Thursday, July 29, 2021

How do we identify the Great White Sharks?



We have over 370 individual Great White Shark identified at Guadalupe Island. The Marine Conservation Science Institute has been keeping track of these awesome animals since 2001. 

Lets look at what makes these unique and the methods we use to identify them. The first thing we determine is the sex of the sharks. Male sharks have claspers and Females don't. 

Female Shark, no claspers

 

Male shark, claspers

 

Once we know the sex of the shark, we look at the pattern of the transition from the white belly to the grey top. This transition is like a fingerprint. We primarily look at 3 different areas of the Shark. The gills, pelvic area, and the tail. 

 

Lets look at this picture of a Great White Shark and identify it.

 

First we need to determine the sex of the shark. So lets take a closer look at the pelvic area. We can see that there are no claspers, so it is a female.

No claspers, = female shark.

Now that we know that is a female, we look through our database and try to match up the color pattern to the females we have in our database.

#262, Deb

 

I think we found a match #262, Deb, looks like a perfect match. What if we are not convinced? In that case we look at another area. How about the gills?


Left is our photo, right is our databese

As you can see, the color pattern on the gills matches as well, so we have a confirmed match. The shark in our picture is #262 "Deb"

Aside from the color pattern, we also look for mutilations. We have previously talked about the amazing healing ability of our sharks here, so we have to be careful to not use regular injuries as a sole means of identification. Here is a picture of"Bruce" with a big bite from another shark.



Just a year later, he barely showed any sign of that injury.

Unlike flesh-wounds, mutilations are permanent. We have many sharks that have some unique mutilations, like the famous "Lucy" with her mangled tail.

Lucy

However, even with mutilations we have to be careful. There are multiple sharks who may have similar mutilations, so we still have to make sure that we positively identify those sharks. At Guadalupe, "Andy", "Chugey", "Tzitzimitl", and "Cori B" all have the top of their tail missing



There are other mutilations, like missing pieces of a pectoral, pelvic, or dorsal fin that can all be used as a preliminary identification, but like mentioned above, it's never a sole means and always has to be confirmed by looking at the color pattern.

Many people, especially on social media are using "birth marks", black spots on typically the white belly of the shark, to identify the sharks. Those are actually not birth marks at all, but rather copepods, a parasite that can move around and may disappear from a shar, so they are not a good way to identify our sharks. 

"Tzitzimitl" with copepods.

All of our divers receive a copy of the entire Photo ID Database witch contains every shark we have identified at Guadalupe Island.

 

 

Now that you know how to identify the sharks, you are ready to come shark diving with us. How great will it be when you watch "Shark Week" the next time and you're able to say "this is the shark that swam right by me". Our goal is not to simply get you face to face with Great White Sharks, but to also share everything we know about all the individual sharks we encounter. Some individuals we have known for 21 years and watched the grow from "little" 12 footers to well over 16 feet.

On some of our trips are hosted by Nicole Nasby-Lucaas, the scientist who keeps the database, where she shares her vast knowledge from years of researching Guadalupe's Great White Sharks with our divers.

Call us at 619.887.4275 or email crew@sharkdiver.com for more information on our expeditions.

Let's go shark diving!

Cheers,

Martin Graf

CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.


Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Special Great White Shark Expedition to Guadalupe Island.


Shark Diver is excited to announce that we will have a very special expedition to Guadalupe Island this fall. From Sept. 8-13 we will have both Nicole Nasby-Lucas, the scientist responsible for the Guadalupe Photo ID database and Tanya Houppermans, a world renowned underwater photographer on board.


Nicole Nasby-Lucas

Nicole has been studying the white sharks of Guadalupe Island, Mexico since 2001. Her research includes satellite tagging and tracking studies to examine migration patterns and behavior. She also manages the Guadalupe Island white shark photo-ID program and maintains a database of all sharks sighted at Guadalupe Island since 1999. The photo-ID program is important for tracking the visitation patterns of individual sharks as well as monitoring the overall status of the population. By using the unique coloration of these sharks, she’s been able to identify over 360 individuals to date. This project started in 2001 and some of these sharks have been seen every year since. All of this research is crucial for the management and conservation of northeastern Pacific white sharks.

All our guests will receive a copy of the official Guadalupe Shark Photo ID database. How awesome would it be if you can say "this is the shark that swam right next to me" the next time you watch Shark Week?

