951 words • 3~5 min read

A funny thing happens when you point out ocean scams.

Last Friday I pointed out that, based on the science presented and the behavior of the team involved, Triton Gills is almost certainly a scam. You can read that post and the linked articles for more details.

We do a bit of ocean debunking here at Southern Fried Science, though less and less every year, in part for the reasons listed below. While I find it vital for the ocean community that we push back, especially, about outright fraud, there are a few things that happen which make the entire process enormously frustrating. So much so that you come away disinclined to bother doing anything the next time a fraudulent project comes around.

1. Everyone expects you to be as outraged as they are. I get it, people don’t like being defrauded, people don’t like seeing others defrauded, and everyone feels a sense of self-righteous justice when they find something to rail against in real time. But I’m not the ShittyCrowdfunding Avenger. I saw a bad project, I wrote about the bad project, I gave some interviews to journalists about the bad project. I’m not in the business of doggedly pursuing one crowfunding campaign to extinction. I also don’t assume people are idiots. Whenever you back any crowdfunding campaign, you have to do your due diligence. We make an effort here to make our due diligence public and easy to find so that other can benefit from it. 

People spend their money on lots of stupid things. I’m happy to educate, but I’m not interested in auditing them.

In the past few days, people I’ve never met have been demanding I put in huge amounts of work mounting campaigns against IndieGoGo, filing reports with the FBI (why would you even think the FBI has jurisdiction over a project in South Korea and Sweden?), and tracking down every shred of evidence about this project. Sorry folks, that really ain’t my bag. Hell, I don’t even have any ill-will against the people behind Triton.

2. Everyone expects your ideals to line up with theirs. We run an entire series about picking the best ocean crowfunding campaigns and pointing our audience towards . I don’t know why anyone would think we’re anti-crowdfunding. We’re pro-crowdfunding and pro-due-diligence. One bad project doesn’t signal the death of all crowdfunding. One bad project does not mean crowdfunding is a scam. One bad project does not mean that only scammers crowdfund. Putting a project on one site versus another does not mean you know your project is bad.

A lot of really awesome things have emerged from the modern crowdfunding movement (and some truly amazing things have come from the ancient crowdfunding movement). Some weird, goofy, and frivolous things have. Some scams have as well. Crowdfunding is an investment. It’s actually a pretty low-risk investment. But not all investments are good.

3. People get really mad when you’re careful with your words. I cannot count the number of people who were viscerally angry at me that I said the project was “almost certainly” a scam, rather than just a scam. This hearkens back to point 1: I’m probably not as outraged about this as you are. But guess what? I phrased it that way because I believe it. I am not 100% certain that this is a malicious scam. It’s possible that these folks are idealists that genuinely believe they can deliver the product if they just get enough money to finish the prototype. Maybe it is a scam, but not everyone on the team is in on it. Maybe they have a prototype they think partially works, but are misinterpreting their results. Maybe it’s an elaborate performance piece. It’s probably not any of those. It’s “almost certainly” a scam.

But seriously, I’ve done my piece. I am not the ShittyCrowdfunding Avenger. I am not in the business of auditing how other people spend their money. If you want to gamble $300 bucks on the tiniest possibility there’s something at the end of the Triton rabbit hole, that’s fine with me. The internet is now flooded with heaps of excellent articles about this project and why it probably doesn’t work. The burden of due diligence is on you.


Deep-sea biologist, population/conservation geneticist, backyard farm advocate. The deep sea is Earth's last great wilderness.


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