How can you have your own private “Shark Week”?

Next week we start our 17th season at Guadalupe Island, diving with Great White Sharks.

Kinga Phillips has been coming out with us twice so far, and she’s written an excellent blog about her experience and how you can have your own private shark week.

I like how she described the Great White Shark: “The highlight of the trip is spending cage time face to face with one of nature’s most incredible examples of the perfect predatory form. So perfect evolution took one look at her design roughly 100 million years ago, dropped the mic and walked away.”

She provides a lot of insight, not just about the actual experience of diving with Great White Sharks, but about conservation and eco tourism as well.

Read her entire blog here

For more information on how you can experience your own “real sharkweek”, call us at 619.887.4275, email or visit

Let’s go Shark Diving!

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

Australia. Sabotaging Eco Tourism?

I hate to say it, but Australia is at it again. After hunting down a tagged shark for simply being too close to shore, they now have declared their intention to “opt out of protections for 5 shark species”.

The guardian writes that The government is submitting a “reservation” against three species of thresher shark and two species of hammerhead shark listed as protected migratory species under the UN-administered convention on the conservation of migratory species of wild animals.
The five types of shark were among 31 species granted new protection status at a convention summit in November. A record 21 species of shark and ray, including sawfish, were put on the list along with polar bears, whales and gazelles.

Although Australia did not object to the listings in November, it is now seeking to opt out of the commitment to cooperate with other countries to ensure the five migratory shark species do not become extinct. The expanded list is due to come into effect on 8 February.

Since sharks are a vital part of a healthy ocean environment it seems that the government is not too concerned about losing all the tourists who visit Australia to dive and enjoy the incredible reefs they have. The only ones they care about is the fishermen. The article quotes Alexia Wellbelove, senior program manager at Humane Society International the opt-out was to appease commercial and recreational fishers, some of whom catch threshers and hammerhead sharks as primary catch or as bycatch for other species. “This is a political decision, it has nothing to do with conservation, which is pretty pathetic really,” she said. “Australia has always spoken out against other countries making reservations under these kinds of treaties, so this move is really concerning.

The article states “A spokesman for the federal environment minister, Greg Hunt, said the government’s move was to avoid “unintended consequences” for fishers in Australia, who would risk being fined up to $170,000 and face two years in jail even if they obeyed their permits.  

So they say that their laws are too harsh for the fishermen who kill these sharks and instead of changing the punishment for the killing, they just kill the protection for these sharks. Sound reasoning indeed. (sharkasm intended)

Read the entire article here 

Dashark’s reaction here 

I recommend that you send your opinion to the Australian tourism website here and click on the feedback link.  You can also visit their Facebook page and leave a comment there.

If the politicians won’t listen to us, maybe their tourist board is more receptive.

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

Do Shark Diving Operators need to be regulated?


The following (in italics) is a blog by “DaShark”

It’s a great read and addresses the issues facing the shark diving industry brilliantly. DaShark is of course the very guy who was instrumental in establishing the Shark Reef National Park in Fiji! So he knows a thing or two about operating a shark dive. Check out his operation  “The best shark dive in the world!”
Thorny thorny!

If you’re a Shark diving operator, you need to read this!

And I cite.

5. Conclusions 
In recent years there has been increasing global interest in shark-encounter tourism and the potential economic incentive and awareness raising benefits this industry may bring to shark conservation. However, recent research has indicated negative behavioural impacts arising from shark diving or snorkelling and inadequacies in management have been highlighted. 
In this global study of shark tourism practices we found that in the majority of cases surveyed, shark operators apply codes of conduct (either mandatory or voluntary) to ensure the safety of both people and sharks even when no formal national guidelines exist. However, the practices and approaches taken varied widely, and we believe there is a good case for greater regulation to raise standards and minimise any adverse effects on both sharks and people. Such an approach would involve greater scrutiny of the industry and formalisation of legally enforced national guidelines. 
Links are frequently made between shark baiting/provisioning and attacks, and while these remain speculative, a precautionary approach is warranted that would be best delivered through regulation. Without this, shark tourism has the potential to cause accidents which could decrease the growing popularity of sharks and thereby have negative knock on effects for their conservation, particularly when culls follow attacks such as those recently witnessed in Western Australia. 
While our questionnaire indicates that the majority of shark encounters and shark tourism currently pose very little risk to people, more field research is required on shark behavioural responses to tourism practices to help assess best practices for sharks, people and environment. Shark diving management therefore needs to be dynamic and must evolve with continuing developments in the industry and understanding of shark behaviour.

