Happy New Year

Project type: Expedition
Dates: January 4-10, 2014
Location: Bimini, Bahamas
Base: Land
Project target: placing acoustic tags on Great Hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna mokarran)
Lead scientist: Dr. Tristan Guttridge
Tagging team: William Winram, Andrea Zuccari safety diver
Participants: eight from age 5 to 51
Sea life: abundant

Dr Tristan Guttridge observing his favourite subject, the Great hammerhead shark - photo William Winram

Dr Tristan Guttridge observing his favourite subject, the Great hammerhead shark – photo William Winram

This is the first tagging expedition of the year !

It’s also the first land-based expedition since the beginning of THE WATERMEN PROJECT which is a good thing because most of the participants were affected by the massive snow storm which has paralyzed many airports on the East coast of the USA.

Field updates will be posted on our facebook page.

New Video on Great White Shark Tagging

In 2012, the team of The Watermen Project embarked on an expedition to Isla de Guadalupe, Mexico. For shark scientist Dr. Mauricio Hoyos, William Winram and Fred Buyle placed 11 acoustic tags on Great White Sharks in order to further study their migratory behavior.

The goal of these studies is to understand long-term movements of Carcharodon carcharias to propose science-based conservation and management plans.

If you would like to share this video, please share the link from our facebook page.

Attending IMPAC3 in Marseille

Project type: Congress, Public speaking, Workshop
Dates: October 21-25, 2013
Location: Pharo Palace, Marseille, France
Project target: THE WATERMEN PROJECT to be introduced at the 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress; To share breath-hold diving key advantages for ocean observation/conservation
Team: William Winram, Michèle Monico
Participants to congress: > 2000

impac3

THE WATERMEN PROJECT will participate to its first international congress on the subject of Marine Protected Areas.

It will be a unique opportunity to meet with scientists from around the world, hear what progress have been made in the realm of Marine Protected Areas research and management as well as targeting challenges for the future.

Among the highlights of the event: IMPAC3 Ambassador Sylvia Earle, Oceanographer, former Chief Scientist of the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and now Explorer-in-Residence with the National Geographic Society. Dr. Earle’s message is about catalyzing action for ocean Protection. In cooperation with Dan Laffoley (IUCN WCPA-marine), she will launch a map showing 50 new Hope Spots: areas in the ocean that merit immediate protection for their value to ocean ecosystems and to humankind. Panel speakers will then present their progress on specific Hope Spot locations, from the Sargasso Sea to the Arctic, and Google Earth will demonstrate their latest technology to increase awareness and action for Hope Spots.

As IUCN Global Marine & Polar MPP Oceans Ambassador William Winram will participate to two events:

A workshop titled “Underwater observation techniques to support MPA creation and management” (WS2E2); 11:45 AM – 1:15 PM in NOTRE DAME room of the Pharo Palace.

Chairpersons: Dominique PELLETIER, IFREMER ; Renata FERRARI, University of Sydney

Contributors: Vincent MARAN, French Federation for Underwater Studies and Sports ; Patrice PLA, ACSA-ALCEN ; William WINRAM, The Watermen Project ; Dorothée COULOMB, ACSA

Observing marine animals within their habitat is probably the best way to understand their behaviour and interactions. Many underwater observation techniques are available, from breath-hold or scuba diving, to high technology fixed devices and autonomous vehicles. However, beyond the magnificent images of a largely unknown world, how can these observations help in preserving marine species and their environment? This workshop will first draw a panel of various observation techniques through a contrasted selection of underwater studies. A discussion will follow on how these techniques can complement each other for the benefit of marine life preservation. In particular, practical recommendations will be proposed, in terms of Marine Protected Areas management and public involvement.

Additionnaly, William Winram will present Great White Shark, on Thursday Oct 24 in the Auditorium.

“Our mission is to change people’s attitudes toward the great white,” says Steve McNicholas, co-director of the film. “It’s not the menacing, evil predator it’s made out to be. It’s simply performing its crucial role at the top of the ocean’s food chain. Great whites are not monsters any more than the polar bears or lions.” Great White Shark is a new IMAX film which launched in May 2013 in the U.S. and Canada and is now playing worldwide. The version shown during IMPAC3 is 2D digital. World champion breath-hold diver and IUCN Oceans Ambassador William Winram is seen freediving with great white sharks in the crystal clear waters of Guadalupe, Mexico, together with colleague Fred Buyle, for Dr. Edgar Mauricio Hoyos Padilla’s ongoing research.

