Wednesday, 17 April 2013
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
...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
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
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.
Labels: commercial and social photography isle of wight, eyemocean.com mark harding underwater photographer
Thursday, 5 July 2012
Thursday, 7 June 2012
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!
Tuesday, 28 February 2012
I had a conversation this week with Rich Clothier from Shark Guardians. Rich has been promoting shark conservation through an awareness drive, drawing particular attention to shark products being made readily available on popular domestic outlets such as ebay and Amazon. Their primary goal is to achieve ten thousand signatures in this petition. There will be a few people who read this who will grumble about petitions not being effective, but I would draw their attention to the fact that it was not so long ago, 2008/09 that one such opinion based movement managed to dislodge alibaba.com's zeal for online shark fin trade, and thesharkgroup campaign led by shark superman Wolfgang Leander achieved a promise by chairman Jack Ma that there would be a cessation of trade in shark fin products on alibaba. This recent listing shows that orders do show up from time to time, but alibaba's 'no fins'policy is internally policed and such incidents are controlled whenever they come to light (we are told).
So, what about us bastions of conservation, the Europeans and North Americans, you know, the ones that make laws with handy finning loopholes allowing us to be one of the primary suppliers of shark's fin into the Hong Kong markets? Should we even be surprised that ebay and amazon have a vast array of shark products for sale? When I looked at ebay today to see just how many shark products are up for grabs, I could see over 14,000 listings for sharks teeth, beginning with full jaws of megalodon and great white, with the former topping nearly 60,000 USD. I'm sorry, did I say great white jaws were for sale? Surely I must be mistaken, as trade in their body parts are tightly restricted due to them being CITES appendix I listed right? Oh sorry, this guy's informative listing tells me I can only buy it if I am not asking him to post it across a border. Silly me.
Squalene is the next item to have a series of multiple and sometimes high priced items, starting at a massive $US 750 for a few pills, with no less than 4000 listings on amazon.
It would be naive of me to suggest that this trade is clear cut black and white good versus bad. Obviously it is not going to affect the megalodon population by trading a few fossils, I even came across a guy on our local beach last spring hunting for fossilised sharks teeth; for anyone who doesn't know, I live on the south coast of England where the now defunct fishing fleet wiped out our local sharks about 20 years ago, so fossils are about the only thing you can find here that is shark related here. I guess therein lies the deeper question: Is a person who collects shark fossils and memorabilia, the die hard shark fan, are they deeply allied to the wider cause of shark conservation? There must be a philanthropic based shark research paper mileage in that one surely.
But the real problem here is the wider issue of online trade in shark's fin. Thankfully ebay and amazon were free from those products, but it was not difficult to find a number of online bulk traders elsewhere, pushing dried shark fin based in the Far East and India, with many traders promising to meet a demand of 1 tonne per week. So depending on what loophole your supplier is exploiting and the size of the shark caught that could mean anything between 3300 to 5000 small sharks (>1m juvenile hammerheads for example) or 400 to 550 medium sharks (2m requiem species) and I'm making a wild stab at those figures based on what I've seen happening daily on some beaches, and those wild stabs are probably way underestimating the fact that I'm totting up freshly caught sharks, considering these traded fins are dried, therefore a lot lighter. Remember, that 1 tonne is a per week figure for one supplier, to one online trader. That means that one trader could be accounting for 1/4 million sharks per year. Ok lets not get into the whole how many millions? detraction, whatever the total is, that's a hell of a lot of sharks, and it is happening online, easily, and freely, just like our weekly shop at Tesco.
I am not going to theorise a solution here, but I have been somewhat surprised to see one possible solution bandied about freely, as if it were the holy grail of halting shark demise; that is eco-tourism through shark diving. The paraphrase popped up during the widely discussed Giam Choo Hoo fracas last week, and today is proposed as a discussion on the highly respected RJ Dunlap page.
I won't go into the pros and cons of the behavioural changes issue and how that weighs in against the pro shark Zeitgeist generated by elated divers emerging from such interactions, basically because this guy will, and has done a better job of it, but, I will say this loud and clear: the view that all sharks can, or should, be saved by eco-tourism operations is deeply flawed. Most of the sharks that suffer from pressure generated by overfishing are migratory, skittish and predominantly pelagic. Developing any kind of tourist activity around these sharks, if not impossible, would require an enormous amount of input, and many hours of failure at encountering the quarry, and a decent helping of insanity (in this summary, I don't mean rocking up and copying someone else's business model, I mean getting out there and changing the game from scratch). Many such species, threshers, makos, even blues, would be impossible to dive with for the average Joe tourist, who might be falsely lulled into thinking they were a reborn shark whisperer after being suffered by the slumbering cuddliness of a nonchalant whale shark or having enjoyed the approaches of an inquisitive manta ray. How many thresher shark dives are there worldwide? Two? one and a half? The interests of these ops are in the hands of a few locals or ex-pats, who have the capital to invest in a tourist class boat or resort, whilst the rest of the impoverished fishing community stick to eking out a meagre living from a very uncomfortable panga from an ever dwindling supply of fish. I think the quantifiable potential income for the wider fishing communities is as incalculable and unlikely as ever determining just how many sharks are falling victim to directed fishing each year. The real answer to the overall problem lies in community derived sustainability through fisheries management where the community is the stakeholder, and where eco-tourism forms a part (small or large, depending on the circumstances) of that plan.
Oh dear, I seem to have wandered from the initial purpose of this post, please sign Rich's petition and then have a long hard think about the rest of this blog, if you come up with any more answers let me know.