Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Oregon Dead White Shark - Public Necropsy

In August we covered an accidental take of a Great White off the coast of Oregon. The attached video lead to some outrage within the shark community and has culminated in a rare public necropsy this week during its dissection at Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center:

"It is a shame that the shark became entangled in the ropes and died, but the specimen still has a great deal of scientific and educational value," said William Hanshumaker, the OSU center's marine education specialist, who is coordinating the necropsy. "Top predators such as this are difficult to study and we don't know a lot about where they migrate or breed.


Complete Story

Expedition to the Phoenix Islands Protected Area - Shark Update

We watch a lot of expedition blogs here at Underwater Thrills. Most are garden variety expeditions exploring the flora and fauna of the non sharky kind.

Then there's this, a recent report from the Woods Hole Expedition to the Phoenix Islands Protected Area.

Never heard of it?

The Phoenix Islands Marine Protected Area is the largest protected marine area in the world. It was formed in 2008 thanks to the efforts of the Island nation of Kiribati, the New England Aquarium and Conservation International.

This post serves as a cautionary tale to the recent stunning news about Palau's newly announced Shark Sanctuary. Without enforcement Palau's sharks are still at risk, a combination of shark tourism dollars and NGO guidance will provide the operational capital and vessels to keep fishermen out of the region.

Here's the recent expedition blog post talking about the sharks of the Phoenix Islands Marine Protected Area:

But some fish were scarce: divers saw fewer, much smaller sharks than were here in years past. Sharks are the targets worldwide of a lucrative trade in shark fins for the Asian market, and in many places there are almost no sharks left.

Fish biologist Greg Stone said, “We’re seeing the result of shark fishing that happened before PIPA was protected. We know that commercial long-lining fishing vessels came through in 2001 and 2005, and we saw some of this fishing happening at the time, but the Phoenix Islands were not a protected area until 2006.”

The problem is that sharks reproduce slowly and don’t grow quickly, so there are only young, small sharks on the reef. “The success,” said Greg, “is that there are many young sharks, and the Kiribati government has great surveillance systems in place to protect them and the reefs.”

Tukabu told our group, “Kiiribati has signed an agreement with the U.S. Coast Guard in Hawai’I to allow Kiribati officers on USCG ships, and they are authorized to arrest fishing boats here illegally – they have surveillance on the area, and inform our security system if boats are here illegally. The Kiribati government has recently fined two illegal shark fishing vessels five million dollars.” The scientists hope that this action will send a strong message: stay out of PIPA, and let the reefs be. Like the Phoenix, they will rise.

Tsunami American Samoa - Angry Oceans

Our condolences to the people of American Samoa and surrounding islands who were slammed by a tsunami yesterday after an earthquake measuring 8.4 sent a tidal surge 15+ feet into the coastlines and city capitol.

This is the worst natural disaster in American Samoan history, to donate to relief funds please go here:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Dorsal Fin Blog - Shucking Media Oysters

When you "shuck oysters," you take the sharp point of an oyster knife and work it on the back end of an oyster until you find the "sweet spot."

Once you have found that spot you are generally rewarded with a satisfying pop, when the meaty inside of the oyster is revealed to all.

That's what new blue blogger Dorsal Fin does with mainstream media and sharks - poking at media hysteria to reveal the meaty inside of the story.

The Dorsal Fin Blog has impressed us from it's inception a few months ago. With its stark mandate "Shark News…without the sensationalism" this blog is a much needed addition to the world of shark news coverage.

Welcome Dorsal Fin, if this weeks blog post is anything like the next 2000, the world of shark media will soon change...for the better.

Shark Free Marinas Initiative - Puerto Rico

Congratulations to Palmas Del Mar Yacht Club for going "shark free" this month.

Our first marina in Puerto Rico registered last week, the Palmas Del Mar Yacht Club, a new 163 slip facility with regional industry leadership in mind.

You can find out about their marina at the website:

Sail into a paradise as rich as the open sea in our new Yacht Club and Megayacht Marina. Our new Yacht Club is the only state-of-the-art Marina in the Caribbean linked to a complete resort community. Come aboard and be one of the first to reserve one of the 152 slips designed to serve yachts from 50 to 125 feet long.

The Yacht Club is also being designed with side tie mega-slips reserved for transient mega-yachts of up to 175 feet.

Are you a marina owner/manager? Follow their example and register your facility with Shark-Free Marinas today.

Want to get involved with SFMI? Visit our Regional Ambassadors page for more info.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Alcohol and Shark Diving - Mixing Success

As shark media marketing folks we like this:

Scottish whisky liqueur Drambuie is rewarding 13 of its loyal bartenders by throwing them to the sharks – literally.

In the spirit of adventure that embodies Drambuie and its brand values of ‘risk, rebellion, passion and mystery’, they offered bartenders across the country the opportunity to win a trip cage-diving with sharks off the coast of Port Lincoln, South Australia.

The three winning venues - Rambutan in Sydney, Madame Brussels in Melbourne and the Forrest Centre Tavern in Perth – are currently at the Neptune Islands (70km off the coast of Port Lincoln) redeeming their prize.

“This promotion is similar to one they run in the UK, where bartenders are taken to Cape Town [South Africa] to experience the adventure-of-a-lifetime shark-diving,” said Drambuie senior brand manager Alison Sinclair. “It’s really exciting how well the bartenders have embraced the competition and the spirit.”

Complete Story

Grey Nurse Shark Birth - On Tape

With an estimated wild population of close to 500 animals the birth of a Grey Nurse shark in Australia this week was a huge event. Attended by an aquarium diver from Australia's UnderWater World the exceptionally rare birth was also caught on tape.

Complete Story

Save Our Seas Foundation - Positive Shark Media

When it comes to Save Our Seas few NGO's strike as many positive chords for shark conservation media output as they do. We have been blogging about their continuing media efforts for a while now as the "conservation gold standard."

So it is with little surprise that we discover another media hit, this time featuring some of the least voices heard in the shark conservation discussion. Mostly due to the fact that in their world shark conservation speaks with the language of data sets and power point presentations.

Here in their own voices, none less passionate, are the shark researchers who are on the front lines of shark conservation worldwide.

After watching this video you have to wonder out loud how Discovery Networks failed as badly as they did with Shark Week 2009. Making compelling shark media is not rocket science, as we have been saying for a while it starts by "engaging the source," not arriving on scene with a hand made shark script fabricated in Los Angeles.

Kudos to all those who made this wonderful video, we could use many more:

Thanks Mike in Beqa for posting this first!

Isla Guadalupe - Vessel Ordered to Leave?

In the ongoing political mess that has become Isla Guadalupe Mexican Navy officials have, for the first time, demanded that a vessel to return to Ensenada in the middle of it's shark operations.

