Do we need a shark cull at Reunion Island?

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After a recent deadly shark attack at Reunion Island, world renowned surfer and conservationist Kelly Slater has called for a serious daily shark cull.

Grind TV writes “After the 20th shark attack off Reunion Island since 2011 occurred earlier this week, the world’s greatest surfer made a comment that “there needs to be a serious cull on Reunion and it should happen everyday.”

The attack happened at a spot that is well known for it’s sharks and there are signs warning people that it is closed for waters ports. Unfortunately those sign were cut down the weekend before, but the local fishermen reported that they warned the body-boarders.
Sky news writes: “It is reported young people had been there for several days, despite being warned by locals of a shark.”
Kelly Slater’s response to this attack is this. 

“Honestly, I won’t be popular for saying this but there needs to be a serious cull on Reunion and it should happen everyday. There is a clear imbalance happening in the ocean there. If the whole world had these rates of attack nobody would use the ocean and literally millions of people would be dying like this. The French govt needs to figure this out asap. 20 attacks since 2011!?”
Read more at http://www.grindtv.com/surf/kelly-slater-calls-for-the-culling-of-sharks-off-reunion-island-after-another-death/#9UTBb73KTjdJh1IT.99

First off, I want to extend my condolences to the friends and family of the victim. This is truly a tragedy and the fact that I don’t blame the sharks is not diminishing that fact.

I think Kelly Slater is one of the good guys and I admire a lot of the things he does. In this case, I have to respectfully disagree with his stance. By all accounts, this location is well known for it’s shark population and the associated danger to water sports enthusiasts. The surfers and body- boarders were warned that those areas are closed to water sports and they still decided to go into the water.

There are tons of places, all around the world, where it is safe to go into the ocean, so why would you want to kill the sharks that seem to aggregate in this area, so you can have another spot? There are relatively few and well known areas, where sharks are found in larger numbers. Why go surfing there? Calling for a shark cull, because someone ignored all the warnings is not the way to protect the oceans. Are we calling for the top of Mt. Everest to be cut down, because people die of hypoxia there? There are always people that want to take risk. Don’t blame the sharks when things go wrong.

Also I want to put things in perspective. There have been 20 shark bites since 2011, 8 of them fatal. That amounts to about 3 bites and a little more than one fatality per year. While each death is tragic, there are a lot of other things that are far more dangerous without anyone doing anything to mitigate the danger.

Kelly, I hope that you change your mind on this. A lot of people listen to you and respect your opinion. It’s not just about Reunion Island. If people think that shark culls are a good option, there will be calls for those in a lot of other places. I would like to invite you to be my guest and come out with us to experience what these sharks are like when you come face to face with them. Maybe that will change your mind.

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.

Do we need a shark cull at Reunion Island?

Instagram 
After a recent deadly shark attack at Reunion Island, world renowned surfer and conservationist Kelly Slater has called for a serious daily shark cull.

Grind TV writes “After the 20th shark attack off Reunion Island since 2011 occurred earlier this week, the world’s greatest surfer made a comment that “there needs to be a serious cull on Reunion and it should happen everyday.”

The attack happened at a spot that is well known for it’s sharks and there are signs warning people that it is closed for waters ports. Unfortunately those sign were cut down the weekend before, but the local fishermen reported that they warned the body-boarders.
Sky news writes: “It is reported young people had been there for several days, despite being warned by locals of a shark.”
Kelly Slater’s response to this attack is this. 

“Honestly, I won’t be popular for saying this but there needs to be a serious cull on Reunion and it should happen everyday. There is a clear imbalance happening in the ocean there. If the whole world had these rates of attack nobody would use the ocean and literally millions of people would be dying like this. The French govt needs to figure this out asap. 20 attacks since 2011!?”
Read more at http://www.grindtv.com/surf/kelly-slater-calls-for-the-culling-of-sharks-off-reunion-island-after-another-death/#9UTBb73KTjdJh1IT.99

First off, I want to extend my condolences to the friends and family of the victim. This is truly a tragedy and the fact that I don’t blame the sharks is not diminishing that fact.

I think Kelly Slater is one of the good guys and I admire a lot of the things he does. In this case, I have to respectfully disagree with his stance. By all accounts, this location is well known for it’s shark population and the associated danger to water sports enthusiasts. The surfers and body- boarders were warned that those areas are closed to water sports and they still decided to go into the water.

There are tons of places, all around the world, where it is safe to go into the ocean, so why would you want to kill the sharks that seem to aggregate in this area, so you can have another spot? There are relatively few and well known areas, where sharks are found in larger numbers. Why go surfing there? Calling for a shark cull, because someone ignored all the warnings is not the way to protect the oceans. Are we calling for the top of Mt. Everest to be cut down, because people die of hypoxia there? There are always people that want to take risk. Don’t blame the sharks when things go wrong.

