Newsletter - 02/11/2001

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The Loggerhead

The Official newsletter for The African Diving Experience
www.africandiving.com
Volume 12 Date: 02/11/2001

We hope you enjoy the November issue of our monthly newsletter.

Index:

<1) What's Up
<2) Shark of the month  - Galapagos shark
<3) ICHTHOS
<4) Book Review  - SHARKS & RAYS - Elasmobranch Guide of the World. Ralf M. Hennemann
<5) Dive Master Required
<6) The Chumming Saga by Craig Ferreira.
<7) Website of the month
<8) Dive Instructor Training on the Internet?

1. What's Up

Well the end of the year is on it's way but, just before we say good bye to 2001 it is the 1st birthday of the Loggerhead. Yup, our newsletter is turning 1. Following in the footsteps of the website, which turned one on the 25th of September, our newsletter has been going strong for almost a year. We would however like some input from our readers to find out what you would like to see featured in the next years issues. Please send your input and ideas to willem@dpa-training.co.za.

Special thanks to Craig Ferreira for the interesting article on chumming. He's company, White Shark Project, is closely involved with white shark research along with providing divers the experience of diving with these majestically creatures. Special thanks to Lindi from White Shark Projects for sending us the article. To find out more about great white shark diving and White Shark Projects feel free to visit them at http://www.whitesharkproject.co.za or e-mail them at wsp@iafrica.com

Interested in a banner exchange or helping us with obtaining any information? Do contact us at the following e-mail: willem@dpa-training.co.za

2. Shark of the month - Galapagos shark
Class: Chondrichthyes (Cartilaginous fish)
Sub class: Elasmobranchii (Sharks and rays)
Order:  Carcharhiniformes (Ground sharks)
Family: Carcharhinidae (Requiem sharks)
Genus: Carcharhinus galapagensis (Galapagos shark)

The galapagos shark is a large shark with a moderately long broadly rounded snout. It has a brownish-grey upper body, white ventral surface. The tips of most fins are dusky but not black. An inconspicuous white band on the flanks can be seen. The galapagos shark has a close resemblance to the dusky shark (Carcharhinus obscures), but dusky sharks usually have taller dorsal fins. This shark prefers clear water, coral reefs and rocky bottoms. It is a common but habitat limited species, occurring in depths of 2 m, but ranges to the open ocean adjacent to islands, from the surface to at least 80 m. Juveniles seem to be restricted to shallow waters, 25 m or less, which they apparently use as nursery grounds, while the adults range offshore. They are found in aggregations but apparently do not form co-ordinated schools.

These sharks tend to feed near the bottom but may take bait from the surface. It feeds mainly on bottom fishes, eel, flatfish and triggerfish, but also feeds on squid, flyingfish, octopi and garbage. In the Galapagos islands it preys on sea lions and marine iguanas. Reproduction is viviparous with yolksac-placenta. 6 to 16 pups with an average size between 60 and 80 cm are born per litter. Males mature between 170 and 230 cm while, females mature at about 230 cm. Galapagos sharks perform a "hunch" threat display, with an arched back, raised head, and lowered caudal and pectoral fins, while swimming in a conspicuous twisting, rolling motion when it is aggravated. This is a potentially dangerous species.

Galapagos Shark

Source http://www.fishbase.org and http://www.shark.ch

3. ICHTHOS

ICHTOS is the newsletter of the Friends of the JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology society. This society has the aim of advancing the public's knowledge about the research they are doing on the fishes of Southern Africa. It appears three times a year and is jam packed with interesting articles, featuring such diverse topics as the evolution of primitive fish, book reviews and new fish species found around our coast. Each article is written by an expert on the subject and most of the articles are about research done in South Africa at the JLB Smith institute.

For more information contact Lee-Ann at
Ichthos@ru.ac.za or (046) 636 1002.

4. Book Review - Sarks and Rays: Elasmobranch Guide of the World / Ralf M. Hennemann

No other book world-wide gives so much information on so many species - 240 in fact, with over 600 photographs, and 33 picture stories that have made the IKAN series so popular. Includes also for the first time deep sea species taken from submersibles in their natural habitat. A detailed and comprehensive description for every depicted species is provided. Location of each photo is indicated. Approx. 320 pages, full colour throughout. A remarkable guide; a must for the diver and marine naturalist.