Film art work featuring William Winram with a great white shark

Film art work featuring William Winram with a great white shark

IMAX Great White Shark 3D in Montreal

Project type: Public speaking, Fundraiser
Date: June 1, 2013
Location: Science Center of Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Project target: raise funds for The Watermen Project at the occasion of the World release of the new IMAX feature Great White Shark 3D
Team: William Winram, François Leduc, Michèle Monico
Attending guests: 100

The Watermen Project organized a fundraiser at the occasion of the Canadian Premiere of the IMAX film Great White Shark 3D, a special shark conservation fundraising event took place on June 1, 2013, at the Montreal Science Center, nestled in the Old Port of the city.

Art work featuring William Winram with a great white shark

Art work featuring William Winram with a great white shark

Invited guests enjoyed the showing of Great White Shark 3D at the Montreal Science Center IMAX theater as well as a visit to the exhibit Shark: Predator or Prey. A cocktail party followed with a slide show of past expeditions as well a Q&A sessions with two of the freedivers who participated to the filming of the Great White Shark 3D: François Leduc and William Winram.

Guests at the fundraiser - Photo Vittorio Vieira

Guests at the fundraiser – Photo Vittorio Vieira

Shark enthusiasts left with signed film posters and three lucky winners went home with a copy of Fred Buyle’s book Apnea.

Happy event - photo Vittorio Vieira

Happy fundraiser – photo Vittorio Vieira

We are grateful to all the participating guests who generously donated money which will  help The Watermen Project in its endeavours to assist scientists around the world in their research on sharks.

Mural poster for the shark events at the Centre des Sciences de Montréal - photo CSM

Mural poster for the shark events at the Centre des Sciences de Montréal – photo CSM

Geneva Museum of Natural History

Project type: Public speaking
Date: February 2, 2013
Location: Museum of Natural History, Geneva, Switzerland
Project target: show Diving with Sharks, The Watermen Project’s first documentary film
Team: William Winram & Laurent Egli
Participants: general public of 250

The Watermen Project was invited to present its film Diving with Sharks at the 9th edition of the “Month of documentary films” held at the Geneva Museum of Natural History.

Coproduction The Watermen Project & Liquid Prod

Coproduction The Watermen Project & Liquid Prod

This annual event aims at providing educational as well as entertaining films for all ages during the least sunny month of the year in Geneva: February. This year’s theme for participating documentary films was “Water”. Titled H2eau: science and extreme sports, the month-long event showed two dozen films from February 2nd to 27th, on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays over a span of 36 showings.

Dr Mauricio Hoyos explains how he has not been able to place a single tag on scalloped hammerhead sharks, on scuba, in the last 5 years – Photo Laurent Egli

Dr Mauricio Hoyos explains how he has not been able to place a single tag on scalloped hammerhead sharks, on scuba, in the last 5 years – Photo Laurent Egli

Organized in partnership with the department of sports of the City of Geneva and the Museum of Natural History, this edition was officially launched with a special event organized on Saturday February 2nd.
William Winram introduced shark tagging to the audience with The Watermen Project’s first film titled Diving with Sharks, an 18-minute short which documented shark expeditions between 2009 and 2013 in the Mexican Pacific Ocean. In fact, the latest expedition was just finished mid January 2013 leaving only less than three weeks to edit the film for the premiere at the Museum.

Over 250 people turned up for the showing, some of whom could not watch the film because the auditorium had filled beyond its capacity. After the film, William graciously answered questions from the crowd of all ages, in the company of Laurent Egli, the film director and cameraman for the latter images of the documentary. The Q&A session lasted for over an hour.

William during Q&A with film director Laurent Egli - photo Natalja Egli

William during Q&A with film director Laurent Egli – photo Natalja Egli

During the month-long documentary festival, Diving with Sharks was shown along side prestigious films such as Raphaël Blanc’s Arktos: Mike Horn’s inner voyage and Jacques Perrin’s Oceans.

Yasmine’s first shark encounters

By Yasmine Metaxa, 13 years old

Back in October of last year, I, Yasmine Metaxa, was asked if I wanted to participate in a shark tagging expedition trip off the coast of Mexico. The idea was to participate in The Watermen Project which combines research for the preservation of sharks together with education about sharks. I was supposed to participate on the education part and try to pass on the information I have learnt to my school! It was a very amazing experience but also a difficult trip and I will try and share some of these experiences with you.

Yasmine's First Shark Encounters-chat
Chatting with William Winram and my dad on the expedition boat.

