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August 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 31, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the August, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

A Bill to Ban Scuba Divers from Feeding Sharks in U.S. waters has been introduced in Congress, with provision S.3099 by Senator Bill Nelson. "It will be unlawful for any person to engage in shark feeding, or to operate a vessel for the purpose of carrying a passenger for hire to any site to engage in shark feeding or to observe shark feeding." Shark feeding is already banned in Florida, but despite this, Randy Jordon still operates a regular shark dive out of Jupiter. Some other operators had gotten around this ban by taking their customers into adjacent Federal waters. (Access to Sportfishing Act 2016). You can join a petition here: http://chn.ge/2aitRBn

Lost at Sea. Getting left behind at the surface is every diver's nightmare, and one preventative is the Nautilus Lifeline, an expensive high-tech answer, using vhf radio frequencies. A lesser nightmare is losing your Nautilus Lifeline during a dive. Two years ago, a marine biology professor at Scripps Institute lost his in the Cayman Islands. Last May, Harry Payne was walking along the shoreline of Padre Island, TX, when he came across it half-buried in the sand. Its serial number eventually revealed the owner after it had drifted more than 1100 miles.

Disastrous Algae Bloom. EcoWatch reports that a guacamole-thick layer of algae has taken over Florida's Atlantic coastline and four counties have declared a state of emergency. The foul-smelling toxic green algae bloom has invaded Florida's waterways and is believed to have stemmed from the polluted Lake Okeechobee. Local industries have long dumped an assortment of chemicals, fertilizers and cattle manure into the lake, and it has been reported that algae samples from the lake taken in June found levels of toxins at 20 times higher that the safety threshold set by the World Health Organisation. It has severely affected St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach and Lee counties and kept divers out of the water.

Shark Rumors. "Evil people are putting sharks in boxes and releasing them near Egypt's beaches in order to harm the country's tourism sector." It was not a joke, but news circulating in Egypt's local media. Statements like these, videos of shark attacks and warnings against going to various beaches soon caused panic on social media following an incident when a shark severed the leg of a 23-year-old swimmer at Ain Al Sukhan in the Gulf of Suez. While there have been more sightings of sharks closer to shore this year, the Egyptian Chamber of Diving & Watersports appealed for calm, stating that the phenomenon was probably caused by harmful behavior by humans, such as feeding sharks by throwing food from boats, either intentionally or unintentionally, accustoming the sharks to feeding at the surface.

Seafood Watch. The Monterey Bay Aquarium updated their guide as to what seafood one might eat and what one should avoid. It lists best choices and good alternatives, as well as those species that are endangered plus those one should avoid eating at all costs. 'Best Choices' should be preferred first; they're well managed and caught or farmed in ways that cause little harm to habitats or other wildlife. 'Good Alternatives' are those one might buy, but be aware there are concerns with how they're caught or farmed. Take a pass on those listed as 'Avoid' for now; they're overfished or caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment. More information here: www.seafoodwatch.org/-/m/sfw/pdf/guides/mba-seafoodwatch-west-coast-guide.pdf?la=en

Bahamas Shark Bites. Sharks act very differently with carrion in the water than they do when there's a freshly killed or injured fish on offer. In the latter case, it 'rings the dinner bell' and the shark becomes a determined attacker. Waco (TX) dentist Dr. Steve Cutbirth discovered this while free diving to spear hogfish near Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas during the last week of July. He was bitten on the face and knee by a large bull shark excited by the dying fish he had just speared and reckons he was saved significant tissue loss by his mask, and the knife strapped to his leg. After leaving the water, Dr. Cutbirth was stitched up by a local nurse and reported on his own Facebook page that she did such a good job there was no need to return to the US early.

Skip the Customs Line with your iPhone. A new app authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection allows users to submit entry information over the internet after landing, allowing them to skip the line at the airport and potentially re-enter the country much faster than before. Canadian citizens with B1 or B2 visas can do the same. The Mobile Passport app from Airside Mobile allows users to configure profiles in the app to streamline an entire family's entry. All information is encrypted, and users connect via Wi-Fi or a cellular network. The app is not a substitute for a physical passport, and the system has yet to be rolled out at all American airports. No specific iOS device is required, but the app requires iOS 8 or later and occupies 20.4 MB of space.

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