Posted by: letsharkslive | May 26, 2011

CBS Interview with Ila France Porcher

Due to the urgent need to save sharks from extinction, CBS here in Florida aired an interview with me on the subject, stressing the importance of my book, My Sunset Rendezvous.

I will get it linked to my website, so you can see it at :

in a few days or so.

Thank you for caring about sharks — I fear that there will come a day when we will still be here, and the sea will still be here, but they will be gone, forever.

Posted by: letsharkslive | May 23, 2011

Ode to Madonna

“Ode to Madonna” was written during the period in which I was waiting for the sharks of Polynesia to be protected by law. I had to wait a long time.

Here in Florida giving presentations about them — so that the world will find out, what they were like and what happened to them — I arrive home remembering, and mourning again, Madonna.

Since this was posted so very long ago, I decided tonight to post it again for those who didn’t see it the first time, in honour not just of Madonna, but all of the sharks who are being yanked brutally onto ships, having their tails and fins sliced off, and thown roughly back into the ocean, to face the end of everything they have known, as consciousness fades and they sink, sink, and writhing, sink into the abyss.

Ode to Madonna

“In just the last couple of months, waiting for the law to be passed to protect the sharks, the last of the older, mature females I first met some years ago have vanished from my part of the lagoon. This includes my number one shark, Madonna.

Madonna was the first shark to meet my kayak when I arrived in the lagoon in the mornings. She was nearly six feet long, steel grey, and heavily built. When I dove down and swam to her, she would come to me and look into my mask.

Meeting her by chance in the lagoon, she would swim to me when I called her, and circle, spiralling toward me til she was within arms’ reach. But she did not like me to swim with her. She would set off on a sinuous path, and when I followed, she would come back, often turn sideways, accelerate and stop, or just vanish into the blue, but usually not before we had gone to meet up with one or two of her friends. Never could I detect the slightest sign between them as they passed, but I didn’t think it could be chance that we had met up with them, knowing that they were her friends.

Beautiful Madonna was not one of our brightest lights. When I brought a treat for her, as I always did when she returned to her home range after breeding or birthing, I would sometimes have to throw it for her time after time before she could locate it, and often one of her friends would coil through the water to snatch it the moment it left my hand, a trick poor Madonna could never manage. Once I spent 45 minutes in terrible current just trying to get her treat to her.

Nevertheless, she would hopefully come to me for a bite. When I had nothing, and was actually promenading in the lagoon with her friend Martha, she would come charging in. I would fin backward, till we were swimming nose to nose, me on my back and her on top of me, while Martha circled us, watching. Madonna would finally give up when she realized I had nothing with me, and me and Martha would go on alone.

Madonna did this once when it was almost too dark to see, having arrived with a group of rather macho males from the ocean. She behaved as if she were starving to death, having just had her babies. When she soared up to my face all her companions did too, and while I could guide her around me with my hand, I didn’t have enough hands to push away half a dozen sharks at once, and didn’t want to be rammed by the strangers or have my mask knocked off in the dark.

Feeling sorry for my poor shark, who did look awfully emaciated after birthing, I returned as soon as conditions permitted, and trailed scent through her home range, followed by a tiny juvenile who always followed me, just out of sight, at that time. Finally, Madonna glided in, the juvenile now flitting excitedly at her side, apparently more confident in the presence of the big shark.

As she circled, I tossed the food so it fell to the side of her swimway, and saw her target it, but she slowed, allowing the excited juvenile to get it first. Luckily I had brought enough for both.

I spent so much time with Madonna, I can remember every gesture, every movement she would make in different moods.

We all read all the time about thousands of sharks being finned all over the world, but when the sharks meeting this shocking end are ones you have come to know, and with whom you have spent time for many years, sharks of whom you have grown fond, the psychological effect is more intense.

Just as it is disturbing to read in the paper that some dogs elsewhere were poisoned — but if it is your dogs who were poisoned and died, you reel.”



Posted by: letsharkslive | May 6, 2011

Do Some Sharks Lack a Bite Reflex?

This interesting topic is discussed in a posting on the Shark Saver’s blog in an article written by Ila France Porcher, author of My Sunset Rendezvous : Crisis in Tahiti.

