In The Media

Fin Animation

 

 
   

 

Kullhadd - June 2013

SATURDAY, 15 JUNE 2013 13:01

IHossu xxurtjat li rnexxielu jghum ma' diversi speci ta' klieb il-bahar
RAMONA PORTELLI

Normalment meta l-bniedem jitkellem dwar klieb il-bahar jistkerrahom, ahseb u ara tressaqlu xi wahda lejh. Però, dan l-ahhar sirt naf b'persuna Malti li huwa ffissat fuq il-klieb il-bahar, tant li kellu xewqa li jghum maghhom - xewqa li sehhet realtà.

Qed nirreferi ghall-ghaddas u ghalliem professjonali - ALEXANDER BUTTIGIEG maghruf aktar bhala ‘Sharkman'.

Alexander ghandu 54 sena, mizzewweg u joqghod San Gwann. Illum il-gurnata irtira mix-xoghol ta' scuba diving instructor professjonali. Bhala passatempi jhobb dak kollu li ghandu x'jaqsam mal-klieb il-bahar, jodghos u l-films. Minn meta kien zghir, Alexander kien ihobb il-bahar. "Ta' tlett snin diga kelli l-ewwel maskra u kont inqatta' sighat shah gol-bahar inhares lejn il-hut. L-imhabba lejn il-klieb il-bahar bdiet fil-bidu tas-snin sebghin, wara li kont rajt id-dokumentarju Blue Water, White Death", beda jghidli Alexander. Ghalih kull dive hija avventura unika. Qatt ma jkun jaf ezatt ma' xhiex ser jiltaqa' jew x'ser josserva gdid. Ovvjament meta joghdos mal-klieb il-bahar, ser ikun aktar kuntent ghax ghalih dik hija esperjenza unika hafna.

Idea zbaljata li kelb il-bahar jattakka jew jiekol lin-nies

Normalment il-klieb il-bahar huma kkunsidrati bhala l-ghadu tal-bniedem. B'hekk ma stajtx ma nistaqsihx kif allura jinteressawh il-klieb il-bahar, tant li anke mar jghum hdejhom.

"L-ewwelnett, il-klieb il-bahar m'humiex hemm biex jattakkaw u jieklu lin-nies. Din hija idea zbaljata u esagerata. Il-films u l-mezzi tax-xandir huma l-kagun li l-klieb il-bahar ghandhom dan it-timbru. Dawk kollha li ghandhom id-delizju tal-iscuba diving jafu li fir-realtà l-klieb il-bahar huma bhal kull annimal iehor.

Qedghin fl-ambjent taghhom u mhux ta' periklu jekk ma jkunux ipprovokati jew ihossuhom mhedda. Eluf ta' nies joghdsu ma' klieb il-bahar kuljum fid-dinja kollha u f'sena shiha rari ikun hemm aktar minn xi ghaxar incidenti fatali. Aktar imutu nies kagun ta' gdim minn bram, brimb jew klieb, jew xi daqqa ta' xi coconut fuq rashom", sostna Alexander.

Mistoqsi jekk f'Malta hu personali qatt ra xi kelb il-bahar, Alexander wegibni li darba kien raha wiehed biss waqt li kien qed joghdos f'kemm ilu haj.

Darba ohra kien ra iehor mill-art. Ir-raguni li spjegali Alexander li huma rari f'Malta hija li hawn m'hawnx dik il-kwantitajiet ta' hut li jistghu jsostnu ruhhom il-klieb il-bahar kontinwament.

Barra minn hekk, l-anqas hawn kolonji ta' seals jew mammiferi ohra li l-klieb il-bahar ihobbu.

Minkejja dan kollu, f'Malta f'Lulju ta' 1956 kien irrappurtat inident fejn kelb il-bahar kien bela' ragel Ingliz li kien qed jghum Wied il-Ghajn. B'hekk tlabtu jirrakkuntali ftit dwar dan il-kaz bhal x'seta' gara u kif tista' persuna tkun mohhha mistrieh meta tmur tghum fl-ibhra taghna.

"L-Ingliz kien Jack Smedley li kien qed jghum fil-bajja ta' San Tumas u f'hin minnhom beda jghajjat li gie attakkat minn xi haga. Tony Grech li kien qed jghum ma' Smedley qal li kien ra xi haga sewda tghaddi minn tahtu. Smedley sparixxa u Grech ra l-bahar jihmar bid-demm.

Peress li Smedley kien jahdem man-Navy Ingliza, kienu n-Navy li hadu kontroll tal-investigazzjoni u ddecidew li dan kien vera attakk minn kelb il-bahar. Però, bosta snin wara, kienu tfaccaw dubji serji jekk dan kienx veru jew le. Kien inghad li Smedley kien filfatt spijja Ingliz u jahsbu li dan gie maqtul minn xi agenti Russi.

