Saturday, August 27, 2005

Great white shark, a protected specie that feeds on unprotected victims according to this article!

Whenever there's a fatal shark attack in Australia, the chief suspect is usually the feared predator, the great white.

Yesterday's attack on marine biologist Jarrod Stehbens off Adelaide's Glenelg Beach was no exception.

While authorities remain uncertain what type of shark took Mr Stehbens as he was diving in search of cuttlefish eggs, shark expert Andrew Fox says it's likely to have been a great white, also known as a white pointer.

"The great white shark is really the only large predatory shark that's capable of actually taking a diver," Mr Fox says.

The great white is found all around Australia's southern coast but favours the waters of South Australia as a prime hunting ground.

Great whites are a protected species in Australia and are regarded as endangered around the world.

But they have attained a terrifying status in Australia following a number of fatal attacks in recent years.

Before yesterday, the most recent in South Australia was in December last year when 18-year-old Nick Peterson was attacked while being towed on a surfboard behind a boat off Adelaide's West Beach - just one kilometre from the site of yesterday's attack at Glenelg.

In 1985, a great white killed Shirley Anne Durdin, 33, who was bitten in half while snorkelling at Peake Bay on SA's Eyre Peninsula.

The same species was blamed for the death of Adelaide University student Jonathan Lee, 19, who was killed while diving off Aldinga Beach, south of Adelaide, in 1991.

In 1999, TV sound recordist Tony Donoghue went missing while windsurfing in Hardwicke Bay on SA's Yorke Peninsula - apparently killed by a white pointer.

In 2000, great whites were believed responsible for killing two men in two days off the SA coast.
New Zealander Cameron Bayes was dragged off his surfboard by a great white at Cactus Beach, south of Penong on SA's west coast.

The next day, some 250km away, 17-year-old Jevan Wright was grabbed by a shark at Black Point near Elliston.

Also in 2000, a great white up to four metres long fatally mauled father-of-three Ken Crew, 49, as he swam at Perth's popular Cottesloe Beach.

Two years later, on SA's west coast, a six metre great white grabbed professional diver Paul Buckland as he dived for scallops off Smoky Bay in the Great Australian Bight.

In July last year, a great white and a large bronze whaler were believed responsible for killing surfer Brad Smith near Gracetown in south-west Western Australia.

A great white was also suspected of killing boat skipper Geoffrey Brazier, 26, taken as he snorkelled in WA's Abrolhos Islands in March last year.

According to shark expert Rodney Fox, who is Andrew Fox's father, SA's Spencer Gulf is probably the best feeding ground in the southern ocean for white pointers.

Mr Fox, who survived a savage attack by a great white and has spent much of his life studying sharks, says he has seen more great whites in that area than anywhere else in southern Australia.
"It's probably the best restaurant in the whole southern ocean," he once said.

Great whites grow to up to seven metres, have huge and powerful jaws and are also capable of reaching speeds of up to 16kph - more than 10kph faster than the average swimmer, experts say.
Great whites are now a protected species in Australia and laws prohibit its hunting.

Last year, Australia announced it would push for a global ban on trade in great white shark products.

Australia said it would nominate the shark for listing under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Friday, August 26, 2005

History of shark attacks in Australia

Fatal shark attacks in South Australian waters:

2005: Aug 24 - Male diver killed by shark off Adelaide's Glenelg beach.

2004: Dec 16 - 18-year-old surfboarder Nick Peterson is killed by a great white shark off West Beach, on the metropolitan coast.

2002: April 30 - Scallop diver Paul Buckland, 23, killed at Smoky Bay, near Ceduna, while diving for scallops.

2000: Sept 25 - Jevan Wright, 17, taken by a shark while surfing at Blacks Point on SA's west coast.

2000: Sept 24 - New Zealand surfer Cameron Bayes, 25, taken by a great white while surfing at Cactus Beach south of Penong.

1999: May 29 - Sailboarder Tony Donaghue, 22, taken off Hardwicke Bay, Yorke Peninsula.

1998: June - Douglas Chesser, 26, killed after being attacked by a shark off Neptune Island while diving for abalone.

1991: Sept - Adelaide university student Jonathon Lee, 19, killed by a white pointer while diving off Aldinga Beach, south of Adelaide.

1989: March - Surfer Matt Foale, 27, killed at Waitpinga Beach near Victor Harbour, about 80km south of Adelaide.

1987: Sept - Professional diver Terry Gibson, 47, killed while diving for scallops near Marino Rocks off Adelaide's southern suburbs.

1985: March - Shirley Anne Durdin, 33, bitten in half by a six-metre white pointer while snorkelling at Peake Bay on Eyre Peninsula.

1975: Feb - Wade Shippard, 12, taken by a shark while swimming at Penong on SA's west coast.

1974: Jan - Terence Manuel, 25, dies after a shark tears off his leg in waters off Streaky Bay on the west coast.

1971: Fisherman Leslie Harris, 52, dies of heart failure after a shark attacks him in his boat off Port Patterson, south of Port Augusta.

1962: March - Geoffrey Corner, 16, killed by a shark off Normanville, south of Adelaide.

1926: March - Primrose White killed while swimming off Adelaide's Brighton Beach.

History of shark attacks in Australia

Fatal shark attacks in South Australian waters:

2005: Aug 24 - Male diver killed by shark off Adelaide's Glenelg beach.

2004: Dec 16 - 18-year-old surfboarder Nick Peterson is killed by a great white shark off West Beach, on the metropolitan coast.

2002: April 30 - Scallop diver Paul Buckland, 23, killed at Smoky Bay, near Ceduna, while diving for scallops.

2000: Sept 25 - Jevan Wright, 17, taken by a shark while surfing at Blacks Point on SA's west coast.

2000: Sept 24 - New Zealand surfer Cameron Bayes, 25, taken by a great white while surfing at Cactus Beach south of Penong.

1999: May 29 - Sailboarder Tony Donaghue, 22, taken off Hardwicke Bay, Yorke Peninsula.

1998: June - Douglas Chesser, 26, killed after being attacked by a shark off Neptune Island while diving for abalone.

1991: Sept - Adelaide university student Jonathon Lee, 19, killed by a white pointer while diving off Aldinga Beach, south of Adelaide.

1989: March - Surfer Matt Foale, 27, killed at Waitpinga Beach near Victor Harbour, about 80km south of Adelaide.

1987: Sept - Professional diver Terry Gibson, 47, killed while diving for scallops near Marino Rocks off Adelaide's southern suburbs.

1985: March - Shirley Anne Durdin, 33, bitten in half by a six-metre white pointer while snorkelling at Peake Bay on Eyre Peninsula.

