Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tiger Beach - Troglodyte Shark Diving!



And this is why I despise those folks.
No, no need to elaborate.

Marine Dynamics awarded!

And I cite
Marine Dynamics provide very high quality shark cage diving experiences.
They operate in a sector where there is rightly a lot of criticism of current practice. Marine Dynamics are industry leaders, a commercial operation which operates to the highest conservation standards, where every trip has a marine biologist aboard to provide interpretation and collect data for scientific research. An operator that makes a significant contribution to conservation and the local economy.
Of course we knew that already.
Marine Dynamics is a proud member of Global Shark Diving, and those are precisely the principles that guide all of the GSD Shark diving operators.

Huge Congratulations!

Dude and Sperm Whale!


This is just amazing.
Story here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cayman Islands - Sharks and Rays protected!

Watch this - 1:48!

Great stuff - and here is the law, page 53!
Knowing how little the man cares about promoting himself vs getting the job done, we will likely never know for sure - but I'm smelling a RickMac, and my big nose rarely fails me. 
And could Pew have had a hand in this as well?

Be it as it may: well done everybody!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

OSAM awarded!

Yes OSAM has already won two awards!
And it hasn't even been launched!

Bravo David!
Details to follow as soon as he posts them!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Thank you ABC4, Jeff Kurr and Peter Scott!


Watch this shit.

And this is the reaction it has provoked.
Everybody knows that GWS diving in Stewart Island is a tinderbox - but trust the Kings of Shark Porn to continue with their provocations, and the usual hypocritical operator to enable them. And the best part - the stupid NZ authorities continue to welcome them back!

And lemme repeat myself.
  • Are we gonna continue pretending this aint happening?
  • Are we gonna continue watching that shit?
  • Are we the operators gonna continue enabling it?
  • Are we gonna continue giving our business to operators that do?
  • Are we gonna continue associating with those people?
PS - Martin here!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Management vs MPAs - Paper!

Click for detail!
And I cite.
The reefs in Guam and Papua New Guinea are near collapse, with only 10% of the historical estimate of fish biomass present.
Although these declines seem dire, an equally important finding is that fisheries management works. This is a message of hope to those working in conservation.

Over the past decade, many have given up on fisheries management because it is perceived as being too difficult, expensive or beyond the capacity of academics and non-governmental organizations. Many instead turned to MPAs as a blanket solution to marine-conservation challenges.
But to be effective, MPAs need to be protected and enforced, which requires them to be large, old and isolated. Effective MPAs can halt declines, but the build-up of biomass to historical levels takes time. MacNeil and colleagues show that recovery takes at least 35 years, twice as long as previous estimates. Patience, persistence and continued financial investment will be essential to the success of the ocean’s increasing number of MPAs.

As MacNeil and colleagues recognize, MPAs are simply not an option in areas where people depend on fish from reefs.
Coral reefs lie in the waters of more than 100 developing countries, many of which have dense, rapidly growing coastal populations. Enforced MPAs might not be viable because of the burden of displacing fishers, the unknown effects of redistributing fishing and the time it takes for biomass to recover. But the authors show that those reefs that had some form of management, such as restrictions on fishing equipment, species or access, had 27% more fish biomass than reefs open to fishing. Even in depleted reef communities, regulations protecting key species can promote ecosystem resilience and recovery. For example, prohibiting specific equipment can allow herbivorous fishes to recover, promoting coral resilience.
Indeed - there is no silver bullet!
MPAs do work and are actually the better conservation tool.
But in the real world, they cannot always be implemented - and u got to monitor, manage and especially, enforce them, too, which is often even more difficult!
Or as the paper states,
The continuing degradation of the world’s coral reefs underscores the need for tangible solutions that promote recovery and enhance ecosystem functions.
Our results demonstrate that well-enforced marine reserves can support a full suite of reef fish functions given enough time to recover. However, for reefs where marine reserves cannot be implemented, we find that ecosystem functions can be enhanced through various forms of fisheries management. Addressing the coral reef crisis ultimately demands long-term, international action on global-scale issues such as ocean warming and acidification, factors that may diminish recovery potential by approx. 6% over the coming decades.  Despite these challenges, a range of fisheries management options is available to support reef resilience and it is likely that some combination of approaches will be necessary for success. Having benchmarks and timelines within an explicit biomass context, such as those provided here, increase the chances of agreeing on, and complying with, a mix of management strategies that will achieve conservation objectives while sustaining reef-based livelihoods.
And what about Fiji?
Fiji is just such a place where unilateral action is just simply impossible, and where any solution will have to be a compromise where all stakeholders feel that they get something, and nobody gets everything.
Hence my advocacy of both improved management and MPAs here.
Synopses here and here.

