Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sustainable Shark Diving - Mexico

One of the primary questions for any new shark diving operator is the sustainability question. Will the program put in place today be the same program 10 years from now? With this question also comes the ultimate question of commercial shark diving safety.

As we have long maintained what happens at one dive site resonates for good or bad at others and this is a global phenomenon. In the case of Mexico a commercial shark sites success or failure in Mexican waters will help determine the fate of other sites and the longevity of the industry as a whole within Mexico.

Which leads us to Playa Del Carmen and the new bull shark site there. This site appeared on the shark diving communities radar about two years ago. It is arguably one of the newer and more exciting shark sites and will generate more interest and divers in the years to come.

From the video's on You Tube and elsewhere it's pretty evident this site needs some industry help as it features unshielded half suit divers, shark feeding staff without armor, and overall free form encounters with poor to disastrous bait controls. Exciting, but is it sustainable?

That's not to say this site is not viable, it might well be. One look at other dive ecounters with bulls show these animals deserve special consideration beyond the "man in the sand with the bait crate".

It is hoped that these lessons are learned soon for the sake of the entire nascent shark diving industry in Mexico:


DaShark said...

Very interesting!

I've done some digging and "somebody" of authority just sent me this:

"The site is a mile out from the port in 60 feet of water. Flat sandy or rubbled bottom with OK vis unless the sharks stir it up. The Operators say the bulls will leave in the next couple weeks which makes sense for our half of the world. They would love for XYZ and I to come down and advise them and even tag a couple to see where they go....(suspicion is Belize area and Cuba but no one knows for sure) The bulls have always been there and from time to time operators feed them. No rules or continuity in the feeding from operator to operator so is most likely an accident waiting to happen. Mexican govt. and or Tourist Board has said OK for now until something happens and then they will "remove" the sharks. We have been invited down to see them when they return in the fall or before they leave again in 2010. It is close to USA market and Cozumel has a lot to offer diving-wise and of course cheap and popular...... That's about it."

So far so good!
In very general terms, this has to happen for it to be a great success:

- ideally, turn this into a protected area - failing that, the place will sooner or later be closed and/or wiped out as has happened time after time after time again in the past when Conservation was not the hot topic it is now.
- develop stringent safety protocols
- ideally, have only one operator handle the animals, with other operators being allowed to bring their clients

As you correctly point out, it's all about long-term sustainability - not short-term cash.

Shark Diver said...

Thanks for the update any long term help those guys can get from "credible operators" will be a boon for the region and for Mexico's nascent shark tourism.

Do the local guys even understand what is at play here or is this just another day at the office with no mind towards industry?

Don't answer that, if Roatan Honduras is your answer;)