Available from
http://www.oceans.com.au

5. Dive Master Required

We are a small operation specialising in Environmental courses and dives.  The position requires a qualified Dive Master to lead dives and to assist with Beach control on busy days. i.e. A Dive Master that is familiar with reefs ensuring informative and well guided dives. Beach control: Assisting with cylinder fills, petrol runs. etc. Client interaction and people skills are essential, as our Trade mark and logo read "Personalised Dive Charters".

A salary will be a minimum of R800.00 or R80.00 per dive. As we are fairly busy and becoming more popular, you are likely to do at least 30 dives a month i.e. R2400.00 a month. The average salary earned in Sodwana is +- R2000.00 per month. (clear)  The Diving industry is seasonal, and obviously more is earned during summer than winter. Accommodation will be made available. The diving industry is not a well paid career but is done rather for the love of the sport, environment and lifestyle.

If you are not really familiar with coral and fish on the typical reef, this would be a good opportunity to learn.

Should you still be interested, kindly forward your CV for our perusal and we will take it from there. Are you able to make your way to South Africa?

Contact details:

     Neville and Wendy Ayliffe
     Company Name: REEFTEACH
     Cell: 082 339 6920
     e-mail:
reeftch@saol.com

6. CHUMMING SAGA - Craig Ferreira (White Shark Projects)

Huge pieces of tuna, twenty- kilogram chunks of horse- meat and hundreds of liters of blood being poured into the ever-increasing chum slick.  A white shark suddenly appears and in a frenzy, brought upon by clouds of fresh blood rips into a bait and, devours it in a boil of crimson savagery.  As the day wears on, the shark takes one bait after the other in its insatiablehunger, it attacks the cages and even smashes into the hull of the boat.

The afternoon arrives and the shark is left alone to patrol the, still blood rich, chum trail which is slowly drifting shoreward where a group of surfers are enjoying an evening lineup of clean four footers.  There is a good chance that the shark will encounter the unsuspecting surfers as it follows the chum to shore, and even if it does not find a surfer, the shark will be back tomorrow for another free meal.  It knows where to go now........

The above is unfortunately what drifts through the minds of many people at the mention of white sharks and chumming.  Fortunately, the above is terribly exaggerated and very far away from the truth of what really occurs out on the high seas with white sharks.

By the grace of Neptune, gone are the days of senseless slaughter of these magnificent animals.  At one time we were consumed by so much fear for the white shark, that the thought of climbing into a cage to observe them underwater was absolutely ludicrous.  The only way in which anyone would get involved with a white shark was with big fishing gear and a big boat.  Man against monster, and the monster had less chance than a snowball in hell.

As time passed by, we began tentatively exploring beyond the deck of the boat, and eventually we were climbing in and out of anti shark cages with the same confidence we have when climbing onto an airliner.  White shark and other shark diving have become increasingly popular as adventure sports.

With this newly found industry there has also been a rise of negative attitudes towards shark diving and while most of Joe Soap the public, simply was sitting  mumbling and murmuring, there have been  and are still those who are very anti shark and shark diving.  With guns blazing, they come out of the shadows, warning of immanent shark attacks painting pictures reminiscent of the beginning of this article.  Mans worst nightmare is just behind the last line of waves and there are people working at bringing more of these demons in from the ocean.

Here comes the big surprise: The sharks are not being conditioned to eat you, and this is why.

The chief accusations leveled towards the shark diving and the chumming is :.  White sharks are being conditioned to associate boats, surf boards, divers and humans with food.  White sharks are being attracted into specific areas, thus posing a threat to water users. Shark diving operators are altering the shark's natural behaviour by making the sharks reliant on handouts and on top of that the sharks are being injured in the process.

Every day along the South African coastline, hundreds and possibly thousands of small craft go to sea in search of fish and they all chum in one way or the other.  Some do designed chumming and others chum indirectly when they hook a fish, place their baits in the water, pump their bilge's or clean fish at sea. This has been occurring for decades and for decades white sharks have been visiting these fishing boats as a result.  If one speaks to an honest fisherman who has been around for many years, he will tell you that the sharks visited him thirty years ago, and they still visit him now at the same frequency.  It is in fact probable that there were more white sharks thirty years ago.

When we work with White Sharks we do not go to sea with hundreds of pounds of bait and hundreds of liters of chum on the boat.  We go to sea with a relatively small amount of bait and chum when considering the vastness of the ocean. We spend most of  our time working around seal colonies which are enormous natural chum generators.  A seal colony of  60 000 seals will produce far more chum in one day, than the combined efforts of all boats in the area over a period of months or even longer.

