Posts Tagged ‘sharks’

Dive Hacks: Tips for Diving with Sharks

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

People think we’re crazy. When the subject of diving with sharks — and the pure, unfettered joy of it — creeps into conversation with the uninitiated, looks of terror, disgust or disbelief typically follow. Despite your most detailed and rational explanation, it’s often impossible to convince the naive, media-hype believers that it’s positively awesome to share the water with these exquisite creatures. The simple fact is those people don’t know what they’re missing.

Shark dives are some of the most coveted experiences in the underwater world. And dive destinations, operators and sites around the world that offer consistent close encounters are among the scuba tribe’s most popular. From Florida to North Carolina, Rhode Island, the Bahamas, Isla Mujeres, South Africa, Fiji, Cocos Island, Fakarava, Isla Guadalupe, the Galapagos and beyond, if there are heaps of sharks in the water, you’ll find divers doing their best to get close. But what are the best practices for getting close to these often skittish and bashful animals?

To discover the secrets of a true shark whisperer, I asked UNEXSO’s Cristina Zenato (unexso.com), a cave explorer, master instructor and educator in Grand Bahama who has been hand feeding and hypnotizing sharks (through tonic immobility) for more than 20 years.

“My babies — the Caribbean reef sharks — are always on the top of my list,” says the Women Divers Hall of Famer of her favorite species. “But I am fascinated by many different species, including the goblin shark and the sevengill, and I have a special place in my heart for the blue shark.”

Here are five things she says to consider before your next encounter.

LEVERAGE LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

Before any dive that involves large numbers or large species of sharks — whether it’s fed, baited or otherwise — Zenato recommends relying on the instructions of the local dive pros rather than basing your plan on what you think you know. “What is an acceptable procedure for one species of shark might be totally inappropriate with another,” she explains. “It’s important to rely on the understanding and knowledge of the professionals who work with the animals on a regular basis.”

BE SELECTIVE WITH OPERATORS

Many of the world’s best shark dives are orchestrated by commercial operators. But before committing your safety and dive dollars, it pays to ask the right questions. “In general I would ask how long they’ve been established and do they have a good safety record,” says Zenato. “Do they have a standard description of what they’re going to do or their rules? And how do they answer your questions and address your concerns?”

DRESS FOR SUCCESS

Most shark-dive operators have specific rules for equipment. Most require full wetsuits and sometimes even black gloves and hoods for pro- tection. According to Zenato: “This is not the place to test a new wetsuit, camera, BC or other equipment. Dive with gear you are comfortable and familiar with so you can enjoy the time with the animals and not worry about anything else.” And about what you’ve heard about sharks being attracted to colors, especially yellow or pink? “They are attracted by contrast more than colors,” she says. “If you’re in a full yellow wetsuit, they’re not going to be attracted to that. But if you’re wearing a black wetsuit with- out black gloves, your white hands will have enough contrast to attract inquisitive attention.”

PRACTICE GLOBAL AWARENESS

Because sharks are such dynamic swimmers, diving with them is a 3-D experience. Strong situational awareness is essential to ensure your safety and enjoyment. “You have to be aware of everything around you
— the sharks, the boat, the current, the other divers, where you’re drifting,” Zenato says. “Pay close attention to instructions, and be ready when it’s time to get out of the water. Furthermore, if you’re a photographer, take your eye away from the viewfinder every once in a while and just look at the whole scene.”

BE AWARE OF BODY LANGUAGE

If you’re lucky (or savvy) enough to encounter sharks in an open-water environment, be mindful of physical cues that can translate their mood or intentions. “There’s a huge difference between an animal that has never been exposed to divers and one that is used to baited dives,” Zenato explains. “A wild animal that is not used to this kind of repetitive in- teraction will have a more natural display. Quick movements such as sudden changes of direction, rapid dropping of the pectoral fins or any other fast action indicates an uncomfortable animal. Also, when the inquisitive nature of some sharks — for example, blue sharks and oceanic whitetips — intrudes on your personal space, it might be time to get out of the water.”

What It’s Like to Rescue a Dusky Shark

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015
Divers Rescue Entangled Dusky Shark In Bahamas

Amanda Cotton

Dusky Shark Rescue

While in Cat Island, Bahamas, these divers helped to free an entangled dusky shark.