Tanya Houppermans is a world renowned underwater photographer and conservationist best known for her images depicting the grace and beauty of sharks.

 

Tanya Houppermans
 

A former mathematician and research operations analyst, she left the corporate world behind in 2015 to concentrate full time on conservation after learning that over 70 million sharks are killed every year with many species being on the verge of extinction. Her articles and images have been published around the world, and she is the recipient of several prestigious awards for her photography including her photo "Harmony" which won:

First Place awards in the ‘Sharks’ category in the World Shootout in 2017, First Place in the ‘Portrait’ category in the Underwater Photographer of the Year competition, and the Grand Prize in the California Academy of Sciences Big Picture Natural World Photography Competition. 

"Harmony"
 

A prominent public speaker, Tanya has shared her experiences in the underwater world with international audiences in locations such as Singapore, Shanghai, Paris, and Washington D.C. She is actively involved in cutting-edge shark research and helped to develop the citizen science program Spot A Shark USA to study sand tiger shark populations along the east coast of the Unites States. Tanya can be seen in the program ‘Shark Gangs’ that highlights her work with the sand tiger sharks of North Carolina as part of National Geographic’s SharkFest 2021.

Sand Tiger aggregation
 

On our expedition Tanya will share her vast knowledge of underwater photography, giving tips and advise to our guest as well as talk about her work in conservation.

Having both Nicole and Tanya on board will give our guests the unique opportunity to get to know our sharks, some of which we have known for over 20 years now, participate in the research and learn how to take awesome pictures and videos or our toothy "friends". 

We only have a limited number of spaces left on this special expedition. Call us at 619.887.4275 or email crew@sharkdiver.com for more info.

Let's go shark diving!

Cheers,

Martin Graf

CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at crew@sharkdiver.com.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Guadalupe Great White Sharks in danger.

I started SCUBA diving and spear-fishing at Guadalupe Island in 1996, 5 years before we started shark diving there. It is during that time that we discovered the Great White Sharks that are aggregating at there. At first it was just the occasional encounter, mainly while spear-fishing, but over the years those encounters grew in frequency and it was not unheard of to see a GWS while SCUBA diving. 
 
My first encounter with a GWS happened at the south end of Guadalupe, while working as a divemaster, watching some divers. I noticed something moving behind me and when I turned I was face to face with a Great White Shark. It calmly swam by me, continued away from me for about 100' or so and slowly turned around, swimming right back towards me and passing just inches from my body. Strangely, it was not a scary experience, but rather a "wow!" kind of moment. It wasn't at all what I expected from seeing a GWS up close and personal and it started my love for (some people might say my obsession with) these awesome animals.
 
 

In 2001 we started our first season of cage diving at Guadalupe. At the time the Island was not a biosphere and there were no rules and regulations regarding diving with sharks and even fishing for Great White Sharks was legal. The operators of the cage diving boats got together and created the Guadalupe Island Conservation Fund, a non profit organization with the goal of helping create protections for the sharks and fund research that is critical for their protection.

In 2003 a young graduate student by the name of Mauricio Hoyos started studying the sharks at Guadalupe. He was living on the Island for 3 months at a time and the shark diving boats supported him with money, supplies as well as a hot meal and warm bed for the night when we were at the Island. Of course the world now knows him as Dr. Hoyos from various shark programs on TV as he continues to do research at Guadalupe.


In 2005 Guadalupe Island became a biosphere, the equivalent of a national park in the US. That designation allowed the government to establish rules and regulations for using the Island and also created revenues from the sale of permits for the boats and entrance fees for everyone visiting the Island. Every year thousands of shark enthusiasts visit Guadalupe to admire these animals up close and personal. The popularity of the White Sharks, combined with the typically crystal clear waters at the Island, have established Guadalupe as the premier White Shark diving site in the world. Numerous TV programs filmed there also made Guadalupe a household word for anyone watching Shark Week or Nat. Geo's Shark Fest on TV.



It wasn't until 2007 that the Great White Shark became a protected species in all of Mexico. Unfortunately, the enforcement of that ban was difficult, since there is only a small naval detachment at the south end of Guadalupe and poachers were still trying to catch these sharks. During the early years of the ban on White Shark fishing the shark diving boats "discouraged" more than a few boats that were illegally targeting these sharks. Over the years, the wannabe poachers have learned that they can't easily get away with poaching at Guadalupe because all the shark boats were keeping a watchful eye on the area.


