Monday, February 11, 2019

Get to know "Lucy" a Great White Shark at Guadalupe


Instagram 
I love "Lucy", and I'm not referring to the popular TV show of the 50ies. "Lucy" is a large female Great White Shark, that is regularly visiting Guadalupe Island. Most mature females are only seen every other year. They mate at Guadalupe Island and then stay away from the Island until after they give birth off the coast of Baja and in the Sea of Cortes, about 18 months after they get pregnant at Guadalupe.



In 2008 she suffered and injury to her tail, most likely from a bite by another shark. Her tail is pretty much mangled and it probably affects her speed. Even though she is definitely a mature female,  we saw her every year until 2014, which meant that she didn't get pregnant, since pregnant females stay away from Guadalupe for a season and return every other year. I don't know if the mangled tail was the reason she didn't seem to get pregnant for all those years, but fortunately she has started showing up every other year since then. Hopefully this means that she is indeed getting pregnant now. We last saw her in 2018, so most likely we won't see her again until 2020.


"Lucy's" tail makes it very easy to identify her. Usually we identify the individual sharks by their coloration. The transition from the white underbelly to the grey top is unique for every individual. Some people try to identify the sharks by their scars. That is how "Bite Face" got his name. The problem with scars is that they heal and if that is the only identifying characteristic you have, you would not recognize that same shark when it comes back the following year. Mutilations, like Lucy's tail don't change and can be used in conjunction with the markings to identify her. We have a photo id database that is managed by Nicole Nasby-Lucas from the Marince Conservation Science Institute, with over 220 individual sharks in identified.

If you are coming out on one of our "science" expeditions, you'll get a chance to learn how to identify these sharks from Nicole herself. You will also get the complete photo ID database, so you can identify all the sharks you encountered and what's really cool, you will then be able to identify the sharks you see on TV. How awesome will it be, when you see a shark on TV and realize that this is the individual that swam inches from your face at Guadalupe?




Even with her tail slowing her down, she seems to be healthy in every other way. She is definitely getting enough food and is holding her own among all the sharks at the Island. Lucy is a very curious shark and she swims very close to the cages, making eye contact with our divers as she is gliding by slowly.


I hope to see Lucy when we return in the fall. I do have mixed emotions though. While I would love to see her, it would of course mean that she didn't get pregnant last season.

If you would like to join us, or just get more information, call 619.887.4275, email crew@sharkdiver.com or visit our website www.sharkdiver.com

Let's go sharkdiving!

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.
Instagram

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Get to know "Scarboard" a Great White Shark at Guadalupe


Instagram


"Scarboard" is another one of my favorite sharks. You're probably beginning to see a pattern here. I have a lot of "favorite" sharks. It's is amazing how all these sharks have different behaviors. Some are a bit skiddish, others are seemingly relaxed without a care in the world. Observing them for 16 years, I have grown attached to these guys and girls. However, as I always point out, I absolutely love these sharks, I'm crazy about them, but it is NOT a mutual feeling. As much as some people want you to believe that they just want to be hugged, they really don't. They are awesome predators, not out to get us, but they are not harmless pets either.

"Scarboard"

Scarboard is a massive female shark, one of our biggest at Guadalupe Island at around 19'. When we first met her in 2002, she was already huge. Like most of our adult females, she shows up at Guadalupe Island every other year. After getting mating at Guadalupe, she is spending the year in between offshore, before giving birth off the coast of Baja or in the Sea of Cortez. She doesn't have any mutilations, like "Lucy" and so many others, but she does have a very unique characteristic that makes identifying her easy. She has a very distinct line from her nose halfway to her dorsal fin. Where most Great White Sharks' lines have a continuous curve, Scarboard's is straight.

"Scarboard"
After we first encountered her in 2002, she came back in 04 and 06, but then we didn't see her again until 2011. We don't know, if we simply didn't see her, or if she stayed away from Guadalupe for 5 years.

When we don't see a shark during the season we expect to see them, we always worry that something might have happened to them. Luckily, sometimes, like in Scarboard's case, we worry about nothing. Where do they go during that extended time away from the Island, what do they do? There is so much we don't know about those sharks.


The first time we saw Scarboard, after her 5 year absence, I was in the middle of our 2 cages, she slowly swam by the first cage, checking out each individual diver and when she came to me, she looked me straight into the eyes, stopped and did a 180 degree turn, looked at me again, swam off, turned and swam back at me, stopped again, turned and swam off. It looks like that she recognized me, even after a 5 year absence.

