Get to know the Great White Sharks of Guadalupe Island

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Over the last couple of weeks I wrote about a few of the Great White Sharks we encounter at Guadalupe Island. Before I introduce you to more of those, I want to tell you a bit about the sharks we are less familiar with. While we have a lot of sharks we see every year, or every other year for the females, there are many that don’t follow that pattern. Some sharks we have only seen during one season, while others visit Guadalupe at irregular intervals.

“Geoff Nuttall” was a regular from 2003 until 2011, then he wasn’t seen for 2 years, before returning to his annual returns in 2014.

“Geoff Nuttall”

Quezalcoatl, #58 in our database was first seen in 2005 and then didn’t appear until 2013, an absence of 8 years. Where did he go during those 8 years? While we have really good tracking data from the sharks that were outfitted with satellite tags, showing the migration pattern of the sharks we see regularly, we have no data on where the shark we see infrequently are going. There is so much we don’t know.

#56 Quetztalcoatl

Dr. Bob, a very curious and active 13″ sub-adult shark only visited in 2014, the now world famous “Deep Blue” was seen in 1999 and then again in 2012. “Lou”, “Oscar” and “Hefe” all had absences of 6 or more years, before showing up again. Some of these absences may simply be due to them not showing up at the cages during those years. We simply don’t know.

Below is a video of “Dr. Bob”. Check out his bite marks on the right and look at his eyes as he swims over the camera. He’s looking straight down at the divers.

My favorite shark, “Shredder” has not been seen since 2011, after 11 continuous years at Guadalupe. I hope that his absence is just like those of the other sharks that were taking a break from visiting Guadalupe, but I have to say that I’m worried about him. He’s never been the most careful individual in the first place, as evidenced by his many scars and mutilations.

Anyway, I can’t wait to go back to Guadalupe and see who’s back. I’m equally excited to meet some new sharks. In the last 2 years we added over 50 new individuals to our database! Are they going to be back? Come join us for a real “sharkweek” and find out!

Call us 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.

Get to know “Luca Arnone” Great White Shark at Guadalupe Island

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“Luca Arnone” listed as #163, is one of our recent additions to the photo ID database at Guadalupe Island. We first met him in 2013 and he has been coming back every year since.

Last year “Luca” looked a bit rough. He was partially wrapped in a thick rope, which fortunately was being removed by Dr. Mauricio Hoyos, the local researcher at Guadalupe Island. The cut caused by the rope was not too deep and since white sharks have an amazing ability to heal, it should not cause him any permanent harm.

“Luca” is a fairly small shark, probably just shy of 12′, but he doesn’t seem to mind the bigger sharks and is a frequent visitor to our cages. 

Luca was named by one of our diver, who named 2 different sharks, one after his son, Luca and the other after his daughter Milana. Naming a shark is one way you can support the ongoing research at Guadalupe Island. The Marine Science Conservation Institute, “MCSI” who maintains the photo ID has various levels of sponsorship available, including naming a shark.

Another way you can support “MCSI” is by coming on one of our “science” trips. A portion of these expeditions goes to fund the research and Nicole Lucas-Nasby, the researcher maintaining that database is coming along as the host. She is sharing the results of her research with you and if we encounter a new shark, you’ll also have an opportunity to name that shark. How cool would it be, if you see a shark that you named on “Sharkweek”?

If you want to find our for yourself what it’s like to come face to face with a great white shark and maybe name one of these sharks, come join us on one of our 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.

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.

Get to know “Scarboard” Great White Shark at Guadalupe Island

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“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.

Last season “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.

Get to know “Screaming Mimi” Great White Shark at Guadalupe Island

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We met “Screaming Mimi” a couple of years ago. When I first encountered her, I nicknamed her “Kinky”.  She has a very distinct kink in her tail. I have no idea what caused that kink, since she doesn’t have any obvious scars or signs of injury. She was named “Screaming Mimi” by someone through the “Sponsor a shark” program of the Marine Conservation Science Institute. That sponsor program, is one of the ways they raise funds for the Photo ID database at Guadalupe Island.

Mimi is a very active and curious shark. When she encounters something new in the water, she exhibits a typical white shark trait. Unlike what most people think, white sharks don’t just attack when they encounter something they don’t know. They swim by close to check it out. It is actually quite funny some times. A couple of years ago, a beach towel blew overboard and started to drift down. 3 white sharks came by to investigate it. 2 of them jerked away and rapidly swam away, when the towel moved a little in the current. The 3rd. one kept swimming close to it, jerking away, and getting closer again. I don’t know if it eventually bit the towel or not, as I lost sight of both the shark and the towel in the distance.

Watch the video below of Mimi checking out my gopro camera that was attached to a long pole and handled from the boat.

You can see that they don’t just attack something they don’t know. The swim by and check things out first.

Screaming Mimi ©Tim Peterson

Mimi also likes to swim really close to the cages and makes eye contact with the divers.

Mimi is around 14′ long and not quite mature yet. It is amazing how big these sharks have to be, before they are mature and able to reproduce.

I hope we’ll see her again this year. She loves to swim around the cages, sometimes for hours. It never ceases to amaze me that we keep seeing the same individual sharks year after year. It’s not like they are resident sharks. The migrate thousands of miles each year, but come right back to the same spot at Guadalupe Island.

If you want to come face to face with a great white shark and would like 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.

Get to know “Lucy” Great White Shark at Guadalupe Island

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I love “Lucy”, and I’m not referring to the popular TV show in 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.

Unfortunately “Lucy” doesn’t seem to get pregnant. 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. I don’t know if that’s the reason she doesn’t seem to get pregnant, but we have seen her every season, for the last 9 years.

“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 again 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.

Get to know the Great White Sharks of Guadalupe

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

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

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

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

Meet “Bite Face”

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

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

source wikipedia.com

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

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

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

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

Let’s go shark diving!

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at crew@sharkdiver.com. Phone 619.887.4275

Do we need a shark cull at Reunion Island?

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

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

The attack happened at a spot that is well known for it’s sharks and there are signs warning people that it is closed for waters ports. Unfortunately those sign were cut down the weekend before, but the local fishermen reported that they warned the body-boarders.
Sky news writes: “It is reported young people had been there for several days, despite being warned by locals of a shark.”
Kelly Slater’s response to this attack is this. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver.
 

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

How many Great White Sharks are at Guadalupe Island?

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

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

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

Why are we seeing these sharks in larger numbers? Are the conservation efforts paying off? I don’t really have an answer to this, but hope that the continued efforts of the Marine Conservation Science Institute, (MCSI) with their tagging and photo ID program will provide the answers we are looking for.

If you would like to support the ongoing research, MCSI has various ways you can become involved, including the right to name a shark. Wouldn’t it be cool, if you watch shark week and see a shark you named? You can contact them by clicking here.

Lucy, one of our regular females, easily recognizable by her tail.

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

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

Let’s go shark diving!

Cheers,
Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at staff@sharkdiver.com.

Have a Sharky New Year!

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In 2106 we had some awesome expeditions to Guadalupe, Fiji and Tiger Beach. We made many new friends and reconnected with old ones. We want to thank all of you that came out with us this year and are looking forward to meeting those of you who are coming out in 2017.

We want to wish all of you the best for a healthy, prosperous, happy and sharky 2017!

Cheers,

Cindy and Martin

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.