Din l-istorja tfaccat wara li certu Commander Crabb, li fil-fatt kien il-partner ta' Smedley, kien instab maqtul taht cirkostanzi misterjuzi - wkoll eluf ta' mili ‘l boghod minn Malta.

Jekk dan kienx attakk minn xi kelb il-bahar veru jew le, qatt ma nistghu nkunu nafu. Però li huwa zgur hu li minn dak iz-zmien, qatt ma kien hawn incidenti ohra. Jigifieri hadd m'ghandu ghalfejn joqghod jibza'", irrakkuntali u spjegali Alexander.

Madwar id-dinja, jezistu aktar minn 500 speci differenti ta' klieb il-bahar, imma minnhom tlieta biss huma kkunsidrati bhala ftit perikoluzi - Bull Shark, Tiger Shark u Great White. Ridt inkun naf ghaliex ezatt dawn jattakkaw lill-bniedem, u kif wiehed jista jarafhom. Alexander malajr tani twegiba,

"Ma tantx nistghu nghidu ezatt xi jgieghel kelb il-bahar jattakka, però minn ricerka nafu li hemm xi cirkostanzi li jistghu jikkagunaw dawn l-incidenti. Wiehed ghandu jzomm f'mohhu li l-bahar huwa l-ambjent tal-klieb il-bahar u mhux tal-bniedem.

Meta ahna ser nidhlu go dan l-ambjent, ghandna noqghodu attenti li ma nkunux ta' theddida lil dawk l-annimali li jghixu hemm. Jekk kelb il-bahar ihossu provokat jew mhedded, dan zgur li ser jirreagixxi biex jiddefendi ruhu, bhalma jaghmlu l-hut kollha.

Il-klieb il-bahar huma wkoll kurjuzi u jekk jaraw xi haga li ma jkunux jafu x'inhi, dawn jistghu jinvestigawha biex jaraw hiex xi ikel. Dan l-annimal m'ghandux idejn biex jezamina oggett, allura bilfors irid jigdem.

Sfortunatament xi drabi ikunu bnedmin, u meta jigri hekk, il-kelb il-bahar jinduna li mhux ikel normali tieghu u jitlaq. Ghal min ma tantx jaf dwar klieb il-bahar, ma tantx huwa facli li taghraf speci minn ohra, però bi ftit ta' ricerka malajr, wiehed jibda jinnota d-differenza bejniethom", spjegali Alexander.

Bejni u bejn ruhi bdejt nghid x'garanzija ghandu lil-bniedem li mhux ser jigi attakkat jekk hdejh ikun hemm speci ohra ta' kelb il-bahar li mhux perikoluz. Il-probabbiltà li jekk ikun hemm xi wiehed hdejja xorta wahda jtini xi hass hazin.

Izda Alexander rega' enfazizza mieghi li incidenti huma rari hafna. "Il-maggoranza tal-klieb il-bahar jaharbu jigru malli nersqu lejhom, però ma hemm l-ebda garanzija jekk dan hux ser ihossu provokat.

Jekk wiehed ihobb jghum, allura ghandu jiehu ftit ta' interess u jitghallem fuq il-kreaturi li hemm fiz-zona ta' fejn sejjer. Jekk dan il-bniedem xorta jibza li ser jigi attakkat, allura ma jinzilx gol-bahar. Hawnhekk nixtieq nenfasizza li mhux veru li d-demm tal-bniedem jattira l-klieb il-bahar.

Minn ricerka li saret, nafu li filwaqt li qatra demm ta' xi huta mill-ewwel tattira l-klieb il-bahar, id-demm tal-bniedem m'ghandux effett".

Hidma shiha ghall-protezzjoni tal-klieb il-bahar f'Malta

Alexander kien wiehed milli hadem hafna sabiex il-klieb il-bahar ikunu protetti f'Malta. B'hekk iddiskutejt dan il-fatt mieghu, u spjegali li ghal bosta snin hadem biex il-klieb il-bahar jigu protetti bil-ligi, u dan mhux f'Malta biss.

"Jien kont involut f'hafna meetings ma' awtoritajiet koncernati fejn jigu diskussi rizultati ta' ricerki internazzjonali li juru ghalfejn dawn il-hut meraviljuz ghandhom jigu protetti.

Hemm biza' kbir li hafna speci ta' klieb il-bahar jistghu jigu estinti, jekk dawn ma jihux protetti. S'issa, irnexxilna ngibu protezzjoni ghal madwar ghaxar speci differenti hawn Malta.