The issue, a ban on all chumming, brought about by a video shot in 2008 is back on the table in full force (thank you Mr.Patrick Walsh).

We'll update you as soon as the details have become clearer, suffice to say this latest development is not a positive one for this newly minted Bio Sphere Reserve or the commercial shark diving industry at large.

Underwater Thrills:Swimming with Sharks - Top 100

We received the following email this morning. 1900+ blog posts later about sharks, shark diving and conservation, it would seem this blog has discovered a wider audience.

Thanks to all our readers, shark divers, and associated industry cranks (you know who you are) we could not have done it without you:

Congratulations Shark Diver Blog,

Your readers have submitted and voted for your blog at The Daily Reviewer. We compiled an exclusive list of the Top 100 scuba Blogs, and we are glad to let you know that your blog was included!


Angelina Mizaki
Selection Committee President
The Daily Reviewer

Shark Free Marinas - Keystone Point Marina Miami

Congratulations to another Miami area marina who has gone Shark Free. This week was an exciting one for the Shark Free Marinas Initiative as marinas from as far away as Puerto Rico joined the effort.

Leadership begins with taking a stand and making a phone call. Kudos to all our Regional Ambassadors who made the call and used our online materials to ask marinas to make that change.

Please support Keystone Point Marina by dropping by their facility at 1950 N.E. 135th Street, North Miami, Florida 33181 and be sure to visit their website at

Are you a marina owner/manager? Follow their example and register your facility with Shark-Free Marinas today.

Want to get involved with SFMI? Visit our Regional Ambassadors page for more info.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hydrolagus melanophasma - Try not to laugh

We have been avoiding this one since it broke last week, but after careful consideration, here it is.

Yes this is shark news, and yes it is science so try not to laugh:

A new ghostshark species has been identified off the coast of Southern California, and it’s darker and weirder than any shark we know.

The purplish black ancient relative of the modern shark comes packed with a suite of odd features that give its taxonomical family the name chimaera, after the mythical beast made from the parts of many animals.

“It’s a big weird looking freaky thing,” said ichthyologist Doug Long of the California Academy of Sciences. “They have some shark characteristics and they have some that are very non-shark.”

Perhaps the most intriguing feature of the newly described species, Hydrolagus melanophasma, is a presumed sexual organ that extends from its forehead called a tentaculum.

“They have this club on the top of their head with spikes. People think it’s used for mating,” Long said. “It’s like a little mace with little spikes and hooks and it fits into their forehead. It’s jointed and it comes out. We’re not sure if it is used to stimulate the female or hold the female closer.”

The species is yet another example of the tremendous, unknown biodiversity that still exists near heavily populated regions like the Los Angeles coastline. It was actually “discovered” long ago in the sense that museum specimens of the fish existed at Scripps Oceanographic Institute. But it wasn’t until a team of researchers from the Pacific Shark Research Center and the California Academy of Sciences came together to examine the odd creatures that they realized they were looking at something new.

Complete Story

Iemanya Oceanica Seeks Divers For Shark Research

The Los Angeles-based nonprofit shark organization, Iemanya Oceanica, is looking for people willing to swim with sharks for research.

Iemanya Oceanica is organizing a shark-tagging research expedition to Baja California next month and is seeking up to 20 scuba divers/snorkelers from Southern California to help.

Iemanya -- named after a Brazilian goddess of the sea -- partnering with the CICESE Research Institute in Baja and Dr. Rachel T. Graham, a world-renowned shark scientist, will travel to a known population of whale sharks in Bahia de Los Angeles on the Sea of Cortez side of Baja California.

Their goal is to apply satellite tags to two to three whale sharks during the five-day expedition, departing from the Los Angeles area on Oct. 15.

Interested divers should contact Iemanya Executive Director Laleh Mohajerani.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Palau Shark Sanctuary - Tourism/Conservation Leadership

We began our blogging year with a series of startling conservation posts from the tiny island nation of Palau, highlighting worst case shark scenarios in the form of two senate fisheries bills:

SENATE BILL S-44 proposes:
“To amend Title 27 of the Palau National Code to allow for the commercial fishing of sharks within Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone, to impose a tax on the export of sharks and tuna-like species, and for other related purposes.”

SENATE BILL S-50 proposes:
“To exempt, for a period of five years, the export of tuna and tuna-like species caught using the group purse seining or handline fishing method from Palau’s fish export tax, to allow for an alternate transshipment port for fish caught using the group purse seining or handline fishing method, and for other related purposes.”

These two combined bills would have had a devastating effect on Palau's already struggling shark populations allowing unrestricted finning and catch for sharks.

What a difference a few months can make. This week in a stunning reversal and worthy of much praise for both leadership and political will Palau's President announced a universal 230,000 sq.mile Exclusive Economic Zone Shark Park in it's waters.

In terms of an immediate tourism booster the commercial shark diving world is thrilled to hear this news. As we have known for close to 20 years, shark are big, sustainable, business models that help local communities move from fishing to tourism.

Kudos to all the NGO's, local conservation agencies, and countless "others" who sent emails to Palau's government talking tourism and shark conservation. More Kudos to the government of Palau who made one of the boldest moves in the history of shark conservation, setting the bar past any and all regional expectations.

Let's go shark diving!

You can learn more at the Palau Shark Sanctuary web site and blog. To write congratulations to President Toribiong, the address is: Office of the President, P.O. Box 100, Koror, Palau 96940.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dear Isla Guadalupe Operators - What part of this is wrong?

O.K folks it's time for "The Chat -Version Two."

As you may recall we have been blogging about the absolutely moronic series of piss poor media hits members of our own industry have been streaming to the planet via You Tube, Facebook, mainstream media and more. It has been a bad year for operators who have been handing the anti-shark diving lobby the story that we, as an entire industry, are little more than idiotic thrill seekers bent on getting folks killed.

Since the beginning of 2009, full cage breaches, tiger shark media disasters, and image gaffs have been blasted to every major media outlet on the planet.

Is anyone out there listening? Does anyone care?

Clearly not.

Shark Week 2009 displayed the worst in a series to date to an estimated 30 million viewers. A stunning media achievement, alas setting the sharks we know at this very site back to the stone age in terms of the public perception of them.

Well done industry guys!

So it is with little surprise to this blog that we discover yet another remarkably stupid video placed on You Tube under the guise of "conservation". We're pretty sure the folks who actually shot this video are meant well, and they are completely unaware of the ongoing fluid and tenuous situation with Mexican lawmakers who are asking for this site to be shut down.

UPDATE: This video was not enabled by any operator at Isla Guadalupe it was shot on a private vessel shooting with National Geographic, adding an interesting twist to the shark media landscape at this pristine shark site.

