Saturday, December 27, 2014

It's Just a Game Folks... Just a Game

Greetings everyone! Tonight I will be looking at a bit of a different topic, but bear with me here cause there is a point to what I'm about to say. Tonight's blog will be focusing in on sharks.... and video games. In the past I've gone out and blogged about Shark Week and shark movies and other things regarding sharks in the media, but never video games. As a type little descriptions about these games keep in mind what the point of these games are... Then I'll get to the point sort to speak.


Jaws is obviously named after the hit movie with the same name and was released on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987. The point of this game was to navigate your boat around the ocean while occasionally controlling a scuba diver to combat sea life with a spear gun. Eventually Jaws would appear and you would try to kill him by driving your boat through him after zapping him. So your main objective here is to kill the shark.

In more modern times video games have greatly changed their tune. If a game like Jaws from 1987 came out today, chances are it would flop. No what people want nowadays is not to play the hero, but play the monster. Jaws Revenge was released on the Itunes App Store back in 2011 and continues to be updated today. The objective of this game is simple. You control Jaws and eat everything and anything in your path. Leaping out of the water to snag helicopters out of midair, catching water skiers, and combating military are just a few of the things that you can do as you play. Oh and there is plenty of blood and screaming to go around.

In 2006 Jaws Unleashed was released on Sony's Playstation 2 as well as Microsoft's Xbox and PC. The game was a dream come true for anyone who wanted a crack at being a monster shark and literally be able to tear people limb from limb. As Jaws, here are some of the things that you could do in this game. Drown people, tear people's limbs off, eat people, make people somehow explode by slapping them with your tail, sink boats, cause boats to explode by landing on them, kill an orca, eat dolphins, blow up an offshore oil drilling operation,.. The list goes on... More often than not, the water you swim in will be red and you die via getting too hungry...

Alright I'll stop there with my nerdy video game things. So why did I bring these three in particular up (There are PLENTY more, but I'll spare you all that for now at least)? There is a common trend here. The first Jaws game on the Nintendo was somewhat based on the movies, but the key was when it was released. The terror of Jaws was very real and very alive and well during that time period. People were, and still are petrified to go into the water for fear of that monster shark getting them. While we look at this really silly game today as well... silly... people still had a fear of sharks and here was something to take that fear a bit farther. Now though I don't think anyone can find this even remotely intimidating on a TV screen...

Jaws Revenge is on the Itunes store for free. That means a lot of people have played it and not all audiences that have played it probably should have. I'm talking not about people with a fear of sharks, but children in particular. Here's a game of hungry hungry hippos where the shark is the hippo and humans are the little balls. That idea that sharks eat people is drilled into the head of kids so much already that believe it or not, I've personally had kids ask me if sharks do what they do on this game. It's kinda scary to me that that is even a question, but for a child who knows nothing about sharks, it's a legit question to ask. Of all the shark games that can be found on the Itunes store, this is probably the one that a lot of people (myself included)  have tried out largely thanks to it's title.

Jaws Unleashed is another beast entirely. It is flat out brutal in terms of the image of sharks. Obviously there would be no game without the big killer shark and if you were the little diver against the shark, it'd probably be a terrible gaming experience. As I said before, things in gaming have changed so much and there is now a want to be the monster and not the hero. Well in this game you are the monster and a mindless eating machine. Nothing more to say there...

The point I would like to get across here is this. Video games are just that. Video games. They (in most cases) do not depict real life. However, in the case of shark video games, there are people that will take these games, play them, and think that what they are seeing and doing are what sharks actually do. I've had kids ask me about Jaws Revenge stuff and I've had kids ask me if a shark could jump onto a beach, struggle up the sand, grab someone and take them back into the water. I've also had people ask me if a shark has the ability to think and fight it's way out of an aquarium setting (one of the first things you do in Jaws Unleashed). It's scary that some people take these games as real life. The name Jaws to this day continues to strike fear into the hearts of countless people and continues to draw the attention of countless others. Attaching that name to a shark game brings in so many more people who really do not know what these animals are and takes it for real life.