Dan mhux bizzejjed ghax ghad fadal hafna ohrajn, però llum il-gurnata bil-mod il-mod il-messagg taghna qed jasal. Kien ghal dan il-ghan li waqqaft Sharkman's World Organization".

Forsi int li qed taqra din l-intervista qed tistaqsi lilek innifsek kif il-bniedem jipprotegi lill-klieb il-bahar, meta kelb il-bahar ma jahsibix darbtejn jekk ikollu jattakka bniedem hdejh. Fil-fatt Alexander, kif digà kien semma' qabel rega' sostna li hemm il-biza' li hafna speci ta' klieb il-bahar qeghdin fil-periklu li jigu estinti.

"Dan ghaliex hafna speci minnhom idumu hafna snin biex jimmaturaw, anke iktar minn ghoxrin sena f'xi speci. Barra minn hekk, fejn hut iehor ibejjed eluf ta' bajd, il-klieb il-bahar ikollhom ftit frieh li minn dawn ftit ikunu li jsalvaw. It-tqala fil-klieb il-bahar ukoll tiehu hafna xhur u tvarja skont l-ispeci.

Minhabba s-sajd bla kontroll, specjalment dak maghruf bhala shark finning, miljuni ta' klieb il-bahar qedghin jinqatlu kull sena. Il-finning huwa meta jinqabdu klieb il-bahar u jinqatghulhom il-fins, waqt li jkunu ghadhom hajjin, imbghad jergghu jitfawhom il-bahar.

Il-fins jintuzaw ghal soppa orjentali li jisimha shark fin soup. Permezz ta' hidma intensiva li ghamilna tul dawn l-ahhar seba' snin fi hdan l-UE, issa l-finning gie illegali".

Spicca jghum ma' diversi speci ta' klieb il-bahar

Minkejja li kemm ilu joghdos f'Malta darba biss iltaqa' ma' kelb il-bahar, xorta ma jghidx li kull ghadsa kienet ta' dizappunt. Fi kliemu stess, "Ikunu hafna aktar isbah li kieku kellna aktar hut kbir, imma kull dive ser toffri xi tip ta' sodisfazzjon. Dives ma' klieb il-bahar huma bonus. Fost il-klieb il-bahar li kelli x-xorti li noghdos maghhom barra minn Malta hemm il-bull sharks, grey reef, whitetips, blacktips, nurse sharks, angel sharks, hammerheads, sandtigers, dogfish, spotted gullys, catsharks u anke great whites".

Mistoqsi jekk kellux jilbes xi ilbies protettiv, Alexander sostna li qatt ma kellu ghalfejn juza xi forma ta' lbies specjali. "Huwa difficli li wiehed jispjega l-feeling li nhoss kull darba li jkolli xi wahda minn dawn id-dives.

Trid tkun hemm biex tifhimni. Li huwa zgur hu li nhossni ixxurtjat hafna li dawn il-kreaturi manifici jaccettawni li nkun fosthom", sostna Alexander.

Minn informazzjoni li ghaddieli Alexander, sirt naf li madwar il-gzejjer Maltin hawn madwar 33 speci ta' klieb il-bahar, li l-maggoranza taghhom ma jikbrux aktar minn 1.5 metru u jghixu fil-fond u ‘l boghod mix-xtut.

Infurmani wkoll li dawn jistghu jekk iridu jidhlu vicin ix-xtut, imma s'issa dan rari gara u ma kienx hemm periklu. Fost l-ispeci l-aktar komuni madwar il-gzejjer Maltin l-aktar komuni nsibu dawk maghrufin bhala mazzola (dogfish) u l-huta kahla (blue shark).

Alexander hadem mill-qrib ma' diversi ricerkaturi u xjentisti barranin, u qasam hafna informazzjoni maghhom li din intuzat ghal diversi kotba u pubblikazzjonijiet xjentifiki, kif ukoll kiteb artikli f'rivisti lokali u barranin.

Huwa wkoll ko-awtur ta' ktieb intensiv fuq il-hammerhead sharks. Barra minn hekk, kien ukoll involut f'xi dokumentarji televizivi.

Naturalment illum Alexander jinsab kuntent li ghal aktar minn darba rnexxielu jghum ma' diversi klieb il-bahar. Tlabtu xi memorji minnhom.

"Bl-amment ma nafx ezatt kemm il-dive kelli ma' klieb il-bahar. Normalment, kull dive tkun ta' bejn 45 u 70 minuta. Per ezempju jekk domt erba' gimghat Fiji, kont noghdos darbtejn jew tlett darbiet kuljum.