The information given is counter-intuitive and possibly explains why, in spite of the exagerated fear many people feel for sharks, so few people are actually bitten.

Take a look!

Hi Shark Lovers!

Many thanks for getting involved in our direct action!

Things are shaping up well for 12.30, the 3rd of february 2011 @ Gerrard Street!  There will be a good number of us there to take a positive message to the streets of China Town.

Some restaurants there have dropped shark fin and are positive about marine conservation efforts. So we are not going down to criticise but to show our support for the restaurants doing the right thing and on an educational mission for the part of the community who may not be aware how serious the shark situation has become.

Things to do before the day:

1. invite your friends!
2. if you use social networking sites please twit / blog / facebook about it. we can use this hashtag: #sharkside
3. Make a placard or get a prop (maybe a shark toy or blow up shark?). Give me a shout for ideas.

This is a great time for us to be taking action for sharks. The recent tv shows have pushed this right into the public’s consciousness. We can leverage this to change opinion in china town and beyond and encourage more restaurants to drop it off the menus. We are inviting the media and will be videoing  on the day and can shine a light on the restaurants still serving species close to extinction. We will follow up with the restaurants and media and pass on our progress here to folk in other cities who can learn from our experience.

Global Ocean are working with us to develop a bespoke flyer which we can all hand out on the day.

Your help is massively appreciated and every person counts and will make a real difference!

Thanks again for getting involved and get in touch if you have any questions.

Very best,


Possible twitter post u can use:
JOIN THE #SHARKSIDE. Direct action in London to stop shark finning. Check it out and please RT:
Posted by: letsharkslive | December 30, 2010

My Sunset Rendezvous is Published!

Finally the story of my sharks has been released!

It’s available through the following link:

as well as Amazon, etc.

The official press release is pasted below, so that you can get a better idea about it.

It is much more than a book about sharks–stories of other species are interwoven throughout, all relating to wild animal intelligence, and set in the often amusing framework of island life.

It was written to be enjoyed by anyone who loves animals and animal stories and I illustrated it to make the underwater events that occurred more real. They are writer – to – reader messages lovingly and loosely painted in ink and bleach with lots of water, to help make real some of the astonishing and funny things that happened.

This work of love was written because there was a story that had to be told, and now, its available. So I very much hope you will read it and thus complete the cycle for which I risked much, and laboured for years.

Here is the official press release telling more about it:

Contact: Ellen Green, Press Manager, Strategic Book Group –


“Once upon a time,
before the sharks were finnned,
we met at sunset…”

Author Ila France Porcher is known for her wildlife art, her shark activism, and for her new discoveries that illustrate the little-known intelligence and kinder nature of sharks.

For years, the misconception has flourished that sharks are mindless, vicious creatures that we all should fear and avoid. My Sunset Rendezvous debunks these myths.

From 1995 until 2009, the author established never before achieved intimacy with the reef sharks that inhabited the island of Tahiti in French Polynesia. Her thrilling true story takes place underwater and her characters are the sharks, each carefully identified by its unique appearance and markings.

Learning about these fascinating creatures of the deep has become a memoir of a different kind in My Sunset Rendezvous. It is also a record in words and drawings that will hopefully save these reef sharks from extinction.

Over years of intensive study, the author made some intriguing discoveries and had many strange and startling experiences. When the Internet became available, she began to connect with other scientists across the world, comparing her observations, while accumulating evidence about sharks that transcends common beliefs. She and a scientific colleague, Arthur A. Myrberg Jr., found the first evidence that sharks can think and the degree to which they are social creatures. Professor Myrberg died before their paper on cognitive thinking in sharks could be published, so she honours him by including his last scientific article in her book.

Contacted by the BBC for her work as a cognitive ethologist, she contributed her findings on shark cognition and social intelligence to the widely seen documentary “Sharks: Size Matters” for the Discovery Channel’s famous Shark Week.

In My Sunset Rendezvous, the author takes you with her into increasing intimacy with each of the lagoon sharks, where new discoveries are laid out for the finding, all in the alien beauty of a coral lagoon. She hopes that animal lovers who had not considered sharks before, will now realize the true nature of this animal that is worth studying and saving.

