Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Wobbegong saved from restaurant but what kind?

You might have seen this nice little news story posted on your Facebook wall today about a shark rescued from a Taiwanese seafood restaurant and released back into the wild.

I was aware of this a good few weeks ago when Eion (the guy in the video using some rather majestic "Chinglish" to address the nation) asked for advice on what to do with this shark they had found which they wanted to release. Of course, they managed to do it in the end so well done them but this blog is more a question about the actual shark itself.

The related literature I have seen with the release of the video on social media states that the shark is a "White Spotted Bamboo Shark" which the shark in the video obviously is not...

Whitespotted Bamboo Shark

That's a White Spotted Bamboo Shark, the shark in the video is clearly a Wobbegong but which kind? My two main thoughts are...

Spotted Wobbegong


   Japanese Wobbegong

The Japanese Wobbegong would make a lot more sense but since I first saw a pic, I straight away thought Spotted Wobbegong but if so, what the hell would a live Spotted Wobbegong be doing in a Taiwanese seafood restaurant?!

I'm not much of an expert on the various species of Wobbies so Mike, JSD, David Shiffman...Any of you able to shed light on exactly which species this is from the video?

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Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Of Shark and Man update and a new partnership!

Screencap #1

I've been meaning to update you on progress for a while now but have been so busy actually doing the things I want to update you on, I haven't had the chance!

Last year I set a target of finishing the first edit for "Of Shark and Man" by November/December dependent upon whether I managed to secure the funding for full post production but now, as we near March, I can see that even had I had the support of an assistant editor, graphics people, full edit suite, sound stage etc, the whole shebang, then that would still have been unreasonably optimistic! As it transpired however, I have thus far ended up doing every aspect of post production on my own, not on my own with the help of a few volunteers here and there, but completely on my own. Add to that the two projects I was asked to conceptualise and complete before Christmas and the ongoing efforts to get Behind Blue Glass released (almost there now, the delay was thanks to either Correos or Royal Mail, who kindly lost the master copy of the finished, subtitled film) and you can probably understand the length of time everything is taking to complete.

With regards to the two projects I mention above, I am hoping they don't remain secret too much longer, not just because I want you all to see and hopefully enjoy them, but primarily because of what their release will signify. I'll leave it there for now...

Screencap #2

The task in hand and ahead of me is enormous, no question about that. It would be a big job for a full post-production team with access to all the resources normally utilised by production companies, so when you consider it's just me and a laptop in my parents' house then you can imagine how daunting it can be to tackle something so huge. Imagine if you can, converting, logging and editing down every single shot of 2.6Tb of footage filmed over a month to establish the shots you predict you will need, those you might need, and those you probably won't, filing them all in simple, easy to understand order and imagining how they all fit together as part of a multi-layered story that is both engaging and informative and which connects all the pieces together of what I want to say so that you, the viewer, have an enjoyable viewing experience. Now imagine doing that on a system which has only 50% of the muscle needed to process the files you are giving it. It has been a painstaking, frustrating and at times depressing task but it has been completed, the latter stages thanks to a very exciting new partnership with two new supporters of all I am striving to achieve.

I am delighted to announce the involvement of a little company you might have heard of who are trying to make a name for themselves in the field of computer technology called Microsoft (!!) and a company you may not have heard of yet but who I wholeheartedly recommend, Novatech.

If you have been a longtime reader of this blog or especially, if you know me personally, you will know that technology and I have never really got on. Being a musician for ten years, spending three years in a call centre, then joining an industry reliant on jobs and opportunities just as a global economic meltdown occurred, have ensured that, throughout my life, I've never had money to splash on high end computer gear. As someone who always wanted to get involved in shooting and editing films, this is a problem but was also a good thing looking back.

I learnt the art of how to edit by shooting footage, transferring to VHS then filming everything in sequence again off the TV! No opportunities to scrub back and make those high precision cuts, no colour correction, no sfx and the dubbing of music was done via a minidisc player, plugged into a hi-fi, going through the TV then recording the sound over the top of the final edits of each sequence, again played back off the television, of course, with the delay of analogue tape rolling and digital music loading and the hundreds of attempts to get the sync right. It was ludicrous.

