Monday, 28 April 2008

internet: transcending time and space

It is often noted that the internet has joined up the world, made it smaller in so many ways. This week, this was bought home to me in a way I'd not considered before, that it is not just our current dimension that is bridged, but time also is surpassed, when the past is brought to the future, for current relevance.
Through our online group of likeminded shark conservationists, I have been fortunate to become aquainted with Ila France Porcher, who lives on an Island somewhere in the middle of the Pacific. Although I have never met her, she is known and respected amongst our group of friends to be well versed in literacy, and is full of respect for the sanctity of the living being, particularly sharks. This is the way that we know the internet; to join people who live in the current time, but it struck me when Ila posted a quote from Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), that information not only passes across distance, but also across time, when something written 100 years ago, shows us the relevance of our actions in our own daily world.

I shall leave you to ponder on the words of Conrad, posted by Ila who was seeking to explain the relevance of art and it's value equated with that of science and math.

Ila's own moving dedications to sharks can be found at

"...The artist, then, like the thinker or the scientist, seeks the truth and makes his appeal. Impressed by the aspect of the world, the thinker plunges into ideas, the scientist into facts--whence, presently, emerging they make their appeal to those qualities of our being that fit us best for the hazardous enterprise of living. They speak authoritatively to our common sense, to our intelligence, to our desire of peace or to our desire of unrest; not seldom to our prejudices, sometimes to our fears, often to our egoism--but always to our credulity. And their words are heard with reverence, for their concern is with weighty matters: with the cultivation of our minds and the proper care of our bodies, with the attainment of our ambitions, with the perfection of the means and the glorification of our most precious aims.

"It is otherwise with the artist.

" ...His appeal is less loud, more profound, less distinct, more stirring--and sooner forgotten. Yet its effect endures forever. The changing wisdom of successive generations discards ideas, questions facts, demolishes theories. But the artist appeals to that part of our being which is not dependent on wisdom: to that in us which is a gift and not an acquisition--and, therefore, more permanently enduring. He speaks to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives; to our sense of pity, and beauty, and pain; to the latent feeling of fellowship with all creation--to the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts, to the solidarity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hope, in fear, which binds men to each other, which binds together all humanity--the dead to the living and the living to the unborn."

Saturday, 19 April 2008

NOAA's Shark Ark

The United states have made a two significant moves recently to protect its shark populations. The first is a draft bill by Hon Madeleine Z. Bordallo which aims to close certain loopholes in current legislation to protect sharks from finning at sea. However, this bill does not so far seem to require implementation of a clause by which sharks are required to be landed with fins attached. It might however prevent farcical events from occuring such as recently when a Hong Kong Shipping Company vessel "King Diamond II" loaded with 32 tonnes of fins was siezed under the 2000 Shark Finning Law in American waters. Prosecution failed after it was claimed that the vessel was not directly involved in fishing, but was a transport vessel collecting fins from smaller fishing boats. The HK Shipping Company reclaimed all of the fins.

More encouraging still is a proposal by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to protect coastal shark species such as the Sandbar Shark by banning the removal of fins, meaning that the shark must be landed whole. NOAA also proposes to reduce the catch quotas by a very significant level, and to ensure that takes of Sandbar sharks will only occur as part of a research fishery program. Read the full article on NOAA's site.

It is crucial that these efforts are supported, as you can bet that there will be plenty of fishing interests trying to make sure that they fail.
To support the Shark Conservation Act of 2008, Oceana have an online procedure which can be found here.

To support NOAA's proposals, you must email your support to the following email address:

Sunday, 13 April 2008

sow lies, reap disrespect

I noticed a while ago, on the msn homepage, a link to a National Geographic channel named Bull Sharks Hunt.

Whilst watching it, I was not at all surpised to see more tiring references to Bull, Great White and Tiger sharks as being the ones most known to attack people on a (to quote the channels words) "regular basis". I was not surprised because the media as we know, only seem to be able to sell a story by sensationalising it. But what does surprise and concern me, and should concern all of us, is when a flagship channel like National Geographic, fails to uphold its reputation for factual and informative documantary, instead choosing to broadcast poor quality, untrue pap dressed as information. In an age when the media is dictated to more by accountants than the desire to reveal the truth, more and more formerly noble houses have turned to popularism to ensure the men in grey suits go home happy, whilst the viewers, those eager to saturate their brains in more than just reality tv pulp, are fed little more than the journalistic equivalent of french fries. No wonder people watch so much television, we all know that junk food is designed to leave us wanting more.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

the tiger and the wolf

Here is an image of my good friend Wolfgang Leander, and one of his lifelong companions, a tiger shark. Wolf is a true man of the sea, at one with its creatures, and at home below the surface. I was honoured when wolf invited me out to Aliwal Shoal to dive with him, and to meet his giant, much maligned friends, those big broad tiger sharks.
Image courtesy of Rob Allen.

My initial concern was, how would this part of my documented journey to better understand sharks, and why people do what they do to them fit with my previous learning experiences that i had received in Ecuador and in the UK? As i will describe later in more depth, Ecuador sees sharks only from a fishing perspective, and my journey to Europe, to seek out a model of marine conservation was met with great dissapointment when i discovered that the EU has worse shark protection law than Ecuador. So how did flying off to the sun to jump in with tiger sharks fit with that thesis? The answer is that South Africa is host to some of the best shark tourism in the world. The very idea that people want to dive and interact with these most magnificent creatures means that there exists a premise on which to protect them, and the revenue inversion from that need means that sharks have a lot higher unit value whilst still alive, rather than dead.
I am always filled with a sense of nausea to talk about any kind of natural wonder as if i were some kind of futures broker, yet sharks are victim to a multi million dollar industry, that of harvesting their fins, so it is imperative that every aspect of their existence, both commercial and aesthetic be used to promote their wellbeing and long term conservation.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

home from shore

Here is my first blog. Wow, seems a little strange. Such a public diary. I should have done this years ago in a paper form, my tales of adventure both at home and overseas, have always entertained my friends, many saying I should write a book, something funny, a tale more of mildly entertaining disaster than fulfilling conquest. Such is life, fulfillment is looking back fondly or looking forward with eager anticipation. Adventure is in the moment.

I have just returned from a trip to South Africa to film sharks as part of my documentary on the terrible industry in shark fins. I shall continue more of the why's and wherefore's of that journey later, but for now, I am still high on the vibe of being in the company of such likeminded people who love the ocean, who's daily lives are ruled by it, the ebb and flow, the need to live free from conformity, to live with the ocean one has to move like the sand, ones daily life develops without rigidity. Rigidity is worn down and destroyed by the ocean. Walls are crumbled, wooden structures are smashed or rot in the relentless salt. To live with the sea demands an organic approach to life. To meld with the torridness or the tranquility. My trip to South Africa, first to the cape and then to Durban, was enhanced so much by being with the people who live with like this, with the ocean......