Here's why this video fails on all levels except for the gratuitous "lookee here" factor:

1. Mexican park authorities do not sanction out of cage diving at this site.

2. Mexico's anti shark diving lobby (Green Party) who are looking for reasons for closure, and who, as recently as 2007/8, called for a complete ban on shark cage diving.

3. Anti-shark diving lobby, who once again have been handed a media win and who will use this video to further their efforts at maligning our industry.

4. Apart from a small group of shark diving insiders, this video places patently false expectations on white shark encounters.

There's a number of alternate reasons why this video should be pulled, but it becomes exhausting to go over them - yet again. Suffice to say none of the operators we have spoken with think this is anything but a poorly done shark stunt that will harm all the operators at this site.

Shark conservation is not shark stunt work. Let's get that straight.

Note: The person behind this stunt is also well known for his deep involvement in production Shark Porn. Shows that ultimately serve to demonize sharks to the general public.

Here is his CV.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New shark research begins at Cape Eleuthera

CAPE ELEUTHERA, Bahamas -- At the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI) the last survey for the baited video validation study was completed in early June and the results were quickly worked up to be presented at the annual American Elasmobranch meeting in Portland,
Oregon at the end of July.

Edd Brooks, the shark program manager, presented on the seasonal abundance, demographics and habitat use of the Caribbean reef sharks in the waters off Cape Eleuthera.

The second half of the summer saw the start of a new study aimed at quantifying the effects of longline capture on post-release survivorship and behavior of Caribbean reef sharks. The project began with the rearrangement of CEI’s array of 32 acoustic receivers and the deployment of 15 acoustic transmitters on Caribbean reef sharks.

This new type of transmitter transmits the depth of the shark as well as the average three-dimensional acceleration of the shark giving an overall measure of activity. Digital hook timers monitor the exact hooking duration of the candidate shark prior to the transmitter being deployed.

In addition to the attachment of the accelerometer a blood sample was taken from all sharks giving a snapshot of the physiological stress that an animal experiences across different hooking durations.

Thank you to the Save Our Seas Foundation for supporting us for another year, and also many thanks to the numerous Island School families who have also jumped onboard and supported this important work.

Cage Diving Farallones - New Regulations

Editors Note: The following email came from the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and finalizes eight years of public input and research data. The final rule bars commercial shark diving operators to a 164' foot distance from white sharks with minor concessions to static decoy use.

It is time operators at this site consider what constitutes commercial shark diving:

To protect one of the most important white shark populations in the world, NOAA/Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has enacted new regulations to ensure sharks are not disturbed.

Within Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries Federal law prohibits:

1. Attracting a white shark anywhere in Gulf of the Farallones or Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries.

Attract or attracting means the conduct of any activity that lures or may lure a white shark in the Sanctuary by using food,bait, chum, dyes, decoys (e.g., surfboards or body boards used as decoys), acoustics or any other means, except the mere presence of human beings (e.g., swimmers, divers, boaters, kayakers, surfers).

2. Approaching within 50 meters (164 ft.) of any white shark within 2 nautical miles of any of the Farallon Islands.

Attached you will find a flyer. Please hang it if you know of a great location with high visibility. Also, please forward this email onto interested parties that we may have overlooked.

Thank you,

Sage Tezak
Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary

Sage Tezak
Conservation Science Specialist
Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary
991 Marine Dr, the Presidio
San Francisco, CA 94129
(W) 415.561.6622 x306
(F) 415.561.6616

Hawaii - Politicians ignoring research data?

In the ongoing battle to preserve two shark diving operators from a small minded, fear based lynch mob who have run roughshod over Maui's politicians, the golden rule of the political set rears it's ugly head - "Ignore research data at your own peril."

Maui city council members glossed over and dismissed a recent study by Carl Meyer and Kim Holland proving sharks were not following commercial shark diving operators back to shore, a key anti-shark diving complaint.

But it gets worse. Not just happy to ignore research data some politicians, no doubt guided by anti-shark diving fear monger talking points, have denounced the data, attacking the two researchers in question and by proxy the University of Hawaii!

The Romans had a saying for this kind of behaviour "don't kill the messenger" and today blow back for "killing the messenger" in the form of an Op Ed reminded politicians in Oahu (hopefully more enlightened than Maui) of the golden rule of the political set:

Shark Tours - Study shows no increased risk

I am obliged to respond to Greg Knudsen's inaccurate characterization of our research paper concerning North Shore shark tours.

Three points:

1) The paper was not based solely on data from tour operators.

2) The operators' information was provided prior to the recent turmoil; there was no incentive for false reporting.

3) The paper was only published after review by independent experts. Soon-to-be-published results of shark tracking research show that sharks found at the tour sites don't come close to shore.

Several elected officials such as Mr. Knudsen took public positions on this topic before they had sufficient objective information or after listening to "instant experts." Apparently, ego now prevents them from changing their minds even though the scientific facts do not support their opinions. Objective data indicate that the tours do not cause increased risk to humans and do not significantly impact the biology of sharks. The tours do provide local employment and they probably increase the general public's appreciation of marine life and how worthy these resources are of our respect and protection.

Kim Holland, Ph.D.
Researcher, Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology

Shark Free Marinas - Old Bahama Bay Marina

The Old Bahama Bay Marina, located at the West End of Grand Bahama, originally signed on the campaign in March, but made it official on Sept 10, 2009.

Management wanted to wait for all the right people to be there for the hanging of the signs. Nathan Moody( Director of operations) , Jackie Carroll ( General manager) , Sharon Whymms ( Marina attendant) and Luther Ferguson ( Director of transportation) joined regional associates Jillian Morris and Duncan Brake in hanging 2 signs at the marina.

GM Jackie Carroll was very excited about the movement and anxious to learn more about what she can do to help these magnificent animals.

This marina is also the location where most diving operations clear customs before they head to Tiger Beach, so their joining the campaign is a huge victory for sharks and for shark diving.

Thanks to Jillian Morris and Duncan Brake for their terrific efforts in Bahamas. If you are interested in working as a Shark-Free Marina Regional Ambassador like them check out this page. -LT

Nantucket Shark Divers - Sustainable Media?

Editors Note: Rarely do we change blog entries. Today we did in the best interests of the industry.

The original post was about poor media handling, a subject we have been on more than once and once again faced with as images surfaced of industry members doing questionable things with sharks.

The owner of Nantucket Shark Diving, who we have been supportive of pulled the images today realizing his role in the global shark diving world was not just limited to Nantucket.

Kudos mate, that's industry leadership!

