Saturday, December 29, 2012

Isla Guadalupe White Shark Trip Report 2012


All my life I have wanted to dive with great whites.

My dad took me to see Jaws when I was about 10 years old – maybe he thought it would be fun to scare the kids? Well, I loved it, couldn’t get enough of sharks after that.

So to be fortunate enough to actually get to go on a trip with Shark Diver was the opportunity of a lifetime. And it was really really amazing.

I had not been able to convince anyone I knew to come with me, so I went on my own. It didn’t matter though, there were several others on the boat who also came on their own. We also had a family of 4, plus a couple (who turned out to be avid travelers and divers, with many entertaining stories to tell).

OK, early on the first morning (after a rocking and rolling 20 hours on the open ocean to get there), my new dive partner and I were standing on the back deck, no one else around (they were all either still in bed, or having breakfast inside, or getting ready to dive).  I was trying on my wetsuit for the first time, which was dry – and I was dry – so this was not an easy task. As I was bent over wrestling with the leg of the suit, a great white shark breached clear out of the water, hit the deck railing (hard – I mean, these things are 12 ft + long), and splashed back into the water. I was about 2 feet from the railing, and I saw it's belly!!!!!  We had no time to be scared, it was about a second or two at most. With the colour drained from his face, my dive partner looked at me, walked into the centre of the deck, and said quietly, "holy #$%&#! we're all gonna die."

The poor guy had come to Guadalupe Island to get over his fear of great white sharks… so, not a good way to start! He was convinced we were about to be eaten. But then he started to joke about it, saying that pretty much nothing else could top this experience of seeing a great white jump out of the water right in front of us. And it’s true. I will always remember that split second, putting me into the realm of a very minimal group of people in the world who have ever witnessed a great white shark breach.

We were grouped in pods of 4 for our dive rotations, which went hourly – this meant we had on average 5 hours a day in the water. Ample time to see white sharks! (and get very pruney fingers soaking in water all that time)  There was a half hour break (no divers in the water) at noon for lunch. The cages went in the water at 7am, and basically they let us go in until 5pm or 6pm or whenever we were all too exhausted to get back in the cage.  In our initial trip information from Patric, it said that some people skip their rotations and others could get extra cage time – I wondered why people would travel all that way and just stay on the deck! But experiencing it was very tiring! And yes, I did end up skipping at least one rotation, and then on the last day I didn’t do the last couple of hours that were an open rotation. I could hardly pull myself out of the water towards the end of each day; I was completely drained, but in a great ‘once in a lifetime’ way!

The crew worked their butts off making sure each of us had the perfect trip. We were safe at all times. We ate enormous amounts of food (which was fantastic). Some of us had food allergies or sensitivities, and chef Mark made sure to cook individual meals for those folks (including me, no wheat and no meat). Although I must admit I had a small piece of the raspberry glazed Cornish game hen served one evening, and it was delicious.  Most of us went to our lower-deck bunks around 8pm each night because we could hardly keep our eyes open by then. And surprisingly, there was no drinking at all. Well, I think a couple people had a few, but remember, we were on the ocean and the boat never stopped rocking. Our stomachs were often feeling a little woozy at times, but most of us were good at re-balancing ourselves by looking at the horizon (this little tip worked well for me). However, I gave up trying to shave my legs on day 2, because I kept bumping against the shower wall as the boat tipped from side to side. 

We saw 9 great whites over the 3 dive days, 2 of which were ‘new’ to divemaster Martin – they had not previously been identified. Being September, the female sharks are not (usually) in Guadalupe, but we did see one – the rest were males. They are nothing like in the movies and on tv – these sharks were calm, docile, just slowly cruising by our cages, sometimes a little closer than anticipated, but I never felt scared! One of them came so close to me I stopped breathing in my ventilator and couldn’t even take a photo. I was mesmerized by every tiny detail I could see of its skin, and eyeball (yes, it was that close!) Having a great white shark look you in the eye is what the word awesome was really meant for.

I was in a true state of awe, for sure! It’s difficult to describe the feeling of getting to do the one thing that has always been on my bucket list. Long before anyone called it a bucket list. As a kid, I thought it was just always going to be a dream. Going on this trip was exhilarating and I have so many adventurous stories and memories – and it’s kind of nice to have some bragging rights once in a while too. J  But it doesn’t have to be a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip … I’m already planning my next trip to Isla Guadalupe.

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 sharkcrew@gmail.com.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Shark Sanctuaries: Dancing on Bonfires?

For those who have been blogging about shark conservation for the past five years the subject of Shark Sanctuaries has been a hot topic.