This however, taught me the importance of shooting with an edit in mind, seeing the film in your head before you even start filming, shooting in short bursts, and how to make the most of the meagre resources you have available, as and when they decide they want to work. I didn't even own a computer until 2005 but when I finally got one, it was to edit video, using Magix Movie Edit Pro 2005 (the use of the word "pro" is highly misleading,) then the world went HD mad, I started this journey and when Canon got on board, I finally had the tools to shoot broadcast quality, fully glorious HD footage. The only problem was, after having upgraded my editing set up to a decent consumer HP laptop running Adobe CS4 Master Suite, although being able to actually see and edit the footage, it took forever! The first HD export of Behind Blue Glass took 46 hours! 

"Just get a Mac for god's sake..." 

As wonderfully insightful and obviously enormously well thought out as this nugget of wisdom may sound, we don't all have two grand lying around to get a Macbook Pro and upgrade the RAM from 4 to 8GB. "Get an iMac then..." the only problem being that I don't have a desk, let alone a permanent base and for my edit system to be portable is essential, time away from a desktop means time not spent on the film, I don't get paid to do the post-production so time not working means time spent releasing this film, doing paid work and making more films gets further and further away. Also, upgrading to a Mac would mean all the dozens and dozens of plug ins, textures, colour correction and effects software also need to be replaced with Mac versions so another cross against humanity's obsession with trying to force Apple products upon me.

Also, I happen to really rather like Windows, it's good enough for ITV, most of Hollywood and a whole host of other production companies and broadcasters so it'll do for me. It also happens to be obviously good enough for you as well because of the almost sixty thousand people who have visited this blog since its inception 18 months ago, 79.8% of you did so on a windows machine.

Statistically speaking, you're on a Windows system now and if you are also interested in editing video then you will want to pay attention to what I say.

I had never heard of Novatech until around September/October last year, when I asked about 8-16GB laptops on a site I am known to frequent, and where, in reply, somebody pointed me to their website. What appealed straight away was the fact all their machines are customisable  and that they could support super powered components that lend themselves fully to the editing of HD video.

I liked what I saw, called them up the next day, told them what I am doing and why I would like them to be involved, answered their questions and fast forward to three weeks ago, received a lovely shiny, turbo powered Elite Ultimate 2760 running Windows 7 Ultimate. Novatech liked my commitment to conservation initiatives and general "get up and go" and I liked the fact they actually listened to what I wanted and answered all my questions in simple, easy to understand language (essential when it comes to me and computers).

So on to the laptop itself, the upgrade from 4 to 16Gb of RAM, the upgrade to Intel i7, a bigger, 500GB hard drive, the availability of two USB 3.0 ports and three USB 2.0 ports, a Blu-Ray burner and a screen with full 1080p HD resolution makes this an absolute joy to use. It flies through everything infinitely faster than what I was used to, everything looks stunning and the basics are just so much smoother. I was able to finish logging the remaining footage in only three days, a job which would have previously taken about two weeks, the difference being that now, with the additional power, I don't need to render every video file in order to be able to watch it. This saves a huge amount of time which was previously being wasted, plus, the additional capacity to run memory intensive programs like After Effects and Premiere with all the associated plug ins, side by side, means that productivity has gone up!

Oh, and the battery life is exceptional as well!

Screencap #3

I appreciate this sounds a lot like an advert and that's probably because it is. Sometimes, people telling you to simply "get a Mac" won't answer your technological issues or automatically address your own specific needs. Whenever I am in need of a new bit of kit, I exhaustively scour the internet for reviews and opinions from people like me, who have the same issues and requirements as me and who don't simply subscribe to the view that because of a name on the exterior, it is automatically the best choice for you.

If you're on the lookout for a portable, powerful, stylish and practical editing system which enables you to do all the things you need to do to get broadcast quality results, talk to the guys at Novatech. Yes, you could "get a Mac" because they too, are great pieces of kit but this is more powerful and not just that, it's costs less.

So, with the new set up finally up and running, I've been able to start reassembling the intro to "Of Shark and Man." I said from the offset that I wanted this film to be completely different to any other shark related film you would have seen previously and I genuinely believe it will be. The intro alone is now in its fourth, highly conceptualised and stylistic guise. This first ten minutes is enormously important and also, by far, the most complex part of the film so getting it right is essential. The music I have chosen is perfect and lends itself to the ambient, atmospheric feel incredibly well, plus, not rushing things has allowed ideas to ebb and flow and creatively, I am incredibly excited about how things are going. As I said, I don't have anyone to bounce ideas off so patience and a hyper critical, objective approach, is needed to make sure I get things right.

I have been filming the shots for this intro since October and tomorrow will see (hopefully) the near completion of everything aside from a couple of shots that need to have me in them. Those shots will be discussed with Liam who helped on Behind Blue Glass tomorrow also so it's going to be a fun, creative and very long day and I can't wait.

