe only later. But thus far one of the photographs on which is imprinted not only swift [beloperka] (its snout it is found in 10 cm from the port) but also the legend of [dayvinga] in Fiji Of [manasa] of " [Papa]" To [bulivu] - one of the founders of [akulego] preserve into [Benga] of lagoons.

I couldn't agree more!

Anyway, Sasha, great that yer back!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Waiting for Decisions

We're waiting for the courts to rule in the Lagoon case.

As I said in my last post, we are just fine and operating normally.
We have signed documents with the bank that cover us for the medium term but when it comes to our long term future, we shall need to examine the court ruling. Worst case, we would eventually have to re-locate and have already scouted several suitable locations. If so, you can rest assured that we would do so without any disruptions to our services.
We shall certainly know more next week.

In the meantime, here's a selection of very different Sharky videos.
I must confess that right now, my mojo for ranting and long winded blog posts just aint working - hence I spare you any of the usual comments. They're pretty much obvious anyway.
But that fake Shark rocks - regardless of the messaging!


Saturday, May 08, 2010

Message from the Battlefield

Keep smiling!

It has been an interesting day!

Before the coconut telegraph goes crazy, here's what happened - straight from the horse's mouth.

Yesterday evening, after the weekend closure of the courts, Government ministries and law firms, our land lord Lagoon Resort was seized and shut down.
It's obviously about money and has nothing whatsoever to do with us - but as a consequence, we were caught in the crossfire and denied access to our premises, and 20 pre-booked tourists were turned away and could not join today's Shark dive.

The matter has been resolved and we will resume normal operations as of tomorrow, Sunday May 9.
I cannot go into detail but this has once again re-confirmed this Government's firm commitment to the Tourism industry and to protecting bona fide foreign investments. I must also say that despite of the obvious tensions, we were always treated professionally and with the utmost courtesy.

Whilst we are fine, we cannot predict the fate of Lagoon Resort.
This is however a very public matter and I believe that some decision will be reached by next week once Fiji is back open for business. Beqa Adventure Divers customers holding reservations with Lagoon Resort are advised to contact Andrew and Nanise who will keep them abreast of developments. In the worst case, we will be able to mediate alternative accommodation as we cooperate with all other local hotels and resorts.
Once again, all client bookings with us are safe.

More as matters evolve.

PS Story here - to be perfectly fair, in our case, the strife is being exaggerated.
Once we were able to contact them, the bank officials were extremely reasonable and proactively helpful, and so were the people occupying the premises - and I'm not saying this because of political expediency, this is the plain and simple truth.

PS2 More here

Friday, May 07, 2010

Praising Wolfgang

Another one of Wolfgang's fantastic pictures - click to enjoy!

Great to see how much he is being revered!

I'm of course talking about DaWolf.
I'm obviously an avid reader of his iconic Oceanic Dreams and had to smile when he wrote this laudatio of some of the Ocean ladies he met on his recent trip to his beloved Tigers in South Africa.
Very Alter Charmeur - and yet, I know that it came straight from the heart, like everything the man writes.

The ladies have reciprocated.
Underwater Thrills leads me to this post by Lesley Rochat and a bit of navigating reveals yet another brilliant description, this time by fellow free diver and Shark conservationist Hanli Prinsloo. Very poetic and emphatic, as only women can write, they are a testament to Wolfgang's sensitivity and gentle love for his striped ladies.
Please read them and be moved - as I was.

And undoubtedly, so was he - Wolf, you deserve it a thousand times!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

So Far so Good!

Guys, this ain't a circle hook - well spotted by Lawrence!

Some you win, some you loose!

Case in point: this recent post.
It contains a very oblique reference to the Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge - and now both sides are equally pissed off! The proponents believe that I'm criticizing it unfairly, the opponents criticize me for not having spoken out against it!
Guess it serves me right for not having been my usual abrasive self!

Thing is, I'm very much on the fence on this one.
In theory, I support it for being the better alternative to kill tournaments, at least in the short term; from the heart, I do not like it as I'm against trophy fishing for Sharks; and in this specific case, I still need to be convinced that this is genuine and not just some kind of business spin.
As always, time will tell!

But as the title implies, I'm rather impressed - so far!
You may first want to read the general outline here and then, the recap of the qualifying round here.

From what I can discern, this has been off to a great start!
This looks like a meticulously planned and flawlessly executed event and I must say: kudos to all those who came up with the initiative and invested what must have been a gargantuan amount of sweat equity into making this happen!
Technically speaking all I can say is job very well done!

And there's more good news.
Firstly, the apparent sidelining of real man Jack Donlon - and if so I say, good riddance!
Secondly, the re-appearance of Bucky Dennis among the catch-and-release anglers! If this indicates a genuine change of heart, it would be a truly spectacular confirmation of the effectiveness of the tournament's new format!

