Despite the dramatic photo I've never been bitten by a shark. Dr. Erich Ritter, however, has. I don't think being bitten makes someone an authority on shark bites, but nonetheless, I do think Erich Ritter makes a lot of sense in his podcasts. I'm curious what you think of his advice following the recent incident in the Bahamas so here are two episodes he released following the incident. Take a listen, I think you'll find it worth your while.
How has documenting the plight of terrestrial animals been similar to documenting the plight of sharks? You probably won't like the answer...Watch this segment of my interview with environmental lawyer Jeff Hoffman for a taste.
I'll be back to sharks soon. Follow my side project at @watching_humans.
#sharks #cattle #agriculture #fishing #bigag #bigfishing #careerscientists #corruption #moneyfirst #followthemoney #whitesharkvideo #scienceforsale #funding #shameofpointreyes #nationalpark #marineprotectedarea
My family weren’t farmers by profession; my father was a teacher and football coach, but we did live on four acres with a barn and raised a few animals ourselves, but morello the point we were part of the community, which was a farming community…I remember helping to build fences, bailing hay, playing in the backs of the grain-filled trucks and sitting on my dad’s lap as he drove the combine late at night during harvest season. I never second-guessed the world I lived in or what I was surrounded by. It was just the way of the land.
I never wanted to write depressing blog entries like this. I never wanted to pursue a career where I pleaded with my fellow humans to stop slaughtering the same animals we were mesmerized with in our youths. I didn’t want to see a planet full of people who regularly shrug off the disappearance of iconic species as casually as hearing the sports report from the previous night’s games. The romantic days of farming and ranching are gone. We aren’t feeding the hungry. We aren’t feeding the world. We’re stealing every last bit of land left that wildlife try to survive on to turn their homes into crops that are fed to cattle; NOT to hungry humans. We poison the waters and soil of a national park and cull the wildlife in that park for the sake of profits within an industry that doesn’t even need to exist. Dairy creates luxury products that are unnecessary, arguably unhealthy, as UNsustainable as you can imagine a product to be, and cost the tax payer billions each year in subsidies. Stop repeating the propaganda about “feeding the American people”, stop abusing the word “sustainable”, stop calling the rich and greedy “honest, hard-working families”. It’s time for us, the human race, to grow up and set aside our selfish desires to consume things we want but don’t need for the greater good of all living creatures, including ourselves.
Avengers Endgame’s “happy ending” script provides the audience with complete indulgence, a minimal amount of loss suffered by individual characters, dreams fulfilled by all survivors, revenge upon the enemy, and yet another escape from facing the consequences of our actions. It’s what almost everyone wanted to see (except me) while simultaneously being a testament to the self-absorbed, self-righteous state of mind of the modern human.
For example, in both ‘Endgame’ and it’s predecessor ‘Infinity War’ the script and dialogue repeatedly refer to losing 50% of all life. Yet not in a single scene in either of the movies in which we witness characters turning to dust do we see ANYTHING else turn to dust. This includes scenes where characters are in the depths of the jungles of Wakanda, city parks, yards, or entire landscapes such as Agent Barton’s (Hawkeye) estate.
I tried to dismiss this thought as perhaps the writers had actually meant only human life, not all life, but they repeatedly and specifically used the phrase “all living creatures”. If that were the case, to drive home the devastation of what Thanos had done, I thought they might show at least one non-human perishing, such as a deer turning into dust or maybe just one tree amongst the many trees setting the backdrop where we see humans disappear.
Was this an oversight by the writers? Did it not occur to them that when Thanos’s mission was accomplished some of the vegetation surrounding our heroes would certainly fall into the randomly selected 50%? Surely at least one tree or blade of grass would be included in the “random” selection of living creatures.
Or is it even worse? Is this a reminder that our species is so focused on ourselves that non-human living creatures didn’t even register as a blip in the consciousness of the screenwriters?
That’s how most of us approach the planet in our daily rat race devoted to “getting ours while we can”, sacrificing anything in our path in the process. Chop down another forest. Mine another mountain. Level the grasslands to build another strip mall. The mall isn’t necessary but it sure is convenient and why not, there was no loss to life right? Nope. Not as far as we can see. Not as far as we are concerned. Not to a species that doesn’t see any life other than itself. Jobs, the economy, growth, progress, etc. Any one of those is an excuse used to extinguish other life as we expand.
