Just returned from a successful assignment filming white sharks at Isla Guadalupe, Baja, Mexico. Isla Guadalupe has become a critical site for white shark research because of its ideal visibility and calm waters (most of the time) and because of the number of white sharks (70 to 100 est.) that migrate to the island in the fall months.
Ecotourism operators and marine researchers work hand-in-hand so that we can learn more about these magnificent predators. I was working with Wild Coast, an ocean conservation group serving the Hispanic market, and Televisa S.A., and Telemundo. All of these organizations are working to make the Spanish-speaking populace more aware of the natural resources that Mexico has within its waters and its borders. To promote shark conservation, they are advocating ecotourism to government agencies and decision-makers, so that village economies can benefit from business models based on living sharks rather than dead ones.
On this particular trip, half of the boat, the Horizon from San Diego, were paying ecotourists from SharkDiver, and the rest were various representatives of Wild Coast and the two Hispanic broadcasting companies. The sharks, primarily males at this earlier point in the season, were numerous and "frisky." We saw some interesting behaviors like "parallel swimming," where two sharks uncharacteristically swim side-by-side. White sharks are not known for extensive social behavior, so it was a treat to see these two male sharks checking each other out to see who is the "top dog."
I came away with a lot of footage that hopefully Wild Coast and the broadcasters will put to good use in making Mexico and, indeed, all of Latin America more aware as to the important ocean treasures it has within its borders - whether it's white sharks, hammerheads, whales sharks, or humpbacks - and what it needs to do to insure their continued survival.
-Richard Theiss RTSea Productions