Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Into 2009 with a BIG smile!

Lemon Shark (Tiger Beach, Bahamas, November 2008)

Best wishes to you, to the sharks - to all of us.

2009 is not just 2009: It's theYear of the Shark!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Why do I post my pics in the Internet?

Jennifer Mah (self-portrait)


Hi, Wolfgang:

I apologize, but I don't have any real questions.

I just stumbled upon your website, and couldn't leave without writing you. I just find what you do so inspiring and so beautiful. Your photos are brilliant, and the way you interact with sharks amazes me.

I want so badly to break into underwater photography, but underwater housing is just so expensive!

Anyway, you've inspired me more than I can express in an email, and just thought I should let you know.

Jennifer Mah

Jennifer Mah is a 19 year old student from the UK. She loves sharks, and is an avid photographer.

If Jen feels that my underwater photography inspires her, then she should know that it is folks like her who inspire me to keep going.

Monday, December 22, 2008 to Stop Facilitating the Trade of Shark Fins

We first covered on our blog back in December of 2006. However, the actual campaign started a few months before that.

It is gratifying to see that they finally came around - just in time for The Year of the Shark.

See all our posts regarding

Below is the offical press release from the Shark Group.

Congratulations to all those involved, in particular to Professor Brian W. Darvell for bringing the controversy to the attention of Alibaba's top management - and finally persuading them to stop offering their platform as a virtual shark fin exchange.

We should also applaud Alibaba for demonstrating corporate responsibility and a firm ethical position in an issue of transcendental relevance.

Press Release - The Shark Group

In Honour of The Year of the Shark, Alibaba Ends its Trade in Shark Fin

December 21, 2008

The International Year of the Shark gets off to a good start on January 1, 2009, as on-line trading giant, Alibaba, ceases its trade in shark fins.

The company has been in negotiations regarding the issue for the past year, since shark advocate Brian W. Darvell brought the problem to their attention.

Urging Alibaba to cease the trade, which poses a major threat to the survival of the targeted shark species, has been one of the prime projects of The Shark Group.

As a result of the information they provided, and the numbers of organizations concerned by the company's involvement in the shark fin trade, Alibaba made the group-wide decision to disallow shark fins, and shark fin products, on any of their trading sites.

They have encouraged their users to report incidences of shark fin trading, saying that perpetrators would be "suitably punished."

The company's decision gives a strong message to others that ethical concerns prohibit the participation in the wasteful practice of shark finning, which is one of the most dangerous threats to sharks at this time.

"I have been assured by the company that the intention is that all group websites will be shark fin-free on January 1st, 2009. Essentially, the decision that was made for Taobao applies to the whole of the company," Darvell explained.

While the development brings a ray of hope for shark conservation, The Shark Group remains concerned that the trade could resurface in other forms, and that demand for shark fin soup is still high."

For further information, please contact: Ila France Porcher,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Update on the mystery shark killers

After posting two photos of killed tiger sharks, it seems like we made a little progress.

A friend and co-worker of mine was able to find the complete gallery of the perpetrators and their bloody vacation.

Photos including everything from the gutting, removal of the jaws, to playing with the dead pups.

These people and their actions are absolutely revolting and criminal - the fact of the matter that the victims were sharks does not make this tolerable.

This type of "recreation" needs to be stopped.

Warning: pictures are graphic


More to come...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Who is this?

Shark killer

I originally was going to blog about something else tonight - when I opened my inbox and found these disturbing pictures that were forwarded by my dad. So - I am really curious to find out the name of the tool that has a smirk on his face next to the tiger - any help would be appreciated, at the very least a name should go along with hot shot. Also interested in any help identifying the vessel. Definitely looks like somewhere in the of the photos even looks like the Abacos. Senseless, and killing for fun...other things come to mind, but I wanted to keep the post pg-13

Did any media cover these jerks?

What? Another book about sharks?

"Shark" is another shark book - but wait a minute: This slim paperback is the
best book about sharks I have ever read.

The author: Dean Crawford. He is not a shark "expert", not a marine biologist, not a shark diver. Dean just loves sharks deeply - as most of us do.

What makes this book truly outstanding is the read.