1975: Feb - Wade Shippard, 12, taken by a shark while swimming at Penong on SA's west coast.

1974: Jan - Terence Manuel, 25, dies after a shark tears off his leg in waters off Streaky Bay on the west coast.

1971: Fisherman Leslie Harris, 52, dies of heart failure after a shark attacks him in his boat off Port Patterson, south of Port Augusta.

1962: March - Geoffrey Corner, 16, killed by a shark off Normanville, south of Adelaide.

1926: March - Primrose White killed while swimming off Adelaide's Brighton Beach.

Scuba diver attacked by what is believed to be a great white shark

A SHARK attacked and killed a scuba diver yesterday as his three horrified friends watched on, unable to save him.

All that remained was the man's oxygen cylinder and a buoyancy vest, which were retrieved by police scouring the waters off Glenelg Beach in Adelaide.

The diver was in the water with another man about 2km offshore when the shark attacked.
Two other men were on their boat and pulled one of the divers out of the water as their other friend fought to resurface. Police said the shark took the other diver while he was underwater.

"It was the one that was still underwater, he was taken," Acting Superintendent Jim Jeffery said.
"One of the divers was pulled back on to the boat as the other one was taken."

It was the second fatal attack in the breeding ground of the white pointer in less than a year.

"We are making every attempt we can to locate the person. The indications to us, though, are that it will be very doubtful that we will find the person alive," Supt Jeffery said.

Glenelg beach is 1km from West Beach, where 18-year-old Nick Peterson was devoured by a monster 6m great white in December.

Mr Peterson was being towed behind a boat on a day out with friends when the massive shark struck.

Coastguards tracked the man-eating shark the following day but, despite having permission to shoot to kill, it was never destroyed.

The same shark was believed to have stalked Adelaide beachgoers for at least three weeks before last summer's attack.

It was not known whether the same shark was behind the latest attack.

Expert Andrew Fox said yesterday the predator was almost certainly a great white.

"As far as determining the species of shark it's very likely that, other than a bronze whaler shark, the great white shark is really the only large predatory shark that's actually capable of taking a diver," he said.

But Mr Fox said it was unlikely that the shark was the same one responsible for last year's attack.
"There's always speculation after any shark attack around the world of a rogue shark, or a shark gone bad, a shark that likes the taste of humans," he said.

"But there's never been any evidence that this has ever occurred."

The cold waters off South Australia are a favourite hunting ground of the feared great white shark, which has been blamed for several fatal attacks in recent years.

A search involving water police and the South Australian Sea Rescue Squadron was called off last night and will resume today.

Police have ordered other recreational boat users out of the water in the vicinity of the attack.

Scientist believed to be killed by a great white shark

An Australian college student was attacked by a shark during a science experiment on Glenelg beach and is believed to be dead.

The Melbourne Herald-Sun reports the victim was collecting fish eggs with other scientists from Adelaide University when members saw what appeared to be a great white shark.
They managed to get one researcher out of the water but not the unnamed man, who is said to be in his 20s.

Police haven't' found a body but have recovered the man's oxygen tank and life vest.
The attack was miles from the beach where an 18-year-old was killed by a shark in December.

"Jaws" and the great white shark do not share the same habits!

A great white shark does not have the "Jaws" mentality! Posted by Picasa

EXPERTS say the killer shark would not be the same beast that killed surfer Nick Peterson in waters off West Beach last December.Associate Professor in Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Adelaide Chris Daniels said there was no such thing as a "man-eater" that repeatedly killed humans in separate attacks.

"It's very, very, very unlikely to be the same shark," he said.

"The thing about Great Whites is that they are not territorial and they cover thousands of kilometres every year and they don't remember what they've eaten before.

"Think of them as goldfish with teeth! They don't have a huge memory."

Shark researcher Andrew Fox said there was no evidence that sharks who attacked one human would go on to attack more.

"It's so easy to say `we don't know' but everything we know about sharks suggests that's not the case," Mr Fox said "There's no evidence of a rogue shark or a repeat offender – it's something out of `Jaws' mentality."

The Great White is found all around Australia's southern coast but favours waters around South Australia as one of its prime hunting grounds.

Associate Professor Daniels described yesterday's attack as a "tragedy".
"It's appalling," he said.

"But it's nonsense to suggest this is a `man-eater' – sharks attack for a whole a range of reasons. They will attack because they think it's a seal, because they are hungry or because they are sick."
He said while it was unusual for shark attacks to be reported in Australian waters in the winter, it wasn't unusual behaviour by the shark.

"It's unusual for us to be in the water – it's not unusual for them to be there. They eat all year around," he said.

"Usually a shark attack is just incredibly, incredibly bad luck especially on a metropolitan beach. They're not more common – the reality is that the white pointers are on the endangered list.
"In fact, their numbers are decreasing dramatically around the world."

Great Whites grow to 6-7m, have huge and powerful jaws and are also capable of reaching speeds of up to 16km/h – more than 10km/h faster than the average swimmer, experts say.
The Great White is a protected species in Australia and laws prohibit its hunting.

Last year, Australia announced it would push for a global ban on trade in Great White shark products.

Australia said it would nominate the shark for listing under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Questions about the protective laws of great white sharks

GREAT WHITE SHARKS apparently are making a comeback along the Southern California coast. That's excellent news for the protected great whites, but unsettling for the millions of Californians who work and play in the Pacific. As an environmentalist and a surfer who believes in protecting wild land and wild animals, including big predators that can harm humans, I'm troubled by our approach to great whites. An extreme and, I believe, confused notion of wilderness is in play here.

In Southern California, where our neighborhoods push deeper and deeper into the wild geography of mountains and canyons, we are accustomed to coyotes, bears and mountain lions coming into our streets and yards. But we nevertheless police this boundary. We don't accept that mountain lions or bears should come onto our lawn and attack one of us. Animals that do so are moved, sometimes killed, without endangering the survival of the species or the stability of the ecosystem.

That doesn't happen with great whites. In 2003, an angler on the Hermosa Pier caught a juvenile white shark. Thinking it was a mako shark (of which you are allowed to catch two per day), he kept it. But he was fined and ordered to do community service. A similar case this summer against a charter boat is pending. A great white that killed a woman swimming off Avila Beach two years ago was seen several times in the following weeks hunting seals just off the beach while the little resort town watched the summer season it depends on evaporate, as visitors stayed away in droves.

As a protected species, the shark could not be harmed. Until recently, great whites found south of Point Conception were considered strays from their primary hunting grounds, the seal colonies of Northern California. An uptick in Southern California sightings began in 2003, when surfers at San Onofre, on the border of Orange and San Diego counties, saw three juvenile whites prowling the shoreline. The fish, each 8 feet long, hung around all summer, circling and occasionally bumping surfers, but biting no one. Locals named then Sparky, Fluffy and Archie.