The sharks are not attracted into the area from miles away.  For the chum to reach the sharks, they need to be in the area already and the chum from the boat simply draws the animal's attention to the boat.  On average, one would chum for approximately four to five hours,  thus if the chum moved with the current at a fast rate of one kilometer per hour,  then the furthest distance that the shark could  be attracted from would be five kilometers.

On the subject of conditioning we would like to explain the following : White sharks are highly nomadic animals and not resident in any particular area. They move in and out of white shark site areas constantly. Subsequently there is a large turnover of individual sharks in any particular area. There are always exceptions to the rule however the vast majority of individual sharks spend very short periods of time around the boats.

Other than their brief visits to the boats, one would for the most part pull the baits away from the sharks in an effort to draw  them close to the boats. The principal of conditioning an animal to something is built on rewards given to the animal when it does what you want it to and not take the potential reward away.  Very often the shark becomes disillusioned at the bait been pulled away and simply swims off never to be seen again.

Reports concerning conditioning white sharks to attack humans, is perhaps the most unfounded accusation of the lot. 99,9 percent of the white shark diving occurs in a cage which, anyone would have to admit, looks very different to any swimmer, surfboard, surfer or diver. This would the mean that, even if the animals were being conditioned, they would in such case be conditioned to a shark cage and the shark would very quickly discover that it is not edible.  Unfortunately humans always tend to look at things through our eyes, you can clearly see this tendency with people who have pets. With human imagination, people think that, when the shark sees a human in the cage, all the shark wants to do is to rip the cage open and devour the diver.......

Here comes the second surprise : Sharks do not attack the cages.  They do at times mouth the cage and the odd lively  individual will bump the cage, but they do not attack the cages and this is a fact.  The reason they would mouth the cage is normally the result of the chum and baits, which play on the shark's natural senses and instinct.

White sharks do see well and are very observant animals, however, it is doubtful whether they can actually distinguish and separate between the cage and the diver inside.  The shark probably perceives one very strange object and when it does investigate by mouthing, it gets a mouthful of metal, which relays to the brain that this alien object is not edible.  If then, the sharks were been conditioned, the conditioning would be teaching them that divers were not edible, thus a FAVOUR to all divers who have a fear for sharks.

Having said all of this, anybody working in the environment is responsible for some level of negative interference. Lets be honest with ourselves, we have to admit that man cannot work in nature without causing some degree of damage.  Even Greanpeace, whom I have much respect for, damage the environment every time they start an engine on one of their boats. The most ardent nature lover and conservationist visiting a game park is damaging the environment with his or her vehicle.

With regards to working with the white sharks in South Africa, we do to a certain extent interfere with the animals in one way or the other. The sharks visit the islands to hunt seals and we have to accept that us being in the area will cause distraction from this activity. However we must also remember, that the sharks come to the seal colony areas generally, because they want to feed and as long as we are being careful not to let the sharks eat the baits around the boats. They are more than likely to carry on with their seal hunt once the distraction of boats and baits are gone. On another note we have on numerous occasion seen sharks taking out seals right in front of our eyes despite the fact that we have both chum and baits in the water.

On the flip side of the coin, the white shark diving industry and other shark dive industries around the world have resulted in several species of sharks becoming very valuable non -consumable resources. Those sharks are now far more valuable alive than dead, they have created jobs, indirect industries such as guest -houses, dive equipment hire, curios and shuttle services. South Africa is a very good example of how the shark diving industry has positively affected areas that previously enjoyed no real benefit from the sharks. As a result the government will have yet another very good reason to continue protect and conserve these animals.

When working with nature and animals we must remember to always try to remain humble.  If we can do this,  we will all become assets to the sharks and the environment that is theirs.

Special Thanks to:
Craig Ferreira.
White Shark Project
Website:
http://www.whitesharkproject.co.za
E-mail:
wsp@iafrica.com
for supplying the article.

7. Website of the month
The following site is our choice for the website of the month:

www.sharkresearch.org

This site is all about the research on the Great white shark that is being done in the Cape. It has very comprehensive detail on the work they are doing and is well worth a visit. Some of the interesting facts they learned were that the females move around a lot less than the males and that the males rarely visit the same area twice within a short time span.

8. Dive Instructor Training on the Internet?

Does this sound absolutely crazy? Well it's true. Have a look at
http://www.instructor-training.com for more info.

Updated on: 06/03/2003