Friday, April 22, 2016

How do you choose the right shark diving operation?


Instagram 

Shark diving has gained in popularity over the last decade or so. With the increasing number of operations that offer interactions with sharks, we have also seen a growing trend for some operators to use irresponsible and in some cases down right stupid and dangerous diving practices. 



So how can a diver find an operation that is using responsible and sustainable practices? How does he/she know if an operation is participating in conservation efforts, education and research?


Now there is a way to do exactly that. Rick McPherson, a marine biologist and conservationist has created a website, www.sustainablesharkdiving.com that is rating shark diving operations on various criteria, helping divers in choosing who to go with. It is sort of like a trip advisor for the shark diving industry. 

We at Shark Diver are proud to provide our divers with a "Safe and Sane" shark diving experience and support research and conservation through our collaboration with the Marine Conservation Science Institute. We are excited about Rick's new website and hope that anyone interested in shark diving will use it when choosing their next dive operation.

Here is the press release, announcing www.sustainablesharkdiving.com

San Francisco, CA
Sustainable Shark Dive Tourism Website Now Live: Best Practices and Trip Reviews
Sustainable Shark Diving (www.sustainablesharkdiving.com), a new website that provides tools and “Trip Advisor-like reviews of shark dive tourism operations around the world is now live. The website, previewed at the 2015 DEMA Show in Florida to overwhelming interest and support, has opened and now offers shark divers an opportunity to learn about best practices while helping to promote more sustainable environmental and safety within the industry. 

The popularity and growth of shark dive tourism over the past decade is undeniable. Divers increasingly want to see sharks and are willing to pay well to have close encounters with these charismatic species. For a critically threatened group such as sharks, this is good news. “Over 100 million sharks die each year due to interactions with fisheries, “ reports Rick MacPherson, marine biologist, conservationist, and founder of the new online tool Sustainable Shark Diving “I believe a living shark showcased for tourism over its lifetime is better than a dead shark used once for its fins and meat,” says MacPherson. “I created sustainablesharkdiving.com as a free, open access portal for tourists and dive operators to help underscore the value of healthy shark populations to tourism as well as highlight best practices and lessons learned from shark dive operations around the world.” Dr Austin Gallagher, Postdoctoral Researcher at Carleton University and principal author of a ground-breaking 2015 global study of the shark diving industry, agrees, "The value of shark diving tourism to local economies and cultures has emerged as one of the leading arguments for the conservation of sharks around the world."
The shark dive tourism industry has already taken note of the value of this new online tool. Jorge Loria, owner of Phantom Divers, a bull shark diving operation in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, believes this tool will help create a higher standard for the growing shark diving industry, “Diving with a sustainable business that is safe and educational results in a benefit to both divers and sharks because the more we know about sharks the better we can protect them.” Mike Neumann, owner of Beqa Adventure Divers in Fiji agrees: “This will be a game changer and a huge step towards propelling the shark diving industry towards a more long term sustainable model.” 

Sustainable Shark Diving fills an industry need by providing a free, one-stop source for best safety and environmental practices and guidelines that have been established around the world for the viewing of sharks (and their flat cousins the rays). “Sustainable Shark Diving offers visitors a compilation of shark diving best practices and guidelines,” explains MacPherson. “You can search by shark species or by region. Whether you want to dive with white sharks, whale sharks, oceanic whitetip, bull, nurse, or any species, you will find the most currently accepted sustainability guidelines for that type of experience.” 

Importantly, Sustainable Shark Diving features a Trip Advisor-like review section that allows divers to rate their experience with any shark dive operation against a set of sustainability criteria that includes safety, environmental performance, staff interactions, and overall educational/conservation value. "This tool has enormous potential to begin pushing the entire global industry closer to sustainability and accountability”, says Dr Gallagher. “By allowing the tourists themselves - the lifeblood of this and any tourism industry - to rank the performance, safety, and environmental ethics of operators around the world, the industry as a whole becomes more transparent and we can promote the good and hopefully phase out the bad.