This year, sharks 6 feet long are turning up at beaches from Solana in the south up through Laguna, Huntington, El Segundo, Zuma, and on to Emma Wood in the north. Surfers encountered 10- to 13-foot white sharks at Del Mar, Point Mugu and Ventura. A shark in that range bumped a surfer at Topanga, and three bodyboarders experienced what seemed to them a failed attack at Point Mugu. A surfer reported seeing a seal flung through the air at Encinitas.

On June 18, at Leo Carillo Beach in Malibu, lifeguards saw a 13-footer and cleared the water. At Zuma Beach in March, a lifeguard and several spectators reported a 15-foot shark following an adult gray whale and her calf. All of these instances were in shallow water, close to shore in the surf zone. The swelling number of sightings could be sampling error: More people go into the water every year, stoked by surf-themed movies like "Blue Crush" and "Step into Liquid." Scientists urge caution in jumping to conclusions, saying the reported surge in sightings doesn't prove conclusively that white shark numbers are rising.

Yet they acknowledge that mysteries remain about these animals, including where they breed, give birth and feed when the seals leave their colonies for the sea. Scientists believe that female white sharks come to Southern California in early spring to give birth to litters of "pups." The 4-foot-long babies are left to fend for themselves, eating halibut, cabezon and other fish, while the adult females go out to the islands or elsewhere to find larger prey. It's not uncommon for area fishermen to catch juveniles, usually inadvertently. Young sharks probably pose little danger to people. Their teeth are needle-like and close-set, adapted to hold fish, not tear into large animals.

But as the sharks grow past 10 feet, they develop bigger, wider teeth, set farther apart, to allow them to eat seals, small whales and other mammals. These developing sharks are the most agile and aggressive — and may be more dangerous than larger adults. Worldwide, just 27% of white sharks that bite people are longer than 15 feet, while 50% are between 10 and 15 feet. It is extremely cold comfort to know that if bitten by a smaller shark, your likelihood of dying is 22%, versus 45% if your assailant is a large adult. No one knows whether the young great whites now in Southern California will stay once mature. Fully grown great whites are incredibly rare.

Perhaps no more than 100 live off California, and they tend to stick around a few elephant seal colonies at the Farallons, Ano Nuevo, San Simeon, San Miguel Island and Guadalupe Island off Mexico. In those locations, encounters with humans are uncommon. As Professor Peter Klimly, a shark expert at UC Davis, says, "If all the bad guys are all in one place, far away from people, you don't have a problem." But Klimly acknowledges that there is "an ambience" of sharks continually moving along the coast between seal colonies, and those sharks can come into contact with people.

And although white shark advocates insist that the animals don't eat people, they certainly do bite and kill them. California has recorded 11 fatal attacks and 83 nonfatal attacks since the early 1950s. In Southern California, the fatal attacks have been off La Jolla in 1959, off Malibu in 1989 and the woman swimming near the Avila Beach pier in San Luis Obispo County in 2003. Clearly, sharks and people need to be carefully managed. But only the sharks have protection, under a California law that took effect in 1994. That law made sense at the time.

The 1975 movie "Jaws" and a dozen years of sequels sent more sportfishing boats after big sharks for thrills. Today, as seals, the sharks' primary food, thrive along the coast as a protected species, no one knows if the great whites are indeed endangered. The 1994 law called for a study to determine the great white population along the coast, but no money was allocated to pay for it. In light of the research vacuum, scientists have no idea what the historical numbers are, or whether the sharks have been declining or thriving. Worldwide, they show no signs of disappearing.

They inhabit nearly all parts of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans, plus the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas. Among defenders of the sharks, it's fashionable to say that we "enter the shark's house" when we go in the ocean and must accept the risk of attack. There's an undercurrent of guilt in this bravado, as though by "entering the food chain" we can somehow expiate our forefathers' sins in exterminating other species, such as the grizzly bear featured on the California flag but hunted out of the state a century ago.

The woman who loved to swim at Avila Beach is routinely talked of as though she deserved her death. She looked like a seal in her fins and wetsuit and was swimming near seals, thus she brought it on herself; the shark is blameless. Her death was an unfortunate cost, we are told, of keeping an important endangered species alive. This may be true, but it seems gruesome and an easy moralization for people who do not go into the ocean.

The urban beaches of Southern California are not the same as an oceanic "wilderness" like the Farallon Islands. They are our backyard. We should not have to forfeit our right to security the minute we step off dry sand — especially because the scientific case for the great white shark's immediate endangerment becomes less convincing with each new sighting.Knowing more about the shark is vital. We should demand funding for the science required to make the right decisions.

And we should end the blanket protection offered these animals when they venture near our beaches. Sharks that menace or attack people should be managed in the same way as problem bears and mountain lions: captured and relocated if possible, or killed if necessary.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The story of a man nicknamed "Sharkman"

ANDRE Hartman, South Africa's internationally famous "Sharkman", knows every local great white shark, personally.Some smile, others scowl, he says. They can be curious or shy and are sensitive to certain types of touching and to wind changes.

A self-taught animal-behaviouralist, as a child he kept poisonous snakes and identified them.
Mr Hartman became the first man in the world to be able to lure the ocean giants to his boat and gently rub his fingers along their highly sensitive snouts, causing the sharks to open their awesome jaws.

He loves watching the giant sharks when he brings them close to his boat.

"You just read his expression," he said. "Some look very friendly – they've got a beautiful smile. Some have got a mean expression on their faces. It's a subtle difference, but if you work with them every day you can see."

Barefoot, Mr Hartman, 53, a burly South African seadog, runs a shark cage-dive boat in Gansbaai, 190km southeast of Cape Town, with his partner.

On the southern-most tip of Africa, where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet, is one of the world's biggest populations of great white sharks, where they thrive by eating cape fur seals.

His knowledge of great white sharks has brought him worldwide notoriety and helped transform his sleepy fishing village into an international mecca for great white shark film-makers in the winter shark season from May to September.

Wildlife programs, including National Geographic, FOX's Discovery Channel and Australia's croc man Steve Irwin, have beaten a path to his door.

The town he has made famous will soon feature on the latest British reality-TV show Celebrity Shark Bait, which was filmed last month. In it celebrities, including former British Olympic hurdler Colin Jackson, climb into a Perspex cage in the waters off Gansbaai, known as Shark Alley.
He denies claims, reignited by Celebrity Shark Bait, that he has increased the risk of great white sharks attacking people.