Dean is a literature professor and has done his home work in a scholarly way. That enabled him to cover a plethora of subjects with unrivalled elegance, wit, precision, and persuasion.

If you are a novice, the book will convert you into a sharkman or sharklady. You will either want to dive with sharks or do something to protect them - most likely you'll want to do both.

A confirmed shark fan would just thoroughly enjoy reading about a subject with which he / she is already familiar - or so believes.

You will be surprised how much you will learn while reading this fabulous book.

Let me quote a very eloquent reader comment:

5.0 out of 5 stars A convert, November 2, 2008
Sharks have had bad press. With this book, they finally have a skillful P.R. agent working for them. Dean Crawford loves sharks and wants us to like and help protect them. He asserts that sharks are merely "fish going about their business of prowling for and gobbling other fish life."

Let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed *Shark* - the grace and humor with which it's written and the details, how, for example, the membranes of a shark's eye operate while feeding and that some feed on "baby" elephant seals. I was taken aback that Dean, trying to evoke sympathy for the shark, came up, fully self-conscious, I'm certain, with the word "baby" instead of "young" seals. He must have figured, if you read on after that, you're ripe to take sharks to heart.

Then follows the picture and the horrible details of what happens to sharks when their fins are harvested for food. Who knew? Makes me want to become an activist.
And who knew that all current species of sharks date back to the Jurassic age? Anyone interested in dinosaurs and their classifications would want to latch on to that fact.

And who knew, certainly not I, that there are 450 species of sharks, most totally charming and innocuous, all endangered, "fish going about their business?" Only the GREAT WHITE is the TYRANNOSAURUS REX of sharks, and, like Tyrannosaurus Rex, can't be blamed for being a carnivore.
Even I, who had no particular affinity for sharks, after finishing this book, care deeply about them, though, I have to admit, not as deeply as Dean Crawford, who clearly adores them.

Most sharks are pretty homely. Bullhead sharks, at least from their picture, have faces only their mothers and Dean Crawford could love. He is never critical of sharks, continually talks about their "beauty" or extraordinary "engineering."

I learned in this book that, until the mid-16th century, sharks were not called "sharks," but "sea dogs." Now isn't that nicer? Sure some sea dogs, if aroused, bite, but not all sea dogs. And sea dogs are so despised that fishermen today think nothing of torturing and slaughtering them, 100 million annually.

Dean has riled me up into a state of outrage over these killings. The book's sympathy for one of the world's oldest and most venerable families, is contagious.

Well said, Yossi and Eva!

And a HUGE applause for Dean Crawford!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

You'll never guess who this is....

Click on the image to enlarge

No, it's not a very young new world record apnea diver, and it isn't a daring freediver about to dispatch a large tiger shark with a bang-stick either.

You probably won't recognize him although you see him constantly in TV - Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, BBC. However, you will never get to see him in the documentaries freediving with tiger sharks; maybe with other shark species such as, say, lemon sharks.

His appearance is refreshingly boyish enhanced by a well-worn base-ball cap but he sports an unmasking grey beard. So, a youngster he is not.

You still have no idea who it is?

OK, I won't torture you anymore.

Tarammmmmm - the guy in the pic is the "Doc", the legendary "Herr Professor Dr. Samuel Gruber", as he would be addressed to in Germany and Austria!!!

Although we had exchanged a few e-mails before, it was not until last month that we actually met, quite appropriately in "our" element - in the Bahamian Sea, at Tiger Beach to be precise. The good old Doc was with a BBC film crew on a chartered vessel that was anchored close to the "Dolphin Dream", our boat.

Samuel invited me over to the yacht he was on to dive "his" spot where he wanted us to play with a big tiger girl. That was where I "framed" him and the shark.

I like this memorable image - it is sober, almost minimalistic: Doc, the tiger, and the rippled sand of Tiger Beach.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Some things get better as they age....

..... cognac, pu-ehr tea, certain cheeses, wines, rare books, very few men (Sean Connery) - and in my case: diving.

I have been free-diving for more than 53 years, and I can tell you that it is getting better and better, very unfortunately unlike other passions... :-).

