Episode 163: On the “International Shark Diving Operators’ Organisation”

One of the big problems in shark diving is that the educational value is pretty much zero, combined with a questionable safety record. Just because nothing happened so far does not mean the way sharks are shown is safe. Shark dive operators should get organized, combined with a mandatory licensing system.

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Episode 162: Five shark poops for…

‘SharkWeek’ is over, and as usual not much happened. Should SharkWeek be about education? Granted, much was said and shown, but what is the actual value of it that could help the shark in the long run? Make their still fragile status in the general public less scary and turn it into a We-Have-To-Help-Them state. I hope that ‘SharkWeek’ changes its angle to ‘SharkEducationWeek’ in the years to come. The sharks would thank them.

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Episode 161: Didn’t we already know that?

Over 150 scientists collaborated on a study on the global risk assessment of sharks under the footprint of fisheries and figured out what exactly? Anything we did not know? Nope, they just added a few numbers to an old and well-known problem: too many sharks are fished and killed each year. What would happen if the same scientists would finally stand up and decide to go in front of this thing? That would make a collaboration worth writing about.

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Episode 160: Give idiots a place to write

Defamation of character should also be a law when it comes to animals. The latest proof is a piece written by two journalists on the seemingly dangerous bull sharks. Pure fiction but gullible readers will still believe.

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Episode 159: Once it is over, it is over

Whenever a shark has bitten a person and does not immediately do so again, as it would happen during pattern compensation, the fear of the shark returning a few minutes later and biting once more hardly happens. Although relaxing after a bite is likely not happening, experience suggests that a state of calmness kicks in once the initial “rush” is over.

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Episode 158: It happened, now what?

No one wants to get into an accident, but being mentally prepared for the rare event is better than having no idea how to proceed. The same is true when it comes to sharks. 

Episode 157: Shark-Get out of the water! No, wait, what?

Should a shark show interest in you, never, ever, back off and try to reach the shore. Stay put, go vertical, pivot, observe, and wait, and THEN act then follow the rules. Remember: always integrate the shark in your decision making. 

Episode 156: Shark researchers kill sharks for the sake of data collecting

What is more despicable than allowing animals to die because one poses a rather lame scientific question? In a world where shark conservation is more important than ever, some shark scientists still do not care. 

 

Episode 155: Divers are ascending, and a bunch of sharks is showing up

Sharks can show up during an ascent. One always has then to stop ascending, remain at the same level as the sharks, go vertical, and face to face with his or her dive buddy and start pivoting together. Do not improvise;  just follow the rules.

 

Episode 154: Worldwide bites are decreasing, against what some scientists say

Combine the most appropriate statistical modeling with the best approach on how to weigh shark bites, and one gets a straightforward answer: the world’s shark bites are decreasing. Good news for the sharks’ reputations but it also means that their populations are dwindling to the extent that it even reflects in their bite rates.

 

Episode 153: Who “asked” first, the shark or the sharksucker?

Although the relationship between a shark, the client, and a sharksucker, the cleaner, looks straight forward, its origin is less so. Furthermore, for a shark to detect food stuck between its teeth, it must possess a delicate system that can perceive the slight shift between teeth next to each other. This availability is remarkable considering the often rather powerful use of shark teeth when clamping down.

 

Episode 152: And then there is the blacktip…

One of the most ignored shark species is the blacktip shark, Carcharhinus limbatus. Unfortunately so, since these buggers are a blast. They are rather small but full of life and a cockiness that has no comparison. This species is very refreshing to hang out with but be aware, wherever you find one, don’t assume it acts or reacts the same way as it did before with you elsewhere.

 

Episode 151: Nature can do well without us

“Think globally, act locally” is a compelling message when it comes to the conservation and protection of animals and their surroundings. The more people take responsibility; the more significant the impact will be. As insignificant as an act may seem when supporting the cause, even the smallest bit will have a broader reach than just the immediate area where it initially happened.

 

Episode 150: What’s left is telepathy?

Despite the commonly accepted forms of communications among sharks, there are still too many unanswerable questions. One form has not yet been considered: telepathy. Although this seems far-fetched, a quick summary is given why this form of information exchange should not be rejected at this moment.

 

Episode 149: It is not just about the writing of a sharkbook…

Each year, plenty of people feel the urge to write a book on sharks, independently if they are experts or not. The less qualified an author, the more likely old mistakes will find their ways back (once more) into their book. Even so, the internet is more present than ever, books are still an essential educational tool, and as such should be as accurate and updated as possible without re-emphasizing old mistakes. To that extent, a publishing house’s task is not just to print and spread but also to test for accuracy. A bonafide, external shark expert on the issue could save the company a lot of money and face, too, should the author not have been really up to par with the subject, and that includes erroneous assumptions previously made on sharks, as well as knowing the latest research in this particular field.

 

Episode 148: Going back was never a question

Many people asked about Erich Ritter’s motivation to go back in the water after his near kill by a bull shark on April 9, 2002. Some of the thoughts he had to return to the same spot where it happened and start over again, are described.

