Monday, March 29, 2010

CITES Disaster

Our friend Jupp Baron Kerckerinck zur Borg, President of the Princeton-based Shark Research Institute, just came back from Doha / Qatar.

This is his disturbing report:

A journey into Extinction.

At the 15th Conference of the Parties of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), in beautiful Doha/Qatar, the oceans were dealt a terrible blow by Japan.

It was Japan, together with China, Singapore and quite a few of the small countries, who received financial aid from Japan and participated in what I would call “The Oceans’ Pearl Harbor”. To watch them win this battle during which we all worked so hard to save and protect endangered marine species from extinction, was devastating.

The big losers of this despicable and ruthless behavior are the oceans, the sharks, the red corals and the Atlantic blue fin tuna.  Since the ocean is our life support system, that makes all humans who live on this planet, big losers as well. Without a healthy ocean we will not be able to survive.

That is why I keep asking myself: “Who gives those people the right to loot our oceans?” Sadly, the answer is: “The members of CITES”. They handed them the mandate to do so.

The fact that Japan was represented by 50 people, giving a lavish sushi party at their embassy the night before the vote on the tuna, twisting arms and applying pressure on the poor countries to get their vote, is clever but a disgusting display of “ownership” over our

Am I wrong when I say “our oceans”? Until now I was under the impression that the world’s oceans belong to all of humanity and not to a “chosen few”, who claim it their birthright to rob them of whatever those people like. The sushi party clearly tells me how the votes against sharks, tuna and red corals came about. You don’t need to be a marine scientist to figure that out.

I don’t believe that anybody would doubt that this kind of behavior had one common denominator: Money. I found it quite embarrassing to watch the representative from Island, walking around after the final vote on the Porbeagle shark was lost; putting her arms around every Japanese she could get her hands on and hugging the representatives from Singapore to show her pleasure over the damage they did to our

So what did we finally achieve as far as the oceans are concerned? It was a death sentence to the blue fin tuna and to certain shark species, which made those people, whose only concern is money, so very happy. There was little talk about the protection of marine life.
Nobody paid attention to the scientists, who warned about the consequences to the ocean if those species would be exterminated.

The fact that the population of the blue fin tuna has already been reduced by 80%, that the red coral is almost extinct in the Mediterranean, and that the hammerhead and some other sharks have been depleted by 90% in some areas, did not matter to those who want to continue the multibillion dollar business of killing them all.

Is that what CITES is all about? Has it become a convention in favor of trade with endangered species? There was a lot of talk about poor people who would suffer if we stop the killing; but I don’t know too many poor people who do damage to the oceans. The damage is done by huge long-line fishing vessels, owned by rich people.

I also don't think that too many poor people will indulge in blue fin tuna sushi or in shark fin soup. That is exactly what the Japanese are doing and that’s why the Sunday Times rightfully calls them: “A Country out of Step”.

Jupp Kerckerinck zur Borg
Shark Research Institute

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Update on Atlantis Resort and Shark videos

Atlantis Resort has written back - just an official statement - lot's of words and not sure if there will be any actions - it definitely did not address my concerns:

"Dear Felix,

Thank you for your concern, I wanted to forward to you Atlantis' statement on behalf of this incident:

Atlantis prides itself on being a place where people can come to observe and become educated about different sea life.  At various points around the habitats, there is signage posted strongly warning guests not to touch or feed the animals -- to please respect their home.  We have secured the exhibits with fences and partial walls to keep guests out and to keep our marine life safe, while still allowing guests to get an “up close and personal” experience with the sea life.  We employ 400 security guards a day who patrol the property and exhibits.  We are very disappointed that these guests behaved irresponsibly and compromised the safety of both our animals and themselves.  With the largest open-air marine habitat in the world, it is the penultimate site to observe marine creatures in their own environment.  Our vast waterscape is comprised of almost 20 million gallons of water spanning 141 acres and is home to over 50,000 marine creatures.   There is much to explore and even more to learn at Atlantis.  We have numerous sea-keepers attending to the marine life daily – feeding and observing the fish and caring for their habitat, which operates as an open-system, meaning water comes in from the sea and cycles through system.  We are very disappointed that, in this rare instance, some of our guests behaved irresponsibly and compromised the safety of both our animals and themselves. There must be a level of accountability from all Atlantis customers in terms of respecting the posted rules and the space put between them and the animals in our exhibits.  However, as a result of this unfortunate event, we have reviewed and revised our existing security measures.  Our animals’ safety is a priority to us, as is that of our guests, and we will ensure that all visitors to our property respect the established rules.

I hope this addresses your concerns.
Send your comments to Atlantis Resorts via Facebook:

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Atlantis Resort, drunks, and shark molesting

It has been a while since we have seen stupid people "interact" with sharks.  I just read a post and saw the videos over at Shark Diver.  The videos pretty much speak for themselves - two drunk idiots (stereotypical college buffoons) getting into a pool with nurse sharks...which really are harmless. But molest them, and they can inflict a nasty bite.

