Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pregnant sharks killed in Florida - over 40 pups dead

Received a sad note from Neil Hammerschlag this morning about the death of a pregnant bull and hammerhead shark.  Both seem to have died as a result of irresponsible fishing.  As per Neil's post:

"I am sad to report that within the last 24 hours, 2 pregnant sharks were killed.
The first  shark that washed up on shore, was in the Florida Keys yesterday. It was a 9 ft pregnant bull shark with 12 dead pups that were ready to be born.

Dead 9 ft pregnant Bull shark washed up on beach as a result of beach fishing. Shark had two "J" hooks in it's gills (Click to enlarge)
12 dead bull shark pups (click to enlarge)
The second shark washed up this afternoon, was on Delray Beach. It was a 13 ft pregnant hammerhead shark with 35 dead pups that were ready to be born.
Dead 13 ft pregnant Hammerhead with J Hook (click to enlarge)
35 dead hammerhead pups (Click to enlarge)
Both sharks were entering nearshore waters to give birth when they were captured. Witnesses reported in both areas land-based shark fishing activities in the area the previous night.  Both sharks were found dead with “J” hooks;  one shark had double “J” hooks lodged in its gills.

Luckily, team members from the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program were able to respond and collect data, photos and samples.  So in less than 24 hrs, Florida lost 49 sharks (36 hammerheads & 13 bull sharks), of which 2 were reproductive females likely helping sustain the local nearshore population.
12 dead bull shark pups that were ready to be born (Click to enlarge)
It is sad to see such waste.

I am a strong supporter and promoter of responsible & sustainable catch & release fishing. However, I do not support fishing with destructive gear (J hooks) for threatened and pregnant species in areas and times of year where they congregate to give birth. This is just not responsible.

I think we need to consider at least the following regulations:

1) Only shark fishing with “Circle” hooks. This has already been instituted as part of Florida law for other fishes like groupers and snappers.
Circle hooks generally allow safe hooking of sharks in the side of the mouth, where they can be easily and quickly removed (this is compared to J hooks that sometimes cause gut or gill hooking which can be lethal).

2) Establishing protection for pregnant female sharks during the breeding season, especially threatened species like hammerhead and bulls.

3) Establishing standards and protocols for gear configurations and techniques for shark fishing that reduce fight, handling, and air exposure times, which will promote successful catch & release.

In addition, I think more research is needed to examine the effects of different types of catch & release fishing on post-release mortality to help better inform anglers on how to conduct sustainable catch & release fishing, which I support. I also believe more research identifying critical habitat for shark congregation, mating & pupping for conservation. Most importantly, we need to educate the public about threats facing sharks and how they can make a difference.

Most fishermen are responsible and ethical. The irresponsible minority reflects badly on everyone else. Responsible catch & release shark fishing is sustainable and many practice this. We just need to get everyone on board!
Brendal Davis & Mary O'Malley with dead hammerhead pups
Thank you to Curt & Kelli Slonim, Brendal Davis & Mary O’Malley for responding and being on the scene to collect data, take photos and educate the public!

Please provide your comments below and forward this to others!
Thank you for your time,
Neil Hammerschlag, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor,
Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science (RSMAS)
Leonard & Jayne Abess Center for Ecosystem Science & Policy

Director, RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program
University of Miami
4600 Rickenbacker Cswy, Miami, Florida, 33149

O: 305.421.4356    F: 305.421.4675   C: 305.951.6577"

Sunday, April 25, 2010

On female divers, sharks, and women power.

Hanli Prinsloo: Freediving instructor, motivational speaker, creative writer, film producer, great companion - and, above all, a real "Mensh" *)
Photo: Wolfgang Leander

Sophia van Coller: Photographer, boat skipper, adventurer, talented and extremely elegant freediver, full of warmth and a fine sense of humor.
Photo: Wolfgang Leander
Click on images to enlarge

I was lucky, and privileged, to meet again some remarkable ocean ladies in South Africa, all committed in one way or another to the preservation of sharks.

Hanli Prinsloo, Julie Andersen, Olivia Jones-Symcox, Sophia van Coller, Fiona Ayerst, and Lesley Rochat are a bunch of strong-willed and focused women with a clear perception of where, and how far, they want to go.

For them, as for many others, sharks are the paradigm of the oceans' vulnerability - but not only that. They love sharks just for what they are: Awesome, powerful, and essentially gentle animals in the Big Blue.

These women are fantastic divers, very professional, very experienced. I did not photograph all of them this time as the weather conditions, especially the visibility, were quite adverse during my entire stay stay in South Africa. I snapped only 500 pics in four weeks, and came back with perhaps 20 acceptable images, among them the two posted above.

While I could be biased, I believe that women are, in general, closer to nature than men. It must be a gender specific intuition that makes women more sensitive to, and respectful of, life. Men hunt, above and under water; women don't.

