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Marine Life & Conservation

How Shark Diving can help save sharks

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by: Sean M. Cleary

Shark diving is considered one of the fastest-growing animal encounter experiences. Tourists and locals alike travel to meet sharks face-to-face and for many, this is an unmissable, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Unfortunately, it may become a rare encounter in more ways than one.

There is a decline of shark populations around the world, largely due to the rising demand in Asia for shark-fin, a costly delicacy. Shark finning is the act of cutting off a shark’s fins, then throwing the shark’s body back in the water. The shark is then eaten alive by other fish…or it drowns. All for a bowl of fin soup.

Shark diving can perform an important ecological service as it shows the reality of a misunderstood animal suffering from modern industrial fishing. Consumers need to know that they can help the environments that are home to our fierce friends.

An ethical animal attraction you can feel good about 

For sharks to be protected, they need to be worth more alive, in the ocean, than dead. Consequently, authorities will do more to protect them. Ethical and responsible shark diving is a great tool for achieving this. It educates people about the importance of sharks while helping remove fear.

According to research, shark tourism is worth over $314 million per year and this tourism is expected to generate over $780 million worldwide within the next 20 years. Shark diving is a good way of promoting their protection and conservation and can be enjoyed with a variety of shark species at amazing destinations.

“The only way many people come to know sharks is through movies. But when you’re in the water looking at these animals calmly swimming around, you go through a transformation. You understand sharks, see what they really are. Chances are you’ll walk off a shark diving tour as a proponent for sharks,” says Sean M. Cleary, an avid Florida diver who has obtained his scuba certification before becoming a lawyer.

Divers are blessed with the chance to see what only a few others see; the heart of the underwater world. At every shark dive, you can encounter a wide variety of mysterious depths and this beautiful, endangered animal.

Up to 73M sharks are killed each year by shark finning. It’s illegal in most countries but, due to the lack of funds to patrol the waters, enforcement is sparse in many nations. Therefore, promoting shark tourism and encouraging more adventurers to swim or dive with sharks is one of the most important ways to save them.

The funds generated by diving with sharks can then be used to patrol the waters and keep the shark finners out.

Shark diving in Florida 

When thinking of shark diving in the US, most people think of great white shark cage diving in California. But the variety of sharks that can be seen in Florida is among the best on the planet. If you consider the number of shark-human interactions, you’ll notice the state that wins is Florida.

Off the coast of California, tourists can see great white sharks and even the odd blue. Although there is only a small chance to see a great white shark in Florida, the list of shark species that can be admired is huge. Among others, these include the hammerhead shark, scalloped hammerhead shark, bull shark, lemon shark, blacktip shark and tiger shark.

With that selection comes a variety of options for shark interaction, you can:

  • Swim with sharks. On some tours, you will be swimming with sharks.
  • Snorkel with sharks. When you add a snorkel you can get more personal with them.
  • Scuba dive with sharks. This is a common scenario in which, while you dive, a divemaster attracts the sharks with bait.
  • Cage dive with sharks. This type of diving is an option as well.

Almost everyone can go shark diving in Florida, whether they’re certified or not. If you go shark spotting from a boat you don’t even have to know how to swim.

The pre-dive safety check 

Before diving, there are a great number of standard safety procedures that have to be followed. There must be a dive protocol, and an instructional period before all the divers enter the water. There should be a buddy system that’s followed. There should be an emergency recall signal. All of these need to be discussed before anyone enters the water.

Whether you have just started scuba diving or are an experienced deep-sea diver, there is always something new to learn about diving. Take full advantage of every opportunity to learn and bring safety, awareness and positive attitudes to recreational scuba diving operations.

Shark diving is, in many ways, about education and respect. As stated, there are many benefits to enjoy from giving the public access to sharks. However, this means always fostering a spirit of learning and symbiosis and having the necessary experience and permits.


To find out more about International Training, visit www.tdisdi.com.

From its humble beginning in 1994 to today, the group of training agencies Scuba Diving International (SDI), Technical Diving International (TDI), and Emergency Response Diving International (ERDI) form one of the largest diving certification agencies in the World – International Training. With 24 Regional Offices servicing more than 100 countries, the company today far exceeds the original vision the founders had when they conceived the idea on a napkin, sitting at a kitchen table in the early 1990’s.

Marine Life & Conservation

Ground-breaking Shark Research conducted in St. Maarten waters

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In April 2021 members from the Nature Foundation St. Maarten, the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA), the Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF), and Beneath the Waves conducted multiple ‘scientific firsts’ as part of the “Shark Shakedown” project. The research expedition was a part of a wider research project into tiger sharks in the region funded by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-NL) through the Biodiversity Funds and the Dutch National Postcode Lottery. The researchers tagged eleven sharks, including for the first time a female pregnant tiger and endangered Caribbean reef shark in the Dutch Caribbean. The data will provide vital information for conservation strategies not only in St. Maarten, but for the wider Caribbean.

The expedition lasted five days in which three species of sharks were tagged, including tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier), Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezi), and nurse sharks (Ginglymostoma cirratum) all ranging from sub-adults to adults.

Participants received hands-on training with experts from Beneath the Waves in preparation for the upcoming expedition to the Saba Bank in August 2021. The goal of this upcoming expedition is to determine whether the Saba Bank is a breeding area for tiger sharks in the Eastern Caribbean. The high-definition ultrasound technology the team used was created by E. I. Medical Imaging and pioneered by collaborator Dr. James Sulikowski, of Arizona State University. This technology has successfully been used to identify maturity state and the stage of pregnancy in various shark species, a first for shark science in the region.