Leading a recent shark expedition at Cat Island in the Bahamas, I experienced one of the most extraordinary days in the ocean I’ve ever had.

Diving with silkies and oceanic whitetips, we were horrified to see a large male dusky shark arrive near the boat with a very deep wound around its head. We could see a large rope — presumably discarded fishing gear — tightly wrapped around its neck just behind the gills; one of its pectoral fins was pinned. The shark was incredibly skinny, with a disproportionately huge head on its emaciated body.

Everyone agreed we had to do something. This shark was dying a slow death. But it refused to come in close to the divers.

To our delight, the shark became more comfortable with us as the days progressed — the decision was made that we would attempt to cut of the rope.

Due to safety concerns, we asked our group of divers if they were willing to give up some in-water time so Epic Diving owners Vincent and Debra Canabal and I could attempt this rescue. The group agreed without hesitation and encouraged us to try.

Armed with surgical scissors and cameras, the three of us made our way into the water and were almost im- mediately greeted by the dusky shark, whom we later named Atlas. As it approached Vincent and me, Vincent was able to quickly cut the rope and pull it of Atlas as it rolled, allowing Debra to take photos of the experience. As this happened, the group on the boat erupted in cheers. It was truly a group effort to save this shark, and we were all thrilled to see it swim of, free of the rope.

In the weeks that followed, Atlas returned to Epic Diving’s boat again and again, showing signs of healing and improvement at an astonishing rate.

LOOK: Diving with a Hammerhead Shark

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015
Hammerhead Shark at Night in Bimini Bahamas

Shane Gross

Location

Bimini, Bahamas

Photographer Shane Gross

About the Shot Lying on my belly at the stern of the boat, I dipped half of my camera into the water, and this magnificent great hammerhead came up toward the surface. To get the shot, I used a Nikon D90 in an Aquatica housing set at f/10, 1/160 sec and ISO 100, a Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens, and two Sea&Sea YS-110a strobes. I exposed for the sunset, and placed one strobe under the water and the other above to illuminate the shark’s dorsal fin.

Go Now Bimini Big Game Club Resort; biggameclubbimini.com

Save Our Sharks: Becoming a Shark Angel

Thursday, August 27th, 2015
Julie Anderson Shark Saver Underwater Photo

Courtesy Scubapro/Neil Andrea

JULIE ANDERSON

A random encounter with a hammerhead led to one woman’s lifelong crusade to protect sharks.

I have always been drawn to sharks. Their powerful grace and presence has fascinated me since we first met. Solo on a safety stop, I suddenly felt I was not alone. Much to my initial terror, a huge scalloped hammerhead appeared next to me. But gazing into the eyes of the animal, I saw life — not a cold, cruel stare. That day sealed my fate. This shark exemplified all that is beautiful on Earth: the extraordinary power of nature, and a vital reminder of what we must respect and protect.

Hooked, I traveled to dive in places famous for sharks. Everywhere I went, I saw the effects of shark finning. I quickly realized I was watching sharks disappear before my eyes. Fueled by passion, I sold my house and business to start Shark Angels, a nonprofit dedicated to giving the world a new view of sharks.

I spent years undercover documenting the heartbreaking destruction. I walked among 7,000 bloody sharks landed in a tuna fishery in Japan, and watched a starving fishing village in Indonesia fin the last of its baby sharks — having decimated the population.

Seven years later, I’m still fighting. And I am filled with hope. Together, we are making a difference. From passing legislation that makes shark fin an illegal substance to developing campaigns to stop the demand in Asia to educating thousands of children, Angels around the world are giving sharks a chance.

Anyone can become a guardian angel to the sharks. Lobby for their protection, vote with your dollars, volunteer, educate, go shark diving to prove their value — just get involved. After all, it’s not just about the sharks — it’s about the oceans and our collective futures.

To learn more, visit sharkangels.org.

Want More Shark Tales? We’ve Got You Covered:

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See What It’s Like To Be a Shark Week Videographer

Follow @Shark_Katharine on Twitter with Ocearch!

Celebrate Discovery’s Shweekend with Project AWARE

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

This blog was first published by Project AWARE. To learn more about the growing movement of scuba divers protecting the ocean planet one dive at a time, visit projectaware.org. This July, Discovery Channel’s Shark Week returned bigger than ever before, making a splash as the highest-rated Shark Week in the event’s 28 […]