Also I want to put things in perspective. There have been 20 shark bites since 2011, 8 of them fatal. That amounts to about 3 bites and a little more than one fatality per year. While each death is tragic, there are a lot of other things that are far more dangerous without anyone doing anything to mitigate the danger.

Kelly, I hope that you change your mind on this. A lot of people listen to you and respect your opinion. It’s not just about Reunion Island. If people think that shark culls are a good option, there will be calls for those in a lot of other places. I would like to invite you to be my guest and come out with us to experience what these sharks are like when you come face to face with them. Maybe that will change your mind.

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.

Can our loving sharks be bad for them?

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How could our loving sharks possibly hurt them? After all, we want to protect them and are fighting those who are hurting them. Why would I even suggest such a ridiculous thing?shark diving, cage diving, swimming with sharks, Guadalupe Island, Great White Shark, shark conservation
OK, lets look at what is going on. I have written about what various conservation  groups are doing here. This time I want to focus on how they are doing it.

Most of us are interested in shark conservation because we love sharks. This love is a powerful motivator to get us to act and and actually do something, instead of just standing on the sidelines. That same love for the sharks is also what can make our efforts ineffective. We tend to argue from the heart and demonize the ones that don’t agree with us.

Take this post on Eco Phuket’s facebook page. It shows a spearfisherman who shot a shark, cleaning his catch. The comments range from That is shocking behaviour bloody Neanderthal” to “We got to get this killer consumer out of the water!” How do you think this spearfisherman is going to react to being called a “Neanderthal” and “killer consumer”? Do you really think that will help him see your side and stop fishing for sharks?

Movies like “The cove” show the slaughter of dolphins and pretty much chastise the Japanese for hunting dolphins. They don’t just criticize the way they slaughter them, but  the fact that they are killing them in the first place. How do you think the Japanese feel about the way they are portrayed in that movie?

When it comes to shark fin soup, there are plenty of people who just blame the Chinese for the shark finning that is going on. Again, we are demonizing a culture and it is us (the good guys) vs. them (the bad guys) Aside from the fact that it is not just the Chinese that are to blame, ( watch the video below) it is simply not helpful.

Guang Zhou Market for Sea Shepherd USA from Gary Stokes on Vimeo.

I think the first thing we have to do is realize that a shark is just a fish and a dolphin is just an animal. The issue is not weather we love them or not, but rather is the taking of these animals sustainable, is the killing humane etc.  To give you an example, most of you who read this are probably living in the western world and being used to its customs. So when we attack the Japanese for eating dolphins, the Chinese for eating shark fin soup and the Koreans for eating dogs, because it’s just not cool to eat those animals, we don’t consider what other cultures, e.g: India, must think about our custom of eating “holy cows”.

I know, it hurts to see a shark killed, a dolphin slaughtered or a dog eaten, but if we demonize the ones that are doing it, we won’t really get them to change. It’s just like in politics each side is just blaming and demonizing the other and nothing gets done.

It’s easy to get fellow conservationists to agree with us, but how do we get those who don’t agree with us, to see our way? As painful as it might be, we actually have to seek a dialogue with those who don’t see things our way. There are many individuals and organizations that get it and are doing exactly that.

In Fiji, Beqa Adventure divers helped establish the shark reef marine reserve, which included involving 3 fishing villages who’s fishermen agreed not to fish in that area in exchange for receiving a fee from all divers, diving in that area. After 10 years of protecting shark reef, a fisherman told Mike Neumann that before the shark reef marine reserve was established, he could not catch any fish from shore, but now there are plenty of fish there, a spillover effect. This is a great example of conservationist seeking a dialogue with the fishermen and working together to make changes.

Another example is the shark friendly marinas project. By talking to marinas that are home to many sportfishermen, it got some of those marinas to agree to not allow any caught sharks to be landed there. Again, this project is relying on seeking a dialogue with those who are fishing for sharks and make them aware of the problem associated with shark fishing.

Yet another example are fishing tournaments. Guy Harvey is someone well known in the fishing industry and a sponsor of many fishing tournaments. It’s easy to condemn shark fishing tournaments, and demonize the fishermen participating in it. But here is how I see it. Instead of having a tournament that catches and kills the sharks, they now catch, tag and release the sharks. Is this ideal? Do all the released sharks survive? No, of course not. But it is way better than the catch and kill tournaments and it makes the fishermen involved in the conservation efforts. Also Guy Harvey, a fisherman, supports many other ocean related conservation efforts.