2 seasons ago, "Scarboard" was being used for protection by some bait fish. I've never seen anything like that before. When she swam by, she looked like the "Bearded Lady".

Scarboard the "Bearded Lady"
 
A lot of people are surprised to learn that Great White Sharks recognize individual divers. The fact that they do is not as strange as it seems. We know of lots of fish that recognize divers. Groupers that have a favorite individual they follow around, moray eels that come out of their holes when they recognize a diver, Wolf eels that wrap themselves around the neck of an individual etc. It's important to remember though, just because White Sharks recognize individual divers, doesn't mean that they "love" us, want to be petted, or have any feelings towards us. We need to respect them for what they are, amazing predators, neither mindless killers, nor harmless pets.


For me there is nothing quite like seeing a familiar shark and realize it recognizes me as well. It still amazes me that we keep seeing the same individuals on a regular basis. They migrate thousands of miles, but come right back to the same spot.

If you want to find our for yourself what it's like to come face to face with a great white shark and want 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 staff@sharkdiver.com.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Meet "Slash Fin" a Great White Shark at Guadalupe Island.


Instagram

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?

Come join us on one of our expeditions to Guadalupe Island and meet our sharks face to face.

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.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Meet "Tryss" one of our Great White Sharks at Guadalupe.


Instagram

The 2018 season at Guadalupe Island has been phenomenal. 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 expedition 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's 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. Maybe you'll even get to name a shark, like the ones who named "Tryss" last season.

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 staff@sharkdiver.com.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Meet "Bruce" a Great White Shark at Guadalupe Island


Instagram
The world is full of celebrities, but how often do you actually get to meet them and spend some quality time with them? Over the past 18 years, I've been privileged to do just that. I've met many stars of film and TV at Guadalupe Island. Stars like the incomparable "Shredder" "Bruce" "Jaques" "Lucy" "Scarboard" etc. All of those sharks have been featured in countless shark week episodes and their pictures are all over the internet. They truly are the rock-stars of Guadalupe Island.

I want to introduce you to a few of these Rock-stars, before our season begins in August.
 
Today I want to introduce you to "Bruce", another regular at the Island. Bruce has been around since we started shark diving at Guadalupe in 2001. When we first encountered him, he was just a "little" teenager, probably not much longer than 11-12'. Of course we had no idea that we would see him year after year and that he would grow into one of the larger males at the Island. He is now on the north side of 16' and one of the dominant shark at the site. Despite his size, he is one of the more mellow sharks around. He keeps swimming around with, what seems to be, a grin that looks like he stole something and got away with it.

Bruce saying hello to Whitney, one of our divers!

Bruce is also the shark who got me interested in shark research. I have to admit, that reading scientific papers held about as much excitement to me as watching grass grow. It simply wasn't my thing. When Dr. Domeier tagged Bruce with a satellite transmitter and used some of the data it produced for his paper on white shark migration, Nicole Nasby-Lucas, who works with Dr. Domeier and is responsible for the Guadalupe photo ID database, gave me a copy of the research paper. I started reading it, and realized that this paper was not just a research paper, but more like Bruce's travel journal. It was exciting to find out where he was going, when not at Guadalupe and what he was doing. Who knew that he was vacationing near Hawaii?! I mean, who wouldn't want to vacation there? Did you know that Great White Sharks can go deeper than 3000'? Well, I didn't, until I read that paper.

Even though he is one of the more mellow sharks around, being a great white shark and male, Bruce was not averse to a little fighting here and there. I remember one particular morning. I was just getting into the cages to sort out all the regulators, when I noticed some movement behind me. I turned and saw Bruce who looked me straight into the eyes. He sported a huge bite injury, just in front of his gills, with a hole that let me look straight through it and out his mouth. The amazing thing was, it didn't seem to bother him. He just kept swimming around and stayed active, like nothing had happened.

Bruce about a week after the bite.

Just like Chugey, when he came back the following year, his wound was closed and there was barely a scar to indicate that he was ever injured.

Bruce with his closed bite injury.


So that is Bruce.

Since we started shark diving at Guadalupe Island, we have met over 300 different individual sharks. Who is going to be back this year? Who is going to make their first appearance? Come join us and find out! This is your chance to meet these celebrities up close and personal. They do pose for pictures with you! Next time you watch shark week, you can say, "Hey, I know that guy!"

