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.

Do shark repelling devices work?

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We see a lot of devices advertised that claim to repel sharks. The question is, do they work?
A lot of these devices use either electricity or magnets that are supposed to repel sharks, others claim that a certain color pattern will prevent a shark from biting the wearer.

I have always been skeptical of these devices, since I have seen sharks been simultaneously attracted to and repelled by the same object. Some of the makers of these devices use videos that show sharks jerk away from their gadgets in their advertising. (just search for shark repellent on youtube) In my experience, anything that causes a reaction by a shark, even one that shows it jerking away and taking off, is also peaking its curiosity, which could mean that these devices may actually increase your chances of getting bit.

I have seen 3 white sharks swim in to investigate a beach towel that got blown overboard. All of them jerked away and took off. While 2 took off for good, one came back, jerked away again, but kept coming back. I don’t know weather it eventually bit the towel or not, because I lost sight of them, as they descended too deep to see. It definitely did show though, that even if something causes a shark to take off, it can also peak its curiosity and bring it back to investigate.

Now we have proof that at least one of these devices definitely does not work. The Daily Mail reports that a surfer in Florida got bit while wearing the “sharkbanz”

source
The article states that:
“A teenager has been bitten by a shark while wearing the new shark-repelling band he got for Christmas for the first time. Zack Davis suffered a huge bite to his arm while surfing near Avalon Beach State Park on North Hutchinson Island in Florida. The teen was wearing a new band with magnetic technology that claims to repel sharks away from swimmers. Read the entire article here

Of course I’m not the first to say that these devices don’t work. DaShark has called it back in January, when he wrote “Sharkbanz – total scam” You can read his what he said here

Don’t get suckered in and buy these products. At best, they simply don’t work and at worst may actually increase your chances of a shark encounter.

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.

Is shark diving beneficial for the sharks?

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With the recent coverage of the cage diving accident at Guadalupe, a lot of people have commented that shark diving should be banned.

Obviously my view on that may be biased, since I own a shark diving business, but I have some facts that may change your view on shark diving.

Did you know that shark diving operations have prevented poachers from fishing for sharks at Guadalupe? At this point, everyone knows there are great white sharks at Guadalupe Island, including the poachers. If we would stop shark diving there, the poachers would have easy access.

Did you know that shark diving created a National Marine Park in Fiji? The efforts of Beqa Adventure Divers, have directly led to the creation of the Shark Reef Marine Reserve. When they started diving there, they went to the local fishing village that were the traditional owners of that reef and made a deal with them. They would receive a levy from every shark diver in return for a promise from the village to not fish on that reef. Beqa Adventure Divers also hired and trained their Divemasters, Instructors and boat Captains from that village. After 10 years of diving there, the number of fish species on the reef increased from around 280 to over 480. In 2014 that reef became an official National Marine Park, the equivalent of a National Park in the US.

Shark Reef Marine Reserve

Did you know that Shark Diver donates a significant portion of it’s proceeds to research? We primarily support the Marine Conservation Science Institute who created and maintains the photo ID database of all the sharks at Guadalupe Island.

Did you know that Shark Diver started Shark Free Marinas?

Did you know that Shark Diver works to get fishing tournaments to have catch and release divisions, instead of all kill? This is actually something we have been criticized for by people who don’t want to see shark fishing tournaments at all. Well, I don’t like them either, but catch and release is far better than catch and kill. One step at a time!

Shark Diver is just one company among many operators who actively uses the business to support conservation. We try to emulate our buddies in Fiji. Beqa Adventure Divers who state that they are a “Conservation project, masquerading as a dive operation” We have a long way to go, but we are working on catching up.

So how about the issue of conditioning the sharks, by providing them with food? I leave the answer to that question to DaShark who wrote a blog about that issue a while back.

The late Rusi feeding his sharks.

