Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Of Shark And Man Website Is Now Live!

Finally it's here, the Of Shark and Man official website is now live and available for you to enjoy!

It's taken a while to get to the stage where we had everything we needed for a release so when you visit it it's not just a homepage and loads of "coming soon" announcements but as of the early hours of this morning we had managed to get enough on there to keep you going until the updates start.

With regards to updates, these will be regular and scheduled meaning you won't have big gaps in between. It's been driving me kind of insane lately not being able to release the stuff I have lined up and that's been due to some incredibly small details and awaiting confirmation of certain aspects of the release and the crowdfund campaign. These are all to be expected but I was becoming very conscious of constantly saying that stuff was coming without actually giving you that stuff!

So, to clarify, here are the key things to look out for:

1. The Official Trailer is being released on Monday August 3rd! That's this coming Monday and all you will need to do is visit and it will be there, right in front of you on the homepage!

2. Starting Friday, August 14th, we will release brand new, unseen video and film content in the form of teaser clips, deleted scenes, bonus footage etc. These will be released on the website in the "Media" section, every Friday for at least the following 15 weeks, most likely more.

3. On the Wednesday of each week (starting August 12th) we will release other additional content in the form of interviews with people involved in the making of the film, Researchers, Photographers etc, all of whom have their own experiences of the Shark Reef story, artwork, site updates and info about screenings.

4. The Crowdfund Campaign will be launched and will give you an opportunity to see the film for yourself and get your hands on some INCREDIBLE goodies from the film and also top of the range dive gear from Fourth Element, Apeks, Aqualung and Suunto! Seriously, you do not want to miss out on these! The campaign will also feature various raffle prizes, one of which is just about the best prize you could possibly imagine to go hand in hand with a film about diving with the world's biggest Bull Sharks in Fiji... Read into that what you will...

Also, for everyone who took perks in the first crowdfund campaign, these will be going out to those people and will be the updated and much cooler ones we're giving away this time to say an extra special thanks for your support way back when. You will also notice that your names are in the film's credits! Your names will also be added to the website in the Supporters section.

Already up on the site is a few still photos (plenty more of these to come), the three teaser trailers, info about the film itself, a couple of reviews and two Behind the Scenes shorts made at the time of filming in 2010 and 2011.

So, without further ado, go visit, bookmark it in your favourites, tell your friends and come along for the ride, it's all going to get rather exciting!

Monday, 13 July 2015

More Feedback For Of Shark and Man - Part II

It's been a busy couple of weeks, the Facebook page was properly launched and in the last two weeks has attracted 600 likes which isn't bad at all considering the official trailer isn't out yet! This was all organic as well, in that we haven't done any paid advertising plus we're getting a lot of engagement. Facebook likes mean nothing if people aren't engaging with you!

The Twitter account is also running and progress on that is much slower, purely down to the fact that we've been concentrating on Facebook and the official site although I promise we will up our Twitter game asap!

The first bits of footage from the film were released in a short tribute to Rusi as well and we already have seven teaser clips ready to go, a deleted scene and the official trailer to come with tonnes more stuff being prepared also, all of which we will start drip feeding out by the end of this month!

More feedback has come in for the film from those who were invited to view the private screener hence this blog. Check out the names as well, these are people who have an understanding of the issues in the film as well as a wealth of experience and expertise in Conservation, Film-Making, Shark Diving and Shark Research. Here are some snippets below:

"I watched it last night- you did a wonderful job with it! You managed to weave together such lovely footage, story-telling, and critical conservation messages without any of the unnecessary fluff or "preachiness" found in like-minded documentaries. It actually brought tears to my eyes to see all that I find special about BAD and SRMR to be captured on screen, especially with the now iconic shots of Rusi... I truly can't wait until you release it and I can share it with my family and friends to try and give them some insight into my life from the last four years and what exactly it is that makes me love BAD and SRMR so damn much!" - Lindsay Graff (Shark Researcher)

"I loved your movie "Of Shark and Man". You really show how eco tourism can help shark conservation. You are not afraid to address the controversy surrounding shark feeding dives and paint a pretty accurate picture. The film also encourages people to follow their dreams, which, regardless of subject, is a great thing to do. Best of all, you do this in an entertaining and non "preachy" way. Great job" - Martin Graf (Shark Dive Operator)