We run our trips from August through November and have a few spaces left for this coming season. We even have a couple of spaces open on our research trip on November 4. On that trip you'll get to meet the researcher who knows all about those sharks, Nicole Nasby-Lucas, along with all the rock-star white sharks of Guadalupe Island. Call us at 619.887.4275 or email crew@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.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Is shark diving good for conservation?


InstagramConservation and Shark Diving are often seen as opposites and not compatible. Let's look at some of the concerns raised and see how valid they are.


The biggest issue a lot of people have with shark diving and specifically feeding dives is that "It conditions sharks to associate people and divers with food!" While it does indeed condition sharks to associate divers with food, it definitely doesn't condition those sharks to associate divers AS food. The sharks at the Shark Reef Marine Reserve are being fed 5 days a week and I dove on a non feeding day. I got to about 45 ft when a few Bull Sharks sharks approached me, clearly looking for food. After they swam around me for a little bit, they realized that I didn't bring any food and they left. At no point did they show any indication that they looked at me as food or made any attempt to bite me. I actually think that being around divers at feeding sites makes the sharks less likely to attack. If I would be approached by a bunch of Bull Sharks at a non feeding site, I would be a lot more concerned, since it is unusual for them to approach divers without being attracted by some kind of food or chum source.

Another argument against feeding sharks is that it alters their feeding and migration behavior. Since I'm not a scientist that has studied this issue,  my experience comes from observing and diving with sharks, I defer to those who actually studied this issue. There are a few good papers out that are addressing this.

This one is from 2013 by Juerg Brunnschweiler and Adam Barnett: https://fijisharkdiving.blogspot.com/2013/03/feeding-bull-sharks-in-fiji-paper.html 

Or this one: http://fijisharkdiving.blogspot.com/2010/06/does-shark-feeding-influence-shark.html 

Essentially they are saying that it has no real impact on their migration and hunting behavior. Click on the links above for more detailed information.

OK, so shark feeding is not as bad as people think, but is it actually good for conservation? While there are certainly some outfits that don't have conservation in mind when they do their shark dives, there are also responsible operators who care deeply about conservation and who have accomplished some amazing things.

We all know about the problem associated with the overfishing of sharks. If we want to protect sharks, we have to find a way for the shark fishermen to make a living doing something else.When we argue that a life sharks is worth hundreds of times the amount of a dead shark, we have to make sure that a life shark is worth more to the fishermen as well and not just to the tourism industry.

This is what Beqa Adventure Divers (BAD) has accomplished in Fiji. They got a fishing village to agree to not fish on a reef in exchange for a fee paid by all the divers. "They also hired people from fishing villages and trained them to be Divemasters, Instructors and Boat Captains. When they started diving at that reef, an initial fish count netted about 280 different species of fish, which for the south pacific is very dismal. Ten years later, another fish count showed over 480 different species. The number of sharks seen at the feeds also increased from a handful to sometimes over 100.


The efforts of BAD has resulted in the reef the shark dive takes place on being declared a national underwater marine park, the Shark Reef Marine Reserve. To my knowledge this is the first time a private entity managed to create a national park. Not only does the fishing village continue to receive money from the divers, which they use for educating their children, creating opportunities outside of fishing for them, but the ones who are still fishing now catch more fish outside of the reserve than they ever caught in and outside. This is clearly a win win situation, where the sharks, the divers and the fishermen all profit.


So clearly, operating a shark feeding dive has benefited not only the sharks, but the reef as a whole. Shark Diver is proud to support BAD by taking a group of divers to dive with them every year. This year we are heading there in May. Since we are based out of a hotel, the dates are flexible. Call Cindy at 619.887.4275 or email crew@sharkdiver.com for more info.

Here is a little video of what you can expect to see on your trip.

 


Let's go Shark Diving!

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 staff@sharkdiver.com.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Ocean Ramsey and Deep Blue?


For the last couple of days, the internet has lit up with postings of Ocean Ramsey diving with Deep Blue.

source

While Deep Blue was actually spotted and filmed by Mark Mohler and Kimberly Jeffries, the female Great White Shark that Ocean Ramsey was diving with was not Deep Blue, but another massive female named "Haole Girl" by the diver who first reported her. Check out her markings at the pelvic fin vs. the ID picture of Deep Blue. You can clearly see that it is not the same individual.



Right side pelvic area Deep Blue

A lot of people have commented that it really doesn't matter if it was Deep Blue or another shark. So what's the big deal?

