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Shark finning. The practice is all based on looking prestigious, but it’s been killing thousands upon thousands of sharks, resulting in some species of shark diminishing in numbers by over 60 percent, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Lately though, things might be changing.

Looking back at the tradition, the act of eating shark fin dates all the way to the Ming Dynasty. Historically speaking, it was considered to be an act done only by royalty. Chinese emperors are reported as desiring the fin due to the extensive preparation and cooking methods needed to make it delectable. Most often the tough shark fin is cooked in a soup that takes hours to become ready. By the time that the soup is eaten the shark meat falls off in tender strips.

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This connection of an appearance of wealth with eating shark fin soup has been transpiring for centuries in China. It is estimated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature that of the 1,000-plus species of shark, nearly 200 are considered to be in threat of extinction. Of the sharks that are being threatened there are three species that are currently being looked after by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species: the great white, whale shark and basking shark. The Convention is currently considering adding more species to the list of threatened shark species.

This concern for shark species’ wellbeing must be getting some notice because there is a shift occurring in the societal acceptance of shark fin soup. According to finningbusiness reports in China, the store owners selling dried and processed shark fins are finding a decline occurring with business sells. Some shopkeepers are finding a drop in sales as big as 60 percent for the 2012 year.

Why is this shift in consumerism occurring? There are a few different reasons there might be a change happening when it comes to consuming shark fins.

First, there have been large campaigns explaining the issues connected with the process of shark finning. These campaigns may be connected to the decrease in importation of shark fins to China over the last five years as well as a drop in Chinese sales by a third for 2012. A second cause for decline might be associated with governmental decrease of using the soup in their lavish banquet parties, in addition to having fewer parties over all. This major consumer of shark fins is a giant hit to the success of shark fin sellers. This decrease in sales is not only being seen in the home and in the government. Businesses like five-star hotels and high class airlines such as Cathay Pacific Airlines are discontinuing the offering of shark fin soup as a part of their services.

Photo_credits-Shawn_Heinrichs-1For those that enjoy the soup the most (half of all shark fin consumed is eaten in China according to conservation organizations), the change might be strange. But for those that didn’t grow up with the soup, it doesn’t seem to be much of a problem. Many younger people in China actually appreciate that shark fin is not being served at weddings, formal parties and banquets. In their eyes, the sharks need to be conserved. For the elderly, this tradition still holds meaning. The status associated with eating such a prestigious meal has clout. For that reason alone, shark fin soup won’t be cut off the menu completely by tomorrow.

But the time may be soon. Shifts are occurring. From awareness to governmental regulation changes, the sharks seem to be getting the care and attention that they deserve from us humans.

They are a graceful, elegant fish that is reminiscent of lace floating in water. But that beauty doesn’t positively influence everything the lionfish comes near. Looking through another lens, the elegant lionfish is a predator causing havoc around the world.

Recent accounts have been showing the vibrant example of grace in fish form all around the globe. This is not a good thing. In fact, the fish that seems so lovely is actually been deemed an invasive species in the Atlantic. Why? Their presence, as a non-native species, is intruding upon other species and causing detrimental affects to native organisms.

How is it possible that a fish that seems so incredibly beautiful is able to cause such serious damage as to cause “detrimental affects”?

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The first problem comes from the lionfish’s incredible diet. This little fish is a big eater. It basically loves to eat anything of the sea, so to a lion fish the healthy coral reefs that are so plentiful acts as a never-ending source of nutrition. This, of course, causes problems for other species, and in some regions of the world could likely deplete organisms completely.

The second problem lies in that the expansion of the lionfish is allowing it to move into areas such as the Caribbean that do not have natural predators. In the Pacific there were three types of organisms that feasted upon the lionfish: the grouper, sharks, and coronetfish. Unfortunately these three predators to the lionfish aren’t necessarily taking care of business in the way it needs to be handled.

The third problem is connected to natural predators not being able to keep a handle on the global population explosion of the lionfish: they have babies by the millions, literally. Female lionfish are said to lay over two million fish eggs a year. So, when a fish with very little predator issues realizes that it has a global stage of unlimited food lionfish-credits photo-Micael_Dwyersources, it starts to take things over.

There are three other ways to help the situation. One is already underway and it is doing as much as it can; that being the cool temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean and other areas where it is being found such as (according to NOAA) the Bahamas, Columbia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos, the Cayman Islands as well as Belize, Haiti, U.S. Virgin Islands, Mexico, and Aruba.

