Rest in peace, “ocean addict” Paul Walker

Paul Walker sits with Dr. Michael Domeier and some shark fishing gear.

Paul Walker sits with Dr. Michael Domeier and some shark fishing gear on the “set” of “Spawn of Jaws.” Image via Discovery Channel.

Much of the media coverage of the life of Paul Walker, who died tragically this past weekend at age 40, has focused on his successful film career. A rare celebrity who even the gossip-obsessed never heard a bad word about , Walker was beloved by his colleagues. However, he once noted that “I’m an actor, that’s my job but it’s not my life”. Indeed, few know that in addition to being a talented actor, he had another side.

He was also a philanthropist, founding “Reach Out Worldwide” in 2010 after a trip to Haiti. Walker was attending a Reach Out Worldwide event focusing on raising money for typhoon Haiyan relief when he died.

He was also a vocal advocate for marine science and conservation. He even described himself in his twitter profile, with which he discussed sharks and their conservation, with the words “outdoorsman, ocean addict, adrenaline junkie… and I do some acting on the side.”

Paul Walker’s lifelong idol was Jacques Cousteau, and he majored in marine biology in college. Entertainment Weekly noted that when he spoke about the ocean, Walker had a “giddy passion” in his voice. Though his life went in a different direction, his first career choice was always to study the ocean, and he noted in a 2011 interview that “the passion for marine biology is still there.”

Walker was able to use his fame to help the ocean and to follow his lifelong dreams. In addition to serving on the board of the Billfish Foundation since 2006, Walker aided researcher Dr. Michael Domeier in his efforts to study great white sharks. This was chronicled in the National Geographic TV show “Shark Men,” as well as the 2013 Shark Week special “Spawn of Jaws.” Walker also appeared in a shark conservation PSA during Shark Week 2013.  He had the opportunity to name one of Dr. Domeier’s study animals, and he named it after his daughter.

Rest in peace, ocean addict. You will be missed.

Full video of injured shark shows numerous natural injuries

Junior the Great White shark, before and (long) after being caught by Dr. Domeier's team. Image courtesy

Several months ago, still photographs showing an injured great white shark surfaced. The shark in question was previously captured by a shark research team lead by Dr. Michael Domeier on the TV show “Shark Men” – and the capture of this shark didn’t go as planned. These still images were taken from a video, and in response to the ensuing controversy, Dr. Domeier’s team claimed that when the full video is viewed, you can see that the injury comes from another shark and not from capture injury. No clear sharkbite injuries are visible in the original still image.

I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the full video, which had been in the possession of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries pending an investigation.

Here, for the first time available to the public, is the full video from which the above images were taken.

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Severely injured great white shark found, are scientists responsible?

[Editor’s Notice – Comments have been suspended on this post. Please visit “Full video of injured shark shows numerous natural injuries” for an update on this controversy]

Last summer, I reviewed National Geographic’s “Expedition Great White” and interviewed the lead scientist. Several researchers and conservationists were concerned about the methods that Dr. Michael Domeier uses to study great white sharks, particularly after one shark was “foul hooked” through the gills. These methods (removing captured great white sharks from the water to study them using a forklift-like structure) make for excellent television, but may be harmful to the sharks.  As I reported last year: Read More