From a business standpoint, that is a splendid move. From a conservation standpoint, it is a nightmare. Here we are fighting to save these animals yet we wind up having to deal with things such as shark reputations thanks to how they are put out in movies and videogames. As I have said with Shark Week. Remember folks, it's just media and in this case, it's just a game. Nothing more. Nothing less!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Merry Fishmas/Merry Christmas/Year in Review Blog

Hello again everyone. I would like to thank each and every one of you who has helped to make this blog what it is today. I started this blog a couple years ago with the objective of opening just one person's eyes to what is going on in our oceans. I never for a moment thought we'd be where we are now. So again I would like to thank all of you as without you this blog would probably have fallen to the wayside years ago. I know I have not been very active over the past few months, but that will now hopefully change as it seems more things are starting to fall into place that will allow me to blog more once again! So lets take a look back at this year and retouch on a few topics that I touched on to perhaps clear some things up or just remind us all that they are actually happening in the world around us.

2014 started off with Sea Shepherd once again hampering Japan's whale poaching campaign in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
West Australia laid out it's plan to cull sharks. Remember that during the upcoming cull that over 100 tiger sharks would be slaughtered in an attempt at killing great white sharks in which zero were killed.
Iceland in a strange move decided to place whale beer on the market in an attempt to sell people on eating whale. The beer sold from late January through late February.
An extinct species of shark, the smoothtooth blacktip shark was rediscovered!
Finally, Taiji, Japan returned to news headlines following the capture of a superpod of bottlenose dolphins in the killing cove. Let's touch on this once again as it was and is still a huge moment.
Embedded image permalink 
The albino dolphin in this photo would become known as "Angel" and is currently housed in the Taiji Whale Museum. Her family was divided up. Some slaughtered, others driven back out to sea after several days of not eating. Thanks to Anonymous, Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project, and Sea Shepherd Taiji made news headlines for the first time since The Cove was released. Sadly though the attention on Taiji has fallen back off while Japan continues to slaughter dolphins at will with no regard to what the rest of the world thinks.

The first shark in West Australia's shark cull was caught. The shark was claimed to be a bull shark buuuuut..... Embedded image permalink
As this image that flew ll over the place notes, the shark was not a bull shark but a tiger shark. This image really tells the tale of what the shark cull would be. Uneducated paid "fishermen" killing whatever sharks they wanted to kill. It wouldn't be long before most rules would fly out the window with these guys. Remember this shark cull happened to make beaches safer.... By baiting the water and attracting sharks...Many of the sharks that were released by fishermen were too badly injured and died soon after release. All of the released sharks were small and had not yet had a chance to reproduce. Some were returned to see after having their throats slit, others after having a hook hacked out of their heads.

The cull continued and eventually bycatch became an issue as a small dolphin appeared to have been killed, but was never confirmed by the fisheries agency. It was one of the few animals to be taken to the dumping grounds covered by a tarp which only made suspicions grow.

Illinois and California shark fin laws showed some bite as arrests were made on people possessing and selling shark fin products.
The world court found Japan's whaling operations to be not scientific and had to be altered if it were to continue. This helped to lead us to where we are today. As I type this blog, Japan is NOT whaling in the Southern Ocean. Rather, they are redesigning their "scientific" whaling program to meet the standards that are required. Chances are they will return to the Southern Ocean to hunt whales next year, but for at least one year, the whales an swim safe in a whale SANCTUARY.

The West Australia shark cull came to an end and with it came the final figures. Here are the final figures for catches from start to finish...
0 great whites
1 very small bull shark
157 tiger sharks
1 northwest puffer (bycatch)
1 spinner shark (bycatch)
1 dusky whaler (bycatch)
3 mako shark (bycatch)
7 stingrays (bycatch)
Out of all the sharks caught roughly 70% were undersized and were released though the condition of the sharks at the time of release were far from acceptable. West Australia aimed to continue the program for another 3 years.