To be continued no doubt.
And that's a promise! :)

Friday, April 24, 2015


Source - check it out and weep!

This sucks.
And more, generally depressing statistics here and here!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Endothermy and Performance - Paper!

Click for detail! Interestingly, Leatherback Turtles have a warmed body core and Swordfish, a rudimentary heat exchanger allowing them to reduce heat loss.

Rad this.
Warm-blooded Fishes like Mackerel Sharks and Tuna perform better = swim faster and migrate further. Despite of the high cost of keeping one's temperature elevated, these species appear to derive a comparable advantage over ectothermic Fishes, and I cite.
In conclusion, our comparative analyses indicate that a potential ecological advantage of RM endothermy in fishes is the ability to cruise faster, which not only increases prey encounter rates, but also enables larger-scale annual migrations and greater access to seasonally available resources. We suggest that this advantage, coupled with the previously recognized benefit of thermal niche expansion, could outweigh high energetic costs incurred by RM endothermy and, thus, has facilitated the radiation and diversification of tunas and endothermic sharks. Our analyses also indicate that fishes with RM endothermy are similar to birds and mammals in many respects, including not only high metabolic rates and temperature dependence of muscle function, but also fast cruising speeds and the capabilities of large-scale migrations.
Story here and here.
Now you know! :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Mangroves for Fiji - Social Media!

Love love love this logo - click for detail!


Projects Abroad have been planting and nursing like crazy.
And it's about bloody time they told the public! The website has been updated accordingly, and here are the new Facebook page and blog - they are obviously still work in progress but expect many more news, videos and pictures (!) to start populating them soon!

And if all stars align, there will soon be major news.
Ever since we launched the project five years ago, MFF was meant to be open for everybody in Fiji wanting to offset their carbon footprint - but that requires a major marketing effort, and BAD is just to small, and also too busy to take on that task. Now we may have found a solution and if so, the depth and the outreach of that partnership will be simply spectacular.

So keep watching this space.
And do Like the FB page and above all, do come and do some planting yourself!

PS - Martin here. Badass huh - thanks buddy! :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Blacktip Reefies vs Surgeonfish!

Love love love this kind of stuff!

Story here - PDF here.
Here in Fiji we may be possibly witnessing something similar - at least, that is our working hypothesis although we're still debating about how to test it. Maybe you remember this paper, and this picture.

It is an old graph of Bull Shark sightings.
In essence, it shows how the Bulls disappear at year end for pupping and mating, and how they then return for the Running of the Bulls in late December/January.

But there's also another detail - see it?
Every March/April, an this usually around the Full Moon, we get a notable temporary dip in the number of Bull Sharks. Our hypothesis is that they are being drawn away by some event that is likely linked to predation - and it just so happens that many Fishes like incidentally those Surgeonfish form spawning aggregations around the Full Moon, this because the associated strong tides favor maximum dispersion of the fertilized eggs. 
Obviously, so far, this is only a correlation and thus merely speculative - but it is a testable hypothesis and if certain things come to pass like we plan them to, we may soon be nearer to solving that riddle!
So keep watching this space! :)

Anway, real interesting observation from Moorea.
Nice job Ornella, Johann and Serge

Monday, April 20, 2015

Corkscrew Killer Conspiracy - ad acta!

Remember this stupidity?
Well, the mystery has been solved.

Read this - evidence here.
In all likelihood, the injuries of those Seal pups were caused by cannibalistic adult Grey Seals = likely NOT by a man made object or machine - but by no Shark, either!

Source - click for detail!

And thus, Patric is now free to consecrate his treasured vintage fine, (signed) bottle of cheap and ordinary wine to some other worthy cause.

Like Coq au Vin.
Cuz I would't drink that plonk if my life depended on it!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sharks in Fiji - Status Report!

Blacktip Reef Shark - one of the species that is increasingly being targeted for food. 
Stellar pic by Ozzie Sam!

So what about Helen's report.
And I cite
So far no significant decrease in coastal shark populations has been seen, good news for those of us fearing that shark-fin fishing was continuing to damage shark stocks, but we can only confirm this one way or the other by continuing these surveys over the long term.
Yes and no!
But first, watch Eli's video!

Bravo Eli, totally agree!

See what I mean?
This is obviously Mexico where the situation appears particularly grim - but having conducted additional investigations that will be disclosed in due course, I can reveal that the situation here in Fiji is slowly trending that way, too. 

Here and throughout the Pacific Islands, coastal fisheries are at risk
Much of the fishing is clearly unsustainable and as a consequence, many of the prized big reef Fishes have disappeared at least around the principal islands, or have become simply too expensive - and the once reviled Sharks are being increasingly fished and consumed as an alternative source of protein. Furthermore, Sea Cucumber stocks have all but collapsed, to the point that a single White Teatfish now yields a staggering 150 dollars, notabene to the fisherman - and as a consequence, the traders are diversifying into Shark fins and further driving the depletion of both Sharks but also Guitarfishes whose fins have a high count of ceratotrichia, the ingredient of the infamous soup.

