The old saying "It aint' over till the fat lady sings" was in full force today as the Mexican Navy arrived and proceeded to board all the vessels at Point Norte, Isla Guadalupe.
This is what we had feared. The final edict after many months of back and forth conversations and negotiations with various government agencies was absolutely "No Chumming".
Unfortunately Mexico has chosen to deliver this final message on site and at the beginning of the 2008 shark diving season with an actual Navy Frigate.
This leaves us as eco tour operators in an unusual spot and our divers wondering what's next?
In the short term no chumming means that while sharks will be seen this year (they are extremely curious animals and will come-non chummed-to the cages) we will be slower than usual. That's the short term.
The long term prognosis is grim indeed. Mexico needs shark tourism, it also needs to be benefited by shark tourism. Right now it is not benefiting. Right now divers pay the equivalent of $20.00 USD for permits to enter the Bio Sphere and that's it. They should be receiving a whole lot more. We're in full agreement with those within Mexico who see it that way.
Additionally, the very real specter of rampant shark fishing at this site once shark diving operations fade away is something that must be contended with. You may say it would never happen here, but 2.5 tons of shark fins were taken from the Socorro's this spring-right under the nose of the Mexican Navy base stationed at that Bio Sphere.
This is a clarion call. If Mexico is successful in essentially gutting the relatively nascent 3.1 million dollar white shark dive tour industry and these vessels cannot continue to educate divers, support field research, and continue operating in a sustainable manner-we will lose upwards to 30% of the entire Western Pacific White shark population to shark fishing in a matter of two years.
Left to their own devices shark fishermen have a strong financial incentive to harvest sharks even within protected Bio Spheres. We will submit to you that Mexico's government has their guns turned on the wrong people at this point.