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March 2003 Vol. 18, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the March, 2003 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Shark Feeding: Reader Jerry Achard writes: I had made 52 dives (shore-based and liveaboard) in the TCI from 1997-1999 and only saw one shark at a distance off West Caicos. In May 2002, I spent one week on the Aggressor and two weeks at Grand Turk and Salt Cay (45 dives). While on the Aggressor, dive sites at West Caicos and French Cay had many sharks, though I saw no sharks at Grand Turk or Salt Cay. I asked the crew why sharks were now so plentiful. They stated that the enforcement of marine parks in the TCI had increased the fish population and therefore the sharks. I was skeptical. Your article confirms my suspicions that dive operators are chumming to attract the sharks.

But can they find their keys? California sea lions may have the best memory of all nonhuman creatures. A female called Rio that learned a trick involving letters and numbers could still perform it l0 years later -- even though she hadn't done it in the intervening period. Colleen Kastak and Ronald Schusterman, marine biologists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, began training her in 1991 by holding up a card with a number or letter on it. They then showed Rio a card bearing the same symbol and another card with a different symbol. If she 15. picked the matching symbol, they rewarded her with a fish. Last year, the researchers tested Rio again, this time using different numbers and letters. She performed just as well as before, proving Rio had remembered and could apply the concept of "sameness" to new situations, rather than just recalling matches between familiar numbers and letters. The sea lions' memory is just one reason the military uses them for assignments, including tracking down stealth divers and fastening tethers on them, as they do in the Persian Gulf. (James Randerson, New Scientist, 26 October 2002)

Hughes Correction: In the January issue we noted that DAN has created a fund for 20 people killed when the Wave Dancer capsized. We quoted Sue Hamilton, the vice president of sales and marketing for Peter Hughes Diving, as saying: "We didn't think it would be appropriate for Peter Hughes Diving to donate." She contacted us to say our reporter misquoted her (his notes show that he didn't) and asked for a correction: "What I said was 'we didn't think it would be appropriate for Peter Hughes Diving to manage the fund so we arranged to have it handled through DAN.' In fact, we -- Peter Hughes Diving -- opened the fund with its first donation."

Asia on the Cheap: If you're longing to dive the grand reefs of Malaysia or Indonesia, here's your chance. On Cathay Pacific you can fly to as many of 17 Asian cities that you can pack into 21 days for a price between $999 and $1199, round trip. Destinations include Bangkok, Bali, Manila, Hong Kong, and Singapore, and you can depart from Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco. Travel dates run until May 14 and then again from August 17 to December 1. More information at or call 1-800/233-2742. They also offer Sydney for $500 more, transpacific upgrades for $1099 each way, and other deals -- like $747 to Singapore or Bangkok -- on their website.

Fish Are Not Food: Famed marine biologist and diver Sylvia Earle doesn't eat fish because she knows that destructive fishing practices are destroying species. If you're concerned about the oceans, there are some species you clearly should not consume. Chilean sea bass, Icelandic cod, monk fish, Atlantic swordfish, all sharks except the thresher, and Atlantic salmon. Get a full list of fish to avoid and the skinny why at You can also download a wallet-sized list to carry.

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