Our trip started on the 5th of January of this year where we had to fly for over 24 hours from Geneva to get to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, where the expedition boat would depart from. We arrived in Cabo very tired on the evening of the 5th of January and boarded the boat on the 6th. I had never been on an expedition boat before, so I was surprised to see how simple and basic the boat was. At 30 meters in length it had to accommodate 15 people who were part of the expedition and 8 crewmembers. The boat was relatively old, but fully equipped with diving equipment, a decompression chamber and two inflatable boats to take us around. Most importantly, the boat had the strength to stay at sea for over 7 days without the need for refueling or stopping at an island to get food. It was on arrival on the boat that we started understanding the significance of the trip ahead of us. We were told that once onboard we were not going to set foot on land for the next 7 days and in order to get to our destination we had to cross the Pacific Ocean for a non-stop 24 hour trip! We were headed to the Revillagigedos Islands, which is a group of four volcanic islands in the Pacific ocean. The four islands are San Benedicto, Socorro, Rocca Partida and Clarion. The 3 first islands have a separate time zone to the Clarion island. These islands are uninhabited with the exception of a naval base on the south Socorro island that has a population of 250 people (staff and families). There is also a small naval garrison of 9 men on Clarion Island. These islands are only visited by eco-tourists who are keen to scuba dive and explore the magnificence of the nature there. These islands are sometimes referred to as Mexico’s “little Galapagos’ islands”.
And off we went, our trip felt even longer than what it took and due to the constant rolling of the boat on the large ocean waves, it was very tiring. We felt sea sick for the longer part and we could only cure this by taking special sea sickness pills as well as spending time sleeping!
On the morning of the 7th we finally arrived to San Benedicto a volcanic island that had its latest eruption in 1952 that almost destroyed it! You can see the dried up lava flow from the side of the volcano into the water on a part of the bay that we were told that we would also dive.

Yasmine's First Shark Encounters-island
The Island San Benedicto with it’s volcano and the lava flow.

The expedition was organized by William Winram, a freediving champion, who volunteers his time in support of shark conservation. On the boat we also have Dr. Mauricio Hoyos who is a scientist who has dedicated his professional life to the behavior of sharks. Mauricio is currently working with two species listed as “endangered globally” and of “concern” on the IUCN’s Red list, the hammerhead shark and the great white shark. Mauricio is going to use the data collected from the shark tagging in order to convince the government of Mexico to put in place new laws that will help protect the hammerhead sharks. I discussed with Mauricio the importance of sharks in the oceans and he explained that sharks are important because they regulate the amount and health of other fish species. Sharks are an apex predator and they will often feed on sick, diseased or old animals, which is a way of preventing disease or sickness from spreading. They act like a regulator to the balance of the oceans. Mauricio explained that the loss of sharks will have effects beyond our imagination for our oceans which make up the largest part of our planet. Finally there is still a lot to learn from sharks as it is said that they may have been one of the first animals on earth to develop an immune system and they seem to have a much greater ability than humans to resist cancers and other diseases.
We then got to spend some time understanding how the sharks are tagged. This is a process that is very delicate and not always successful. The person that is tagging must approach the sharks with a spear gun and must place the tag on the shark next to the main fin either to the right or to the left of it.

Yasmine's First Shark Encounters-tag
Acoustic Tag used to study the sharks’ movements.

The spear gun has a camera installed on it that will capture the moment this happens and the diver must note what kind of a shark has been tagged as well as whether it was a male or a female. To make things even more difficult the shark tagging happens while free diving (single breath of air) and not with a scuba tank. This is the only way to approach these animals, quietly and eventually to have a higher success rate. Finally the difficulty is even greater as we are told that this time of the year the sharks are at 30 – 40 meters of depth and there is a very strong current! The good news is that the shark’s skin is very strong and the tagging does not hurt them, but it must feel like a strong pinch just like when we humans have a needle touch us for blood taking.
We ended up spending the next few days swimming in the ocean, monitoring the work of the shark tagging team. We also had the opportunity to do some scuba diving and free dive along with several manta rays dolphins, sea turtles, whales, schools of tuna, and other beautiful exotic fish. The marine life in this region is extraordinary and breath taking. I enjoyed all these underwater activities as well as diving next to the lava flow.

Yasmine's First Shark Encounters-ray
A Giant Manta Ray gently passing by.