 

Episode 147: Who was to blame on April 9, 2002

It is the most famous shark bite ever aired on TV; a bull shark bites the calf of Erich Ritter. Many stories circulated how it could have happened. Here, I talk about this dark day, and what truly happened.

 

Episode 146: Scientific longlining is wrong, too

For too long scientists got away with catching sharks using longlining. A method that kills sharks for the sake of science is wrong. What are the alternatives? Well, not that many but they sure would put everything in perspective.

 

Episode 145: ebay could make a difference

Search for “shark jaws” on ebay’s website, and a large number of jaws pop up. Why does ebay, a large multinational e-commerce corporation with headquarters in the US, allow the sale of such animal parts? Because the sale of shark jaws is still legal? On there one finds even white shark jaws, a species that is on the CITES Appendix II list. It cannot be that jaws of a shark species that is likely already biologically extinct, are still be traded. It would be prudent for ebay to rethink its policy of selling shark jaws.nbsp]

 

Episode 144: Is there an actual giraffe whisperer?

In the mid-90s when the term “shark whisperer” was coined by Discovery Channel they created something rather special. The title was associated with shark science, especially shark-human interaction. Since then, the “title” moved from one shark person to the next, all depending who the new TV darling was. The label completely lost its charm and is nowadays an insult than an honor. So what comes next?nbsp]

 

Episode 143: The long way to establish a behavior

The behavioral repertoire of sharks is pretty short compared to other animal groups. That does not mean that there are only a few behaviors known, not at all, but in order to get a shark behavior established, one must follow specific rules and hope for the acceptance of anonymous reviewers. However, there are other problems as well. The simplest and easiest way to get a shark behavior known is through video websites and follow the old saying, the most straightforward answer is the most likely one. 

 

Episode 142: Let the other side take over

Interacting with a shark is always a two-part process. First, the triage needs to establish an understanding of the situation and what factors influence the scenario the most, and then a connection should be built to the animal close to us. This second part is not always attainable, but with enough practice and an open mind, it can be achieved. Once this stage is established, any interaction will open up a completely new world with the shark in front of or around you. 

 

Episode 141: Forget that it is a white shark

Whenever a shark approaches you, it does not matter what species it is, but solely that it is a shark. Starting to think about the species takes away from your analytical mind of what influences the situation, of what the shark does, etc. and all that remains is, OMG it is an e.g., white shark. No matter what, nature did not teach us how to react when a particular shark species approaches us, so do not follow your gut feeling that is–for sure–influenced of what you know about the species from TV, the internet… but stay with the rules. 

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Episode: Using “Ritter Rules” to safely face a shark

The less one has to wing an interaction with a shark, the safer the encounter will be. Following Face-Guide-Push-Move will always have the desired effect, independently of the person’s water activity.

 

Episode 139: Reading a shark word by word

Whenever facing a shark, our well-established tick list at SharkSchool should be used to get the maximum out of an upcoming interaction. Not will following rules guarantee that all essential aspects are covered, it will also keep emotions under control. The more one can focus on the interaction at hand; the more one stays in control of the encounter.

 

Episode 138: Inviting lay people to do a professional’s job

The story of the “Brother Islands” incidents in the Red Sea is not over yet. Some NGOs, together with Egyptian governmental agencies decided to do a workshop on how to safely interact with sharks. Although a good idea, they failed to invite experts on the issue and handed the “shark stuff” to a very dubious shark organization that is completely made up of lay people. One can only hope that no oceanic whitetip shark shows up next season at the “Brothers” otherwise some people have to answer some ugly questions.

 

Episode 137: Doing their thing close to me

Bull sharks have one of the worst reputations when it comes to sharks. That their image does not reflect the truth, goes without saying. So it should not come as a surprise, once they are relaxed, that they allow us to be very close when doing their thing. The better we know them, the easier we can try to change their false image. It may still be time for species like the bull shark but even for that one, time is running out.

 

Episode 136: More carbon dioxide likely leads to fewer shark pups

Most nursery grounds for sharks are in the shallows for one main reason, to protect the pups from larger sharks. But what happens when sea levels keep going up making those nursery grounds more accessible to larger sharks? 

Episode 135: Make it or break it

When it comes to hurting animals, sportfishermen are second to none, especially when dealing with sharks. More often than not, sharks are seen with broken or injured jaws to the extent that their likelihood to survive is very much limited. These wounds are caused by sportfishermen who try to rip the hook out of a shark’s mouth once they realize that they do not have a fish on their hooks. Proper procedure would be to bring the shark along the boat, remove the hook, or at least cut the line as close to the hook as possible. However, as long as the line strength is not reduced, or smaller hooks used, sharks with injured lower jaws will remain a common sight. 