The primary reason as we have long said is that, "getting politicians to declare vast tracts of the planet as no take zones is relatively easy...getting those same politicians or their successors to put real dollars into enforcement of these newly created zones is something else altogether."

So went the conservation head of steam for sharks from 2008-2011 with some great results. The Maldives, Honduras, and the Marshall Islands all declared huge ocean based no take, or limited take zones to ecstatic Facebook acclaim and kudos from the major NGO's.

Some of this effusive praise was over-the-top as if regional governments had in fact stopped the decline of sharks completely in their waters and increased shark stocks by 1000% overnight as if by magic. The simple intonation of the words, "Shark Sanctuary" and commitment to paper signed by politicians to be framed for photo opportunities later was the magic cure all for commercial shark take.

But what of these zones? We wrote about the looming issue of SINO's back in 2011.

SINO's - Sanctuary in Name Only is a pejorative term that refers to a nation state whose recently declared "Sanctuary Waters for Sharks" are considered insufficiently enforced or otherwise not conforming to actual sanctuaries in any form.

As it turns out the second act of the much vaulted Shark Sanctuary is now playing out - enforcement or lack of it. 

Mike, aka Da Shark in Fiji, has unloaded on this issue with his own spin towards the "fisheries biologists" citing a report from Simon Frasier University that ends with this prescient warning:

Shark sanctuaries provide hope, but there is no scientific evidence that they are effective—yet. Even worse, the positive press attention surrounding shark sanctuaries may preclude more effective conservation management. 

As we said back in 2011:

SINO's are the looming Act Two for shark conservation. Getting a politician to make promises for the environment is a time honored tradition. Getting that same politician or his or her successor to follow through with hard and fast enforcement is where the rubber meets the road.

That rubber will cost millions of dollars to the shark conservation movement who have managed thus far to get Sanctuaries declared at a pace that has been stunning to watch. It has also been a relatively cheap affair, conservation light, with dollars spent verses sanctuary acres created part of the ongoing equation.

Where enforcement monies, infrastructure, and boots on the ground will come from for these newly created sanctuaries anyone knows.

Before another country declares a Sanctuary for Sharks we should be looking at how we are going to manage the millions of remote acres we already have locked away in countries that have a long track record of SINO.


It's where we have to focus in the next decade and it all starts with dollars and a plan.

 
Cheers, 

Patric Douglas 
Special Operations Film & TV 
Shark Divers 
www.sharkdivers.com 
415.235.9410

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 sharkcrew@gmail.com.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays to all our friends from everyone at Shark Diver.

Cheers,

Martin Graf
Managing Director
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 sharkcrew@gmail.com.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Great White Shark season at Guadalupe (video)

It's been a great season at Isla Guadalaupe, with lots of breaches, multiple sharks around the cages, Sea Lions chasing sharks and the best Shark Divers in the world, you, our guests.

I finally got around to putting together a slide show/video for you.
Enjoy!

Cheers,
Martin Graf
Managing Director
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 sharkcrew@gmail.com.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Good shark news out of China?

Hopefully this sight will soon disappear!
It seems like the tide is slowly, slowly turning. According to "Chinadaily.com.cn" About 6 percent of luxury hotels in three major Chinese cities have stopped serving shark fin.

The article further states that In Beijing, 132 hotels completed the phone questionnaire between Nov 20 and Dec 12. Only 12 hotels, 9 percent, said they do not serve shark fin. A similar survey of 131 Beijing hotels conducted a year ago found only one hotel that did not serve shark fin, Wang Xue, chief coordinator of the survey, said on Saturday.

Granted, it's a very small step, but especially viewed together with the recent announcement by the Chinese government that they will stop serving shark fin soup at state dinners, it's a sign that the Chinese are becoming aware of the international view on shark finning and are starting to respond.

You can read the whole story here.

We at Shark Diver hope that by sharing this article and acknowledging the positive steps they take, we also send a signal to China that we don't just criticize them, but also give credit when they do something right.


Cheers,

Martin Graf
Managing Director
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 sharkcrew@gmail.com.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The RTSea Archive - Brilliant Blog/Research Goodness

What can we say about the all new RTSea Archive 

It's a brilliant research tool for folks wanting background info on a wide variety of ocean conservation issues and film and television research.

Nothing like it exists on the Internet today and it will remain for a long while a simply great resource.

Next film project, check the Archive first,chances are you'll find some info in there that will change the way you tackle the issues.

Best of all The RTSea Archive is 100% free.

Enjoy your next archive visit.


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 sharkcrew@gmail.com.