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.

How to conquer fear of sharks? Break the law?

Frightened of the water? Go swimming with great whites. that is the heading of an article in the "Telegraph", published a couple of days ago.

Catchy phrase! So is this article really about conquering the fear of sharks? Well, I don't think so. The article is really about Jean Marie Ghislain, one of the guys we have written about here when we talked about the out of cage diving that is going on at Guadalupe Island on various occasions. We all know that it is illegal to do so and, if anything were to happen on those dives, could threaten all the shark diving operations there.

Jean-Marie Ghislain posted pictures like this.


When we wrote about him, he of course was outraged by my comments and responded with this statement.

"Hello Martin, I am the owner of those images and I was very surprised to see them on the blog article you posted. I would like to ask you to immediatly remove them from the web as well as the comments that concerns them- which dont correspond to the reality in that specific situation. The person who is facing the shark had to push the shark away as it was a very intrusive personality and he touched it as little as he could and the dive was aborted immediatly. I don't want the images to be used in a provocative way when they don't reflect the reality of what happened. And I especially don't condone or encourage physical contacts with sharks, but in this specific instance, it could not be avoided by the diver- as I said, he got out of the water right away after the occurence. I am looking forward to hearing from you soon, Thank you, Jean-Marie Ghislain"

So after removing the "offending" pictures and publishing his response here, he is now featured in this article on the "Telegraph"

Jean Marie Ghislain is quoted as saying. “One day in Guadalupe [an island off Baja California in Mexico] three of us were swimming with two great whites. One was a young macho who just wanted us out of the water. But there was this huge, five-metre female who was the coolest shark I’ve ever met. She played with us for one and a half hours and she wanted the contact - she was free to move wherever she wanted, but she clearly wanted company.” 

When I said they were not having shark conservation on their minds, while they did this out of cage diving, but rather did this for a "look at me" publicity stunt, Ghislain was outraged and asked me to remove that comment immediately. He said that it didn't correspond to the reality of that specific situation and that they left the water immediately when the shark got too "intrusive". Now Ghislain has the guts to publish the comment above.

Turns out that the article is not really about conquering the fear of sharks, but rather a promotion for his book "shark: fear and beauty". Again, no self interest involved here at all! "sharkcasm" intended.

It is really bad, when guys can blatantly disregard a law, endanger all the other operators at Guadalupe and pretend it's about shark conservation. Make no mistake, this is not about shark conservation, or getting people to conquer their fear of sharks. This is all about self promotion and making money.

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 conservation at it’s best!

Great news out of Fiji. "DasShark" has just sent me an email, letting me know that the Shark Reef Marine Reserve Fiji has been officially designated a National Marine Park.


Celebration from Dave emery on Vimeo.


Thanks to all the guys and gals at Beqa Adventure Divers! Because of your tireless efforts, the sharks and all the marine creatures are now officially protected. Also a huge congratulations to all of you, for being named the official management team for this newly created park. They couldn't have picked a better group.

For all of you, that think a project like this is easy to accomplish, consider this. From the very beginning, none of the stake holders was opposing this project, but it still took 11 years to get it done. Remember that the next time you think that someone's efforts are not getting any results. Projects like these get accomplished by people who don't need instant gratification, who don't let set backs discourage them and who have a lot of determination and perseverance. The gang at Beqa Adventure Divers has all that in spades.

"DaShark" writes in his blog,  

Oh boy has this been an adventure!


It is the result of a whopping 11 years of constant advocacy, cajoling all the way to begging: hundreds upon hundreds of e-mails, dozens of formal meetings and position papers, several governments, multiple ministers, five different village chiefs chairing numerous village meetings with ever changing village committees, having to wait for the outcome of the ultimately failed Fiji Shark Sanctuary campaign, and the list goes on and on and on. And mind you: all these years and enormous effort had to be invested into a conservation project that was completely undisputed and where every single stakeholder had given his approval since the very beginning!

This just as an aside and as a warning to those groups that want to quickly parachute in and get fast results and instant gratification - this is not how Fiji works!


This would not have been possible without the help of a lot of people. So in his blog he is thanking them, for their help in getting this reserve created.

We are highly grateful to Government and specifically, to Frank Bainimarama for not only having single-handedly saved our sorry ass back then in 2010, but for getting Cabinet to finally endorse it. And an enormous shout-out goes to Aisake Batibasaga, Principal Research Officer at the Department of Fisheries, for his unwavering support and encouragement all throughout this interminable process. It is thanks to his very personal effort that it got tabled, and for that we shall always be grateful to him.

Vinaka Bati, you're a good man and a good friend!



Our massive thanks also go to the village of Galoa.

Shark Reef lays is within their fishing grounds, and I must really say that contrary to others, working with them has always been easy, and fueled by mutual trust, respect and above all, honesty. To celebrate this event and show our appreciation, we will very shortly increase the marine park levy, with all incremental funds flowing to Galoa only.

Vinaka vakalevu!



And then there's our unmatched team.

