What is it like to come face to face with a Great White Shark?

Allan Davey and his son were part of our first Great White Shark expedition to Guadalupe Island this season. He has documented his experience in his blog, A Truly Great White Shark Adventure.

He writes:
 
"Gunther" nibbling on cage. Photo Allan Davey.
We had sharks visit on every session in the cage which apparently isn’t always the case. There was a lot more action on our trip then on previous trips. ( This has continued on trips after ours ). Two of the larger sharks exhibited unusual behaviour which prompted discussions amongst the crew. They were repeatedly gnawing on the cage and one would get under it and knock it from below. They weren’t trying to attack but they were being aggressive. At one point while one of the sharks was biting the cage, a tooth dislodged and started to flutter down. My cage mate went to grab it then realized what he was doing as he started to reach towards the gaping jaws and quickly and fortunately realized that would be unwise. Made for some great personal experiences but made me ponder what is happening to these sharks and their environment that might explain this behaviour. Then again our Dive Master Martin Graf said that as soon as you think you know something about white sharks they do something unexpected and everything goes out the window.

It was very unusual that during our first 2 trips, some sharks that have been around our cages for years, "Gunther" and "Drogin" were repeatedly nibbling on our cages. There was no food by the cages and they did it in slow motion, with their eyes open and not rolled back. I have never observed that kind of behavior before.

We also saw some great interaction between sea lions and sharks that Allan has documented with these awesome pictures.

Well, hello there! How are you today?

Hey, wanna go play?




You can read Allan's blog here. Along with a lot of awesome pictures, he also has some great info and tips for photographers. Thanks Allen!

Here are some more samples of his pictures!




Check out the blue eyes!

If you would like to experience these shark up close and personal yourself, call us at 619.887.4275 or email staff@sharkdiver.com. You can find our expedition schedule at http://www.sharkdiver.com/dive-packages/great-white-shark-diving/

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.

Shark attack, surfer kicking for his life?

Today's headlines of a few Australian newspapers scream "Shark Attack In Australia Had Pro Surfer Ryan Hunt Kicking For His Life""Top surfer who survives shark attack after kicking it in the head"
and Surfer undergoes surgery after shark attack near Old Bar, NSW. 

So what happened? Another surfer attacked by a great white shark? 

The reports are stating things like "A surfer survived a shark attack after kicking it in the head as he rode a wave. Ozzie Ryan Hunt, 20, was attacked by a shark while surfing at Wallabi Point in New South Wales. The beast went for his foot repeatedly during the terrifying incident at around 5.30pm, biting through the board."
and "A shark attack in Australia had a young professional surfer named Ryan Hunt kicking for his life when the shark kept coming back for him in the waves."

Wow, sounds like this guy was lucky and barely escaped with his life! Of course, after reading the reports a little more carefully, you get the real story. After writing the headline "Shark Attack in Australia Had Pro Surfer Ryan Hunt Kicking for his Life" the "Inquisitr" states  "The 20-year-old surfer says the shark attack occurred while he was surfing small waves at dusk. According to Hunt, he was “pretty unlucky to stand on the shark’s head” while at Wallabi Point, which is on the coast of New South Wales, Australia. Needless to say, the shark was not exactly pleased to have a human standing on its noggin."

So the guy actually stepped on the sharks head, OK, still, pretty lucky to get away with his life after being bit by this "beast".  How big was that beast?  Well, lets see what they say about the size. “I tried to kick it off and it bit down again and then it swam up between my legs. I had my hands trying to push down its head, it was about 10 inches wide.”

Wow, the head was 10 inches wide!!! Imagine a 10 inch wide shark coming at you, ....... well, never mind. Another typical hyped up headline. 

And how about the injuries sustained in this "terrifying" "attack"?

   
source
 
Granted, that's a pretty good gash, but by reading the headlines, you'd expect much worse. As to calling this a shark attack, seems to me that the shark was just reacting to being stepped on the head.

Surfer attacks shark, would have been a more appropriate headline.

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.

No cage shark diving with Shark Diver?

Mens Journal, in it's October issue has an article on "no cage shark diving". In that article, Shark Diver is mentioned  as offering such dives.