New Zealand filmmaker Alan Baddock said of her book:

Your clarity of intent is stunning and beautiful. As a wordsmith, I recognise and acknowledge rare mastery. As a traveller who has picked up and cast aside the best of world literature in a thousand hostelries on half a dozen continents and countless islands, I recognise a book I would share with people I considered friends … Three chapters into a subject I am not especially interested in, I am waiting with a low, gnawing hunger for more. That alone tells me I have found something special.”

MY SUNSET RENDEZVOUS: CRISIS IN TAHITI (ISBN: 978-1-60911-810-5) will be available on Dec. 17, 2010, for $29.50 and can be ordered through the publisher’s website:

or at or

Wholesalers please email

About the Author: Ila France Porcher grew up in British Columbia, Canada. She spent much of her life as a wildlife artist under the name Ila Maria. The connections she formed with the sharks in Polynesia and the atrocities she witnessed happening to them inspired her to write My Sunset Rendezvous. She is now working on her next book about wildlife.

Strategic Book Group, LLC www.StrategicBookAgency

ABOUT: Strategic Book Group provides book publishing, book marketing, and e-book services to over 10,000 writers around the world, employing 150 people who live throughout the US and work virtually through telecommunication. Strategic Book Group is experiencing over 30% growth per year, having published approximately 3,000 authors with almost 100 new releases per month. Our books are available through Ingram, the largest book distributor in the world, as well as in bookstores, through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all online channels. Strategic Book Group attends and exhibits at the major book expositions in London, New York, China, and Germany each year.

To follow us on Facebook:

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Posted by: letsharkslive | December 24, 2010

Response to the “Slaughter in Playa Del Carmen Mexico” posting

Mary O’Malley of Shark Savers, sent me this thoughtful response, which though posted belatedly, should be seriously read and considered, because the problems will remain if not addressed in a realistic manner.

Mary wrote:

Dear Steven,

Thank you for writing. The shark killing incident from Playa del Carmen is heart breaking for sure. I agree with you that it’s important to review what led to this incident in order to hopefully prevent future tragedies like it. Certainly I don’ t know the solution to this problem, but would like to offer some ideas for discussion. In the meantime, I also forwarded your message to two shark scientists last night (after receiving your first message) to ask for their input. I’ve copied them on this message.

Here are a few points to consider in this discussion:

In general Shark Diving is good for sharks.

Shark diving operations contribute greatly to changing the public’s perception about sharks and gaining support for shark conservation. Many, many people who have dedicated themselves to shark conservation (including me) came to understand and care about sharks through diving with them.

Shark diving operations also create a powerful economic alternative to shark harvesting. Most governments and people still view sharks as just another fishery resource to be exploited, and don’t really care too much if sharks are wiped out. Demonstrating the value of sharks to dive tourism was the primary factor in the decisions to create shark sanctuaries in Palau, The Maldives and most recently in Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

The practices of baiting, chumming and feeding are controversial and have been heavily debated. I think that most divers would prefer to see sharks in a natural setting, but unfortunately there are very few places left where this is possible. A ban on all of these practices would devastate shark tourism and would be a huge blow to shark conservation.

Sharks are under siege. Many species are being overfished to the point of no return, and gaining protections at any level of government is an exhausting uphill battle. The few places that have enacted full protections for sharks have done so because of their economic value to dive tourism.

To anyone who cares about sharks and their conservation, please be careful here. There are many people who will take advantage of this incident and any criticisms of shark diving or any specific operations or practices to make a blanket condemnation of shark diving and shark tourism.

You mentioned that the fishermen killed fewer sharks before the shark diving operations started. Those sharks, however, were by no means safe. Mexico has very few protections in place for sharks and is one of the top shark fisheries in the world. Shark diving operations or no, those sharks were in a great deal of danger. And now the people who live in the community are actually angry about the sharks being killed. I doubt that many people cared much when sharks were killed before.

