How do you choose the right shark diving operation?


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Shark diving has gained in popularity over the last decade or so. With the increasing number of operations that offer interactions with sharks, we have also seen a growing trend for some operators to use irresponsible and in some cases down right stupid and dangerous diving practices. 



So how can a diver find an operation that is using responsible and sustainable practices? How does he/she know if an operation is participating in conservation efforts, education and research?


Now there is a way to do exactly that. Rick McPherson, a marine biologist and conservationist has created a website, www.sustainablesharkdiving.com that is rating shark diving operations on various criteria, helping divers in choosing who to go with. It is sort of like a trip advisor for the shark diving industry. 

We at Shark Diver are proud to provide our divers with a "Safe and Sane" shark diving experience and support research and conservation through our collaboration with the Marine Conservation Science Institute. We are excited about Rick's new website and hope that anyone interested in shark diving will use it when choosing their next dive operation.

Here is the press release, announcing www.sustainablesharkdiving.com

San Francisco, CA
Sustainable Shark Dive Tourism Website Now Live: Best Practices and Trip Reviews
Sustainable Shark Diving (www.sustainablesharkdiving.com), a new website that provides tools and “Trip Advisor-like reviews of shark dive tourism operations around the world is now live. The website, previewed at the 2015 DEMA Show in Florida to overwhelming interest and support, has opened and now offers shark divers an opportunity to learn about best practices while helping to promote more sustainable environmental and safety within the industry. 

The popularity and growth of shark dive tourism over the past decade is undeniable. Divers increasingly want to see sharks and are willing to pay well to have close encounters with these charismatic species. For a critically threatened group such as sharks, this is good news. “Over 100 million sharks die each year due to interactions with fisheries, “ reports Rick MacPherson, marine biologist, conservationist, and founder of the new online tool Sustainable Shark Diving “I believe a living shark showcased for tourism over its lifetime is better than a dead shark used once for its fins and meat,” says MacPherson. “I created sustainablesharkdiving.com as a free, open access portal for tourists and dive operators to help underscore the value of healthy shark populations to tourism as well as highlight best practices and lessons learned from shark dive operations around the world.” Dr Austin Gallagher, Postdoctoral Researcher at Carleton University and principal author of a ground-breaking 2015 global study of the shark diving industry, agrees, "The value of shark diving tourism to local economies and cultures has emerged as one of the leading arguments for the conservation of sharks around the world."
The shark dive tourism industry has already taken note of the value of this new online tool. Jorge Loria, owner of Phantom Divers, a bull shark diving operation in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, believes this tool will help create a higher standard for the growing shark diving industry, “Diving with a sustainable business that is safe and educational results in a benefit to both divers and sharks because the more we know about sharks the better we can protect them.” Mike Neumann, owner of Beqa Adventure Divers in Fiji agrees: “This will be a game changer and a huge step towards propelling the shark diving industry towards a more long term sustainable model.” 

Sustainable Shark Diving fills an industry need by providing a free, one-stop source for best safety and environmental practices and guidelines that have been established around the world for the viewing of sharks (and their flat cousins the rays). “Sustainable Shark Diving offers visitors a compilation of shark diving best practices and guidelines,” explains MacPherson. “You can search by shark species or by region. Whether you want to dive with white sharks, whale sharks, oceanic whitetip, bull, nurse, or any species, you will find the most currently accepted sustainability guidelines for that type of experience.” 

Importantly, Sustainable Shark Diving features a Trip Advisor-like review section that allows divers to rate their experience with any shark dive operation against a set of sustainability criteria that includes safety, environmental performance, staff interactions, and overall educational/conservation value. "This tool has enormous potential to begin pushing the entire global industry closer to sustainability and accountability”, says Dr Gallagher. “By allowing the tourists themselves - the lifeblood of this and any tourism industry - to rank the performance, safety, and environmental ethics of operators around the world, the industry as a whole becomes more transparent and we can promote the good and hopefully phase out the bad.

