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Marine Life & Conservation

Decimation of the Great White Shark

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The Great White Shark has survived an array of disasters during the last few million years, including several ice ages, which saw the extinction of many animals. Yet it is unlikely to survive its biggest threat to date… us. Some shark specialists believe they could be wiped out within the next decade. With the alarming decline in their numbers, this might be the last chance for people to see these incredible creatures without having to visit a museum.

Since the Great White Shark was listed on CITES Appendix II* at the 13th meeting of the Conference of Parties of CITES in Bankok, 2004, we have still seen massive drop in their numbers. Through research conducted by White Shark Africa’s students aboard vessels, we have seen the average number of individual Great White Shark sightings per boat trip drop from 4.56, to 2.75** and another recent study has discovered that only 219 Great White Sharks now exist in the waters off California***.

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The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) seem to have made an accurate prediction in September 2004 when they listed the Great White Shark among the ten species of animals and trees it believes will most likely become extinct. Shark finning, trophy hunting, the fishing trade, beach protection nets and ocean pollution all play a part in the decimation of these top level predators. Females do not reach reproductive age until at least 15 years of age, have a low reproductive rate with very small litters, and therefore cannot reproduce at the same rate as their decline.

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Despite their ferocious portrayal, the Great White Shark is a sociable character, often gentle and inquisitive, and even playful at times. They contribute massively to our ecosystems and with their deteriorating numbers we will see a direct impact to the entire planet. These top predators keep the marine ecosystems in balance with the prey they eat and if it is not held in check, the food source for several species of marine life disappears including microorganisms, which are essential for sustaining life.

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Christo Kruger, Director of White Shark Africa has worked with Great White Sharks for over 12 years though his passion stems back even longer and he is extremely concerned for their survival. “I’ve seen a dramatic drop in the number of sharks along the Western Cape coastline during my time working with them,” says Christo. “If things don’t change now, we will be responsible for the destruction of a species, though it may already be too late to change their future. I believe that we will be looking at the world’s oceans in 10 years time and it will almost be devoid of life.”

Several ways to get involved

 

  • Join one of White Shark Africa’s programs and learn more about these incredible creatures while viewing them in their natural environment.

 

  • Book a place on a viewing and cage diving trip, helping to ensure that the Great White Shark is worth more alive than dead.

 

  • Write to IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) to enforce the need for Great Whites to be relisted on their red list as ‘critically endangered’. They are currently classified as ‘vulnerable’.

 

  • Write to CITES to ask them to propose to move Great White Sharks to Appendix I*.

[youtube id=”GwN9ovmDg9g” width=”100%” height=”400px”]

To find out more, visit http://www.whitesharkafrica.com

  • * CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival. Appendix I lists species that are the most endangered.

 

  • ** Research comparison of data from January to June 2010 with January to June 2011 and average number of individual sightings calculated per trip.

 

 

  • *** Study conducted by Royal Society Biology Letters on Great White Sharks off Central California between 2006 and 2008.

Esther Jacobs is a shark conservationist, originally from Scotland, now living in South Africa working with sharks and other marine life. Esther works with Oceans Research, a marine research facility in Mossel Bay, South Africa. She also runs a shark conservation campaign called Keep Fin Alive, which features a handpuppet shark called Fin, who is on a mission to be photographed with as many people as possible holding a sign that says “I hugged a shark and I liked it… Keep Fin Alive”. He’s already been photographed with lots of celebrities and scientists. The ultimate goal of the campaign is to take a light-hearted approach to help change the common misconception of sharks and drive more attention to the problems of shark overfishing, finning, shark fishing tournaments, bycatch and longlining.