People often ask me what it is that keeps me in the water while I am aging myself like an old piece of Roquefort.

Simple: Sharks.

And of all the sharks I have dived with, it is Galeocerdo Cuvier, the tiger shark that I have become addicted to, in a very literal sense of the word.

Tiger sharks rule!!

I cannot do without them anymore, and as far as I am concerned, there is no cure against this disease - thank God!

Even if there were an anti-shark remedy, to feel healthy I would have to keep this disease from 'healing'.

The clarity of the Bahamian Sea at Tiger Beach is just stunning.
(Photo: Wolfgang Leander, 2008)
Click on image to enlarge

So, that is the reason I will dive only in two places in the future: Tiger Beach and Aliwal Shoal - both destinations are famous for their tiger sharks.

No more coral reefs, no more Galapagos, no more Red Sea, or other exotic dive spots - just Tiger Beach and Aliwal Shoal. And perhaps the most southern tip of South Africa for Great Whites - THAT I owe to myself... :-)

I know that for me shark diving can only get better in these two places...

Diver and Tiger in Aliwal Shoal - darker waters full of mystery....
(Photo: Felix Leander, 2008)
Click on image to enlarge

PS: Much to my chagrin, both in the Bahamas and in South Africa tiger sharks are not fully protected. Tiger sharks are being fished in the Bahamas by so-called 'sport' anglers, and in South Africa, the tigers are not safe from humans either.

During the last couple of months many
tiger sharks were killed entangled in the infamous shark nets along the coast south of Durban that have no
raison d'etre whatsoever other than killing inoffensive sharks.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Remember what we are fighting for

Shark Harmony - Photo by Wolfgang Leander

I just finished watching CNN's Planet in Peril which had an extensive segment on sharks and shark finning. It was great to see Anderson Cooper dive with the sharks without a cage and to listen to what he said about the experience.

At the same time, the section on shark finning, served as a strong reminder for what we are fighting for and the difficult path that lies is good see that sharks made it to primetime...wondering what effect this will have - was it just noise and will it get more people to fight for sharks...

Here is a little reminder of what we are fighting taken by my old man at Tiger Beach on our recent trip.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Shark Fins make it big

Story on shark finning makes homepage on with the editorial on how the practice can alter the ecosystem. Be sure not to miss Planet in Peril on December 11th 9PM EST - report...also check out Anderson Cooper's blog post.

Shout out to Shawn Heinrichs of BlueSphereMedia who has been involved with this.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Why do I love Tiger Sharks?

Tiger Beach (Bahamas), November 2008
Click on the image to enlarge

Many reasons. One of them is the captivating way they observe you.

No other sharks have more expressive eyes than tiger sharks. Once you have looked at them, you will be theirs, forever.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Amanda's Frog

My son already introduced Amanda Cotton to you. Actually, I wanted to do it but Felix was faster.

To show you the quality of Amanda's work, here is the portrait of a little frog she found one day entering her home.

Copyright: Amanda Cotton
Click on the image to enlarge

Amanda immediately recognized that this was not an ordinary frog but a frog with an 'attitude'. So, she quickly improvised an appropriate Frog Photo Studio with a white empty box, put Mr. Froggie gently in it - and produced this stunning masterpiece.

There are few photographers who combine talent with a very solid technical background - Amanda is one of them. She is most creative yet painstakingly meticulous at the same time.

Fiona would probably describe Amanda as the
quintessential professional photographer.

On the human side, Amanda is profound and warm-hearted, refreshingly inquisitive, energetic, and full of genuine empathy for people and animals.

If I were to describe her succintly, I'd say:
"Amanda, you absolutely rock!"

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Fiona Ayerst: "Not a professional"

Photo by Fiona Ayerst - Wolf freediving at night

Let me first give a little background about the title and the inside joke Fiona and I had on the trip...

I first met Fiona when we picked her up at the West Palm airport on our way to Tiger Beach. I was intrigued by her National Geographic backpack which had a broken zipper exposing a lot of papers and other stuff - not sure if any of them were important - somewhat "unprofessional" I thought. On the second day of the trip I asked her what exactly RAW files were - she explained it to me and also pointed out that I would not need these as I was not "professional" - ouch...that was the jab - then she came back with an uppercut when she said that she does not use "stupid" point and shoot cameras - which I have as well and I showed it to her...we both agreed that I am not a professional and throughout the trip we kept reminding ourselves of that...

