Thursday, 6 June 2013

Scottish Basking Sharks are back!

There are four places to see basking sharks with any kind of certainty in the UK - Cornwall in the south, Malin Head in Ireland, and the Isle of Man. The fourth, and in my own mind without doubt, the best place to see Basking Sharks is Scotland, especially the inner hebrides. Since 2009 I have been running a dedicated basking shark trip, based in Tobermory, partnering with locally established marine wildlife watching outfit - Sealife Surveys. We have recently returned from our first trip of 2013 - which was a mixed wildlife itinerary. This trip consisted of the various other wildlife that can be found in the area - such as otters, eagles, and the impressive sea bird colony on Lunga. This was also the first trip that we tried out as a liveaboard based itinerary, and what a pleasure it was too - no hefty trips home each night with this beast. 4am sunrises and dusk landings were all possible due to us staying right on site. This also allowed us to go a little further in search of our sharks, which due to the cold weather and late spring, were a little harder to find than normal - but find them we did, with footage to boot. So - it is with great anticipation, having now seen sharks in good numbers in the area, that we await the onset of our main block of back to back trips. We can still make room for one or two amongst our warm and friendly groups - so let us know if you are keen to join. We do already have one or two bookings for 2014 already so advanced bookings are advised, especially for groups. Footnote - Like all great ideas, we knew it wouldn't be long before someone came along and began to offer an alternative service. Whilst we crept along gently over the last few years, growing the customer base in a responsible and organic manner, it seems a face book frenzied commercially driven effort is coming from new operators, and we sincerely hope this does not impact on the sharks in a negative way. Whatever happens, we will continue to bring you responsible, comfortable, fun and unforgettable basking shark experiences from Scotland.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Basking Shark Spaces Available 2013 Season

For the most reliable but spectacular basking shark encounters in the UK - here are our space availability for the 2013 season. 26th May to 1st June. 2 Spaces. 21st to 26th July 1 space 28th July to 1st August 1 Space

Monday, 4 March 2013

Love is in the Air...basking sharks sniff the urge.

...Or is that spring? Yes, spring is springing, even though it's cold enough to (insert analogy here), the days are lengthening, and I'm quite sure there have been more than four hours of sunshine in the last week. YAY! I woke yesterday to the sound of pigeons cooing down the chimney pot at me. The birds, and the bees, are peeking out at the handfuls of buds on the trees and bushes, and the wheels are in motion for the inevitable arrival of spring. That means that all of the conditions favourable for the generation of plankton are forming up somewhere out in the Atlantic, or if not there then at the tilt of a couple of tenths of a degree of the planet's axis and we should have enough of a warm up to get the plankton moving up around Mull and the surrounding islands for another basking shark feast. What does that mean? Well scarily it means only about 12 more weeks until our first trip up, and we can, apart from basking sharks, have an excuse to land on some of the inner hebrides and search out shots like this one. Trips spaces available: Mull Photography Itinerary (some sharks, lots of land wildlife, including otters). 26th May to 1st June Basking shark only trips: 7th to 13th July and 21st to 27th July. Diving + Basking Sharks: 28th July to 1st August.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

