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November 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 43, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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This Time, Frogfish in Kauai

is it right to take fish from the water?

from the November, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Last month we reported that social media went wild with accusations (most likely unfounded) that a seahorse had been manipulated onto a Q-tip for the benefit of the photographer who had become a finalist in the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. The photo, no matter how he got it, sent a powerful message about ocean trash.

O'Hara is now receiving the flak from angry local scuba divers

These days there is a social media lynch mob eager to pile on to anything suspicious. Here's the latest:

Brave Wilderness is a YouTube wildlife program (which claims 2.5 million viewers) fronted by a vociferous gentleman with the unlikely name of Coyote Petersen. Its modus operandi is to educate people about wildlife. Their production team went to Hawaii's island of Kauai to film a couple of segments, and while they were there, they spotted two giant frogfish on a reef. They seized the moment and decided to produce a third show.

All well and good, but Coyote is a bit of a wild dog when it comes to handling marine life. They captured the frogfish and videoed them in a small aquarium while he gushed about them before the camera. Of course, they could have -- and should have -- gotten their footage where the fish lived -- after all, their show is called Brave Wilderness -- but it would have made it more difficult for the presenter to act like the deceased Aussie, Steve Irwin. At least, they ultimately returned the frogfish to the ocean, apparently none the worse for the experience.

But, there's more. They had employed the hapless Brian O'Hara, president of Kauai Scuba Rebreather and Technical, whose dive shop supplied them with gear, and he guided them and acted as safety diver. He is now receiving the flak from angry local scuba divers and other dive shops for his role in what they allege as the torture and terrorization of the frogfish.

O'Hara says, "This created quite a stir with all the other dive shops, and they started laying into our dive shop for supporting them."

A Facebook page entitled Global Diving Community Alerts has been set up, ostensibly to field complaints about this and similar activities -- on the surface a noble thing to do. But to us, the page seems devoted to this solitary example of the bad manipulation and handling of marine life.

O'Hara wrote Undercurrent to say "I was crushed that I had upset my local peers and made a public apology. I never meant to cause any bad blood or upset my competitors. I was doing everything I could to make it right with them."

"Global Diving Community Alerts has been attacking my business and me for an incident where we helped Brave Wilderness do these three YouTube shows. One was on the crown of thorns, the second was on sea turtles, and that was my favorite. Then the third was the frogfish episode."

He seemed contrite and apologized online to the Kauai scuba community, asking for opinions as to whether people thought Coyote Petersen did anything wrong.

We'd like you, our readers, to vote, but we also wonder if there is another agenda at work, namely someone trying to harm O'Hara's business. Dive operators on small islands everywhere are notorious for their inability to work together. But Kauai divers ought to have better things to do, such as working together to stop the far greater evil conducted on their reefs -- commercial divers pulling off fish for the aquarium trade.

By the way, the frogfish have since been found back close to where they were cap-tured and are probably exchanging notes on the day they were kidnapped by aliens.

Meanwhile the BBC is attempting to head off any criticism by openly admitting that some of its sequences of the new Blue Planet II series were filmed in glorified fish tanks. But only the difficultbits like time-lapse sequences of coral bleaching, where stable lighting was needed.

The show's executive producer James Honeyborne explained: "We make films that are totally true to nature and we're honest and open about the techniques we use to do that . If you'refilming something that's microscopic, you have to put added light on it -- that's just the simple laws of physics."

But is it wrong for a filmmaker to remove fish from the ocean, film them, and put them back? What do you think? Vote Yes or No by going to:

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