2017 & Beyond

Marvels of the Revillagigedo Archipelago

Marvels of the Revillagigedo Archipelago

The Watermen Project is five years old !

In the next few months we will be operating a complete metamorphosis, starting with our website which needs a complete refit ! In the meantime, to keep updated, please visit our social media pages, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter as well as our latest videos on our YouTube account.

If you would like to receive more information, you are welcome to drop us a line.

Partners:
IUCN
Deepblu Inc.
The Terra Mar Project
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Islander Charters, Inc.
Nautilus Explorer

Partnering with TerraMar

photo_TWP_TM_IUCN

Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean. – R. Satoro

In the beginning we were only some freedivers and a few scientists in the middle of the open ocean, searching for sharks. Now, we are by no means a huge organization, but we have strong and experienced expedition team, and work with scientists around the world. At the essence of it all? Teamwork.

You probably know of bigger organizations. Some focus on working with politicians, others focus on educating children, as for us we focus on field work. Although we have different approaches and tasks, sometimes we find common ways to have an impact.

Therefore we have partnered up with The TerraMar Project to share our expedition experiences with a larger audience! We all have Twitter, Facebook and nowadays read hundreds of posts everyday. If you are after ocean news and articles with real foundation and engaging topics, make sure you go to http://theterramarproject.org/ and read the The Daily Catch for which we will hopefully contribute in the future.

Photo by Fred Buyle shows William Winram freediving with a Great White Shark at Guadalupe Island during a scientific tagging expedition.

Partners:
IUCN
The Terra Mar Project
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Islander Charters, Inc.
— with Lukas Müller, Yannis Peter Papastamatiou, Mauricio Hoyos Padilla.

Guadalupe ’14

Project type: Shark tagging expedition
Date: October-November 2014
Location: Guadalupe Island, Mexico
Project target: To place acoustic tags on great white sharks and take biopsy samples of great white sharks.
Lead scientists: Dr. Mauricio Hoyos, Dr. Yannis Papastamatiou
Tagging team: William Winram & Fred Buyle, assisted by Lukas Mueller
Supportive team: Ismaehl (el Capitan), Edgar Becerril
Collaboration: Islander Charters, IUCN

*** Please Note that any diving without a cage at Guadalupe Island is only legal with special government and biosphere permits for scientific field work. This applies as well for setting foot on the island. Our team was granted all permits for their scientific work during the expedition. ***

From left to right: William Winram, Lukas Mueller, Fred Buyle

From left to right: William Winram, Lukas Mueller, Fred Buyle

Isla Guadalupe: 29°1′51″N, 118°16′48″W

The sight of Guadalupe Island at sunrise is priceless. The volcanic ridges and cliffs give the impression to hover over the Islander as the boat anchored a few hundred meters offshore.

A view on Guadalupe Island, from the vessel The Islander - photo Lukas Mueller

A view on Guadalupe Island, from the vessel The Islander

A rock, in the middle of the Pacific

Guadalupe: A rock in the middle of the Pacific

A home away from home

In previous years we waited for sharks to approach the boat, started observing their behavior before getting in the water and beginning to place tags. This time around we packed our gear, loaded everything on Dr. Mauricio Hoyos’ boat and following some warm handshakes landed at the rocky beach of the north east cove and set up camp. Ahead laid 4 weeks of living and working on and around the island of white sharks – Isla de Guadalupe.

Base camp: an old fishing house

Base camp: an old fishing house

Skylight...

Skylight…

The old fishing house that Dr. Hoyos cleaned and improved over the years served as our base camp and provided shelter for gear and equipment. Camp life included no running water or electricity. Our diet consisted of hot tea, dry food, some apples and lemons throughout our stay – all cooked on a propane stove. Sometimes this was complemented by dinners on some of the cage diving boats that visited the bay.

Sharks and El Niño

In the beginning phase, working conditions in the water were very poor. The visibility was just over 10 meters with lots of particles in the water. In addition water temperature was a lot warmer than usual and caused sharks to stay deep. Once they arrived at the surface, most of them circled the boat a couple of times and disappeared again. The reason for these difficult conditions is the El Nino event that has been affecting many ecosystems along the Californian coast this year. Adapting to the poor conditions our freedivers had to stay very close to Dr. Hoyos’ boat and constantly look for sharks to not miss an opportunity to tag one.

The initial water conditions were more difficult than usually, with fewer sharks near the surface and a poor visibility

Fred Buyle placing an acoustic tag on a great white shark during the initial phase of the expedition when conditions were more difficult than usually, with fewer sharks near the surface and poor visibility

Since the sharks were shy and conditions difficult our Watermen spent lots of time in the boat waiting for something to happen.