ABOUT RICK MACPHERSON, FOUNDER
Rick MacPherson is a marine ecologist and conservationist with three decades of experience in solving environmental challenges. He has a particular focus and interest in the intersection of conservation and marine tourism. As a PADI certified diver for over 35 years, he has witnessed the decline of coral reefs and shark populations during his lifetime. In response, MacPherson has become a passionate advocate and thought leader on the role of sustainable tourism as a lever for ocean conservation. Achievements have included development of the world’s first standards for scuba diving, snorkeling, and boating; designer of the Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Marine Tours for the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), and founder of the Mesoamerican Reef Tourism Initiative--the longest-running sustainable tourism project in the Americas. With a belief and expertise in collaborative solutions, MacPherson has brokered partnerships across governments, corporations, NGOs, private sector, and local communities to arrive at pragmatic solutions to complex environmental problems. He is Founder and Principal of Pelagia Consulting, a San Francisco-based ocean science and conservation think tank, where he serves as senior advisor to international NGOs and charitable foundations. In 2013, MacPherson was awarded the Oris/Scuba Diving Magazine Sea Hero of the Year Award in recognition of his achievements in ocean conservation. 




CONTACT 

Rick MacPherson, Founder Sustainable Shark Diving rickmacpherson@me.com +1 (510) 295-5538

Let's go (sustainable) 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.

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


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What's it like to come face to face with a Great White Shark? That is a question I get asked time and time again. With the news media portraying sharks as blood thirsty, mindless killers, just looking to eat us, most people think I have a death wish, diving with sharks. So I thought I should share what it is really like to come face to face with one of the most feared creatures on earth.


Here is a little video that shows how most people think an encounter with a shark will be like.




The reality it is more like the sharks swim by slowly, looking you straight into the eyes and showing absolutely no signs that they want to eat you.


When I first started diving with white sharks, what struck me is the fact that it is not scary at all. I'm by no means the only one that feels that way. In 15 seasons of taking divers to meet these awesome creatures, the most common reaction when coming face to face with a great white shark is just awe. Even divers who saw "Jaws" and joined us expecting a huge adrenaline rush, mostly are just blown away by the experience and don't find it the least bit scary. The scariest part of the expedition is the anticipation of that first meeting.


I remember that after about 3 trips to Guadalupe Island I started thinking "I've seen it" and didn't expect to do this for much longer. Well, at the time I didn't expect to be in the cage and have "Shredder" swim by to check me out. When he looked me straight into the eye, something happened. I realized that this huge shark is focused on me, that he was individually checking everyone out.

Shredder

Thinking back, that is when I fell in love with those sharks. Now as I always say to our divers. I love those sharks, but it is not a mutual feeling. That is perfectly OK. I love them for what they are, awesome predators, not mindless killers, but certainly no harmless pets either.


I don't feel the need to tell everyone that these sharks love me and that I can go hold onto their fins, because they accept me as one of their own. Come to think of it, I'm glad that they don't treat me as one of their own. Even though I'm not a small person, in terms of white shark size, I would be a very, very small shark. White sharks definitely are into having their personal space and don't react kindly to a smaller individual invading that space. I've seen what they do to a smaller shark that is doing this.


I've been diving with sharks for over 15 years and I'm excited every time I'm about to get into the water with them. I find them fascinating and discovered that they are generally very cautious and even shy, not the mindless killers the media makes them out to be at all. Last season I saw 3 white sharks that got scared by a towel that fell overboard and drifted down. 2 of them checked it out and got the heck out of there. One of them kept circling it, approaching it and jerking away, when the towel moved a little. He kept doing that until both he and the towel went out of sight.

I hope that I have given you an idea of what it feels like to come face to face with a great white shark. If you really want to know, there is no substitute for experiencing it for yourself and I hope you'll get that chance. It is an experience you'll never forget. When you do go out, remember that while we don't have to fear these sharks, we definitely have to respect them.


We at Shark Diver promote "Safe and Sane Shark Diving" that respects the sharks and the environment. We hope to see you on one of our expeditions to Guadalupe Island.

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.

Update from our friends in Fiji


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This is a reblog from Mike in Fiji. http://fijisharkdiving.blogspot.com/2016/02/cyclone-winston-images.html

It looks like they made it through the Cyclone OK, but that can't be said for other parts of Fiji.



Just amazing.
I've just come back from Suva.
Insiders know the route which leads through several villages and settlements with plenty of ramshackle dwellings, and then through the suburb of Lami and finally, Suva proper. I was expecting to see some signs of the devastation but... nothing! 
Everything is clean and tidy, and all I could discern were a total of three missing roofs where repairs were already well underway.
Like I said, just amazing!
But in the North and in the islands, things are completely different.
This is yesterday's local News bulletin.