Our original post also had a small quote from a lengthy letter by the Humane Society USA which we will re-post here. As it turns out the Humane Society, in what can only be described as a "senior moment" sent a letter to the rabid anti-shark diving folks and politicians on both Maui and Oahu lending their weight against the entire commercial shark diving industry:

"Feeding wildlife of any species is detrimental to the species, as has
been demonstrated in instances as varied as feeding dolphins and
feeding bears. While I am sure that there are conscientious operators
who do not chum for/feed sharks, there are certainly instances in
which the ban is being violated. It is hard when a few rotten apples
spoil the whole barrel, but regulations are unfortunately directed to
the lowest common denominator (i.e., the need for automobile speed
regulations is not because most people are not sensible, it is because
some are reckless and there is a need to curb the behavior)."

For a conservation organization that works on shark issues, we're not sure how the Humane Society reconciles our industries efforts to preserve sharks via conservation efforts worldwide.

Instead here's a quick letter from NSD, who despite some early media malfunctions, have grown into one of the only operations on the East coast for great shark diving:

Nantucket Shark Divers is gearing up to become a full circle shark diving operation starting up in June of 2010. We will keep you updated with our progress. With an abundance of sharks in the area and warm offshore waters found within 10 miles of the shoreline this is a prime destination to dive with sharks on the Northeastern seaboard. Our operation specializes in taking: divers, researchers, topside viewers, and photographers out to view sharks using a respectful and humane approach to our expeditions. On a side note as a shark dive operator in the area I feel it is important to mention the recent media activity centered around the presence of great white sharks in Cape Cod waters in early September 2009.

I was very pleased to see the vast majority of legitimate media taken from the event was centered around the positives of having these sharks around our coastline. Not focusing on the minute dangers these sharks posed but the remarkable possibility to research and witness these endangered animals themselves. To me there seems to be a more positive outlook on sharks within the past few years, moving from a highly negative outlook toward a public interest and involvement through favored conservation by the public due to the dyer circumstances of sharks being brought to the public eye. I believe sharks are seen more as something to be protected and left alone in recent years than something that must be killed, and very deservedly so.

This has to be largely due to the amount of research and familiarity we have begun to see pertaining to these animals. The spectacle of white sharks around the beaches of Cape Cod brought on interviews about research and science, not danger and fear. Hundreds if not thousands of people drove to the beaches to catch a glimpse of the animals out of pure curiosity not horror, and most of the locals in the area simply replied "they've always been here" when asked about the sharks swimming just off the beaches. As an operator in the area I feel it is strongly important to point out that we do not condone any sort of behavior that interrupts the natural behavior of sharks. For us it is all about providing a way for the public to become knowledgeable about one of the worlds most endangered and critical animals by showing them the animals themselves. There is no room for irresponsible operators or actions with sharks as it does a huge disservice to the animals and businesses themselves.

The last thing these misunderstood animals needs is more media aimed to portray them in a negative light. Just for the record all of our shark diving occurs 10 or more miles from any beach, no fishing of any kind is allowed, and close contact with sharks is prohibited by divers. For more detailed information about our operation and what we can offer please visit

Bryce Rohrer

Volunteers, sponsors sought for tiger shark tagging project

Tigers in Bermuda and a nascent research program could use your help this week:

It costs $6,000 to sponsor a shark, but along with adopting the animal, they are also given the opportunity to meet their shark in its environment.

The more sponsors they are able to find, the more sharks they can tag, which means more information for the researchers.

Sponsors are offered regular updates on their sponsored shark, and are even invited to join Mr. Aming in tagging the animals.

"It's not every day you get to reach down and pet a tiger shark," said Mr. Aming. In order to tag the sharks, they are first caught with rod and reel, and brought close to the boat only when they are exhausted.

"You obviously don't want an 800 lb shark full of energy and right next to the boat," said Mr Aming. "These are dangerous sharks. They're not as bad as most people say, but they can kill you."

After the shark is brought alongside the boat, it is cinched to a specially designed stretcher and brought on-board the boat, where it is measured and tagged, before being released.

He said the tag costs $3,000 and tracking time costs $20 per shark, per day and while Mr. Aming has already found several sponsors, including Lindos Markets, he's still looking for more.

"Every scientific project always needs more funding," he said. "We've got a bunch of local sponsors. Some are friends, some are keen fishermen."

The tagging project started last year, with the team tagging three sharks in a test run of the equipment.

Complete Story

ARKive - Seeking Images for Conservation

ARKive ( is calling on divers and underwater photographers for their help in gathering images of all the world’s threatened marine animals and plants.

ARKive promotes conservation and builds environmental awareness through wildlife photographs, films and sound clips – which are being pledged by many of the world’s top photographers and filmmakers. The aim is to produce a global, centralized record of all 16,928 species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This will provide an invaluable conservation tool - a quick, easy and free online source of information for anyone keen to learn more or to help with conservation efforts.

Films and photographs are an emotive, powerful and effective means of building environmental awareness. They bring every species to life and demonstrate quickly and simply what makes them so special. Thinking about the non-divers - would they know what the Indonesian speckled carpet shark looks like, does it really have speckles? Does a spotted hand-fish really have hands? And what on earth is a Banggai cardinalfish or a seadragon?

Many divers, amateur and professional alike, take fabulous photographs of a broad range of threatened species, so this is an opportunity to work with ARKive and help the wide variety of amazing animals and plants that give pleasure to so many divers. Photographs and video give these threatened species a face, they give those who won’t ever be lucky enough to see them in the wild the chance to understand their characteristics, their biology and the threats they are currently facing.

Threatened marine species make up just ten percent of the current material held in ARKive, reflecting just how hard these films and photographs are to collect, so the divers underwater images are urgently needed to help fill the watery gaps in the rapidly growing library.

TV presenter and passionate diver, Kate Humble, is a keen supporter of ARKive. “I love that first plunge, the first glimpse through the mask of the underwater world,” says Kate. “And I know I am privileged to have experienced the ocean’s depths, many others are not so fortunate. So I encourage divers to donate their images to give ARKive the best means possible in their quest to raise awareness for the world’s underwater creatures.” Her celebrity scrapbook on the ARKive website focuses on diving and includes some of the species she has been lucky enough to see whilst underwater for pleasure and work (such as when filming Springwatch).
Professional shark photographer and regular ARKive contributor Andy Murch says, “Many of my shark images have been used in conservation campaigns to help push through legislation aiming to protect animals at risk. It’s hard to raise support for an animal that has no face in the media and good images can make a huge difference. I feel ARKive is a shining example of what can be done to bring attention to the plight of the world’s endangered species. A project of this size is too large for individual photographers to take on but it is an obvious cause for us to contribute to.”

