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Octopus abuse on National Geographic


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#1 adamhanlon

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Posted 21 November 2017 - 03:38 AM

Dear Wetpixel community,

 

National Geographic has decided to feature Michael B. Hardie's image of a day octopus (Octopus cyanea) apparently “hitching a ride” on a Hawaiian green turtle (Chelonia mydas) on its Facebook page.

 

https://www.facebook...155170777658951

 

NG_2017-11-21_11-23-00_am.jpg

 

This image was captured by the photographer by removing the animal from the reef, taking it up into midwater in order to take pictures of it in the water column. It was then released and in its stressed state, blundered into the turtle, which resulted in this image.

 

Here is the photographer's own account of how the image was captured:

 

Instagram 2017-05-07 at 7-29-44.jpg

 

Thus this image does not in any way depict natural behaviour, and shows the results of actual abuse of the animal.

 

If you look at the bulk of the interactions with the post on the NG page, people assume that it is naturally occurring . Surely NG should be responsible enough to ensure that the images they use to promote their Natural Photography contests should actually be natural?

 

Please can I ask that the Wetpixel community take the time to add a post or comment on NG's page saying that this is unacceptable please? For those that have contacts with NG, perhaps send an email?

 

Many thanks

 

Adam


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#2 adamhanlon

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Posted 21 November 2017 - 01:09 PM

Just to let everyone know that National Geographic have pulled the post and disqualified the image from their contest.

 

Once they became aware of the issue, they reacted promptly and without hesitation.

 

Kudos....

 

Adam


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#3 Pajjpen

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Posted 21 November 2017 - 01:11 PM

I can’t find the op, looks like it’s been removed. Maybe they realised their mistake. I think more images than we’d like to think are captured in ways that disrupts and harasses the wildlife, sadly,

#4 TimG

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Posted 22 November 2017 - 04:07 AM

I can’t find the op, looks like it’s been removed. Maybe they realised their mistake. I think more images than we’d like to think are captured in ways that disrupts and harasses the wildlife, sadly,

 

Sadly I think you're right. This one was pretty grim.

 

I went to the page yesterday to express my views - but you have to be an FB account holder/user and I refuse to hand my life over to MrZ and colleagues. Yeah, I'm just a Luddite.


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#5 Magrone

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Posted Yesterday, 03:04 PM

The abuse of octopus in Hawaii for photographs is very common. I was actually the person who confronted this photographer on social media about his method of achieving this photo. With the help of Adam, the photo was removed from Padi's website and the wetpixel Facebook page. It was a very popular image, and the photographer continues to profit from it. Though it is clearly in violation of the ethical standards we as photographers should be setting for the dive community. 

 

I think octopus abuse continues in Hawaii because of how quickly unknown photographers get attention for posting these photos on instagram and other social media outlets. A characteristic that most of these octopus pics have in common is a whitish and speckled coloration of distress shown in the octopus. Of course seeing an octopus at the surface or clinging to a leg of a model is also a dead giveaway. I live in Hawaii and dive all the time and have never seen an octopus at the surface or swimming through the water column. The common Day Octopus is found hiding in coral rubble mostly, or occasionally along the seafloor hunting. An octopus is a master of camouflage which helps it hunt and hide, so it is much more at home in the sand or rubble.  I suppose it is possible for common reef octopus to hunt in the water column but I would also assume that this is very rare, and risky, as it could easily be picked off by faster swimming predators 

 

 Which leads me to another photograph that may be ethically questionable. I have noticed this same white coloration in the octopus picture that won Photographer of the Year at UPY London last year. To me, the octopus looks distressed, is in an unnatural position and is flailing arms just like the ones that I see so commonly from Hawaii photographers. I looked at the Instagram account of the photographer who won the competition and have noticed that the octopus is at the surface in many of the photographs. I do realize the photograph was taken in shallow water, but I have also observed octopus in shallow water, but have never observed this behavior.  

 

 I lived near a shallow bay in Guam for 5 years where I would commonly see octopus in the shallows. Occasionally I saw them quickly flee from a position  that  might be compromising to their safety but soon they settled back into the coral rubble. They never approached the surface. Never hunted by "dancing" with arms flailed. Another pic shows tentacles attached to the dome port of the camera, which I could understand if the octopus might be curious, but this octopus does not look curious.  Another pic shows the octopus inking in defense, which is clearly an escape tactic to evade predators. Another shows an arm missing, (possibly ripped off?). It is in my opinion that the octopus appears to be in distress and is trying to flee the photographer rather than "hunting" like judges have concluded. 

