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October 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 39, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the October, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Shark Finning in the Caymans? Scientists conducting the first ever "shark census" there warn that the Caymans' shark populations could be at risk from overfishing, including shark finning. There are far fewer sharks there than expected, based on what is seen elsewhere in the Caribbean and Central America. The researchers, from Marine Conservation International, expected to see at least 11 additional species, and higher numbers of sharks, and also found evidence of shark finning. They estimated that sharks are worth $1.6 million to the Caymans annually in terms of their consumptive value as a "fishery," but their value to tourism and diving was estimated at up to $60 million, so a shark is worth 40 times as much to the Cayman economy alive in the water as it is dead on a boat. There's a draft national conservation bill, which includes protection for sharks, but it has yet to be debated in the Legislative Assembly, despite being on the books for almost a decade. The only current relevant legislation is a ban on feeding sharks.

Diving Up the Career Ladder. Nosipho Mnguni and Nomcebo Ndlela are the first and only women scuba divers in the Royal Swaziland Police Service's nine-person dive unit. In an interview with the Times of Swaziland, Mnguni says her job is "more of a hobby," as she is a natural-born swimmer, while Ndlela didn't know how to swim before learning of the unit, "however, I had never in my life backed down from any challenge." Being fearless enough to dive into a crocodile-filled river when some men won't means they've made their mark in a male-dominated profession, and they've blended so well with their male counterparts that the duo considers them family. "When duty calls, none of the team considers the other as male or female," says Mnguni. But they hope more women will join them. Says Ndlela, "Being a female has nothing to do with keeping from doing what you desire or chasing that dream."

One Reason for Fewer Divers: Wimpiness. The days of the thrill-seeking action male are over, according to a study from St. Andrews University in Scotland. Compared with the action men of the 1970s, today's men are wimps, much less interested in adrenaline-rush pastimes, including scuba diving, and more averse to risk. Psychologists gave men a sensation-seeking test and found their willingness to engage in physically-challenging activities has tailed off dramatically in the past 35 years, since the tests were first carried out. In the late 70s, men were 48 percent more likely than women to say they would seek out thrills. But now, men were only 28 percent more likely, and that's not due to a rise in risk-taking among women. Study researchers say the diminishing interest could be due to lower levels of average fitness today. But we wonder: How does this account for today's surge in high-risk sports ranging from base jumping and 60-foot wave surfing, and high participation in marathons, mountain biking and the like?

You Never Know What You'll Find Underwater. Yachters near the Spanish town of Calpe got a shock in July when they discovered a badly-decomposed skeleton still wearing full scuba gear and a backpack with 500 euros in cash, a cell phone and a passport for a Moroccan man named Abdelaziz Elfayafi. Two months later, the police confirmed that he was indeed the diver, and died of natural causes. The 22-year-old college graduate had been doing clerical work and was looking at starting a business with his brother in Tangier months before he died, but that doesn't explain why Elfayafi was found where he was. His sister, Farah, told the press, "I think there is a secret behind my brother's death." . . . Meanwhile, in Sweden, a diver finning along at 46 feet near the west coast town of Salto found a well-sealed package containing a dismembered body. Police have not identified the body, but conceded the packaging was "well-made." Bjor Blixter of the Gothenburg police said, "It was done in a manner that shows the body was not meant to be found."

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