He writes:
Conditioning via Positive Reinforcement, the big no-no.
Yes, I confess, this is precisely what we do!
We reward the Sharks whenever they approach, very much in the hopes that over time, more and more of them will turn up for a meal – which of course, being smart Apex Predators, they do!
We do so in order to show them to our clients – as opposed to, as I shall never tire to repeat, Fishermen who do exactly the same thing in order to catch and then kill them.
Get the hint? Who has the way biggest, and most negative impact on the animals? Are we going to abolish fishing as a consequence? I wish!

Just to remind you, this comes from the guy who was largely responsible for creating that national marine park I mentioned above.

There are many, many more reasons I could list that show that shark diving, when done properly can greatly benefit not only the sharks, but the ocean in general. It is easy to just oppose shark diving with often unsubstantiated claims, without taking into consideration what the alternative would be.

How many of you would be interested in sharks, or aware of them, without all the pictures and videos on TV and social media? None of those would be around, if not for shark diving?

Weather you agree with my stand on shark diving or not, let’s agree on something. Just offering our opinions on social media and criticizing others is not saving a single shark. Only actions can do that. Let’s be activists, not slacktivists and keep in mind who is killing sharks. It’s the fishing industry, not shark divers!

Let’s go shark diving! Or clean up a beach or…..

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.

Is cage diving safe?

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A lot of you have seen the news coverage of 2 recent cage diving incidents and are wondering, “Is cage diving really safe?”

First of all I want to point out that neither of these incidents happened involved our company. We have been operating safe and sane shark dives for 16 years, without any incidents.

In the latest video you can see that the shark is going after a hang bait that is just laying in front of the cage. This is mistake by the bait handler. The bait was too close to the cage and should have been removed. Excerpt from the regulations for Guadalupe: The permit holder shall ensure that the bait line is immediately removed from the water if the white shark following the bait approaches within 6.5 feet (2 m) of the vessel.

When the shark was going after a bait, it rolled it’s eyes back and lunged for the bait. When it did that, it was essentially blind and it’s momentum carried it into the cage. Since it can’t swim backwards, it just started thrashing around blindly, eventually coming out of the top of the cage.

There is nothing wrong with using hang-baits. Responsible use of hang-baits actually enhances safety, as it allows us to direct the shark. The shark typically follows the bait and when it lunges for it, the follow through is in the same direction. Proper use allows us to lead the shark parallel to the cage instead of into it, as happened in the video above.

You don’t have to have the bait close to the cage to get great shots.

In addition to adhering to all the established safety standards, our cages are made out of round tubing which is both stronger than the square one and safer for the sharks, since it doesn’t have any sharp corners. We also only use surface cages with a redundant air supply, that are securely attached to our vessel.

Back to the general safety question. While nothing is ever 100% safe, so far in innumerable cage dives around the world, there have been zero fatalities, which is to say, it is far safer than recreational SCUBA 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.

I was surrounded by bull sharks!

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I just got back from my 4th annual trip to Fiji, diving with the “BAD” (Beqa Adventure Divers’) bull sharks of the Shark Reef Marine Reserve. It is an unbelievable experience to be surrounded by lots of these awesome predators.

We saw a shark or two

What really fascinates me is not the sheer number of sharks though.  The really interesting part is that I’m starting to recognize some individual sharks, not only by distinctive marks on them, but by their behavior.

Doing a lap, showing everyone that she got a tuna head.


Anyone thinking that “a bull shark is a bull shark” should come to this place and see for themselves. These sharks have very different “personalities”, some very mellow and cautious, others not so much. Of course you need to do more than just one or 2 dives to notice these differences. The first few dives your are simply going to be blown away by the sheer number of sharks and and by how close they’ll get to you.

Up close and personal!

Common wisdom holds that when it comes to sharks, size matters. The big shark always wins over a smaller shark. What I found is that this is not always the case. Some sharks think they are a lot bigger than they really are and compete with the bigger sharks for the tuna heads on offer. “Top Sail” for example is not one of the bigger sharks, but is very adept at getting more than her fair share of tuna heads.

Top sail getting a tuna head.

Another thing that totally surprised me is how cautious these sharks are, even when food is offered to them. Some sharks will not approach the feeder who’s holding a tuna head and some sharks will only take a tuna head from a specific feeder. I would have thought that these bull sharks would pretty much go for any tuna head that is offered to them.

