SCS is a small volunteer run Society which has achieved an enviable record of conservation and research wins. The world today is obsessed with everything needing to be safe. A small adventure group of shark enthusiasts (SCS) simply can't afford the legal, insurance and administrative back-up which would guard against any risks of SCS having to pay out in the event of a claim or a legal action. The cost of our expeditions would have to double or treble!
When I read last year that a BBC film crew had to do a 'risk assessment' before filming a group of Morris dancers it brought home to me just how pathetic the world has become, we all know how dangerous knotted hankies can be! Today's adventurer who wants to be safe must wrap him/her self in cotton wool, go to bed and watch TV.
The directors of the Society are currently studying this problem searching for a way for our expeditions to be able to continue. It is with great regret therefore we have to announce that until this process has been completed, and a way forward found, we will have to suspend expeditions.
To our loyal supporters and past volunteers the message is 'We are not going away, won't lie down, and will find a way at going on, even if it involves all volunteers having to buy shares in cotton wool and avoid Morris dancers'! More to follow.
This expedition was undertaken between July 1 – 13 to carry out the work we should have done last September when our previous expedition was all but wiped out by Hurricane Nadine.
Organisers - Shark Conservation Society.
Expedition leader - Richard Peirce.
Catering, shorebase, first aid - Jacqui Peirce.
Videographers - Richard Peirce, Karen Savage
Scientific advisor - Data being gathered for Heather McMillan, Aberdeen University.
Volunteer researchers - Emma Dobinson, Lesley Guinn, Dr. Ken Neal, Karen Savage and Andy Sweeney
The Society would like to thank
The objectives of the expedition were threefold:
Gary Fell of Twin Peaks Diving offered to help the Society by providing all the local requirements of shorebase, workboat, chumming materials, and vehicles, etc.
The Society was able to plan work sites based on well known locations where local eco-tourist operators find blue sharks.
Clearly an RIB was not the correct craft for shark catch and release operations and for this reason it was decided to inboard sharks and if possible only catch specimens between 0.8m and 1.2m.
The Azores Bank (1 and 1/2 hours steam) was the first site selected and large numbers of blue sharks responded to chumming. For ease of operation another site three miles off Pico's north eastern tip was tried but no sharks were seen so we reverted to the Azores Bank.
It was planned that the first and last days would be spent snorkelling/free diving with the sharks, while the middle five days would be work days.
The 8 metre dive boat (RIB) was ideal for diving/free diving/and snorkelling operations but was not a suitable vessel for catching and releasing sharks. However with most of the seats removed enough working space was created, and the intention was to only catch small sharks which would be quick and easy to inboard, process and release.
Prior to starting the catch, sampling and release work we decided to have a “play day” and went to the Azores Bank which is about half way between Pico and the well known Princess Alice dive site. The steam from Pico is usually about 1 and 1/2 hours. We left Pico at 1020 and were on site and chumming by 1210. The first blue sharks arrived at 1300 and we all had a wonderful time snorkelling and free-diving with probably as many as 10 blue sharks.
Location - N 38’12.192 W 28’55.644
Time chummed - 3 hours 45 minutes
Species sighted - Blue sharks, Common dolphins, Loggerhead turtle, Atlantic spotted dolphin
Conditions - Sunny, little wind, flat seas
Results - None
Gary at Twin Peaks Diving had reports that blue sharks were being caught only 2/3 miles off Pico’s north eastern tip. If we could find sharks there we could leave the boat in a local harbour and only have a very short steam to work each day, rather than the 1 and 1/2 hours to the Azores Bank. It was certainly worth investigating.
We chummed for 4 hours from 1215 – 1615 and failed to attract any sharks. Having ceased chumming operations we started our steam back and spotted the spout of a whale. We got close up to one animal and most of those on board had their first sighting of a sperm whale. We stopped about 40 metres from one animal and had another about 300 metres away.
We had nearly arrived back into Sao Roque (on Pico) when we came across a hammerhead cruising on the surface. It was impossible to accurately determine the species but it would almost certainly have been either a smooth or scalloped hammerhead.
Location - N 38’23.452 W 27’56.353
Time chummed - 4 hours
Species sighted - None due to chumming. On our return, sperm whales and a hammerhead
Conditions - Cloudless day
Results - None
We decided the Azores Bank would be our work location for the week and returned there. We started chumming at 1200 and stopped at 1500. Due to our unsuitable craft we had to try to only catch small sharks (+/- 1 metre) which was difficult because they were all larger than this, and some were much larger.
We caught, DNA sampled, measured, tagged and released two specimens – male 1.4m and a male 1.7m
Location - N 38’12.451 W 28’55.391
Time chummed - 3 hours
Species sighted - 5/6 Blue sharks
Conditions - Wind 4/5 mph, sea flat, partly cloudy
Results - 2 Blue sharks, DNA sampled, and released.
Back to the Azores bank. 1 blue (Male 1.2m) shark caught, sampled and released. Probably 8/10 sharks round the boat but all too large. 1 probable small mako.
Location - N38’12.400 W28’55.368
Time chummed - 4 and 1/2 hours
Species sighted - Blues, probable Mako, Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles
Conditions - Wind 5/6 mph, largely blue skies
Results - 1 Blue shark DNA sampled
1 Blue shark caught, measured, tagged and released (Male 1.7m). Shark bite incident when handling shark. We probably had 8/10 individuals round the boat with females reaching nearly 4m and males 3m.
That only 4 sharks were able to be caught, DNA sampled, tagged, and released was entirely due to our only being able to catch small sharks because of the limitations of the craft we were using – AND there were very few small sharks!! Large nearly 4 metre females and 3 metre males were plentiful, and SCS believes the Azores will soon establish itself as a major shark eco-tourism destination.
It is hoped that eco-tourism will develop responsibly, using best practical principles, and providing an education opportunity for people to better understand these amazing creatures.
Become a Registered Supporter of the Shark Conservation Society today, for only £20 per year and help to secure the conservation of sharks around the world.
Dateline 16th March 2015.
We would like to draw all members attention to a campaign to ban shark fins soup from all government related events in Singapore. The campaign is collecting pledges and you can go online at Campaign.com/FINishedwithFINs to sign up.