Sure, there are a few
spearfisher'women' - but they are the exception to the rule. Olivia is such an exception; she is exceptional in many other ways as well. I have learned to know her as a very principled, genuine, and compassionate individual.

What I also find quite intriguing is that women are, proportionately, more passionate about sharks than men. Most of the "fan" mails I receive from the viewers of my shark photographs are female.

When I was younger, and that was a
loooong time ago, I always thought that sharks were for boys, as kitty cats were for girls. How wrong was I. But what can I do - I was (still am) like most men are: Prejudiced and narrow-minded....

Thanks to my beloved wife Karin I have learned a few lessons in the subject 'Women's Liberation' even though she tends to believe that, deep down, men are incapable of learning anything when it comes to gender issues. To her, I am still a hopeless 'macho'. I will not say that she is right, but I can't say she is completely wrong, either....

Whatever, as far as I am concerned, we'd fare much better if women ruled the world. Now more than ever.

*) Yiddish for "a decent human being".

Friday, April 23, 2010

Jifa made it!! Yeaaahhhh!!

Da old Wolf playing with an Aliwal Shoal tiger lady.
Photo: Jean-Francois Avenier

Click on image to enlarge

Two years ago, Jifa, aka Jean-Francois Avenier, seemed to have serious eardrum problems. As he could not equalize the pressure, he had to stay at the surface all the time - which greatly limited his photography.

Now, with silicone earcaps attached to his mask, and some expert advice from top freediver William Winram, Jifa finally managed to go down to 7-8 meters - and take
real underwater photographs, not underwater images shot slightly below the surface.

He sent me the above picture with a laconic comment:
"Better than nothing".

C'mon, Jifa, I know that despite being a hard-core Parisian you are modest, but you don't have to be
that modest...

I think this is a
fantastic shot!

What pleases me even more about this pic is that you took it with your good ol' Nikonos V, soul bro!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Cove and a Star PSA

Just saw this PSA to promote The Cove and bring awareness to the slaughter of dolphins in Japan - definitely worth a watch:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hawaii - Rep Riki Karamatsu in bed with the shark fin industry?

Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu for Lieutenant Governor not for Sharks

We thought things were going well in reference to the ban on shark finning - but apparently there has been a setback being led by one man - a politician: Riki Karamatsu.  The guys over at Shark Diver having been reporting about the situation in Hawaii and have written a pretty detailed post on Karamatsu:

"He is a politician.

He has been charged and convicted with drunk driving resulting in a crash.

He is currently running for Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii.

This man also hates sharks.

Enough to actively work against a new shark fin bill making the rounds through the hallowed halls of Hawaii's legislative offices.

Why is he doing this?

What can you do about it?

The answer to the first question is money. Riki Karamatsu is the patron of several well heeled shark fin businesses in Hawaii, businesses that sell thousands of tons of dried shark fin to Asia.

Currently the cost of shark fin is hovering at 1980's gold price levels. The shark fin industry is a multi-billion dollar global industry. It is also one of the most barbaric animal cruelty issues the conservation world is dealing with now. Akin to sedated wild bears and gall bladder secretions, a wild animal product that is as equally disturbing and one that has no place in Hawaii's business trading community.

So, what can you do about it?

Here is the list of contacts for Jon Riki Karamatsu. Your voice, in your own words, may help this man realize how many people care about sharks and how sometimes, being the patron of people whose business depends on shearing the fins off live animals for a soup a bad career choice.

You can also tweet, blog, and re post this far and wide.

Let's send a clear and unambiguous message to Jon Riki Karamatsu.

"Mr.Karamatsu if you want to see your political career continue, get on the side of millions of people who care about our oceans, and our wildlife. Stop your solo attempts to block or modify legislation that would put and end to shark fin sales in Hawaii."

Note: Do not send threatening or abusive emails, phone calls or letters. You are entitled to use words that describe disgust, distaste, you are entitled to detail how you will support his opponent in his race for the Lieutenant Governor seat in Hawaii. You are also entitled to mention the fact that this man, who would aspire to the higher levels of government, was once so intoxicated he drove his car off the road.

Is this the man who should be leading Hawaii into the new decade?

For the many thousands of sharks that are currently being finned just outside the territorial waters of Hawaii the answer to that question is clearly no.


Jon Riki Karamatsu - Blog

Jon Riki Karamatsu -

Jon Riki Karamatsu - Democratic Offices

Jon Riki Karamatsu - Facebook"

Go at it and let Riki know how you feel about shark finning... 

Monday, April 12, 2010

World Class Freediver and Tiger Sharks

Hanli and Wolf - Photo by: Allen Walker

Hanli Prinsloo is one of South Africa's top freedivers - and there are a lot of good divers there.  She is very connected with the Earth and especially the Ocean, and although I have never met her she strikes me as an extremely gentle human being .  