Memorji ghandi hafna fosthom ta' meta rajt l-ewwel kelb il-bahar gewwa l-Egittu; ohra ta' meta kelb il-bahar iehor beda jimxi warajja l-Egittu ukoll; meta rajt l-ewwel great white gewwa s-South Africa u meta kont imdawwar b'madwar erbghin bull shark go Fiji. Kull dive hija avventura memorabbli".

Fl-ahharnett Alexander xtaq jghaddi messagg lill-qarrejja ta' dan il-gurnal biex ma jemmnux dak kollu li jaraw fuq il-films jew li jisimghu mill-media. "Bhal kull annimal iehor, il-klieb il-bahar ghandhom importanza kbira fic-cirku tal-ekologija. Il-klieb il-bahar izommu l-ibhra taghna nodfa u b'sahhithom ghax jieklu hut u annimali li jkunu morda jew dghajfa.

Huma wkoll izommu l-kontroll u l-bilanc fin-natura billi ma jhallux il-popolazzjoni ta' speci ohra jikbru minghajr kontroll. Jekk jinqerdu l-klieb il-bahar, jinqerdu l-ibhra taghna", temm jghid Alexander.

 

L-Orizzont - September 2011
Click to read

 

It-Torca - February 2011
Click to enlarge

 

Sunday Circle - August 2010

 

GO Magazine - December 2009
GO P!
GO P2

 

Mai Life - October 2009
Mai Life P!
Mai Life P2

 

The Times Of Malta - 8th June 2009

 

Beyond Blue - Issue 2 - 2009

 

 

The Malta Independent On Sunday - 27th. Aug. 2006
27/8/2006

 

Tune In Magazine - July 2005

 

Feb. 2003

Project Malta Interview.

Welcome To The World Of
Alex ' THE SHARKMAN' Buttigieg.

by Alan Carville

When we think of Malta we think of hot sunny days spent by the beach basking in the sun. Malta also hosts some of the best diving sites in the world. With warm weather throughout the year and excellent diving conditions, it enables you to see crystal clear waters up to 30metres in depth.

But somewhere, lurking in these depths, on a never-ending mission is.... The Sharkman!!!

If Australia has the Crocodile man, Malta has its own equivalent, the Sharkman – Alex Buttigieg. Welcome to the fascinating World of our planet's most mysterious and misunderstood Creature. Welcome to the World of Alex ‘THE SHARKMAN’ Buttigieg!!!

The funny thing about the people in Malta is that almost everybody has a nickname. How did you come across the nickname 'Sharkman?'

Well it is because of the Love and Deep Passion that I share for these Magnificent Creatures. When I started working at the diving centre, and guests brought up the subject of sharks, I always opened up and once I start talking sharks, nothing stops me. Soon instead of Alex, people started to call me Shark, Sharkboy, Sharkman, etc…I liked Sharkman best, so I had it tattooed on my arm, and as they say, the rest is history.

We are aware of your deep passion for this strange creature, enough so much, that you could almost open up your own shopping outlet!!!

Yes…Sharks have always fascinated me. I live, breathe, dream, and talk nothing else but Sharks. During the past 16 years, I have put together quite a collection. Besides all the research data, which includes a Database of over 450 different species of Sharks, around 100 books, and countless number of videos from all over the world, I also collect anything that has to do with sharks or has a shark on it. I have Statues, Posters, Postage Stamps, Models, T-shirts, Soft Toys, Jewellery, Clocks, Watches, Lighters, Pegs, Mugs, Tooth Brushes, and all the stuff that I can get my hands on.

Did you formally study marine biology or any of the sciences?

No. The only marine biology courses I did, are the ones specially prepared for divers. I am not a qualified Marine Biologist or anything like that. I learned by reading, watching and asking. I also joined some research and conservation groups. In fact now I form part of BICREF - The Biological Conservation Research Foundation here in Malta.

Your passion of sharks has taken you on an adventure to other lands to try and learn the truth about them.

Yes, I had the opportunity to Dive with Sharks in the Red Sea and in South Africa, and also observed them in many Aquariums around the world.

We have been brainwashed with visions of Shark Attacks. But what are the real facts? Are Sharks truly monsters of the deep? Are they all Man-eaters? What makes them so misunderstood and why should sharks be protected?

Sharks are not the monstrous man killers that we once imagined they were. There is still a lot to learn about them and all over the World, researchers and scientists are striving to find out as much as possible. The problem is that with each new discovery, a million more questions arise.

As for protection… well there is a lot to be done. Coastal development, marine pollution, and over fishing are some of the things that are effecting shark populations all over the world leaving a bad result. If nothing is done, then I have my doubts as to whether sharks see the next millennium.

