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shawnh

Member Since 01 Apr 2004
Offline Last Active Sep 18 2013 07:27 PM
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Topics I've Started

Manta Rays Under Attack – Will CITES Save the Manta

06 October 2012 - 02:52 PM

In the past 3 years I have traveled to the corners of the planet, to some of the most remote and inaccessible coastal regions, to document the unchecked and often secret slaughter of one of the most graceful, charismatic, gentle and vulnerable of marine species…the Manta Ray. Several years ago I teamed up with my good friend and uncompromising conservation photographer Paul Hilton, to expose this senseless destruction and to try to put an end to it.
This mission took us on an unforgettable journey, one that exposed us to constant danger, threat of violence, brutal conditions, exhaustion and incredible frustration. But what we were not prepared for, was the extent and brutality of the manta fisheries, and how the shark fin trader network had become the driving force behind this exploitation. What we witnessed tore at our hearts, blackened our souls, and all but crushed what hope remained within us.
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Read the FULL STORY:

Oceanic White Tips & Pilot Whales - Bahamas 2012

27 August 2012 - 11:00 AM

As shocking as it may sound and especially given all my shark film work, I had never seen an Oceanic White Tip shark in wild until my trip with Jim Abernethy this past June. Sadly, I had seen many Oceanic White Tip fins throughout the fisheries of Asia. When one considers that Oceanic White Tips have seen 90% to 99% declines in past few decade, it is not surprising we don’t see them much anymore.

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Perhaps the most exciting encounter occurred out in the open ocean in several thousand feet of water, when we dropped into a pod of pilot whales. As a dozen pilot whales swam past and below us, a curious Oceanic White Tip suddenly appeared and made a beeline for me. My heart raced because I felt quite vulnerable bobbing on the surface in just my bathing suit and snorkel gear. For a fleeting moment I wondered, " Am I going to become a statistic in the shark attack files"? But that thought evaporated immediately when the shark reached me. Contrary to popular myth, the shark was only curious and not the vicious beast it has been made out to be. I came right up to my camera, glanced into my dome to investigate what this strange creature was, then slowly drifted off into the blue, continuing its pursuit of the pod of pilot whales.
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JOURNAL and IMAGES

Isla Mujeres Sailfish - 2012 Blue Sphere Media Trips

04 March 2012 - 07:43 PM

We returned to Isla Mujeres for our 4th season of sailfish action aboard the Lilly M and Andrea M of Keen M International. Captains Anthony, Rogelio and David did an outstanding job as usual. Despite challenging weather conditions and fluctuations in the activity, each trip was huge success with epic sailfish baitball action. In addition, we encountered many other species of marine life, and scored some terrific interactions.

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In our first trip, Richard Branson and his family joined us to give the sailfish a try. Having already experienced the whale shark aggregations in July, he was ready to turn up the heat several notches and experience one of the most exciting and intense marine spectacles found anywhere in the Ocean. Also with me was my good friend John Petry who was trying his hand at a “Shawn Epic” for the first time. Lawrence kindly invited us as guests to join him on the his vessel the Chachalaca for some incredible action!

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The trip was a huge success with baitballs lasting for hours and sailfish ripping apart the sardines just inches from our masks. We also swam with groups of giant mantas, a whale shark. One curious manta decided to give Richard a closer look, coming nose to nose before ducking right under him. For Richard’s son Sam, his interaction with a whale shark was a first in his lifetime. Everyone left with huge smiles, excited to return to Isla again from more marine mega-fauna activity.

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I also had a second group with me during that first week. Sean Havas, Sterling Zumbunn (Backscatter) and my older brother Brett Heinrichs. The group was incredibly proficient in the water and I even struggled to keep up with the furious pace that we chased down baitball after bait ball. Day one we landed a 3 hour baitball and another 2 hour baitball. Day 2 was much the same. Day 3 and 4 I was off the boat and the success continued without me. Day 5 we regrouped and found sails again, but this time conditions had turned and we called it an early day. Overall the trip was a huge success and everyone came back with epic imagery.

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Read Blog: SAILFISH 2012 BLOG

The Dark Room

02 January 2012 - 08:30 AM

Hi folks,

After wishing everyone a wonderful and happy new year, I figured it was time to get something off of my chest. The Dark Room is a visual journey through the darker side of my investigative work in the shark fin trade. I share this story and images as a means of self therapy, to clear my head so I can move forward in 2012 revitalized and passionate to make a difference.

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Warning – The following contains imagery that depicts the hard truth.

My soul was blackened. Where once I had seen light at the end of the tunnel, now there was only darkness engulfing me. How had mankind gone so far off the track, engaging in such barbaric acts, willful cruelty and reckless destruction? Nature has given us so many incredible gifts, but rather than cherish and protect them, we have set out to systematically eradicate them.

Fighting on the frontlines of shark conservation can be a lonely, frustrating and often depressing experience. In July of 2011, I had just returned from a long string of investigations focused on the shark fin and manta ray gill-raker trade. With a decade of environmental investigation experience under my belt, I have seen just about every imaginable act of cruelty and wanton destruction. Through these hard experiences I have learned to separate myself, developing an alter ego as it were, to cope in the heat of the moment and not subject myself to increased danger.

Over the years I have convinced myself that these two personas can coexist in harmony, that my thick skin and polished armor would safeguard my soul from the effects of the ugliness I have witnessed. I feared that if it the blackness seeped through a crack in my armor, it would poison my soul and I would lose the path. Folks often ask me what it is like to work on frontlines and how do I keep it up. I respond with a safe confident answer that I get used to it, that I maintain professional detachment, keep my cool, focus on the job at hand, and I don’t internalize it.

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In the face of such destruction, I walk a fine line between bitter reality and hope. My job is to expose the destruction as a wake up call to the world, but also to preserve hope in the future; that mankind will wake up, will change and things will get better. I call this approach ‘strong medicine in small doses’. The problem is, in the process of collecting these ‘small doses’ I have had to expose myself to massive and prolonged doses. And as no surprise, this extreme exposure has proven toxic and painful and only now am I realizing this.

Read More: Journal: The DARK ROOM

Amazing Shark Cleaning Footage

27 October 2011 - 04:57 PM

Our friends at Misool Eco Resort have set up a Manta Cam using a Go Pro on our favorite manta site. In addition to loads of mantas, they captured this incredible grey reef shark cleaning footage. I haven't seen anything like this before!