Sharks need to be protected in shark diving areas:

In locations where shark diving operations are conducted, sharks need to be protected. I agree with you that advertising and promoting a location where sharks aggregate (for whatever reason) can (actually will) make them a target. This is obvious, but there is also a chicken or the egg situation here. It will probably be difficult, if not impossible, to convince the appropriate government to protect sharks until you can demonstrate the economic value. And of course it could be hard to do that before starting the operation that creates the value.

HOWEVER, now that we have a number of examples throughout the world that demonstrate the value of sharks, we can approach governments with evidence clearly demonstrating that sharks are much more valuable alive to tourism than to fisheries.

It’s a shame that no protections and enforcement were in place before this incident. This is something that needs to be addressed in Playa del Carmen and anywhere else that sharks are known to aggregate.

Shark aggregations should be studied (using non-lethal research!):

Studying sharks in important aggregation areas, such as Playa del Carmen, can help to increase our understanding of sharks’ behavior and their movements. This data can be used to justify protections in areas where they are needed most, and may also provide some insight into methods and guidelines for diving with them in a manner that doesn’t jeopardize the safety of the sharks or the divers.

Moving forward.

Let’s talk about getting some protections in place for sharks in this area. I’m looking forward to talking with you about a positive solution.

Thank you!!


Mary O’Malley
Shark Savers



Posted by: letsharkslive | November 24, 2010

Slaughter in Playa Del Carmen Mexico

Robin Culler kindly passed on this eye-witness report of shark slaughter in Mexico written by Steven Spencer.  If you know of a shark protection group in that area that can intervene, please contact  Thank you for any help you can offer! Ila

My name is Steven and i am writing in relation to some horrific Shark killings that have been happening close to the shores of Playa Del Carmen Mexico. You may have already heard something of this news but i am writing because all of the news that i am hearing and reading is very biased and largely untrue so i wish to write a true account to the best of my knowledge about these incidents and what has led to them.

I do not know if there is something that your organisation, or any organisation that you know can do about these occurrences, but i feel the need to write in true detail of what is happening as i am sure that if anything can be done then you will know better than i the people that could do something.

Playa Del Carmen is a tourist area that has grown considerably in the past decade. I have been diving there for 7 years, i have done many dives there as i have spent 5 months there every year for the past 7 years.

Bull Sharks visit these shores during the months between November and March. In my first 5 years of diving there i frequently saw groups of 2 to a maximum of 5 BullSharks in various dive sites, mainly Tortugas, Pared Verde and Barracuda. BullShark sightings were frequent during these months if diving regularly but could not be guaranteed.

Eventually one dive store called ‘Phantom divers’ began to feed an area regularly close to shore near a dive site called ‘Jardines’ and eventually the sightings of these BullSharks were very rare in other locations.

Phantom diveshop then began taking divers to the fed area close to Jardines and feeding these BullSharks whilst wearing a chainmail suit. BullSharks would gather there everyday during these months every year and eventually every other divestore in town hypocritically began running ‘BullShark dives’. I state hypocritically because every other diveshop spoke of their disliking of the Shark feeding but continued to make very good money from these dives.

I dived with these magnificent creatures many times, when they were in behaving naturally and when the feeding programmes began. Once the feeding programmes began they behaved very differently to before, if a boat passed overhead they would go into a frenzy as they expected food coming to them.

Anyway, the BullShark is not a protected species in Mexico and local fisherman have always killed 2 or 3 a year but now everything has all come to a very sad situation. I am aware of one true report where 9 were killed by a fisherman in one day and other reports have suggested that 25 were killed in 3 days. During my 5 months every year in Playa i would dive most days and i would estimate that there wouldn’t be much more than 50 BullSharks that visit these shores each year as i was frequently seeing the same ones, i only counted approximately 20 different ones. If this is the case then it is a large percentage of decline of this species there.

I am therefore 100% sure that because of this feeding programme it has herded them into one area making it very easy for them to be fished and slaughtered by local fisherman who now have the knowledge of their whereabouts. 2 or 3 killed a year before, and 9 killed in one day proves this is no coincidence and they would therefore have a better chance of survival if they were spread around as before.

Phantom divers is currently fighting for the rights for the BullSharks not to be fished for at this certain feeding point during the months that they visit the area, stating that the BullSharks congregate there to give birth, this information i know to be incorrect. They congregate there for the food that is fed to them and for no other reason.

