Archive for the ‘Baja’ Tag

SWARMS OF WHALE SHARKS + PREDATORS IN PERIL   Leave a comment

Swarms of Whale Sharks and Predators in Peril

Its been an insanely busy summer. There were lots of great moments but the highlight was probably the incredible whale shark aggregations that we encountered near Isla Mujeres in Mexico. As I said in one of my Facebook posts, there were so many whale sharks that I felt sorry for the plankton. To read this year’s trip report and to enjoy a short video from the expedition please follow this link: Whale Shark Trip Report 2012

 

PREDATORS IN PERIL

Big Fish Expeditions has some awesome new trips penciled in for 2013 and 2014 but before I launch into that, I’d like to share some news about the Predators in Peril Project. I recently traveled to Guerrero Negro on the west coast of Baja to document the gill net fishery and in particular the amount of shark and ray bycatch that is caught in the halibut fishery. This trip resulted in some very graphic images that hopefully capture the essence of the problem.

It was a tough expedition for me personally because I was exposed to some tragic scenes but at least I had the opportunity shoot a video about the expedition. The video is called BYCATCH. It has some very disturbing footage but I believe that it is important to show everything that I witnessed in order to shine a light on this issue. You can see more images from the trip and watch the video at PIP’s new home: predatorsinperil.org To jump straight to the video please visit:Predators in Peril Videos

Please, please share BYCATCH on your social networks!

 

Next stop for PIP is Chile. In November I am heading to the wild west coast of South America to try to document the endemic shark population. Some Chilean species such as the speckled smoothhound shark are already listed by the IUCN as near threatened but the shark fishery continues to decrease their numbers further. Hopefully (if I actually get some images) we will be able to generate some interest from Chilean conservation groups that want to help reduce the fishery.

 

 

Ok, onto upcoming Big Fish Expeditions:

 

 

KILLER WHALES!

In 2014 we’re going to Norway to dive with hunting orcas. I knew this trip was going to be popular but I didn’t realize how popular! The same day that I loaded the orca free diving trip onto the Big Fish Expeditions website, it sold out. Consequently, I’m wondering if I should run two trips back to back because I certainly wouldn’t mind an extra week chasing killer whales. So if you are interested in a freezing cold adventure in the middle of winter to northern Norway to chase orcas and night dive on pristine sponge and coral reefs in Norway’s rugged fiords, please let me know as soon as possible and I’ll work on a second boat.

 

But before then, we have a lot of other amazing encounters to enjoy…

SAILFISH BAITBALL DIVING sold out months ago but a couple of guests just informed me that they can’t go so there are two spots open. This is a great opportunity to jump in with huge aggregations of hunting sailfish attacking baitballs. It’ll be intense and exhausting free diving probably in bumpy seas but if you want an adventure don’t miss this! Oh, and if we get any storm days we’ll be heading down to Playa del Carmen to dive with bull sharks!

 

There are also a few spots left on the SOCORRO GIANT MANTA EXPEDITION. This is a world class dive destination 200 nautical miles south of Baja that attracts some of the friendliest and largest mantas in the world, plus lots of sharks and curious pods of wild dolphins. It is an especially good place to find black mantas like the one pictured here:

 

 

Then, by popular request, I am running another TIGER SHARK PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP at world famous Tiger Beach in the Bahamas next October. If you haven’t dove Tiger Beach yet, it is probably the best place in the world to learn the ins and outs of shark photography. Tiger sharks, lemons, reef sharks, nurse sharks (and occasionally other shark species such as great hammers) create the perfect subjects to practice different techniques. Apart from obviously photographing tiger sharks, one of my favorite techniques is shooting over/unders of lemon sharks at sunset from the swim step:

 

There are also just two spots left on my Cat Island Oceanic Whitetip Shark trip. This year was amazing with more oceanic whitetips than anyone expected. Next year is the last chance to join me at Cat Island because I need to make room for some new adventures in 2014 so I hope that you can make it!

 

Then in July its Scottish Basking Sharks time! The first week is full but I have 4 spots left on the second trip. I talked to the captain recently and he told me that this year they had basking sharks everyday of the season except two. That is an amazing success record! Nowhere else has such reliable sightings so I am very excited for next year.

 

And then…. it just keeps getting better but I’ll save some announcements for the next newsletter. If you made it this far, thanks for reading 🙂

 

See you down there,

Andy Murch

Andy Murch

Shark Pictures, Shark Projects and maybe a Shark Photography Workshop   1 comment

The 2010 Central American Predators in Peril Expedition is taking shape. This will be the most exciting project that Elasmodiver has ever been involved in. If you thought that the 2009 North American Shark Diving Tour was ambitious, please have a quick look at the itinerary for the 2010 expedition. Its all laid out on the new Predators In Peril page on Elasmodiver.com
To quickly outline the mission: Beginning in early May, we will be traveling through nine countries along the entire length of Central America to photograph new species of sharks. We have arranged to work with local researchers in many locations and we will also be working with artisanal shark fishermen and with a number of Central American dive operators.
We are hoping to photograph at least a dozen new species that have not yet been documented in the wild. The images will be used in an extensive public awareness campaign and then offered to regional conservation groups to promote local conservation initiatives.
We have put in a couple of funding proposals but we still need help with equipment and field expenses. Please take a look at the Predators in Peril Expedition Wish List if you think you may be able to help. And, please spread the word about the expedition through any networks that you are involved with. Media coverage is a very important part of the project.