A second way is being tried out in Honduras. According to the National Geographic, there are divers training the wild sharks to feed on the lionfish. This is working to some extent.

The third aspect that could help with population control are us humans. How? Basically by doing one of the things that we love to do most: eat! There is a new campaignlionfish-Photo courtesy Michelle Johnston hitting the streets that is promoting the eating of lionfish. In fact, researchers from Roger Williams University, REEF, NOAA and the North Carolina Sea Grant released a report saying that the nutritional benefits (i.e. omega-3s, for example) of lionfish consumption are higher than Bluefin tuna, red snapper and grouper.

So, how can we help the ocean’s fragile coral ecosystem out? Try ordering lionfish the next time you’re visiting a nice restaurant or sushi establishment. The meat is said to be tender and succulent. Who knows it might become your favorite fish to eat.

Potentially lethal to humans, the Galapagos shark (Carcharhinus galapagensis) is a shark that demands respect.

Considered to be near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Galapagos shark is a species that is powerful, but fragile. This incredible example of aquatic dominance is something special for divers that love the beauty of the shark. Luckily this impressive animal is seen globally, though the Galapagos Islands are one of the favorite places for divers to witness their omni-presence. Other incredible places to witness these kings of the sea include Bermuda, the Virgin Islands, and Cape Verde. Additionally they are seen frequently in the Indian Ocean, especially in the Madagascar region as well as the Pacific Ocean, especially around the Hawaiian Islands. They have also been known to frequent areas like the regions of Mexico like the Baja Peninsula as well as places like Colombia and Eastern Australia. As far as the quality of their surroundings, the Galapagos shark goes for continental shelves, rugged reefs and water with intense clarity.

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The Galapagos shark absolutely loves crystal clear water and flourishing reef environments. Known to frequent shallower water due to their liking for bony bottom-dweller fish, they can also spend time in the deep sea as adults. They also appreciate the nourishing environment that surrounds ocean islands, making it a frequent place to see them. For food they enjoying many different aspects to the circle of oceanic life. From other sharks to marine iguanas, from sea lions to octopus, the Galapagos shark is not picky on what it eats.

galapagos2-credits-Doug_Perrine.jpgA relatively large species of shark, coming in at nearly ten feet long and 200 pounds, the Galapagos shark is very reminiscent of other sharks in looks. Such species as the grey reef shark, oceanic whitetip, and the dusk shark are visually long lost family members. When seen in the big wide ocean it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between the four. Although all have the basic characteristics of the “reef shark” look, there are some varying characteristics. For example, the Galapagos shark has a tall dorsal fin that is rounded a bit on top. The dorsal fin also begins over the back tips of the pectoral fins. Their coloring is a bit different as well, being brownish grey on the upper part of the body with barely-visible white stripping on the underbelly. The edging of the fins can also be slightly darker in hue as well. Another variation is that their teeth are larger, too, but that is something no one wants to know intimately. Last but not least, the ending tail vertebrae of the Galapagos shark is shorter than that of its cousins the dusky, whitetip, and grey reef shark.galapagos3-credits-Doug_Perrine.jpg

When it comes to having babies, the Galapagos sharks are slowpokes. It can take up to a year of courtship before a mom is impregnated. Mating starts from January to March, with the mother going to shallower water to have her litter of four to fifteen pups. Babies are born free to swim coming in at around 2 feet in length. The little ones will remain in the shallower water for quite some time to stay safe from older adults known to feed on the young.

Although sometimes vicious, the Galapagos shark is really just a powerful being of the sea. They are to be revered and appreciated. Who knows they may not always be here for us to be grateful for. If you would like to see these amazing creatures please contact us to learn how we can create a custom fit trip made especially for you.

 

Sipidan has a reputation.

For those in the circles of divers, Sipidan, located in Malaysia, is known as a treasure chest for fabulous aquatic viewing. Stories upon stories have returned with the eager diver, ready and willing to share of being immersed in a cloud of rainbow like visual sensations as he swam with the reef fish, within an arm’s reach of swirling barracudas, while a hammerhead lazily swam by. He has other tales of sea turtles numbering over fifty coming to join the diving party…some of them swimming up to a human and seemingly kissing the mask of the diver.