Here's to James for having founded BAD and to Andrew for his excellent leadership, loyalty and hard work; to Papa and Nani that have been invaluable guides when navigating the treacherous waters of local protocol; to Rusi, quite possibly the world's best Shark feeder and my dive buddy who continues to inspire me every single day; and to the BAD boyz an gals that always make me so proud.



And then!

Here's to those wonderful people that have been helping us since the very beginning - for a decade of friendship, counsel and encouragement, and above all, for stellar company and shared adventures: Valerie and the late Ron, Juerg, Gary and Brenda, the Hawaii gang of Jack and his disciples John, Rob and Richard and least but not least, Alexander Goldknecht of the Shark Foundation who funded our first patrol boat, continues to fund Juerg' research and is a sponsor of the ongoing GFSC.

And to you, the many loyal friends we've made on the way, and the thousands upon thousands of visitors that have enabled us to keep going and finally achieve our vision of a tourism-based integrated Shark research and conservation project, and reach finally this milestone.

And to our detractors - your have only strengthened our resolve!

Thank you so much!
There is one person I would like to thank for "getting it done".  Thank you "DaShark"! I know you like to stay behind the scenes and are not seeking the public accolades, but in this case, I have to say, Vinaka vakalevu Mike!

There are a lot of people out there, that say that feeding sharks is bad, period. I wonder if any of them have created a national marine park? This is an excellent example of how real conservation works. This park would never have been created without the shark feeding program. It was the catalyst to get all the stake holders on board and would have been impossible without the funds collected from the divers.

Shark Diver is proud to partner with Beqa Adventure Divers for our Fiji Bull Shark adventures next May. If you want to join us, when we visit this newly created national park, call us at 619.887.4275 or email us at staff@sharkdiver.com

Our 2015 dates are May 8-17, May 15-24 and May 22-31.

Let's go Bull 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.

A 99.999999% effective shark repellent!

Finally, after years of careful research and countless hours spent analyzing shark bite data from all over the world, after comparing all the shark repelling products on the market, we at Shark Diver have found the one shark repellent that works in give or take 99.999999% of the time.

But first, a little background on our research. To obtain our data, we have been diving with Great White Sharks at Isla Guadalupe, Tiger Sharks in the Bahamas and Bull Sharks in Fiji.

Everyone is always skeptical about the testing methods used to obtain the data. The companies advertising their products always say that you can't test the product on humans, because of the dangers involved. We are so confident in our shark repellent, that we put our own butts on the line to proof the effectiveness. More than anyone else can say. ... Oh yes, we have taken some pictures, documenting our work, for all you naysayers out there.



Ooops, the shark came a little close here.


A Tiger Shark showing no interest in biting the diver.

But what about the supposedly most aggressive shark, the Bull Shark?


Wow, that was close, but once again, even a Bull Shark didn't bite the test subject.

But how about a lot of Bull Sharks?



The video shows, that the sharks came close, but again, showed no interest in biting our test subjects.

So what is this incredible shark deterrent, that is so effective, that if it were a drug, it would be the most effective drug ever produced? So effective that there is not a single safety device out there, that has a better success rate? Well, it is quite simple actually. The common denominator for all the people that went into the water for thousands of years is this. The were all human! Being human gives you such a miniscule chance of getting bit or killed by a shark, that there is simply no way to design a device that will statistically lower your chances of getting bit by a shark. Think about it, what else is 99.999999% safe?

So let's go out and enjoy the ocean. Just be careful on your way there and watch out for those rip currents.

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.

Cageless diving with Great White Sharks. Good idea?

This is for all of you who are thinking that it is a good idea to go outside of a cage and dive with Great White Sharks and say that they treat you as one of their own. Check out this video shark diving, great white shark diving, swimming with great white sharks, great white adventures, shark cage diving


Imagine if the smaller shark would have been a diver. Still think it's a good idea?  Still want them to treat you as one of their own?
 Isla Guadalupe shark diving, shark cage diving california.
When will we learn to love the sharks for who and what they are? They are wild predators, not freaking pets. I'm not ashamed to say "I love those Great White Sharks, but the feeling is NOT mutual!" They are not capable of loving us. That doesn't mean that they are mindless killers either. They are fierce predators that are neither out to eat us, nor do they want to be touched or hugged by us.

Let's go "safe and sane" shark diving! See and appreciate them for what 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.

Pictures and trip report from Guadalupe

Marie Tartar has posted some great pictures and written a blog about her recent trip to Guadalupe Island with us.

Cage diving, swimming with sharks, shark diving, at Isla Guadalupe. experience a real shark week
On her FB page she writes. "Just when you thought it was safe to go back on Facebook...more sharks! Great white sharks, in residence for the season at Guadalupe Island, Mexico. See more pics on my blog:" http://aperturephotoarts.com/white-sharks-guadalupe-island-mexico/




Marie also posted this video.

Thanks for sharing your experience along with your great pictures Marie! It was nice having you come out with us. I enjoyed introducing you to "my" sharks at Isla Guadalupe.

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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