"There is definitely a bucket list aspect," says Martin Graf, who conducts trips in the Bahamas and Guadalupe through his company, Shark Diver, which began offering no-cage expeditions in 2012. "

I want to make sure that everyone understands that we do not offer cage free dives with Great White Sharks at Isla Guadalupe! Our cage free diving is only done, where it is both legal and safe to do so, with Tiger Sharks in the Bahamas and Bull Sharks in Fiji.

Our dives at Isla Guadalupe are exclusively in cages and are part of a 5 day live aboard trip, leaving from San Diego. You can find our schedule for these trips here.


In Fiji, we are not using cages and are diving with up to 70 Bull Sharks at a time. Our partners there, Beqa Adventure Divers have been safely operating these cage free dives for over 10 years. They are of course also the guys who were instrumental in the designation of their Shark Reef as a national park. We talked about their good work here.  You can find more information on our Bull Shark trips to Fiji here.







In the Bahamas, we dive with Tiger Sharks. We do not use cages there and only attract the sharks to the dive site, but do not hand feed, or in any way handle the sharks. For more info on these trips, visit our website here.





We at Shark Diver have always been outspoken on the no cage diving that is going on at Guadalupe and have written about it here, here, and here.

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.

Do you want to work with sharks?

My friend Ingrid Sprake, a project director at Projects Abroad has let me know about an exciting volunteer opportunity, to work with sharks in South Africa.

If you would like to apply for this position, you can do it here


  • Placement location: Old Harbour Museum, Hermanus, South Africa
  • Role: To work directly with the Shark Conservation Project
  • Main Research Focus: Scientific shark research, shark conservation, education
  • Environment: Marine
  • Accommodation: Shared volunteer accommodation
  • Price: From £1,845
  • What's included? Food, accommodation, airport transfers, insurance, personal webpage, induction and orientation, 24/7 support
  • What's not included? Flights, visa costs, spending money
  • Length of placement: From 2 weeks
  • Start dates: Flexible from 1st February 2015
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This project is perfect for anyone with a passion for marine wildlife and the great outdoors. The South African Shark Conservation Project offers you the chance to get up close to some of the most endangered and mis-understood animals in the world whilst working closely with experts in this field to ensure the conservation of these animals. Volunteers are welcome on a gap year, a career break, for university research or as part of a summer holiday.
Diving with sharksThe Shark Conservation Project is based in the Old Harbour Museum in the coastal town of Hermanus in South Africa. Hermanus is situated on the shores of Walker Bay, which lies at the meeting of two great oceans - the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
The close proximity to the sea enables the project to have a fully operational marine laboratory equipped with experimental tanks housing captive sharks and a touch-tank for educational purposes. The site also houses an education center where a training and outreach programme is delivered to the community, fishermen & the eco-tourism industry.
Here you will find answers to the following questions:

 

What is my role on this Conservation & Environment project?

As a volunteer on the Shark Conservation project you will observe and assist the local scientists with a wide range of on-going and long-term research projects. Your regular activities will include:
  • Assisting with scientific surveys to assess how pollution is affecting the oceans.
  • Monitoring the diversity and movement of sharks, skates and rays in Walker Bay using conventional tagging techniques.
  • Collecting biological measurements from catshark species for identification, conservation and management purposes.
  • Collecting data on sharks, including genetic samples, tagging, movement, and growth.
  • Non-invasive monitoring of the diversity and habitat use of sharks using the baited remote underwater video (BRUV) method.
  • Assisting with sample collection of invertebrates, algae, sharks, etc for better understanding of ecosystem dynamics (food webs).
  • Developing and implementing community-based education activities and programmes.
  • Report and article writing.
A typical working day will run from 7am to 6pm. However, depending on the activities volunteers may be required to start earlier or finish later. Trained local staff are on hand to supervise activities and provide support throughout. The weekly schedule includes conducting lab-based shark behaviour experiments and boat-based shark surveys.
Whilst this project does not include any scuba diving activities, as a volunteer you will have the opportunity to go cage diving with great white sharks, usually once every two weeks. You will also assist in the collection of ecotourism-based data on white sharks. Additionally, volunteers staying longer than 4 weeks will participate in an individual shark identification project. This uses photo ID techniques to develop a catalogue on endemic shark species in Walker Bay.
Part of your stay will include completing the Shark Research Project Course which results in a certification. As part of the course you will see a shark dissection and collect data on a moribund shark.