The Maldives granted protection for 18 species of rays, including manta rays.

Denmark showed it's support for whaling by sending the Danish Navy to control Sea Shepherd in the Faroe Islands.

This blog was hacked! Still not sure by whom or from where, but clearly I had angered someone :)

Something truly amazing happened. In the state of Maryland a sand tiger shark was caught alive and well with it's fins cut off. The wounds from where the fins were cut were healed over and the shark appeared to be healthy! My personal feelings remain that this is possible due to sand tiger sharks being able to store air in their bodies. This causes them to become neutrally buoyant and not sink if they need to stop swimming. This ability is exclusive to the sand tiger shark. Luckily it seems the major arteries at the base of the fin was not severed which could have led to the animal bleeding to death. It also brought back the realization that just because shark finning is illegal doesn't mean it does not happen. Still though it was quite an amazing discovery to see that animal alive and well.

Well there it is folks. Another year is coming to a close. What happened in October/November/ most of December while I was MIA? On the topics that I cover here, not too much really. The listing of several sharks and manta rays to CITES Appendix II went into effect so those animals now have stricter trade regulations which will greatly help all involved species. Japan has continued to hunt and kill dolphins. West Australia has taken the word overreaction to a whole new level (View my previous blog to discover why) and poachers are apparently allowed to poach in the ocean freely (Again, view previous blog).

Sooooo to wrap up this blog, the last blog before Christmas, but probably not the last blog of the year, I want to again say thank you. It really has ben an incredible ride with this blog. I want to wish you and your families a very merry Christmas if you celebrate and if not I wish you a very happy Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or whatever holiday you will be celebrating in the near future or are celebrating now.

Poachers in the Southern Ocean. Government in West Australia

Hello everyone it's been quite a while hasn't it? Well to be honest with you all I've spent the time between my last blog and now doing a wide variety of things from school work to digging around for something new to blog about to working in general to various other things. Over the last few days though a couple things have come up that have stood out to me as noteworthy recent events. So as I blow the dust off the keyboard here, let us take a look into what is going on.

Lets start with a quick not on dolphins. Things are pretty much as they have been in the world of dolphins as far as how it pertains to this blog. Taiji continues to slaughter and make insane profits off of various species of dolphin.  The fight to see the killings in the cove of Taiji, Japan continues to roar on. Sadly, the killers continue to perform their slaughter with absolutely no remorse or regard for the animals they hunt. I've documented what goes on in Taiji a great deal in earlier blogs, so for now there is something else I want to address in relation to this blog and dolphins. I am no longer following one of the movements that I was following earlier this year as a result of various issues that I am not going to address here, so I apologize if you are still looking for information on that particular movement, but I will not be discussing it any further. Stay tuned though as more dolphin related things are sure to surface here!

Now that that little bit of business is taken care of, lets move onto the main portion of this blog. I feel like the following is something out of a video game or movie.
 Location: West Australia.
Objective: Catch and kill a great white shark
Reason for objective: Shark swam too close to a beach.
How to we find the shark: The tag.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, West Australia is once again on the hunt for a shark. This time they are on a hunt for a shark that has a tracking tag on it that simply swam close to a beach. The shark has not bit anyone, it has only swam near a beach. To me that sounds like something in a game where you place a tracking beacon on an enemy to hunt them down later. Same idea it sounds like. Back to reality though. How is West Australia trying to catch this shark? Well by deploying drumlines of course. The government has placed drumlines out over the past few days in the area in which the shark had been detected. So far the shak has not been caught.... However..... In a photo that can be seen on Western Australians for Shark Conservation Inc's Facebook page, you can see that another shark has been caught.
The shark in the picture is a tiger shark. The photo is a harrowing reminder of the cull that took place last year in which over 100 tiger sharks were killed. This shark was released with the hook still through the shark's skull. The government views the great white as an imminent threat. I understand that the presence of a great white along a shoreline can be a bit intimidating, but how and animal chasing snapper and seals around is an imminent threat I'll never know. Should they have closed the beaches? Yes, that is the only way to say 100% that the shark or any other animal that lives in the ocean and has gills will never bite anyone. We're talking about a fish doing what a fish does. We are not talking about a monster hunting for human flesh along the coast.