Episode 134: Beautiful and not dangerous

An unbelievable encounter with a huge white shark just happened in Hawaii. The large animal popped up next to a group of snorkelers and interacted with them for hours. How incredible is that? A wonderful and mind-boggling moment. Unfortunately, some news stations could not accept the beauty and harmony but had to look for anything negative. Sometimes, one wonders… 

Episode 133: Shore fishing for sharks, another criminal act against nature

Shore fishing for sharks is another destructive fishing activity and should be banned, once and for all. Since it will not likely happen, it should at least be restricted and controlled to the extent that even the smallest disregard to the newly set regulations would end in hefty fines and jail time. 

Episode 132: When national waters should be taken away.

The oceans belong to no one. So any country that feels it can do whatever they want within their waters, be it polluting it or overfishing their shark or bony fish populations, should be allowed to be invaded and their practices be stopped without legal repercussions from other governments. Any criminal act against nature within a country’s territorial waters must be punished by, e.g. implementing embargoes, jail time of the responsible parties (e.g., premier ministers, presidents…) and paying fines where the amounts of money then are used to reverse the damage done to nature and/or their inhabitants. 

Episode 131: Without the “pubs” for pups we have no chance

Nursery grounds are the most critical habitats for sharks. While growing up around and in them, they find food and shelter, and the time to learn and hone skills. Without these grounds, survival for young sharks are not just questioned but pretty much impossible. More emphasis must be given to find and protect these habitats. One way to pursue would be tagging pregnant females. 

Episode 130: Does cornering sharks by divers really exist?

Although cornering sharks by divers is an often heard situation, the question must be raised if divers indeed corner sharks, and if so, can the response by the sharks be predicted? From an evolutionary viewpoint, this scenario raises many questions, and its actual existence, where divers are considered, is questionable.

 

Episode 129: Houston, we don’t have a problem!

Australia feels that they have a “shark problem” that they cannot get a handle on. There is much talk about netting beaches, putting up electronic repellents or culling more sharks. All that seems to thrive is poor journalism of a problem that does not exist. How come that no one is talking about comparing these bites, and look for clues? As long as the agencies in charge do not look for clues that may explain the seemingly increase of bites, all that remains is a playground for the journalists to speculate which ends up in one, and one way only, increased fear or sharks among the general public.

 

Episode 128: Ever heard of “MC OAP?”

Whenever out there facing sharks, it is crucial to try to understand what these animals think and “where they come from” when checking us out. MC OAP–Mental Capacity Oriented Animal Perspective–focuses on precisely that. To get a better grasp at the situation one finds oneself in, a person should try to see the very situation from the shark’s viewpoint, combined with its likely brain power.

 

Episode 127: Visualization, an essential shark interaction tool

Encounters with sharks are rare, and so most encounters will take place in a diver’s mind. However, visualizing a scenario with a shark over and over will make it less stressful when then an actual encounter happens. So even divers that can’t participate in workshops on shark-human interaction can improve their skills by reading about shark encounters and while doing so should simultaneously visualize the very scenario. Visualizing shark encounters is a potent tool in preparation for the real event.

 

Episode 126: Playing the blame game.

Another incident happened at the Brother Islands, Egypt, in the Red Sea, and the blame goes from the shark to the diver, to the guides. At the end, all that matters is that the incident could have been prevented, but neither guides know how to face a shark, nor their clients. Granted, the people most could make a difference are the guides of the liveaboards that go out to the Brothers. It should be an easy task to teach them, but it isn’t. So, as long as guides do not teach proper technique of how to face an approaching shark, these incidents will keep happening.

 

Episode 125: What is it with all the confusing common shark names?

Some shark species carry different common names, depending on where one looks for them, others only have a single name but are confused with other species that carry similar names. Then there are the shark species which carry the word “great” in the name, and so on. Is there a way to plow through all this confusion, or does one have to accept it?

 

Episode 124: Do sharks that tend to bite share a particular personality?

Sharks that tend to bite a person approach more direct, overstep the inner threshold right away, and get close during their first passing. It seems that these sharks, independent of species, have a much lower threshold to approach new things. Another feature is their eyes. When looking at them during this first encounter, these eyes do not seem to show the typical eye roll but more of a stare for as long as possible until the animal passed the diver for good.

Episode 123: Why do abalone divers get bitten so often

When it comes to activities and their exposure to sharks regarding incidents, abalone divers are up there. What is it that attracts sharks, in this case predominantly white sharks, to the divers. The answer likely lays in the sounds produced when prying off these snails from the rocks. However, other reasons come to mind as well. So, are there ways to reduce the attractiveness of this activity?

Episode 122: Why the shark is not aggressive, and the cat is not dumb

Very often, an animal comes across a certain way that will then be described with human characteristics. Such a description is called anthropomorphism: giving human characteristics or behaviors to an animal, or an object. However, one should be very careful when doing so since the mental state of an animal, or whatever is described, with such a label is likely unknown. Quite often a more neutral term to describe the animal is more appropriate.

Episode 121: Rape among sharks is a fact

For years, scientists labeled the wounds sharks create during mating ‘mating scars,’ and it was just assumed they are part of regular copulation between males and females. However, these scars were always rare, and nobody wondered why that was. We asked that question and found the reason behind it: rape. Here, an overview is given, how rape was determined, and what that means for the image of sharks.