You could be considered a crusader, similar to the knights that originally inhabited Malta.

I believe that each Human has a mission in life, and mine is to do the utmost to protect Sharks and to show their true image. Since because of my work I personally cannot contribute much in the area of scientific research, I decided to do all I can to protect Sharks, and help teach those who are misinformed.

So what exactly do you do for work?

I am a professional scuba diving instructor and work in a local diving centre.

Do you teach tourists or locals; are you used in search missions?

My job involves teaching both tourists and locals how to dive, or guide experienced divers that visit our Islands.

You have done so many dives that it’s a wonder that you haven’t started to grow fins?

I have, even gills…you just cannot see them. Actually I started to dive when I was 8 years old, but have only turned professional 13 years ago.

Have you ever experienced any trouble diving? What has been your worst diving experience?

Yes I did suffer a “Bend” and had to go into the Decompression Chamber once, but it was not very serious.

What do you like best about diving?

The feeling of total relaxation and being as one with the Underwater World is something that cannot be explained in words. Diving is something that has to be experienced to be truly understood.

What do you hate most about diving?

Top of my list is Spear fishing. I just hate seeing all the “hunters” shooting on anything, no matter what size it is. Second place comes having to deal with the so-called "Experienced" Divers who pretend that they know it all. Sadly you get to see many of these too. Imagine a guy walks into the Diving Centre and flashes out his Diving Certification card and starts talking big about his 10/20 or what ever number of years he has been diving. Then you look in his logbook and find something like 40 or 50 dives in all those years!!!

What advice can you give to other divers or people in general?

The best advise I always give to my divers is to “Respect all forms of Life, Shoot only photos, take only memories, and leave only bubbles behind you”.

You are affiliated to a number of both diving and shark organizations around the world.

Over the years, I have been involved in many organizations and at the moment I form part of: B.I.C.R.E.F. C.M.A.S. Federation of Underwater Activities, Malta. Professional Diving Schools Association Malta. The Cousteau Society. And the South African White Shark Research Programme.

The dreams of today are what make the future a reality. Alex, you could also be considered a man of dreams!!!

Yes, we all have dreams of what we want to be or what we want to achieve in Life. It is up to us to make those dreams come true, by working hard to get there. One of my main Dreams in life was to get the Great White Shark protected in Maltese Waters. I started as a One-man mission that was strengthened when a local conservation group approached me and offered their backing. It took us 2 years of intensive lobbying and on Sept. 24th. 1999, the Maltese Government issued a Legal Notice that put not only the Great White Shark but also the Basking Shark on Malta's list of Protected Species and THE FIRST OF MY DREAMS CAME TRUE.

My next Dream was what I considered to be the ULTIMATE DREAM at the time, to encounter the GREAT WHITE SHARK!! Until some time ago, this dream seemed Impossible, but then, with the help of a few true friends, this Dream also Came True. On 5th. February 2001, I flew over to S. Africa and there I saw and caged dived with the Great Whites of Dyer Island. This was an experience that I will never forget. Just a few days short of a year later, I was there again on my 2nd. trip.

How did your first shark experience in the Red Sea feel?

I went there specifically to dive with sharks. It is there that one can see the true beauty of these magnificent creatures. When I saw them up close, it was a beautiful experience, I was not afraid, and I went even closer. Diving with sharks is not as dangerous as some might think, but it depends on what type of sharks. Most of them are totally harmless unless they are provoked.

What would be your next dream?

Well there are many dreams on my list, but I guess the definite ultimate dream is to Free Dive with the GREAT WHITE SHARK.

Is it true that the person who influenced your shark mania was none other than a fellow Australian?

Yes I saw my first shark Movie around 1970 when I was still a young teenager. It was called “Blue Water, White Death”. One of the protagonists was Rodney Fox. In fact, to this day I am in contact with him by e-mail. Fox was my inspiration.

It is impossible to talk about Sharks without mentioning the name of Australian Rodney Fox. For the last 36 years, Rodney Fox has dedicated his life to observing, studying, and filming sharks. He is considered as the No.1 Ambassador for Sharks Protection and Conservation. All this, he did after having miraculously escaped from the jaws of Carcharodon carcharias, the Great White Shark.

After having recovered from the Shark attack, which left him with massive scars on his chest, back, and arm, Rodney decided not to go out on a vendetta against his attacker, but to learn all he could about their behaviour and to teach the world to respect sharks and protect them.