That brings us to the present. Because of covid-19 the Island has been closed. That means that right now, with the Great White Shark aggregation season underway, there is no deterrent for any poacher that wants to kill these sharks. We already know from other locations like the Galapagos where a Chinese fishing trawler poached 300 tons of fish and Fiji, where poachers used the covid-19 shutdown of the shark diving activities to go and poach in the Shark Reef Marine Reserve, that when there is no effective barrier for illegal fishing, that the poachers have free reign. 
 
Can you imagine what would happen if a Chinese fishing vessel is targeting the Great White Sharks at Guadalupe? Fins from Great White Sharks are highly prized and that is without the value of the jaws and teeth that can fetch as much as $1k PER TOOTH! An action like this could wipe out the entire population of Great White Sharks at Guadalupe in a week!

For me these sharks are more than just another fish. Over the last 20 years of diving with them, I've gotten attached to not only Great White Sharks in general, but to numerous individuals, some of which I've seen every year since 2001. Lucy, Chugey, Scarboard, Tzitzimitl, Bruce, Geoff Nuttal, Luca Arnone, Slash Fin, Screaming Mimi, Crazy Tryss, Mau, Jacques, Thor etc. etc. I worry about them.

We have over 360 individual Great White Sharks in our database that is maintained by Nicole Lucas from the Marine Conservation Science Institute That database is maintained with photos from the cage divers and Shark Diver even has 4 trips a year that are specifically designed as a fund raiser to help keep that database up to date.

We hope that the Mexican authorities will reopen the Guadalupe biosphere as soon as safely possible, so that we can go out there once more and keep and eye on our sharks. Their lives may literally depend on it!

Cheers,
Martin Graf

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at crew@sharkdiver.com.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Introducing "Luca Arnone" a subadult Great White Shark at Guadalupe


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In our continuing effort to bring the sharks to you while we are all confined to our homes, let me introduce you to Luca Arnone. He is listed as #163 in our photo ID database at Guadalupe Island. We first met him in 2013 and he has been coming back every year since.


A few years ago "Luca" looked a bit rough. He was partially wrapped in a thick rope, which fortunately was being removed by Dr. Mauricio Hoyos, the local researcher at Guadalupe Island. The cut caused by the rope was not too deep and since white sharks have an amazing ability to heal, it did not cause him any permanent harm. When he swam by me last year, his injury was barely noticeable, with just a faint black mark remaining.




"Luca" was a fairly small shark when we first met him, probably just shy of 12', but he didn't seem to mind the bigger sharks and was a frequent visitor to our cages. He has grown quite a bit in the last seven years but hasn't lost his active behavior. He is still as curious as ever and exhibits a fairly dominant behavior, even towards bigger sharks.


Luca was named by one of our divers, who named 2 different sharks, one after his son, Luca and the other after his daughter Milana. Naming a shark is one way our divers support the ongoing research at Guadalupe Island. The Marine Science Conservation Institute, "MCSI" who maintains the photo ID has various levels of sponsorship available, including naming a shark.


Another way you can support "MCSI" is by coming on one of our "science" trips. A portion of these expeditions goes to fund the research and Nicole Lucas-Nasby, the researcher maintaining that database is coming along as the host. She is sharing the results of her research with you and if we encounter a new shark, you'll also have an opportunity to name that shark. How cool would it be, if you see a shark that you named on "Sharkweek"?

In the video below you'll see "Luca Arnone" with Alyssa and Tristan who named Crazy "Tryss" who we introduced you to earlier here


Our divers can also support the research by letting "MCSI" use their pictures to update the Photo ID database.

If you want to find out for yourself what it's like to come face to face with a great white shark once this virus crisis is over and maybe name one of these sharks, come join us on one of our expeditions. We do have some spaces open and would love to introduce you to our sharks.

Call 619.887.4275, email crew@sharkdiver.com or visit www.sharkdiver.com for more information.

Let's go shark diving!

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives, Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at crew@sharkdiver.com.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Introducing Slash Fin, an iconic Great White Shark at Guadalupe Island


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Continuing to introduce you to the Great White Sharks of Guadalupe Island during our coronavirus quarantine, I'd like you to meet "Slash Fin",  #213 in our Photo ID database. She is a very active shark, swimming around normally and exhibiting all the typical white shark behaviors.