Leading shark scientists working in South African waters support Mr Hartman's claims that sharks do not associate cage-diving with people.

"The resemblance of a surfer to a cage-diving boat are worlds apart," said Ryan Johnson, a New Zealander researching great whites.

Mr Hartman has had a healthy respect for the sharks since he was young.

As a teenage spearfisherman, he came face-to-face with a 5m great white in 1977. Terrified, he used his spear-gun to lever himself over its body, but it turned and bit his spear. He vowed to sell his dive gear and never swim again, but a fascination for the giants drew him back to the ocean.
Mr Hartman is a pioneer of the eight shark cage-dive businesses in Gansbaai, which have enjoyed worldwide publicity and spawned a multimillion-dollar industry.

Mr Hartman takes boatloads of tourists diving with great whites.

His two-to-three people shark cages give an amazing close-up view of the sharks circling the boat or monstering tethered bait-bags.

Mr Hartman said that while the sharks were sometimes curious about the cage's yellow ropes (the colour yellow attracts sharks) and the white buoys (similar in size and colour to the bait), the great whites have little interest in the divers inside.

For a few days a year when the water is crystal clear, Mr Hartman has had professional cameramen join him and dive with the feared predators in open water outside cages.

"The person who dives with me must have confidence in himself as well," Mr Hartman said. "If the guy's going to panic and run away, that's big trouble."

Mr Hartman controls a shark by using its acutely sensitive snout – he says sharks "touch" things to work out if they're worth eating.

"You've got to have something hard in your hand," he said. "He (the shark) will come to feel if you're soft, if you're edible."

He said that when a shark nudged a hard object, such as an unloaded speargun or a film-maker's camera, the shark would veer away in disinterest or insecurity.

But Mr Hartman bears the scars of a too-close encounter – when a great white took a bite.
"You see the teeth marks there, a couple here and another one," he said, pointing to scars on his right foot.

Earlier this year, while he sat with his leg dangling in the water, a great white grabbed his foot.
"He was chasing a piece of tuna and all of a sudden he's got a whole lot of bone in his mouth and is hanging out of the water," Mr Hartman said.

Gansbaai cameraman Russell Smith, said: "In one, little fishing village on the tip of South Africa (Gansbaai), here's this guy nobody has heard about and he's dossing (playing) around with sharks."

The scientific community thinks Mr Hartman "pushes his luck", but he has won their respect.

"A lot of us conservationists talk about white sharks and how they are not man-eaters or dangerous to humans, but a lot of us aren't willing to stand by our statements and interact with them," Mr Jackson said.

"Andre was the first person to step out of the mould and freedive with them, to swim alongside, to grab hold of their dorsal fin.

"It showed a lot of us how much humans can interact with them without getting eaten."

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Great white sharks present in Boston Bay

Port Lincoln is living up to its reputation as being the home of the Great White Shark.

Many shark sightings have been reported from Boston Bay following the arrival of four Japanese tuna processing boats a month ago.It seems sharks have been in close proximity to the vessels, and the thrill of spotting a white pointer has lured many to Boston and Porter Bays at Port Lincoln to go shark watching. Des Woolford, a former charter boat operator, was one of many who have seen Great White sharks swimming in close proximity to the Japanese tuna boats.

As Des explained to ABC Radio he and members of his family were on a cruise around the harbor when they thought they’d take a look at one of the Japanese freezer boats. There were a couple of other recreational boats in the area at the same time and a person on board one of these boats mentioned that there was at least one Great White shark in the area."...probably within about fifteen to twenty minutes we realized there was as many as three (great) white sharks in the area, from about eleven foot up to sixteen foot...”One of the recreational boats in the water was a five-metre aluminum tinny, and Des was asked if this was a safe option.

He admitted that he’d done it before but he would only recommend it to experienced boaties.“I think if you have got some knowledge of the Great White shark, yeah they’re very capable of doing a lot of horrible things and there’s countless stories of where sharks have come up and tried to come over the transom and look under the boat.” Des explained that he was able to steer the thirty-four foot yacht to within a couple of feet of the sharks.Any sailor with yacht experience would realise that yachts are prone to capsizing and that it was a bit of a risk to take, considering the amount of sharp teeth in the water.

But Des explained that the conditions were nearly as good as they get.“Quite calm. We’d actually had a fair bit of rain yesterday morning, but no it was quite nice conditions yesterday afternoon, however I wouldn’t have liked to be in the water...”When asked how the sharks were behaving, Des claimed:"They were certainly looking for something to eat. Probably whilst we were there we witnessed probably at least two tuna drop off the deck of the processing boat, which is a source of food for them.”

Des also admitted that he wasn’t surprised to see the sharks in close proximity to the tuna vessels.“Not greatly surprised... I have heard stories where there has been... eight different sharks witnessed in one day.”When asked whether he believed that shark numbers were increasing, Des answered:“Certainly not declining, it’s possible that they could even be inclining, but certainly no less. Never has been any less..." This possible increase in shark numbers has been more visible since the vessels arrived a month ago.

The first of the Japanese vessels to arrive was the Tuna Queen followed by the Mieta Maru, the Sako Maru number 16 and the Corona Reefer.The Environment Protection Authority has also investigated into whether these four Japanese processing vessels near Port Lincoln are offloading fish waste illegally into Boston and Porter Bays. Terry Clark, manager of public affairs says that if evidence of waste seeping into the bays was found, they may face prosecution.Mr Clark says officers have boarded the vessels to find out what is happening.

“It’s pretty hard to speculate, but we’re going over there in response to reports into the EPA that there have been discharges from the freezer boats and also the fish processing boats of offal and waste water into the bay. And so we want to go over there and have a look at the situation and find out if these allegations are correct or not.”When asked what proof the EPA would need to prosecute offending vessels, Mr Clark responded:“I would think if they’re discharging offal and waste water which would contain blood into the bay, then it would be quite visible.”

Mr Clark was also asked if he believed that evidence of an increased shark presence in the area would indicate that something unnatural was entering the water.

I wouldn’t like to speculate but certainly if there’s offal and the like in the water there’s potential for attracting sharks, yes.”

But public affairs manager Terry Clarke says they found no evidence of offal and wastewater being discharged into the bay.An EPA officer inspected vessels over three days last week. It was however discovered that there are limited facilities for the disposal of wastewater in the district.The Environment Protection Authority will meet with the Tuna Boat Owners Association to discuss the limited wastewater facilities in Port Lincoln.

Autobiography of a shark hunter

From isolated incidents on the ocean to the big screen summer blockbusters, sharks have established themselves as one of the most mysterious and unpredictable enigmas of our age. For many people, it is highly natural to fear sharks and avoid swimming alone in salt water. While most people preferred to stay safe, Mundus the shark hunter braved the seas, hunting the largest and most fearsome predators he could find. But what was it really like to hunt sharks for a living?