Today Rodney Fox is still being attacked, but by tourists, researchers, and filmmakers, not only for his story but also for his knowledge and experience. Rodney was the first man in Australia to start fighting for Shark Protection Laws. The Great White Shark is now a protected species in Australia. Maybe one-day, another of my Dreams will come true and Rodney Fox will introduce me to the Great White Sharks of south Australia.

You spend a lot of your time researching the sharks as well as spreading the word across the world. The web site that you have dedicated to their cause received a prestigious web award in 2001?

Yes, I spend hours on end at my Computer and my research. My love of sharks is equally matched by my love of the web. I wanted to convince people that sharks are not the man-eaters that people make them out to be. I am trying to create awareness and to fight for their protection. I started working on the website five years ago and did it simply through trial and error. It was a very nice surprise when in November 2001, I was awarded the Best Personal Website Award in the Malta DataStream Web Awards for my website www.sharkmans-world.com . When I won the award I was so excited that I practically leaped onto the stage, clutching and kissing a soft toy (of course, a shark), which I had taken with me for good luck.

I heard that even when you go to sleep at night, you take that soft toy to bed with you?

Not exactly. The shark soft toys are on a unit close to the bed, but I do sleep on my SHARK PILLOW.

It seems that you have something in common with the project Malta team - That is - get no sleep!!!

I start working on the website at 6pm and usually stay awake up to 4am or 5am answering e-mails and updating the site. I used to receive over 150 e-mails every day, but since winning the award, this number has now shot up to 400+ and it has become very popular with Maltese people.

Most people’s knowledge of sharks have been taken from Hollywood movies such as jaws. Is there any truth or reality in these Hollywood adaptations?

If we take the movie ‘Jaws’ for example, it was not realistic at all, it was a story based on certain facts that happened in 1916 but no one is 100 per cent sure that these attacks were caused by just one shark. However, sharks can come close to land and even in shallow water.

What sorts of sharks are we talking about?

Sharks can be found all over the world, and there are over 450 different species. Around 70% of them do not grow more than 1.5mtrs. and are totally harmless The three most dangerous species are the Great White, the Bull Shark and the Tiger Shark. These are the species that are responsible for most of the attacks, but I must point out that people have dived with them even without cages.

Sure there are risks, and every shark can Bite when it feels provoked or because it feels its territory is being invaded, Excessive movements also attracts a sharks attention. When we swim we cause vibrations and a shark senses this and wants to investigates, but not because they attack humans per as part of their menu. Then there are also the incidents that involve spear fishing when a lot of fish blood is left in the water and that is the biggest invitation for a shark.

Why would someone want to hunt down the sharks?

Following the “Jaws” mania, Sharks were hunted simply for vengeance and to give the hunter a Macho image.

We admire you Alex because we know ourselves that maybe people can do something just from the heart without any material gains and very little recognition!!!

It is never easy to convince the people that sharks are not that dangerous. It took us many, many months of meetings, discussions and political lobbying, before the Government passed the law to protect THE GREAT WHITE SHARK (Carcharodon carcharias) and THE BASKING SHARK (Cetorhinus maximus) along with THE DEVIL RAY (Mobula mobular).

This makes this Island the FIRST in all of EUROPE to protect the GREAT WHITE SHARK. South Africa was the first country to give protection to sharks in 1991. These 3 species, which are listed as endangered, cannot be shot, hunted or fished and they cannot be sold as merchandise, nor can their jaws or teeth.

In the case of the Great White, members responsible for public security and civil protection may take any necessary steps to ensure that there are no risks for bathers and for any other person in or at sea.

Why do we need to protect the sharks?

Despite the shark's position as the top predator in the marine food chain, some of the species are considered vulnerable. Although sharks exist all around the world, the total population of some species is getting dangerously low.

In some regions sharks are hunted for their curiosity value—the jaws and teeth are sold to tourists—and for their meat. Sharks are now facing huge problems that unless something is done, they will not see the next millennium. Pollution of our oceans is a big problem for sharks, but it is not the biggest. The worst is over-fishing. Sharks have always been hunted for many reasons mainly revenge, souvenirs, clothing.... etc.... but now they are also being hunted in massive amounts for food.

Millions of Sharks are being massacred every year just for the sake of having their fins cut off for an oriental dish called "Shark Fin Soup". The process is that when the Shark is caught, the fins and tail are chopped off and the mutilated Shark is thrown back into the water to die a slow painful death, or be savagely attacked by other hungry predators.

Indonesia, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, are the largest producers of Shark Fin Soup, killing over 700,000 sharks every year and slowly their Ships are invading all the Oceans of the World, even here in the Mediterranean. As soon as one area is considered to have no more sharks around, they move off to another location. This trade in the orient has grown to such extent that the Gang Wars by traders have out grown those of the Mafia.

