Thursday, July 14, 2011

Today Carmen and Felix made us grand-parents...

... thank you both for a job well done!!! :-)

I can't believe my "baby" is now a father himself!!!...

When Felix told me about 8 months ago that the baby would be born around July 12, I was secretely hoping for the fourteenth of July - a special day for the French, for me a day easy to remember. Wolfie (and the surgeon who performed a Caesarean) did me the favor.

Vive la revolution, vive le p'tit Wolfie, le premier Ame
ricain dans notre famille!

When I saw the first pic of Wolfie (yes, yes, his name is Wolfgang, indeed - 't was not my idea but I have to admit that I feel flattered.. :-) I looked for a family likeness in my "branch" - couldn't find even a trace of it.

Wolfie - 30 minutes after he took his first deep breath

Carmen on the day she got married.
Photo: Wolfgang Leander (Managua / Nicaragua)

To me, Wolfie looks EXACTLY like his mom - the mouth, the nose. Well, good for him! He will be a most lovely boy, and a good-looking lover in due course, a true Latin lover!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

On Lesley Rochat, AfriOceans, and the South African sharks.

I have to confess that I was not aware of Lesley Rochat's initiative when I wrote my recent blog about the mortal dangers South Africa's most endangered sharks are facing.

Whoever is familiar with the shark world in South Africa knows Lesley Rochat. This petite and strong-willed lady has got to be one of the most versatile shark-minded individuals I have ever met: She is a writer, public speaker, a photographer, an accomplished filmmaker, the founder and Executive Director of AfriOceans Conservat
ion Alliance, a highly visible and active shark conservation non-profit organization.

Lesley Rochat is above all a most passionate lover and dependable advocate of sharks.

Lesley in her element - and in a yellow wet suit, effectively proving that sharks don't mind the "yum-yum" color, yet another myth some shark pros still cling to...
Photo: Mike Ellis (2011)
Click on image to enlarge

Read this link, and you will know what Lesley has been doing to start the kind of ad-hoc movement I had in mind to protect the sharks in South African waters:

Let me emphasize what she wrote:

"We are a small organization with limited resources and staff. We, however, with the support of our well-respected Board of Directors, have the experience to drive a process of this nature.

We therefore urge all those who have an interest in the ocean, as well as all shark diving operators, and SCUBA diving operators in general along the South African coast, to put back into the very resource they depend upon and work with us and assist us in whatever way possible, including in raising funds required to drive this lobbying campaign to conclusion.
We are open to sharing our lobbying intentions in detail with any interested parties, including other NPOs, forming collaborations and partnerships with all who wish to constructively assist us with time, money or expertise.

We tire of Industry politics and personal agendas, which consume energy while our sharks continue to be slaughtered. We hope the industry at large will support us because losing our sharks matters to all of us."

Need I say more? Lesley confirms what I felt in my gut. I am glad she candidly put on record what seems to be a major obstacle within the shark community in South Africa: The seeming unwillingness or perhaps just plain indifference of all those concerned to finally unite and make their interests a firmly articulated common cause vis-a-vis the authorities.

With reference to my blog on behalf of the sharks in South Africa, here is what Lesley said, in her very own words:

"... trying to get organisations and people to work together will take too long and our sharks can’t wait. Sadly there appears to be too many personal agendas, pseudo conservationists, egos, and lack of real caring.Since we sent our newsletter and posted the WANTED! DEAD or ALIVE? lobbying campaign over 3 months ago requesting help, apart from a few caring individuals making donations, our invite to join us in saving our sharks has not been taken up by other local groups.At this stage, AfriOceans is the only organisation in South Africa that is driving this matter forward.

Therefore, I propose that the horse that is already running the race is backed, and that AfriOceans is assisted in winning this fight. Apart from our petition with over 6000 signatures, we have already made contact with the Minister and will revert on progress."

This makes a lot of sense to me, which is why promoting internationally what AfriOceans is already doing seems to be the best bet under the circumstances.

Go here to find out how you can help AfriOceans, and also stand a chance to win a cowshark dive for two or a signed copy of Dr. Leonard Compagno’s book: "Sharks of the World":

As far as the local scene is concerned, I can only hope that all the shark dive operators along the coast of South Africa, the conservation groups, the countless individuals who love the sea and its creatures will join AfriOceans in its ongoing fight for the protection of the beautiful and precious sharks that make South Africa a "mecca" for shark diving, especially its most vulnerable sharks, paradoxically also the most feared ones: The majestic 'Sharks of Sharks', the great white sharks, and my favorites, the awe-inspiring, strikingly gentle and charismatic Tiger Sharks of Aliwal Shoal.

Female tiger shark of Aliwal Shoal - she needs more than getting stroked on her head...
Photo: Wolfgang Leander (2008)
Click on image to enlarge

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

It was a one-to-nil score for the sharks in the Bahamas...

