Sharks

I first learned about sharks from nature books and television shows. Later I saw them in aquariums, and then of course there was Jaws, the novel and movie. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to encounter many species of sharks in their natural environment, and it’s always been a fascinating experience.

The importance of sharks, aside from being creatures with as much right to live as any other, is basically two-fold: One, they are seafood fish consumed around the globe.Two, they occupy key ecological niches in marine ecosystems everywhere,  including that of apex predator.

Sharks have retained the same basic form for a quarter of a million years. Perfect living machines, doing what they do. Also, the bull shark has more testosterone than any other animal!

“Serpents, bears, hyenas, tigers, rapidly vanish as civilization advances, but the most populous and civilized city cannot scare a shark far from its wharves.“–Henry David Thoreau.

My wife and I were part of a dive group scuba diving in the Blue Hole of Belize, which is about 450 feet deep  (its labyrinth of  passageways was  famously explored by Cousteau). We were at about 100 feet, on the way down to the stalactite caverns, when we saw three sharks the local divemaster said were bull sharks, circling in the center of the hole, about 70 feet from us. They paid no attention to us or the yellowtail snappers around us,  just kept circling in figure eight patterns.  We descended to the caverns at 137 feet, and shortly afterward ascended. The sharks were still in the middle of the Blue Hole, circling. They’re probably still there now!

I love sharks! Here’s a brief account of all the sharks I’ve seen in the wild, how and where: blue shark, night snorkeling Catalina Island; basking shark, from the deck of a whale watch boat in the channel between Catalina Island and Long Beach; baby leopard sharks in a few inches of water at Santa Monica Beach; horn sharks and swell sharks while scuba diving rocky ledges all over southern California, and the amazing egg cases of these creatures where the tiny embryo can be seen through the case, attached by an umbilical to a yolk sac; a huge angel shark 110′ down off Catalina that scared me because I scared it–it flew up out of the sand and left us in a big sand cloud; circling bull sharks deep in the Blue Hole of Belize–they stuck to the middle of the hole while we divers clung to the stalactite caverns on the sides; countless nurse sharks while snorkeling in the Florida keys and in Belize; Sandbar and Galapagos sharks during the only shark cage dive I’ve done, off the north shore of Oahu (yes, they chum the water to attract the sharks, and yes it’s a controversial practice); a bonnethead shark in three-foot deep water near Tom’s Harbor Key, Florida Keys, spotted from my small Zodiac inflatable boat; a group of three sleeping whitetip sharks underneath the hull of a shipwreck, as seen from the Atlantis submarine off Waikiki at a depth of 100 feet; small blacktip reef sharks seen while surfing the outer reefs of Waikiki, their dorsal fins piercing the surface of the water as they thrash about the reef; a school of hammerhead sharks cruising the deep water well away from the wall we were diving in Fiji; I feel extraordinarily lucky to have witnessed all of these sharks in their natural habitats.

The practice of shark finning is both wasteful and inhumane, and should be outlawed everywhere.

Here’s a 6-pack of my Youtube shark videos (videos taken by me; warning: video quality is not great, but I got what I got!):

Hawaii shark cage dive:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ofz2hocWU-s

Bull sharks in Belize’s Blue Hole:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiv8wLUk_K4

Shark Ray alley, Belize:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLaCJklCfNg

Fiji Hammerheads:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBevjG5X898

Florida Keys nurse shark:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCG8i2dzbEc

Huge sawfish, Bahamas:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-3DmQy_TQk

What are some of your experiences with sharks?