Showing posts from 2013

Extinction Soup

Extinction Soup is the inspired name of a new, dramatic film on the shark finning crisis, which Hawaiian film maker, shark diver, and advocate, Stefanie Brendl is spearheading. Philip Waller is the writer, producer and director, Sidney Sherman is the producer, and Travis Aaron Wade is the co-producer. The film is expected to be released in early 2014. For more information, have a look at their site.
All support is much appreciated, and there are lots of perks for those who donate something to this important project.
Congratulations Stefanie! Good on you all for creating this fantastic work on behalf of sharks!

Pain in Fish : a review of the evidence

Fisherman James D. Rose claims that fish can't feel pain. He has published a paper stating that the neocortex, the outer folded layer of the brain that is so highly developed in humans, is the seat of all higher mental functions, including consciousness of pain. Therefore, the neurological machinery required to feel pain is missing in a fish, and indeed, is present only in humans and apes. But, in focusing on a comparison of the human brain with the fish brain alone, Rose's article seems biased and anthropocentric. Rose did not give a reason for his assertion that consciousness depends, alone, on the neocortex. Nor did his argument take into account the straightforward evolution of the vertebrate brain. From fish to man, the brain has the same structures, arranged in the same way, with the exception only of the neocortex, which developed in mammals. Neurological studies have shown that the newly evolved neocortex of mammals took over certain higher functions, which were alrea…

Fish Are Animals Who Do Things

If you find it hard to believe that fish feel pain, consider this!

Cognition—the ability to think—was an important factor in the establishment of whether fish could feel pain, and it happened that in the same year as Rose's article was published, Bshary, Wickler, and Fricke published a review of the findings on the cognitive capabilities of fish (Bshary et al 2002). Here are a few examples: Recognition of others as individuals has long been established in many varieties of fish, both visually and acoustically (Myrberg and Riggio 1985). It forms the first step towards complex social lives, in which cognition is often most evident. I documented relationships among reef sharks for years. They, too, relate to each other individually. Social learning is illustrated by the migrations of the surgeon fish (Acathurus nigrofuscus), described in detail by Arthur A. Myrberg Jr. in 1998. These fish leave their territories all over the lagoon, and travel in single file through paths in the co…

Keep the Secrets of the Sea

In January an in-depth study of the current depletion of sharks was published (Worm et al 2013). It revealed that the numbers of sharks killed for shark fin soup are not falling, that no sharks have been saved, and that the ravenous market for the infamous party soup continues to be fed, in spite of the increase in support for shark protection that has come in the last decade.
A review of the way our society treats sharks reveals almost no segment in which they are respected, with the exception of certain researchers, divers and veterinarians. Their fins are taken for soup by the Asians, they are vilified by Shark Week in the west, they are wrestled and stabbed by scientists for a few minutes of glory as a he-man “shark fighter” on National Geographic or the ill-termed “Discovery Channel,” and they are fished as sea monsters by “sportsmen.” Television with its monster shows has unleashed an out pouring of hatred that has allowed them to be massacred in full view with almost no public o…

The Value of Ethology

While I preferred to study sharks directly through underwater observation, shark researchers often choose tagging methods which allow them to gain certain types of data remotely. The advantages of this method are evident, but the loss of contact with the animal itself results in a dramatically impoverished understanding of them.
A good example is the recently announced study concluding that grey reef sharks swim at different depths depending on the phase of the moon. (link here)
No mention of the effect of the moon on the sharks' general behaviour or subjective states was mentioned. The trouble is that it was not just ignored, it was not even seen. So the study is a dismal, one dimensional report, that might as well refer to robots, for all the understanding it provides of sharks. The hype with which the “finding” was announced also failed to acknowledge the many others over time who have noted that sharks, like other animals, use both of this planet's sources of illumination. 

STOP Shark Fins at the B C Coast : A Petition!

Sign now :
Given the decision by Canada's federal government to support the shark finning business by defeating Bill C-380, British Columbia must act at once to block shark fins from entering Canada via its west coast.

California, Oregon, and Washington states have already made it illegal to trade, possess, or distribute shark fins, leaving British Columbia as the only remaining entry point for shark fins on the west coast of North America.

Across the Pacific Ocean the sharks inhabiting vast archipelagoes of islands are being massacred to supply the voracious market for the costly party soup across North America.

By halting this province’s contribution to the crisis, we will broadcast the strong message that British Columbia refuses to play a role in driving so many species of sharks to extinction. The facts : Shark fin soup is a vanity dish. The monetary value is so high that much of the trade is in criminal…

Open Letter to the B.C. Government

Sadly, the Government of Canada has voted to support the shark finning business. So I, and many other shark advocates in British Columbia are demanding a total ban on shark fins in the province. This is an open letter I have just sent to the members of the B.C. Government asking that they act swiftly to block shark fins at the B.C. coast.
Dear Honourable Members, 
Given the federal decision to support the shark finning business, we are writing to urge you and your government to ban the importation of shark fins into Canada via its west coast, and make it illegal to import, export, trade, possess or distribute shark fins. By halting this province’s contribution to the crisis, you will broadcast the strong message that British Columbia refuses to play a role in driving so many species of sharks to extinction. The destruction of endangered species cannot be acceptable under any pretext. Further, in slaughtering sharks in incalculable numbers on the coast of every country with a tropical …

Shark Fishing : Experiments in Mega Death || CITES grants sharks protection

Delegates at the CITES conservation meeting in Thailand's capital, Bangkok, have voted to extend protection under Appendix II  to all three species of hammerhead sharks, the porbeagle shark, the oceanic white tip shark, and manta rays. This represents a decisive step in the right direction in terms of limiting commercialization and trade of these hard pushed sharks and their relatives, the rays. 

When I discovered sharks in the South Pacific in the nineties, you could still meet white tipped oceanic sharks exploring outside the reef, and when I asked a dive master about them being finned, he said, so what? They are among the most abundant animals on the planet. Not any more. While I was there they vanished, and the dolphins and reef sharks once preyed upon by the oceanic sharks no longer appeared with shark-bite scars, and increased in number. And the reef sharks were fished beginning in 2003.  Those are the most remote islands in the pacific, so if the …

Blackfin Reef Shark Evacuation from Moorea Island, 2002

Blackfin reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) reside in the lagoons and on the outer slope of the barrier reefs of Moorea Island. This coral habitat is shallow enough to facilitate underwater observation of the species. Regular observation at different sites centering in the Vaihapu region (Galzin and Pointer 1985) yielded a large amount of data on their movements, ethology, and social biology between 1999 and 2007 (Porcher 2005). In 2002, all blackfin reef sharks under observation, not only by the author but also by the dive clubs holding shark dives, left the north shore of the island for a period of ten days to two weeks. This event suggests an unknown pattern or influence at work.
With the surprising new information from Johann Mourier, that these sharkseasily travel between islands, I'm re-posting my account of their unexplained and unprecedented disappearance from Moorea Island in late July, 2002.

Johann began studying the same sharks that I observed, using far more hig…

When Sharks Really Attack!

The subject of sharks is usually approached either from the perspective of shark fishing, or shark diving, both of which also link into shark attack mania for different reasons. Due to finding myself in a particular situation, observing sharks and being with favoured individuals day to day for many years, my approach was entirely different, being that simply of one creature seeking contact with a community of another species. Sharks treated me as they would another shark, so I was witness to their intimate social and emotional behaviour. Thus what I have reported on the subject of sharks attacking is different. 
So saying, here is the link to the article X-ray magazine has published in its latest edition. It is illustrated with my paintings.
I hope you will find it interesting as well as exciting!