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Mind your Language: TV Presenters back Bite-Back’s call for responsible shark journalism

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TV presenters Steve Backshall and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall head a growing list of high profile individuals supporting a call for responsible shark journalism by Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation.

The UK charity says that decades of news headlines labelling sharks as ‘monsters’, ‘killers’ and ‘beasts’ — language typically used to describe rapists, terrorists and paedophiles — has created a climate of fear and loathing that is thwarting shark conservation initiatives.

Bite-Back’s view is underpinned by a recent survey that revealed 46% of Brits think that sharks are terrifying than spiders, snakes and rodents combined and that 64% would prefer them not to exist.

TV presenter and patron of Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation, Steve Backshall, said: “It’s time that journalists understand how these sensational headlines and falsehoods are perpetrating a hatred of sharks that justifies their boundless slaughter. As such, I think the media is complicit in one of the greatest deliberate exterminations in our planet’s history.”

An estimated 73 million sharks are slaughtered every year and Britain ranks in the top 25 shark fishing nations in the world. As a result, populations of key shark species including the great white, hammerhead, oceanic whitetip and thresher have fallen by 90% in the past 60 years.

Chef and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “Sharks are getting a bad press they simply don’t deserve. Decades of sensational headlines have stripped sharks of their status as vital marine species and all too often left the public frightened for little reason. I’d welcome any move by the media to fairly report sharks rather than default to tired and inaccurate click bait captions.”

In the past six weeks most UK print, online and broadcast media outlets have run shark stories from around the world and closer to home. Many have used language including ‘ferocious’, ‘terrifying’, ‘killer’, ‘invasion’, ‘blood-thirsty’, ‘lurking’ and ‘deadly’ to describe sharks despite the fact that typically only six people a year worldwide die from shark encounters, whereas dogs kill around 25,000. On average British cows kills more people each year than all the sharks in the world.

Bite-Back has also achieved support for this appeal from ocean ambassador Wendy Benchley, widow of Peter Benchley the author of JAWS. She said: “While the cinema is a place of entertainment, newspapers and media channels are a place for facts. For far too long the news press have blurred the boundaries between fact and fiction and got away with reporting sharks as man-eating monsters when it’s simply not true. I believe this constant portrayal of sharks as the bad guys rather than our ocean heroes is hindering shark conservation efforts.”

In a bid to make Britain the first western country to ban shark product by 2022, Bite-Back has successfully campaigned for ASDA, Iceland Foods and MAKRO to end the sale of shark steaks. It has also spearheaded an 82% fall in the number of UK restaurants selling shark fin soup and prompted Holland & Barrett to end the sale of shark cartilage capsules.

Campaign director for Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation, Graham Buckingham, says: “No other creature on this planet is described with inflammatory language intended to spread fear, panic and hate. As a result, the mere presence of a shark in the sea prompts sensational, attention-grabbing headlines. We’re keen to work with the press and reach a point where shark encounters are reported accurately and fairly and in a way that doesn’t jeopardise our blue planet.”

The charity now plans to present its 15 page media guideline document on best practice for reporting shark encounters to all the major news channels in the UK.

Read more about shark conservation issues visit www.bite-back.com

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Book Release: Diving the Thistlegorm – The Ultimate Guide to a World War II Shipwreck

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Diving the Thistlegorm is a unique in-depth look at one of the world’s best-loved shipwrecks. In this highly visual guide, cutting edge photographic methods enable views of the wreck and its fascinating cargo which were previously impossible.

This book is the culmination of decades of experience, archaeological and photographic expertise, many hours underwater, months of computer processing time, and days spent researching and verifying the history of the ship and its cargo. For the first time, Diving the Thistlegorm brings the rich and complex contents of the wreck together, identifying individual items and illustrating where they can be found. As the expert team behind the underwater photography, reconstructions and explanations take you through the wreck in incredible detail, you will discover not only what has been learned but also what mysteries are still to be solved.