First things first.

When it comes to collecting the evidence and painting a picture of global Shark diving tourism, this paper is really quite good. Also, I really don’t want to further elaborate on what I’ve already said about those problematic non-provisioned encounters with Elasmobranchs, be it Whale Sharks, Mantas and the like, i.e. that if the industry is not able to self regulate, then the regulator has to step in – see e.g. here.

And what about those provisioned dives?

I’ve blogged ad nauseam about what the evidence teaches us about their effect on the animals, the public and the environment, e.g. here. Yes there are of course people that postulate otherwise – but at this stage in the debate, it is for them to stop speculating but instead, to finally come up with evidence to the contrary. And no, invoking the precautionary principle in view of those totally unsubstantiated allegations aint good enough anymore, either!

And if they cannot come up with the evidence, they finally need to shut the fuck up – especially the researchers!

Yes Shark feeding is dangerous – dooh.
Yes often the Sharks get excited – dooh.

And yes there are dodgy Shark diving operators, and those unsupervised multi-user sites like TB are a cause for concern. And we also all know that there have been quite a number of Shark bites – very few on the clients but plenty on the feeders, the latter ranging from harmless because there was protective gear to serious when there was none.

But here comes the big BUT!

In tens, if not hundreds of thousands of baited Shark dives, there has been a grand total of ONE documented fatality – and I betcha that if one were to make the comparison to “normal” diving, you would likely find more fatalities per hours spent in the water than during baited Shark dives!

The reason?

Believe it or not – but none of us has a death wish, and we also want to bring back our clients unharmed!
We know that what we do is dangerous, and we are the first ones striving to minimize and manage the risks we admittedly create! This is why the overwhelming majority, if not all of Shark feeding operators have devised voluntary codes of conduct – and those protocols obviously work!

Does anybody really believe that some government bureaucrats could come up with, implement and then supervise better protocols – but more importantly, is there really a need for them? There are already more than sufficient laws on the books to deal with criminal negligence vis-à-vis the customers, and accidents to the staff are covered by occupational health-and-safety regulations – so instead of wasting additional government resources on what is essentially a non-issue, why don’t we rely on the authorities to simply apply the Law. An  guess what – provided that the incidents are serious, they incidentally do it already!

And the suggestions by the authors?

… legally binding national guidelines for shark tourism which all shark operators need to be made aware of. Education could include mandatory classes for shark operators about species which are likely within their area, the threats facing them, current management practices, potential human impacts from tourism activities and best practice for mitigating them. Attendance at such sessions could be a formalised requirement of any permitting scheme and could be funded through charges to operators. Based on our findings and review of literature, we propose that national regulations or codes of conduct for shark-related tourism should include limits on: group sizes, time spent in the water with sharks and provisioning (both in terms of quantity and quality of food items). There needs to be compulsory education about such regulations and legal consequence should they not be followed.

Seriously – what a load of crap!

Surely, this stupidity has not been coordinated with the concerned operators – or has it?

None of the accidents I know of (and I know of many!) had anything to do with group size, time spent in the water and amount of food, let alone with not knowing the animals! Once again, it really appears that some researchers are bloviating about our industry without the slightest clue about sustainable Shark provisioning let alone tourism – and it is really starting to piss me off!

Guys, we appreciate the interest.