Captain America does make the slightest reference to other life when he says that he “spotted whales on the way in, there are less ships in the water is cleaner.” But this doesn’t mean the whales are recovering from what Thanos did, it means the whales finally have a chance to recover from what we do currently. Black widow responds by giving him a look and a response that amount to, “How dare you think of anything except our personal loss? “
Which brings me to the next overhanging theme of the film. We, under the impression that we are such a special, important species, believe that none of us should ever suffer loss, that every human death is a tragedy, no matter how worthless that particular deceased biped might have been. But for every other living creature on the planet we quite comfortably declare death as a part of life...”that’s nature.” Furthermore, the scenes shown following Thanos’s’ ‘snap’ made it seem as though the planet was reduced to a ghost town rather than the reality that 4 billion of us, still far too many than should ever exist, remained.
I’m not sure people grasp the rate at which we are multiplying...consider that even if Thanos had successfully killed 50% of humans (roughly 4 billion people) he’d have to come back in only 50 years to cut us down to 4 billion again. He must not have done his homework because it turns out destroying the Infinity stones after accomplishing his initial goal seems to have been a premature celebration.
A planet of 1,000 people, 20 million, 8 billion, 15 billion...it doesn’t seem to matter how many of us there are, we all desperately hold on to an ideal that each of us is important. I admit that it doesn’t feel good to think we aren’t important, but it doesn’t change the harsh truth. Our pursuit of shallow existences leaves us feeling hollow at the end of the road, no matter how impressive your collection of selfies in exotic locations may be by the end. A more meaningful life was available, something closer to an actual purpose was yours for the taking, but instead you were another human chasing the almighty dollar at the expense of the survival of the entire planet. The only thing that can change that is us. But change is difficult and since we’re in a position of power we don’t have to change. Just like a spoiled child that won’t put down the candy even while suffering a stomach ache.
Thanos is the disciplinary parent we need, but don’t want.
Now that I’ve offended you and your sense of importance you’re probably ready to pose the challenge of whether I’d be willing to sacrifice my own life. The answer is yes, with the guarantee of a planet free from the horrific dictatorship of humanity. My only regret would be not to see it myself.
Last night an old travel buddy called me up trying to talk me into going on a trip with him. As he described his goals for the trip I immediately knew my answer would be no, although I didn’t have the heart to tell him immediately.
This caused me to reflect on a “guy trip” to South America with several friends back in 2011. It so happened I was in the early stages of emerging from my hard-core party phase and feeling the call of nature again. As they listed the cities they wanted to visit and party in I found myself conflicted with a desire to instead disappear into the spectacular forests and possibly witness the unique wildlife of those areas. Don’t get me wrong, I still wanted the other part too, but it was occurring to me that traveling all the way to South America to partake in man-made things was somewhat foolish considering the mind-blowing natural treasures exclusive to that part of the globe.
Today I woke up to see posts about the Notre Dame fire and quite a bit of sentiment reflecting my own feelings; ‘why were we so concerned and devastated about a building while we simultaneously have made peace with the destruction of earth’s temples? I turned off the social media before I could see counter-posts from Trumpsters calling people who defend nature “terrorists and Satan worshipers.”
I’ve been to Notre Dame and yes, it’s a cool building rich with history. But treasuring something for its histrionic value is becoming an increasingly hollow sentiment as I watch my species destroy some of the most amazing things our imaginations could even come up with in order to build more buildings...and more buildings and more and more and more of the same. Or make way for cattle grazing. Currently I’m not sure which is worse, grazing fields or building development. Both equal death for EVERYTHING that previously existed in those areas. These forests are homes to creatures which, when we see them documented on television, cause us to mutter, “My God, I never knew anything so amazing existed.” Followed shortly thereafter with actions that say “In the name of God we shall destroy these creatures and their homes.”
Every year it gets a little harder for me to feel sad about the loss of any human relics, being as that the species that built those structures seems dedicated to the death of the planet. As far as religion goes, yes, Notre Damn is a cathedral...a cathedral full of tourists. My experience with Europeans is that they are a lot more realistic about their relationship with God, while self-declared Christians in the United States support one of the most unGodly men in the history of men, a man who promotes the destruction of God’s creations and the persecution of certain humans in the pursuit of more money.