These poor people need urgent help.
Should you want to contribute, please re-read this  - and should you want to use other channels, you may want to first ascertain whether the funds will be ultimately disbursed to the National Disaster Management Office  and then, the District Disaster Management Committee (DISMAC) that are coordinating the efforts, and what portion of your funds will be wasted on overheads as is too often the case. Like the PM said, this is really not the moment for waste, duplication let alone obstruction!
Thank you very much!

If you would like to help out, Mike is recommending the following ways.
The Prime Minister's disaster relief fund  http://www.fiji.gov.fj/Media-Center/Press-Releases/FIJIAN-GOVERNMENT-ESTABLISHES-DISASTER-RELIEF-FUND.aspx

The Fiji Red Cross: http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=342687

I'm glad that our friends have made it through the Cyclone OK and I urge you to help the less fortunate one in Fiji via one of the above means.

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.

Who is more aggressive, a Bull Shark or a Great White?


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We hear a lot about how aggressive shark are. Some people thing that if they encounter a shark in the ocean, they will get bit. This kind of thinking is at least partially fueled by the media that seems to portray any encounter with a shark as a near death experience.

I've been diving with Great White, Bull and Tiger Sharks for over 15 years now and have found that most sharks are actually pretty shy and not very aggressive. Despite the fact that shark bites and attacks are extremely rare, the common perception is that they are dangerous. When it comes to what species is most dangerous, people tell me that because they have more testosterone than any other shark, Bull Sharks are the most aggressive and therefore the most dangerous to humans.

It is true, that since Bull Sharks can swim and hunt in very shallow, brackish and even fresh water, they tend to be in much closer proximity to humans than Tiger or Great White Sharks. This obviously leads to a greater chance of an encounter with them, which can result in an occasional bite or attack. Such bites however remain extremely rare. Last year there were 96 shark bites with 6 fatalities reported worldwide. These numbers include all species of shark.

I think that a lot of people confuse feeding with aggression. Biting that is related to hunting or feeding has nothing to do with the testosterone level, but is simply and indication that the shark is hungry. Aggression has to do with defending their territory, establishing dominance and is usually directed toward another shark or a perceived competitor. So if we look at it that way, who is more aggressive, the Bull Shark, or the Great White Shark?

Well, let me show you a couple of pictures.





These pictures all show Great White Sharks with bite marks from their own kind. It is rare to see an adult Great White Shark that doesn't have some kind of scar or fresh bite mark on them. These sharks are very much into keeping their "personal space" and it is rare for them to touch each other, without there being some biting involved. Typically when 2 White Sharks encounter each other, they pass each other head on, to establish who is bigger. If that doesn't settle it, they tend to come back together and swim parallel with each other, to get a closer look. Now if that still doesn't settle it, the more dominant sharks usually shows the other who's boss by biting it on the head or in the gill area.

Now I want to stress that the aggression I have observed on White Sharks is shown towards other shark and not humans, or other animals in the ocean. Just like any other "dangerous" shark, they are not very likely to attack a human.



Add caption
2 of these sharks just got a tuna head, they show no aggression.

In the pictures above, you can see lot's of Bull Sharks swimming very close together and there doesn't seem to be any aggression. I've seen over 70 of those sharks, without noticing any that had bite marks on them. This is something that definitely can't be said about Great Whites.

It never ceases to amaze me, how little we know about sharks and how much of what we "know" is actually wrong. We tend to think that something like testosterone will have the same effect in sharks as it does in humans. On the flip side of the "sharks are mindless killer" attitude, there is the "sharks want to be hugged" crowd, that is trying to show how harmless these sharks are by riding, grabbing, flipping and hugging them.

Let's appreciate the sharks for who and what they are. They are not mindless killers, but neither are they harmless pets. As I always say, "I absolutely love "my" sharks, but it is not a mutual feeling and that is perfectly fine with me". I don't feel the need to assign human emotions to them love em just they way they are.

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.

Who is more aggressive, a Bull Shark or a Great White?


Instagram 
We hear a lot about how aggressive shark are. Some people thing that if they encounter a shark in the ocean, they will get bit. This kind of thinking is at least partially fueled by the media that seems to portray any encounter with a shark as a near death experience.