ABOUT RICK MACPHERSON, FOUNDER
Rick MacPherson is a marine ecologist and conservationist with three decades of experience in solving environmental challenges. He has a particular focus and interest in the intersection of conservation and marine tourism. As a PADI certified diver for over 35 years, he has witnessed the decline of coral reefs and shark populations during his lifetime. In response, MacPherson has become a passionate advocate and thought leader on the role of sustainable tourism as a lever for ocean conservation. Achievements have included development of the world’s first standards for scuba diving, snorkeling, and boating; designer of the Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Marine Tours for the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), and founder of the Mesoamerican Reef Tourism Initiative--the longest-running sustainable tourism project in the Americas. With a belief and expertise in collaborative solutions, MacPherson has brokered partnerships across governments, corporations, NGOs, private sector, and local communities to arrive at pragmatic solutions to complex environmental problems. He is Founder and Principal of Pelagia Consulting, a San Francisco-based ocean science and conservation think tank, where he serves as senior advisor to international NGOs and charitable foundations. In 2013, MacPherson was awarded the Oris/Scuba Diving Magazine Sea Hero of the Year Award in recognition of his achievements in ocean conservation. 




CONTACT 

Rick MacPherson, Founder Sustainable Shark Diving rickmacpherson@me.com +1 (510) 295-5538

Let's go (sustainable) 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.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

What's it like to come face to face with a Great White Shark?


Instagram 

What's it like to come face to face with a Great White Shark? That is a question I get asked time and time again. With the news media portraying sharks as blood thirsty, mindless killers, just looking to eat us, most people think I have a death wish, diving with sharks. So I thought I should share what it is really like to come face to face with one of the most feared creatures on earth.


Here is a little video that shows how most people think an encounter with a shark will be like.

video



The reality it is more like the sharks swim by slowly, looking you straight into the eyes and showing absolutely no signs that they want to eat you.


When I first started diving with white sharks, what struck me is the fact that it is not scary at all. I'm by no means the only one that feels that way. In 15 seasons of taking divers to meet these awesome creatures, the most common reaction when coming face to face with a great white shark is just awe. Even divers who saw "Jaws" and joined us expecting a huge adrenaline rush, mostly are just blown away by the experience and don't find it the least bit scary. The scariest part of the expedition is the anticipation of that first meeting.


I remember that after about 3 trips to Guadalupe Island I started thinking "I've seen it" and didn't expect to do this for much longer. Well, at the time I didn't expect to be in the cage and have "Shredder" swim by to check me out. When he looked me straight into the eye, something happened. I realized that this huge shark is focused on me, that he was individually checking everyone out.

Shredder

Thinking back, that is when I fell in love with those sharks. Now as I always say to our divers. I love those sharks, but it is not a mutual feeling. That is perfectly OK. I love them for what they are, awesome predators, not mindless killers, but certainly no harmless pets either.


I don't feel the need to tell everyone that these sharks love me and that I can go hold onto their fins, because they accept me as one of their own. Come to think of it, I'm glad that they don't treat me as one of their own. Even though I'm not a small person, in terms of white shark size, I would be a very, very small shark. White sharks definitely are into having their personal space and don't react kindly to a smaller individual invading that space. I've seen what they do to a smaller shark that is doing this.


I've been diving with sharks for over 15 years and I'm excited every time I'm about to get into the water with them. I find them fascinating and discovered that they are generally very cautious and even shy, not the mindless killers the media makes them out to be at all. Last season I saw 3 white sharks that got scared by a towel that fell overboard and drifted down. 2 of them checked it out and got the heck out of there. One of them kept circling it, approaching it and jerking away, when the towel moved a little. He kept doing that until both he and the towel went out of sight.

I hope that I have given you an idea of what it feels like to come face to face with a great white shark. If you really want to know, there is no substitute for experiencing it for yourself and I hope you'll get that chance. It is an experience you'll never forget. When you do go out, remember that while we don't have to fear these sharks, we definitely have to respect them.


We at Shark Diver promote "Safe and Sane Shark Diving" that respects the sharks and the environment. We hope to see you on one of our expeditions to Guadalupe Island.

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.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Update from our friends in Fiji


Instagram 

This is a reblog from Mike in Fiji. http://fijisharkdiving.blogspot.com/2016/02/cyclone-winston-images.html

It looks like they made it through the Cyclone OK, but that can't be said for other parts of Fiji.



Just amazing.
I've just come back from Suva.
Insiders know the route which leads through several villages and settlements with plenty of ramshackle dwellings, and then through the suburb of Lami and finally, Suva proper. I was expecting to see some signs of the devastation but... nothing! 
Everything is clean and tidy, and all I could discern were a total of three missing roofs where repairs were already well underway.
Like I said, just amazing!
But in the North and in the islands, things are completely different.
This is yesterday's local News bulletin.




These poor people need urgent help.
Should you want to contribute, please re-read this  - and should you want to use other channels, you may want to first ascertain whether the funds will be ultimately disbursed to the National Disaster Management Office  and then, the District Disaster Management Committee (DISMAC) that are coordinating the efforts, and what portion of your funds will be wasted on overheads as is too often the case. Like the PM said, this is really not the moment for waste, duplication let alone obstruction!
Thank you very much!

