Monthly Archives: June 2014
FIJI: LIVE SHARKS AND TOURISM
Shark conservation is important on so many levels. Live sharks are worth much more to a tourism – based economy than dead sharks.
A recent article in Live Science in May 2013 looked at Shark eco-tourism world wide is currently bringing in $314 million, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia, Canada. This figure is expected to double over the next 20 years. Shark fisheries, on the other hand have earned $600 million per year but this figure has been declining over the last 10-15 yrs.
Let’s look at shark dives in Pacific Harbour, Fiji. Aqua-Trek dive ‘The Bistro’ four times each week and Beqa Adventure Divers do five days at ‘Shark Reef’, 2 kilometres further west. An average of twenty divers on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday for 50 weeks a year each pay $200 each day to see live sharks.
Diving revenue alone for these shark encounters is $1 million per year when charters from Beqa Island Resort and Beqa Adventures Divers are included.
$1 million income from shark charters has added value throughout the Fijian economy when divers and their friends spend tourist dollars for reef dives, restaurants, accommodation, day excursions, transfers, car hire, village tours, souvenirs and flights to and from Fiji.
FJ $20 per diver per day is paid to the villages who have shared their traditional fishing reefs to facilitate these shark diving operations.
This has been a win-win for everyone and it gets better. Its not only about the money. The shark feeds were started when coral bleaching events in the early 1990’s destroyed the reef ecosystems. Tourism to the Coral Coast in Fiji diminished to levels that were unsustainable for families who depended on employment at the holiday resorts to feed their children and extended families.
Divers have noted an increasing diversity of species and a return of healthy fish populations. The reefs appear to be recovering from the devastation of the bleaching events in the 1990’s.
Casual observation has suggested that recovery has been significantly faster on reefs closest to the shark feeding operations.
Check out my latest Gallery photos from our ‘surface interval’ activities whilst in the Galapagos in 2007.
We enjoyed a week in October that year travelling around a select number of islands including Isla Santa Cruz and Isla Sante Maria on board a small live aboard, the ‘Aida Maria’ out of Puerto Ayora.
We had the opportunity to experience both ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ landings in an effort to see the amazingly barren landscape and surrounding seas of these rather remarkable islands.
The water temperatures were cold, about 17-20 degrees C, so diving and snorkelling were limited unless you had a thick wet suit.
But the land based tours were stunning, as was the abundant wild life which was generally completely un-fazed by numbers of tourists wandering through their habitat. Truly a diving naturalist’s dream holiday – we can’t wait to return!
Check out this small collection of wreck diving shots we took when we visited Tufi Dive Resort in PNG, in 2010.
TUFI Resort is a small remote oasis nestled atop a breathtaking fjord, with a 180 degree panoramic view of the sea, fjords and mountains. The resort has an amazing cliff-top terrace overlooking the Tufi Harbour and wharf.
The Tufi wharf is 200 metres from the resort and was originally occupied by the Japanese but was subsequently the site of a USN Advance PT Boat base around the end of 1942.
Many of the wrecks are from World War II and are still in an amazing condition on the sea bed considering their vintage. The wreck dives were mainly around 14-25 metres deep. Off the wharf itself was a large amount of wreckage and debris, including PT Boats, a large concrete boat, empty 200 litre drums and anti-tank barriers.
However, the infamous B-17F Blackjack bomber dive site was around 50 metres, and another deep dive was a well preserved Landrover which was also a decompression dive at a depth of 45 metres. Most of us experienced various levels of nitrogen narcosis on this particular dive, and deco stops were compulsory with a surface interval of 4 hours mandatory before our second dive that day.
WESTERN AUSTRALIAN SHARK CULLING – ITS EFFECT ON SOUTH AFRICA
In 2004-2005, a great white shark named Nicole travelled from Gansbaai near Cape Town, South Africa to Exmouth, Western Australia, and back – a journey of 20,000 km. These apex predators are ocean travellers and there is understandable outrage expressed by South Africans about the culling of great white sharks in Western Australia.