TIGER BEACH
In other news, I have just returned from Tiger Beach in the Bahamas. It was an unexpected last minute shoot that I almost didn’t go on but I’m glad I did because the sharks were VERY friendly on this visit and the shooting opportunities were outstanding. If you’ve never been to Tiger Beach you’d be forgiven for imagining a palm fringed island surrounded by big striped sharks but TB isn’t actually a beach at all. It’s a sand bank in the middle of nowhere that rises to within about 20ft of the surface. The lemon sharks that patrol the area have become accustomed to the occasional dive boat passing through and the sound of an anchor chain rattling down to the seabed acts like an aquatic dinner bell.
For first time visitors it can be very daunting seeing a score of large lemon sharks circling just below the swim step but lemons tend to be pretty well behaved sharks. Tigers (in my opinion) are a little more unpredictable. The tigers usually show up in ones and twos but you never really know what Tiger Beach will dish out. I’ve heard of divers encountering a dozen tigers on a single dive. I’m sure that would be fun for the adrenalin junkies that go shark diving for kicks but it would make my job a little tricky so I’m glad that we only saw a handful of tigers over the course of the week.
I need an accommodating shark that is bold enough to come in close and pose but doesn’t get out of control and swim off with the bait box. The 4 meter female that adopted us on this trip was almost the perfect shark. ‘Fluffy’ as we called her, was a beautiful animal that moved slowly among us for the better part of two days. Judging by her distended belly she was either digesting a turtle or almost ready to give birth to the next generation of baby tigers.
Between Fluffy and the omnipresent lemon sharks it turned into a great shoot:
http://elasmodiver.com/Tiger%20Shark%20Pictures.htm

MORE IMAGES ON ELASMODIVER
After Tiger Beach I had a week to kill in Florida which would normally have involved lots of snorkeling with stingrays and hunting for little coastal sharks but I’m ashamed to say that I barely got wet even though I was holed up right next the beach in Fort Lauderdale. I spent the week sitting in a darkened hotel room cleaning and sorting all of the images that I have taken this year. It was a mammoth undertaking but I’m finally caught up (almost). Pretty soon there will be a whole lot of new images on Elasmodiver.com – I promise!
Here are some new leopard shark pics to keep everyone happy:
http://elasmodiver.com/Leopard%20Shark%20Pictures.htm

2010 SHARK SHOOT IN THE BAHAMAS
While in Florida I attended DEMA – the yearly North American Dive Industry Bash. I’m glad I went because after 4 days of schmoozing with magazine editors and dive operators I walked away with lots of exciting plans for next year. So many plans in fact that there is no way I can work on them all, but even if I make half of them happen it is going to be an amazing 2010.
One tentative plan I have is a Shark Photography Workshop in the Bahamas. This is a new direction for me. Other professional shooters have done similar workshops but I have been biding my time until I was sure I had something worth offering.
Now I’m ready. We’re looking at a 3 or 4 day shoot, mostly working with Caribbean reef sharks in different environments. Two dives a day plus ‘how to’ workshops, photography critiques (don’t be shy) and daily slide shows.
The idea is that you walk away with some good pics, a better understanding of how to shoot sharks and some great stories about the crazy time you had with a slough of other shark shooters in the Bahamas. Space will be limited so if that sounds like fun let me know! Depending on interest, I’m hoping to set some dates in April before the Predators in Peril Expedition gets underway.

NEW ELASMO T-SHIRTS!
Another spin off from DEMA, I bumped into Tom Sergent who operates the company Amphibious Warrior Scuba Wear which raises money for shark education and conservation activities. Tom is a big supporter of Elasmodiver and he has agreed to produce our new Elasmo T shirts that have been getting rave reviews. His new AWSW website will soon be up and running but for now, if you want to order an Elasmo T, go to Tom’s AWSW fan page on FaceBook:
Amphibious Warrior Scuba Wear on Facebook
The Elasmo T’s are US$22. All proceeds go towards the Predators in Peril Project:

BAIT BALL DIVING IN THE SEA OF CORTEZ
Tomorrow I leave for Cabo san Lucas in Baja to shoot Marlins with Shark Diver Magazine. “MARLINS?” I hear you say. Well, its a trip to shoot marlins attacking bait balls. Don’t tell the editor but I’m only going incase some sharks show up to feed as well. If they do, I’ll just have to wait for those pesky marlins to get out of the way so that I can get the shot.

For the sharks,
Andy Murch