Discover the truth, by diving deep into the life and times of Frank Mundus in his autobiography Fifty Years A Hooker.

Jointly written with his wife, Jeanette, Fifty Years A Hooker tells the long and exciting life story of Frank Mundus, who has hunted sharks for decades and surprisingly today he's now working to preserve sharks. The book not only looks at his profession but also at his personality -- his unusual childhood, his comic misadventures, his family, and his art of growing pineapples. Photographs in the book provide visual clarity to readers.

Readers will be amazed to learn about the numerous events Frank Mundus experienced during his fifty years of fishing, such as the day he caught his first shark; his personal experience of The Pelican Disaster of 1951; the time he developed his trademark "idiot magnet," and the day he successfully caught a 4,500 pound great white shark in 1964. Fans of the movie and novel Jaws will be very delighted to learn about the strong influences Mundus' successful shark hunting had on author Peter Benchley. In some ways, Mundus gave birth to Hollywood's lucrative summer movie seasons through his work.

With a careful blend of interesting real-life stories, photographs, history, and personalities, Fifty Years A Hooker will attract a wide range of readers from students, professors, fishermen, historians, lawyers, and more. Frank and Jeanette wrote the book to give people a very detailed look at shark hunting as well as to educate them about the real-life inspiration for Peter Benchley's shark hunter "Quint." Fifty Years A Hooker is a very important book that readers should not miss.

About the Author

Frank Mundus' background was the unacknowledged inspiration for Peter Benchley's shark hunter "Quint" in the book and movie Jaws. Mundus spent over fifty years catching sharks off Montauk Point, Long Island, New York. He pioneered the sport of shark fishing in 1951. Mundus has co-authored two other books: Sportfishing for Sharks (Macmillan, 1971) with Bill Wisner and Monster Man (Cricket II, 1976) with Robert Boggs. In 2005 Mundus will appear in a Discovery Channel one-hour biographical special for Shark Week.

As for Jeanette Mundus, Fifty Years A Hooker is a collaborative and loving effort with her husband, Frank, on his autobiography.

Finding out the truth about sharks

IT'S 30 years since Jaws made us afraid, very afraid - but now there's a hunt on to reveal the truth about sharks in Welsh waters.

Fishermen and conservationists have joined forces in a two-pronged attack, catching sharks and tagging them, seeking the reality of just how many of one of the Earth's most feared creatures cruise our coastline today.

There are 22 varieties of shark surrounding Wales and experts say there's nothing to stop the man-eating Great White, the species featured in Steven Spielberg's classic Jaws, visiting our shores.
But it is more likely to be a case of gums or disinterest, not teeth, stresses Sylvette Peplowski, the World Wildlife Fund's marine projects officer.

The shark specialist said, "Any shark attack on a human is an accident in most cases.

"Given the choice, even the Great White would prefer to eat a seal; men are not its favourite food.
"The likelihood of being attacked by a shark is not completely risk free, anything could happen, but the Great White coming to the surface is unlikely.

"We have come a long way in the last 30 years in terms of learning about the Great White, where they go and why.

"We are still undoing the damage to its reputation that was caused by Jaws - that did nothing for shark public relations."

The WWF aims to tag all sharks off the Welsh coast, aided by fishermen.

Among the species found are blue sharks, dogfish and basking sharks - all large but relatively harmless.

Blue sharks, for example, prefer eating squid and pose little danger to swimmers.

Sally Bailey, WWF Cymru campaigns co-ordinator, explained, "Blue sharks are regular visitors to Wales and come in on the Gulf Stream. They like deep waters and don't tend to go into shallow bathing waters."

The scheme means that if the sharks are recaptured anywhere else in the world details can be passed to conservationists here for further research monitoring their behaviour.

"We measured, weighed and tagged them in the hope of finding them next year to see how they are doing, if they are breeding and where they have been," said Sally.

"Some mature ones get to California."

Dolphins however are surprisingly the ones to watch.

Sylvette said, "We give dolphins human qualities and although they appear to be smiling they are not really.

"They are wild animals, they attack porpoises and could drown humans."

Yesterday a group of up to 2,000 common dolphins were spotted off the Pembrokeshire coast.

Marine experts said it was "massively unusual" to see so many there and they could not explain the incident.

A Great White was spotted by fishermen off Cornwall last year. Its close relation, a Mako (Maori for man-eater) shark was reported off the same coastline last week.

Other sharks found around Wales include the Tope and the Porbeagle.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Baiting great white sharks is illegal!!

This is a picture that represents the kind of scene that was seen while the man was baiting great white shark in False Bay with a fake baby seal. Posted by Picasa

A Constantia man has been charged with harassing Great White sharks in False Bay. The man, who may not be named until he has pleaded in court, was towing a rubber decoy designed to look like a baby seal behind his catamaran, apparently to attract Great Whites. Two tour operators working on boats around Seal Island saw the man and alerted Marine and Coastal Management (MCM). Pat Stacey, chief MCM inspector for False Bay, said he had waited for the man to return to the yacht club in Simon's Town. "He and his son were on board.

The guy came off carrying a bag and when I searched it, I found the decoy. It was made of pink rubber and cut out to look like a seal. It was about the same size as a baby seal. It has a nice bite mark on it."It is illegal to harass great white sharks, the same as it is illegal to harass whales and dolphins, but there is no distance one is required to stay away from white sharks," Stacey said.
He said MCM had had several complaints recently about people harassing sharks in False Bay."Because of the complaints we had to take action against this guy.

He claimed he did not know it was illegal. "The two tour operators who saw the incident said the catamaran had come whizzing past them dragging the decoy and they both saw great whites leaping out of the water trying to get the decoy. I suppose people do this to show their friends the big sharks, or to take photos, I don't know," Stacey said.Stacey said there were operators licensed to take tourists to see sharks.

These operators had to abide by strict permit conditions. In this way, the public could see sharks, but in a controlled manner.MCM is conducting research on the impact of the shark tourist industry on shark behaviour. The incident happened on August 6.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Fact of fiction?

Is the great white shark really mistaking divers with seals? Don't be so sure about that! Posted by Picasa

The facts:

You would never know it from the evening news, but the last thing you should worry about at the beach this summer is a shark attack. The odds of drowning are far greater. Yet despite the attention they receive, shark attacks and their causes are widely misunderstood, experts say.The most popular myth? That sharks are attracted to swimmers who wear bright colors.