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Hunting Lionfish Safely and Responsibly in Curaçao

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lionfish

Curaçao, a picturesque island in the southern Caribbean, is not only renowned for its stunning beaches and vibrant culture but also for its commitment to preserving its marine ecosystems. One of the key threats to these delicate ecosystems is the invasive lionfish. To combat this menace, responsible hunting practices are crucial.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly in Curaçao, including the use of pole spears (the only legal method in Curaçao). We will provide you with the top 10 safe hunting practices, including the use of a Zookeeper. We will also address what to do if you are stung by a lionfish and emphasize the importance of consulting with local experts before embarking on your lionfish hunting adventure.

Why Safe and Responsible Lionfish Hunting is Important

Lionfish (Pterois spp.) are native to the Indo-Pacific region but have become invasive predators in the Caribbean, including the waters surrounding Curaçao. Their voracious appetite for native fish species and rapid reproduction rates poses a severe threat to the delicate balance of marine ecosystems in the region. The introduction of lionfish has led to a decline in native fish populations and the degradation of coral reefs.

To counteract the lionfish invasion, responsible hunting practices are essential. Hunting lionfish can help control their population and protect the native marine life of Curaçao’s waters. However, it is imperative to follow safe and responsible hunting techniques to minimize the impact on the environment and ensure the safety of both divers and the marine ecosystem.

Understanding the Pole Spear

In Curaçao, the only legal method for hunting lionfish is using a pole spear. It’s important to note that a pole spear is distinct from other spearfishing equipment, such as a Hawaiian sling or a spear gun with a trigger mechanism. The use of Hawaiian slings or spear guns with triggers is illegal in Curaçao for lionfish hunting due to safety and conservation concerns.

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A pole spear consists of a long, slender pole with a pointed tip, often made of stainless steel or fiberglass, designed for precision and accuracy. Unlike a trigger-based spear gun, a pole spear requires the diver to manually draw back on a rubber band then release towards the target, providing a more controlled and selective approach to hunting.

How to Hunt Lionfish Using a Pole Spear Responsibly

When using a pole spear to hunt lionfish, it’s crucial to do so responsibly to ensure the safety of both the diver and the marine environment. Here are some essential guidelines on how to hunt lionfish using a pole spear responsibly:

  1. Safety First: Always prioritize safety when diving and hunting. Ensure you have the necessary training and experience for hunting lionfish. Consider the Lionfish Scuba Dive Experience offered by Ocean Encounters. This opportunity allows participants to learn under the expert guidance of local scuba diving professionals.
  2. Check Regulations: Familiarize yourself with local regulations and restrictions related to lionfish hunting in Curaçao. Respect no-take zones and marine protected areas.
  3. Target Only Lionfish: Use your pole spear exclusively for lionfish hunting. Do not attempt to spear any other species, as this can harm the fragile ecosystem.
  4. Aim for Precision: Approach your target lionfish carefully and aim for a precise shot to minimize the risk of injuring other marine life or damaging the coral reef.
  5. Use a Zookeeper: A Zookeeper is a specialized container designed to safely store and transport lionfish after capture. It prevents the lionfish’s venomous spines from causing harm and keeps them secure during the dive.
  6. Respect Lionfish Anatomy: Target the head of the lionfish and stay away from its venomous spines. Aim for a clean and humane kill to minimize suffering.
  7. Avoid Overhunting: Do not overhunt lionfish in a single dive. Limit the number of lionfish you catch to what you can safely handle and process.
  8. Practice Good Buoyancy: Maintain excellent buoyancy control to avoid inadvertently damaging the reef or stirring up sediment, which can harm marine life.
  9. Dispose Responsibly: Once you’ve caught lionfish, carefully place them in your Zookeeper. Do not release them back into the water, as they are invasive and harmful to the ecosystem.
  10. Report Your Catch: If applicable, report your lionfish catch to local authorities or organizations involved in lionfish management to contribute to data collection efforts.