I've been diving with Great White, Bull and Tiger Sharks for over 15 years now and have found that most sharks are actually pretty shy and not very aggressive. Despite the fact that shark bites and attacks are extremely rare, the common perception is that they are dangerous. When it comes to what species is most dangerous, people tell me that because they have more testosterone than any other shark, Bull Sharks are the most aggressive and therefore the most dangerous to humans.

It is true, that since Bull Sharks can swim and hunt in very shallow, brackish and even fresh water, they tend to be in much closer proximity to humans than Tiger or Great White Sharks. This obviously leads to a greater chance of an encounter with them, which can result in an occasional bite or attack. Such bites however remain extremely rare. Last year there were 96 shark bites with 6 fatalities reported worldwide. These numbers include all species of shark.

I think that a lot of people confuse feeding with aggression. Biting that is related to hunting or feeding has nothing to do with the testosterone level, but is simply and indication that the shark is hungry. Aggression has to do with defending their territory, establishing dominance and is usually directed toward another shark or a perceived competitor. So if we look at it that way, who is more aggressive, the Bull Shark, or the Great White Shark?

Well, let me show you a couple of pictures.





These pictures all show Great White Sharks with bite marks from their own kind. It is rare to see an adult Great White Shark that doesn't have some kind of scar or fresh bite mark on them. These sharks are very much into keeping their "personal space" and it is rare for them to touch each other, without there being some biting involved. Typically when 2 White Sharks encounter each other, they pass each other head on, to establish who is bigger. If that doesn't settle it, they tend to come back together and swim parallel with each other, to get a closer look. Now if that still doesn't settle it, the more dominant sharks usually shows the other who's boss by biting it on the head or in the gill area.

Now I want to stress that the aggression I have observed on White Sharks is shown towards other shark and not humans, or other animals in the ocean. Just like any other "dangerous" shark, they are not very likely to attack a human.



Add caption
2 of these sharks just got a tuna head, they show no aggression.

In the pictures above, you can see lot's of Bull Sharks swimming very close together and there doesn't seem to be any aggression. I've seen over 70 of those sharks, without noticing any that had bite marks on them. This is something that definitely can't be said about Great Whites.

It never ceases to amaze me, how little we know about sharks and how much of what we "know" is actually wrong. We tend to think that something like testosterone will have the same effect in sharks as it does in humans. On the flip side of the "sharks are mindless killer" attitude, there is the "sharks want to be hugged" crowd, that is trying to show how harmless these sharks are by riding, grabbing, flipping and hugging them.

Let's appreciate the sharks for who and what they are. They are not mindless killers, but neither are they harmless pets. As I always say, "I absolutely love "my" sharks, but it is not a mutual feeling and that is perfectly fine with me". I don't feel the need to assign human emotions to them love em just they way they are.

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.

Our friends in Fiji made it through the cyclone!


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It looks like our friends in Fiji made it through Cyclone Winston, the worst in history.

Here is Mike's first hand report. http://fijisharkdiving.blogspot.com/2016/02/back-in-business.html?spref=fb

A picture of the devastation.

Back in Business!

We're opening tomorrow.

But first.
This has been the worst cyclone to ever hit the SoPac, and one of the very worst globally.
Our thoughts go to the families of the deceased and missing, to the many who got injured, to the countless displaced, many of whom have literally lost everything.

But this is Fiji.
Yes the widespread stoicism in the face of the onrushing onslaught may have seemed peculiar - but the flip side is that after the event, there is no drama whatsoever as instead of lamenting and waiting for others to help, we get up, dust ourselves off and carry on. 
Case in point, the power and water are miraculously back on, and everybody is busy cleaning up and helping friends and neighbors to get back on their feet. And a big bravo to Government who has been handling this admirably right from the get go, and who continues show leadership by being proactive, efficient and effective all throughout the country.

I also want to thank our friends.
Your outpouring of support has been frankly humbling, and we all thank you for that. No we really don't need anything - but should you want to make a valuable contribution, please make a donation to the Fiji Red Cross or to the Prime Minister's Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation Fund as right now, those are by far the most effective venues for quickly getting the right help to the affected people.
Thank you very much.
 

Anyway, we're open for business.
Can't wait to have my first look at Shark Reef that has been battered by phenomenal seas. We've recently established a shallow nursery for different endangered Giant Clams, and I'm fearing the worst - but who knows, we here are resilient.

Keep watching this space! 

We are all glad you made it through OK and are looking forward to diving with you in May.

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.
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