Find out more about:

  • One of the world’s greatest dives.
  • Incredible ‘photogrammetry’ shows the wreck and cargo in a whole new light.
  • Meticulous detail presented in a readable style by experts in their respective fields.

About the authors:

Simon Brown is an underwater photographer and photogrammetry/3D expert who has documented underwater subjects for a wide range of clients including Historic England, Wessex Archaeology and television companies such as National Geographic Channel and Discovery Canada. Jon Henderson is Reader in Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh where he is the Director of the Underwater Archaeology Research Centre. With specific research interests in submerged prehistoric settlements and developing underwater survey techniques, he has directed underwater projects in the UK, Poland, Greece, Italy, Egypt, Jamaica and Malaysia. Alex Mustard is a former marine biologist and award-winning underwater photographer. In 2018 he was made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for “Services to underwater photography”. Mike Postons pioneered the use of digital 3D modelling to visualise shipwrecks, as well as the processes of reconstructing original ships from historic plans. He has worked with a number of organisations including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Historic England and the Nautical Archaeological Society.


About the book:

  • Release date 25 November 2020
  • Limited run of Hardbacks
  • RRP £35
  • ISBN 978-1-909455-37-5
  • 240 photo-packed pages
  • 240 x 160 mm

Available to pre-order now from Divedup.com, Amazon, online, and from retailers.

Check back on Scubaverse.com for a review of the book coming soon!

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Deptherapy’s Dr Richard Cullen becomes a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society

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Dr Richard Cullen, Chairman of Scuba Diving Rehabilitation Charity Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education, has been recognised as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society is a prestigious Fellowship that is open to those who demonstrate a sufficient involvement in geography or an allied subject through publications, research or professional experience.

Paul Rose, Deptherapy’s Vice Chair, and a world renowned explorer, author, broadcaster, who is a former Vice Chair of the RGS said: 

“This is a huge achievement by Richard. His Fellowship is richly deserved, and a direct result of his steadfast commitment to preserving our oceans through Deptherapy’s very powerful ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ Programme.  I know the top team at the RGS are looking forward to welcoming Richard into the Society.”

The RGS was founded in 1830 to advance geographical research, education, fieldwork and expeditions, as well as by advocating on behalf of the discipline and promoting geography to public audiences.

Paul Toomer, President of RAID, said:

“I have been close friends with Richard for many years and his passion for our seas, even at 70 years of age, is undiminished.  Deptherapy are the world leaders in adaptive scuba diving teaching and are our much valued partners.  Taking UK Armed Forces Veterans who have suffered life changing mental and/or physical challenges and engaging them in major marine biology expeditions, is to most of us beyond the realms of possibility.  The skills these guys have to develop is just awesome.  This is a great honour for Richard, a great honour for Deptherapy, and also for us as their partners.  The diving world must come together to celebrate and acknowledge Richard’s achievement.”

Richard joins some distinguished Fellows of the RGS.  Former Fellows include Ernest Shackleton and many other notable explorers and geographers.

Richard said:

“I am both honoured and humbled to become a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. When I was invited to apply for a Fellowship, I was, which is very unusual for me, lost for words.  I hope it will allow me to take our message of Protecting Our Oceans to a larger audience and to further develop our programmes.  The Fellowship is a recognition of the charity’s work to raise awareness of the plight of our oceans.  The credit belongs to a group of individuals who have overcome massive challenges to let alone qualify as divers but now to progress to marine biology expedition diving”.

For more information about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education visit www.deptherapy.co.uk.

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Sharks Bay Umbi Diving Village is a Bedouin-owned resort with stunning views and a lovely private beach. It is ideal for divers as everything is onsite including the resort's jetty, dive centre and house reef. The warm hospitality makes for a diving holiday like no other. There is an excellent seafood restaurent and beach bar onsite, and with the enormous diversity of the Sharm El Sheikh dive sites and the surrounding areas of the South Sinai, there really is something for every level of diver to enjoy.

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