Did you know that tiger sharks are second to the great white in numbers of attacks on humans? Well, guess what… I was swimming around the lava flow, turned around, and 3 meters away was a tiger shark! (see picture 3) The closest I ever got to a shark! People ask me when I tell them this experience: were you in a cage? I was NOT! I did not swim away and scream like people would normally do, as a matter of fact, I swam towards it. I know, it was the wrong thing to do since they are still predators but not killing machines. Obviously, it swam away. So I continued swimming. Then, another swimmer with us in the water spotted the same tiger shark again! It was swimming around us! William, who was with us too, told us to get back on the zodiac and head towards the boat. This was because the sun was setting, it was almost 5:00pm, and as the sun low in the horizon it was more difficult to see clearly underwater therefore it would’ve not be safe for us. So we left.

Yasmine's First Shark Encounters-shark
This was a young and curious tiger shark investigating us.

Another aspect of the trip that was also memorable was that we were in a part of the world where communications were very limited. We could use a satellite phone to make calls in case of an emergency or to call home but the calls were limited in time as they were very expensive.
On the 12th of January we had reached the last day of our trip. The team had managed to tag 11 sharks, which was an acceptable amount, although they had initially hoped to tag 20 or more. Given the tough conditions that the team was faced with, they were all very happy with the final results. We spent the rest of the day traveling arrived in Cabo San Luca the next day on the 13th of January. It was weird getting back on steady land and for the next few days I felt like I was still on the boat. I was told that I suffered from land sickness! We took off the next morning and got back to Geneva on the 15th. This was a great experience that I am very happy to be able to share with all of you. I hope that through this article I have conveyed the importance of protecting endangered animals such as sharks that are extremely important for keeping our oceans balanced. As a final note I wanted to let you know that Geneva’s Natural History museum has devoted the whole month of February ’13 on the topic of sharks and water!

Revillagigedo Archipelago ’13

Project type: Expedition
Dates: January 6-13, 2013
Location: San Benedicto, the Revillagigedo Archipelago, Mexico
Base: Liveaboard
Project target: placing acoustic tags on Scalloped hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini)
Lead scientist: Dr. Edgar Mauricio Hoyos Padilla
Tagging team: William Winram, Philippe Beauchamp safety diver, Lukas Mueller scientific assistant
Participants: twelve from age 13 to 52
Sea life: abundant

San Benedicto, third largest island of the Revillagigedo Archipelago, 386 km southwest of Cabo San Lucas

San Benedicto, third largest island of the Revillagigedo Archipelago, 386 km southwest of Cabo San Lucas

The main challenge of this tagging expedition was the fact that the scalloped hammerhead sharks stayed deep within the water column. The team dove to an area of the reef serving as a cleaning station for the sharks, but the area was battered by heavy currents. As a consequence tags were placed at depths of 22 to 40 meters.

Scalloped hammerhead shark about to get tagged – photo William Winram

Scalloped hammerhead shark about to get tagged – photo William Winram

The youngest participant Yasmine had several encounters that re-enforced the value of this concept of The Watermen Project. At 13 years of age she saw a 4.5-meter tiger shark up close, Galapagos sharks, silver tip sharks, scalloped hammerhead sharks and she swam with a giant manta ray… as well as seeing scores of dolphins, hearing humpback whales singing and watching as they would swim by the boat etc… not bad for 13-year old!

As a young marine biology student, Lukas not only shared in many of these encounters but also worked hard, logging data, keeping track of tags and getting in the water to watch the tagging. He left with a real idea of what this kind of work is like and what it entails for both the scientist and those of us that help in the research. He left the expedition even more inspired and passionate about the sea and sharks.

The other members of the expedition also who shared in the encounters with the different species of marine life as well as the evening talks on the boat given by Dr. Mauricio Hoyos about sharks, his research and the particulars of the island we were anchoring near. Many thanks to them as their coming together to support sharks conservation is what made this expedition possible.

Waiting at 25 meters for hammerhead sharks - photo Laurent Egli

waiting at 25 meters for hammerhead sharks – photo Laurent Egli

It took about 300 dives over the course of six days to place ten tags. Dr. Hoyos having had no luck placing tags over the past five years prior to this expedition, this number is sufficient to give him the first chance to have good data about the scalloped hammerhead sharks and their behaviour.