"Everything about this feature length documentary was perfect; the editing, the narratives, the cinematography, the underwater footage - all of it, seriously. David does a marvellous job of getting you interested in his own story by pulling you in with the abstract of Fiji and its' sharks, and finally... delivering fully with his own personal goals within the film... The way this film blends all of the stories into one beautiful (love) story is absolute poetry. Diley is a master of his craft, and this film is even more proof of his enormous talents! We had so many emotions running through us during the entire film (this is what a good feature length does! It moves you) - happiness, sadness, shock, fear, awe... you name it!... In our very humble opinion, this film proves to be exactly what it promised to be - real, emotional and thought provoking. Well done David, you have yet again put your money where your mouth is and You, sir, have delivered!" - Save The Sharks

"The success story of Shark Reef Marine Reserve and how a conservation project can benefit local communities is one that needs to be told far and wide. It’s also a pretty inspiring tale of how someone can achieve their goals in life if they really want to.  This is the sort of thing that Shark Week should be showing on a regular basis." - Ian Campbell (WWF)

"...the film is a personal journey into a beautiful and majestic world beneath the surface, and a self-transformation process deep inside the filmmaker’s soul.
When you take that path of telling your own story, it’s very easy to get lost in the process and end up with a big ego-trip enjoyable only to the author. Fortunately, this is not the case. David comes out as very likeable, charismatic average Joe that had the guts to get out there and explore. The first-hand tale of his learning curve, that makes you want to be right there and then with him.
Fiji is a world-class example of shark conservation, and David uses stunning cinematography, an honest voice, and the perfect music to describe not only his personal endeavor, but also that of the island, their people, and their relationship with sharks.

Like David says in his film, you can either create a story around a shark jumping out of the water with its jaws wide open, or you can tell the real story, the one that is already there. David went for the second one, and he did it right." - Jorge Cervera Hauser (Director of "Mexico Pelagico")

"Beautifully filmed throughout!  Simply a pleasure to watch!... I listened with headphones for the best sound, and I’m glad I did.  I really want to see it now in the theatre so I can get blown away by both the gorgeous visuals plus the attention you clearly gave to everything from narration, to foley, to background, to music...
I was expecting another shark film.  But this isn’t that.  Yeah, there are sharks and there is a story of fascination/love/respect for sharks, but to call this a shark film would be missing what I feel was more of a journey/transformation/reboot of someone’s life that INVOLVED sharks.  So to me this is a film that I think could stand on its own at any film festival (not simply relegated to so-called “Ocean Films.”)
Great characters.  You are most certainly the protagonist here, but Mike is at his best. Papa and Rusi (RIP) are fabulous!  And Helen is Helen (which is a compliment, since I LOVE Helen!).  But you captured everyone’s personality honestly.  No caricatures here. My only criticism is that Mike was on best behavior language-wise, as he didn’t say“Fuck” once. 
Sharks also became characters in this story, and you kept their characterization and screen presence honest.  You didn’t try to soft pedal these predators, but let them be their own character throughout.  You didn’t make any excuses or do any bullshit. You let the sharks be sharks, and that’s what we need to see and hear more of." - Rick MacPherson (Marine Conservationists & Shark Specialist)

"I watched the movie with my heart full, having been in Fiji, having stayed in the village rather than the hotel, having met all those people you show, makes the movie very personal. Thanks to the beautiful work you have done, what could be just a personal experience, has now become personal for everybody else watching it, regardless if they have been there or not.
I love how you let the Fijians speak and transfer their thoughts about their decisions in their own land. What BEQA has done is incredible, it has allowed them to see, learn and understand and make this work theirs, not infused from an higher authority. The value of the Marine Reserve, the issues between feeding and not feeding, the carbon foot print come from the people of the village, their understanding and their love for their land and ocean.
I also loved how you addressed it all: feeding, non feeding, the conversation between Mike and Ellen is priceless, finning, fishing, surviving and letting survive. I very much connected with your journey, I started and have yet to stop mine from 21 years ago, so you have my utmost admiration and respect." - Cristina Zenato (Shark Diver and Expert)