If you would like to help out, Mike is recommending the following ways.
The Prime Minister's disaster relief fund  http://www.fiji.gov.fj/Media-Center/Press-Releases/FIJIAN-GOVERNMENT-ESTABLISHES-DISASTER-RELIEF-FUND.aspx

The Fiji Red Cross: http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=342687

I'm glad that our friends have made it through the Cyclone OK and I urge you to help the less fortunate one in Fiji via one of the above means.

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.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Who is more aggressive, a Bull Shark or a Great White?


Instagram 
We hear a lot about how aggressive shark are. Some people think that if they encounter a shark in the ocean, they will get bit. This kind of thinking is at least partially fueled by the media that seems to portray any encounter with a shark as a near death experience.

I've been diving with Great White, Bull and Tiger Sharks for over 15 years now and have found that most sharks are actually pretty shy and not very aggressive. Despite the fact that shark bites and attacks are extremely rare, the common perception is that they are dangerous. When it comes to what species is most dangerous, people tell me that because they have more testosterone than any other shark, Bull Sharks are the most aggressive and therefore the most dangerous to humans.

It is true, that since Bull Sharks can swim and hunt in very shallow, brackish and even fresh water, they tend to be in much closer proximity to humans than Tiger or Great White Sharks. This obviously leads to a greater chance of an encounter with them, which can result in an occasional bite or attack. Such bites however remain extremely rare. Last year there were 96 shark bites with 6 fatalities reported worldwide. These numbers include all species of shark.

I think that a lot of people confuse feeding with aggression. Biting that is related to hunting or feeding has nothing to do with the testosterone level, but is simply and indication that the shark is hungry. Aggression has to do with defending their territory, establishing dominance and is usually directed toward another shark or a perceived competitor. So if we look at it that way, who is more aggressive, the Bull Shark, or the Great White Shark?

Well, let me show you a couple of pictures.





These pictures all show Great White Sharks with bite marks from their own kind. It is rare to see an adult Great White Shark that doesn't have some kind of scar or fresh bite mark on them. These sharks are very much into keeping their "personal space" and it is rare for them to touch each other, without there being some biting involved. Typically when 2 White Sharks encounter each other, they pass each other head on, to establish who is bigger. If that doesn't settle it, they tend to come back together and swim parallel with each other, to get a closer look. Now if that still doesn't settle it, the more dominant sharks usually shows the other who's boss by biting it on the head or in the gill area.

Now I want to stress that the aggression I have observed on White Sharks is shown towards other shark and not humans, or other animals in the ocean. Just like any other "dangerous" shark, they are not very likely to attack a human.



Add caption
2 of these sharks just got a tuna head, they show no aggression.

In the pictures above, you can see lot's of Bull Sharks swimming very close together and there doesn't seem to be any aggression. I've seen over 70 of those sharks, without noticing any that had bite marks on them. This is something that definitely can't be said about Great Whites.

It never ceases to amaze me, how little we know about sharks and how much of what we "know" is actually wrong. We tend to think that something like testosterone will have the same effect in sharks as it does in humans. On the flip side of the "sharks are mindless killer" attitude, there is the "sharks want to be hugged" crowd, that is trying to show how harmless these sharks are by riding, grabbing, flipping and hugging them.

Let's appreciate the sharks for who and what they are. They are not mindless killers, but neither are they harmless pets. As I always say, "I absolutely love "my" sharks, but it is not a mutual feeling and that is perfectly fine with me". I don't feel the need to assign human emotions to them, I love em just they way they are.

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.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Our friends in Fiji made it through the cyclone!


Instagram 

It looks like our friends in Fiji made it through Cyclone Winston, the worst in history.

Here is Mike's first hand report. http://fijisharkdiving.blogspot.com/2016/02/back-in-business.html?spref=fb

A picture of the devastation.

Back in Business!

We're opening tomorrow.

But first.
This has been the worst cyclone to ever hit the SoPac, and one of the very worst globally.
Our thoughts go to the families of the deceased and missing, to the many who got injured, to the countless displaced, many of whom have literally lost everything.

But this is Fiji.
Yes the widespread stoicism in the face of the onrushing onslaught may have seemed peculiar - but the flip side is that after the event, there is no drama whatsoever as instead of lamenting and waiting for others to help, we get up, dust ourselves off and carry on. 
Case in point, the power and water are miraculously back on, and everybody is busy cleaning up and helping friends and neighbors to get back on their feet. And a big bravo to Government who has been handling this admirably right from the get go, and who continues show leadership by being proactive, efficient and effective all throughout the country.