And who would have thought that the consumption of shark fin soup in China could decline by 70%? Efforts by various groups and Chinese celebrities have turned the tide and it’s no longer considered fashionable to serve shark fin soup in China. Again, education and working with a culture instead of against it, has shown results.

It is perfectly fine to love and care about the sharks! I do! We just have to remember that in order to change things, we should seek a dialogue with those who don’t see things our way and not just condemn and demonize them. If we only accept a world where nobody kills any sharks and we are not willing to compromise, we will never get things to change. We also have to be prepared to be attacked and ridiculed by our fellow conservationists, for working with the “enemy”. Personally, if I can do something that saves just one shark, I don’t care what anyone thinks. If they call me a traitor for supporting a catch and release tournament, so be it. For me it’s not about the praise of my fellow shark lovers, but about saving the sharks.

OK enough of my rant, I just had to get this off my chest.

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.

Science Expedition to Guadalupe Island

I booked the trip to Isla Guadalupe (Guadalupe Island) with Shark Diver of San Diego to fulfill a long held desire – since reading Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s “The Shark” and meeting his son in San Diego when I was a boy. And, in every way possible, this trip exceeded my expectations owing to the efforts of an outstanding Shark Diver team (particularly Martin Graf and Cindy Michaels), the Guest Marine Researcher Nicole Nasby Lucas, a fantastic Horizon crew, and great group of fellow shark divers. This is a must do in my opinion for anyone with a passion, interest or bucket list item relating to Great White Sharks – it’s fun, safe and amazing. Many details follow.

The Main Event:
I don’t want to bury the lead, so I’ll get right to our guests of honor. The Great White Sharks are impressive, majestic, and beautiful. They move by the twin cages, quite closely, at a stately pace, and look at the folks in the cage with large deep blue eyes; and, they appear utterly calm and in command. They make passes at the two bait carcasses off the stern, sometimes lazily and on occasion quite quickly. We were fortunate enough to witness a breach on one occasion – a male, who had previously made half-hearted passes at the bait, disappeared, the emerged from deep below the boat, under the cages, at speed, and hit the bait vertically from below, taking himself halfway out of the water – to the astonishment, screams and overwhelming joy of everyone aboard.

The visibility, typically, is very good at Isla Guadalupe, so the sun penetrates deep into the water and the boat casts a long shadow into the depths. Often our first sightings each time into the cage(s) were of the dark silhouette emerging from the shadow cast by the boat, coming up slowly from below and then circling the cages, bait and boat for some time before silently disappearing into the shadows again. Though each of us kept eyes peeled in all directions, it was amazing how frequently we were taken by surprise by a shark suddenly appearing. On deck, between dives, the crew is very experienced and keen eyed; and, they will call out “White Shark” as they approach, usually well before any guests see them. From above or below it is mesmerizing, and difficult to turn away.

Isla Guadalupe:
There are a few places worldwide to see Great White Sharks with predictability. Both South Africa and the Farallon Islands offer this opportunity; but, both have limited underwater visibility and challenging water temperatures. Isla Guadalupe has better water clarity, 100 foot visibility, and weather, and very few (we saw only three other) boats, some distance away. Unlike other locations, Isla Guadalupe will not force you to deal with cold and murky water, crowded boats and cages, quick “in and out” quick thrill experiences, etc. You will have days on the dive site, in relatively warm and very clear water, and good weather.

#153 he needs a name! You can name him by clicking here

Isla Guadalupe is a designated Bio Sphere, a marine sanctuary. It sits about 200 miles southwest of San Diego. It is made up of volcanic remnants and has a stark beauty, with tall, steep cliffs diving hundreds of feet down to sea. There are large populations of, and rookeries for, elephant seals, sea lions – all of which you are very likely to see, with approaches to boat on occasion.

Timing:
Typically, though as Martin notes there are no hard and fast rules with White Sharks, they tell us the males will show up in earlier months – e.g., July, August, and September – and in greater numbers. And the typically October and November are when they have female sightings – the females being fewer but much larger than the males. Also, typically, the wetter weather comes later in the year, with the Pacific hurricane / wet season; but, this too is not always the case.

The Drive Out:
It is a long trip out to, and back from Isla Guadalupe from / to San Diego. It was some eight hours from San Diego to Ensenada Mexico, where we docked to have passports checked, and then a long 18 +/- hours to Isla Guadalupe. Note that the return trip is the same itinerary, in reverse, with a stop in Ensenada before entering U.S. waters. Along the way out to Guadalupe, a large pod of dolphins escorted us. The sea can often be a bit rough to quite rough, with good swells causing a fair bit of roll onboard. Owing to timing, much of the initial leg is spent hanging out in main cabin getting to know fellow divers, with folks eventually heading to their beds – sleep and good anti motion sickness remedies work well. Most folks used some combination of ear patch and oral medication. It’s a long drive, so be smart and just bring your meds.