I follow her adventures on her blog ... and well, today she wrote about her dive with the Tigers and a Wolf.  I think she perfectly captured the old man and his passion:

"...And then there is Wolf. Wolfgang Leander is a man I have known for two years, I say known, but I only met him once two years ago in Struisbaai, where we were united in a dream to freedive with Great White Sharks. Neither of us did, on that trip. But we were equally excited to have met each other, and since then a heartfelt, if geographically challenged, friendship has developed.

Wolf lives in Bolivia, and spends his time and money on Tiger sharks... wherever you can dive with them, Wolf has been, will go to, or has been to, and is returning to. 

And when you see him diving with them, you understand why. This man GETS Tigers... like really GETS them. His love for them is palpable... in his eyes, in his words, and when you see him underwater interacting with them, you know. This is true love.

With his so-damn-old-it's-retro-cool 35mm stills camera slung around his neck, he hangs around at about ten meters, waiting for his striped ladies to come in, strokes their bellies, snaps pics of their gentle eyes and comes up out of breath and fulfilled. I love diving with him, he inspires me to keep loving the sea and her children as I do...

Thank you, Wolf"

Read Hanli's complete post here.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The CITES disaster as seen from a different angle.

Mike Da Shark, aka Mike Neumann, is a man who has an incisive and independent mind. He will open his mouth or sharpen his pen only when he has something solid to say; and when he does, it's like - WHAMMMMMMM.

Take your time and read this. It is, to me, by far the best comment on the recent CITES Convention I have come across.

The shark world as I have gotten to know it during the last three years or so just needs a few more people of the intellectual and ethical caliber of Mike Da Shark to make a tangible difference!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Jifa and "Machin": Not such an odd couple.

When my friend Jifa lost his two huskies, "Gold Rush" and "Ghost", to old age (16 and 17) within less than a year, he was absolutely devastated. Jifa was not just the pack leader for them; over their long lives they also became the center of his life.

Losing a dog, any animal you grew attached to, is no less painful than losing a close relative or a good friend.

Rationally, Jifa knew that he would have to get a 'new' dog in order to let the healing effect of the mourning process come to a natu
ral end. But emotionally he must have had a hard time before deciding to fill the void in his house with the presence of a pup.

Not a pup anymore but far from being a dignified adult dog... :-)
Photo by: Wolfgang Leander

However, Jifa managed to convince himself that "Gold Rush" and "Ghost" would have approved of little "Machin", a husky, not just for taking their place but rather to honor their memory and at the same time as an act of affirmation of life and its continuity.

Pure Love...
Photo: Wolfgang Leander

"Machin"? What kind of a name is that for a living creature? 'Machin' means 'thing' in colloquial French. If you don't know, or forgot, the word of something, or even a person, you'd say: "Qu'est-ce que c'est ce machin la?" (= "What is this thing over there?").

Would you name your dog "Thing"? You probably wouldn't, would you?

Well, Jifa did.

Being a pragmatic man, and not precisely a youngster anymore, Jifa must have figured that entering advanced age will surely be accompanied by a gradual loss of memory - incidentally a stage I am already, and not unhappily, in. Thus, to avoid the embarrassing situation of wanting to address his dog but having momentarily, or even permanently, forgotten his name, "Machin" would always come to his mind.

Smart, huh?

Jifa talking French to "Machin" - as Frederick the Great of Prussia once said to Voltaire: "German is a language for horses, French for sophisticated people." :-)
Photo: Wolfgang Leander

Apropos addressing "Machin" - Jifa does it in French, sometimes in English, and that are the only languages "Machin" understands. I tried to speak German to "Machin" assuming that a language that sounds like barking commands, with words such as "Schtillgeschtanden!"; "Achtung!"; "Nawirdsbalduschweinehund!", would be immediately, and naturally, assimilated by any dog.

Little did I know - "Machin" looked at me quite bewildered, as if to say: "What kind of an oegly language iss ssat?".

To get this you have to know that Jifa, and by extension "Machin", speaks an exquisitely rich English with a strong French accent. Actually, he speaks French when he speaks English - or, to be more precise: He speaks French using English words - and his hands which give his speech a distinct Mediterranean flavor.

Amputated eloquence: Jifa making a point with just one hand.
Photo: Wolfgang Leander

Talking with his hands is certainly a
n expressive rhetorical tool - the problem is that Jifa "talks" that way even when he speeds with his Chevy 5,7 l 400 HP "Lumina". Thus, if you sit next to him driving at 210 km/h and want to feel safe, just tell him politely but firmly to please shut up, and he will automatically hold on tightly to the steering wheel with both hands.

With the passage of the next years I can vividly imagine Jifa and "Machin" looking even more like each other than they do now.

"Machin" and Jifa: Definitely not an odd couple!
Photo: Wolfgang Leander

However, what is difficult to foresee at this point is who will look more like the other: Jifa like "Machin" or "Machin" like Jifa....

Only time will tell.