R. Aidan Martin, the director of the ReefQuest Center for Shark Research in British Columbia, said this particular rumor stemmed from studies years ago that followed groups of navy divers wearing standard dark uniforms. Those who stood out because they also wore a pair of bright flippers, for example, were more likely to be attacked.But the reason has to do with contrast, not bright colors.

Like any predator, sharks look for prey with any features that separate them from the pack, a possible sign that the animal has an injury or abnormality that makes it more vulnerable. "Sharks are very good at detecting these slight differences," Martin said.So good, in fact, that a shark is unlikely to mistake a diver or swimmer for a seal, which is another widespread myth.

When a great white shark attacks a seal, for example, it rushes toward the animal at about 30 miles an hour and smacks it out of the water with devastating force. When a shark approaches a swimmer, it does so slowly and deliberately.

The bottom line:

Sharks are attracted to contrast, not bright colors, and they do not mistake people for seals.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Swimming with sharks, not for everyone!

Being someone who never shies away from an adventure with a touch of danger thrown in, I didn't hesitate to go diving with sharks a few years ago in the warm waters of the Maldives.

I do realize that many people do not share my enthusiasm for this form of extreme water sport but for those travelers who are looking for something to put in their travel brag book, an excuse to buy that super expensive underwater camera, or just an opportunity to face their fears, I strongly recommend a dip with the beasts of the deep.

First a quick Shark 101 lesson for the uninitiated and the scared. Sharks swim in almost all of the world's oceans and with about 450 known species, there's a good chance you may have already swam with a shark and not even known. Sharks vary greatly in size from a mere 10 inches to over 50 feet in length. Although most sharks are predators, the majority feed on other fish, whereas large sharks, such as the Great White and Tiger Shark, prey on large marine mammals such as seals, dolphins, turtles and sea birds.

Several species of shark are known to be dangerous to humans including the Great White, Tiger shark and Bull shark. It is important to be aware that sharks do not target humans as prey, rather the majority of shark attacks can be attributed to the shark confusing humans with its normal prey. Having said that, all companies that offer shark diving tours are extremely careful in the way they conduct the dives and all necessary precautions will be taken to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

If you're not quite ready for the open sea, why not start at Scotland's Deep Sea World
located in Fife, where you can take a shark dive in their 1.2 million gallon underwater safari tank, home to one of Europe's largest collections of Sand Tiger sharks, as well as 2,000 other fish including rays and conger eels. No qualifications or experience are required to experience this adrenaline rush so it's open to just about everyone.

Full training is given on the day and all necessary equipment is provided. The cost is $222 per person but also includes two spectators. Also located in Scotland (Cheshire), the Blue Planet Aquarium does similar shark dives for $311 or for PADI qualified divers (who have logged a dive within the last six months) $178 will buy you a dive session with the sharks using you own equipment (or you can hire it from them), a safety briefing and discounted admission prices for spectators.

To get up more close and personal with the largest, the gigantic Whale shark, in the warm waters of the Caribbean, Placencia in Belize is your destination. Spring is the prime migration time in the waters off the coast of this laid-back fishing village located in the south of the country. May and June are the best months to spot these mammoth creatures but the diving season lasts from March to October.

Seahorse Dive Shop
has Whale-shark dives for $150 per person which includes two tanks, weights and weight belt, tax and lunch. Other equipment rental is available for a reasonably low cost, i.e. regulator for $7.50. Please note that this dive is recommended for advanced divers or divers with 25 dives or more.

Off the coast of the small island of San Pedro, Belize, is the Shark Ray Alley of Hol Chan Marine Reserve, a Marine National Park that boasts large schools of Grey Nurse sharks and Southern Stingrays. Inexpensive boat tours are available from San Pedro for day trips to this excellent diving and swimming spot. Boat rides (without scuba equipment) are priced from $30 per person through Green Dragon Belize.
They can also arrange the short 15-minute flight to San Pedro from the mainland and accommodation on the island.

The sharks are swimming and ready for company in the Bahamas. In particular, Caribbean Reef sharks and Bull sharks are quite prominent in this tropical paradise and a number of Bahamian dive operations offer shark dives including UNEXSO Nassau Scuba Center
and Xanadu Undersea Adventures in Freeport, Stuart Cove's Dive South Ocean on New Providence Island and Walker 's Cay on Abaco Island. Prices vary but most shark dives are under $100 per person for experienced divers only. For further information about diving in general in the Bahamas, visit the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism website at.

For perhaps the most intense and extreme shark experience, it's hard to surpass Responsible Travel's
"Diving With Great White Sharks" expedition. For the serious diving and shark enthusiast, this unique trip starting in Cape Town, South Africa features 13 dives in total with full diving equipment included in the price. At Cape Town there are three shore dives, two boat dives, one night dive, a dive with sharks in the Two Oceans aquarium with the highlight being the Great White shark cage dive in the Gansbaai region to the east of Cape Town.

After transfer to Durban there are five further dives on the world famous Aliwal Shoal, where you can free dive with Ragged Tooth, Bull, Hammerhead, Tiger and several other shark species without cages. The trip is led by Andre Hartman, a 30 year commercial diving veteran, who has worked with National Geographic on the Great White sharks in the region.

Ten-night accommodations, internal flights, lunches, snacks and drinks on board daily dive boats are all included. Cameras and specialist photographic equipment can be hired. This highly specialized tour is priced at $1895 per person. International airfare to South Africa is additional.
If that tour is a little too much diving for your taste, but your dream for swimming with a Great White needs to be realized White Shark Ecoventures
in Gansbaai, South Africa can fulfill your greatest wish.

You don't even need scuba certification to be able to cage dive, making this adventure accessible to anyone with the courage to take the plunge. Their two-day tours, which include round-trip transfers from Cape Town, overnight accommodations at a Bed and Breakfast and a full day tour with cage dive cost $403 per person. Longer tours with additional cage dives are also available. Although the tours are run throughout the year, the peak-viewing season with a 90 to 99% success rate is April to November.

The oceans surrounding the continent of Australia are breeding and playgrounds for a multitude of shark species, including the protected Great White. There are also a plethora of dive companies that run shark diving tours and cage dives. If you can swim and snorkel, you too can safely experience the excitement and wonder of swimming with the world's largest fish, Whale sharks on Western Australia's Ningaloo Reef with Exmouth Diving School.

These tours in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean operate daily from late March to July and cost $278 for a Single Reef Dive with all equipment or $247 for snorkeling only including all equipment: These prices include an unforgettable day on board the well-equipped vessel, morning tea, full buffet lunch, afternoon tea and refreshments throughout the day as well as a light aircraft that flies overhead throughout the day to spot sharks and guide the boat to the spot.

