Archive for May 2006

Time for some new Shark Pictures   Leave a comment

In three days time I leave to begin filming Summer of the Sharks. We have big plans for the new Shark Divers TV series that this film will lead into. As soon as the movie has been shot the crew will begin the laborious task of editing the footage and hopefully turning our vague ideas and lofty aspirations into a watchable and entertaining shark film. While this is taking place I will return home and start editing the new shark pictures that I will have taken during the trip. We are planning some unique chumming sessions so we really have no idea what species of sharks will be photographed but its a fair guess that there wont be any Great White Shark Pictures until later in the year (but it would be one hell of a story if a Great White Shark showed up to lunch in the southern Caribbean). If we’re very lucky we may get Mako shark pictures but there are no guarantees. So, unless both my cameras flood I should have some new images loaded by the end of June.

While I’m out of touch with the world I’ll be working on a new section of Elasmodiver dedicated to the Shark Champions; those fearless ambassadors of the elasmo world who battle everyone from politicians to fishermen to help protect the worlds dwindling shark populations. The idea is to create a database of shark protection organizations that readers can wade through until they find the one best suited to their own ethics and agendas. Each company intro will have a link straight to their joining page so that anyone inspired by the work that they are doing can easily join up and add their support. Keep an eye open for it.

For the Sharks,

Andy Murch

Andy is the Staff Photographer at Shark Diver Magazine and the host of Elasmodiver.com which is one of the largest sources of information about sharks and rays on the internet.

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Posted May 30, 2006 by Andy Murch in Environment, Nature, Photography, Sharks

Assuming the worst about sharks   Leave a comment

They were busy devouring anything that they could fit into their mouths millions of years before Homo sapiens walked the earth. Even now they have a reputation for consuming all manner of things outside of their normal diet and examination of their stomach contents has turned up everything from seaweed, to old clothes, to books, and plastic bags.

Man has long been plagued by their existence but they are actually a staple in certain poorer countries where their meat is dried, salted, and preserved for long journeys. They are considered a delicacy in some Asian cultures where vast quantities are often consumed.

They have a much lower birth rate than bony fishes and are extremely rare in Antarctica but they have adapted to survive in almost every other environment resulting in an exceptionally broad global presence. They can even be found swimming in fresh water.

Larger specimens are extremely dangerous especially when cornered or if food is present and there are many documented instances of attacks resulting in serious injuries and deaths.

In some places protective barriers have been installed to try to keep these evil creatures at bay but invariably they break through or find their way around them with dire consequences.

Probably we will never be rid of these creatures and will have to live in an uneasy truce with the knowledge that they are out there eating everything they can.

GOATS – damn them!

Yes, I’m intentionally misdirecting the reader. The fact is that everything I wrote is true about goats but more commonly expected of sharks. Sharks are actually extremely picky eaters for the most part. They also generally have no desire to get anywhere near humanity. In fact, of the 500 or so species of sharks that swim in the worlds oceans only a handful are seen along beaches where people are likely to be swimming.

A barrier is also a misnomer underwater. The ‘barriers’ that are strategically positioned along beaches where Great White Sharks and other species patrol are not designed to keep sharks out. They are designed to catch sharks and drown them. Sadly this works all too well resulting in a drastic reduction in Apex Predators in areas where seal and other large pinniped species need the sharks to hold their numbers in check.

Shark nets are not actually continuous in the way that a fence is and sharks are just as likely to be seen swimming inside the nets as outside. What would the public think if they realised that the shark nets are trapping sharks near public beaches! Even if you believe that by reducing the number of sharks the nets are a good thing, its worth noting that sharks are not the only victims. Shark nets catch many dolphins and porpoises, as well as turtles, rays, and even the occasional whale.

I’m not trying to encourage a situation that leads to more shark attacks but maybe installing marinelife death traps is not the answer. There is currently a great deal of effort being put into creating viable alternatives to shark nets. The latest idea is to string magnets that repulse the sharks before they get close enough to become entangled. Lets hope that whatever device is eventually used to replace shark nets protects the sharks as well as us.

For the sharks,

Andy Murch
Andy is the Staff Photographer at Shark Diver Magazine and the host of Elasmodiver.com which is one of the largest sources of information about sharks and rays on the internet.

