One of the many interviewees of The Price of Existence series (launching next month) Chris Fallows shares some words of wisdom for when we are faced with adversity.
I've been asked repeatedly to release my entire conversation with the shark cull contractor in the south of Western Australia so here it is (and it's long). Whether you agree with the cull or not, this conversation offers a unique platform to analyze the cull. It's pretty clear from watching the video that Graeme Pateman is a likable guy even if you don't like how he makes his money. For the record, despite my personal opinion, I was very nice during this interview, in fact, I barely had to open my mouth...Graeme just kept talking. So much so that I had to break this interview into multiple parts. I have not cut out or changed any of his or my words, but I have inserted topical footage from my time.
Graeme is correct when he says makos, black tip whalers, etc. are not protected in Western Australia (the full list of protected fish can be seen here). All species of hammerhead sharks are listed as either endangered or vulnerable on the IUCN red list, but that is not the same as being protected in state or federal waters, which they are neither in WA.
Part 1 primarily caused me to think about the press releases prior to the cull in which the Government said they were taking careful measures to make sure the mitigation was carried out in as humane and professional manner as possible. That just doesn't seem to be the case, nor does it seem to be financially efficient as you'll see in part 2.
Part 2, among other topics, discusses the payment of the cull contractor. The press released the number $5705, based upon the estimated total amount to be spent on the contractor in the south alone over the trial period. Graeme told me $5000 per day in the interview. When I double checked on that he explained that it was actually $5500, however, this number subtracts Goods and Service Tax. Calculate the total however you feel comfortable, but I usually don't get to claim that my income is less than it is because of taxes. One young deck hand, fuel for two runs a day, and bait ( which was not always changed as I witnessed with my own eyes ) seems like rather minimal expenses. So, debate all you want whether his profit range was $4,000 a day, $5,000 a day, or somewhere in-between, whichever total you come to is an obscene amount of money.
Something else I can't shake from this interview is the fact that it was a trial run during a period of time that white sharks are known to not frequent the ares. Simultaneously the WA Government stated they wanted the drum lines in the water as soon as possible for public safety. So was it for public safety or was it to conduct a trial run?
Perhaps the most common theme throughout all my interviews with pro-cullers across Australia was the phrase "something had to be done" and the government was "doing what it could to increase human beach safety". Delivered by itself, the phrase "doing what we can to increase human safety" sounds great. The problem is the evident lack of understanding or rationale when you ask these people to explain what the cull is, how it works, how it makes the beaches safer, and why they feel safer with drum lines in the water. While actual rationale was missing from these explanations the conversations also had something else in common; the words "feeling better". So, animals were killed to for a placebo effect...what was actually accomplished was a calming of fear buzzing in the brains. Whether you love sharks or hate sharks, perhaps the first step is realizing this is a battle with ourselves rather than a battle with the sharks before we can even touch the topic of whether it is right to kill other animals in their own homes.
Well done; these guys did a nice bit of editing, I'll give 'em that much, enough that I am not 100% it's fake, but here's the evidence I think it is. I used to work for a tourist company filming at the Farallon Islands and I quickly had to learn how to blend in my footage from South Africa to match with the murky waters of the Farallones so it appeared as though these tourists enjoyed spotting great white sharks from their view in the cage (all for their souvenir DVDs) Yes, I'm saying I have faked footage and yes I'm saying that 95% of the time you DO NOT see white sharks on cage-diving trips to the Farallones so consider yourselves warned before you shell out the $900.
Anyway, heres' why I think this video is fake.
By the way, I'm releasing footage of myself "fending off a white shark" to the networks next week to prove that journalists will publish anything shark related without investigating it.
A great white shark comes to a near stand-still as it peaks over the top of a cage...looking for a way in? A better view?
A sandbar shark cruises through an underwater rainfall of death...These dead animals were dumped overboard by a shrimping vessel while I was scuba diving last summer in the Bahamas. Among the animals kept on board the shrimping vessel so no one would see them were turtles, dolphins and sharks. Shrimp bycatch ratio estimates range from 3:1 to 15:1, the first number being the non targeted animals (bycatch) and 1 being the shrimp. I must admit I enjoyed eating shrimp, but having the dead bodies of animals fall on me that were caught so you and I can enjoy an "all you can eat buffet" of shrimp made the statistics a reality. Change starts with an individual choice. That individual's choice affects others. Soon an individual turns into thousands. That multiplication leads to economic pressure on an industry and that pressure leads to change. Live every day as an example of what can be done for change.
What if shark scientists went to Durban and in unity publicly denounced the Kwazu Natal Sharks Board for the sham that it is instead of participating in the massive shark conference (over 300 scientists) which is ironically being hosted by the largest known commercial killer of white sharks on the planet?
What if these scientists went even further and told the world on camera to boycott Durban as a tourist destination? After all, tourism $$ is the reason behind the nets, so what if we flipped that around and made tourism $$ the reason to take the nets out?
Quite often people are unaware of the atrocities committed right next to them, which is the very reason that raising awareness is important. Slowly but surely, the world is waking up, and while some will proceed business as usual, there are those who will make choices that reflect the impact of their new knowledge. A couple of quick examples; the shark cull in Western Australia has caused some would-be cash spenders to choose to vacation elsewhere. In my town of San Francisco, people who once assumed shark fin products were already outlawed, now ask restaurant owners if shark is on the menu and choose to go elsewhere if it is.
