Thursday, December 01, 2016

Südsee: Paradies am Abgrund!

Check this out.
Faszination Erde by the ZDF is Germanic blue-chip nature programming, and Dirk Steffens is their Attenborough.

Very nice indeed.
Projects Abroad and Mangroves for Fiji 09:00ff, BAD 18:15ff.


Playa Sardines!

Charlie with one of his girls. Source.

So, I finally went diving with the Caribbean Sardines.

It was great.
Of course I dove with  GSD member Phantom Divers and I must really say that Chino has created an awesome slick, professional, fun and above all, very safe Shark diving machine that is among the best I've experienced anywhere - and yes, witnessing Charlie, and Ramón with their babies has been a special privilege.

Plus, progress on the conservation front has been simply stellar.
Under the leadership of its new full time director Luis Lombardo, Saving our Sharks is progressing from strength to strength, with more than 40 dive shops and dozens of boat captains observing the code of conduct and contributing funds, with substantial money going to fishermen in exchange for not fishing Sharks, with continued research and public presentations by Shark researchers, and with massive outreach to the public and to schools.

And then there was that remarkable tooth.
A present by Ramón who collected it right in front of me, it looks totally different from any Bull Shark tooth we've ever found here in Fiji - and trust me, we've found a few! 
It's the tooth on the left, together with two large Fijian ones - and considering that those Caribbean Bulls are a distinct genetic population with individuals that are notably smaller than those in the central Pacific, its size is simply spectacular. But then again, those are Mexican Sharks - small in size but packing a mighty punch! :)
Click for detail!

Anyway, nice to be home again.
It's the low season when the pregnant Bulls travel to the rivers to pup whilst the others are getting ready for mating and in turn appear to lose their appetite for juicy Tuna heads - but we've got heaps of other Sharks, and this also gives us a chance to focus on the countless Fishes.
It's already hot hot hot - so here's to a tropical depression to suck away some of the heat, as parts of Fiji are already experiencing dangerously hot surface waters.

But that's the topic of another post.
To be continued!

Friday, November 11, 2016

DEMA 2016!

See you in Las Vegas, booth 7115!

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Great Fiji Shark Count - WWF!


Read this.
Just as we were resigning ourselves to forever having to pay for the GFSC out of our own pocket, here comes the welcome support by the WWF. As you may remember, WWF and partners are developing a Shark RAT, and the GFSC is definitely going to be part of the mix both in terms of actual data but also as a template for similar undertakings in equally data-poor regions.

Welcome aboard folks - much appreciated!

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Yucatán Manta Ray?



See those Mantas?
They sure look different - and I cite.
Manta sp. cf. birostris

Selected synonymy. Cephalopterus giorna Lesueur, 1824.
Common names. Atlantic manta ray, Caribbean manta ray

Diagnosis. Overall body shape and size similar to M. birostris, although differences in colouration, denticles and dentition occur. Maximum disc width over 6000 mm. Slender whip-like tail with reduced caudal spine predominantly encased in a calcified mass present on the dorsum of tail immediately posterior to the dorsal fin. Small, knob-like dermal denticles occur on both the dorsal and ventral surfaces, which are non- overlapping but densely and non-uniformly distributed. Ventral surface has slightly larger denticles. Terminal mouth with tooth band on lower jaw comprising 77% of total jaw width and containing 9–11 rows of small cusped teeth.
A third, putative species, Manta sp . cf. birostris, in the Atlantic may be distinct from M. birostris.
This putative species shares some characteristics with M. birostris, such as a large maximum disc width and the presence of a distinct, reduced caudal spine. However, from the limited specimens and photographs examined, clear differences exist between Manta sp. cf. birostris and M. birostris including dissimilar denticle morphology and distribution, intermediary dentition and, most noticeably, differences in dorsal and ventral colouration.
While Manta sp. cf. birostris occurs in sympatry with M. birostris in parts of the Atlantic and Caribbean, there is some evidence that differences in fine-scale habitat selection and seasonal habitat use may occur in some locations (Bigelow and Schroeder 1953, Notarbartolo-di-Sciara and Hillyer 1989). Bigelow and Schroeder’s (1953) description of M. birostris from the Western Atlantic is one of the most comprehensive descriptions compiled, but includes material from both the wide-ranging M. birostris and the localized Manta sp. cf. birostris. To help clarify the situation, photographs, notations on colouration and descriptions of denticle and tooth morphology of both M. birostris and Manta sp. cf. birostris have been provided to supplement this description.

At present there is not enough empirical evidence to warrant the separation of a third species of Manta.
At minimum, additional examination of dead specimens of Manta sp. cf. birostris are necessary to clarify the taxonomic status of this variant manta ray. Further examinations of the distribution of Manta sp. cf. birostris, as well as, studies of its ecology and behaviour within the Atlantic and Caribbean are also recommended.

If distinct, we propose that a third species of Manta , Manta giorna, be resurrected from Lesueur’s (1824) description from North America.
That was back then in 2008 when Andrea resurrected the Reef Manta.
And after that, alas, having become the Queen of Mantas, Andrea's career appears to have become, for lack of a better description, a tad less focused and the third Manta Ray is still awaiting description.

Anyway, voids tend to get filled, and others have now stepped in.
I must say that despite of very much being a lumper, I really like this paper, that the evidence looks compelling and that I'm totally sold on the idea of a third species - but who am I to say, the more as naming the Yucatán Manta Ray cannot yet be performed without careful inspection and genetic analyses of several museum specimens.

Any takers?
Or will we have to wait for another 8 years for the final solution to this fascinating riddle?

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Great Fiji Shark Count!


We've just started count # 10.
And once this November count is done, we'll have collected a full five years of invaluable data and will finally be in a position to do some in-depth analysis and publish a first set of conclusions. Remember, this is not a census but long-term monitoring in the hopes of documenting trends in Fiji's populations of Sharks, Rays and Turtles - and with thousands upon thousands of records, document we certainly did!

Honestly, I didn't think we'd come this far.
Fiji's diving industry is characterized by a remarkably high turnover of expat owners and dive shop managers, and participation volatility has been according; donors that have given enthusiastically at the start did eventually lose patience, and funds have fizzled out; personal issues and personality clashes have been at times highly disruptive.
Yes it has also been lots of fun, and good tourism - but challenging! :)

But we've persevered - and here we are!
So, count count count - and then it will be up to the management team to dazzle you with facts, maps and trends! If I look at our own data that are definitely documenting a creeping loss of Bull Sharks, I'm not at all confident that the findings will be all positive - but let's first see what has happened Fiji-wide; and if warranted, we'll be finally able to advocate for the according remedies based on facts and not mere hearsay.

To be continued - and that's a promise!

PS: Fiji Times here!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016

Praising Fiji!


Read this.
Could definitely have happened sooner - but I'm sure that Bati et al will greatly appreciate it and more importantly, that they will continue to be supportive whenever the NGOs will come knocking again. I also hear that after having already posted this in the lead-up to the CoP, the Manta Trust has formally acknowledged and thanked the Fijian government, as it should be.

So well done folks - better late than never! :)