But for fuck’s sake, as a minimum, you need to talk to us before accusing us of not knowing what we do! In fact, the contrary is true – most of anything that is known about Shark behavior and sustainable tourism practices has been garnered on dives that have been established by our industry, and smart researchers have long learned to talk to us and to listen to what we got to say!

Anyway, it matters not.

Governments got no time for these minutiae – that is, unless there are real issues where self regulation has obviously failed. Then they should, and will regulate – and when they do, I’m equally confident that they will seek the dialogue with us, the pros!

And in the meantime, we will continue to do what is right.

We will continue to provide extremely safe, enjoyable encounters that harm nobody – not the public, not the Sharks and not the environment. And we will of course evolve and progress, like we always have, and like we are presently doing by having voluntarily established GSD and quite possibly, by collaborating with respectful people and organizations in formulating a global code of conduct like briefly mentioned here!

That’s how you do it – by dialogue, not by proclamations ex cathedra!

To be continued no doubt!


Thank you DaShark! Excellent insight!

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

Is shark diving a threat to conservation efforts?

Our friend Mike Neumann from Beqa Adventure Divers is featured in this article on shark diving and it’s impact on conservation efforts.

Mike Neumann lives in the tropical paradise of Fiji and scuba dives with large bull sharks all the time. In addition to having a dream job as a co-owner of a scubdiving company called Beqa Adventure Divers, Neumann likes exposing people to sharks so he can help improve the image of these misunderstood and threatened animals. “It is always inspiring to observe the awe and exhilaration, especially of the newbies once they realize that the sharks are nothing like the negative stereotypes,” he says, “but instead simply awesome and beautiful!” 

It’s not all fun and games though. Eco tourism goes beyond the operators trying to make a living.

Neumann’s opinion about the benefits of ecotourism for shark conservation is shared by many scuba-diving business owners in the growing shark ecotourism industry, with more than 375 unique shark diving businesses as of 2011 (pdf). Recent research (pdf) suggests that these scuba business owners might be right: public perception of sharks is important to their conservation. For instance, Christopher Neff, a PhD student at the University of Sydney who studies the policy implications of shark bites, says, “Laws often save or protect what the public cares about and can punish what it doesn’t. Perception matters a lot in terms of both laws and local responses to sharing beach ecosystems.” 

Unfortunately there has been a trend in the industry to do crazier and more extreme things. Some operators don’t care about the possible consequences their actions have, not only for themselves and their clients, but the rest of the industry and most important, the sharks.

Image link

A new trend in “shark riding” has shark conservationists anticipating an accident, which would likely result in negative media coverage of sharks and potential consequences to the industry. This risky behavior includes riding, prodding, grabbing, excessively handling and otherwise harassing sharks. Sharks are large, wild animals, and their behavior can be unpredictable. So, riding or harassing activity greatly increases the chance that someone will be injured. Such an injury could undo the progress made by ecotourism to public perception of sharks. “These close interactions with large predators are always dangerous,” Neumann says. “Highly experienced people may possibly limit those risks through adequate behavior and safety protocols, but the increasing number of inexperienced copycats makes me fear that somebody will end up having a bad accident.”  

Now, if someone does get hurt or worse, we all know what will happen in the media. The article of course states it a lot more eloquently.

Based on his analysis of how the media covers shark bites and a “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality, Neff thinks that if such an accident occurred, the incident would make headlines around the world. Nearly 20 percent of media-reported shark bites in Australia since 1979 resulted in no injury whatsoever to the human, yet the language used in news coverage often perpetuated the misconception of sharks as mindless killers. “The high degree of attention toward shark bites makes them seem more frequent than they are,” Neff says. “Someone in Poland is seeing coverage of a shark bite in Mexico and someone in Montana is hearing stories out of Florida, so even though these events are really rare they appear to be happening everywhere all the time—so our sense of probability is off. The result is often more negative responses.” Neff expressed concerns that media coverage of an accident resulting from risky diver behavior would likely be inflammatory. Such coverage could be damaging to the scuba industry by scaring potential customers away, and harmful to public perception of sharks by perpetuating false stereotypes of them as seeking out humans to eat.
So not only would the bad publicity from an accident hurt the sharks public image, but the actual act of handling the sharks could have an impact on them.