"I think it is a very good film, a great and important story that needs to be told - like you say in the film. I am no film-editing expert, but it seem to be carrying the story well. Interesting mix of facts and great visual stuff both over and under water. It is based on facts - and your dreams. Good mix. I really like it, and enjoyed watching it!" - Lill Haugen (Underwater Photographer)

"Production quality above and below the water were a top notch representation of what happens when you put good eyes behind a lens... Diley managed to tell one captivating story of a man who left his job for a few big-ass Bull sharks whilst secretly weaving the stories of the Fijian people and their bond with sharks into the mix.
The music was powerful where it needed to be, and subtle when required - and played strengths to the Fijian roots, which fed the overall hungry authenticity of the film.

Finally, the dive sequences were pieced together in an additive information format. Going through each shark species and its role within the eco-system was a personal highlight, and the GT's eating the remoras was an epic pick-up! The final dive sequence was nothing short of inspiring. Well shot, fast paced and narrated to perfection."
- Sarah Richmond (Film-Maker - Sarah Shark)

"WOW! I finally had a chance to see the online screening Of Shark And Man and want to congratulate you. Excellent job buddy! One of the things I enjoyed the most is your personal narrative and how you had the courage to embark on this wonderful project. The film brought back a lot of memories and a desire to return and dive once again with Beqa Adventure Divers and those amazing sharks. Wishing you continued success! Very best wishes always." - Michael Patrick O'Neill (Underwater Photographer)

So there you have it, it's very positive that the key elements I focused on such as story, aesthetic, sound, emotion and accessibility are all noted as being particular highlights and that the people giving this feedback really know their stuff.

If you missed part 1 of the Feedback, you can find it here.

Make sure you join the Facebook group and join in with us as we keep posting updates and of course, a load of content for you to enjoy!

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to watch the film and send me their thoughts, it is greatly appreciated!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

North Carolina Shark Attacks - Why So Many This Year?

Photo by Steve Bouser

With the news yesterday of a seventh shark attack, North Carolina is now having it's equal worst year since 1900 (tied with 2008) for shark bite incidents. The most recent victim, a 67 year old man, was bitten multiple times on the abdomen, hip, lower leg and both hands, is in a stable condition in hospital and eyewitnesses are reporting the incident to be very similar to most of the other incidents so this raises the question, why is North Carolina suffering an outbreak of attacks and what can be done to minimise the risk?

To begin with we need to look at the different kinds of incidents for which the term "shark attack" is used because not all incidents can be justifiably referred to as "attacks" and understanding each is key to establishing what might be causing these incidents. At this stage I should also point out that, whereby we need to address the issue objectively and having stated that not all incidents are "attacks," I do not subscribe to the recent campaign to ban the word "Shark Attack" from the media, firstly, I am uncomfortable with any kind of censorship, but moreover, I find the definitions given in the linked article, purposefully misleading and far too vague. What we need is accurate reporting, not censorship and although the 100 or so phd students, researchers and communications professionals are respected individuals in their fields, I am not aware of any whose area of expertise is actually shark attack. Whereas I agree that more should be done to increase media understanding of shark bites to aid more accurate reporting, I don't think this is the way to go about it.

Consider this, from Shark Uber-Mensch Samuel "Doc" Gruber from his 1988 paper "Why Do Sharks Attack Humans," Gruber states;

"...some attacks can be accepted as legitimate attempts by the shark to feed on humans."

For me, personally, if we are to look at the broad spectrum of what the media currently refers to as a "Shark Attack" upon an individual it can be defined most accurately as "a non-voluntary contact encounter between a human(s) and a shark" and this could range from a surfer having his board bumped by a shark to a swimmer being completely consumed and everything in between.

Regular readers will know how passionate I am about avoiding hyperbolic and simplistic reports about these incidents using lazy terminology in place of detailed analysis, I have stated here, in articles and interviews many times that each incident is dependent upon so many variables that the only way to increase understanding of these incidents is to look at every detail available to assess the incident fully. The existence of human objective input into these details is not only problematic in the media, it also leads to inconsistencies in the existing databases where some attacks are not included due to being classed as "provoked," most commonly due to the victim's activity prior to the attack, usually spearfishing.