Joking aside - Fiona is a professional photographer in every sense. I will let her photography speak for me...

A little about Fiona: "Fiona Ayerst ( Girls Collegiate matric 1983) practiced as an Attorney and ran her own law firm in Johannesburg for ten years. Fiona retired early and is now a freelance adventure sport and underwater stills photographer and photo-journalist who loves sharks. Fiona turned professional in April 2006 has not looked back since leaving the legal profession. She travels the world extensively and writes about adventure travel and conservation for various local and international publications. She is the editor of an online magazine about the oceans

Fiona has a particular interest in sharks. This is not only because she was an Attorney for five years, but more importantly because of the rapidly dwindling shark numbers and her interest in their protection and conservation.

Fiona is a founder committee member of an N.G.O called
SHARKLIFE. This organization is involved educating people about the value and beauty of these creatures.

Fiona also has one of the most contagious laughs - I watched Super Bad with her - movie was so much more fun watching with her than the first time around. One more thing - Fiona loves and cares for animals, especially sharks - and when I mean love - I mean love...I was with her when the sad news from Aliwal Shoal was passed on to us and saw her reaction...was as if she lost someone very close to her.

"Tiger Beach Freedom" - setting the record straight

When I wrote the other blog earlier today I did not fully realize that it looked as if it was directed at Jim Abernethy of Scuba Adventures.

It was not.

In fact, I consider Jim as a most professional operator in the shark diving world, definitely one of the best world-wide. I also know him as a very passionate sharkman.

What I wanted to transmit in my blog is that
I, the old Wolf, need unrestricted diving freedom the way I need air to breathe. That is just my personality, and that is why I have never joined a club or a structured association.

While Scott Smith of the Dolphin Dream lets me freedive with no strings attached, which I consider a very generous attitude, I realize that there are other ways to look at safety issues. "Safety" is a very relative concept, hence interpreting it will always be highly subjective and never "right".

Take Neal Watson, for instance: This shark operator who claims to have expert knowledge thinks that diving with Caribbean Reef Sharks is "much less dangerous" than diving with tiger sharks. Well, all I can say is that I am much more apprehensive of an agitated 5 ft Caribbean Reef shark than I am of being close to a 14 ft tiger shark in a baiting situation.

Back to Jim - Jim is known for his way of running a tight ship, and he has countless fans who would never, ever switch.

Scott, on the other hand, has followers who feel very comfortable with the way he leads his excursions to Tiger Beach. I am one of those.

To erase the slightest doubts about my full appreciation of Jim, here is what
I wrote about him not long ago.

Tiger Beach Freedom

Where on earth can you find this??

(Photo: Fiona Ayerst)

This is what makes Tiger Beach so unique: The incredible clarity of the Bahamian Sea, the submarine beach, and the majestic tigers...

Felix and I have the added bonus that
Captain Scott Smith of the "Dolphin Dream" allows us to freedive with the sharks. While it may not sound like a big deal, it is Scottie's way of saying: "I trust you guys as you know what you are doing."

Diving freedom and as little interference from the operator as possible (preferably none at all) is what I want, indeed need, to feel good when I dive with sharks.

I have free-dived almost all my life alone; it's been forty years when I saw my first shark while spear-fishing in the Virgin Islands. I was 27 then. Many shark operators are in their late thirties or early forties - what can they tell an old, saggy bagged sea wolf about shark-diving? :-)

Feeling good in good company...

(Photo: Dr. iur. Paul "Playbird" Spielvogel

To imagine that somebody would tell me: Kneel down, here is your shark billy just in case, form a semi-circle, and don't touch "it" (touch what?, the fish called Wanda? :-) would be totally unacceptable - NO WAY, JOSE. Not for me!!!

Monday, December 01, 2008

More Video from Tiger Beach

Benjamin has been cranking out some more video from our trip to Tiger Beach, this time with the editing touch of Fiona...