So yeah, I think I can live without seeing more monuments to the human race...I’m not exactly filled with pride or awe regarding our accomplishments. Back in 2011, as bad as things were, I thought I’d be dead before I saw certain species go extinct, but instead of our kind making improvements, the rate of destruction has accelerated and documentaries will be the only reminders of the treasures we chose to destroy.
When debating the pros and cons of cage diving people are usually talking about white shark cage diving and whether it endangers people. But what about the use of cages with other species of sharks? Can that be bad? Is it possibly bad for the sharks? Features appearances by Walter Bernardis, Jim Abernethy, Shark Man Dan, and Skyler Thomas.
#cagedive #cageless #sharkdive
Can you tell which parts of the shark culling news is real and which is fake? Sadly, reality and parody are not that far from each other in terms of ridiculousness when it comes to proposed methods of "shark mitigation".
Yes, Western Australia really does refer to a 15-month time span as a "trial", thus I jokingly called my non-existent 2-year study a trial. Does calling something a trial help placate the public who are concerned? "Oh, well, it's just a trial..." Yes, a trial that lasts well over a year.
Yes, a contractor paid to check shark cull gear in Queensland died, presumably via entanglement and subsequent drowning. That puts this year's stats in Queensland at:
1 person killed by anti-shark safety gear
0 people killed by sharks
Yes, smart drum lines still use baited hooks, which, so far, are catching non-target animals. Damage induced by being caught on these hooks simply can't be avoided, but it's not always as obvious as when the hook goes right out the skull of the animal. Animals that aren't dead upon discovery often die from their wounds later. These animals are listed as "released alive"...
Although my example of "pointing feet to the left at a beach" is a silly example, it is nevertheless comparable to real-world statistics. Across the world, beaches enjoy zero shark-induced fatalities, whether there are shark nets or not. No one pays attention to the success rate of humans entering the ocean without being hurt, we only look at the rare incidents when something goes wrong...then act as though we know how to make a number go from "once in a blue moon" to never.
#sharkcull #sharkstatistics #sharkbitestatistics #nosharkcull #trial #drumline #sharknet #capecod #westernaustralia
"Hey everyone, don't change. Look at this distraction instead!"
Let’s tag sharks for another decade or two so we can figure out how to save them. Ignore the fishing fleets, super trawlers, and corrupt policy makers that allow the raping of our ocean. Ignore the fact that we don’t enforce protection laws that already exist. The real answer lies somewhere in data from tags so just hang in there, we’re studying this mystery, you can trust us, we are scientists.
(Pretend this hasn’t been the same story the last five decades.)
To save orcas let’s kill sea lions. They are no longer endangered thus there must be too many of them, eating all the fish in the ocean. Ignore the fishing fleets which are allowed to take hundreds of tons of fish per month from the very waters the orcas are starving in. Ignore the trickle down effect on transient orcas that eat sea lions. So the first pod of orcas will still starve and more will follow. Just as long as we have something to blame while we continue not to share. Don’t worry, scientists backed this plan so you have nothing to worry about, it must be a good idea.
(Pretend 100,000 humans weren’t born while you read the above paragraph.)
Hey, someone spent a trillion dollars on a machine to clean trash out of the ocean. That should solve it, right, I don't have to change do I? Now I can keep buying trash. Someone said plastic could be reused for something good...somewhere, someday so now my plastic is no longer trash. I don’t need to change my behavior, someone will clean up my mess.
We are like spoiled children who instead of being spanked have parents who buy their kids new cars every time we wreck the previous one.
(Pretend you didn't see the latest article on dead whales with stomachs full of trash.)
Pretend that shark repellant on your ankle is the reason the 99.9% chance you already have of not being bitten will make up the other 1% so that you now magically live in a 100% risk free world. Don't worry, someone will take your money. In fact, I have just invented a special chewing gum that if you chew while surfing will keep you safe from sharks...well, 99.9% of the time at least.
What’s that? 100 green sea turtles slowly drowned in shark nets last year? Well, are they endangered? Because long, horrific deaths are only bad if it’s happening to an endangered species.
Catch and release makes me a conservationist. Hey, I let it go so no harm no foul, right? Pretend being hooked in the mouth and fighting for your life isn’t detrimental to health. Pretend a broken jaw won’t lead to the eventual starvation of the animal.