In addition to the possibility of an accident that would affect much more than the scuba diver who was bitten, there are other concerns about excessively touching, grabbing and riding sharks. The physiological stress associated with this behavior is unknown, and could be significant. Mike Neumann adds, “I hope that everybody agrees that riding harmless species like turtles, manatees, nurse sharks, manta rays or whale sharks is totally disrespectful and moronic, so why would riding those predatory sharks be anything else?”

So what should we do?

Safe and responsible shark ecotourism helps correct misconceptions of sharks for countless scuba divers. And a “look but don’t touch” policy can help further shark conservation by combatting the broader public’s misconceptions fueled by media coverage of shark bites and the 1975 blockbuster movie, Jaws. The growth of responsible shark-diving ecotourism (pdf) has led to a new talking point for conservation activists: that sharks can be more valuable to a local economy alive than dead. After research showed that a live shark can be worth 94 times as much via ecotourism than a dead shark can be worth through fishing (pdf), the Maldives banned shark fishing throughout their exclusive economic zone in the Indian Ocean.

The increase in dangerous and unnecessary thrill-seeking behavior with sharks makes SCUBA divers, conservationists and researchers worried that it’s only a matter of time before there’s a serious accident that could undo all of this progress.

We at Shark Diver couldn’t agree more with Mike’s concerns. Our motto is “Safe and Sane” shark diving. We have been operating our shark dives for 14 years, without handling, or riding sharks. Our goal is not to portray the sharks as harmless pets, but rather as the awesome predators they are. We teach our divers to respect, but not fear our toothy friends.
Martin Graf
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

Happy Holidays!

It has been a great year for Shark Diver. We went to Fiji, the Bahamas and Guadalupe Island and added a lot of new members to our Shark Diver family along the way. We made new friends, both above and below the water. To all of you, around the world,&nb…

Coming face to face with a great white shark. A spiritual experience?

We just finished our 2013 season, diving with Great White Sharks at Isla Guadalupe. We had the pleasure to be able to introduce 173 divers to our smiling friends!

Here is a letter from Jen Saunders, one of our divers, describing her experience.

A Shark Story: The Day I Saw God (He Healed Me)
As the only agnostic member from a devout Protestant household, I was always the black sheep at family reunions and was probably prayed for by aunts, uncles and grandparents more than anyone else in the Saunders clan. I just never bought into the whole “God thing”, but always maintained the highest respect for all walks of faith and those who follow various teachings. 
The year before my father passed away from pancreatic cancer we had a conversation about faith and God. My father, a retired professor of English literature, asked how I could feel complete without knowing and feeling the presence of a higher power. I simply replied by stating that his question was equivalent to one asking how I can sleep at night without having ever seen a space alien. My dad was unwavering in his notion that the little pit of emptiness I had always felt in the back of my soul stemmed from my disassociation with a spiritual deity, but it wasn’t until I journeyed to Isle de Guadalupe and gazed into the eyes of an 18 foot great white shark named Thor that this emptiness was filled with an awe for a god that had been absent all my life. 
As an avid scuba diver and lover of marine life, I had read various books on the great white shark. These creatures are pure perfection of evolutionary art. They boast six thousand pounds of muscle, are the only animal that devours its weaker siblings in the womb, is immune to cancer and is constantly awake. While navigating south from San Diego on the two-day boat ride, I thought about these facts and asked myself if there was a single creature higher than the great white so designed to live forever. 
Before I open the pages into the details of my spiritual awakening, permit me to set the stage: Upon entering the cage it only took about 10 minutes before the first shark appeared. It circled the cage carefully studying each diver. In the movie ‘Jaws’ the rugged shark hunter Quint states that great whites have “lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes”, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Great whites have a variety of eye colors that include blue and brown. Additionally, each shark made eye contact with every single diver. Later that day a great white named Thor made eye contact with me. I don’t know if sharks can sense emotions in humans or if our heart rates serve as a language they can understand. I stared into Thor’s eyes and felt a calming wave of warmth wash across the face of my soul. I looked into his intelligent eyes with awe and total respect, as a misunderstood creature, and marveled at his powerful mass. Just then he moved in and slowly approached the cage while never breaking eye contact with me. Then, two feet from the cage bars, he broke his path and headed to the right of the cage. Before he vanished into the blue, he swerved to the side and met my gaze once more, as if he was saying “farewell for now fellow soul”.
We shared a moment. I was sure of this. As a well-travelled individual who has lived and seen enough to fill 10 lifetimes, never had I witnessed something so spiritually moving. I felt the presence of a divine being within this shark. This powerful, sensitive creature that never sleeps imprinted his soul into mine. 
Two months later I can happily report that the emptiness I once felt has been filled. Perhaps my father was right; it may be that my soul simply needed to be filled with the spirit or energy of something ethereal and divine. 