But this goes well beyond the drunk morons...what on earth in Atlantis Resort doing allowing this circus behavior? No security? What is their policy on animals / animal treatment / drunks?  They have had animal management problems in the past - but do not seem to have really done anything about it.

You can send an email or call Megan Marchesini - public relations contact for possible answers:

Megan Marchesini
Phone: 212-659-5203

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Out of South Africa.

So far so good.

Diving has not been that great - so far.

On the other hand meeting old friends, and having made some memorable new acquaintances, has been so good for the soul:

First and foremost "Jifa", also known as Jean-Francois Avenier, who invited me to be his guest during my first week in South Africa; his 15-month old fabulous husky, "Machin", with whom I immediately fell in love; Andre Hartman, the legendary Great White Sharkman, a towering man with huge hands and a huge heart; the Addisons of Blue Wilderness; Fred Buyle and William Winram, world-class freedivers with impressive achievements; and others.

Two old shark-nut farts: Andre Hartman and Wolf.
Photo: Jean-Francois Avenier

Jifa, who is a good friend of Andre, arranged for a one day marine excursion in the larger Gaansbai area to observe great whites. Andre managed to
attract four beauties close to the boat; their sizes ranged between 1,60 and 3 meters, the largest being a self-confident and dominant male. Too bad we could not swim with them.

"Better than nothing..."
Photo: Jean-Francois Avenier

There are severe restrictions on diving with great whites in South Africa; not only that - we were in an area where abalones are protected, and no one can dive there for any purpose whatsoever.

As anywhere else in the world, Sou
th African government officials only complicate the lives of others, not theirs. Thus, they simply established that merely carrying basic diving equipment in your boat proves you automatically guilty of suspected poaching with heavy fines and even jail terms.

We had two sub-standard days at Aliwal Shoal with 3 to 5 m visibility and just one tiger shark. However, this female tiger was "Sabine", an Aliwa
l Shoal resident shark during the past eight years except for the last two years she spent elsewhere. To see her back "home" filled us with joy.

While "Sabine" fared well, many others did not. Far too many tiger sharks have either been killed by local fishermen who fear and hate sharks, or met their untimely deaths in the infamous shark nets placed along the beaches of Kwa Zulu Natal.

Tomorrow, March 25, we are planning a trip to the Protea Banks, famous for its bull sharks. I have never dived with bull sharks, and am quite excited about the prospect of seeing them. As you can imagine, we all cross our fingers and hope for the best: Best visibility, best bull interaction, best everything!!

Last, but definitely not least................................

Photo: Jean-Francois Avenier

Urgent - Hawaii Shark Fin Bill Needs a Push

As per Shark Diver:

If you have some time in your busyschedule over the next two days please add your voice to excellent efforts in Hawaii to help conserve sharks with a new bill SB2169:

Hello everyone,

For some reason the Representative that is the chair of our LAST
committee, Riki 
Karamatsu, is unresponsive and hasn't scheduled a hearing for our shark finning bill.

If you have the time today or tomorrow, please take a minute and send a message/call to to urge him to hear SB2169.

We have come so far with this bill and I can't believe it is stuck now! Very frustrating.

Tell him how important this is for Hawaii, but also the rest of the US/world.

Tell him that the desire for people to eat shark fin soup should not
override the decision to pass this bill. A delicacy should not cause
the destruction of the ocean... etc

Express yourself as strongly as you can and if you are from Hawaii
make sure you let him know that too.

We have been sending messages and have been stopping by his office. We
have given him photos, letters and videos.

Apparently he needs more pressure to be convinced. I think there are a couple of member in the House that really like to eat their shark fin soup that may have asked him to not hear the bill.

I will go to the capitol this afternoon to park myself outside his
office until he speaks to me.

Here is his info:

Jon Riki 
Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee
phone 808-586-8490; fax 808-586-8494

thank you

Amanda Cotton and Shark Diver Magazine

Shark Diver Magazine upcoming cover - photo by Amanda Cotton

As per "A Cotton Photo" I became aware of Amanda Cotton's photo of two Tiger Sharks will be on the next Shark Diver Magazine as this issues will be distributed at this year's CITIES meeting in Qatar in an effort to promote eco-tourism for sharks.

Say Eli Martinez: "A slight change in plans! This is the new cover for issue 22. I originally had one of Andy Murch's images for the cover, but I was asked by the PEW institute if I would mind changing it to a less scary-in your face looking cover. The reasoning behind it is, issue 22 is going to be passed around at this years CITIES meeting in Qatar. The hope is to use the mag to promote eco-tourism for sharks. They asked to use SDm for this purpose. Something I was extremely proud to do. The new cover is by Amanda Cotton, this is the cover I had planned out for issue 23-so I decided it to just flip-flop issue # covers."

