Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Neil Hammerschlag - Saving the Blue

Neil Hammerschlag is a Ph.D. Candidate in Marine Biology and Fisheries at the University of Miami, Rosensteil School for Marine and Atmospheric Science and co-directs the South Florida Student Shark Program (SFSSP), a multi-disciplinary education and research program providing practical-hands-on marine field research experience for high school and undergraduate students, and is working in collaboration with the National Parks Service to establish a unique virtual distance education project to bring ocean exploration into classrooms via live online interactive wireless communications.

I just recently started to donate to his student program after my prior shark foundation experience was not too fulfilling... Neil invited my father and me to go out with him late this Novemeber - very much looking forward to this (not as a result of my small donations :-).

In addition, Neil is also part of a new project: Save the Blue whose current campaign is to bring the movie Sharkwater, together with WildAid, to China. If there is one place that Sharkwater needs to be shown extensively it is here. Enough with the Festivals and Awards - bring the movie to where it will really make a difference.

A little secret - he is a terrible bowler...

Just to be clear I am not happy the direction the Sharkwater team has taken - but I do support the fact that Save the Blue and WildAid are trying to distribute and show the movie in Asia...

Monday, October 27, 2008

"Noblesse Oblige" - By Patric Douglas

Patric Douglas over at Shark Divers seems to have had some similar thoughts in reference to the "Where Credit is Due" post:

"There's an old French saying “Noblesse Oblige"It roughly translates in to Nobel Obligation. Those that are on the front lines of an issue and can effect change have a nobel obligation to do so.

Which gets us to the state of commercial shark diving worldwide. The industry is valued at $200-300 million dollars and for the most part, operators are content to show divers sharks, make money and repeat. Without a doubt the current state of “Noblesse
 Oblige" in our industry is at an all time low.

Let me qualify this statement before the angry emails start. 
In our world effecting change with sharks goes beyond just interacting with these animals on a commercial level or aligning ourselves with non profits who are doing all the heavy lifting. You have to be engaged, you have to create directional focus and motivate people-who might not consider it-to be active in the shark community. Let's face it with 80 million sharks being killed each and every year there's little room anymore for fence sitters who are content to just make money diving with sharks.

Operators should be bound by “Noblesse
 Oblige" to create conservation efforts outside their operations. Real and lasting projects that further the protection of sharks, shark science, and conservation.

Having said this there are some simply stunning projects out there that are fully supported by many forward thinking commercial shark diving operations. They are, unfortunately, the minority of the industry and we can do much better beyond a few online petitions, some POS material on a vessel, and an eco chat with our guests.

As front line sentinels, operators from California to South Africa are often the first to report trouble, and have a key insight into the health and direction of local shark populations. One of the misnomers is that real and effective shark conservation costs a lot of money, it does not. 
It does take time and effort beyond operations.

There are many within the shark community who are trying to make 2009 The Year of the Sharks-to that may we add “Tiburon Noblesse
Oblige". The hope that operations worldwide look to where they can become involved, create local efforts, websites, focus and direction.

We cannot allow NGO's to shoulder the shark conservation burden alone. Noblesse
 Oblige can and will effect lasting change for shark conservation. Time is a luxury that sharks are in short supply of.

Patric Douglas CEO

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Where Credit is Due

I just finished reading the new book by Seth Godin: Tribes. The book is essentially about "opportunities for leading your fellow employees, customers, investors, believers, hobbyists, readers...etc." One of the sections is called "Where credit is due"

It says that leaders don't care about credit...this made me think of the shark community: photographers, videographers, scientists, non-profits, activists, and the hundreds of online communities that have sprung up on Facebook and other social networks. It is unfortunate to see that lack of togetherness because too many people want credit - they want credit for bringing the media’s attention to something, changing a law, making a movie, getting a grant…the list goes on.

I see the bickering between people on Shark Group forums; I have heard that scientists do not like one another and that organizations refuse to work together. Too many people have their own agendas and are just using sharks and their misfortune as an opportunity to springboard themselves to “fame”. If everyone’s agenda was to save sharks - sharks would be safer today.

Unfortunately I feel that our shark community has no leader and therefore not as much gets done and change is slow. I hope that whoever reads this does not in any way feel attacked (and if you do, you are probably one of the people that wants credit).

The section of the book ends with: "There's no record of Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi whining about credit. Credit isn't the point. Change is."

Credit isn't the point. Change is.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

DEMA 2008

So I have attended my first DEMA ever and I must say that I had a lot of fun.  Finally been able to put a face to so many people that I have come to know digitally.  Also met a lot of my dad "virtual" friends for the first, I even came across some old faces.

