Thursday, April 20, 2017

Get to know the Great White Sharks of Guadalupe


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It's been 16 years, since we started diving with Great White Sharks at Guadalupe Island and we have identified well over 200 individual sharks. Nicole Lucas from the Marine Conservation Science Institute is the scientist that started and maintains the photo ID database for all the sharks at Guadalupe, which allows us to know all the sharks we encounter.

Quite a few of these sharks have been seen every year since 2001 and we got to know them quite well. Some of them are easily recognized and have become celebrities, not just for the divers lucky enough to see them face to face, but to a worldwide audience, thanks to videos on Youtube and sharkweek on TV.

I'm going to introduce you to some of my favorite sharks and show you what makes them special to me.

Since the adult female sharks have a 2 year visitation cycle at Guadalupe and the males show up every year and typically much earlier in the season, we get to know the males a lot better than the females. So I'll start my introduction with a male.

Meet "Bite Face"


Bite Face has been around every year since 2001. He has grown quite a bit over the year and has mellowed out considerably. When we first met him, he was a sub adult who often got into some altercations with other sharks. That is how he got his name, when we first identified him, he had a big bitemark on his face from a run in with another shark. Nowadays he is much mellower and can be seen cruising around calmly, even when pestered by a sealion.



Bite Face is also famous on wikipedia, where you find this picture of him.

source wikipedia.com

If you look closely, you'll notice that his dorsal fin is intact in this picture and in the photo on top, the very tip of his dorsal is cut. This is a mutilation that is not going to change and is one way to identify Bite Face today. For accurate identifications, we use the color patterns in the transition from white belly to grey top, which is like a fingerprint. (more on that in a future blog).

Bite Face was also one of the first sharks tagged by Dr. Domeier from MCSI, which was filmed for the television series "Expedition Great White" and seen by million. The satellite tag that was attached to him showed that he is heading offshore, towards Hawaii in the summer, before returning to Guadalupe in the fall. He's been doing this every year, since we first met him in 2001.

I can't wait to go back in August and see him again for the 17th year in a row. Come join me and get to know him personally. He loves to swim by the cage and look the divers straight into the eyes.

Find out more info on www.sharkdiver.com, call us at 619.887.4275 or email crew@sharkdiver.com

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. Phone 619.887.4275

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Do we need a shark cull at Reunion Island?


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After a recent deadly shark attack at Reunion Island, world renowned surfer and conservationist Kelly Slater has called for a serious daily shark cull.

Grind TV writes "After the 20th shark attack off Reunion Island since 2011 occurred earlier this week, the world’s greatest surfer made a comment that “there needs to be a serious cull on Reunion and it should happen everyday.”


The attack happened at a spot that is well known for it's sharks and there are signs warning people that it is closed for waters ports. Unfortunately those sign were cut down the weekend before, but the local fishermen reported that they warned the body-boarders.

Sky news writes: "It is reported young people had been there for several days, despite being warned by locals of a shark."
Kelly Slater's response to this attack is this. 

“Honestly, I won’t be popular for saying this but there needs to be a serious cull on Reunion and it should happen everyday. There is a clear imbalance happening in the ocean there. If the whole world had these rates of attack nobody would use the ocean and literally millions of people would be dying like this. The French govt needs to figure this out asap. 20 attacks since 2011!?”
Read more at http://www.grindtv.com/surf/kelly-slater-calls-for-the-culling-of-sharks-off-reunion-island-after-another-death/#9UTBb73KTjdJh1IT.99

First off, I want to extend my condolences to the friends and family of the victim. This is truly a tragedy and the fact that I don't blame the sharks is not diminishing that fact.

I think Kelly Slater is one of the good guys and I admire a lot of the things he does. In this case, I have to respectfully disagree with his stance. By all accounts, this location is well known for it's shark population and the associated danger to water sports enthusiasts. The surfers and body- boarders were warned that those areas are closed to water sports and they still decided to go into the water.

There are tons of places, all around the world, where it is safe to go into the ocean, so why would you want to kill the sharks that seem to aggregate in this area, so you can have another spot? There are relatively few and well known areas, where sharks are found in larger numbers. Why go surfing there? Calling for a shark cull, because someone ignored all the warnings is not the way to protect the oceans. Are we calling for the top of Mt. Everest to be cut down, because people die of hypoxia there? There are always people that want to take risk. Don't blame the sharks when things go wrong.

Also I want to put things in perspective. There have been 20 shark bites since 2011, 8 of them fatal. That amounts to about 3 bites and a little more than one fatality per year. While each death is tragic, there are a lot of other things that are far more dangerous without anyone doing anything to mitigate the danger.

Kelly, I hope that you change your mind on this. A lot of people listen to you and respect your opinion. It's not just about Reunion Island. If people think that shark culls are a good option, there will be calls for those in a lot of other places. I would like to invite you to be my guest and come out with us to experience what these sharks are like when you come face to face with them. Maybe that will change your mind.

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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

How many Great White Sharks are at Guadalupe Island?


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The last 2 seasons at Guadalupe Island were awesome with more sharks than we have ever seen before. On some of our expeditions we saw over 30 individual sharks. Some of those sharks were old "friends", while a lot of them were new. We started the 2015 season with 170 identified great white sharks and ended with 200. That was one of the largest number of new sharks we encountered, since we started cage diving in 2001.


We are still working on a final count for the just finished 2016 season, but we definitely have more than 20 new individuals to add. The last couple of seasons were not only very productive as far as the total number of sharks seen (both new and already identified), but it was also unusual that we saw a lot of juvenile females early in the season and generally a much larger number of sharks late in the season. In seasons past, we saw the really big females in October and November and when they showed up, the smaller sharks stayed away.  The last 2 seasons the smaller sharks stayed around, when the big females arrived. What will we see this coming season? We never know what to expect when going to Guadalupe Island, but after 16 seasons of diving with these sharks, I can't wait to go back in August.


This last season was extremely unique in that we saw all sizes of sharks together. Anything from a small 8ft. male to Tzitzimitl and Scarboard, two of the largest females at Guadalupe Island.

Why are we seeing these sharks in larger numbers? Are the conservation efforts paying off? I don't really have an answer to this, but hope that the continued efforts of the Marine Conservation Science Institute, (MCSI) with their tagging and photo ID program will provide the answers we are looking for.
If you would like to support the ongoing research, MCSI has various ways you can become involved, including the right to name a shark. Wouldn't it be cool, if you watch shark week and see a shark you named? You can contact them by clicking here.

Lucy, one of our regular females, easily recognizable by her tail.
We also have 3 science expeditions to Guadalupe Island, with Nicole Nasby-Lucas from MCSI. These expeditions are a great opportunity to learn from the scientist who is maintaining the photo ID database. You also get a copy of that database, so you can identify all the sharks you'll encounter on the trip, as well as the sharks you see on shark week.

To join us on one of our trips, call 619.887.4275 or email staff@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 staff@sharkdiver.com.