The ARKive team are searching for a huge variety of marine materials and are keen to see the photograph captured from the cage when the diver comes face to jaws with a huge great white off South Africa or South Australia. They too will be mesmerised by the classic silhouette of swirling hammerheads filmed whilst gazing up into the clear blue waters of the Pacific. From the mighty pelagics that every diver longs to witness and photograph, right down to the camouflaged and almost impossible to see pygmy seahorses of the Pacific Ocean, ARKive is interested in them all – and the more unusual and obscure the species, the better.

A list of the ‘most wanted’ images is published on the ARKive website and to check out if your species appears on the Red List see

Anyone wishing to donate images can e-mail ARKiive’s media research team –, or upload to using the tag ‘marine’.

So far around 38,000 films and images have been given a safe-haven in the ARKive digital vault. More than 3,000 media donors are actively contributing to the project, from major broadcasters, film and photo libraries to conservation organizations and academic institutes, as well as many individual filmmakers and photographers. All media is donated freely on the understanding that it will be used as a resource for scientists, conservationists, educators and the general public, and not for commercial purposes.

Cage Diving Trip Report - 2009

Editors Note: Pam Vaughn joined us in 2009 at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico. As a shark fan who had only experienced sharks on the television, her many face to face encounters with the great whites here fundamentally changed her in ways that only experiential travel with "charismatic megafauna" can:

First I want to thank you and the entire crew of Shark Diver and Horizon for a fabulous "vacation". The atmosphere aboard the ship was definitely 5 Star! Every detail seemed to be taken care of, thus creating a very homey environment.

I had never considered Shark diving and it was not on my bucket list of things to do. I had never even put my head in any ocean. The best I had done was wade in the ocean. The ocean is a powerful force and one that contains many secrets including beauty, tragedy, and life lessons. My friend, Sudip asked me one day if I wanted to go shark diving as it was something he always wanted many to do. At first I thought, "No way!" My hesitation did not come from the likelihood of facing a great white shark. My hesitation was I had never been in the ocean much less diving. I listened to what he had learned from Patric of Shark Diver and my interest was tweeked.

I decided it was definitely something I wanted to do so we made plans for an August trip. Patrick kept in touch with us all along the way which for me was very helpful. His enthusiasm spilled over and soon I couldn't wait to go. Patric was awesome in answering all my questions and explaining how they accomplished the dives with nubies like me. Without giving away my age I truly thought I would be the oldest person on the trip. No way ! We had a 74 year old PRO on board. I am sure some of his pictures will be all over the world by now.

The crew was outstanding and very knowledgeable. They seemed like friends before we were even out of the harbor. I have to say the food on board was outstanding. We had gone sportfishing the day before and brought our "catch" to our chef extraordinaire.

For several days WE had the best sushi I have ever had!

When it was time to take my first dive I found myself for the first time in a "wet suit". Now getting one of these suits on takes some doing and often help. The staff was always there to help you in AND out of your suit. I also discovered a new use for hair conditioner. Mixed with water in a spray bottle and applied to the sleeves and legs of the suit made for a smoother climb into the wet suit. And the bonus was conditioning while you were diving.

Martin, the dive master was very patient and reassuring as he instructed us (5 nubies) in the art of cage diving. He was always mindful of our safety and when we were not in the cages he would point out various things of importance. He did so in the evening as we looked at our fotos! Initially I was a bit uncomfortable in the water but with each dive I gained more confidence.

When I saw my first great white shark in "the wild" I couldn't believe the grace and beauty of each shark. Each one seemed to have it's own personality and was identified by unique markings. Many of the sharks were well known to the crew and most had names. Sometimes I thought they were parading for the audience in the cages. Occasionally I got the feeling there was almost a game type atmosphere with the hang baits. I was completely captivated and our 1 hour dive rotations went by quickly. I never seemed to tire of seeing the sharks. The visibility was great and I could see them way below our cage. At times I was so captivated by them I forgot to snap a photo.

At one point a small boat came up along side of the Horizon. We were privileged to meet Mauricio and his crew. Mauricio is a well known shark researcher with an obvious passion for protecting the great white. We learned so much from talking with him and his crew. He is a dedicated young man that deserves all the support we can give him. He readily shares his knowledge with those he meets and his passion for sharks is infectious. After returning home I watched the DVD, "Island of the Great White Shark" and then I really was in awe of Mauricio"s accomplishments. I also saw the bond he has with the crew of the Horizon. They work together for a common goal.

I am definitely proud that I went shark diving. It was one of those moments in life that change you forever. I hope that the Great White Shark will be protected for all generations to see, not in a zoo but in their own environment.

Thank you for a wonderful experience,

Pam Vaughn

Minneapolis, MN

Monday, September 21, 2009 on Facebook is now on Facebook and you can follow us via a growing number of online outlets with this new badge (click image).

Shark Divers official and unofficial blog Underwater Thrills is debuting our new shark badge this week.

For those of you who are regular followers we would like to say thanks. Keep spreading the word about sharks, shark conservation and commercial shark diving.

Feel free to use this badge to direct others to our sites, both on Facebook and on the Internet.

The world of sharks is a constantly changing place, we stay on top of it so you don't have to.

Let's go shark diving!

Deep Sea News - Architeuthis Caught

Quick, what's 19.5 feet long and over 109 pounds of raw muscle?

The answer to that question can be found this week at Deep Sea News , one of the coolest blue blogs running right now. A place for all things "deep sea discovery":

Scientists from NOAA’s Fisheries Service have captured a giant squid while conducting research off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico. This is only the second known giant squid obtained from the Gulf of Mexico – the first was collected in 1954 off the Mississippi Delta where it was found floating dead at the surface.

This giant squid was collected on July 30, during a 60-day scientific study where scientists from NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center and the Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service were studying the availability and diversity of sperm whale prey. The scientists were aboard the NOAA research vessel Gordon Gunte when the squid was caught in a trawl pulled behind the research vessel at a depth of more than 1,500 feet.

Shark Conservation - Like Monty Python?

Speaking last week with a well known shark conservationist who's been "in the game" for the past decade, his lament to us was about "the game". Where once the very idea of conserving sharks was a far cry in a distant forest, today "the game" is a much crowded playing field.

We had to agree.

If you wanted a quick overview of the world of shark conservation look no further than Monty Python. As a cautionary tale to those who would join "the game" we would like to say the following, welcome - results matter.

People's Front of Judea anyone?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shark Diver:The Movie - Sold Out

Shark Diver:The Movie 2009

What began as a last minute idea with a few industry film guys, and an opening in the 2009 commercial shark diving calendar has culminated in a sold out expedition.

Thanks to all the shark divers who called us from as far away as Brazil and continue to call - this trip is now full.