Posted May 25, 2006 by Andy Murch in Environment, Nature, Sharks, Uncategorized

Summer of the Sharks   Leave a comment

2001 was the year when starvation gave way to feeding frenzy. The media (who were starved for a headline) began feeding on the plight of shark attack victims. What statistically was turning out to be a normal year for shark attacks along the Florida coast was hyped out of proportion to feed the sensationalizing news hounds. This led to a shift in public opinion which ultimately resulted in a complete (and pointless) ban on shark feeding in Florida State waters. Following is a press release of the movie that we are working on that will hopefully capture the publics interest and shed a different light on Americas coastal sharks:

Five years after what the media dubbed ‘the summer of the sharks’, a film crew from Shark Diver Magazine are hitting the road to create their own ‘Summer of the Sharks’ a movie/documentary in which the team (led by editor Eli Martinez) plans to hunt for sharks all along the eastern seaboard.
The road trip begins in Galveston, Texas where silky, hammerhead, and blacktip sharks are frequently reported by fishermen. Using bait to bring the sharks up to the boat Andy Murch (SDM Photographer and host of Elasmodiver) will attempt to get close up images of the sharks while Eli and Rafa Flores (underwater Director of Photography) capture the action on film.
The 2nd stop on the tour is the treacherous waters of North Carolina where deep offshore wrecks are inhabited by ferocious looking Sandtiger sharks. The team hopes to capture some extremely close up images by using rebreathers that don’t allow bubbles to spook the sharks. “It’s funny” says Andy “that people are absolutely petrified of sharks but most of the time the sharks are so timid that merely blowing bubbles is enough to scare them away”.
Taking the ‘Shark Bus’ down to Louisiana the team then plans to chum for aggressive makos before flying out to St Maarten in an effort to find and photograph the rarely seen blacknose shark.
Andy’s take on Summer of the Sharks: “The movie isn’t about sharks, its about the dream we have to share the sea with these incredible creatures. Call it an obsession if you like but its what we do, and this is a chance for people to see into our world. The camera will always be rolling so the fear and adrenalin will be pretty obvious”.
Summer of the Sharks will introduce the new TV series Shark Divers, in which the team will head to a different location each week looking for close up encounters with the world’s deadliest and most elusive predators.

For further information contact;
Shark Diver Magazine
956-782-7969
SharkDiverMag.com

For the sharks,

Andy Murch
Andy is the Staff Photographer at Shark Diver Magazine and the host of Elasmodiver.com which is one of the largest sources of information about sharks and rays on the internet.

Sharks and Rays   Leave a comment

What do you know about the fascinating world of sharks and rays? And, why the hell is that important anyway? Well, simply put, if we didnt have sharks in our oceans you wouldn’t be able to read this blog. The catastrophic effect that this would have on the food chain would be enough to eventually create an imbalance at a planktonic level.

What most people don’t realise is that most of our oxygen comes from the sea not from the rain forest. Burn the Amazon and there would be a tragic loss of species and beauty. Kill the sharks and there would eventually be very few species left all together.

This is how it works… First we fish out the sharks. The next level of life in the ocean (e.g. the tuna) become the new apex predators. Unfortunately, these dont have such a slow, self regulating reproductive cycle as sharks so they multiply rapidly (now that there are no sharks around to keep their numbers in check). The inevitable over abundance of tuna then decimates the species on which they normally feed (e.g. mackerel). The mackerel stocks quickly fall below the level where they can sustain the population of tuna and the tuna start to starve. The lack of mackerel also means that the different varieties of baitfish that are their normal prey go through a massive population explosion. The baitfish then consume the plankton and the planet loses its largest producer of oxygen. Its a primitive model but the logic is sound.

To give a better idea of the measurable effects that a drop in the levels of phytoplankton can create we can look at the studies conducted in the early 90’s on the oxygen levels off the coast of California. Using previously recorded oxygen statistics researchers set out to find out what effect pesticide run off was having on plankton levels. Their findings were astounding; in the space of a decade the O2 levels that were generated by near shore plankton had dropped by 70%.

The message is simple: No sharks = no plankton = no oxygen = no people. So you want to go shark fishing?

So, shouldnt we take an interest in Sharks and Rays in order to help protect them (and ourselves). Maybe or maybe we should leave it to our governments or people like myself who are active and vocal about the plight of sharks. Thats fine, I’m not expecting any converts just yet but if you’re even vaguely interested in shark behavior, pictures of sharks, what its like to swim with sharks in the ocean, how you can help to protect them, their evolution, and much more, then follow this blog now and then. Or better still, visit Elasmodiver where you can find more shark and ray information than you can poke a speargun at. Its a massive site that has thousands of shark pictures and links to hundreds of pages that are not all dry boring facts like the ones I just subjected you to.

For the sharks,

Andy Murch
Andy is the Staff Photographer at Shark Diver Magazine and the host of Elasmodiver.com which is one of the largest sources of information about sharks and rays on the internet.

Posted May 19, 2006 by Andy Murch in Environment, Nature, Photography, Sharks