Going face-to-face with a great white shark isn’t just reserved for the thrill-seeker or the curious. This is an excursion I would recommend to anyone who feels a void deep within their being, or someone who is suffering from any number of personal or health issues. The great white shark is a healer; he is the misunderstood shaman of the sea. 

Coming face to face with a Great White Shark can mean a lot of things to different individuals. What is universal is the fact that you will never forget the first time a Great White Shark looked you straight into the eyes.
Let’s go shark diving!
Martin Graf
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

Superhero Shark Wrangler?

Ocearch seems to be on a publicity campaign to promote their tagging of great white sharks again. This article on CNN is a bit ridiculous, even by OCEARCH standards.The headline is calling the captain of the Ocearch vessel, Brett McBride, “Shark wrangl…

How is Guadalupe this season?

Our 2013 white shark season has been incredible so far and our divers are coming back excited. This is a trip report we just received from Robert Saipe.

Amazing Time at Isla Guadalupe! 

It’s been 2 weeks since we docked after an amazing adventure at Isla Guadalupe, but, each day, I still find more joy as I think about the experience that Shark Diver delivered.  When I booked my trip, all I really hoped for was a chance to see even one Great White up nice and close but from safety.  Who knew I’d come away with so much more?  I’ll try to relay the basics of my experience through these passages, but I know words can’t fully express how deeply thankful I am for meeting our Guadalupe friends!
The crew at Shark Diver really are the best.  Most people probably hope for great dives when they book, but I have to tell you that vacation time outside of the dives was wonderful too.  The crew, at all times, exemplified the words ‘professional’ and ‘caring’.  For me, the fun never stopped.  When I was in the water, I saw amazing sharks.  When I was out of the cages, I shared countless laughs and stories with crew and other divers.  I particularly enjoyed the evening chats with the crew.  It’s something special to know that, while the crew worked super hard for us, they were courteous, caring, fun, and, most importantly, ‘real’.  I never felt like I was in the company of staff who were just doing their job.  I instead felt like I was always having a great time with terrific people who were celebrating the joy with us. 
“White Shark!”  Ah, I’d read those words from other reviews, but now I completely appreciate the chant.  Someone would always accent the phrase each time one of our friends would come to visit.  On day one of our dives, it took only minutes before we had visitors.  Surprisingly enough, not all were of the same species though.  You can’t know much about things you’ve never yet considered, so I was amazed at the level of interaction we saw between one of our first sharks and a sea lion.  We’ve all seen countless footage of Great Whites breaching upon one of these for lunch, but what an incredible sight it was to see prey almost toying with the massive predator.  For nearly 15 minutes, we watched a sea lion swim around and actually follow a great white.  Maybe it was taunting the shark (quite speedy one-on-one), or maybe it was hiding in it’s trail, but one thing was a constant; both were very aware yet surprisingly fine with each other in proximity.  I’m sure this is wrong, but, in some moments, the calmness of their interaction almost resembled playing.  Of course, I wondered if that would change if one got, erm, suddenly hungry.
By my first dive, I had already seen two different Great Whites – wonderful start!  Dive Master Martin joined our initial trio in the cage, and it was nice to see him just as excited as we were.  Though all of his efforts were devoted to providing us a great and safe time, I thought it was very special to see his obvious love for these creatures too.  These are the kind of people I wanted to be on tour with – those who deeply care about these amazing sharks.