I also want to thank our friends.
Your outpouring of support has been frankly humbling, and we all thank you for that. No we really don't need anything - but should you want to make a valuable contribution, please make a donation to the Fiji Red Cross or to the Prime Minister's Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation Fund as right now, those are by far the most effective venues for quickly getting the right help to the affected people.
Thank you very much.
 

Anyway, we're open for business.
Can't wait to have my first look at Shark Reef that has been battered by phenomenal seas. We've recently established a shallow nursery for different endangered Giant Clams, and I'm fearing the worst - but who knows, we here are resilient.

Keep watching this space! 

We are all glad you made it through OK and are looking forward to diving with you in May.

Cheers!
Martin Graf

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.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Is "BAD" really GOOD?

Instagram 
The shark dive at the Shark Reef Marine Reserve in Fiji has been dubbed "The best shark dive in the world" by none other than shark diving pioneers Ron and Valerie Taylor.


Now Beqa Adventure Divers, the "Conservation project masquerading as a dive shop" that was instrumental in the creation of the reserve has received another great award. They were honored with the ANZ Excellence in Tourism award for Tourism Sustainability! This is a very prestigious award, being recognize as the best of the thousands of tourism businesses in Fiji! 

 

Congratulations to all the guys and gals at "BAD" You are truly awesome!

Read more about the ANZ awards here http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=342289

On a different note, I hope you guys are staying safe with Cyclone "Winston" heading your way. I'm looking forward to diving with you again in a couple of months.

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.

Monday, February 15, 2016

What is sustainable shark diving?


Instagram 
We in the shark conservation field have been saying for years that a shark is worth more alive than dead. We have been citing various examples of how a live shark can bring a lot more money to an area through tourism than it would being sold one time for it's meat or fins.


There are a lot of conservationists who are advocating activities like shark diving to accomplish that goal, while others are pointing to the problems those operations can create. The problem is, how do we know if the outfit we plan on going with is taking conservation serious? How do we know who to go with?

Diving safely, inside a cage at Guadalupe Island
Well, now there is a way, or to be more precise, there will be a way. Rick McPherson, a well respected conservationist is creating a website sustainablesharkdiving.com that is going to be sort of  a trip advisor for shark diving.

This is how Rick describes it himself "SustainableSharkDiving.com  was created as a free, online tool for the rapidly growing shark dive tourism community to make more informed choices about the businesses shark divers choose to support, recognize those businesses employing sustainable best practices, and encourage businesses that may need to improve their environmental performance to ensure the safety of both their clients and sharks. This is an experiment to see if consumer voices can help build a stronger, safer, more sustainable industry.

This website will give the customers the ability to rate the dive operations, not just on their service, but also on their practices. Categories for the ratings include: are they following good practices in their interactions with the sharks, are they educating their customers, are they supporting the local community etc.?

Rick still need some funds to complete the website. He has a gofund me page, where you can support his efforts. Please send him a few dollars. He is not asking for much and the website can really make a difference and be a valuable tool for those divers interested in supporting sustainable shark diving.

Please click on the following link to make a donation: https://www.gofundme.com/sharkdiving

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.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

What kills fewer people than sharks each year?


Instagram 

Every time a deadly shark attack occurs, people start pointing out what kills more people than sharks each year. This led me to think of a different question. What kills fewer people than sharks each year? Do you know anything that kills people, but fewer than 6 people worldwide? There might be something, but I haven't found it yet. So keep that question in mind, when you read the following.


A record number of global shark attacks is making the news these days. As expected, the headlines proclaiming this fact vary, along with the tone of the article accompanying them.

Discovery.com has a headline that says: "Record number of shark attacks in 2015" and their article goes on to mention all the places those attacks have happened and how those numbers increased.

Shark attacks hit an all time high last year, with the United States leading all nations in numbers of such attacks, according to the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File.

Climate change, recovering shark populations and more people in the water help to explain the high number of recorded shark attacks for 2015: 98, including six fatalities. All of the attacks were unprovoked.





Discovery stresses the fact that all of those attacks were unprovoked and is careful to point out that we can expect an increase in those numbers. They stress the fact that the number of fatal attacks doubled in 2015 versus 2014.

"Sharks plus humans equals attacks," George Burgess, curator of the file, which houses the globe's clearinghouse of shark attack data, said in a press release. "As our population continues to rapidly grow and shark populations slowly recover, we’re going to see more interactions."
 