For the purposes of accurate detailed analysis, I would like to see a "Shark/Human Incident" database which includes all non-voluntary contact encounters between sharks and humans and splits them up into the following categories;

Non-Injurious (including attacks on boats)

In each incident report, as much detail as possible would be included and where possible, a viable explanation given for the attack, on the understanding that it is impossible to always be certain on what a shark's motivation can be.

As a caveat to the above, it must be noted that, as shark attacks are so infrequent, it is impossible to collect enough reliable data to assess risks in relation to potential future incidents or, put more simply, it is impossible to create a model which will predict when a shark bite on a human will occur. Also, shark attacks are defined by many different variables from the species involved, to the victim, the victim's activity at the time of the attack, the location and various environmental factors. It is inaccurate and misleading to compartmentalise shark attacks into easily digested (pardon the pun) soundbites.

With regards to North Carolina, let's have a look at its history with shark attacks.

If we look at the current spate of attacks first:

June 11th - 13 year old received minor bites to her feet and two bites to her Body Board

June 14th - 12 year old Kirsten Yow receives serious multiple bites to her arm and leg with her hand severed. Arm is later amputated below the elbow

June 14th - 16 year old Hunter Treschl receives serious multiple bites losing his let arm above the elbow

June 24th - 8 year old boy suffers minor injuries from a bite which appears to be from a small shark at Surf City

June 26th - 47 year old man bitten on the back at Avon in Hatteras Island

June 27th - 18 year old man suffers multiple serious bites to his right calf, buttocks and both hands at Waves, also Hatteras Island

July 1st - 68 year old man receives multiple bites to abdomen, hip, lower leg and both hands at Ocracoke Island

Seven attacks in nineteen days in such a condensed geographic area is certainly a rare occurrence but it's not unprecedented. Contrary to a statement from one of the main voices behind the "ban the phrase 'shark attacks' campaign," incidents of shark bite on the same or consecutive days have actually happened multiple times around the world, including in North Carolina, prior to the events this year.

In 2001 (one fatality), 2008 and 2011 North Carolina experienced multiple attacks days and in 1995, 2000, 2004 and 2007 there were incidents on consecutive days, 1995 actually saw three attacks in 4 days.

If we look at the seven incidents so far this year, five have been confirmed as multiple bites which points towards a pronounce determination on the part of the shark, contrary to the notion that all "shark bites are a result of mistaken identity" or "curiosity," these multiple bite incidents can be more accurately described as being motivated by a degree of determination and possibly even predation. That's not to say however, that the sharks involved in these attacks are swimming around looking for people to eat, rather the unfortunate victims have encountered sharks in a natural predatory state.

Historical Statistics:

  • There have been 95 unprovoked attacks in North Carolina waters with 11 of those fatal.
  •  On average there is a fatality every 10.4 years with the most number of fatalities in a single year being two, this has happened only once (1905) since 1900.
  • The last fatality in North Carolina was the 2008 attack on Richard Snead although there is doubt whether the injuries he sustained were the cause of his death, or came after he drowned. If we place this attack as "unconfirmed," the last fatality prior to Snead came in 2001, the victim Sergi Zaloukaev.
  • Since 2000, North Carolina has seen 55 shark incidents, an average of 3.6 each year
It is also interesting that of the 95 unprovoked attacks in NC waters, 64 (67.3%) occurred in the months of June, July and August.

This can be explained firstly, by there being more people in the water due to hotter weather and also, people staying in the water for longer due to increased sea temperature. More people in the water for longer means more people exposed to sharks. The average sea temperature from early June to late August is 83.4 degrees Fahrenheit or in "real money," 28.5 degrees Celsius.

Another factor to consider is the migration and seasonal aggregation patterns of prey animals. During the warm Summer months, bait fish and other larger marine creatures move along the coastline, travelling in large numbers close to shore to try to evade predators in deeper water. This in turn attracts sharks which follow the fish into shallower water and thus, in closer proximity to bathers. Large numbers of prey means larger numbers of sharks close to shore and unfortunately, as we have seen in North Carolina this year and Florida every year, occasionally humans are getting in the way of these sharks, sharks which are in the shallows, potentially motivated by predation.