Congrats to Amanda for the great photo and to SDM to focusing more on eco / conservation content.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Humane Society of the United States Joins Shark-Free Marinas to Reduce Killing of Ocean’s Great Predators

Well, here is some great news, The Humane Society has joined forces with Shark-Free Marinas.  Congrats to Luke and team:

‘Shark-Free Marina Initiative’ promotes catch-and-release

Note: There are Shark-Free Marinas in Harwich, Mass.; Key Largo, Fla.; Miami; Tequesta, Fla.; Vero Beach, Fla.; and West Alton, Mo.

(March 9, 2010) — The Humane Society of the United States has teamed up with Shark-Free Marinas in a campaign to significantly reduce worldwide shark mortality.

Fittingly, the effort is called the “Shark-Free Marina Initiative” and seeks the support of marina operators worldwide to prohibit the landing of any shark on their premises, thus encouraging catch-and-release fishing. To help publicize the plight of sharks and the need for their protection, The HSUS and SFMI are supplying signs and public information to participating marinas in the U.S. and the Caribbean.

“The Humane Society of the United States is pleased to join the efforts of the Shark-Free Marina Initiative,” said John Grandy, Ph.D., senior vice president of wildlife for The HSUS. “The HSUS works tirelessly to end animal cruelty, exploitation and neglect and is deeply concerned by the deteriorating status of shark populations.”

Luke Tipple, executive director of the Initiative, said, “The Shark-Free Marina Initiative welcomes the support of The Humane Society of the United States and its members to protect beleaguered shark species.”

The HSUS, the nation’s largest animal protection organization, strives to end the killing of sharks in sport tournaments around the United States, and works to raise public awareness about celebrating ocean life instead of destroying it. The Shark-Free Marina Initiative encourages marinas to adopt shark-friendly policies, preventing kill tournaments from using those facilities.


  • Dozens of marinas in the United States, the Caribbean and the South Pacific have registered as Shark-Free Marinas since the initiative began in 2008.
  • The HSUS also works to protect sharks by campaigning against shark finning, and the organization recently petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to list the porbeagle shark as endangered.
  • The Shark-Free Marina Initiative runs a Regional Ambassador program where anyone can get involved in their important work. Visit the SFMI Web site ( or The HSUS Web site ( for more information.
  • Other groups supporting the Shark-Free Marina Initiative include the Fisheries Conservation Foundation and Cape Eleuthera Institute.
Media Contact: Liz Bergstrom, 301-258-1455,


Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your iPhone by searching “HumaneTV” in the App Store.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at

Sunday, March 07, 2010

I will be back - will she?......

She is "Ella"
Photo: Wolfgang Leander

Click on image

Nobody really knows how many tiger sharks have been netted in Scottburgh*) during the last two years or so; all I have heard is that the numbers of the Aliwal Shoal tigers have gone down considerably.

There were some fantastic characters among the tiger girls of Aliwal Shoal: "Karin", aka "Dartborad", and "Mathilda", both camera lovers, "Sabine", "Snowflake", not quite grown-up, and much to my and others' chagrin killed in the Scottburgh nets, and, my favorite, "Ella", quite large (4 + meters), elegant as befits an elderly lady, and most gentle. In fact, I have never encountered a more gentle tiger shark - and mind you, I was also able to closely befriend serene "Emma", the legendary Tiger Beach resident, so I guess I can tell.

I will be travelling to South Africa in less than a week, and am, as you can imagine, very excited about meeting good friends: Jifa (= Jean-Francois Avenier) and "Machin", his new husky, the Addisons, Fiona Ayerst, Hanli Prinsloo, Fred Buyle, William Winram, Julie Anderson, Olivia Jones, Lesley Rochat - not to mention the striped ladies, including "Ella", as I very much hope.

*) The shark nets have to be removed, in South Africa and the rest of the world. Read why.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Meet Mike DaShark!

Mike (close to 2m long) and "Scarface" (close to 5 m long)
Photo: Tim Rock

Do you want to know what makes a banker turned into a shark conservationist tick? In case you think about me - you are WRONG.

I am talking about Mike DaShark. Mike is one of the brainiest individuals I know, at the same time he is as pleasantly unassuming as you would expect an intellectual heavy-weight to be.

If I were asked to describe Mike in one sentence, I'd say this about him: Not a trace of hot air, no underdeveloped ego in need to be puffed up, no show biz on his own behalf, incorruptible, and solid as a rock inmidst the busy pettiness of self-interest that is so characteristic of most shark conservationist groups.

Mike is not an English native speaker; he hasn't even had a formal language training in English - he just picked it up and practiced it. And yet - few educated people speak and write English the way he does.

Here are, then, the thoughts of an ex-banker who abandoned a very successful investment banking career, and all that goes with it, to become a dedicated, hard working, and persevering shark conservationist in Fiji.

Mike - you rock!!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Shark Attacks Down in the US

According to a study by the University of Florida (George Burgess) shark "attacks" are down.  In 2008 a total of 41 incidents were recorded while in 2009 these were down to only 28.

Read complete report here.