2015 broke the prior record, which was set in 2000. That year, there were 88 attacks. 2015 further saw double the number of deaths from shark attacks versus 2014.

Bull Sharks swimming along divers in Fiji
Yes, the number of fatalities doubled versus 2014, but what they fail to mention is that the 2014 number was unusually low and only about half the annual average.

From the International Shark Attack File summary: Significantly, worldwide there were only six fatalities (producing a 6.1% fatality rate) resulting from unprovoked attacks (two in Reunion and single incidents in Australia, New Caledonia, Hawaii, and Egypt).  The six attacks matched the annual average of the previous decade.  

This total is remarkably low given the billions of human-hours spent in the water each year.

Discovery is also giving some good advice on how to avoid a shark attack, but not without prefacing it with "To avoid adding to the yearly tally", implying that not following that advice would lead to a shark attack. To avoid adding to the yearly tally, Burgess and his team advise not to swim at dusk, dawn or night. They also say not to wear shiny jewelry in the water, and not to swim where people are fishing, where fish are schooling or where seabirds are feeding. 

It's not until the very end of their article that they mention that there is really no reason to worry by saying this. Even with 2015's record-breaking number of shark attacks, your chances of experiencing such a risky encounter are very slim. Burgess reminded that the following culprits killed more people than sharks last year: spiders, dogs and lightning.
  
So Discovery's headline could just as easily have said "Spiders, dogs and lightning kill more people than sharks!" but then again, who would read such an article? I'm really disappointed that an outlet that is supposedly meant to educate on nature and science, is stooping to sensationalizing and spreading fear instead. 



On the other hand, an outlet not usually known for holding back on sensational headlines, FOX 13 news in Tampa Bay had this headline: Researchers: 2015 breaks shark attack record, but don't panic.


They start their article by saying: A record number of unprovoked shark attacks in 2015 prompted University of Florida researchers to find out why.

The school released its report on what might be behind the 98 attacks - a number which breaks the 2000 record of 88 attacks. However, researchers said the increase should not be cause of alarm. Although there were more attacks in 2015, fatality rate was half that of 2000. Also, the increase in attacks was likely due to a growing human population, not a growing hunger amongst sharks for human flesh.

Kudos to FOX 13 in Tampa Bay for reporting a shark attack story factually, without any sensationalism! Who knew that the mainstream media could do a better job at covering this story than a science network?

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.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Wanna dive with Bull Sharks?


Instagram 

Bull Shark Diving Fiji

Bull Sharks in Fiji are calling you in May of 2016.

Experience what many call the world's best shark dive. We are diving with big, really big bull sharks. The sharks at the Shark Reef Marine Reserve are up to 12 ft. long.


Beqa Adventure Divers will take us out to shark reef, where we will be diving with as many as 70 bull sharks at a time, with the occasional tiger shark showing up for a visit. If that is not enough, during our safety stop we will be surrounded by scores of black- and white-tip reef-sharks, making for the perfect end to an unforgettable dive. On our non shark diving days, we'll go out and explore the soft corals and wrecks of Beqa Lagoon. Discover what over a decade of conservation efforts have resulted in!




This May, Shark Diver's CEO Martin Graf is personally going to lead you on this shark lover's dream vacation!




We will be staying at the luxurious Pearl South Pacific Resort in Pacific Harbor,  where we'll feast on a delicious breakfast buffet each day, to prepare us for the exciting shark diving that lies ahead.







Price: $1800 per person/ double occupancy

Price includes:
  • 7 nights in a brand new Garden View room at The Pearl South Pacific Resort (double occupancy)
  • Breakfast buffet daily
  • 4 days of 2-tank Bull Shark Diving
  • 1 day of 2-tank Soft Coral Diving
  • Round-trip transfers from Nadi Airport to The Pearl South Pacific Resort
  • All taxes (tip for dive crew and hotel staff not included)
Our dates are: 

May 2016, 6-15, 13-22, 20-29, 27- June 6 and June 3-12 (sold out) The trip dates are from the US. We are crossing the date line on our way to Fiji. When we leave on Friday night, we arrive in Fiji on Sunday morning. On our way back, we leave Fiji on Sunday night and arrive in Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon.

Above dates don't work for you? Call us and we can customize a trip for you.


Come join us on this incredible adventure!

Call 619.887.4275 or email staff@sharkdiver.com to book or get more information.

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.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Can our loving sharks be bad for them?


Instagram 


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.