What are the aims of this Conservation & Environment project?

The primary aims of the Shark Conservation Project in South Africa are to:
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    Diving with sharks
  • Conduct and coordinate research on sharks, their habitats, population dynamics, and behavioural ecology
  • Collect baseline data on marine biodiversity, ecology and habitats within Walker Bay
  • Develop holistic and realistic conservation and management recommendations based on thorough science
  • Collect, collate and contribute consistent and reliable data to environmental, fishery, management and conservation organisations
  • Work with fishermen to develop realistic solutions to fishery issues
  • Provide free education programmes to local communities, schools, fishermen, and conservationists to encourage a broad understanding of threats facing marine ecosystems
  • Use science-based data in a public forum to demystify sharks and promote better understanding of the ecological role of apex predators in marine ecosystems
  • Work with regional educators to develop shark-related educational resources
  • Promote sustainable use of living marine resources through science, education and awareness
The shark research being carried out on the project in South Africa helps to ensure that scientists and marine protection lobbyists are provided with regular and consistent scientific data about the life history, reproductive information, movement and biology of the sharks found in South African waters. This information is vital for devising successful conservation and management strategies, helping to keep these specific shark species off the critically endangered species lists.
The Shark Conservation Project is based in the Old Harbour Museum in the coastal town of Hermanus in South Africa. Hermanus is situated on the shores of Walker Bay, which lies at the meeting of two great oceans - the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
Sharks play a crucial role in our oceans. Most sharks serve as apex predators at the top of the marine food pyramid. Directly or indirectly they regulate the natural balance of the marine ecosystems, at all levels, and are therefore an essential part of them. Sharks usually hunt old, weak or sick prey and help to keep the prey population in good condition, enabling these more naturally fit animals to reproduce and pass on their genes.
The Shark Conservation Project in South Africa forms part of Projects Abroad’s Global Shark Campaign, which gives people from various backgrounds and ages the chance to help with the conservation of sharks and marine life. Projects Abroad are embarking on a campaign in 18 countries across four continents to raise awareness on shark conservation.

Where will I live on this project?

Volunteers live together in shared accommodation in Hermanus, with 2 - 4 volunteers sharing a room. A local housekeeper looks after the volunteer accommodation and prepares three meals a day. Packed lunches are provided on days in the field.
You will be met at the international airport in Cape Town and be transferred to Hermanus, 1.5 hours away.
Diving with sharks
The local food consists of plenty of rice, potatoes, bread, chicken and starchy root vegetables. Tropical fruit like papaya, mango, pineapple and watermelon are available in season. Vegetarians can be catered for.
Hermanus offers a variety of activities, including kayaking, fishing, hiking, boat-based whale watching trips (in season). There is also excellent scuba diving, and some of South Africa’s most beautiful beaches. There are many restaurants, art galleries and local shops to visit. Since it is situated only 1.5hours from Cape Town, volunteers can easily access the city and all it has to offer.
You can join the Conservation & Environment project in South Africa for two or three weeks if you don't have time to join us for four weeks or more. This project has been selected by our local colleagues as being suitable for short term volunteering for both the host community and the volunteer. Although you will gain a valuable cultural insight and work within the local area please be aware that you may not be able to make the same impact as someone volunteering for a longer period.

Again, the link to apply is here and if you would like more information on this and many other volunteer opportunities, you can find it here.

This is your chance to make a real difference.

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.

No more drumlines, let the shark killing begin?

Shark Year Magazine just published this:


Western  Australian Government to take action to protect human life when necessary due to an imminent shark threat
 
The State Government has reached an agreement with the Commonwealth Government that will ensure in the event of a shark attack or threat; immediate action can be taken by the Western Australian Government to implement the imminent threat policy.
 
Premier Colin Barnett said this would enable the State Government to respond quickly in the event of a shark posing a threat, or after an attack.
 
“It is important that that we can take action to protect human life when necessary due to an imminent threat, without delay,” he said.
 
“Protocols are being developed to this effect, consistent with Federal environmental law so no ongoing further approvals would be required from the Commonwealth,” Mr Barnett said.
 
“The Federal and State governments will work together so that the State Government can take appropriate action to protect public safety when there is an imminent threat from a shark, as was the case in the recent attack in Esperance.”
 