I know a lot of you are keen to know when this film will be released, I am often surprised at the amount of people who contact me to say they are looking forward to its release so I will say to all of you, please be patient. I want this film to be the best it can be, my plan is to finish a first cut then do a private screening for impartial and objective guests and then get feedback. It's unlikely the first cut will be the final one so there are still many months left in this yet. I am hoping trailers will be available around April/May time, I am planning three in all and these will all be public for anyone to see.

Stick with me and keep an eye out for further updates, please be patient with me and huge thanks to you all for following me on this journey. An extra special thanks to Tim at Novatech for being awesome and for making this gargantuan task, that bit easier! You're a hero mate.

By the way, all the screencaps above are taking from footage from the film so you can see how good its going to look :)

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Monday, 20 February 2012

Great Shark Programme! More like this please

I was sent a link this morning, to an Australian documentary called The Wild Ones: Shark Harbour which I have just finished watching and I have to say, it was really good!

The premise is that the show follows a very likable team featuring Amy Smoothey and Vic Peddemors as they track Bull Sharks in Sydney Harbour to try and find out more about their movements, habits and ultimately, the threat they pose to swimmers.

It's a simple idea, well executed with good, solid, factual information, and which deals with the issue of shark attack in a non-sensationalistic and delicate manner and also features some really good Bull Shark footage taken from Shark Reef in Fiji, similar to what you will be seeing in "Of Shark and Man" (update coming this week) so that's always an added bonus.

I really am pretty cynical with modern day shark programming, in fact, I think most of it is pretty crap but "Shark Harbour" gets two enthusiastic thumbs up from me, more of this type of thing please!! Click the link and watch for yourself, tell me what you think :)

I wanted to add this in here in the hope as many people see it as possible. Unfortunately, a friend and tireless champion of shark and marine conservation had some terrible news recently when he heard that a friend, Emie Romero, who had been reported missing, had been found dead.

It's not for me to provide the details surrounding the case but being the type of people Angelo and his wife Edz are, they are doing a collection for anyone who may want to donate to help Emie's two children and you can find details here if you think you would like to help. Of course, times are hard for everyone at the moment but I know that each donation no matter how small would be enormously appreciated and show that, despite how we often hear otherwise, acts of kindness from strangers do still occur and do still matter and mean something.


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Sunday, 19 February 2012

The pro-shark side of the "Singapore debate" just got better.

 A stock photo intended to depict a wise old man

As is often the case, it's not until Mike comments on the subject that the issue in hand is looked at properly from a conservation perspective.

He has taken a much more in depth and reasoned look at the issues raised by the debate in Singapore than I did in my blog on the subject and I recommend you click both the links prior to the one for my blog as both Shark Savers and Mike have done a far better job than I could ever do of painting the issue in an accurate light.

Whereas I approach things often from an emotional perspective when issues like this are raised, Mike allows the dust to settle and allows time for him painstakingly research each of his posts if need be (I have actually seen him do this in person) and that's why his posts are always worth reading. It's also why I do the creative stuff and he does the actual conservation stuff, you know, like creating shark sanctuaries and making sure the protection of all the animals in the sanctuary is properly enforced.

Although I do stand by a lot of the points I raised, especially the lasting legacy of wealthy corporations exploiting the poor, a trait certainly not limited to the shark fin trade, both Mike and Shark Savers say what I was trying to say, just an awful lot better.

I have been thinking about this recently, I wouldn't describe myself as a "conservationist," the reason being I don't feel I do enough. Yes I talk about conservation issues, yes I sign the odd petition and yes I get involved when I am asked to but I don't feel that is enough for me to refer to myself as such. I am a shark enthusiast, a film-maker and someone who knows a bit about sharks, but shark conservation is often less to do with sharks and more to do with politics and science, two subjects upon which there are a great many more people out there who know a lot more than I do!

With that in mind, if you need telling again, read Mike and Shark Savers posts they add much more to this debate than I ever could so for that I am as grateful as always for helping me understand things like this better.

However, one thing it must be said both posts sorely lack, is a hilarious reference to Dr Who (Dr Hoo, geddit?) but nobody's perfect.

Again, well said Shark Savers and Mike.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Ultra wealthy pseudo conservation rep claims exploiting the poor is good for them...

