Monday, August 11, 2008

Shark Eco-Tourism a Careful Balance

The following article and image was posted in 2006. Realizing that changes within the shark diving industry start with the operators-sometimes you make decisions based on what is good for the resource first and your clients second.

We're happy to say divers who have booked with us in the ensuing two years have wholeheartedly supported this action, especially after seeing the image of this shark taken from 2005.

San Diego, CA – September, 2006 – Mixing diving with eco-tourism is a careful balancing act. Recently shark diving operators and vessel owners tackled the controversial issue of allowing clients to fish while simultaneously attracting Great White sharks into the same area for cage diving. With the stewardship of the newly formed Bio-Sphere Reserve at Isla Guadalupe in mind, the owners of several Great White shark diving vessels and Shark Diver have announced a new working group in San Diego, Ca.

Every season, Isla Guadalupe, Mexico accommodates up to seven full-time and part-time shark vessels, which bring more than 600 eco-tourists to cage dive and see Great White sharks up close. Last season, vessel owners Greg Grivetto of Horizon Charters, Shane Slaughter and John Coniff from Islander Charters along with Mike Lever from Nautilus Explorer and Patric Douglas from Shark Diver began looking into the issue of recreational fishing while conducting cage diving operations with Great Whites. All five operators have recently concluded that the two activities do not mix.

“After careful review of our operations, we have decided that allowing divers to fish while we’re in the new Bio Sphere of Isla Guadalupe is counter productive to maintaining the ecosystem and protecting the safety of the Great White Shark species,” said Grivetto. “In the past we allowed divers to fish for tuna while at the shark site. But when we discovered fishing tackle on the very sharks we were there to observe, we changed our practices.”

“Eco-tourism is all about leaving the smallest footprint you can” says Mike Lever. We run dive operations at other sensitive sites including the Revillagigedos and choose not to offer fishing opportunities in any Biosphere Reserves or marine protected areas. For us it was an easy decision”

Shane Slaughter from Islander "As a fisherman, I feel the act of fishing at Guadalupe is fine on its own, but to deliberately attract sharks while fishing gear is in the water is irresponsible and potentially fatal to the sharks... That is not what eco-tourism is all about."

Douglas also thought this was the right decision for Isla Guadalupe. “If you look at other Great White shark sites worldwide, you’ll see a trend towards banning fishing during shark diving operations. As the Mexican government begins to take positive steps to ensure that the Isla Guadalupe Bio-Sphere activities are conducive to long term use, we’re changing our operations to support this 100 percent.”

A joint statement from this new working group was released today:

“We are working as a group to educate the general public about Great White sharks and activities that may affect them. Our programs provide generous support to research teams and deep insight into the sharks day to day behaviors. Short term and long term shark diving protocols will be reviewed by us as will activities related to our impact on this site and the sharks. For now we have decided that fishing activities in concert with shark diving activities lead to unfortunate mishaps that are not conducive to responsible shark eco-tourism. We look forward to future seasons at Isla Guadalupe and continued shark diving with these magnificent animals”

For more information, contact:

• Mike Lever - Nautilus Explorer - www.nautilusexplorer.com

• Greg Grivetto - Horizon Charters - www.sharkadventure.com

• John Coniff and Shane Slaughter-Islander -www.islandersportfishing.com

• Patric Douglas – Shark Diver – www.sharkdiver.com

2 comments:

DaShark said...

Good on 'ya guys!

That is really the ONLY possible decision if you want to maintain your credibility.

Shark Diver said...

Thanks. It was a tough decision, people like to fish and we used to offer that service. Once the 5th vessel came on line at this pristine dive site and this and other sharks showed up with "bling" attached, we had to hit the mat and make the call.

It really opened our eyes to change and site stewardship.