Last year, over 150,000 Sharks were massacred in Hawaii alone. This figure is about 200 times more than it was in 1995. Just for the sake of this so-called aphrodisiac dish that costs around $30. So whilst those hunting the Sharks are getting very rich, the sharks are being wiped out. In Far Eastern countries such as China, the fins are used not only in soups, but also as ornaments outside restaurants.

Records show that the average number of Shark attacks in one year is less than hundred worldwide, and of these, less than 10% are fatal. So Sharks are not the monsters that our ancestors claimed them to be.

Looking back at the Statistics, 6.5 Million sharks are killed by humans for every 1 human that Dies from a Shark attack in a year!!!

Who is currently protecting the sharks?

South Africa was the first Nation in the world to offer protection to Great Whites in 1991. This was followed by Namibia, parts of the USA, Australia, and Malta. Other Sharks species are also protected in various other parts of the world.

Now I believe that a shark would clock up a huge bill if they visited the dentist?

I would not like to be that Dentist in case the Shark is not satisfied with the work!!! Sharks can have as many as 15 rows of Teeth, all lined up behind each other.

Has anyone actually ever been killed in Malta by a shark?

Although Big Sharks have been caught around the Maltese Islands, there is only one officially listed fatal shark attack. And this happened in 1956.

Should tourists or locals be concerned about swimming in the local beaches and how far out would they need to go to start worrying?

No. Definitely not. There is no danger at all. I have dived these waters all my life and I have still not seen a “Live” shark underwater. Also, It is particularly noteworthy that no further injurious encounters between sharks and humans have been reported from Malta despite an enormous increase in the number of people seeking recreation in the sea post-1956, including both foreign tourists and the sport diving community.

How does your family handle the commitment that you give? Do they see it as an obsession or an eccentricity?

I am very lucky that my family is very supportive of what I do, and appreciate that I need to spend so many hours on the computer. My home is like a shark museum. My wife will throw me out soon, because sharks are everywhere!!!

Do you have any personal projects on the run at the moment? Who knows maybe in the future you could start a tour group for shark watchers!!!

At present I am working on various other projects involving the underwater environment in general and also taking part in International Shark protection campaigns,  I would also like to lead a group expedition to South Africa or Australia to get more people to see the true image of sharks.

Please give us a few thoughts regarding the danger of sharks.

In the year 2000 - 85 people were bitten by sharks. From this quantity, 12 were killed. But that same year in New York City alone, 1600 people were bitten by other people!!!

Also for all you Australians - I came across this comment from Brent Escott, managing director of Club Direct. “Coconuts kill around 150 people worldwide each year, which makes them about ten times more dangerous than sharks”; “People may worry about being bitten by sharks when visiting Australia, but I would suggest that we would be better advised not to sit under coconut trees!!!”

If you were to think of one place in Malta that best describes your personality where would it be?

Definitely underwater.

One final question, "How does the world look from where you stand?"

Whoever came out with the “Seven Wonders of the World” was totally wrong. This World is one huge wonder - fascinating whichever direction you look. It is only spoilt by the actions taken by some of us humans, and they are destroying it. It is up to us to fight to protect what we have and save this World for future generations.

Alex, you are a man much worthy of the same respect that can be given to the sharks, you are humble but brave enough to risk everything for the sake of saving a great species.

We would like to thank Alex ‘the Sharkman’ Buttigieg for his inspiration and for all the hard work that he has done in protecting the creatures of our oceans. Alex acts as an inspiration to all of us, because we live in a world where we believe that only the politicians or multi million dollar corporations can change anything. Alex is but one man who not only thought that he could make a difference, but one man that did make a difference.

The Project Malta Team.

Click for Award Video clip

29th. Dec. 2001,

SHARKMAN INTERVIEWED!!
December Issue -- Independent Living

December 29, 2001 at 09:00:00 CET

Swimming (and surfing the web) with sharks
Josanne Cassar

The Datastream Web Awards held in November clearly showed the way information technology has developed not only among those who use it in their jobs, but more significantly, by those who have the internet as one of their passions. Josanne Cassar interviewed the winner of the Best Personal Website Award, Alex Buttigieg (aka Sharkman) who created www.sharkmans-world.com because his love of sharks is equally matched by his love of the web.

One look at Alex Buttigieg and you can tell what his hobby is: from his jewellery to his T-shirts, the motif is the same: sharks.

Two days before the awards, he turned 43 “it was the nicest birthday present ever!” he says happily.

I was there on the night of the awards, and there was no doubt that Alex was over the moon for winning the best personal website award. He practically leaped onto the stage, clutching and kissing a soft toy
(of course, a shark).