Since the sharks were shy and conditions difficult our Watermen spent lots of time in the boat waiting for something to happen.

More that meets the eye

But at a productive ecosystem like Guadalupe there is always something to see and explore. Amongst other things we got to see blue whales cruising through the bay, huge yellow fin tuna jumping in a feeding frenzy and dolphins keeping our sharks away from the boat. Guadalupe is probably the best place in the world to observe the elusive beaked whale. We got to see them on a daily basis in pods of 5-6 animals. Dr. Hoyos has had the chance of seeing them underwater and documented white shark bite marks on them. From our top water observations this season we can clearly say that Guadalupe isn’t just about the white sharks. This was further proven to us when we explored the coastline in order to find sharks that were searching for prey in the shallower waters around the island. It was an impressive sight to fin through the water, right under the volcanic cliffs, constantly keeping a look out for white sharks. Of course we had our tagging gun, biopsy gun, camera, and tags with us in case we encountered a good candidate for an acoustic tag.

Exploring Guadalupe

Exploring Guadalupe

guadalupe-fur-seals

During these explorations we saw turtles on every single dive, big yellowtails, california sea lions, guadalupe fur seals, groupers, lots of reef fish, bat rays and horn sharks. It is such a diverse and productive ecosystem with an incredible scenery. When diving at a ridge to the north of the bay we crossed a 12-meter deep canyon when one of us spotted a 5-meter female Great White Shark cruising in on the bottom from behind us, passing under us and swimming away, with the gigantic caudal fin generating a powerful thrust against the current. It was an amazing sight to see a great white shark swim in between the rocky canyons and pinnacles close to shore and perfectly camouflaged to the sea floor.

So much to see

William Winram scanning the water for a great white shark

After finishing our work in the water and returning to camp we got to enjoy the company of elephant seals and Guadalupe fur seals at the beach. Being based on land and spending as much time on sight was a perfect opportunity for us to observe the pinnipeds’ behavior and their role in the ecosystem of the white sharks. Surprisingly, the most common cause of death in the Guadalupe fur seal population is not white shark predation but falling rocks. At several occasions we heard loud growls howling from hundreds of meters away when huge rocks crash down onto the shoreline or into the water. At first, the little fur seals were scared of us but over the course of the expedition they accepted us at the beach and became so confident as to sniff our feet and bark at us from a couple of feet away.

Eye contact with a local resident, Arctocephalus townsendi

Eye contact with a young local resident, Arctocephalus townsendi, Guadalupe fur seal

Surprise encounters

To engage people that are passionate about the ocean we gave presentations about our work at the cage diving boats that visited the area to show their clients the great white sharks of Guadalupe. Together with Dr. Hoyos who explained key aspects and findings of his research, we showed people that great white sharks can be interacted with and tagged by freedivers without a cage, but that these animals are still big ocean predators and have to be treated as such – with respect.

We are grateful for the many passionate questions and talks after our presentations and how much interest the people we encountered expressed towards ocean conservation and our work. We were extremely lucky to meet Dr. Sylvia Earle and spend an exceptional evening with her, friends and colleagues. It was one of the strangest feelings to ride a small zodiac through the dark waters around the cliffs of Guadalupe back to the camp with the only light being the stars – after having had lots of good company and a nice dinner.

From left to right: William Winram, Dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Mauricio Hoyos, Fred Buyle, Lukas Mueller

From left to right: William Winram, Dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Mauricio Hoyos, Fred Buyle, Lukas Mueller

Exploring Guadalupe Island without fins

Being based on the island also gave our team the rare opportunity to explore the island on foot. We prepared our backpacks and put our shoes on for the first time during our stay to find our path up an old dirt road. It didn’t take us long to understand how treacherous this terrain is. Rocks falling down the steep ridges and remains of vehicles from past accidents definitely left their impression on us. The island was unusually green in comparison to past expeditions. This was due to the many storms and hurricanes in 2014 which caused so much rain that it (in the right light) reminded us of the Azores. Cactus plants were to be found everywhere and penetrated our soles from time to time. When reaching the viewpoint from where you look across the entire bay, the sight was breathtaking. The contrast between the dark blue water, green murky patches in shore and the grey-red-orange walls of the island has something special. We spotted sea lions, elephant seals and beaked whales from up there. Once more, our team got to get a more lateral picture of the ecosystem and the role of the white shark at Guadalupe.