It is obvious that the only interest in Phantom divers minds is the proffit that can be made from the BullSharks.

My interest is for the survival of these magnificent creatures and i hope by voicing my opinions, whether loved or hated might help towards this.

I thank you for your time in reading this and thank you for passing this information on to anyone who might be able to assist with this sad situation and if there is anything else i can do i would be happy to.

Steven Spencer.

Posted by: letsharkslive | November 22, 2010

Comment by The South African Shark Conservancy

I write on behalf of the South African Shark Conservancy (SASC) – a non-profit research & conservation organisation based in Hermanus, SA, just on the doorstep of the cage diving industry.

I must admit that we have, in the past, also borne witness to some very poor handling/interaction practices within the industry and agree that it not only harms the sharks themselves, but also does significant damage to the reputation of an industry that claims it is driven by conservation & ecotourism values.  Disappointing to say the least.  By the same token, however, we must acknowledge that some industry members are very aware of the impacts of their actions on sharks and thus handle the animals with the utmost care.

Due to what we witnessed in the past SASC developed a great white shark cage diving industry training programme to train staff in a wealth of topics including shark conservation, biology and ecology, as well as impacts of poor industry practices on the ecosystem (including sharks) and best practice actions/responsible cage diving techniques.  Our aim was to also address the very issues mentioned in the emails below.  We are hopefully expanding this to include a day-long training programme for the right holders themselves so they are also made aware of the issues within the industry and cannot claim ignorance.

The first training session of this programme was held over two days in October and, admittedly, was quite poorly attended by the industry.  Only Apex Shark Expeditions, White Shark Ecoventures and White Shark Projects sent staff to the training, although it was heavily advertised to industry members.  During the programme the need for the development of best practices was addressed and recognised by trainees.

As an organisation SASC has been pushing for best practices for several years and we feel an independent body should be responsible for developing these, in conjunction with industry members, and auditing the industry on a biannual basis to determine how well these are implemented by the right holders and their staff.  We have discussed this in detail with Marine and Coastal Management in the past and they support such action.

Thus we propose in this forum that all interested parties attend a meeting at SASC to identify problems, concerns and solutions – working together in an open forum to instigate the change we want to see in the industry.

Please email me directly on so we can liaise further in this regard.

Kind regards,
Meag McCord

Posted by: letsharkslive | November 22, 2010

Commentary from South Africa

Open letter to the SA shark dive industry re the best practice.

Hi all,

As a journalist and observer to the debate about best practices concerning shark attraction methods and the shortcomings of some methods, it is clear that the issues that have been raised are extremely important to deal with in order to ensure that our South African shark diving industry has a reputation that we can indeed be proud of.

This cannot only come from a shark diving industry perspective but from a conservation perspective, a tourism perspective, a best practice perspective and most of all for promoting an open and transparent dialogue about the matter – shark diving, either in cages or without – for profit.

There is nothing wrong with generating profit from shark diving. The dive industry is a powerful tool to assist in protecting sharks, in getting the public to understand them and in taking their plight to a wider audience.

Public oversight has assisted in improving practices in all aspects of the shark dive industry and indeed in all related aspects of human/ shark interaction. This mirrors the experiences of other conservation practices in other nature conservation fields which have often learned and advanced themselves through outside pressure.

However it serves nobody when baseless allegations are thrown around, when issues become personalised for reasons that are completely unrelated to the issues at hand and when discussions that are aimed at improving industry practices are marginalised because of illogical and ill informed inputs.

It cannot be denied that public oversight and pressure to change from shark enthusiasts have improved the cage dive industry hugely. The cage dive industry would like to take most of the credit for themselves but that is just human nature.

The same goes for shark diving on the Aliwal shoals and other offshore shark diving spots. The methods used to attract sharks have been shown to be damaging to sharks and yet those who rely on these flawed methods have denied any cause for concern and have instead attempted to sidetrack and personalise the discussion and debate. Others have worked hard to clean up their acts and have listened to outside inputs.