To those of you who will be joining us, we'll see you all in San Diego on the morning of the 12th.

Bring your cameras, we have some ground breaking fun in store for you during the "Time of the Titans."

Let's go shark diving!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Aquarium Shark Diving - A Growing Trend

The world of commercial shark diving is growing. Countries, tourism boards, and dive operators from Fiji to the Maldives are realizing safe and sustainable shark tourism works.

None more so than commercial aquariums worldwide who are offering caged and non caged shark encounters at one of the fastest growth rates in the entire industry.

Case in point the Dubai Aquarium built as an interactive site, offers non caged dive experiences with sharks.

Where the global trend towards safe and sustainable shark encounters in all forms is growing, Hawaii is still debating banning all shark tours in Oahu, using similar language to a recent ban in Maui that failed to provide exemptions for aquarium based shark tours there:

The Shark Dive at Dubai Aquarium is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Where else do you have the largest collection of Sand Tiger Sharks in the world swimming right next to you while Giant Groupers edge closer and thousands of smaller fish species swim along? After having been an onlooker of the aquatic animals in the aquarium, you now have hundreds of mall visitors who gaze into the tank at you. And the comments from visitors have been varied: “I was surprised at how peaceful it is on the dive,” said one shark diver.

Another added: “You see it on television; sharks circling overhead, but you never appreciate just how spine-tingling that is until they are circling over YOUR head! What an adrenalin rush!”

Mr Arif Amiri, Chief Executive Officer, Emaar Retail, said: “The Shark Dive is one of the several close encounters of our animals that visitors can experience at Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo. Their response to the experience of diving in the aquarium and spending time with the diverse aquatic animals has been overwhelming.

Maui Bans Shark Tourism - Maui Ocean Center in Crosshairs?

Here is the wording of a recent ban on shark tours Maui City Council members and a virulent anti-shark diving lobby have been congratulating the passage of this week.

Unfortunately it seems NO ONE in Maui stopped and asked the pertinent question "are there currently any shark tours in Maui?".

The law as it was written does not provide a loophole for land based shark tours - a growing marketplace for shark tourism worldwide.

The answer of course is yes, Maui does have shark tours, and this week the venerable Maui Ocean Center found themselves in the cross hairs of a new law that makes their business illegal as of this week.

Land based or aquarium based shark tours account for $40-50 million dollars in annual global revenues for the shark tourism industry. Maui City Council members have effectively shut this kind of tourism and subsequent aquarium development out of Maui with the passage of this draconian bill.

The term "ocean waters" is this bills failure. The Maui Ocean Center pumps "ocean waters" into its aquarium. It could be argued that the bill fails to specifically address land based shark tour operations with a targeted proviso.

A cautionary tale for City Council members in Oahu who may or may not understand the many ways tourists seek shark encounters, and the many ways shark tourism providers enable safe, sustainable shark adventures:

Maui Anti-Shark Tour Law

SECTION 1. Findings and purpose. The council finds that the oceans are used by city residents and visitors for numerous aquatic activities, including fishing, boating, swimming, surfing, canoe paddling, and snorkeling. The council further finds that sharks have great cultural, historical, and spiritual significance for many Native Hawaiians. The council believes that shark tours, the practice of charging residents and visitors to venture into ocean waters to view sharks attracted by fish feeding, raises public safety concerns for ocean users, is disrespectful of Hawaiian culture, alters the natural behavior and distribution of sharks, and may be disruptive of ocean ecology and the natural environment. The purpose of this ordinance is to ban shark tour operations.

Shark Tour Operations


"Fish feeding" means to introduce or attempt to introduce into the ocean water any food or other substance for consumption by fish.

"Shark tour operations" means the maintenance of an office, the collection of a fee or other financial consideration, the distribution, marketing, or advertising of tickets for sale, or the conduct of any other business activity conducted by a person for the purpose of enabling customers to venture into ocean waters to view sharks attracted by fish feeding; provided that this term does not include educational or cultural expeditions or endeavors for which a fee is not required.


It is unlawful for any person to engage in shark tour operations.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) - 50 Seconds

You often read about Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) the stuff of deep sea legends. Today with ROV technology theses critters are no longer the oceanic legends they once were.

Here's 50 seconds of deep sea bliss with the Coelacanth for your review:

Fiji - Evolving Shark Tourism 2

Object lessons in shark tourism media are what the folks at Beqa Adventure Divers seem to be about these days - as they continue with a brilliant 2009 shark year rolling out conservation initiatives for Fiji's sharks, pro shark PSA's, and now a short series for local television on sharks.

Once again we tip our hats to an operator who, working in third world conditions, has managed to promote sustainable shark diving and conservation locally, regionally and internationally.

Note: This blog, Shark Divers and Shark Divers have no formal affiliation with the operators in Fiji, the owners, or staff. We do not book their shark tours and receive no compensation from them in any form as has been "discussed" by members of the dive community.

When we see something that works within the shark diving industry, we blog about it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Oahu Shark Tour Bill - Banning 40,000 Tourists

Editors note: Here is the official anti-shark diving ordinance that will be voted on in Oahu very soon. It will effectively shut down two operations that, for the past decade, have introduced 40,000 shark cage diving tourists each year to Hawaii's sharks.

Safely, sustainably, and without incident.

12 tons of sharks fin representing over 8200 dead sharks per container are processed in Hawaii each week and have done so for the past 17 years. Sharks that are harvested in the same waters the two North Shore operators work in, 3 miles from Hawaii's coastlines.

Many of these "overseas shark fins" are in fact Hawaiian sharks, caught within sight line of the tropical white sand coasts millions of tourists flock to each year.

A loophole in Hawaii's laws, killing sharks for fins, while council members in Oahu work to ban sustainable shark tourism operators that represent the best of sustainable tourism practices.

This is the true face of Hawaii's shark world, debunking the myth being put forward that, "The council further finds that sharks have great cultural, historical, and spiritual significance for many Native Hawaiians."

Where are you going to spend your next vacation?


BE IT ORDAINED by the People of the City and County of Honolulu:

SECTION 1. Findings and purpose. The council finds that the oceans are used by city residents and visitors for numerous aquatic activities, including fishing, boating, swimming, surfing, canoe paddling, and snorkeling. The council further finds that sharks have great cultural, historical, and spiritual significance for many Native Hawaiians. The council believes that shark tours, the practice of charging residents and visitors to venture into ocean waters to view sharks attracted by fish feeding, raises public safety concerns for ocean users, is disrespectful of Hawaiian culture, alters the natural behavior and distribution of sharks, and may be disruptive of ocean ecology and the natural environment. The purpose of this ordinance is to ban shark tour operations.