If all the bull sharks are not enough for you, just when you think the dive is over, there is the safety stop. Far from a boring hanging on to a line, waiting for the 3 minutes to pass, you are face to face wit a bunch of hungry white- and black-tip sharks, being fed by one of the divemasters.

I’m still very partial to “my” white sharks at Guadalupe, but I’m getting more and more taken by the bull sharks of the SRMR and can’t wait for next year.

Sam face to face with a hungry white tip shark.

Thanks to all the guys at “BAD”, (Beqa Adventure Divers) for your hospitality and another unforgettable trip. You are simply the best! Vinaka vakalevu!

Blacktip shark at the safety stop

In the coming weeks we’ll be posting a special offer for next year’s Fiji trip. My descriptions and pictures don’t do these sharks justice. You’ll have to come and experience them yourself.

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 Guadalupe Island

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We just completed our 4th expedition to Guadalupe this year and the sharks have been amazing. Unlike in previous years, we are seeing more juvenile females than males this season. There have been over 10 new sharks already and every trip we encounter more new “friends”. On each expedition, we encountered over 18 different sharks, swimming along with seals, turtles and dolphins.

One of our new visitors

 As for the regulars, they have been slow to show their faces. So far we have seen “Joker” and “Chugey”, who looks amazing by the way. His injuries from a few years ago show fewer and fewer remaining scars.

“Chugey” on 8-11-2016

As a reminder, here is what he looked like 2 years ago.

On our last day of our most recent expedition, Bite Face, another long time regular at Guadalupe Island made an appearance for the first time, but most of the sharks we’ve seen so far have been more recent additions to our database. Amiria, Freya, Screaming Mimi, Andy, #198 and Micks are among those encountered so far.
One of our new sharks inspecting the cages

Tonight we are heading back to Guadalupe where I hope we’ll encounter more of our old friends. This is my 16th season diving with these sharks and I’m more excited to head down there than I was on my first expedition.

If you would like to join us on a future expedition or just want some information, contact us at 619.887.4275 or email staff@sharkdiver.com 

I hope to get to introduce you to the amazing great white sharks at Guadalupe Island soon!

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 feeding to be banned in US waters?

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Senators Nelson and Rubio introduced a bill in the US Senate that would outlaw shark feeding in any portion of Biscayne National Park as part of a park fishery management plan.

Senate Bill S.3099 states:

“SEC. 104. Prohibition on shark feeding.

“(a) Prohibition.—Except as provided in section 317 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1866), it is unlawful for any person—
“(1) to engage in shark feeding; or

“(2) to operate a vessel for the purpose of carrying a passenger for hire to any site to engage in shark feeding or to observe shark feeding.
I’m not a lawyer and have tried to figure out if this restriction would apply to all US territorial waters, or just the Biscayne National Park. The bill is not very clear on this, as it refers to other laws that pertain to different areas of the US, namely Hawaii and US territories in the Pacific ocean.
It seems like the politicians are giving in to the people who think that shark feeding is endangering the public, by habituating sharks to think of humans as food. This is despite the evidence to the contrary, where there are no indications that shark feeding has led to any attacks on humans not directly involved in the feeding activities. After the shark feeding ban was implemented in Florida, there was no reduction in shark bites, which is further evidence that there is no correlation between shark attacks and shark feeding.
Dashark has some excellent insights and links to those studies here.
The funny thing is that this bill is specifically asking to not put any gear restrictions or chumming bans on people trying to catch sharks. There is evidence that fishing and specially fishing for sharks can endanger the public, like in 2014, when a swimmer was bitten by a great white shark that was hooked on a fishing line. It is legal to fish for sharks from shore, which is attracting sharks to areas populated by humans, whereas shark feeding does not typically happen close to shore and/or swimmers in the water.
If you want to let the sponsors of this legislation know how you feel about this bill, you can contact them  at these links. 
Senator Bill Nelson of Florida https://www.billnelson.senate.gov/contact-bill
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.