Australia. Sabotaging Eco Tourism?

I hate to say it, but Australia is at it again. After hunting down a tagged shark for simply being too close to shore, they now have declared their intention to "opt out of protections for 5 shark species".


The guardian writes that The government is submitting a “reservation” against three species of thresher shark and two species of hammerhead shark listed as protected migratory species under the UN-administered convention on the conservation of migratory species of wild animals.
  
The five types of shark were among 31 species granted new protection status at a convention summit in November. A record 21 species of shark and ray, including sawfish, were put on the list along with polar bears, whales and gazelles.

Although Australia did not object to the listings in November, it is now seeking to opt out of the commitment to cooperate with other countries to ensure the five migratory shark species do not become extinct. The expanded list is due to come into effect on 8 February.


Since sharks are a vital part of a healthy ocean environment it seems that the government is not too concerned about losing all the tourists who visit Australia to dive and enjoy the incredible reefs they have. The only ones they care about is the fishermen. The article quotes Alexia Wellbelove, senior program manager at Humane Society International "the opt-out was to appease commercial and recreational fishers, some of whom catch threshers and hammerhead sharks as primary catch or as bycatch for other species. “This is a political decision, it has nothing to do with conservation, which is pretty pathetic really,” she said. “Australia has always spoken out against other countries making reservations under these kinds of treaties, so this move is really concerning.

The article states "A spokesman for the federal environment minister, Greg Hunt, said the government’s move was to avoid “unintended consequences” for fishers in Australia, who would risk being fined up to $170,000 and face two years in jail even if they obeyed their permits.  

So they say that their laws are too harsh for the fishermen who kill these sharks and instead of changing the punishment for the killing, they just kill the protection for these sharks. Sound reasoning indeed. (sharkasm intended)

Read the entire article here 

Dashark's reaction here 

I recommend that you send your opinion to the Australian tourism website here and click on the feedback link.  You can also visit their Facebook page and leave a comment there.

If the politicians won't listen to us, maybe their tourist board is more receptive.

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

Shark Attack in Australia? What really happened.

Shark Attack in Australia? Part 2


Yesterday we talked about the teenager who got "attacked" by a shark here

Today he admits that it wasn't really the sharks fault. Watch the video below.
Sam Smith now says that the shark would have ignored him, had he left him alone.






Funny, how the commentary still refers to it as an attack.

I'm glad the kid is going to be OK and that they reported what actually happened. Hopefully that will reduce the hysteria that usually follows an incident like this.

Cheers,

Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

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

Shark Attack in Australia?

Sky news reports that a teenager was attacked by a shark off Australia's east coast.
The article states that Sam Smith was spearfishing off Mollymook beach, 140 miles (230km) south of Sydney, when a shark bit his hand. The 17-year-old's friend Luke Sisinni said they were both filming when they spotted the shark, with Sam swimming down to get footage. Luke told the Ulladulla Times: "He said it spun around and started coming for him, so he stabbed it with his spear to try and scare it off, but it just went ballistic and bit him."

So these kids are spearfishing and when a shark comes to investigate, one swims down to film it. When the shark turns and swims towards him, he stabs him with his spear and is surprised that the shark went ballistic on him.

I think a headline saying "Teen attacks shark, shark fights back" would be more appropriate. This another typical media hype. Anytime a shark bites a human, they call it a shark attack.

You can read the whole article here

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

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

Is this the way to promote shark conservation?

Diver interaction with sharks is getting way out of hand. Everyone is trying to outdo each other, to do a "world's first", "world's closest", "world's best" etc. We have talked about these stupid stunts here, here, here and many, many other times.

The latest entry into the "world's closest" category, is Aaron Gekoski from London, who claims to have taken the "worlds closest selfie" with a shark.

source

The London Evening Standard writes

"Mr Gekoski, who lives in East Dulwich, south east London, who says his pictures are the world’s closest shark selfie, added: “We did two dives to get the perfect images - and quite a lot happened during them."

“At one point it all kicked off and I got hit in the face by a tail. I also got a face full of claspers - which is what we call shark genitalia. That was unpleasant."

source

“At another point, one of the sharks got spooked and made a grab for my camera. I could have lost my fingers with that one."