Guadalupe Island ’12

Project type: Expedition
Dates: October 18-26, 2012
Location: Guadalupe Island, Mexico
Base: Liveaboard
Project target: placing acoustic tags on Great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias), particularly large pregnant females
Lead scientist: Dr. Edgar Mauricio Hoyos Padilla
Tagging team: William Winram & Fred Buyle
Participants: fourteen from age 21 to 70
Sea life: abundant

The main challenge of this tagging expedition is simply the great white sharks. Paying attention at all times and making eye contact with these apex predators is what is required. Knowledge of the behaviour of great white sharks is paramount to alleviate social hierarchy behaviours toward the divers.

Eleven great white sharks, mostly large pregnant females, were tagged over the course of 5 days on site.

Here is a tagging sequence:

William lines up with the base of the dorsal fin - Photo Lukas Mueller

William lines up with the base of the dorsal fin – Photo Lukas Mueller

The tag is in place - Photo Lukas Mueller

The tag is in place – Photo Lukas Mueller

William retrieves the shaft - Photo Lukas Mueller

William retrieves the shaft – Photo Lukas Mueller

Back to the surface for air - Photo Lukas Mueller

Back to the surface for air – Photo Lukas Mueller

Great white shark with tag in place - Photo Lukas Mueller

Great white shark with tag in place – Photo Lukas Mueller

Participants to this expedition were witness to science in action. They enjoyed evening talks on the boat given by Dr. Mauricio Hoyos about sharks, his research and the particulars of Guadalupe island. Many thanks to them as their coming together to support sharks conservation is what made this expedition possible.

The Great White Lie

Project type: Conference, Movie projection
Date: June 14, 2012 – TEDx* WWF – One Planet Living
Location: INSEAD, Singapore
Project target: Share with a worldwide audience the paradox of anthropomorphisation of animals
Team: William Winram
Participants to conference: worldwide live internet broadcast

WWF Singapore organized a TEDx event in INSEAD Singapore, with the theme One Planet Living. What better time and place to speak about the plight of sharks?

“Two of the top 10 shark-catching countries in the world, Indonesia and Malaysia, are found in the Coral Triangle and sharks are known to be taken as a target species and/or as by-catch in other Coral Triangle countries.”

INSEAD Singapore is one of the world’s leading and largest graduate business schools. Altogether, there were eight speakers from around the planet giving a talk.
William’s TEDx talk “The Great White Lie” ** can be be viewed below:

Other videos of this event can be viewed here.

William Winram would like to thank everyone at the WWF International, WWF Singapore and INSEAD for the opportunity to speak on behalf of sharks.

* TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a global set of conferences owned by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, formed to disseminate “Ideas Worth Spreading.” TEDx events are programs of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.

** Original title by Danielle Chidlow

Aliwal Shoal ’12

Project type: Expedition
Dates: February 19-28 & May 23-31, 2012
Location: Aliwal Shoal, South Africa
Base: Mark & Gail Addison, Blue Wilderness, Durban
Project target: DNA sampling from black tip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus)
Lead scientist: Jessica Escobar-Porras PhD (c)
DND sampling team: Fred Buyle & William Winram
Sea life: abundant

dfsds

Carcharhinus limbatus

Jessica Escobar-Porras’ research involves an examination of the relationship between population structures and reproductive strategies present in sharks inhabiting temperate and subtropical waters. She hopes to make inferences based on the variance between ovoviparous, oviparous and viviparous shark populations. The three species that are being used in her study are ragged-tooth, black tip and catsharks. THE WATERMEN PROJECT participated in the study of the black tip sharks.

Fred Buyle and William Winram conducted DNA sample collection on a breath-hold using non-lethal biopsy guns.

Fred Buyle as he is about to take a DNA sample from a black tip shark - Photo William Winram

Fred Buyle as he is about to take a DNA sample from a black tip shark – Photo William Winram

Jessica Escobar-Porras says: “An interesting element of this research project is the level of international involvement from various stakeholders in the exploration of an innovative conservation strategy. In addition, information obtained from field trips involves the use of free diving techniques – essentially, divers do not use any breathing apparatus or cages popularly associated with shark diving.”

Escobar-Porras, who hails from Medellin in Colombia, says she chose to study in South Africa because of its amazing biodiversity. She came to South Africa to learn techniques and obtain specialist knowledge in a country very fortunate in terms of its shark population and hopes to set up her own institute for marine studies and conservation in Colombia, in partnership with her South African colleagues.

Along its mission for the scientist, THE WATERMEN PROJECT team always takes the time to take photographs so as to establish a catalogue of the individuals which are studied.

Fred Buyle taking a photograph of a sampled black tip shark - Photo William Winram

Fred Buyle taking a photograph of a sampled black tip shark – Photo William Winram