There is however something very different about this shark. Aside from a big lump on her side, she only has 3 visible gill plates on her left side. When looked at from the top, the left side of her head is pretty straight, while the right side curves out around her gills. It doesn't look like she is getting much water through her left side gills either and she seems to be breathing mainly through her right side gills.


Check out the video below. Aside from a nice bite injury she has, there are only 3 visible gill plates.



 When you look closely, you can see that she has 5 gill slits, but 2 of her gills are completely covered by another gill plate. The bite on her gills has nothing to do with this oddity, since she has looked this way since we first met her and the injury is new.



Aside from her gills, she also has a deformed dorsal fin, with the trailing edge looking all ragged. It could be due to an injury, but I don't see an obvious signs of a trauma there.


On her right side, just behind and below her dorsal fin, she has a growth that is sticking out at least 6 inches. Is it a tumor, or is something embedded in her body?

Watch the video below and check out that growth for yourself.



Slash fin is a subadult female and about 13' in lenght. Despite her deformities, she doesn't exhibit any signs of distress and seems to be doing well.

The longer I dive with these sharks, the more I'm amazed by the new things we discover and learn about them. Are her deformities genetic? Is it a birth defect? Or....? I don't know, I'm just reporting my observations. Any scientists out there want to take a look at this?

Once we leave this coronavirus behind us, come and join us on one of our expeditions to Guadalupe Island and meet our sharks face to face.

Contact us at 619.887.4275 or crew@sharkdiver.com for more info.

Let's go shark diving!

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at crew@sharkdiver.com.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Introducing Screaming Mimi, a very unique Great White Shark at Guadalupe Island


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During our confinement at home due to the coronavirus, we are introducing you to a few of our favorite characters you might meet when you visit Guadalupe Island through a series of blogs. Today we'd like you to meet "Screaming Mimi"!

At Shark Diver, our goal is to not just take you to Guadalupe to see some Great White Sharks, we want you to get to know these awesome creatures individually. They all have different character traits and behaviors. How awesome would it be when the next time you watch shark week you can say "this is the shark that swam right next to me!"? So that you can identify the individual sharks when you come home from your trip, every one of our divers will receive a copy of our Photo ID to take home.

 We met "Screaming Mimi" a couple of years ago. When I first encountered her, I nicknamed her "Kinky".  She has a very distinct kink in her tail. I have no idea what caused that kink, since she doesn't have any obvious scars or signs of injury. She was named "Screaming Mimi" by someone through the "Sponsor a shark" program of the Marine Conservation Science Institute. That sponsor program is one of the ways they raise funds for the Photo ID database at Guadalupe Island.



Mimi is a very active and curious shark. When she encounters something new in the water, she exhibits a typical white shark trait. Unlike what most people think, white sharks don't just attack when they encounter something they don't know. They swim by close to check it out. It is actually quite funny some times. A couple of years ago, a beach towel blew overboard and started to drift down. 3 white sharks came by to investigate it. 2 of them jerked away and rapidly swam away when the towel moved a little in the current. The 3rd. one kept swimming close to it, jerking away, and getting closer again. I don't know if it eventually bit the towel or not, as I lost sight of both the shark and the towel in the distance.


Watch the video below of Mimi checking out my GoPro camera that was attached to a long pole and handled from the boat.


You can see that they don't just attack something they don't know. The swim by and check things out first.
Screaming Mimi ©Tim Peterson

Mimi also likes to swim really close to the cages and makes eye contact with the divers.



Mimi is around 14' long and not quite mature yet. It is amazing how big these sharks have to be, before they are mature and able to reproduce.

I hope we'll see her again this year. She loves to swim around the cages, sometimes for hours. It never ceases to amaze me that we keep seeing the same individual sharks year after year. It's not like they are resident sharks. They migrate thousands of miles each year but come right back to the same spot at Guadalupe Island.

If you want to come face to face with a great white shark and would like to learn how to identify these sharks, join us on one of our "science" expeditions. We do have some spaces open and would love to introduce you to our sharks.

Call 619.887.4275, email crew@sharkdiver.com or visit www.sharkdiver.com for more information.

