Tuesday, January 24, 2017

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.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

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.

Friday, December 30, 2016

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.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

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.

Friday, October 14, 2016

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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

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.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

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.

Friday, July 15, 2016

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.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Another shark attack in Australia?


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perth now reports that another diver has been attacked by a shark. Their headline reads

WA spear fisherman jumped by angry shark off Coral Bay coast

According to their article:  A WA spear fisherman has captured the terrifying moment he was jumped by an angry reef shark off the North West coast. 

Albany teenager Brad Vale, 19, was spearfishing for mackerel with friends 4km off the coast of Coral Bay on Wednesday when the shark, estimated to be about` 1.5 metres long, began to circle him.
“I dived down and just sort of sat down at the bottom and a shark came in on me,” he said.

“He got a bit close then did a big turn at me and charged so I gave him a poke. When I poked him he just turned back and without me noticing I looked down and he was already chewing on my gut.
“I got to the surface and was going to shoot it but I didn’t even have time to do that. He sort of latched on to my stomach and I tried to hit it with my gun in my hand but he let go pretty quick.”

Wow, what a terrifying experience. Getting attacked by a shark for no reason. Let's look at the video Brad Vale shot of this incident.

 
Video source: youtube/brradz

Well, good thing he posted that video, because it clearly shows Brad descending and poking the shark, before it turned on him!

So when Brad says that the shark turned on him and then he "poked" it, he really meant to say "I hit it and then it turned on me".

But hey, blame the shark, it makes for a much better headline. I would be angry too, if someone hit me with the pointy end of a speargun. Read the entire article here.

Anyway, I'm glad that Brad is OK and I hope he learned that it's not a good idea to poke a shark.

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.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

I was surrounded by bull sharks!


Instagram 
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.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Shark "Expert" teaches how to survive a shark attack?


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This is getting ridiculous. "Shark Expert" and "shark whisperer" Riccardo Sturla Avogadri is showing people how to survive a shark attack. 


A article in the Daily Mail talks about Riccardo provoking a shark to attack him, in order to demonstrate how to survive an attack.  Article here.


 
 source youtube

DaShark wrote an excellent blog about him and all the other stuff he does. (you may need google translate to read some of the quotes)

http://fijisharkdiving.blogspot.com/2016/06/il-pagliaccio.html


 
source youtube

To quote DaSharkWhich brings me right back to the story at the top. Having seen this last video, do you really believe that the gioppino is demonstrating to a group of students how to act in a emergency situation with a shark by being intentionally bitten by a male shark who is protecting and showing off on the front of the bunch of female lemon sharks like asserted by the photographer, he himself another certified Shark expert and all-round genius - or is simply being nailed by a Lemon like he always does?

It seems to me that this idiot is showing people a sure fire way to get bitten by a shark and not how to survive an attack. I guess it comes down to what I always say. The fastest way to tell that someone is NOT a shark expert is that he/she's telling you he/she is.
  
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.