It is not the responsibility of scientists to be conservationists. However, they are in a unique position to be heard. What if, in some television-style drama all these scientists looked the cameras and the audience members in the eye and said "No more. I am here to tell you that the Natal Sharks Board is a sham and is a crime against the ecosystem. I may lose my job, but at least you know. Then the next scientist scraps his carefully prepared speech and in turn also denounces the shark slaughter conducted by their very hosts? What if? It's nice to think about. It won't happen. But if it did, would it even work?
What do you think?
Below, Michael "The Sharkman" Rutzen discusses The Natal Sharks Board with Skyler Thomas from White Shark Video.
A happy story about sharks and people...together! After a decade of interviewing sharks researchers and divers I've see a common trend - we haven't given these predators enough credit! According to the rescuers this shark seemed cooperative, allowing the divers to handle it, cut away the rope, and even "showing appreciation" after. What's your opinion; did the shark understand it was being helped such as is reported with so many whale rescue stories?
Note: Two species of shark appear in this short video; oceanic white tips (at the beginning and end) and dusky sharks.
I would bet good money that 98 percent of people out there will say they are more afraid of sharks than lions. But why?
Shark enthusiast that I am, I still find it easier to IMAGINE myself having a fun-filled, cuddly day with a lion instead of a shark. Why? Not because of my knowledge and experience with lions, but because of WHAT I THINK I KNOW about lions. I’ve never encountered a lion in the wild. In fact I’ve only seen one in a zoo, TV, or book. But my impression of lions is one of a mammal that lives in a social, family-oriented lifestyle that is warm, furry, licks its cubs, and eats small, deer-like things such as antelope (not people). All of that information I gained because of what I read or saw on TV. In summary, I’ve never encountered a lion yet fear is far from the first thing on my mind when a lion is brought up in conversation.
Contrast that with a shark. Despite a growing number of shark enthusiasts there remains an extremely small percentage of people on this planet who have encountered or seen a living shark. Yet the majority of this same percentage of people who have never seen a shark will tell you they are afraid of sharks. Again, not based on what they actually know of sharks from experience, but from what they have heard or seen on TV, the theater, other people, the news, etc.
"...The cull is a security blanket that won’t protect people from sharks any better than a nightlight will protect us from monsters under the bed."
Statistically this makes no sense. By the numbers, lions blow sharks out of the water in terms of people killed and even numbers of people eaten. Yes, that’s a bit of a loaded statistic since humans and lions are both land-based animals, but still, the bottom line is that lions can, do, and will kill continue to kill a !$#%* load more people than sharks. Shouldn’t that scare you? ONE lion named, Namvelieza, killed 43 people. That single lion more than doubled the number of people killed by every shark of every species on the ENTIRE PLANET on average per year!! Aren’t actual statistics of people killed and eaten what we should base our fear on? No. Because that’s not how fear works.
Here’s a little psychological exercise about fear I performed on myself that leveled the playing field between lions and sharks a bit. I imagined myself magically alone in the Serengeti with an adult lion not too far away from me. Next I imagined myself on SCUBA, alone in the ocean, with an adult white shark not too far away from me. Guess what? I am less concerned about the white shark than the lion. Why? I am more familiar with the shark than the lion. I’ve encountered white sharks enough times over the last decade that I feel confident that my chances of survival are quite high. Note that I’m not declaring myself a shark whisperer or that I am even correct in feeling safer, in fact that’s the point; the feeling I have is a product of my perception of a situation I am familiar with. The lion on the other hand I don’t really know much about. I can try to apply what I think I know about encountering a lion in the wild, but that pales in comparison to the confidence of real life experiences with the white shark.
When we cull sharks, we aren’t saving people from sharks, we’re saving them from fear. We fear what we don’t know; what we are unfamiliar with. Naturally, we are less familiar with the world under the ocean (sadly, we’re rather unfamiliar with the world above the surface as well). This allows us to fall victim to false information and even our own imaginations. When it comes to sharks, fear is the real problem, not the shark. Sooooo many things on this planet kill soooo many more people than sharks do. In fact the numbers are so low it’s debatable whether shark incidences should even qualify as “a problem”.
The issue is unfounded fear. The cull helps solve unfounded fear with unfounded mitigation. It makes people feel better. Therefore the cull actually does solve a problem so to speak as long as one admits that the problem is fear and the cull is a security blanket that won’t protect people from sharks any better than a nightlight will protect us from monsters under the bed. But once you admit that you have to ask the question, “is it to OK to kill things just because we’re afraid of them?”
In this clip Rodney Fox touches on the importance of sharks, why the ecosystem needs them, and why killing them locally doesn't solve a local "safety issue". The role of sharks in maintaining a healthy ecosystem really shouldn't be such a revelation to us; it exists in all systems of nature. However, it doesn't apply to humans. We've removed ourselves from the food chain and are so disconnected from nature that the concept of a healthy population being maintained through "necessary death" is somewhat foreign to many of us. Ironically, "thinning of the herds" no longer exists for the one animal that needs it the most; man.
Despite living in an age of knowledge, despite increased education on sharks, we can't seem to "learn our way out" of deep set fears. In this interview segment Rodney Fox expresses something I've unfortunately been confirming on day to day conversations as I travel across Australia. Many ocean users expressed that they more or less understood that the cull wasn't helping, that sharks are important to the ecosystem, that we're entering their homes, that killing them is wrong. Yet, despite all that, time after time I heard the same people also say the cull made them feel better. Doesn't make a lot of sense does it? But then again fear isn't necessarily rational.
What's scarier than sharks? The willingness of the media and governments to feed on this irrational fear for their own purposes.
Rodney Fox Expeditions use funds from their ecotourism operations finance shark research in Australia