While it certainly didn't make a difference in the experience the divers had with this shark, it matters greatly when Ocean Ramsey claims to be a scientist and doing these dives for research. From a scientific perspective, it is far more interesting to know that there are other massive females out there than to "show how harmless these sharks are". The whole reason we do have a database of these sharks is so that we can have population estimates and find their migration patterns. I also find it puzzling that people portray great white sharks as either mindless killers or as harmless. They are neither! Why can't we just love them for what they are? Awesome predators, neither out to get us nor wanting to be our "friends"! I love these sharks and I'm not afraid to say, it's not a mutual feeling!

A completely different problem with the diving taking place around this shark is described by "Doc Domeier", one of the preeminent shark researchers at Guadalupe Island. Doc, along with Nicole Lucas-Nasby are the scientist at the Marine Conservation Science Institute, the first scientists to tag and catalog the great white sharks at Guadalupe Island.

Here is what he has to say on Facebook

Ocean Ramsey has Jumped the Shark...Literally and Figuratively
I was going to let others chastise O. Ramsey for riding the white shark in Hawaii, but then I saw her post this: "I waited quietly, patiently, observing as she swam up to the dead sperm whale carcass and then slowly to me passing close enough I gently put my hand out to maintain a small space so her girth could pass." Take a look at this video and see if you feel her words are consistent with her actions. Years ago she came to social media fame by illegally riding white sharks at Guadalupe Island. Not only is it illegal in Mexico, it is unethical the world over. The number 1 rule of legitimate shark diving operators is DON'T TOUCH THE SHARKS! This is not shark advocacy...it is selfish, self-promotion. Look at all of the other people in the water hoping for a once-in-a-lifetime experience...instead they can't even take a pic of the shark. And lastly...posting selfies with white sharks is really the wrong message..these are very dangerous animals. Yes, in this case they were very satiated and unlikely to bite...but the average person should not be hopping in the water with them. Would you go on a safari and ride the lions? Remember what happened to the bear whisper in Alaska???...he thought he knew them so well that he was part of their family. One day one of the bears killed him and the poor woman that was with him. And FYI, despite what she says, that’s not Deep Blue she’s harassing. It’s a newly discovered shark that has been named Haole Girl by the diver that first reported her to us. 

Before you claim that this is just sour grapes and he simply doesn't like Ocean Ramsey, read his reason for not approving of Ocean's behavior.

Many people who saw my last post may wonder: "Hey, what's the bid deal...the sharks weren't hurt by people riding them." Let me give you a bit of background on white shark life history. Females only give birth once every two years, and sometimes the process is so energetically taxing that they will skip a breeding cycle. All 3 sharks observed feeding on the whale were female...and there's a 50% chance each one was pregnant. In fact, Deep Blue is almost certainly pregnant since she has been pupping on odd years recently. Pupping time is just 4 months away, meaning these big girls are currently feeding about 500 pounds of babies in their uteri! These sharks spend almost their entire 18-month gestation in the deep offshore waters between the mainland and Hawaii, where food is very, very scarce. I led the very first expedition to that area, sometimes referred to the White Shark Cafe or Shared Offshore Foraging Area (our preferred moniker), and we found almost nothing that we would recognize as white shark food. We did find quite a lot of sperm whales, so maybe the occasional encounter with a dead sperm whale is the majority of the caloric intake for these huge sharks! Harassing a pregnant white shark while she is trying to feed could cause her to leave the meal...impacting her ability to successfully carry her pups to term or reproduce the next cycle. Did you know that the very next day after all the videos went viral there were about 60 people floundering around that dead whale in hopes of having their encouter with a white shark? Guess how many sharks were observed: ZERO! Don't you think all those people in the water might intimidate the sharks?? And if they try to come in and feed they have people climbing all over them, all wanting to be like O. Ramsey? Think about that....

You can read all of Doc's posts here
I have to agree with Doc. There are far too many "researchers" who are more interested in getting media exposure than doing actual research. In their zeal to get attention they often do things that not only don't help shark conservation, but actively hurt it. I've been diving with Great White Sharks for over 20 years. We discovered the sharks at Guadalupe while SCUBA and freediving, so I know firsthand what it's like to come face to face with a great white shark and I can say that the experience is no less exciting when you are safely in a cage. Sharkdiver will never allow out of cage divers at Guadalupe Island. It is illegal and dangerous. There is no reason to go outside of a cage, other than to brag to others about having done it. That's why we call what we do "Safe and Sane" Shark Diving.

If you want to experience coming face to face with a Great White Shark, give us a call at 619.887.4275, email crew@sharkdiver.com or visit www.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 staff@sharkdiver.com.