Bull Shark Photo: Andy Murch

Blacktip Shark Photo: Alexander Safonov

The most likely culprits in these attacks are the Bull Shark and Blacktip Shark. In the incidents where there have been multiple bites, I'm almost certain the attacks were carried out by Bulls. Bull Shark attacks are characterised by a propensity to bite a victim more than once, plus, their size and power often leads to serious injury and loss of limb in attacks where they are the culprit.

Blacktips are not a species often involved in shark bite incidents however they have, and do, occasionally bite people although, unlike the Bull Shark, are less likely to mount a sustained attack on a human.

Both species are regularly encountered in North Carolina waters and both will enter the shallows whilst following prey, so for me, these would be the two species most likely involved in incidents such as these in this part of the world. North Carolina is also home to Tiger Sharks, Great White, Dusky, Spinner and the most commonly encountered species there, Sandbar sharks, however, although all have historically been involved in shark bite incidents, I would be less inclined to blame any of these species above the two detailed above.

It's important to recognise a few salient points, firstly, these sharks were off these same beaches last year, the year before, the year before and so on and so on, although shark attacks in the United States have shown an upwards curve in numbers over the last 60 years, this is due solely to there being more people in the water. I've seen claims that people feeding sharks or fishing from the pier has caused the attacks but there is simply no evidence for that. Could warmer than usual water temperatures play a part? Possibly but only because it is having an effect on the migrations and seasonal aggregations of the shark's prey. Sharks go where the food is and right now, the food is close to shore off popular bathing beaches.

There will be more shark bites off America's east coast this year, Florida is unusually quiet at the moment but as the Summer gets hotter and the sea gets warmer, more people are going to be in a position where they may just get in the way of a shark following its natural prey so what can you do to minimise your risk of being bitten?

Firstly, stay out of the water, you won't get bitten by a shark on the beach! If you do however want to go into the sea and let's be honest, I don't blame you, avoid if possible, areas where the water is murky, where people are fishing, avoid swimming near the mouths of inlets or estuaries and if you can, speak to local fishermen, like sharks, they follow the fish and if the fish are in big numbers, there will be sharks there.

Most importantly though, use your brain, you know there have been incidents in North Carolina so if you must swim in those areas, realise it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of both yourself and your family, not the sharks'. Sharks do what sharks do and when you make the choice to swim in areas where you know there is shark activity, you must accept you are taking a risk, it's a small risk of course, but the responsibility is on you.

Try to be shark smart, the best people to talk to about the shark activity in your area are the people who use the beach all day every day, lifeguards and fishermen. If you're not sure whether you should be swimming somewhere, don't be afraid to ask!

Finally, don't panic, shark populations aren't exploding in numbers (quite the opposite) and moving closer to shore to eat people. Although this is a bad year for shark bites in North Carolina, it is unusual and certainly not the norm. Statistical anomalies in areas where shark bites occur, or if you want a simpler description, spikes in shark bite activity where a year's number of incidents exceeds a statistical pattern, however, are not that out of the ordinary. It happens, many places around the world have experienced a flurry of incidents followed by years, sometimes decades without a single bite.

Be safe!

Edit: Case in point regarding misleading and factually inaccurate public statements can be found in this article

"It's commonly accepted that sharks aren't intentionally trying to bite humans, either: "Scientists believe that most shark bites are a case of mistaken identity. From below, a surfer in a black rubber wetsuit looks a great deal like a seal, for example," explains David Shiffman, a PhD candidate at the University of Miami's Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy."
This is quantifiably incorrect. None of the victims were surfing, none were wearing wetsuits (which incidentally are made from neoprene, not "rubber") and although some attacks throughout history have been a result of "mistaken identity," it's a tiny proportion and almost always incidents involving Great White Sharks. The notion of "mistaken identity" is misleading because it implies over 400 million years of evolution, sharks are unable to differentiate humans from their natural prey items.

None of these attacks provide any evidence that "mistaken identity" can be used as a reason, especially in the five incidents where the victim sustained multiple bites.