... thanks to the relentless efforts of the PEW Environment Group and the Bahamas National Trust along with countless committed individuals, both Bahamians and foreigners, who voiced their concerns about the imminent danger the Bahamian sharks were facing.

The Bahamas has now made its waters a sanctuary for sharks.

These are excellent news to start the 2011 summer, indeed. The Bahamian government deserves much recognition for closing ranks with other nations which already banned all types of shark fishing activities.

Since the Bahamas took that praise-worthy step forward, most other, if not all, Caribbean nations are likely to follow suit. The result will be nothing short of transcendental for the entire region, and beyond.

What makes me personally very happy, apart from the over-arching importance of this historic enactment, is the comforting knowledge that the tiger sharks of Tiger Beach won't be exposed to the danger of being killed by poachers, and commercial or recreational fishermen anymore.

Bahamian tiger shark: Fortunately out of the danger zone!
Photo: Wolfgang Leander (Tiger Beach, 2009)
Click to enlarge

Which immediately leads my thoughts to the tiger sharks of South Africa.

Now that their Bahamian cousins are safe, it hurts me all the more to know that the South African tiger sharks will be the losers as they are being wiped out in
the KNZ coast for the reasons stated in a recent blog.

We should make no mistake: World famous tiger shark diving around Umkomaas and Scottburgh (Aliwal Shoal) could soon be gone, perhaps forever. Unless, of course, the South African authorities will step in swiftly and boldly, and do what their Bahamians colleagues did. However, they won't do it of their own accord. Like any other government they will have to be motivated.

South African freediving champion Hanli Prinsloo gracefully playing with an Aliwal Shoal tiger shark - soon a spectacle of the past?

Photo: Wolfgang Leander (South Africa, 2010)
Click to enlarge

Here is what I wrote to a few South African friends about one week ago:

"Dear friends:

Let's not beat around the bush: The good old days of tiger shark diving in Aliwal Shoal appear to be over. What a tragedy!!!

On the other hand, there is hope that the Bahamas will fully, and effectively, protect their sharks...

During the last years, Tiger Beach (Bahamas) and Aliwal Shoal were the only places where you would find me.

Unfortunately, it seems to be very difficult, if not impossible, to drum up individuals, non-profits and the local shark operators to see what we, as an ad-hoc group, could do to induce the South African authorities to finally address the issue of shark protection whole-heartedly... That is almost as depressing as the deadly perils the South African sharks are facing...

Just as a friend of mine wrote me only a few minutes ago:

".....I am sorry to hear the travails of your efforts and that of others with unresponsive, irrational, and irresponsible governments, like the South Africa situation. I am sorry, but I think this world is going to hell in a hand basket at our hands!"

Back to the Bahamas: I am aware of the arduous work Jill Hepp and Matt Rand of the PEW as well as the staff of the Bahamas National Trust had to do to convince the Bahamian authorities that shark conservation makes a lot of sense not "just" environmentally speaking but also in terms of tourist dollars and cents, but I was not really that surprised to hear that good-will, reason, and responsible governance ultimately prevailed.

I actually anticipated the fantastic outcome of the shark conservation move in the Bahamas knowing by first hand experience how "things" work in that country which is not something I can say about South Africa.

In fact, I know very little about South Africa - however, my gut feeling tells me that it is a very tribal society where it is difficult to rally large groups of people to fight for a common cause. Strange, I would have expected quite the opposite, a kind of a frontier spirit, more civic courage, a lot more, courage in general, at least among the more 'enlightened' people.

Anyway, instead of trying to speculate why it does not seem possible for so-called activists and those with a vested interest in the South African shark dive "industry" to band together in order to make themselves heard loudly, I should like to ask those friendly blog-readers who are familiar with South Africa and its inner workings to tell me what they believe needs to be done to get the ball rolling.

The goal is quite clear: The South African tiger sharks and other endangered sharks species should be afforded full legal protection. And they should not get trapped, and killed, in the senseless Natal Sharks Board nets anymore.

After all, South African Sharks should not score lower than those in the Bahamian Sea - one-to-nil!!

Justify Full

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

It has gotten even better in The Bahamas

For sharks...

"Sharks in The Bahamas can breathe more easily after the nation’s government announced today that all commercial shark fishing in the approximately 630,000 square kilometers (243,244 square miles) of the country’s waters is now prohibited.

“2011 is fast becoming the year of the shark,” said Jill Hepp, manager of global shark conservation for the Pew Environment Group. “Today’s announcement permanently protects more than 40 shark species in Bahamian waters. We applaud the people and government of The Bahamas for being bold leaders in marine conservation.”
Read complete article here

Friday, July 01, 2011

White Shark in Florida

Just saw post on Shark Diver blog with video of a white shark off the cost of Florida.  Pretty far out...see video below - only lame thing, spearing with tanks - what's up with that...and not the best shot.