“This approach strikes the necessary balance between protecting public safety and protecting our environment,” he said.
 
The Premier confirmed the State Government had withdrawn its application for Commonwealth approval of the drum line shark hazard mitigation program.
 
In light of the recommendations from the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority, he said that the application to the Commonwealth had been withdrawn.
 
“We have withdrawn the application after reaching agreement with the Commonwealth which enables us to take immediate action when there is an imminent threat,” Mr Barnett said.
 
“This will mean we will not need to wait for approvals from Canberra in the event of an imminent threat.”
Source: Government of Western Australia

I wonder, what this really means. What constitutes an imminent threat? I'm not sure that Barnett, who doesn't seem to know a whole lot about sharks, is a good person to answer that question.Shark diving, swimming with sharks, cage diving, great white sharks,
After diving with great white sharks for 14 years, I've come to the conclusion, that these sharks are "predictably unpredictable" and I wouldn't know, how to reduce the already miniscule risk of a shark attack, other than avoiding certain spots or spots at certain times. In my opinion, if they are concerned about swimmers safety, they should spend the money they use for shark mitigation on additional life guards or better equipment for them. That might actually save some swimmers from drowning, a far greater risk than getting bit by a shark.

We shall see, how this turns out. 
We cage dive with great white sharks, swim with sharks at Isla Guadalupe Island.
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.

Do sharks feel pain?

There have been quite a few articles written on wether sharks feel pain or not. There is a lot of contention on both sides of the issue and the debate has gotten quite personal and ugly.

"Dr. Bob" with big bite marks on his gills.
"DaShark" has summarized what's going on quite well and you can read his thoughts in his blog here.

I'm on the fence on the issue myself. I love sharks and personally would like to see a complete ban on shark fishing. Having said that, I know that this is an unrealistic expectation and that is why Shark Diver started the shark free marina initiative and began working with shark tournaments to include a catch and release division. Now catch and release has become highly controversial as well, specially in light of post release mortality and the above mentioned "can sharks feel pain" debate. Catch and release, with it's post release mortality rate, is certainly not ideal, but it's far better than catch and kill, with a 100% mortality rate.

As far as the pain is concerned, I'm not a scientist, so I can't argue with scientific facts. I have been diving with great white sharks at Isla Guadalupe for 14 years and my observations have led me to think that they do not feel pain like we do.

Ila France Porter, in her blog, writes "Since animals cannot tell us how they feel, scientists have searched indirectly for evidence about their subjective experiences, in the studies of neuroanatomy, neurophysiology and behavior. Researchers have developed strict criteria, all of which need to be met, before they can conclude that an animal can feel pain". 

Fish meet all of these criteria, as has been shown in a wide variety of experiments. (Sneddon et al 2003, Reilly et al 2008). 

The blog further states that "the animal should be able to learn to avoid a painful stimulus. This should be so important to the animal that it avoids the threat of pain right away. The painful event should strongly interfere with normal behavior — it should not be an instantaneous withdrawal response, but long-term distress."

and "Yet no evidence has ever been produced to support the idea that an animal could live successfully, and survive, without the ability to feel pain, which is an important warning sensation. It would result in inappropriate behaviour, and the fish would go straight into evolution’s garbage can. Only a small percentage of fish who come into the world live to adulthood, and any weakness would doom them"

My problem with these statement is this. If they are true, how would white sharks, along with other species, whose mating is an extremely painful event, survive? If their feeling of pain causes them to  "avoid the threat of pain right away" and "the pain strongly interferes with their normal behavior", wouldn't they learn to avoid mating in the first place and thus become extinct?

The very survival of a lot of sharks is dependent on what would be a very painful mating procedure, pain, that this article says the animal feeling it, would avoid at all cost.

I know, this is not going to be popular, but based on the above reasons and my observation of sharks with severe bit wounds, like "Chugey" in this picture, swimming around without any signs of distress, I'm not convinced that they feel pain in any way similar to humans.

Like I stated above, I'm not a fan of catch and release fishing and don't want people to mistreat any living creature. What I'm saying though is this. If we want something to change, we have to address it scientifically and not emotionally. It's easy to convince other people who love sharks as much as we do to protect them. If we want to save sharks, we have to convince those who do not share our love for the sharks to change. In order to do that, we need scientific facts and not rhetoric.

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.
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