Mitt Romney, America's answer to Alan Partridge

When the ridiculously named, American, multi-millionaire, god bothering, Republican party leader hopeful Mitt Romney stunned pretty much every normal human being on the planet with his infamous "Corporations are people, my friend" speech, in which he claimed with an almost straight face that, “Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people. Where do you think it goes?” it belied not only the complete obliviousness to reality amongst America's ultra wealthy elite, but also their blind arrogance.

It was the separation of the vast majority, from the 1% of Americans who control 42% of the country's entire wealth, combined with Romney's smug disbelief that the people in the crowd weren't overjoyed for him and his equally minted cronies, that pissed us off the most and rightly so.

Watch the video here and bear in mind that despite the suave appearance, Mitt Romney is a clown, he is a man who admitted enjoying "firing people" and who in a period of global financial meltdown, made a $10,000 bet with Rick Perry during a televised debate while people all over his country are having their homes repossessed by banks and still, millions of hard working Americans are without access to first (or even second world) health care because they have been fooled into believing that caring for one's citizens is "Socialism" (which they think means "Communism.")

However, I digress, the arrogant belief amongst the wealthy that they are above the law is nothing new of course and a statement of almost Romney-esque stupidity has emanated recently from Singapore.

 This man thinks you're stupid.

The man responsible for this gaffe is the brilliantly named, multi-millionaire, Independent Director of Heng Long, Dr Giam Choo Hoo, who also happens to be Singapore's representative of the blustering, political powerhouse masquerading as an environmental body, CITES. 

If you don't know much about CITES (most people don't,) think of the IUCN, an organisation which utilises global scientific advice to make conservation decisions actually based upon the need for those decisions to be made, then go to the opposite end of the spectrum where decisions are made and fuelled by politics and therefore money, and it is there where you will find CITES.

The Jakarta Post reports that "three marine experts," namely Dr Hoo (ha!), Professor Steve Oakley (Chairman of Shark Savers Malaysia) and President of "Species Management Specialists" Hank Jenkins, claimed "it makes no sense to ban the sale of shark fins."

Before we go back to the pros and cons of shark fin bans debate, this isn't about these people discussing the ways we must move forward to give sharks the protection they need, it is nothing more than a smoke screening exercise in protecting the interests of those at the heart of Asia's shark fin industry.

Look at some of the points raised;

The topic has garnered recent interest here after a string of local supermarkets, such as Carrefour and FairPrice, and hotels like Shangri-La pledged to stop serving or selling the dish.

...Giam, Oakley and Jenkins all claim that prohibiting its trade will not dramatically reduce the number of sharks killed worldwide. They noted that many countries such as Germany, France, Australia and Iceland have long killed sharks for their meat.

Prohibiting the trade in shark fin doesn't necessarily stop sharks being killed, of that we can agree, but doing nothing at all to limit or ban trade all together absolutely guarantees things will get worse for the sharks. It doesn't take a genius to work that out. The inclusion of such magnificently Aryan nations as Germany, Iceland and Australia along with the ever so slightly swarthier France, also smacks of implying the age old race issue relating to the shark fin trade, you know, put in people's heads it's just everyone picking on Asia again...

Even if shark’s fin were banned, these countries would continue to catch sharks for the meat,” said Oakley.

For the most part, historically, these countries only started eating sharks in any numbers after the arrival of the shark fin trade, utilising the unwanted carcasses made available by the new motive to actually target and fish sharks. So that's not true.

Giam armed his presentation with figures from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization: In 2009, 70 percent of caught sharks were by fishermen in developing countries. “From my own research, fishermen in these countries are mostly poor and will eat every part of the shark,” said the former deputy director at the Primary Production Department, the predecessor of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

This is Dr Hoo's "Romney moment," what he's saying here is "without us going to these poor countries and giving them the means to harvest shark, they wouldn't have any sharks to eat, we're helping them, we're making their lives better!"

Dr Hoo, is of course, full of shit. The practise of exploiting the poor and destitute is one of the shark finning industry's most shameful defining traits. The best places in the world to find sharks are often third world countries where, let's face it, big corporations know they can get indigenous people to do whatever they want for the merest of rewards.

Shark fins sell in the US for as mas $1200 per lb, if the industry is so benevolent, maybe Dr Hoo would like to explain why, in certain atolls in Fiji, thousands and thousands of dollars worth of fins are harvested by locals in return for nothing more than a bag of sugar? In more developed ports, the reward is little more, a few dollars maybe. This is not isolated, this is the norm.