SECTION 2. Chapter 40, Revised Ordinances of Honolulu 1990, ("Prohibited Activities in the City") is amended by adding a new article to be appropriately designated by the revisor of ordinances and to read as follows:

"Article ___. Shark Tour Operations

Sec. 40-__.1 Definitions.

As used in this article:

"Fish feeding" means to introduce or attempt to introduce into the ocean water any food or other substance for consumption by fish.

"Shark tour operations" means the maintenance of an office, the collection of a fee or other financial consideration, the distribution, marketing, or advertising of tickets for sale, or the conduct of any other business activity conducted by a person for the purpose of enabling customers to venture into ocean waters to view sharks attracted by fish feeding; provided that this term does not include educational or cultural expeditions or endeavors for which a fee is not required.

Sec. 40-__.2 Prohibition.

It is unlawful for any person to engage in shark tour operations.

Sec. 40-__.3 Violation—Penalty.

Any person who violates this article shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned not more than one year or both.”

SECTION 3. This ordinance shall take effect upon its approval.



Honolulu, Hawaii Councilmembers


Deputy Corporation Counsel

APPROVED this day of , 20 .

City and County of Honolulu

Honolulu Council Bill - Shark Tour Ban

The anti-shark diving movement is in full swing in Hawaii with a new ban on shark tours in Maui and now copy cat legislation in Oahu.

Make no bones about it, this is a well planned and executed attack on two operations representing 40,000 shark tourist per year on the North Shore of Hawaii.

We have covered this ongoing political debacle since it first broke, uncovering the political players as they appear, countering the shark fear hype presented by the anti-shark diving folks.

The commercial shark diving issue in Hawaii is not about the following:

1. Sacred Hawaiian sharks
2. Water safety
3. Shark attacks

It is about political grandstanding, short term thinking, and a successful anti-shark fear based media campaign.

Here's where you can help. The following emails need to hear from your voice today. Please make them aware that 40,000 shark tourists each year in Oahu represents a political hot topic, no politician wants to be the "tourism killer" in the worst tourism economy since the great depression in Hawaii.

Honolulu City and County Council Members

Todd K. Apo (808) 768-5001

Donovan M. Dela Cruz (808) 768-5002

Ikaika Anderson (808) 768-5003

Charles K. Djou (808) 768-5004

Ann Kobayashi (808) 768-5005

Rod Tam (808) 768-5006

Romy M. Cachola (808) 768-5007

Gary H. Okino (808) 768-5008

Nestor R. Garcia (808) 768-5009

Dear Council Member,

I am writing on behalf of North Shore Shark Adventures and Hawaii Shark Encounters based on the North Shore of Hawaii.

Both of these operations represent 40,000 shark tourists each and every year to your island. Both have been in business for close to a decade representing the finest example of sustainable and safe eco tourism operations.

I am sure you are aware of a recent shark study done by the University of Hawaii that indicates the animals of the North Shore do not follow these vessels back into shore as has been alleged. There is no man made shark safety issue with current shark tourism operations in Oahu as has been the case for close to a decade.

Your decision to ban shark tours will shut out 40,000 tourists from the North Shore. While Maui has banned shark tourism they have also provided Oahu with an unexpected boost to it's local economy. Tourists do not like to be shut out from tourism opportunities.

An adventure tourism seeker will choose Oahu over Maui knowing they can dive with sharks safely and sustainably when presented with this ban. This is an unexpected "tourism opportunity" handed to you by Maui that you can support or destroy with your vote.

Shark tourism represents a $300 million dollar global industry. When short sighted local governments in Florida banned shark tourism in 2001, Bahamas shark tourism quickly grew to a $70 million dollar a year juggernaut. Adventure tourism seekers represent the fastest growing segment of the global tourism market.These tourism seekers typically vote with their wallets.

Consider your vote in this matter carefully. The world is watching what Oahu does with this proposed shark ban. Will Oahu be known as the island that understood all aspects of tourism or the island that was lead by unsubstantiated fear based shark hysteria into destroying successful and safe shark tourism?

Do you want to be known as the politician who drove 40,000 shark tourists to other global tourism destinations outside of Hawaii?

Thank you for your consideration,

Guadalupe Island -Trip Report 2009

Editors note: Megan Murray almost became a Shark Diver in 2008. Unfortunately she had to cancel her trip with us at the last moment.

The upside is she joined us this year, and as they say, "the second times is the charm":

Where Things Start

The other day I was sharing the details of my trip to Isla Guadalupe with a friend. I started with the story of meeting everyone on the H&M Landing on the morning of August 17th. I began to see folks with suitcases and no fishing poles and started to figure these may be fellow travelers bound for the Horizon. I think it was Jeff who called out the first time. “Who’s here to shark dive!?” Ice broken.

After two years of telling people about my trip plan and getting “oh my god! Are you nuts!” in response, it was awesome to be surrounded by folks who were up for it. Not just up for it but stoked to get out there and see some White Sharks up close. Maybe it’s my own stereotyping of what sharking is all about, but I didn’t expect to see a lot of other women on the trip. I had this story that I’d be surrounded by tough guys. All certified, all knowing, and that I’d be the odd woman out. Not so friends. I shared the experience with four other women, and half of our group wasn’t certified. We were from everywhere, with all kinds of stories about why we were there. Meeting everyone was a big part of the trip for me that I had barely considered in my excitement to see some sharks. The people were just fantastic and I’m thrilled to say I’m still connected with them.

After the story intro, my friend said “It’s like Fantasy Island!” Hmm… something like that. It’s just that Martin isn’t as snappy a dresser as Mr. Rourke. (Almost buddy! I swear!)

The crew was just fantastic. We were well fed, well cared for and even entertained. And I don’t necessarily mean Jeff’s tendency to break into song or show you his moves. Mark’s cooking was awesome. I began to think he might be fattening us up for something… hmmm. It’s a pretty fantastic thing to have a bunch of great guys heeding your every need while hanging near a remote island in the Pacific. C’mon ladies. How often does this happen for you?

The Crossing

When you get your prep packet and it says to plan for seasickness, plan for seasickness. I was cocky with my patches, Dramamine, and ginger. Yeah whatever, modern and ancient methods of seasickness mitigation, the Pacific will win! Being my very first open water crossing of this magnitude, I was pretty much doomed. In all reality, the drugs did a good job. It’s just important to have a plan for the crossing

(Beyond geeking out that I was indeed on my way, I didn’t). Give yourself things to do.