We had one-hour rotations, so it was never long before our next turn.  The weather was gorgeous, and the breaks were just enough to recharge, enjoy the sun, and get ready for the excitement again.  Perhaps we were lucky, but my cage team saw sharks from nice and close on absolutely all 5 dives that day.  Some stayed for hours, others just for minutes, but all showed their uniqueness.  I have always loved Great Whites, but, before this, I had never realized the impressive depth of their intelligence and personality.
By day two, my sleep patterns were fully adjusted, and I woke up feeling extra strong, definitely raring to go.  Of course, chef Mark’s hard work had something to do with that. I can’t tell you how nice it was to always have such wonderful food so we could always feel full, great and strong.  Every meal Mark and Carolyn served us on the journey was a 10.”
Some divers took breaks from their turns by day two which I think had a lot to do with the gorgeous weather and the fact that we’d already seen so much.  Around lunch, I skipped one rotation, however I did make up for that with an open spot later, so, again, I logged 5 one-hour dives.  This day was loaded with excitement.  Some of the previous day’s sharks returned, but we also saw several new ones, including Annika, the lone female we met on our trip.  I loved watching Chuggy, the battle-scarred but strong male as he entertained us with dozens of passes.  One unnamed Great White spent hours showing us his charisma.  Johnny, Reb, Diablo andAtlantis put quite a show on too.  I lost count of how many times these sharks came in for an ultra close look.  What wonderful, curious creatures they are.  It is an exceptionally profound experience to see a Great White so clearly in control of his domain yet totally willing to exchange a calm moment as you look each other in the eye.  Not once did I feel like they were looking at us to attack.  I had many chances to see their incredible power, but, at every moment, I felt like each instead looked at us more with curiosity, just like we had for them.  It was a wonderful time as, by day’s end, we’d identified a total of 7 Great Whites this day alone.
On day three, I awoke hoping to spend as much time in the water as I could.  I decided that, on all available dives, I would wait to see if anyone else wanted the open spots, but I would take them if no one else did.  Many did take breaks, so, in all, I was able to enjoy a whopping 7 dives that day.  The three I took in a row wore me down a bit, but, wow, they were fun!  These sharks revealed so much personality.  I find it almost disrespectful to say too much about individual experiences with them (after all, I don’t have their permission!), but let me say, “It really wouldn’t be possible to have closer interaction with Great Whites than I was given on this day.”  The eye-to-eye, close as imaginable interaction I had with one in particular will forever be more than just a memory for me; it’s a permanent celebration.  I will cherish the sense of joy and awe I felt from those moments forever.  Before this trip, I had never met anyone who had been lucky enough to have safely met but deeply interacted with a Great White.  What a blessing it is to be one of so few who has spent some time with them in a way where we were both completely safe and could share our curiosities.
On the very last dive, it was quiet for many minutes, but then two entertainers came for close-ups.  When the clang on our cage let us know it was time to go, I remember thinking, “How can I leave right now?  There’s a massive Great White swimming just a few feet in front of me.”  But then, I shared one last look and turned to the ladder with a smile.  After all, “What better final moment of the journey could I ask for!” 
Thank you Shark Diver!  I’ve no doubt I’ll be back soon.  This journey with you was absolutely amazing!
Rob Saipe.
Thank you for your great report and pictures! We enjoyed introducing you to our amazing friends and welcome you to our Shark Diver family.
Martin Graf
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