(Pretend thousands of animals aren’t killed by other predators as they are being reeled in (does that count as catch and release, btw?) Also pretend we don't already have overwhelming evidence showing post-release mortality rates are extremely high. All that matters is that you let it go after you were entertained by tormenting it. You're a good person.)
Shark safe beaches! Yay! We’re working on a system to improve the current system of killing sharks where you want to go swim, so take heart in that. You no longer need to feel bad about the thousands of innocent animals dying in shark mitigation gear because someone is working on something somewhere that might get deployed someday.
(Ignore the fact that we haven’t made a real improvement in 60 years nor that there is no date set for any deliverables on promised improvements.)
Farmers are good people! Don’t tell me not to eat meat! So, 50% of land in the United States is devoted to agriculture. Big deal, we still have the other 50% to go. So half of the world’s diversity of life has been replaced by humans and their livestock in the last 50 years. So what!? Don’t tell me I can’t eat meat! It’s a way of life, it’s American! Look at the flag wrapped around me you terrorist hippie! Farmers are good people! They raise animal-slaves in the most environmentally costly manner possible for products we don’t need to eat, but you’re talking about our “salt of the earth”, Christian patriots, God damnit!
Now let me get back to watching this meat commercial showing happy animals and a hard-working white man looking out over a green pasture... you know, the commercials that show every 5 seconds on television in case you happen to forget that you should eat meat.
Someone made a film about it. Heck, it even made you cry! So, surely things will change! Ignore the fact that your own behavior didn’t change despite being moved to tears. Ignore that the last white rhino died last year. Ignore the fact that Shark Water was made over ten years ago yet Costa Rica, as well as the world, continues to harvest fins from sharks both as targeted catch and as bycatch. (Pretend NOAA hasn’t repeatedly fought against shark fin bans. Pretend Fish and Game is controlled by fishermen and hunters).
Photo credits: Juan Oliphant
Note: I updated this post at the request of Ocean and Juan. Originally I exposed (with evidence) multiple examples of hypocrisy and libel committed against Juan and Ocean by "scientific" organizations. Juan and Ocean stated, "We want everyone to get along and work collectively regardless of any betrayals. Let's just channel that bad energy toward shark conservation".
Wow, Juan and Ocean really are jerks!
I had a rather obvious revelation regarding the recent Ocean Ramsey "shark harassment frenzy" taking place as I read the words at the top of yet another post bashing her. This particular post, unfortunately, came from someone I knew. The post read:
"Any positive message she supposedly had was buried under negativity and her desire to seek fame."
The particular link and photo these words were posted with was of Ocean's news article urging Australia to rethink culling. I saw the same news article on another page but without the mean words added to the post and that's when it hit me. All the negativity surrounding this controversy is born of the negative words people are adding to what were originally positive photos and posts. To take someone else's post and repost it in a negative way is already uncool, but to then abstractly refer to "the negativity" associated with it as though it appeared out of nowhere when the reality is that you ARE the the source of that very negativity was too much for me to stomach. I posted a video response but took it down after I calmed down due to the amount of cursing I engaged in.
I couldn't help but notice the attention and benefit all these "reposters" were receiving at Ocean and Juan's expense while simultaneously calling them glory seekers. If you think their images are so terrible stop sharing them. Period. I shared them and can personally attest that it got my pages attention. But I also wasn't simultaneously condemning them for doing this as a publicity stunt. Scientists who lead a hate campaign online and end up on TV for it are the limelight seekers.
How many people understand that this happened in their backyard; the location that they live, work, and dive almost daily?! Diving with sharks is their profession and thus they were blessed with a mind-blowing encounter that you and I didn't experience because we are in our homes thousands of miles away on keyboards instead of spending our lives in the ocean studying tiger sharks in Hawaii!!! It's not like they flew there and arranged a photo shoot for a TV show.
On the same topic, regarding those who claim it was irresponsible for the people who were there to post photos...are you freaking kidding me? They live there, take photos of, and work with sharks regularly, but when the single craziest shark encounter any of us have ever seen takes place they aren't supposed to take a picture!? I'm actually laughing as I type this. Try coming back down to earth. Every one of you would have tried to take a picture of those massive sharks, that is, if you were brave enough to even be out in the ocean on a boat, much less in the water when a living dinosaur swam by!!
