South Africa: Part Deux

I am trying to write and remember more about South Africa, before the memories take on the feelings of dreams, before mundane realities of day-to-day life in L.A. eclipse my beautiful visions.

Here are a few things I can’t stop thinking about:

1. The time I felt most sacred: when a stray piece of bait floated in through the viewing window of the cage. No shark in sight, but I instantly flung the fish head back out into the water just the same.

2. My first full day in South Africa it rained. Apex kindly arranged a wine-tasting tour for us. It felt funny getting slightly drunk on very fragrant wines so early in the day, but I managed to get through it. At one winery near Stellenbosch(?) I stood next to a roaring fire, petting a fat, contented calico cat. A group of school kids on a field trip tramped into the room and collapsed on chairs around the fireplace.  They were probably only about 15, but holding their glasses (each one with a swallow of gold in the bottom), scarves wrapped about their necks, they looked impossibly sophisticated. As one lovely dark-haired girl approached me, I had that incredibly rare and warm feeling that I was acting in a scene from a movie. I told her that “my fellow Americans” and I had come to South Africa to see the sharks. She looked wistful. “Once I went diving with ragged tooths. One shark was pregnant and as the sun slanted on the water, I could see her babies inside.” She looked so happy remembering this, her cheeks flush with the fire. A dashing schoolboy approached us, gently breaking her reverie. Maybe it was the wine, but everything felt effortless and scripted at the same time. “Do you mind if we take a photo with you and your friends?” he asked. “It’s not every day that we meet Americans.”

3. On my last day at sea, the swells were high and dark. We weren’t sure if the sharks would come. But they did. Standing on the deck of the boat, as the dark water rose around us, and a near 15-foot shark surfaced near the side,  I felt empty in the most beautiful sense of the word: empty of everything except the moment of witnessing: the fin, and tall, sharp tail, then the shark itself, turning on its side, white belly flashing in the sun, jaws opening, closing, then sinking beneath the waves again.

4. Looking at the eye of the shark as it swam close to the cage and feeling recognition, but not knowing if this meant that the shark saw me, or I saw myself in it.

5. All the terrific people I met: Chris and Monique Fallows the most gracious hosts and enthusiastic naturalists in the world, Renee and all the great people at Apex Predators, Carrie from New Hampshire with her bright enthusiasm for South Africa and her saint-like patience with annoying peopleSimons-town, Sam who worked at a farm animal sanctuary in Wisconsin and had an uncanny eye for spotting seal predations and her husband Brad who told great stories, Janet with her quick wit and impressive collection of shark swag who gave us all shark neckties, lovely Christine from the U.K, a fourth time visitor to South Africa who knew all the sharks on a first name basis, our kind, funny and amazing guide Alistair, our patient and helpful B&B host Jonathan, generous Peter from Buffalo and his wife Andrea who didn’t even swim yet plucked up the courage to climb in the shark cage anyway. Thanks to everyone who laughed at my jokes and everyone else I’ve forgotten and thanks especially to the sharks for showing up and changing my life.

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Should I Get a Bigger Boat? Shark Attacks on Boats, People, Dogs and Seals

Events like this make me feel lucky to live in California.

This August 8 lecture at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum with shark legend Ralph S. Collier  and Peter Howorth promises to be fascinating!
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Should I Get a Bigger Boat?

Shark Attacks on Boats, People, Dogs, and Seals

by Ralph S. Collier  (President, Shark Research Committee)

and Peter Howorth (Director, Santa Barbara Marine Mammal Center)

 Where: Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, 113 Harbor Way, Santa Barbara, California

When: Friday, August 8, 2014 • 7:00pm

Cost: $15 (SBMM and Shark Research Committee members), $20 (non-members)

To Register: Go to www.sbmm.org or call (805) 962-8404 x115

What should you do if a shark takes a fancy to your boat?  Yes, this really does happen––boats have been attacked by sharks.  Find out why this happens and much more as Ralph S. Collier, the west coast’s leading authority on shark attacks, explores various theories on why sharks attack everything from surfboards to boats, and from crab trap floats to people.  Learn what makes a shark tick and why it is such a supremely well-adapted predator.  Discover from Peter Howorth how attacks on marine mammals can serve as canaries in the coal mines, warning people of shark hazards, and what is being done about this.

If you are in the Santa Barbara area on August 8, 2014 please stop by. Directions to the Museum are available on the SBMM web site when you order tickets. After you order tickets please notify the SRC so we can place you on our Members list for this event. For confirmation of SRC Membership, and to obtain the $5.00 discount per ticket, please print out and bring this email. Seating is limited so order your tickets today. Thank you and we look forward to seeing you August 8th at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.

 

Day 334 6/4/14: Deep Sea Gossip

Whale painting - after1. The young Florida woman who was attacked by a bull shark had a funny feeling about the dark water. 