Some of the people (not in order of anything):

Eric from
Jeremiah from Neptunic
Brendal from Green Turtle Cay - Bahamas
Georgienne from Imaging Foundation

Great to finally meet everyone - now I just need to get the old man to come to Orlando next year...

See some photos here - for live updates of the conference go to: and

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Breaking news from South Africa - very sad ones...

Is this "Dartboard", "Ella" or "Mathilda"?...

Safe - for now.

This is the second assault on the tiger sharks of Aliwal Shoal in 2008. The sad news I received today ruined much more than just my day.

Read what  Mark Addison of Blue Wilderness, Umkomaas / Scottburgh, wrote:

Dear all:

Today was a tragic day for the tiger sharks in the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area. Two animals were killed in the shark nets at Scottburgh this morning and we were able to free another little girl later in the day.

Kind regards


I felt sick (literally), devastated, sad, and outraged beyond description.

The diver who rescued the small tiger girl, and lovingly holds on to her, is Steve Benjamin, a young marine biologist who works as a shark guide at Blue Wilderness. This is, by far, the most tender and telling 'man-shark' photograph I have ever seen.

The image could be the poster for the forthcoming "Year of the Shark 2009".

Steve: We all embrace and applaud you for having saved this little girl. You are a gentleman in the true sense of the word - a gentle man!

We will have to launch a massive, well coordinated initiative with all means we have at our disposal to have the South African authorities remove the shark nets in their territory. This issue is long overdue, and now is the time to ACT decisively!
We need to let the world know that to protect the tiger sharks of Aliwal Shoal is a just cause - it will be the fight of the concerned few against the indifference of the many. No more, no less.

Let our motto be:

"Shark nets: We don't need the nets - we need the sharks!

The Good and the Bad...

The Good

The Bad

So I am in Beijing and thought I was going to be able to avoid the shark-finning issue...I almost did.

At first I was pleasantly surprised as I came across a large billboard of Yao Ming and a shark - said that if you stop buying, you stop the killing.

Ironically this was on the way to the restaurant I was going to eat some Peking duck at. Flipping through the menu I came across, what else, some shark fin soup... I was thinking about leaving, but honestly did not think I was going to find a typical Chinese establishment that does not serve fins.

Regardless, I applaud the Save Our Seas Foundation efforts and do think there is hope...maybe it is just wishful thinking...

I wonder why Sharkwater has not been shown in China yet -

Friday, October 17, 2008

Frank Mundus

About 2-3 weeks ago I was reading The Economist when I came across the Obituary section. Featured was Frank Mundus – probably the most famous shark fisherman – some may recall Captain Quint from Jaws – while Benchley denied that the character was based on Mundus, he did go out with him on various occasions for “research” purposes - there are obvious similarities.

Regardless I am trying to figure out why The Economist would dedicate a page to Mundus…I do not think I can say anything negative about him and what he did – after all he was part of a generation that did not know what impact their actions would have and how they would be seen today. In fact, most “ocean men” of the 1940s-1950s started diving to hunt – Jacques Cousteau believe it or not was an avid spear fisher – even my old man started that way.

I think what is important to realize that some of these men changed and have become ambassadors of the ocean…I am not sure what Mr. Mundus did in his last years – I remember seeing him in the Discovery Channel interacting with live White Sharks – but cannot confirm that he became an activist per se.

It would have been great to see him lead an initiative to end the Montauk Shark Fishing Tournament

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Petting tiger shark "Mathilda" is (almost) like petting Husky "Lupi"....

"Mathilda" isn't always hungry for cameras - maybe she hasn't seen mine (can YOU see it?...)
Photograph taken by Rob Allen, great Brit, and great Friend with a capital "F"
(Click on the image to enlarge)

Now that I have been a dog dad for more than two months I desperately need to be a tiger dad again.

Many reasons - first and foremost, I just miss the striped babes; second, I need to get out of Bolivia for a while to preserve my sanity (the country is on the verge of civil war); and third, I feel that a diving vacation is the best I can do for myself in order not to have to think constantly about tumbling stock prices.

I will be at Tiger Beach in about four weeks with a lot of very cool friends, old and new. Some of them are fellow members of the shark lists.

As far as I am concerned, nothing can go wrong on that trip: One of the guests is a French surgeon, and one is a Canadian comedian.... What more can you
'axe' for?? :-)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Great Shark Initiative

Patric, over at Underwater Thrills - Swimming with Sharks, has a great post and idea that I think is just phenomenal: Shark Free Marinas - think smoke free areas in Marinas talking specifically to anglers that choose to kill sharks and show them and themselves off at Marinas.  This initiative, if implemented, will definitely increase the catch-and-release practice and save the lives of many sharks.  As far as the Marinas' go, they could further promote themselves as Green and eco-friendly.