The Boat:
You won’t “Need bigger boat”  The MV Horizon the Horizon is roughly 80 feet long with 8 state rooms and several bunks. There are two restrooms and showers that are shared by all. The accommodations (two persons to a room with curtain for privacy and in bunks) are not lux, but they are nice, and you won’t care anyway  The Horizon is used only as diving vessel; and that’s all season long. They determine who bunks together once everyone arrives in San Diego, based on number of couples, individual travelers, etc. The sleeping quarters are below,, and the main cabin contains the galley and a series of booths along each side used for dining and spending time together with travelers in route or between dives. Net / net, this is a large and comfortable boat.

The Cages:
There are two, kept on deck astern for the trip and each night when diving is completed. For each day’s diving, each is suspended off, but affixed to, the stern at the surface (that is, they do not sink below) – so you simply climb down a ladder and into the cage (easy); and each easily holds four divers. One cage is aft port, one aft starboard. You will alternate each dive, so that everyone has plenty of time in each cage.

 The Dives:
The divers are assigned to two teams. Each team dives for an hour, and then rests and re-hydrates for an hour while the alternate team dives. Each team has four people in each cage, and the team alternates cages each time, so everyone gets to try both cages and gets plenty of dive time and rest. There were a couple days of early open diving as well – starting just after sunrise – during which anyone who preferred could climb into either cage.

The crew will size you for suits, equipment, weights, and Martin himself oriented each of us to breathing via air hose and made sure we comfortable before we stepped fully down into the cage.
Safety is primary and at no point was anything but utterly assured all was well and well in control. No divers are ever permitted out of the cages – for the sake of the sharks, the marine preserve, as well as the divers. You are completely safe at all times. There were folks of all ages, bith genders, and widely varying experience levels. Past trips have included folks in their 60’s and 70’s, and quite young divers as well. The always amazing Cindy at Shark Diver can advise on particulars.

Breathing with the hookah system is easy – no metal tanks to strap on, simply a long hose that goes from on deck tank system to each diver’s regulator (mouthpiece through which you breathe). So, if you’ve ever snorkeled and used a mask, you’ll be just fine. The cages are beyond sturdy, offer complete visibility around, above and below, and are plenty large enough for each set of divers.

The Purpose:
In addition to the opportunity provided to guests to see these amazing creatures, each shark observed is photographed (Martin, Nicole and the divers get to participate in this) and compared to a database of previously observed sharks. New sharks are named and tracked in the database each successive year. This is a joint effort between the Marine Conservation Science Institute (MCSI) and Shark Diver. 

#172 Freya a shark that was newly named this season.

Newly identified sharks on a particular dive are named by the people on the dive in a bidding process (proceeds of which go to the MCSI and shark research effort). On a side note, I was fortunate enough from a 2014 dive with Shark Diver to name one – Hooper (after the Richard Dreyfuss oceanographer character in Jaws) – great fun and a great way to support the cause.

# 159 Hooper

Isla Guadalupe is home to a marine preserve and a research station manned by a researcher named Mauricio – who will visit the Horizon and give an excellent presentation with Martin on Great White Sharks and the Isla Guadalupe Bio Sphere.

The Shark Diver Team:
Martin Graf, the CEO and dive leader, teacher, host is a deeply experienced and great guy. He is hands on, overseeing everything on the dives. He also gives talks and a presentation to the divers on Isla Guadalupe, Great White Sharks, and many experiences with both. If Nicole Nasby Lucas (again, researcher from MCSI) is leading Science Expedition, she, too, will give a fine presentation, talk. Both Martin and Nicole worked each evening on identified sharks seen from photographs taken during the day. All the reservations, logistics, arrangements, and care taking of the divers before and after is led by the excellent and omnipresent Cindy Michaels, their Director of Communications – Cindy was a rock star and took care of every question and need leading up to the trip.

The Horizon Crew:
In a word, excellent. Experienced captain, crew – professional, easy going, genuinely friendly, and they take care of anything you might need. I cannot say enough good things about the crew of the Horizon.

The Food:
As noted elsewhere, the food is outstanding. The quality and quantity of the meals is positively surprising and uniformly excellent. There is also beer and wine aboard. There are large and delicious breakfasts every morning cooked to order, excellent lunches (including Sashimi), and absolutely fantastic dinners, including prime rib near end of stay. The galley will account for you preferences and restrictions with no problem.

Thank you David Moore! We appreciate you taking the time to share your experience with us and our future divers. We are glad you enjoyed your expedition and hope to see you again on another shark trip.

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.