 

This is hard to bring up because I know this sort of thing can be damaging to a photographers reputation, but I am tired of seeing this reckless  behavior for the sake of contests or "likes"in social media. And I may be off base here, I hope I am. But It would be good to hear what Alex Mustard and/or the other judges of the UPY contest can contribute on the topic. I assume the judges have the best interest of the marine environment in mind and would not promote photography that compromises it, and I also assume the judges asked the photographer if the photo in question was taken without harassment to the animal. If so, great. And if the photo was taken without harassment, even better. But I think the evidence on the photographers Instagram account and website is questionable. 

 

In Hawaii Octopus are pulled out for the coral rubble and tossed into the water column for photographs. The same method is used by fisherman to catch and kill octopus for food, sometimes these fisherman are the photographers and sometimes the fisherman do this for photographers. But the point needs to be distinguished that this behavior is not ethical in regards to photographing our fragile marine environment. If this photograph was taken with considerable harassment to the animal I don't think that it should place in a contest, and certainly not win a contest entitled "Photographer of the Year" There have been many copycat photographers in Hawaii in regards to the harassment of octopus for photos and the trend continues because of the popularity of the photographs. 

 

Here is a link to the photographer's website where he displays other photographs from the shoot:

 

http://www.underwate...ine/cephalopode


Edited by Magrone, Yesterday, 03:11 PM.


#6 Gaby BARATHIEU

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Posted Today, 05:14 AM

Hello everybody.

First, sorry for my bad English.

Thank you very much for your intervention MAGROVE.

You seem to be a world expert in octopus. Then you must know that the octopus come out at low tide to go hunted in the basins? 

And even sometimes they come out of the water in the middle of the day, if I assure you, look : 

Mayotte is what happens during the big tides.
Octopus releases coral potatoes to hunt trapped prey.
That day, it was hunting when I saw him.But it went to hide in a coral when it saw me.  I caught his attention so that it could come to me.
As an octopus expert, you need to know how to get them out of their hole without take them. Do they go out on their own to come see you?
You know??? I think so, but I will still say it for those who do not know it.
Octopuses are very very intelligent animals. They are also very curious.
So to get an octopus out of his hole.
Just tap your finger on a rock next to the octopus hole repeatedly for a few minutes.
Tap tap tap tap
The octopus being very curious, he will take out an eye ..... then two ...... rain a tentacle, then two, then 3 .....
With a little patience, after a few minutes (it depends on the octopus between and 10 minutes) he comes out completely from his hole, attracted by this strange thing and driven by his curiosity.
Once the octopus is out, it is possible to interact with him and take a photo. Even in a water column of 30 cm.
To reassure you, the octopus has quietly left to hunt between the coral. In addition, you will notice that I did not use a flash.
 
Yes sir,it is possible to have an interaction without being aggressive.
Many great underwater photographers often do it, and with other species. For example, recently I saw a sea lion with a starfish in its mouth.There was interaction. is it wrong? I do not think so.There can be interactions with animals in respect of these.
Also, if you go to see my Intagram, you will see that octopus photos are rare. I do not make a photo for Instagram likes on Instagram.
But to make people aware of the beauty but also the fragility of the marine world.
 

Again thank you for your intervention, I am sure that with your actions the marine world is well protected.

 

Best regard

 

 

Gabriel BARATHIEU



#7 Magrone

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Posted Today, 05:16 PM

Thanks for your response Gabriel,

 

I don't claim to be an octopus expert,  I am merely stating observations from having hundreds of so called "interactions" with reef octopus for a over a decade. They are shy typically, which is why it hid from you in the first place. I personally don't believe in using techniques to have "interactions" with marine animals. I believe that photographers should photograph animals exactly how they find them, without harm or manipulation used to produce the photograph.

 

And the video you shared does display the amazing capabilities of Octopus in shallow tide pools, but I don't think it saves this photo and how it was achieved. Now the question of whether your photo is natural behavior has been answered. You admitted to forcing the "interaction" with the animal. Does this disqualify your image from the contest? That is for the judges to decide.

 

But the real reason I felt compelled to bring this up in a public forum is because of the two missing arms I see in some photographs and then one  missing arm in another photo, and then, what seems to be a healthy (albeit scared) 8 armed octopus in another. It is hard to tell if I am perceiving this correctly. Maybe the octopus shifts and hides its arms in some photos and not others. My apologies if the octopus was found this way....But With the inking and the odd behavior and the admitted forced "interaction", it gives me a bad feeling that the animal was damaged for the purpose of making a pretty photo.  I have zero tolerance for this type of behavior from fellow photographers and I sincerely hope this was not the case. This looks very fishy to me, so I spoke up. 



#8 Gaby BARATHIEU

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Posted Today, 06:54 PM

I totally agree that animals should not be harassed.
Incidentally Instagram has instituted a policy on this subject is very good.
Also, you're right, it lacks a tentacle to the octopus. We see it very clearly in some photos. Maybe it's a moray that ripped him off? I do not know.
 
Best regard