As an aside, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation climbed into bed with Monsanto, the food and agriculture world's NAZI party equivalent, who are looking at their own final solution on anyone standing in their way, like, you know, the local farmer down the road with a family to feed, or even you, if you so much as dare to ask just what chemicals they're putting in your food, so I'll reserve judgement on their ethical credibility if you don't mind.

...Shark protectors claim the dish kills up to 73 million sharks each year, with some of them tossed back into the sea to die after their fins are cut off. But Jenkins took aim at the statistics and pooh-poohed this widely held belief. He said the 73 million figure, attributed to marine scientist Shelley Clarke and cited by shark advocacy groups such as WildAid and Shark Angels, had been twisted to suit their needs.

A diversionary tactic and nothing more. Yes, we know that the numbers may be inaccurate and their usage has got somewhat out of control amongst the less informed and louder "shark conservationists" and the lack of credibility of the chief protagonists (Ritter, Watson, Brush et al) has meant that it is used as an argument against the whole concept of shark conservation, if these people who claim to be experts aren't actually experts at all and use misleading data, then everything else you're told about shark conservation must be lies right? Wrong. It's like citing Justin Bieber as your sole reason for not liking Rock n Roll.

In an interview with reporters after the forum, he stuck to his guns: “We’re calling for a temporary ban. Let the shark populations recover, put in place proper management, and make sure that the trade is sustainable before we start consumption again.” 

"What we'd really like is for our friends in the industry to get rid of the competition, monopolise the industry, manage the fisheries and establish "sustainability" by discovering there are no sharks left after we've fished them all out, then we'll know that location doesn't have a sustainable fishery because we've killed them all."

Too much? Maybe but a temporary ban? Anything less than twenty years would be utterly pointless and I don't think the big wheels of industry will be happy to wait twenty years before another bumper pay day, do you?

The panelists added that governments need to do more to regulate the trade of sharks. Oakley said this could involve making sure fisheries keep the number of sharks above a mandated minimum level. Sharks could then reproduce at a sustainable rate.

And how do they intend to do that? How do you manage populations of migratory sharks? You can't, this is an absurd statement.

As for Singapore, Jenkins said it could source its fins from sustainable producers. Last year, the Republic imported about 3,500 tons of shark’s fin, 40 percent more than the previous year.
The AVA said Singapore abides by the CITES agreement, under which the basking shark, whale shark, great white shark and sawfishes are protected species and their trade is strictly regulated. It allows only licensed fish dealers to import sharks and shark’s fin."

I've underlined and put in bold the most stupid part of this idiotic paragraph for you just in case

Can I just list some cold, hard facts which can hopefully be the blue bottle in this giant bowl of arsehole soup?

  •  Like a plague of locusts, industrialised fleets, strip mine the ocean of sharks. When one area is depleted, they move onto another area. Local residents, who are often poor and traditionally dependent upon natural resources, are left to deal with the ecological consequences of oceans with no sharks.
  •  "Shark finning" only determines how a dead shark’s body is discarded, not how many sharks are killed or whether the shark actually lives. "Shark finning" is not the problem, too many dead sharks is the problem.
  • Observer data from longline fishing boats states that approximately 90% of sharks landed are alive and could be returned to the sea alive meaning the majority of sharks caught for the fin trade are targeted and not bycatch
  • At the CITES convention in 2010 eight species of shark did not get protections as a result of the shameful decision not to ban international trade in Bluefin Tuna. A decision made for one reason only. Money.
  • The sharkfin trade is potentially and already, damaging to economies. A good example of the juxtaposition between destructive and sustainable environmentally reliant commercial enterprise is the island nation of Fiji, where the shark diving industry generates more money annually than the Tuna fishing industry. The major difference of course, being that one encourages, supports and relies upon live animals and healthy environments, the other is solely reliant on dead animals.
The point I am trying to make here is that this is an argument where the social elite, the wealthy and the greedy, whose reliance upon an industry which is ravaging the oceans and exploiting the poor purely to make money for a tiny, select group of men, is entirely dependent upon you, the consumer, providing the demand. They want you, us, to ultimately suffer through the irreparable degradation of our oceans, so they can continue to make their millions.

Or, we could refuse any shark product and instead, choose to support the far more widely beneficial pro-shark industries like shark diving and marine sanctuaries. These pro-shark options benefit us all, the former, destructive option, just makes rich people richer.

It's an easy choice if you ask me.

Update: Shark Savers have issued a response which is well worth reading. It appears Steve Oakley was not in the same corner as Dr Hoo, quite the opposite in fact as we would expect.

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