Yes stocks overall show no signs of depletion - yet.
But they do in selected hotspots, and on our dive, we are recording the disappearance of many of our named Shark. So far, numbers-wise, they are being replaced by the many new sub-adults - and incidentally, remember Catlin et al
But if I go through the list, old beloved regulars like Kinky, Cilla, Fold, Second, Valerie, Lee, Crease, Twist, possibly Sickle, Moana, Ms Big, Jaws, JJ, Chopper and probably also Scarface have all been MIA for a long time indeed which is really breaking our heart - so you can maybe understand my elation at seeing Bumphead after close to a year of absence!

Obviously, a drastic improvement of the management of all fisheries (= even if we selectively protected the Sharks, how would they survive without their prey?) - for which we need better data!
This combined with much better regulation of the trade - the more since at present, it is not even being regulated by Fisheries but instead, only by the local municipalities! And please, more fully legislated, well enforced and smartly managed full no-take MPAs with sufficient connectivity so that their effect is bigger than the sum of their physical areas, together with the protection of critical habitat like the nurseries and spawning aggregation sites.

And the oceanic Sharks?
There the situation in Fiji is much much better!
Thanks to the remarkable progress and the hard work of many good people at CITES, CMS and the WCPFC, all the principal commercially viable oceanic Sharks with exception of the Blues and Makos are de facto fully protected as Fiji cannot be bothered with all that paperwork and has decided to simply prohibit the fishing, landing and trading of those species. But of course implementation may still be somewhat sketchy, and the important issue of incidental mortality remains largely unresolved.

Possibly better implementation, certainly once again better regulation of the trade and once again, data data data about that incidental mortality!

Long story short?
Fiji's Sharks are still doing relatively well and no, we certainly don't need a Sanctuary that is IMO presently not feasible politically anyway. And we definitely (!) need no more breathy public campaigns and no more trotting out of the usual charlatans that will only piss off the powers that be, the more as they are very much aware of, and are presently actively addressing the problems at hand.

There is no urgent Shark crisis in Fiji - so, let's do things right.
What we do need is sufficient resources in order to assist the Fisheries Department, Customs, Biosecurity, the Police, the Judiciary etc in better implementing the present legislation; what we do need is a new coastal fisheries law that includes smart management strategies; what we do need is new regulation of the trade in marine products; and in the specific case of Sharks, what we do need is better data so we can preempt and intervene when and if necessary.

Any takers for lending a helping hand?

Dolphins vs Tiger Shark!

Or is it the other way around?
Is it maybe the attempted start of something like this
Who knows!

Anyway, nice video - enjoy!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Shark Rescue in the Bahamas!



This is cute - story here.
Dunno about the asking - but the Shark's docility and the obvious cooperation are certainly remarkable.

If only the man would finally walk all that breathy talk.
If only he stopped enabling all that Shark porn with his pal ABC4 and those horrible people at Gurney Productions. One would think that at our age, money would become less important and integrity, more?

But it is cute, so well done!

Fiji Shark Diving - Award in China!

SRMR - happy Bull Shark, happy customers. Great pic by Allen!

I just got my hands on this press release by Tourism Fiji.
Chinese Dub Fiji as Best Shark Diving Destination 

Nadi, 08 April 2015 – Fiji’s shark dive has gained incredible momentum in the Chinese dive industry and has rightfully received the ‘Best Shark Diving Destination’ Award at the Dive Resort Travel (DRT) Expo in Shanghai. 

The DRT Expo, the only professional diving exhibition in China, is an event developed for the diving industry of Shanghai and attracts exhibitors – enthusiastic diving resorts and live-aboard operators – from all over the Asia-Pacific region. 
The three-day event, from 20-22 March, provided the exhibitors a chance to actively participate and exchange information pertaining specifically to the dive industry ranging from destinations to best diving techniques and equipment. 
Fiji was voted as the Best Shark Diving Destination after EZDIVE Magazine carried out an analysis of its members (the Chinese divers) and Fiji came out on top. Tourism Fiji’s Marketing Manager for the Asia Market, Ms. Kathy Koyamaibole who attended the Expo and received the award on Fiji’s behalf shared, “Fiji’s shark dive was definitely ‘top of mind’ for most of the dive clubs and visitors to the expo.” Ms. Koyamaibole adds, “Receiving this award was a formalization of that. Where in the world can you dive and expect to see more than seven species of sharks in one dive while also feeding them without cages! 
That’s why Fiji is no doubt the best destination to experience shark diving.”
And the Fiji Times, bless them, doubles up with two pieces here and here.
I got to attest to Patricia that it appears that she has done her home work, and that most of what she says is correct - and yet I am irritated. It is us the dive operators, not Fiji Tourism, that have done all the hard work here on the ground, that have spent hundreds of thousands of our own money on marketing our product abroad and that have put Fiji on the Shark diving map - so why not talk to the people who walk the walk, and maybe, gasp, even do a Shark dive, the more as Pacific Harbour is a mere 30 minutes away from the Fiji Times offices, and the NGOs are based just around the corner?
It's called reporting, real journalism. Stanley used to know what that meant. This is just lazy.
Oh well.