Just so we don't get caught up in the "touching and harassing" argument let's go ahead and condemn Juan and Ocean as "animal harassers" for the moment and move on to other topics. OK, agreed? No more of the touching topic for just a minute while we move on.
I glanced down at my phone just now because I was tagged in another post by Ocean and as I scroll through the comments all I see is "Your words are so powerful, thank you! I'm signing the shark fin ban petition right now!" These sort of comments continue down on and on. Then I flip over to one of the haters' posts. It's full of judgment, hate, and hypocrisy. Pretty clear whose message is doing more good for sharks in this case.
You are going to hear me speak of scientists a few times during this post. That's NOT because I flat out dislike science or scientists, it's because scientists hold a position of power and influence and with that position comes responsibility, thus I'm referring specifically to those who abuse that position. I expect all the keyboard warriors at home to post stupid shit on Facebook and Youtube about things they know nothing about. But when people use their credentials as a platform to hate-bash and influence others to join their side, then yes, I have a big problem with those "scientists". Especially those who make false statements about shark behavior and those who commit full-out slander and libel.
Let me pause for a moment to discuss scientific credentials. Ocean Ramsey is a marine biologist. She chooses to spend her life learning about sharks through interaction and observation rather than analyzing tissue samples under a microscope. As far as conservation impact is concerned, which is more powerful? Showing people first hand the majestic beauty of sharks that changes the way they think forever, or publishing a paper that only peers in the field will read? I personally was criticized for my lack of credentials. Well, I have three degrees and before all is said and done I will have more. When the day comes that I have a PhD I hope all of you will remember that I'm still a human and that you need to engage in critical thinking rather than taking a scientist's words for it. Humans, scientists included, are not all-knowing or perfect, most clearly evidenced by the fact that they publish papers that conflict with other scientists. I personally found through life experience, including interviewing scientists, that I could be more impactful through filmmaking and activism. My tagline once said "turning research into film because no one reads research papers." That's not a bash on science, it's reality. My goal was to take the work scientists were doing and help that message reach more people through use of video. I have friends and enemies in the scientific community because I speak my mind. My advice to you is to be particularly wary of those who use every chance they can to name-drop or mention their credentials.
I can't end this without talking about the people stating, "I hope they get eaten. I hope they die." I think that pretty much sums those people up.
But the comments I will spend more time talking about are the ones that state that same old bullshit "It's only a matter of time" or "Play with fire and get burned", "You're going to get what you deserve." They say the same thing on my videos of me diving with sharks and they do so as if they've stated some incredible wisdom. People, "It's a matter of time" applies to everything. EVERYTHING. You are going to die on your way to work if you go to work long enough. I'm going to go blind if I continue editing long enough. If I pet enough cute dogs one is going to bite me.
Then you have the inevitable person who says, "Remember what happened to Grizzly Man?" Yeah, he screwed up. He made a mistake that cost him dearly. Before that he lived with grizzly bears for three years! Three years! That's incredible and insightful. But because he finally screwed up there was nothing to learn except that he "deserved to die"? Tell me, if Juan and Ocean dive with sharks the entire rest of their lives and are finally bitten at the age of 70 do the haters get to say "Told you so?!" An entire lifetime of work showing the world a side of sharks that most people are unaware of...but because one day they were bitten we learned nothing from them?
People say the same thing on the videos of me diving with sharks. That good lovely group of people that "can't wait for you to die". Look, I don't dive with sharks because I'm a daredevil. I'm not brave nor am I suicidal. I do it because I have learned that I can! Sharing space with an incredible predator that can kill me but chooses not to is as eye opening a revelation that I can think of. Once you experience this first hand you can move on from the media frenzy about sharks and start asking important questions, such as "Why doesn't that shark want to kill me?" That question leads to more questions and that answer leads to even more questions all which ultimately lead to a better understanding of the planet we are on. Nature, even predators the size of buses with razor-sharp teeth are not our enemies! This is what Juan and Ocean teach us.
Anything else inferred from their message or mine you added yourself.
Debra Canabal of Epic Diving in the WSV hoodie. Get yours!
About the Author
Skyler Thomas is the primary blog contributor, cinematographer, and lead editor at White Shark Video.