My good friend, dive operator and shark conservationist, Roland Mauz of African Dive Adventures in South Africa recently commented:
“I hope it opens a few eyes. Australia does not have a good image when it comes to nature conservation. Taking those valuable animals out the way it is being done in Western Australia is rather medieval and cave man behaviour on the part of the government.
It is very sad that such a thing can happen in a time where the whole world is slowly turning to protecting these threatened animals.
We talk about this almost daily. I have 20 divers from Europe, mostly German, with me at the moment. This is not a group but individual divers, couples and a small group of friends who independently have decided to come to us this time of the year to dive with sharks.
Every single diver has had ten times more than he or she bargained for in terms of a shark diving experience and fun. We have tigers, bulls, great hammerheads, black tips and guitars sharks. We bait them so they come even closer to us and we have more thrills watching them.
Not even a slight hint of a threat ever comes from the sharks. They are interested in the bait which we keep to an absolute minimum so we are not actually feeding them. They are as curious in us as we are foreign creatures to them. We have an interacting, friendly and safe relationship with these animals.
Every diver spends a minimum of €1000-2000 while they are here. Some money comes to my business, some to the local petrol stations, the restaurants, the supermarkets, the clothing boutiques, the car rental companies, the airlines, the accommodation providers, the list goes on.
I in turn spend my income again on all kinds of goods and services and so do all the others who receive a share of the diving tourist dollar.
We have 1000-1500 divers a year. Every single diver is only here to see the sharks of Protea Banks. Not one of them would come if there were no sharks left.
Do you see the tourism value of our sharks?
I wish Australia would understand this”.
We have received some fabulous feedback about this promotional video for the Sardine Run. At the end of the day, word of mouth prevailed and our group of shark savvy divers has an international line up from from Portugal (via Angola), Fiji, Austria and Australia, including Townsville (via Vietnam and China).
Our hosts, owners of African Dive Adventures, are Roland and Buelah Mauz based at Shelly Beach, Margate/Protea Banks near Durban, South Africa.
Our first dives will be on their home patch to see grey nurse sharks that they call ‘raggies’, oceanic black tips, bull sharks, dusky whaler sharks and an outside chance of tigers and hammerhead sharks.
We will then head further south to Coffee Bay, near Waterfall Bluff where David Attenborough filmed the most extraordinary sequences for his BBC Special on the Sardine Run.
Our spotter plan will be relying on hundreds and thousands of Cape gannets and massive groups of dolphins to point our dive boat into the centre of all the action.
I received news this week that the sardines are currently 80 km off shore. If we are to believe the predications, our arrival for the 14th July will coincide with the time that the greatest shoal on earth will be concentrated against the South African coast at our location – fingers crossed!
Here is a link to a great article of mine just published by TravelThereNext.com – “Diving in Komodo National Park Flores, Indonesia“. It includes some great photos and a fabulous three minute video of diving the underwater world of Flores. Some spectacular footage to view.
I had many fantastic experiences whilst diving in Indonesia in 2013, one of which was spending two weeks on a live aboard in the Komodo National Park with the Bajo Dive Club.
I hope this article captures just a few of them.
Madison recently went to New York for the World Premier of her one hour doco ‘Shark Girl’ which was launched as a Smithsonian Channel Special to celebrate World Ocean’s Day in early June 2014.
This was a great documentary and an inspiring story, especially coming from one so young.
There is some hope left perhaps if she can educate us all, especially her generational peers, to preserve these creatures for all of us and our childrens futures.
Here is another great video put together by TravelThereNext with GoPro footage taken on my most recent trip to Pacific Harbour.
This was my last dive for the week at The Bistro. This close encounter with the bull shark wearing a lip piercing hook accessory and trailing fishing line actually hitting my camera was my about as in your face as one can get with the most dangerous species of shark on earth!
Thank you Aqua-Trek for yet another spectacular experience – never a dull moment on your dives!