A view of the Pacific ocean from hiking on Guadalupe

A view of the Pacific ocean from hiking on Guadalupe

guadalupe-view

Mission accomplished

Over the course of the expedition conditions improved and even came back to “Guadalupe standards” by the end of the last week. During the last days of the expedition we placed more acoustic tags than in the weeks before because conditions went back to normal with 25-meter visibility, water cooled down and fewer particles. In total our team placed 15 acoustic tags and took 7 biopsy samples. Dr. Hoyos and Dr. Papastamatiou are excited about the outcome of the expedition given the extremely difficult circumstances under which our team operated this year. In addition to the usual acoustic tags we place on white sharks for Dr. Hoyos we placed new acoustic tags that have the potential to uncover interactions between Great White Sharks from Guadalupe and sharks from California.

William tagging a great white shark

William tagging a great white shark

When conditions improved the white sharks became more confident and moreover arrived at the surface again to check us out. Dr. Hoyos believes that the sharks at Guadalupe stay below the thermocline most of the time. The warm water of this year’s season pushed the thermocline deeper and therefore we were seeing sharks much less frequently at the surface. When in the water with the amazing predators in order to tag them, sometimes sharks that are already tagged come back right after or a couple of days later. This is a great opportunity to capture photos for identification purposes and the respectful interactions professional freedivers can have with great white sharks.

Taking pictures of these beautiful predators to identify their unique patterns

Taking pictures of these beautiful predators to identify their unique patterns

Some of the females that were quite confident this season and displayed their presence in the water towards our Watermen were: Emma, Giana and Faye – according to the white shark photo ID book of Guadalupe

Looking ahead

We are already looking forward to our 2015 expedition to find out what data our tagging efforts produced and to continue supporting White Shark research in the pacific.

Make sure to follow our team and sign up for expeditions!

The team: (from left to right) William, Yannis, Mauricio, Ismaehl, Fred and Lukas

The team: (from left to right) William, Yannis, Mauricio, Ismaehl, Fred and Lukas

Twitter:
@watermenproject
@williamwinram
@fredbuyle
@lukaswaterman

Facebook:
The Watermen Project
William Winram
Fred Buyle
Lukas Muller

Sign up for expeditions here.

Webinar with CWF

Project type: Webinar
Date: January 15, 2014 – 1:15-1:45pm (EST)
Location: Bimini, Bahamas
Project target: To engage young students in a discussion about freediving and sharks.
Team: William Winram and webinar host Dr Sean Brilliant, CWF Marine Programs Manager
Participants to webinar: grade 4-6 students from north America.

On January 15, 2014, while on location of the recent shark tagging expedition, THE WATERMEN PROJECT founder and team member William Winram will be engaging his favourite crowd on the subject of freediving and sharks.

From the CWF website:
Educators and students are invited to join the Canadian Wildlife Federation for a wild webinar featuring Canadian free diver William Winram live from Bimini area of the Bahamas where tagging of Hammerhead sharks is underway. Winram is a world record-holding free diver and shark researcher! He will explain how shark tagging is done and discuss the valuable information that tagging provides.

This webinar is also a great opportunity for students to learn more about sharks that live in Canadian waters, many of which are threatened with extinction. Participants will also engage with the CWF Salt Water Cities Kids’ Project and connect with CWF Marine Programs Manager Sean Brillant.

On the agenda:

* Welcome and introduction by webinar host Dr. Sean Brillant, CWF Marine Programs Manager
* Making it real: Canadian Free diver and shark researcher William Winram will speak about his incredible experiences tagging sharks and his adventures as a free diver, as well as about the shark research revealed by his work
* Discussion about Canadian sharks, shark tagging and their conservation
* Q & A session with the students and teachers

The Watermen Project's first websinar - Kindly hosted by the Canadian Wildlife Federation

The Watermen Project’s first webinar – Kindly hosted by the Canadian Wildlife Federation

Sharks in the City of Lights

Project type: Conference, Movie projection
Date: January 08, 2014 – 7:30pm
Location: House of the Oceans, Paris, France
Project target: To acquaint the general public with the true nature of sharks and their necessity to exist and be protected
Team: Fred Buyle
Participants to conference: up to 500

In the heart of Paris, between the Panthéon and the Sorbonne, the Oceanographic Institute of Monaco proudly boasts a Florentine Palace, the House of the Oceans, founded by Prince Albert Ist and inaugurated in 1911. Every second Wednesday of the month, a public audience is welcome in its Amphitheater for a conference.

maison-des-oceans-paris

On Wednesday January 8th, THE WATERMEN PROJECT team member Fred Buyle will have the pleasure to kick off this year’s round of conferences with a presentation titled ‘How to Reconciliate Humans and Sharks?‘.

poster08.01.2014

For the occasion, the audience will also have the priviledge to watch the movie Great White Shark 3D in its first projection in French outside of North America.

Great White Shark and William Winram - artwork based on photography by Fred Buyle

Great White Shark and William Winram – artwork based on photography by Fred Buyle

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.