Anyway, we love our Chinese customers.
To paraphrase our home page, they are neither adrenaline junkies nor shark huggers, don't know everything better and don't demand preferential treatment only because they own a big camera and have once gifted some ordinary images to a dive mag. And many of them smoke! :)
They just come to see Sharks, love our product, buy plenty of DVDs and t-shirts, and are happy to follow our instructions, and thankful that we are keeping them safe. And the extra bonus is that our Shark awareness and conservation speech during the surface interval is reaching the very people that can make a real difference once they return home!

So China, bring it on!
Fiji's Shark diving industry is welcoming you with open arms!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Sperm Whale vs ROV!

This is way cool.
Story here.

Shark RAT? Guest Post by Ian Campbell!

Shark research, management & conservation intelligentsia meeting in Townsville, see below!

Are you intrigued? :)

Here goes.
Ian Campbell is currently working for WWF’s Global Shark and Ray Initiative running the sustainable management component. He is also a Shark diver and a member of the SRMR management team.
From NGOs to the public and private sector, Ian has over 20 years’ experience in fisheries policy, ecology and fishery management working extensively within both the UK and internationally. Previous employment has included overseeing the reform of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy for the Pew Charitable Trusts, fisheries observer on blue-fin tuna vessels, inshore fisheries management and as a commercial diver in the offshore sector.
Ian holds a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Marine Biology from Heriot-Watt University and a Master degree in Environmental Science from the University of Strathclyde.

This is an important initiative.
Having just returned from a meeting with major stakeholders, see at top, I've asked him whether he wouldn't mind submitting a guest post presenting it to the wider public.
Here is Ian's post.

Shark divers – An underused resource?

Everyone who is even remotely interested in sharks (and rays, don’t forget these charismatic shark pancakes of wonder) is abundantly aware of the pressures they are facing.
Fishing pressure, habitat loss, unsustainable consumption, or even fanciful claims of being “evolved for extinction” everywhere you look they are under the cosh. The pressure that sharks are under have probably best been summed up by the 2014 paper (and here - notice the part about research and data collection?) led by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group which concludes that almost a quarter of all sharks and rays (over 1,000 species assessed) are faced with the very real threat of extinction. Remember, this is not the claims of an environmental NGO, but an independent assessment of the current state of shark and ray populations by 128 experts from 35 different countries. Here’s a simple chart highlighting the different levels of threat.

As you can see, despite what you may hear from some campaigns, not all sharks are threatened, and some are in worse shape than others, but, for WWF, one of the biggest areas of concern is the shaded grey area on the left side of that chart. From all the 1,042 species assessed, 487 are “data deficient”.

Basically, virtually nothing is known about almost half of all sharks and rays.
Effective management and designing plans to reduce mortality is virtually impossible when faced with this lack of basic understanding. Imagine trying to balance your budget without knowing how much money you have in your account to start with, or the amount of interest you are receiving or paying out.

There are a number of conservation initiatives out there which lay claims to conserving sharks, from finning bans to fin trade bans (there’s a difference), from sanctuaries to species protections and from policies to plans. Some of these are more useful than others, but if any of them are to be truly effectual then one thing is key to them all: DATA!

Without a basic understanding of shark and ray populations both around the coast and in offshore waters, then making decisions for the long-term survival of these species is little more than a best guess. Yet there are a multitude of areas rich in information, but not necessarily being channeled in the right direction.

Divers, fishermen, market traders, even shark and ray researchers produce data every day, yet it is surprising how little of it actually makes its way to ministerial departments or independent bodies to assist with informed decisions for conservation. WWF are seeking to bridge this gap. We are developing a project in collaboration with some of the world’s leading shark researchers to create standard methodologies to maximize the benefits from untapped resources.