In the Unlikely Event of a Lionfish Sting

While lionfish stings are rare, it’s essential to know how to respond if you or someone you are diving with is stung. Lionfish have venomous spines that can cause pain, swelling, and even more severe reactions in some cases. Here’s how to respond to a lionfish sting:

  1. Signal for Help: Notify your diving buddy or group immediately if you are stung.
  2. Remove Spines: If the spines are still embedded in the skin, carefully remove them with tweezers or a clean, sterile tool. Be cautious not to break the spines, as this can release more venom.
  3. Clean the Wound: Rinse the affected area with warm water to help alleviate pain and reduce the risk of infection.
  4. Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help with pain and swelling. However, if you experience severe symptoms, seek medical attention promptly.
  5. Seek Medical Help: If the pain and swelling worsen or if you have an allergic reaction to the venom, seek medical assistance immediately.

Consult Local Lionfish Experts

Before embarking on a lionfish hunting adventure in Curaçao, it’s crucial to consult with local and responsible dive shops or organizations dedicated to lionfish management, such as Lionfish Caribbean.

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These experts can provide valuable insights, tips, and up-to-date information on how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly, hunting locations, safety measures, and environmental conservation efforts.

Start Planning your Next Caribbean Adventure

Knowing how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly in Curaçao is not just an exciting underwater activity but also a crucial step in protecting the island’s marine ecosystems. By using a pole spear and adhering to the top 10 safe hunting practices, including the use of a Zookeeper, you can contribute to the control of the invasive lionfish population while preserving the delicate balance of Curaçao’s underwater world.

Remember that safety should always be your top priority when diving and hunting lionfish. In the unlikely event of a lionfish sting, knowing how to respond can make all the difference. By consulting with local experts and following ethical and legal guidelines, you can enjoy a rewarding and responsible lionfish hunting experience while safeguarding the beauty of Curaçao’s marine environment for generations to come. Please always dive safely and responsibly, and together, we can make a positive impact on Curaçao’s underwater world while learning how to hunt lionfish effectively.

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The life of a Great White Shark

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Great White Shark

The great white shark, known scientifically as Carcharodon carcharias, embodies the apex predator of the ocean. This majestic creature’s life is a testament to survival, adaptability, and the intricate balance of the marine ecosystem.

Born in the waters off coastal regions, a great white shark begins its life as a pup within the safety of nurseries, typically found in warm, shallow waters. The pups, measuring around 5 feet in length at birth, are immediately equipped with an innate instinct for survival.

Great White Shark

As they grow, great whites embark on a journey, venturing into deeper and cooler waters, often covering vast distances across the ocean. These apex predators are perfectly adapted hunters, relying on their impressive senses to detect prey. Their acute sense of smell, aided by specialized sensory organs known as ampullae of Lorenzini, helps detect the faintest traces of blood in the water from several miles away.

Feeding primarily on seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals, great whites are known for their powerful jaws lined with rows of razor-sharp teeth. Their hunting techniques often involve stealth, utilizing their streamlined bodies to approach prey from below and striking with incredible speed and force.

Great White Shark

Despite their fearsome reputation, great whites play a crucial role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems. As top predators, they help regulate the population of prey species, preventing overpopulation that could disrupt the balance of the food chain.

Reproduction among great white sharks is a slow and careful process. Females reach sexual maturity between 12 and 18 years of age, while males mature earlier, around 9 to 10 years old. Mating occurs through complex courtship rituals, with females giving birth to a small number of live pups after a gestation period of about 12 to 18 months.

Great White Shark

However, the life of a great white shark is not without challenges. Human activities, including overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction, pose significant threats to their population. Additionally, despite their formidable presence, great whites are vulnerable and face dangers from entanglement in fishing gear and accidental bycatch.

Despite these challenges, great white sharks continue to inspire awe and fascination among scientists and nature enthusiasts. Their presence in the ocean serves as a reminder of the delicate balance and interconnectedness of marine life, emphasizing the need for conservation efforts to protect these magnificent creatures for future generations to admire and study.

Want to learn more about sharks? Visit The Shark Trust website: www.sharktrust.org

Photos: avalon.red

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