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May 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 39, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the May, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

First Shark Fins, Now Fish Bladders. Bladders from totoaba fish, which live exclusively in Mexico's Sea of Cortez, are a favorite Asian soup ingredient, so a growing international practice of smuggling them is on the rise. U.S. border inspectors in Calexico have seized 529 bladders since February that they believe were destined for China and Hong Kong. Also known as Mexican giant bass or giant croaker, the totoaba can measure up to seven feet long and weigh more than 200 pounds. The leathery bladders alone measure up to three feet, and are sold for up to $20,000 each, while the fish carcasses left to rot on shore. The totaba is considered an endangered species, but Asians believe their bladders improve skin, blood circulation and fertility, and thus they want them in their soup.

Stan Waterman Hangs Up His Fins. The pioneer of underwater film and photography donned his dive gear for the final time last month. Not bad for a man who just turned 90. Waterman has filmed everything from underwater scenes in The Deep to National Geographic documentaries, winning numerous awards, including five Emmys. He chose to spend his final dive trip aboard the Cayman Aggressor, with his long-time friend Wayne Hasson, president of the Aggressor Fleet. Having reached the age of 90, I have entered an age of hedonism," he told the Cay Compass. "Delights like being comfortable, air-conditioning, lots of hot water." His trip was filmed by other underwater videographers who will make a documentary about his life and work, but Waterman also shot some footage of his own, this time with a tiny, digital Go Pro camera - a far cry from the heavy 16mm cameras he started out with.

Three Dead Free Divers in Less than 24 Hours. It's abalone season in Northern California, which unfortunately seems to come with deaths every year. On the last weekend of April, two divers died in northern Sonoma County and one in Mendocino County. The first was Cedric Collett, 66, a retired Pacifica firefighter who was found off of Shell Beach, several feet below the surface and still wearing his weight belt. The second victim was a 36-year-old San Francisco diver who had gotten caught in a rip tide near Salt Point State Park early Sunday morning. He was pulled to the beach by other divers but couldn't be revived. Later that morning, a diver was found dead near MacKerricher State Park, north of Fort Bragg. He was about 15 feet below the water and might have been snagged in rocks, requiring a rescue team to work in breaking surf to release him. "It is the busiest we've been in that short amount of time with that many horrible outcomes," sheriff's helicopter pilot Paul Bradley told the Press Democrat.

Diver Shuts Down the Cebu Yellow Submarine. Kudos to diver Satoshi Toyoda, who shot a video of the Cebu Yellow Submarine, a new Philippines tourist attraction, hitting a coral reef, thus causing the operation to be shut down. Toyoda travlels from Japan frequently to dive Kontiki Drop on the island of Cebu, and on April 18, he saw the 48-passenger submarine approach a wall of corals. "I was just taking the video as usual," Toyoda told reporters. "That time I saw the submarine hitting the wall ... and I said 'This is not good'. You can hear my voice (in the video) saying, ooooh....when it hit the wall. " His video, titled "Coral Crusher," went viral after he posted it on YouTube April 26. When the submarine's Korean tour operators denied any crash took place underwater, a team of divers from the Lapu-Lapu city government inspected the site, guided by Toyoda's description, and found fresh, broken pieces of coral and other debris, which could only have been caused by contact with a "rigid force." The mayor immiediately revoked the Cebu Yellow Submarine's business permit. Tyoda said that if needed, he will testify about what he saw underwater. "The video is everything," he said. "They just have to say say sorry and let them do their training again. Never destroy nature."

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