In 1999, the Food and Agriculture Organisation produced guidelines for countries to undertake a step-by-step process to developing long-term, sustainable shark management plans (known as National Plans of Action, NPOA).
This process seems relatively simple. Firstly, collect data on sharks and rays in the form of a Shark Assessment Report. Then use this data to develop your NPOA. While this does sound simple, and has been done in places like Australia, the EU and NZ (to varying degrees of vigour), the Pacific Islands have had to get by using the limited resources at their disposal. There are some NPOAs currently in existence in the region, such as the Cook Islands and Samoa. Other countries have draft versions waiting government endorsement, such Fiji and Tonga, while some countries such as Palau want to declare shark sanctuaries. These efforts for conservation & long-term planning are great, although all of these measures have one oversight in common. They are built on a lack of data. None of the countries have produced Shark Assessment Reports, so cannot fully know the issues within their territorial waters. This is not the fault of the Pacific Islands, gathering data can be time consuming for departments with limited resources, and the analysis requires specific technical expertise. Organizations such as the FFA and SPC are providing a great service, although their remit extends way beyond just looking at sharks.

So here is where WWF are stepping in.
As mentioned, we are collaborating with shark expertise far and wide to develop our shark ‘Rapid Assessment Tool-kit’ (or shark RAT). The main function of this is to design ways to collect and analyze data on coastal and pelagic sharks that can then be used to produce a Shark Assessment Report. The very basic baseline data in this report can in turn used by governments to develop conservation strategies that are then based on some sort of understanding.

Where is this data going to come from?
Well, there are a lot of sources we will be exploring from genetic and socioeconomic surveys at landing sites to extensive underwater video surveys, but one untapped goldmine is the information collected by divers. In Fiji, there is the Great Fiji Shark Count which is starting to produce comparable info. At present, this isn’t incorporated into management plans, so it’s high time it is.

There are also other things dedicated shark divers can be doing.
Ever been on a surface interval that seems to go on for ages? Sat at the bar for the post-dive drinks to talk about what you saw? How about these hours are spent helping screen underwater video footage that shows what happens at your dive site when no-one is in the water? Pretty much every diver would be able to recognise whether a shark or ray was in shot, and a huge number would even be able to say what species it was. Collecting and screening this type of data would take a massive burden off an already overstretched ministry or fisheries/shark specialist.

Obviously, we are well aware of the multitude of challenges that lay ahead for the project to be fully successful, and some methodologies that may look good on the page may fail spectacularly when introduced to the real world. But we have to try. Improved management for sharks and rays is the only thing that is going to directly reduce mortality. Not shark fin soup campaigns, or putting all your eggs into “ending finning” and certainly not cavorting in swimwear near sharks.

Last week WWF held a 3 day workshop where 12 of the best minds in their respective fields (I’m not including myself, I just took notes and provided the tea and coffee) provided input and direction.
As well as academic researchers from the fields of genetics, citizen science and eco-tourism, we had input from FFA, SPC and SPREP. Everyone we have spoken to has been enthusiastic and willing to support us. The people in attendance will now provide advice and recommendations to the project. Professor Colin Simpfendorfer, the co-chair of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group also gave us a name, although how serious he was is up for debate. WWF now convenes the Pacific Rapid Assessment Tool-kit Scientific Advisory Committee, or PRAT-SAC. Maybe the first thing we need to work on is the name?

The project is embryonic and there is a lot of hard work ahead, but with a little direction, continued enthusiasm and, more importantly, collaboration, then slowly we’ll restore the balance for sharks and rays

Here's to that - thanks buddy, appreciate!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Bulls of BAD!

That's how you do it!

Didn't I tell you that images would be forthcoming!
Obviously, there's only one Howard Hall (watch this gallery!) - but do keep at it, and if you're brave, incredibly dedicated and persevere for a few decades, you may one day be that good, too! :)
The little Fish are likely juvenile Jacks of the Genus Trachurus, possibly novaezelandiae and if so, an unexpected range extension.
Oh - and there will be pictures, too!


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Global Shark Diving - the Ambassadors!


This is one of the outcomes of last month's Royalty meeting.
Valerie, Michele and Howard have graciously agreed to join Douglas as GSD Ambassadors. You can read their bios right here - and yes Valerie's is rather long but without in any way wanting to detract from the achievements and obviously, huge respect for the others, Valerie is truly in a class of her own and also looks back to a very, very long and extremely rich career as both daredevil, pioneer, photo journalist, artist but above all, marine conservationist.

We all are of course stoked - and humbled.
Welcome aboard!

And because we love them so much.
Here they are again together with Emily Seifert, the indefatigable Jayne, Ozzie Sam and a whole gaggle of BAD  boyz 'n gals - click for detail!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Long Time no See!

This is Bumphead.
Posted especially for you El Diego!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Great Fiji Shark Count - a Message from Helen!

Helen Sykes our irreducible GFSC manager has just issued the following statistics - click on the pictures for detail!

Results of Three Years of the Great Fiji Shark Count
 April 2015 

Over the past three years, dive operators across the Fiji Islands and their diving and snorkeling guests have been recording their Shark, Ray and Turtle sightings over the months of April and November. Thanks to those dedicated divers, we now have some interesting facts to share about Shark populations in Fiji.