With his shock of bleached blonde hair and his deeply tanned face, you can tell that his love of sharks is not simply restricted to creating a website about them. He is a diver and has swum with sharks himself. “At the beginning I wanted to know why sharks attacked people. I saw my first video on the subject in 1969 when I was still a young teenager. It was called Blue Water, White Death and was about Rodney Fox who was bitten by a Great White. In fact, to this day I am in contact with him by e-mail. I was fascinated and started researching these kind of attacks and why. Fox was my inspiration - after he was attacked, he wanted Great Whites to be protected because they were in danger of becoming extinct. After the film Jaws, people were hunting sharks for revenge. A couple of years ago, Fox finally succeeded in his mission and today you cannot shoot, hunt or fish them; they cannot be sold as merchandise, nor can their jaws or teeth.” South Africa was the first country to give protection to sharks in 1991.

Alex has always loved the sea and although he started late in life, he has also managed to swim with sharks. After diving for many years he finally managed to swim for the first time with the creatures he loves in the Red Sea in 1993. “When I saw them up close, it was a beautiful experience, I was not afraid, and I went even closer. I went there specifically to dive with sharks...in certain places you just go in and dive if you are experienced, but it depends on what type of sharks. You can either arrange to go with a diving centre or if you have the equipment, you can go by yourself. Most of them are reef sharks, and are totally harmless.”

Alex says that in Malta, sharks don’t come close to land and one would have to go very far out to see them; he has never seen any near Malta.

Sharks can be found all over the world, and there are three dangerous species: the Great White, the Bull and the Tiger. These are the species which are responsible for most of the attacks, but Alex points out that people have dived with them even without cages. “When a shark feels provoked, it will attack, but not because they attack humans per se. It is usually because of hunger, inquisitiveness, or because it feels its territory is being invaded. Excessive movement also attracts attention. When we swim we cause vibrations and a shark senses this and wants to investigates.”

So how realistic was the film which made sharks famous, Jaws? “It was not realistic at all, it was a story based on certain facts that happened in 1916 but no one is 100 per cent sure that the attacks were caused by just one shark. However, sharks can come close to land and even in shallow water.”

With his vast knowledge of the subject, it was perhaps inevitable that Alex would create a website about it. “I wanted to convince people that sharks are not the man eaters that people make them out to be. I am trying to create awareness and to fight for their protection. I started working on the website three years ago and did it simply through trial and error. The people who visit the site are mostly school kids and people in their 60s, but there is interest from all over the world...I would say that kids up to 15/16 rate as my highest visitors.”

Alex starts working on his website at 6pm and spends up to 4am or 5am answering e-mails and updating the site. He used to receive over 150 e-mails every day, but since winning the award, this number has now shot up to 300 e-mails daily, especially from Maltese people.

A lot of the people who took part in the awards have referred the sites to each other and that has made its popularity spread.

“I had a feeling I would win, my wife as well, it started as soon as I learnt it was nominated...and the feeling just became stronger. Somebody nominated me, using my name, and I only knew about it when the selection was made for the finalists. I was so surprised! Before I left home, I said ‘I think I will take one of my shark soft toys’, and my daughter agreed, ‘you’re going to win, take it!’. I was holding my wife’s hand just before they announced it and the soft toy in the other. I tell you I was more nervous than when I came face to face with a Great White shark!”

He says that his emotional reaction to winning was not just for himself, but because that it was a win for the sharks, that people are acknowledging sharks and are getting something out of the website.

In his thank you speech, he thanked all the researchers and international contacts he has made through the years. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t know a fraction of what I know today. I am in constant contact daily by mail and without their work and knowledge I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

I ask whether he feels he is not just a bit obsessed with his hobby. “Yes definitely, but it doesn’t bother me...my nickname was given to me by divers at the school. Instead of Alex, people call me Sharky, Sharkboy, Sharkman...When someone starts talking about sharks, I just open up.”

Alex is lucky that his family is very supportive of what he does, and appreciate that he needs to spend so many hours on the computer. “My home is like a shark museum. My wife will throw me out soon, because sharks are everywhere!”

He is constantly improving the website and has even interviewed his inspiration, Rodney Fox. He is now working on new pages, and is always coming up with something different.

As for his personal projects... “I have been invited to South Africa in February by a research centre to carry out more research. I already went last year and this time might take another small group of Maltese with me as well.

As for next year’s web awards...well, we’ll see...”

 

Sharkman's World Organization Gift Shop. Click Here


Sharkman Graphics Logo
Web design & graphics by Sharkman Graphics.
Copyright ©Sharkman's Graphics™