Apparently some kind of deal has been reached in West Australia that allows the state to take action against a shark if it posses an imminent threat or has attacked someone. This agreement came to be sometime after the EPA ruled against the state's shark cull back in September. Yet here we are at a time of year where great whites return to West Australia to hunt fish and seal and the drumlines are in the water. By the logic of the government, every shark should be considered an imminent threat. To me this whole scenario is just another way for the government to establish what they want, a way to kill sharks. Now not only do they have the drumlines, but fancy tracking tags that they say are used only to act as a tracking device to increase public safety (hunting device sounds better to me). I hope that this shark that keeps popping up close to shore continues to avoid the drumlines and make the West Australian Government look like a bunch of foolish children who are overreacting about a shark minding it's own business. Just when you think the West Australian Government couldn't overreact about sharks any more than they had in the past.....

Now to a developing story from the Southern Ocean. In light of Japan not conducting whale poaching in the Southern Ocean this year, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society set out to tackle illegal toothfish fishing in the same area. The conservation group sent two ships, the Bob Barker and the Sam Simon down to the Southern Ocean to fight against toothfish poaching. It is believed that there are 6 toothfish poaching vessels operating in the Southern Ocean. The Bob Barker has confronted one of the vessels named "Thunder" and the response from Australia, New Zealand, and France has been disappointing to say the least. The "Thunder" currently has an Interpol Purple notice out on it for illegal fishing activities as can be seen here.

The 'Thunder', which Sea Shepherd claims is illegally fishing in the Southern Ocean.

As you can see from the photo above, this vessel is in fact the "Thunder". Sea Shepherd notified New Zealand, Australia, and France as to the whereabouts of the vessel and the poaching that it was doing when they found it, but the response from New Zealand was simply "show restraint". That is where we are in the world of protecting threatened ocean life. Here you have a fishing vessel with an Interpol notice and restraint and caution is the way to go in dealing with them? Regular fishermen have applauded Sea Shepherd for finding this vessel and yet the governments fail in their job of delivering justice. So here is the scenario now. On one side Sea Shepherd won't back down. If they do the illegal ("ILLEGAL") fishing will resume. On the other side, the crew of the "Thunder" are only going to keep running for so long. The vessel apparently sent out a distress signal to three other poaching vessels in the area which may now be en route to back the "Thunder" up. Meanwhile the Sam Simon is over 600 miles away looking for the remaining vessels. We are talking about poachers here. There is no difference between them and the people that go shoot tigers and rhinos in the jungle. Not one bit of difference other than the fact that apparently what they are doing is perfectly fine judging from the response of three nations.

Coming into question now is the safety of the crew on board the Sea Shepherd vessels. If these poachers are like the poachers we see on land, chances are pretty good that they are armed and will use those weapons if they feel they need to do so. So far they have tried to escape through thick ice in which the "Bob Barker" is able to cut through with an ice class hull and continue to try to run in all different directions. As with the Japanese poachers, every day that these people are not poaching, they are losing money and given the nature of the operation, that can only last for so long before the "Thunder" gets desperate. It is truly disappointing that three different countries refuse to do anything about the illegal fishing going on thanks to a boat that has a purple notice out on it. I wonder if they will feel any remorse should a headline come up involving the "Thunder" sinking or crew of the "Bob Barker" shot?

This folks is the state of our oceans. If it's international waters, it's free game apparently. Poaching is apparently allowed to occur with no enforcement from any country. Meanwhile the fishermen who play by the rules and depend (in this case) on the toothfish will eventually be forced to find something else to rely on cause thanks to all this poaching, they eventually will be gone just like the countless species of fish that have been driven to extinction via poaching and a general lack of care from the people of this world.