The staff is fully qualified and experienced. In the unlikely event no Whale shark is sighted on your Whale Shark Adventure, you will receive a free tour the following day. Exmouth is located approximately 800 miles north of Perth and is accessible by Kookaburra Air.

Reality TV faces great white sharks

They were then dropped, one at a time, into a diving cage to get within brushing distance of great white sharks drawn in by bait. They will have been filmed probably in a state of nervous tension and, once under water, mouthing expletives indecipherable amidst their rapidly exhaled bubbles.

Whether they felt horror at a perceived threat or wonder at natural magnificence remains to be seen. Certainly Peter Benchley, author of the book upon which the film Jaws was based, will be hoping for the latter.Jaws arguably did more to damage our perception of the great white than all other shark horror stories combined. But after the film was made, Benchley turned and, in the 30 years since, has championed conservation and a greater understanding of sharks – including the top-of-the-food-chain great white.

ITV has said that Celebrity Shark Bait is to be screened as part of Bite Night, an evening of three shark-related programmes. The group title hardly implies a sympathetic view of sharks but, while the trilogy naturally includes the nightmarish Jaws, the third programme appears scientifically thoughtful.“Are we right to be so scared of sharks?” reads ITV’s preamble for Sharks on Trial. “Are they the cold, calculating killing machines with a taste for human flesh that we have been led to believe?

Or are they vulnerable, misunderstood creatures and the innocent victims of bad PR?”Sounds hopeful for sharks. Then:“Join us as we go for a dip with the experts who make it their mission to understand sharks, test out the latest gadgets designed to put them off eating us, meet the ecologists fighting for their cause, and interview some of the many humans who have suffered at the snap of their jaws.”Be ready, it seems, for varied shades of opinion.*Peter Benchley’s own way of marking Jaws’ 30th anniversary has been to publish a 208-page hardback book, Shark Life, with US publisher Delacorte Books for Younger Readers.

In it Benchley does his best to paint an accurate picture of the lives of many types of shark, and their relationships with man. Of course man is the biggest threat of the lot. But of those sharks that can pose threats to man, Benchley describes how best to avoid potential trouble – but puts perceived threats into perspective, as might be expected from this celebrated doom-monger turned truth-seeker.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Fishermen caught great white shark in their net

The 265kg, 3m-long, shark was accidently netted by commercial fishermen off the Kumara Patch, near Okato, yesterday morning.

Word quickly spread that the great white had been caught and by mid-afternoon people were waiting for the crew of the Layla to return to Port Taranaki with the shark.

As the crowds gathered to see the shark up close, opinion was unanimous – this was the one.
Like any good fishing yarn the word soon spread and any doubts were quickly quashed. Everyone had a story, or someone else's story, to tell about "that" shark.

Last year there were a number of reported sightings of a huge great white lurking off the Taranaki coast.

In April a group of anglers were terrified by a shark as it lunged and sank its teeth into the side of their small fishing boat.

A Taranaki Daily News photo taken at the time showed the teeth marks on the side of the boat and just how close the fishing trio came to the great white.

Yesterday, commercial fisherman Rob Ansley said the shark became caught in a set-net at a depth of about 35 metres.

Mr Ansley and his crew were fishing for warehou a couple of kilometres offshore at the time.
The fishermen didn't know the shark was caught until they pulled the net up, and by then it was dead.

"I tell you if a fish like this was alive you would have no chance of getting it on board," Mr Ansley "It was a nightmare as it was."

He believed the shark had been hanging around, because some of their gear and fish had been taken a couple of days ago. He also had gear badly damaged in May last year.

"It could be the same one from last year. But you'll never really know. I definitely know the great whites hang around here."

In his 17 years fishing he had caught four great whites in Taranaki waters.
Mr Ansley said if the shark had been alive they would have let it go.

Department of Conservation officer Bryan Williams said the shark was an immature female.
An autopsy showed her stomach was empty, Mr Williams said.

"Great whites turn up along our shores from time-to-time. The last one caught was about six or seven years ago," he said.

He said it was possible it was the same shark that had been seen in the area last year.
"It's a pity. If it had been alive they would have let it go."

It would not have taken the shark long to drown in the net, he said.

Mr Willams said the shark's stomach, liver and other organs would be preserved and given to scientists to examine.

The rest would be destroyed.

It's believed the same shark also attacked a seal in front of a boat load of tourists visiting New Plymouth's Nga Motu Marine Reserve last year.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Benchley, author of "Jaws" tells truth about sharks in "Shark Life"

OK, kids, go ask your parents if a guy named Peter Benchley knows anything about sharks, then wait for their reaction.

More than 30 years ago Benchley wrote a novel called ''Jaws,'' about a great white shark that terrorized a small beach town. It was turned into a movie that kept a generation of kids out of the ocean.

Now Benchley has written a book based on his own experiences with sharks. Unlike ''Jaws,'' these stories are all true.

While there are hair-raisingly scary stories about the shark that tried to eat through Benchley's supposedly shark-proof cage, this book also sets the record straight about the supposed eating machines of the deep.

Read this book before you go to the beach (or even at the beach) and you'll know a lot about sharks and even more about how to stay safe in the water.

Reality TV pushes the limit even further

REALITY television has sunk to new depths by dangling celebrities in front of the world’s most fearsome predator, marine campaigners say.

Ruby Wax and Richard E. Grant will be among the celebrities lowered in a cage into the waters of Shark Alley, off the coast of South Africa, while a noxious mix of blood and fish is used to lure the residents.

But environmental groups have condemned ITV1’s Celebrity Shark Bait, arguing that the booming tourist trade in “cage diving” has humiliated dangerous animals and was responsible for an increase in shark attacks.

Each year thousands of British thrill-seekers flock to Shark Alley, a stretch of ocean 60 miles south of Cape Town, where they pay £100 for an encounter with a great white.

Divers are lowered in metal cages while tour operators entice the creatures with “chum”, a soup of blood, mashed pilchards and sardines.

Safety fears increased last year after an 18ft (5.5m) great white bit into the bars of the half-submerged cage containing Mark Currie, of Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. The boat’s captain pulled Mr Currie out of the water before the shark could inflict further damage.

“Chumming” is conditioning sharks to come closer to the beach, contributing to an increase in attacks, campaigners say. Henri Murray, a 22-year-old medical student spear- fishing off the Cape Town coast, was killed by a 16ft great white in June.

Craig Bovim, of the Shark Concern Group, said: “It is not a good idea for humans to taunt an apex predator by throwing food and blood into the water. It is no surprise that human interaction is leading to more attacks.” Mr Bovim, who survived an attack three years ago while crayfishing, is calling for a moratorium on cage diving. He criticised ITV, asking: “Where is the respect for a protected species?”