The data is analyzed by the number of Shark/Ray/Turtle sightings recorded on every dive by every diver who takes part. This is called number of sightings per observation. Because there are usually many divers on each dive, we have thousands of observations every month.

We have separated dives where feeding was carried out from those where no feeding was done.

From a very enthusiastic start in April 2012, the number of participating dive operators has dropped to our reliable core team, representing operators on Viti Levu, Beqa, Taveuni, Vanua Levu, the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands, and the Lomai Viti / Vatu-i-Ra area. We'd like to thank those operators who have stuck by this project and worked hard to get the data to us in a useful format!

Even though the number of dive operators has decreased, the number of dives and of observations (every diver who takes part makes one observation per dive) has remained in the thousands, with the highest total of 4,278 observations in November 2013.


There have been some unexpected and exciting sightings recorded over the past three years.
  • Guitarfish, previously very rarely recorded in Fiji, have been regularly seen on sites along the Coral Coast. 
  • A Leatherback Turtle was seen during a dive (a very rare occurrence) in the Yasawas in November 2014 
  • Schooling Hammerheads have been regularly recorded on a dive site on the South Coast of Vanua Levu 
  • Mobula Rays have been recorded in the Pacific Harbour/ Beqa region and also in Namena, south of Vanua Levu 
  • Tahitian Rays (Himantura fai) were recorded in the Yasawas 
  • Hammerheads and Guitarfish have only been recorded on non-feeding dives 
  • Rays and Turtles are more common on non-feed dives than on baited feeding dives 
  • The most common sharks seen on baited feeding dives are Bull, White Tip Reef, Grey, and Black Tip Reef Sharks 
  • Some sharks species, including Bull, Grey Reef and possibly White-tip Reef Sharks, exhibit seasonal patterns of higher and lower numbers, which are probably related to breeding behaviour. 
  • So far no significant decrease in coastal shark populations has been seen, good news for those of us fearing that shark-fin fishing was continuing to damage shark stocks, but we can only confirm this one way or the other by continuing these surveys over the long term 
Non-Feeding Dives:

Over the years, across Fiji, divers have seen an average of 1.22 to 2.03 Sharks on every dive, plus one Ray and one Turtle every 5 to 10 dives. Shark sightings varied year by year, but the general trend appears stable or slightly increasing. Ray and Turtle sightings appear to be very stable.

Baited Dives:

You, our Contributors!

Continuity of data is vital if we are to make our case for Shark Conservation, and we'd like to recognise and thank our contributors, especially those who have been with us from the start, and continued every six months. Others have joined us recently, and are welcomed to the ranks. 
Here is our honour list: 

Six Counts 
  • Beqa Adventure Divers 
  • Nai'a Cruises 
  • Dive Tropex Tokoriki 
Five Counts 
  • Waidroka Bay Surf and Dive Resort 
  • Lalati Resort 
  • Taveuni Ocean Sports (Nakia Resort) 
  • Dive Tropex Tokoriki • Wananavu Dive 
Four Counts 
  • Taveuni Dive 
  • Dolphin Bay Divers 
  • Koro Sun Dive
  • Reef Safaris - Barefoot Island 
Three Counts 
  • Matava Eco Resort - Mad Fish Dive Centre 
  • Wakaya Club and Spa 
  • Viti Watersports 
  • GVI - Global Vision International Two Counts 
  • L'Aventure Cousteau Dive Centre 
One Count 
  • Pacific Harbour Fishing Group 
  • Paradise Taveuni 
  • Volivoli Beach 
  • Reef Safari - Shangri La Fijian Resort 
  • Castaway • Adrenalin Watersports 
  • Captain Cook Cruises 
  • Storck Cruises 
  • Reef Safari - Crystal Blue 
Great job Helen, Vinaka vakalevu!
Some ulterior comments from my side tomorrow!

Shark Base - more senseless Duplication?

THIS is where you should upload your observations!

I trust you've seen this?

Very slick.
Normally, I would be full of praise, the more as I respect Ryan for SOS and the role it has played in the WA Shark Cull.

And still, it deeply irritates me.
Sharks represent but a tiny subset of marine research and conservation (and incidentally, global fisheries) and the available resources in terms of dedication, time, manpower and funding devoted to them are equally comparably scarce - and with that in mind, it really upsets me when I come across yet another one of those projects that reinvents the wheel and amounts to little more than a fragmentation and squandering of the little means we dispose of.