The scientists successfully confirmed early pregnancy stage in a large female tiger shark, as well as placed a satellite tag on the shark during the workup process. Using satellite tracking over the next few months, the scientists hope to confirm evidence of Sint Maarten being a breeding location for these globally threatened animals. In another shark tagging ‘first’, Beneath the Waves’ Chief Scientist, Dr. Austin Gallagher, placed the first camera tag on a tiger shark in the Dutch Caribbean. The team successfully recovered the camera package during the expedition, and the animal has already shown promising results regarding shark behavior in the region.

Both the satellite tag and camera tag have shown that these tiger sharks prefer to travel in the area between St. Maarten and St. Barths; however, these are only the first detections. No assumptions can be made yet regarding the movement of these animals.

The information gained from this research will provide a better understanding of the importance of both the status of sharks in Sint Maarten’s territorial waters and in the Yarari Sanctuary and the role these ecosystems play in the life-cycle of tiger sharks in the wider Caribbean region. Tiger sharks are currently categorized as Near-Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature while Caribbean reef sharks have very recently been upgraded to Endangered. Sharks play key roles in maintaining the balance within local and regional marine ecosystems and maintaining biodiversity and therefore their protection is crucial.

Follow the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance’s Facebook, Instagram (dcnanature) or DCNA’s website (https://dcnanature.org/news/) to learn more about the shark expedition and other nature news from the Dutch Caribbean.

Photo credit:  ©  Sami Kattan/Beneath the Waves (all rights reserved)

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Marine Life & Conservation

The ocean’s solution to the climate emergency

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The Marine Conservation Society has released a new report in partnership with Rewilding BritainBlue Carbon – Ocean-based solutions to fight the climate crisis outlines the importance of the UK’s seas in helping the UK to reach its goal of net zero by 2050, and 2045 for Scotland.

In order to reach net zero, the quantity of carbon dioxide taken from the atmosphere and stored in natural solutions must increase. By protecting and rewilding ecosystems in our ocean, blue carbon stores will have increased capacity and ability to store carbon.

The significant role of the world’s forests in helping to reduce carbon emissions has been formally recognised through numerous initiatives and reforesting projects intended to keep carbon locked into the world’s forests on land. Unfortunately, equivalent solutions in the ocean are often overlooked. In order to reach its goal of net zero by 2050, the UK must look to blue carbon solutions in tandem with those on land.

Image: Peter Bardsley

What is blue carbon?

Marine ecosystems like seagrass meadows, saltmarshes and mangroves absorb or ‘draw down’ carbon from the water and atmosphere, just like plants and trees on land. The storage of carbon in marine habitats is called blue carbon. The storage of blue carbon can be in the plants themselves, like seaweed and seagrass; in the seafloor sediment where plants are rooted; or even in the animals which live in the water, including seabirds, fish and larger mammals. Blue carbon is simply carbon absorbed from the water and atmosphere stored in the world’s blue spaces.

Dr Chris Tuckett, Director of Programmes at the Marine Conservation Society: “Carbon contained in marine and coastal ecosystems must be considered in the same way as our woodlands and peatbogs…critical to the UK’s carbon strategy. Our report outlines how vital blue carbon solutions are to an effective strategy which reaches net zero by 2050.

“We’re calling on the UK Government and devolved administrations to act with urgency to invest in, co-develop and implement a four nation Blue Carbon Strategy.”

The suggested strategy focuses on three key action areas:

–        Scaling up marine rewilding for biodiversity and blue carbon benefits

–        Integrating blue carbon protection and recovery into climate mitigation and environmental management policies

–        Working with the private sector to develop and support sustainable and innovative low-carbon commercial fisheries and aquaculture.

Globally, the rewilding of key blue carbon securing marine and coastal ecosystems such as seagrass beds, saltmarshes and mangroves could deliver carbon dioxide mitigation amounting to 1.83 billion tonnes. That is 5% of the emissions savings we need to make globally. This figure doesn’t include the enormous quantities of carbon stored in fish and other marine life; in marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, seaweeds and shellfish beds; or the vast stores of carbon in our seabed sediments.

Rebecca Wrigley, Rewilding Britain’s Chief Executive: We’re calling for the rewilding and protection of at least 30% of Britain’s seas by 2030. Allowing a rich rainbow of underwater habitats and their sealife to recover offers huge opportunities for tackling the nature and climate crises, and for benefiting people’s livelihoods,”

From Dornoch Firth to Lyme Bay, inspiring projects are leading the way by restoring critically important seagrass meadows, kelp forests and oyster beds. Combined with the exclusion of bottom towed trawling and dredging, such initiatives offer hope and a blueprint for bringing our precious seas back to health.

Later this year, the UK will be hosting COP26 – the UN Climate Change Conference – in Glasgow. The conference brings together world leaders to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The ocean and its blue carbon stores are a crucial part of the many urgent and varied solutions required to address the climate crisis.

The UK has committed to significantly increase its spending on nature-based solutions, including those offered by the ocean.  The Marine Conservation Society and Rewilding Britain are calling on UK governments to adopt ocean-based solutions at pace and scale by 2030.

The report, Blue Carbon – Ocean-based solutions to fight the climate crisis, is available to read at the Marine Conservation Society’s website.

Header image: Mark Kirkland

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Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email john@thescubaplace.co.uk

www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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