Ali Hood, director of Britain’s Shark Trust, said that cage diving could serve to educate the public, but be both educational while allowing eco-tourists to see a great white up close. But he condemned ITV for “exploiting white sharks in a battle for ratings”.

ITV said that it had taken stringent measures to protect the wellbeing of both people and animals. It used a local operator that adhered strictly to the Marine and Coastal Management code designed to protect great white sharks.

It added: “Shark Alley is a natural, existing feeding ground for the sharks. The cages used are carefully designed to ensure the sharks are not harmed.”

The one-hour special will be broadcast this month on the 30th anniversary of the film Jaws.


There are 454 species of shark

100 million are caught each year, while fewer than 10 human beings are killed by sharks

The great white can grow to 22ft, weigh more than 4,500lb and swim at up to 43 mph

The great white, bull and tiger sharks are responsible for most attacks

Global attacks are increasing, with 109 reported last year

The great white is protected in South Africa, Australia and California

Shark's contest deals face the Humane Society

A national animal rights group is moving to end a popular Martha's Vineyard shark-fishing tournament and keep ESPN from airing footage of this year's event.

The 1,191-pound tiger shark caught in this month's tournament drew the attention of The Humane Society. (Photo courtesy of CAPE COD CHARTERS)

Just days after the last sharks were weighed at this year's annual Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament, The Humane Society of the United States has launched a campaign to stop the ''contest of killing sharks,'' according to a statement.

The Humane Society sent a letter to ABC Sports and ESPN, which covered the tournament extensively, asking them to withdraw plans to air the event this fall. ESPN also broadcast the shark-fishing tournament last year.

John Grandy, a senior vice president for the Humane Society, said the group is calling on its 9 million members to pressure the national cable sports network to pull the shark shows.

''Killing of sharks or any animal is an affront to a civilized society,'' Grandy said. ''In this case it contributes to further declines in shark populations while adding to the stigma that surrounds these magnificent predators.''

One of several such events in East Coast waters, the Monster Shark Tournament has taken place for 19 years and is popular with area fishermen.

About 240 boats participated this year, landing 46 sharks from July 14 to 16, according to Greg Skomal an aquatic biologist with the state Division of Marine Fisheries.

''Shocked and aghast''

But it was one shark in particular that drew fire from The Humane Society: a 1,191-pound tiger shark that was brought in moments after the tournament had ended.

Photographs of the sizable shark were circulated around the world and broadcast on several television stations.

''I was shocked and aghast when I saw it on the 'Today' show,''' Grandy said. ''It is a horrific waste of animal life.''

Although no legal action has been filed, The Humane Society has been involved in dozens of lawsuits on behalf of animals as varied as elephants, manatees and snow geese.

Locally, The Humane Society waged a battle against coyote hunting on Monomoy Island in the mid-1990s.

It is uncertain how far The Humane Society will take this latest campaign, but the group's displeasure with the shark tournament was clear.

In a letter to George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN Inc. and ABC Sports, Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society, asks the network to pull the upcoming show about the tournament.

''Even before the debut of the book and movie 'Jaws,' sharks captured the public's imagination,'' Pacelle said. ''In the last several decades, the public's fascination has spurred research that has allowed us better understanding of their life history and growing conservation concerns.''

The letter goes on to cite studies by the United Nations that found that more than 100 million sharks are killed each year and that global shark populations have declined by 90 percent in the past 50 years.

''These are shocking statistics and they should incite us all to protect these magnificent and ancient creatures, not to seek to kill more of them,'' Pacelle said. ''Contests like the tournament glorify the gruesome deaths of some of the ocean's most fascinating and least understood creatures.''

ESPN executives would not comment on the complaint.

Science's dependency

Skomal, the state's renowned shark expert who gained notoriety last year when a great white shark was trapped in a local inlet, said scientists depend on events like the shark tournament to gain subjects for their studies.

''The problem we have as scientists is that there is no way you can learn life history by swimming around with live sharks,'' Skomal said. ''You have to kill them to do the samples that produce the best scientific data. We do the same for other fisheries as well. If the shark tournament goes away, we lose an avenue into this type of science.''

Skomal also questioned the numbers being used by The Humane Society to back up their complaints.

Skomal said the population of blue sharks, one of the sharks allowed in the tournament, has dropped just 15 percent from their virgin biomass population. Virgin biomass is the estimated historical population of a fishery.

''This is clearly different than the numbers being used by The Humane Society,'' Skomal said. ''The public has to go beyond the press releases and dig into the facts and data that exist to get a broad perspective on this.''

A major event

For two decades, the Boston Big Game Fishing Club has held the Monster Shark Tournament out of Oak Bluffs Harbor, and the event has grown into one of the biggest summer events on Martha's Vineyard.

Fishermen and charter boat captains from all over the northeast pay $1,000 per vessel to participate. The first prize, a new boat, was valued at $130,000.

Oak Bluffs selectmen are working with tournament organizers to rein in the participants and share more of the money the event raises with the community that hosts the tournament.

The campaign to stop the event echoes some concerns voiced by local animal rights activists who have started raising the issue on the editorial pages of local papers.

Steve James, president of the Boston Big Game Fishing Club, has heard the latest complaints, but is adamant about the tournament's value to science, the local economy and to fishermen who participate in the event.

''If somehow they have acquired more knowledge and insight than the National Marine Fisheries Service with respect to fisheries management here in the northwestern Atlantic, I encourage them to share it,'' he said. ''What does The Humane Society know about marine fisheries? This is what recreational fishermen do, we kill fish.''

The fishing club has used money raised by the tournament to purchase a $4,000 pop-up satellite archival tag for Skomal for researching thresher sharks' migration patterns and habitat, depth and feeding preferences.

James also points to the last tournament, where caught sharks assisted scientists in the study of the shark's inner ear.

''As fishermen, we are the ones interested in maintaining the sharks and the conservation of the fishery,'' James said.

Celebs will face their worst fear...the great white shark

Telly bosses have come up with yet another ingenious way to torture the rich and famous - Celebrity Shark Bait.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Stephen Spielberg's seminal thriller Jaws, four brave celebrities will confront their greatest fear by coming face to face with the world's most feared predator - the great white shark.

Ex-Emmerdale star Amy Nuttall, actor Richard E. Grant, comedian Ruby Wax and former Olympic hurdler Colin Jackson have signed up for the programme.

They will have to pass a two day scuba diving course in preparation for their challenge before facing their moment of truth as they are placed in cages and plunged into shark-infested waters.
Celebrity Shark Bait is scheduled to go out on ITV1 in September.