Because there's already eShark.
Crated by Christine Ward-Paige way back then when nobody cared about citizen science let alone Sharks, this is the original global go-to resource that has already resulted in a wealth of scientific publications and continues to fuel national initiatives like our GFSC (that is incidentally happening as we speak!) or eShark Thailand, and continues to accumulate daily data by divers worldwide via its online survey. As an example, Projects Abroad has been uploading data to eShark for over a year, meaning that together with the BRUV data, Beqa Lagoon is now one of the best documented Shark viewing spots anywhere!
And talking of which, a birdie twitters that eShark may soon become the cornerstone of yet another stellar initiative - so keep watching this space!

And what about us divers.
Every week, we get inundated with yet more bloody requests to partake in some survey from bloody Whales to bloody Seahorses - so can we at least try and stick to one focal point and one methodology per group?

Yes I know I know...

Friday, April 10, 2015

Survivor - Healing in Bull Sharks!

Click for detail!

Check out the little dude at the top!

We provisionally called him Backbite.
He was in real bad shape, the wound was very deep all the way to the backbone, and he appeared to be in great discomfort. I was intimately convinced that we would never see him again - but lo and behold, here he is again, in great shape and super-feisty to boot!
Incidentally, this is the very first time we've renamed a Shark - but I'm sure you will agree that he amply deserves the new moniker!

Welcome aboard young man! 

Shark Soup!

Great pic by Vincent Truchet.
Tetamanu, Gruper spawning?

Pimp the Shark Lab!

"World’s biggest" officially measured Bull Shark caught in the Breede River (but ours are bigger and BADder!) - source.

Watch this.

These are good people doing important work (and here!).
In fact their Bull Shark research has even led to local protection which is just fabulous!
Now, they have launched this funding drive in order to renovate and upgrade their aquarium and education center, and I truly believe this to be an initiative well worth supporting. So please do make a donation if you got a dime to spare - and should you want to make a hands-on contribution, do consider joining them for an internship!

Thank you.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Sharks Demystified!


Nice video!

No I'm not gonna comment as it is pretty much self-explanatory.
Pew in general and my pal Rick in particular are doing remarkable work in the Caribbean, and I wish them godspeed and heaps of success!

Just this.
I had to smile at the interviews with the fishermen.
Once again, here's your proof positive of who, exactly, conditions and attracts Sharks!

But I'm digressing as usual.
Enjoy - great job!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Sea Shepherd vs Pirate Fishermen!

Mark this day in your calender!

I'm gonna say something positive about the SSCS!
Ever since he did expose the PIPA sham, I got a lot of respect for journalist Christopher Pala - and contrary to my deep skepticism whenever the SSCS post one of their breathy statements, I'm consequently inclined to believe what he is reporting here.

I must say that I'm impressed.
This is a job well done, and kudos to Sea Shepherd for having doggedly persevered.

(And before you ask - yes it did hurt. But what is fair is fair)

PS - Martin adding insult to injury here!

Hawaii 1 - WESPAC 0!


I was wrong - again!

But this is a good thing!
Contrary to my rather pessimistic (and here) predictions, NOAA has finally made a decision and resolved to not overturn the ground-breaking Shark Fin ban Stefanie and Senator Hee introduced to Hawaii in 2010. Talk about a huge slap in the face of Kitty Simonds and her nasty gang at WESPAC, and this right at the epicenter of her fiefdom of evil!

Here is the letter confirming the decision by NOAA.
Interestingly, it also shows the limitations of those bans insofar as Hawaii remains an active Shark fishing hub. I assume that dispose of is a euphemism for throw away, meaning that like in California and probably elsewhere, people can legally eat those Sharks but not consume their fins which remains, to say it mildly, puzzling.

Be it as it may, this is great news.
More details by Angelo here.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Riley - wise Words!

I like the dude.

So there.
Not everything he says is correct (see here) but he's got the passion, the looks, the charm and the gift of the gab - so overall, he's got all the trappings for being an awesome Shark conservation advocate. Hopefully the knowledge and the wisdom of sticking to the cold facts will follow.

Anyway - enjoy!

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Cocos Island - a Paper Park?

Remember this paper?

The authors are weighing in, and here's another piece.
And I cite.
The declines in the number of sharks and rays restricted to the waters surrounding Cocos are a clear indication that the protected area isn’t working.
New research led by researchers at the University of Victoria raises serious concerns about the ability of marine protected areas (MPAs) to effectively protect wide-ranging iconic species, such as sharks and rays.
I say, not so fast!
There is an increasingly irritating cabal of vociferous researchers that instead of being preoccupied with the 99.97% of oceans that are not being protected, continue to snipe against the 0.3% that have been designated as MPAs - and these statements are playing right into their hands.
So, was protecting Cocos and for the matter, the other hot spots Malpelo, Gorgona and the Galapagos nothing but an exercise in futility?