“Perhaps the most terrifying moment of all was when one of the sharks grabbed on to the buoy line just above my head. I had no idea what was going on at the time - the video footage shows me looking bemused at the camera with it all going on above me. I was very lucky not to get tangled in it or dragged away. That was quite close.”

So why does Mr Gekoski think it's a good idea to take these selfies, when obviously it seems quite dangerous and they had no idea what to expect from the sharks?

Here is his explanation 

“Myself and Chris Scarffe, my colleague and filmmaker, have made hundreds of films but we thought it was time to reach a bigger audience. I watched loads of videos online featuring animals - pandas sneezing and cats with heads stuck in bread - many of which were very popular and thought I needed to harness the power of social media."

So they have made hundreds of films that nobody watched, so they needed a stunt to reach a broader audience. Refreshing honesty. 

But wait, there is more! Here it comes
 
“The selfie has been huge for the past two years - so I thought it would be a great way to highlight the plight of the shark in a modern way. Whilst sharks are one of the most feared animals on Earth, they in fact have a lot more to be scared of than we do and are now on the brink of extinction. We wanted to highlight that it’s not me in danger, but the sharks themselves."

Of course, it's all to highlight the plight of the sharks. They didn't want to point out their "heroic" actions, risking life and limbs, diving with these sharks. It's wasn't a "look at me!" kind of stunt, like all the others we have gotten used to. Of course not. They simply wanted to highlight how the sharks were in danger.

I mean, what better way to get people to think that sharks are not a big danger to us than to point out how close they came to disaster during their two dives.

Not only do they do nothing to show that the sharks are not dangerous, but by their blatant disregard for any safety during their dives, they actually risked being bitten, which would have accomplished the exact opposite of what they claim their intentions were. It would have become another shark attack, reported around the world.

And their final thought?

“I was still glad to get back in the boat at the end though.”

So they want to say how we should not be afraid of the sharks, but they sure are glad they are back on the boat and cheated death again? Yep, I sure don't know a better way to do that.

All I can say is what I always say. When will we learn that sharks are neither mindless killers, nor harmless pets. Let's portray them the way they really are.

We at Shark Diver promote "Safe and Sane" shark diving expeditions. We don't fear the sharks, but we do respect them and always take all the safety precautions necessary to ensure a safe and exciting shark dive.

Let's go shark diving!

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver
 

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

Reef Check California Seeks Southern California Volunteer Coordinator


Reef Check is a Non-Profit Organization Dedicated to Empowering People to Save Our Reefs and Oceans          




Founded in 1996 by marine ecologist Dr. Gregor Hodgson, the Reef Check Foundation is an international non-profit organization dedicated to conservation of two ecosystems: tropical coral reefs and California rocky reefs. With headquarters in Los Angeles and volunteer teams in more than 90 countries and territories, Reef Check works to create partnerships among community volunteers, government agencies, businesses, universities and other non-profits. Reef Check goals are to: educate the public about the value of reef ecosystems and the current crisis affecting marine life; to create a global network of volunteer teams trained in Reef Check's scientific methods who regularly monitor and report on reef health; to facilitate collaboration that produces ecologically sound and economically sustainable solutions; and to stimulate local community action to protect remaining pristine reefs and rehabilitate damaged reefs worldwide. 


 They are looking for a Southern California Volunteer Coordinator

For more information and to apply, click here

This is a great opportunity for someone who wants to make a difference and help conserve the Oceans.

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver


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

Scientific study on the effects of shark diving?

Yesterday, I posted a blog from "DaShark" in Fiji on whether shark diving operators should be regulated or not. You can read it here.

The blog is based on a paper by Richards, K., et al. Sharks and people: Insight into the global practices of tourism operators and their attitudes to Sharkbehaviour. Mar. Pollut. Bull. (2015)

The author has some interesting insights into the shark diving industry, but overall, I'm not impressed. The authors bias against shark dives featuring provisioning, is made clear from the outset by the following statement.

"If those who report using bait are added to those who admitted intentional feeding then 42% of operators used shark attractant.”  The term “admitted” is implying something negative, like "Ah, gotcha! You admitted to feeding sharks!"