Denial of any problems in how sharks are chummed and attracted obviously serves nobody except the denier and it does not move the debate forward. As a journalist and someone involved in covering environmental management in South Africa I am quite prepared to go out and expose any dangerous or damaging practices to the widest possible audience so that things do change, through either the force of public opinion or the force of law. Both are equally relevant in this case.

It would however be far more beneficial for all of the role players in this debate, especially the shark dive charterers who have been criticised for poor baiting practices, to play a far more mature and responsible role in this discussion. There clearly are operators who have tried different methods of baiting which appear to be non damaging to sharks – through encasing cables and chains in polypropylene pipe – which is rigid and extremely tough and non damaging to shark mouths, compared to exposed cables and chains. Why can this and other useful discoveries not be made best practice?

An industry standard should be agreed upon and any parties who continue to practice dangerous methods of attracting sharks, just as those who do not properly care for, or endganger their divers and customers, or who follow other dangerous practice, must be sanctioned and isolated, if shown to be intransigent in the face of changing toward best practice behaviour.

If we wish to have an industry that is good for tourism and for our image as a leading nature and eco-tourism destination then we must pursue best practice in all aspects of environmental tourism in South Africa. If we wish to be the world leaders in this field, that we claim to be, then we must behave like world leaders. Accordingly the industry must support a move toward transparency and best practice and engage with each other in a constructive way that promotes mutual interests
The alternative is to identify and deal with those who refuse to play the game according to mutually agreed rules and isolate them utterly. The choices are simple. So lets rather consider moving on toward finalising what is essentially a straightforward proceedure.

A useful first step would be to invite all shark tourism operators to sit down around a table, at a shark tourism conference, of SA operators, and start to hack out the issues, formalise them and put these steps into practice. SA tourism and other regional tourism boards would be supportive – we all know that the industry brings in significant money. Any other relevant parties must also come aboard, including government (Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and Dept of Environment and Water, and possibly Tourism and also the Shark Board but there may be ambivalence about this).

It would just take a few champions of the cause, from within the industry, to drive this. They could reap huge benefits by being shown to lead the way toward the most progressive and ecologically sound practices, and could accordingly advertise along these lines.

This should ideally happen from within the industry – self regulation is always preferable to having regulations imposed on you. But if nothing happens then imposition of tighter regulations may just follow.

Over to you, the people who want to do the right thing, the people who make money out of sharks and those who want to conserve the resource for the benefit of all. Lets see the changes roll on!

all the best
Glenn Ashton

Freelance writer, researcher, author and editor.
Cape Town
South Africa

Posted by: letsharkslive | November 22, 2010

Shark Sanctuary Declared in Eastern Indonesia

JAKARTA — Indonesia has declared a vast sanctuary for sharks, turtles and manta rays in a region known as one of the world’s richest sources of marine biodiversity, officials and conservationists said Tuesday.

The sanctuary covers 46,000 square kilometres (17,760 square miles) of waters around the Raja Ampat islands in eastern Indonesia, part of the so-called Coral Triangle region of Southeast Asia.

Sharks, manta rays, mobulas, dugongs and turtles are fully protected within the sanctuary, and destructive practices including reef bombing and the aquarium fish trade are banned, local officials said.

“Sharks, as apex predators, play a vital role in regulating the health of important commercial fish species, population balance, and coral reefs,” conservation group Shark Savers and the Misool Eco Resort, which are supporting the sanctuary, said in a statement.

“Despite this importance, up to 73 million sharks are killed annually with some shark populations declining by as much as 90 percent, mostly for shark fin soup.

“In Raja Ampat, three fourths of its shark species are threatened with local extinction.”

Peter Knights, executive director of US-based conservation group WildAid which is backing the project, said: “It?s tragic that so much of Raja Ampat?s biological treasure is destined for consumers who are unaware of the impact.

“Sharks are being killed for their fins, mantas are being killed for their gills, and rare reef fish are being caught for aquariums,” he said.

Raja Ampat marine and fishery office head Yohanis Bercmans Rahawaryn could not provide figures on shark numbers in the area, but said their numbers had “dropped steadily in the past few years”.

“Divers rarely find big sharks around Raja Ampat. That’s the main indicator,” he said.



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