Yes of course there have been declines!
When it comes to the wide-ranging pelagic species like the Hammers that regularly leave protected waters when they migrate between Cocos, Malpelo and the Northern Galapagos it was to be expected. It's exactly the same here in Fiji when the Bulls leave the Fiji Shark Corridor, and over the past decade, we too have lost several individuals. BUT, by the same token, many more have survived because like Juerg's paper shows, our Bulls spend approx 1/2 of their lives in protected waters!
And the same of course applies mutatis mutandis to those Hammers - or does anybody believe that you could still see those iconic schools if we had not protected those sites, and if the dive boats had not been there as witnesses that did certainly discourage the worst of the poaching? If so, think again, as in comparable places like the El Bajo in the Sea of Cortez where there is no local protection, the Hammers have all but disappeared!
In brief, the protected area is by no means not working, it is merely working imperfectly!

And the resident Elasmobranchs?
Although I'm clearly speculating, some of those Rays and Whitetips that are being predated upon by the increasing numbers of Tigers and the Galapagoses may well have decided to depart for greener pastures much like we are witnessing here in Fiji.
But chiefly, they have been the victims of insufficient enforcement - which incidentally is the principal reason why many full no-take MPAs are failing globally! In brief, the failure of many declared MPAs is not a failure of the concept per se, it's a failure of their implementation - meaning that we got to improve the implementation and stop sniping against the concept! 
And anyway: show me a better way to protect marine biodiversity in the developing world where there are simply not enough resources for enacting proper management - and since yer at it, how about proving your point by enacting your miraculous recipes in those remaining 99.97% and leaving us alone! 
And yes I'm being uncharacteristically polite! :)

The researchers write,
Although management efforts have increased in the past decade, illegal fishing still occurs within the island’s waters (Arias et al. 2014). It is unclear if the Cocos Island MPA is even properly designed (Botsford et al. 2003) to protect such large and wide-ranging species (Hooker and Gerber 2004; Gr¨uss 2014). 

Conservation efforts at Cocos Island cannot be focused simply on expanding the protected area (Arias et al. 2014); rather, efforts should be put toward increasing enforcement and management (Kelaher et al. 2015). Costa Rica’s efforts to increase their MPA coverage are admirable, but the establishment of MPAs cannot be the end point. Explicit plans and dedicated funding for monitoring and enforcement must be in place to prevent the creation of a network of paper parks. These plans need to include using both theory about MPAs and empirical data (White et al. 2011). Further, there must be stronger penalties for noncompliance with MPA rules to offset the potential gains of illegal fishing (Arias et al. 2014). 

We recommend that monitoring and enforcement of Costa Rica’s MPAs be increased substantially and that international environmental NGOs and foundations contribute to these efforts. Such efforts are urgently required if Cocos Island is to recover its elasmobranch populations and claim its status as a truly successful MPA.
Could not agree more!
And if I may venture a suggestion, apply Fiji's new concept of public/private partnerships in marine conservation and deputize the local crews of the liveaboard vessels that could then help Costa Rica enforce the MPA!

But above all.
Let's continue to celebrate Cocos Island as one of the most iconic Shark diving destinations, and let's commend and thank the Undersea Hunter Group for the pioneering and selfless work they continue to do there on a daily basis! 

Yes there may be Trouble in Paradise.
But it's still Paradise, and the trouble can certainly be overcome!

And since we're at it.
Enjoy - very nice! :)

Friday, April 03, 2015

A Tiger Shark, a Zombie and a Bimbette - and Boobs!

Just how good is THAT!
And yes, by today's standards, this would be Shark conservation on steroids!


Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Of Shark and Man - nearly there!

Sorry for the protracted silence.

The last few days have been hectic.
Catering to Royalty is of course both an honor and enormously inspiring - but at the same time, people of that caliber have very precise ideas about what they want to achieve, and staging the Shark dive so that everybody got the shot, and this without interfering with the others has been challenging. Methinks we pulled it off, this especially due to the incredibly hard work of the BAD boyz who were proud and eager to showcase our Sharks to such an illustrious audience - but like I said, images are forthcoming and you will get the opportunity to judge for yourselves.

Truth be told, I'm still somewhat reeling.
So this could not have come at a better time as I really don't have the energy to come up with original content let alone a breathy rant - so please, do take the time to read David's post and also watch the interview which is certainly intriguing.
Yes OSAM is completed and will be rolled out very shortly indeed. I haven't yet seen it and must confess that I look forward to it with great trepidation - not only because the SRMR is my baby but also, because I've broken with one of my rules and have sat for extensive interviews. The footage dates back to 2011 and I've obviously forgotten what I said back then - but I've since learned a lot, and some of my beliefs and priorities have evolved, become more nuanced or changed altogether. 
Looking back will certainly be an interesting personal experience!

Anyway - enjoy!