2. Find out why artists Marina Abramovic, Ed Ruscha and others have placed their art in a sunken vault at the bottom of the sea.

3. Whale hidden in Dutch landscape painting finally free.

4. Can new technology slow extinction?

5. Ever wondered what it’s like to live underwater for 31 days? Sure you have. And soon you’ll know.

Day 340 5/31/14: No Limits, No Future

images-3Please sign this petition to ask the European Commission and Regional Fisheries Management to put limits on shark fishing. According to the Shark Trust, three of the world’s top 20 shark fishing nations are European (Spain, France and Portugal). Current laws allow many shark species like short fin mako to be caught in unlimited numbers. Many of these sharks aren’t caught for meat. Trawls, long lining, and gill nets catch huge numbers of sharks as target species and as bycatch. One longliner can deploy up to 200 longlines in one set–lines that contain some 3,000 hooks and stretch for 60 miles. Without placing limits on the numbers of sharks caught, these destructive fishing methods are putting more pressure on animals whose numbers are already falling rapidly. We need to support the adoption of stricter laws for catch limits in Europe to prevent a collapse of Atlantic shark populations.

Thanks for adding your name & sharing this petition!

Day 319 5/10/14: 4th Grader to Obama: Save the Sharks!

(Re-blogged from White Shark Interest Group–Please sign and share! )

I am Anusha- a 4th grader from Texas. I am doing a project on raising awareness of shark protection among school children and working to stop the shark finning trade. Finally, after a lot of research, I started this petition to save sharks.

Please take time to sign this petition and please circulate it in your circles.

Thank you.

Here is the petition:

Hello friends, I, am doing a project on awareness and education on endangered sharks and wants to really take this big step to bring this change in all the schools. Please sign this petition and help me reach my goal to help the sharks worldwide. I believe that EVERY KID CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

Thank you!  Anusha

Day 318 5/9/14: Sign To Help Australia’s Sharks!

silent-shark-protest_729-620x349Over 100 sharks have been caught on drumlines or shot and killed in Australia’s misguided and reactionary response to recent attacks.

Now West Australia’s Premier Colin Barnet is considering extending the wasteful shark cull for another three years.

PLEASE sign Greenpeace Australia’s petition asking Environment Minister Hunt to stop the senseless killing.

Day 308 4/30/14: The End of the Cull & Deadline for Dusky Sharks

West Australia’s cull has ended-–for now. The drum lines have been pulled. 100 sharks have been caught, and though the Premier claims that killing 100 sharks (no great white sharks—the species responsible for the attack), has been “educational.” Let’s hope this barbaric policy doesn’t return in November.

If you’d like to do a good deed for dusky sharks, an overfished species and help end the use of wasteful longline fishing in the Atlantic, Gulf and Caribbean, here today is the LAST DAY. You can read about the proposal here. (Thanks to shark superstar Sarah Mucha for this information!)

Please e-mail  your comments to: Peter.Cooper@noaa.gov 

Subject: Amendment 5b (A5b) to the 
2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species 
Fishery Management Plan

 

Either submit your own original comments, or cut, paste & sign a version of this sample letter:

To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing in reference to the comment period on Amendment 5B (A5B) to the 2006 Consolidated HMS Fishery Management Plan. My comment is as follows-
POTENTIAL RECREATIONAL MEASURES
It is my opinion the closure of the Atlantic recreational shark fishery “ALT-A8” would have the most impact on helping reduce the number of incidental landings of Dusky sharks. If this measure is unattainable I feel the next appropriate measures would be to combine “ALT-A3” for public awareness on regulations and shark identification, “ALT-A4″ prohibiting retention of all ridgeback sharks in the Atlantic Recreational Fishery, ALT-A5” extending end of existing shark closures from July 15th to July 31st would give added protection to nursery areas, along with “ALT-A7” allowing only catch and release of all Atlantic HMS managed sharks and retention of recreational caught sharks prohibited would all help meet the goal of reducing mortality and rebuilding populations of not just Dusky sharks but also other listed species.
POTENTIAL COMMERCIAL MEASURES
Over all “ALT-B10 removal of all pelagic longlines as authorized gear for Commercial Atlantic shark permit holders or “ALT-B5” closure of the hot spots would have the greatest results of impact towards reducing the mortality of Dusky sharks along with multiple listed HMS of sharks and other marine life. This would help maintain at or below levels of mortality that in turn would work towards the result in a 70% rebuilding in the time frame recommended of a 100 years by assessment. Along with “ALT-B9” extending end of existing shark closure from July 15th to July 30th to further protect nursery grounds.
Due to the Dusky’s slow growth rate, maturity later than other shark species, their 3 year reproductive cycle, and small litter sizes of 3-12 pups, they fall under the characteristics resulting in a low intrinsic rate of population increase. The implementation of these alternative stringent regulatory measures should be required to recover the collapsed populations of Dusky sharks.
Thank you,