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Although on an earthly plain Sipidan is not much more than a sandy island around forty acres in size, scuba diving in Sipidan is a truly a dreamlike adventure. Not only is the viewing of a rich marine ecosystem plentiful, but the water is also friendly for all levels of divers. Warm and calm, the water visibility in Sipidan remains clear nearly year round, allowing for viewing to be spectacular.

barracudaA diver can expect to see countless underwater species while diving around the Sipidan area. From giant green turtles to massive sharks, from batfish, fusiliers and jack fish to the plentiful barracuda, Sipidan offers a full range of oceanic creatures for the diver to discover. In addition to the immense amount of larger ocean creatures that Sipidan is home to, there are also a huge quantity of tiny critters, too. The unique and rare creatures that exist in the area make it a underwater photographer’s dream.

Beyond the immense amount of sea life to see, there is another fascinating aspect to Sipadan: the ocean walls. sea turtleSurrounding the island there are giant walls ranging in depth of fifty feet to ten feet all the way down to two thousand feet. Amongst the oceanic walls are outcroppings that act as a place of rest for the green turtle. Beautiful, colorful soft coral also inhabits the deep walls, giving the area a other worldly affect.

Sipidan, as of January 2005, was declared a Marine Protected Area, making it only accessible for visitors and those scuba diving during hours of 6 am to 6 pm. For that reason, it is best to work with only reputable resorts and liveaboards such as the operations that we partner with. For example, an amazing resort that we work with, Sipidan Water Village, gives guests the incredible experience of sleeping over the water, remaining eco-sensitive at all times.

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So, what are the drawbacks to this amazing place. It is a bit of a distance to travel. There has also been some recent civil unrest, a recent kidnapping of hotel guests and island inhabitants as well as the limitations on diving with removal of resorts, setting diver amounts to 120 people total, and not allowing night dives. Not to mention, now you have to get approval from the Sabah Government to access the Sabah Parks. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t completely worth it.

Does a trip to the best scuba diving in the world intrigue you? Let us take care of the entry permits and any hassle and help you have an awe-inspiring vacation in one of the world’s most desired scuba diving locations.

Are you looking for an scuba diving adventure that connects with the wild side? Are you yearning to go on a diving vacation that visits a land that is still the way that has been for centuries, void of Western influence? Does the sound of traveling to a place that embraces its ancient tribal social customs while enjoying diving amongst a richly diverse marine ecosystem make your pulse quicken?

If these attributes to a diving vacation intrigue you then you must check out Papua New Guinea.

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Also affectionately known as PNG, Papua New Guinea is a wild adventure land that gives visitors a ride of colorful visual stimuli, rich culture, and a touch of historical tribal heritage. Situated within the Coral Triangle created with Indonesia and the Philippines, this special part of the world is spectacular for those that treasure a well-rounded vacation.

Papua_New_Guinea_mapPNG is one of those places that can offer a vacationer everything not only because of the cultural diversity and pristine landscape, but also because the diving is incredible! Offering a full range of options when it comes to dive sites, PNG is fantastic for giving divers the opportunity to swim and be in close proximity to fish that are rarely seen. In addition to unique swimmers of the sea, PNG gives divers excellent muck diving as well. This area of the world is covered in volcanic sand, which is perfect for the crazy critters that enjoy the nutrients that comes from the sea bottom. Beyond the muck there is also an incredible diversity of coral offering a vibrant rainbow of colors, such as the reefs of Duke of Yorks, Milne Bay and Witu. Another special attribute to this area is something called bommies. Bommies are basically pinnacles that are immersed in the ocean. All of the bommies reach towards the surface of the water, some coming to fruition in a point, others in a grand stage as big as a football field.

Papua New Guinea is a great diving vacation for those wishing for the luxury resort reality or the liveaboard experience that immerses you in the spectacular PNG setting. A couple of resorts that deserve special attention are Walindi Plantation Resort on New Britain and Milne Bay’s Tawali Resort as well as Lissenung Island Resort. All of these impressive properties give guests a relaxing atmosphere of pure luxury. For those into the liveaboard experience a few operations that are highly recommended include the Febrina for knowing the area extremely well, the Chertan for its opalescent atmosphere, and the Golden Dawn for its intimate approach to exploring the Eastern Fields.Screen shot 2014-02-18 at 5.19.36 PM

Papua New Guinea has incredible aspects to offer anyone visiting. But there are a few things to know before going. It is a bit of a trek, so it is advised to be kind to yourself and stop off in Australia on your way to give yourself some rest from traveling. Also, you will have to travel through the main city of Port Moresby to get to any diving location. This tends to not be the kindest city in the world, so be sure to watch yourself and your stuff. Another important bit of advice: be sure to get your anti-malarial prophylaxis before arriving.

Interested? We can help you create the most amazing Papua New Guinea trip possible. Contact us now so we can show you how.