News from Peru

This following press release summarises work carried out by a collaborative team of which I am and active member. In Jan/Feb 2014 we are planning a tagging expedition to the region. If you would like to be part of that expedition, please email me here. To download the original press release (with images) from my site, click here. Press Release joint collaborative project for mantas and mobulas, Peru. Development of a conservation project in the north of Peru has made significant inroads into understanding the human impact on manta and mobula populations in the region; but ‘there is still a long way to go’, say the leaders collaborating on the project. Peruvian conservation NGO Planeta Oceano, shark and ray conservationists Shawn Heinrichs and Mary O’Malley, and British manta conservationist and Manta Trust project leader Mark Harding formed a team in late 2011. The project aims to collaborate closely with fishing communities to identify risks to internationally threatened species of manta and mobula rays that are found off the coast of Peru’s Northern provinces and to investigate a possible migratory link between manta rays in Peru and Ecuador. Northern Peru is host to an aggregation of Oceanic Manta Rays (Manta birostris), a highly vulnerable species that is believed to take 10 or more years to mature and gives birth to only one pup every two to five years. Peru also holds a considerable population of mobula rays, species that are close relatives of the mantas and also of international conservation concern. Both rays are sometimes used in the local food dish ‘Chinguirito’. Oceanic mantas are reported by fishermen to migrate with the seasons to and from Ecuador where Mark Harding was the first person to begin researching these mantas back in 2005. This regional population of these rare and iconic animals is considered to be one of the most significant in the world. Planeta Oceano’s director Kerstin Forsberg says “We are turning up regular and exciting aspects of the behaviour of mantas and mobulas in the region, and also learning a great deal about the trends followed by the fishing communities there. This could be the key to conserving these species as well as helping local communities to develop more lucrative tourism revenue from the rays. Giant Mantas are a greatly sought after ‘megafauna’ (marine version of Elephants and Lions) and people will travel from all over the world to come and see them. We have already identified one regular aggregation point for the mantas and we know the likelihood of more sites existing is really high. However the most exciting thing we have found is that pregnant females and also juvenile mantas are present along the northern coastline. Manta rays have been part of Peruvian culture since pre-Incan times, showing on artwork made between 200BCE - 600CE, so to be working with these rays and to discover that Peru could be an internationally significant nursery site is very exciting”. Neighbouring Ecuador has spearheaded international conservation for Giant Mantas starting with national protection in 2010 throughout Ecuador’s waters and followed by their 2011 proposal to list the Giant Manta on the Convention on Migratory Species, an international treaty that encourages nations to cooperate to protect severely threatened animals that migrate across national borders. Success at CMS encouraged Ecuador, along with Brazil and Colombia, to propose Manta rays for international trade protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 2012. This March in Bangkok, Thailand, the 177 countries that are party to this binding international treaty will vote on the proposal. Mark Harding says, “With a high likelihood that Peru shares the same Giant Manta population with Ecuador, as well as being host to a nursery site that could be critical to the survival of this important manta population, we hope that Peru will join Ecuador by implementing protective measures for Giant Mantas whilst they are in Peruvian waters and supporting the CITES proposal this March”. This project is already attracting international attention and we are pleased to announce the recent grant from the New England Aquarium support this work. Collaborators continue to look for further funding as the future plans for the project are considerable. Guy Stevens, director of international manta conservation group, The Manta Trust says “We know so little about the lives of these beautiful ocean giants, so projects like this are extremely important to the global understanding and conservation of these charismatic animals, especially in the face of the increasing global threats now faced by these species. Unfortunately, in today’s commercial world our marine resources must earn their protection, as simply attempting to gain protection based purely on intrinsic values alone will not work. Science is the tool which enables conservationists, nations and the international community to make informed and worthwhile decisions which can help curb the growing pressures exerted upon our planet’s oceans and their inhabitants, paving the way for a more sustainable approach to the utilisation of our natural heritage. This multifaceted approach to the conservation of these species in Peru will be the key to its continued success.”

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Long time - no blog.

It is about time I write a blog on something or other. I do feel though that there is not a lot of point in writing a blog unless you have something conclusive to say, and there is a lot up in the air at the moment. Myself and a handful of enthusiastic, hardcore and dedicated conservationists are currently working on a very exciting project - but as part of that team, I can't say too much on the subject right now. Needless to say, watch this space.

In the meanwhile I have updated my image galleries. There are some shots that I feel have been the best I have taken - but, I still have a lot to learn, and the advancement in technology and also technique - leading photographers constantly raising the bar - mean I still have a long way to go in this career. Again, watch this space as there are some superb projects planned for the next twelve months, and I hope I will be coming up with some of my best work during this time.

Have a look at my updated site here.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

An ocean heroine

This is not the first time that I have written about how some people have the ocean in their blood. Diving, or, let's be honest, the far more advanced 'art' of freediving, can only be achieved to a high level by those who can become one with the ocean. This week I have been honoured to share some sea space with a very inspiring character, Flavia Eberhard. Year after year whilst working with these sharks, whenever one comes close to us, we always wish we could represent a person and a shark in the same shot. However, due to limited visibility, and the fact that most of us are woosies who snorkel in cumbersome dry suits, makes it a very hard shot or sequence to achieve. So, Flavia agreed to help me in getting the job done, and in the most sensitive way possible, try to get a person and a shark in the same shot. The aim, to give anyone who hasn't seen one of these sharks a sense of their scale, and hopefully therefore generate even more fans of these home grown giants. Even with a water person such as Flavia, the shots have not been easy; we never chase the sharks, and getting in position as a shark approaches has proved challenging for the both of us. I will post the takes in a video edit as soon as I have it finished. Anyway, the purpose of this post was not to bang on about my work, but to say a huge thank you to Flavia, and send congratulations also, as shortly before coming on this trip, Flavia secured a new brazilian national record in the freediving discipline of Free Immersion to 69 metres (!!!). Not only is Flavia an awesome freediver, she is a total pleasure to work with, and is without doubt a genuine, dedicated spirit of the ocean. An inspiration to be around, a gentle soul who is a credit to our race. Look out for her, hopefully you will share a piece of ocean swell with her some day like I have been lucky enough to do this week.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Ahoy! I sight a FIN!

Phew, the basking shark season has crept up on me a bit this year, I can't believe it's June already, and it's not long at all before we will be on the waves with our good friends at Sea Life Surveys based out of Tobermory to look for basking sharks. This is truly an incredible experience, and every year I am astounded that we have such an incredible migration of gargantuan marine creatures happening on our doorstep. The area itself in something equally special, beautiful islands, bays and lochs teeming with more wildlife than anyone can imagine. I will be posting updates from the trips here as and when I can jump high enough on deck to get a telephone signal. Watch this space!