They are basing their conclusions on statements like Illegal provisioning of sharks by a diving company was one theory put forward to explain a cluster of shark attacks near the Egyptian resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh in 2010 This is the unproven hypothesis (a scientific theory is something that has been proven) of a guy who can’t tell a shark from a dolphin and should be weighed heavily in any respectable paper. (sharkasm intended)

They are stating correctly, that shark diving is increasing and "Due to this, questions about the effects of shark tourism and associated activities such as SCUBA diving and provisioning on shark behaviour should be asked in order to establish effective management for the practise and to preemptively mitigate risk of unwittingly increasing shark attacks on humans.  ... Oh, I see, since we don’t know the effect of that increase, we should regulate something we don’t understand. Hmm!


Here is another gem from the paper, showing their "scientific" reasoning "Whilst our research corroborates previous studies highlighting that the majority of shark encounters pose very little risk to people, the fact that a small minority of shark operators did report concerns about shark behaviour towards clients, and that threat displays such as bumping people and swimming erratically were reported, suggests that people should never become complacent." .....  Dang, did they have to go to college to come up with this. I’m so glad they told me we should never become complacent. Who knew!?!? (sharkasm intended) Shark Diver has always advocated "Safe and Sane" shark diving, because we know that sharks are neither mindless killers, nor harmless pets.


I think by now it is pretty clear the authors have an agenda. But hey, it gets better Results of our survey indicate that shark operators take responsbility for good practise seriously, given that 93% of 43 shark opera- tors said they followed a code of conduct either voluntarily or because of national guidelines, although the quality and detail of voluntary codes of conduct provided varied widely. Our results however cannot differentiate between those who do this out of concern for sharks or for fear of liability should a shark harm a customer.  WTF? So we dive operators take safety serious, but they don't know if we do it to keep our divers safe or because we don't want to get sued? Hmmmm, let me think about this. How about we keep em safe because we care and when they don't get hurt, we don't get sued!?!? Besides, since they are not sure what our motivation for our safety consciousness is, the want to regulate it. Well that will clear up any confusion about our motivation. 

For most of their "conclusions" they state the source. Their interpretation of the source is not very logical, to say the least, and is primarily twisted to support their view. As if frustrated by the fact not supporting their hypothesis, they start to just make stuff up. Like this  However, recent research has indicated negative behavioural impacts arising from shark diving or snorkelling and inadequacies in management have been highlighted.  Did I miss the study they quoted???? Anyone? .. anyone? ....Bueller!!! I guess it’s just another PIDOOMA estimate (Pulled it directily out of my #$$)



The same goes for this In general, shark operators did acknowledge the potential for accidents to happen, but most defended their own practices even when scientific evidence contradicted their view, Of course, no “scientific" data is provided, or a study cited. As a matter of fact and I quote "DaShark"

There are some other statements in that paper that simply don't make sense and clearly show their bias. Several respondents said that individual shark’s behaviour towards people differed, for example, if divers approached too closely, some sharks quickly moved away while others were bolder, corroborating research that shows shark species and individuals show varied responses to provisioning and that behavioural responses can change over time How is this corroborating anything? What has the individual behavior of a shark got to do with provisioning? Sharks have different “personalities”, we've known that for a long time. It has nothing to do with provisioning.

Another stellar "scientific" conclusion is this. Links are frequently made between shark baiting/provisioning and attacks, and while these remain speculative, a precautionary approach is warranted that would be best delivered through regulation.  Yep, I couldn’t agree more, there is some speculation, so we just have to regulate. Everyone know, speculation requires regulation. (can you detect the sharkasm?)




This is yet another one of their conclusions. While our questionnaire indicates that the majority of shark encounters and shark tourism currently pose very little risk to people, more field research is required on shark behavioural responses to tourism practices to help assess best practices for sharks, people and environment. So they are saying there is very little risk and more research is needed, but in the meantime, Regulate! Regulate!

I could go on and on, but it doesn't get any better.


Overall, this paper is something I would expect from a grade school student, not a scientist. Just like a politician, the authors of this paper are stating some facts and then come to a conclusion that is completely unsupported by those facts. Not surprising, since their bias was clear from the outset. John Stewart of the "Daily Show" would have a field day with this, if only a real politician had authored it. 

Cheers,

Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

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