Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dr. Juerg Brunnschweiler !

Remember last November's post about our intrepid shark man Juerg from, of all places, frigid land-locked and mountainous Switzerland?

Well, he ain't no student no more!

Having delivered a whopping thesis about several aspects of Shark Biology, many of which have been researched on Shark Reef and my new home base in Tonga, he has brillianty survived a thorough cross-examination and now sports a fanciful Doctorate title!
And an own fancy website!

Along with having invented such useful linguistic weapons as the formal and informal "you", we Central Europeans are quite particular about such things and I already dread our next meeting in December! Will we all be clobbered into subservient adulation?

Juerg has just informed us that he plans to spend the prime Bull Shark season, January to March on Shark Reef. Planned experiments include wrapping up the ongoing small-scale movement study along with researching the Bull Shark mating grounds, general ethograms, dominance studies, food preferences and analyzing our huge data base. We're obviously eager to help and will piggyback by offering Shark Weeks, Shark Biology Courses and possibly, even Volunteer Research Assistance Programs.
There will be plenty of attractive options, so watch this space or drop us a line, whether you plan to come for a single day or for a longer stay!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

BAD Publicity!

BAD has just completed some major overhauling and is coming out of the traditional "low" season brighter and shinier than ever!
We've replaced Predators 3-year old engines, we've purchased brand new dive gear for our staff and guests, we've added one more mooring to Shark Reef and overwhelming client demand is pushing us to finally put online Hunter, Predator's posh sister vessel. And we haven't finished quite yet, watch this space for some more cool innovations!
Hunter will be utilized primarily for our ever popular 3-tank wreck and coral dives in Beqa Lagoon, for teaching and also for patrolling the newly established Fiji Shark Corridor (see previous post).
To complement it all, we've re-vamped our local marketing with a brand new brochure and a cool poster featuring some of the fantastic artwork by our friends Michael Aw, Doug Perrine and Michael Patrick O'Neill. We like the poster so much that we've added it to our boutique inventory. If you would like a copy, contact the dive shop or download a lower-res version by clicking on the picture above.

The increased teaching activity and the marketing push are the brainchild of our newest BAD boy, Petero Niurou, a veteran diver, PADI instructor, dive shop manager, television presenter and accomplished entertainer and storyteller. Welcome aboard Pedro!
So, what are you waiting for - drop us a line and join us for the experience of a lifetime!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Very Special Visitors.

Whether you are a professional in the diving industry, a hardcore dive every week kind of diver or a vacation diver; the world of scuba allows us to meet all sorts of people. We at Beqa Adventure Divers are fortunate to be able to dive with some of the icons in the world of sharks and last week was no exception.

To our delight, we were privileged to play host to Stan Waterman, Nancy McGhee and their friend John Crossley. Thankfully Stan managed to fit in a whistlestop visit to us in between charters on the Nai'a and Bilikiki.

The last time Stan paid us a visit we were fortunate to get to dive with all 8 species of shark in Shark Reef Marine Reserve. The sharks must have remembered as Dive Day #1 culminated with a visit by not 1, but 2 tiger sharks. Scarface, the largest of the tigers we see was joined by a smaller individual who we have never before observed. The newcomer was much smaller than Scarface coming in at about 10ft in length.

Dive Day #2 and the heat was on to try and match the previous day's diving. Things did not look good when it was revealed that the bringer of bad luck, Andrew, was going to be aboard for the trip... turns out his luck must have changed as again, we had all 8 species of shark. There was a solitary silvertip, 3 sicklefin lemons, tawny nurses, grey reefs, whitetip reefs, blacktip reefs, over 20 bull sharks and another tiger shark. This time it was Adi, our little princess, who decided to put on a show for Stan, Nancy & John.

So, 2 days of diving, 8 species of sharks, lots of stories being shared and it was time to say farewell once more. Safe travels to Stan, Nancy & John and we wish you a safe and exciting trip aboard Bilikiki.

Until next time, from the team here at BAD, a big vinaka vakalevu.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

More protection for our Sharks!

Ever since having established the Shark Reef Marine Reserve in 2004, we have been striving to further expand the protected area. As the data provided from our satellite and radio tagging experiments tell us, the Bull sharks and Tiger sharks tend to roam a much larger territory in this region.

The southern coast of Viti Levu adjacent to Shark Reef comprises the Qoliqoli, or fishing grounds, of the Villages of Galoa, Wainyiabia and Deuba.

After more than one year of sometimes difficult negotiations, we have finally succeeded in signing an Agreement with the relevant Chiefs and Mataqali representatives of Deuba Village stipulating that any catching or otherwise harming of Sharks within the entire Qoliqoli of Deuba Village is henceforth banned.

Galoa and Wainyiabia Villages, our partners in the Shark Reef Marine Reserve, have since joined in by also declaring their own entire Qoliqoli to be banned for Shark fishing.

To compensate for any losses in income, Deuba Village will be entitled to a share of the Marine Park Levy collected on Shark Reef, for which the Swiss Shark Foundation is very kindly providing a minimum income guarantee.
To that effect, the Marine Park Levy on Shark Reef has been increased to $20.

In April 2007, the Fiji Department of Fisheries has sanctioned all relevant Agreements, making them legally binding and thus enforceable.

The protected area, which has been named the Fiji Shark Corridor, comprises approx. 30 miles of coastline and thus hugely expands on the original Shark Reef area. In fact, when you visit Shark Reef, the entire coast as far as you can see in either direction is now protected!

Our special thanks go to
  • the Villages of Galoa, Wainiyabia and Deuba for their kind assistance in making the above possible
  • Manasa Bulivou, our spokesperson, for his tireless Village diplomacy
  • Gary Adkison and Dr. Alexander Goldknecht, of the Swiss Shark Foundation, for their unwavering moral and financial support
  • Dr. Juerg Brunnschweiler, for collecting the relevant scientific data
  • Aisake Batibasaga, Principal Research Officer and Acting CEO, Fiji Department of Fisheries, for his assistance and guidance

Rusi lending a helping hand!

It's not uncommon on The Shark Dive to witness several sharks trailing long lengths of fishing tackle from their mouths. It's very hard to tell whether it is from sport fishing boats, local fishermen or the dreaded longliners; no matter where the hooks originate from though it always means pain and discomfort for the animals.

One of the tiger sharks that we observe, Adi (Princess), showed up 3 weeks ago with one such fish hook lodged in the corner of her mouth. Unfortunately there was not much line for us to work with, a mere 18" extended from her mouth and the hook was clearly visible.

Rusi, one of the shark feeders, took it upon himself to help Adi and remove the fish hook. Adi, at 13ft, is not the largest of tiger sharks but she is still one very large fish. She will approach cautiously at first, checking everything and everyone out ensureing that there is no treat to her; once confident that all is safe Adi will then make close passes of the feeders and take the bait offered up to her.
On one such pass, there was no bait on offer, instead Rusi reached out and plucked the fish hook from the corner of Adi's mouth. Surprisingly she did not flinch ot show any signs of discmfort upon removal of the hook. On subsequent passes Rusi then held up the hook to Adi so she could see what it was that was lodged in her mouth.