So what’s to do for 22 hours? How about meet your fellow divers, get your ‘this is what the boat looks like’ pictures, watch one of the many onboard DVDs, or read? There’s a plethora of shark and diving reading material on board for the trip. Including a fantastic photo book of identified IG sharks and the differences in their markings. Let me begin the lobby for publishing of this book please! Maybe an IG Shark of the Month calendar… oh yeesh, that’s a whole different kind of shark porn. Proceeds go to the conservation effort maybe? Let some of your better photographer guests contribute to the cause by offering up a great pic for the sharks? Just cloud busting here guys.

Back to the crossing… Overall, wear lots of sunscreen regardless of the weather, and don’t just stare at the world rocking up and down. Not unless you want to be rocked to sleep like a sick baby, or feel a constant state of almost queasy. Oh the things you’ll learn. The best part of the crossing is waking up to a boat that isn’t rocking with gusto, and realizing, wait. I’m here.

Isla Guadalupe

When I woke up on the first dive day I crawled out of my bunk and climbed the spiral staircase to the main lounge where I could smell breakfast and see the morning sun. At the top of the stairs I could see out of the window to the beautifully striated rocks and glittering deep azure water of the island. It was all of the pictures and video I’d ever seen come to life. It was stunning and surreal. We could see clouds boiling over the tops of the island. The tone of the morning was awe. We all quietly said our good mornings and grabbed something to eat. We could hear the winch that lifted the cages into place while we munched our breakfast. I could see what I felt on everyone’s faces.

Excitement, awe, anticipation… we had it all.Let’s get right to it. The first day was surreal.Rise & shine, get your info, squeeze into a wetsuit and you are in. “OK, who’s next!?” I think Martin’s unquestioning confidence about what was about to happen made it really easy to simply get in a cage without thinking about any negative outcome. We’d covered all of the safety dos and don’ts. We had our breathing and our masks under control. Now it’s just you, some new friends, a cage, your attentive crew, a whole lot’ a water, scad, mackerel, and those fish you came to see. Now wait.Your mind turns to other things… Test some camera settings.Get your breathing in check so you can stay down without working at it. Try not to get spun up in your air line.

It all melts away the second you get your first shadow of big movement. Like smoke in a familiar shape, just distant enough that you question whether you’ve seen anything at all. You know they are here. It was at this stage I noticed my cage buddies and I were all facing different directions and on patrol. We just slid into it. This is where it gets really good.

The mackerel parted and we saw the first Great White gliding in the distance. I stopped breathing and wondered if he’d noticed. It was a primal moment. I felt, just for a second, like a Gazelle at a watering hole. I gripped the cage firmly and remembered all of the systems that were in place to protect me. The fear fell away. There before me was this most beautiful animal, more flying than swimming. I’d been prepping to take this all in for two years and here it was. That moment alone was worth the price of admission. The White Sharks at IG are exactly as advertised; big beautiful, and bountiful.

We didn’t wait long for that first moment. In the first day we’d meet three sharks. I was blown away. We did one hour rotations until the sun got too low in the sky to safely see what was going on. It was hours and it felt like no time at all. We were pumped. The experience of first time proximity to these animals is overwhelming. It’s hard to explain it without getting verbose and gushy (at least for this writer). It is silent except for the sound of your own bubbles and breathing. This vast, and I do mean vast, animal is moving slowly toward you like liquid in liquid, incredibly conservative in its movement. There’s no need to rush. He’s the snake-charmer and you are the snake. Then a slight duck down and he’s gliding right beneath the cage. You get a good slow look at all of the details. The grey topside of their bodies look like they’d be soft as velvet underwater. More of that snake-charmer stuff… we know those denticles can draw blood. One of my favorite moments was the first time I was checked out. I, or someone in the cage, had moved enough to be noticed. A shark gliding past the front of the cage shifted his head and had a visual lock on us in a nanosecond, not unlike a dog. Snap… I’m looking at you. We could see his eye moving up and down the cage sizing each of us up. Probably more ‘why are the stupid bald monkeys in the cage again?’ than ‘you look like dinner’. I realized that their eyes are far from solid black orbs. There’s a greenish, clearish color to them, and you can see a distinct iris (I think) in there. It almost gives them expression. I wasn’t prepared for that. My favorite expression was Bruce’s. Martin commented that Bruce has a kind of grin when you see him head on, and I agree. He’s got almost cute white marshmallow jowls that accentuate the look.

I remember a time when I was so irrationally frightened of sharks. Honestly people, we’re talking frightened in pools. That time is long gone. These animals have personality, and cunning, and beauty, and ferocity and they don’t want you, they are doggedly curious. Curious enough to be really dangerous if you don’t know their territory, and don’t understand their habits. Bruce on the other hand is down-right cute. For a Great White Shark that is. Bruce takes the cute approach to snake charming.

It’s like the Shark Week I wish Discovery would broadcast. One of the coolest parts of the trip was meeting Mauricio Hoyos, a researcher who makes his home on the island for four months of the year. You can see his research complex (read: shack) on Google Earth. Once you’ve seen it you will understand what a commitment this guy has made to the IG ecosystem. Mauricio joined us for dinner one night and offered us a fantastic presentation about the IG sharks. This was a really important part of the trip for me. To see the work being done, the passion around it, and to learn throughout the process was priceless for me. This is what ecotourism should be.

Remember what I said about sunscreen?

Due to a large bit of stupidity, and substantially rockin’ sunburn, I didn’t get to take advantage of every rotation on the final two days, but insisted on getting in and saying hi at least once each day. I was never disappointed. There were sharks every time. It struck me that each day they seemed to get a little more comfortable, a little more curious, and a whole lot closer. It was nonstop. Even when I wasn’t in the water, instead perched at my steak-out in the shade, I got awesome shots of dorsal fins in the water, video of minor breaches, and great color commentary from my boat mates. “Two White Sharks! Ah ah ah!”… The Count still makes me laugh. The water at IG is so amazingly clear you can see tens of feet down just standing topside. Some of our sharks were in the habit of wide, boat-sized circles where they’d approach the cages by running down the port rail. I could walk down the side of the boat watching them slice through the water. Just beautiful. This trip sealed the deal. I’m totally mesmerized by these creatures. Here’s what you gotta do.

I’m praying my planets align so I can go back to IG next year. Not only will I get to see the beauty of IG, and the great folks from Shark Diver, but I’ve now got buddies who’s “OMG” response means they want to come too. If you are a fan of this blog I me implore you to take this trip. Meet these creatures face to face and learn as much as you can. If you can’t make the trip, support the conservation efforts in any way you can. Be an advocate. Support pro shark laws and research efforts. Talk to your friends about the reality of sharks and their plight. Spread the word about protecting these awesome creatures and don’t believe the shark porn disguised as educational media. It’s more dangerous and damaging than any shark I’ve met.

I can’t wait to climb the spiral stairs and see that island again.

Megan Murray