Let's go shark diving!

Cheers,

Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at crew@sharkdiver.com.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Introducing "Chugey" an iconic Great White Shark at Guadalupe Island.

Since most of us are still staying at home during this corona crisis, I'll continue to bring some "shark joy" to everyone by introducing you to our great white sharks at Guadalupe. Today I'd like you to meet Chugey. He is one of the iconic sharks at Guadalupe. We first encountered him in 2004 and he's been regularly sighted ever since. One of his characteristics is his cut caudal (tail) fin. It pretty much resembles the tail of an airplane, with a flat top.

Chugey is a very active shark, to say the least. Being cautious doesn't seem to factor into his actions. He's had numerous injuries throughout the years, but seems to be just fine despite of it.

Just how rough a life does he have? We have talked about the amazing healing power of these amazing Great White Sharks here and it looks like they really need that ability to heal. Chugey, the shark we were talking about in that blog, was back at Guadalupe Island in 2018 and it looked like that he hadn't gotten any more careful since he got his face bit the first time. While his original wound closed quite nicely, he was sporting some brand new bite marks.

As a reminder, here is what he looked like 2 years earlier.


Here is what he looked like with his old scar and new bite marks.



This is another picture of Chugey, taken by one of our divers, Marie Tartar.



It's great to see him back at Guadalupe every year, acting like nothing happened. I continue to be blown away by both their ability to heal and never showing any signs of discomfort or indication that they are in pain, when swimming around with severe bite injuries.

Once this corona virus pandemic is over in the fall, we are heading back to Guadalupe Island for our 20th season of diving with our Great White Sharks. Nicole Nasby-Lucas, who is the person responsible for our photo ID database, will be coming out with us on 4 of our expeditions.  Thanks to her database, we can individually identify the sharks and also have a history of when they visited Guadalupe Island. In 2019 we added over 60 new sharks and are now over 360 individuals that have been sighted since we first started diving there in 2001.

How many new sharks will we encounter this season? I can't wait to get back there and find out.

What will he be named?


If you would like more information on our expeditions once this corona virus pandemic is over, Call 619.887.4275 or email us at crew@sharkdiver.com

Hopefully soon we'll be able to once again say "Let's go shark diving!"

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO
Shark Diver


About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives, Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at crew@sharkdiver.com.
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Sunday, April 5, 2020

Introducing "Crazy" Tryss, a very unique Great White Shark at Guadalupe Island


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Continuing to introduce you to the Great White Sharks at Guadalupe Island during this coronavirus crisis, I'd like you to meet "Crazy" Tryss. Thanks to Nicole Lucas from the Marine Conservation Science Institute, we have a way to identify and keep a record of all the sharks seen at Guadalupe Island. This is how we know that on one of our 2018 expeditions we encountered a record-breaking 52 different individuals, including a whopping 16 sharks that have not been previously identified. This shattered our previous record of 34 individuals seen on a single trip.




It was not just the number of sharks we encountered that was unusual, it was also the behavior of one of the new sharks. Meet "Tryss", or crazy Tryss as I like to call her!  Tryss displayed a very unusual behavior for a Great White Shark. She came to the cages multiple times, without any bait attracting her, sticking her nose into it,  bumping the boat and squeezing through narrow gaps. She did all that in slow motion, never freaking out  like other sharks would, when they touch the cage, keeping her eyes open, totally aware of her surroundings.

Check out the pictures and videos of her.


"Tryss" coming between the cages and the boat.


"Tryss" sticking her nose into the cage.

Checking out the boat.


Sticking her nose into the cage.


Hello there!


Hey, anyone up there?



See ya guys!

In 18 years of diving with these amazing animals, I have never witnessed a shark behave quite like this. It just goes to show that they will never stop surprising you. That's why I love my job and am completely fascinated by these awesome creatures.

Shark Diver proudly supports the Marine Conservation Science Institute through our MCSI hosted expeditions.  Joining us on one of these expeditions is  a great way to learn about our sharks and support the research at the same time. Maybe you'll even get to name a shark, like the ones who named "Tryss" in 2018.

Once this coronavirus crisis is over and we are free to travel again, let's go shark diving!

For more information, visit  www.sharkdiver.com, email crew@sharkdiver.com, or call 619.887.4275

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives, Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at crew@sharkdiver.com.