And ethically, as a conservationist?
Still not convinced!
This has now morphed into an event where fishermen catch and tag specimen for the research of Mote, something the Shark researchers do anyway.
That in itself is a good thing as it furthers our insights into the animals' life history and since the need to release them in good health has mandated the deployment of circle hooks and tail snares, along with very heavy tackle in order to get them to the boats in a minimum of time - not very game as in game fishing but probably the least invasive way to go.

Still, this is the principal mating and birthing season and this means that this is once again directly targeting pregnant females, some of which will certainly perish despite of all the precautions - especially some of the highly endangered Great Hammerheads who are particularly prone to dying of exhaustion as they are known to fight til the end.
Could next year's dates be moved to a less sensitive time frame?

Long story short - I'm still undecided but at the same time, looking forward to more news about the tournament proper!

The immediate question now being: who did I piss off this time!

PS: this is very cool - thanks Underwater Thrills for posting it!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

New SDI Shark Blog - Welcome!

Certainly toothy - like hopefully, the blog itself!

Here comes trouble!

Just kidding - or am I?
I don't subscribe to automatic news feeds and alerts and it is thus particularly serendipitous that I literally stumbled upon the newly established The Shark Diving International Team Blog, a joint venture by a passionate and diverse group of people that is likely to quickly evolve into one of my obligated references in matters concerning Sharks.
If, that is, they continue blogging with as much toothy passion as they have thus far!

Thing is, their voices need to be heard.
Lawrence is not only a personal friend, he is also somebody bringing to the table an incredible wealth of hands-on experience as a commercial Shark diving operator. He is one, if not the founder of commercial diving with GWs first in the Farallones and then, in Guadalupe and as such, one of my principal sources of information when it comes to questions pertaining to Shark diving in those locations. Normally a genuinely lovely, very California soft spoken kind of person, I am starting to discern another side of his personality in his posts - very much in line with his choice of music! And: am I hallucinating or did I really hear the sound of a gauntlet being slapped down? Just teasing of course: I really don't want to go there!
The good news being that after having been widely criticized for being too abrasive, I may well end up being considered to be a mainstream moderate in comparison!

Mary is of course the Mary of the Shark Safe Network and its blog.
Initially, and totally unfairly decried as being an emotional Shark activist, she is in fact the exact opposite, a unifier and pragmatic organizer of effective local Shark conservation initiatives, very elder statesmanlike and temperate whilst still maintaining all of the original passion.
Case in point: this post about the disgraceful killing of 49 Sharks which I know broke her heart - especially when compared to this post by Lawrence!

And then there's Andy, and yes, that would be this guy!
As life goes, I met him shortly after my post and he's actually a very cool dude - but I still stick to my opinion about that stunt! May we be witnessing the miraculous conversion from Shark pornographer to Shark conservationist?
This sure is fascinating and as always, we shall see!

All-in-all, we've got something to look forward to!
Let the fun begin!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Client Portfolios!

Sarah after seeing Scarface on her first dive as an Open Water Diver!

I am impressed!

Three of our clients have published their portfolios online and all I can say is, very well done indeed!

Jean-Marie and Pablo visited in March for a short three-day stop-over during their epic Shark trip for Shark Revolution, an artsy project aiming at furthering a better understanding of Sharks.
This is of course the best time for seeing heaps of Bulls but they were also particularly lucky in having Scarface pay us a visit.

Story here, portfolios here and here.

Robert is an avid Shark diver and a Shark conservationist who has been "everywhere" and knows "everybody", among which Ron and Val with whom he visited last month.
You can find his brilliant portfolio here - and no, he was not allowed to parade that cap on the Fiji Shark Dive!

And last but certainly not least, Hugh has been back and published a great Shark portfolio on top of his beloved Beqa critters.

Great job guys, and do come back!
And for the others out there: what are you waiting for?
Shoot us a message and come visit us on the Best Shark Dive in the World!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Sony EX1 - Ideas?

Grab from yesterday's footage: 720/50p, shutter 180, gain -3, auto Iris (aperture was 4), under-exposed by 1/2, detail -20, crispening +99. Please click to enlarge

Does this look normal to you?

Please check out this thread.
I shoot the EX1 in a Gates housing with the Fathom Imaging super wide angle lens and continue to be plagued by grainy (or noisy, or coarse) footage, especially when shooting in the Arena at 30m.

Having listened to the geeks, I've tweaked the PP as per the above, to no apparent avail.
Viz was so-so-la-la (20m) but having said this, the Shark is only inches away from the lens and particulate matter should have no bearing on the image quality. To me, that just looks like plain and simple grain - yes I can probably filter it out in post but am still trying to capture clear video in the first place.

Any XDCAM EX UW shooter out there with any insights?
Any help would be much appreciated!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

So much for that!

Info about the oil slick here.