Florida has one of the largest concentrations of sharks in the world, with sharks present year-round. The Sunshine State is known to have tiger sharks, great hammerheads, bulls, scalloped hammerheads, lemons, sandbars, reefs, black tips, makos, duskys and silky sharks either visiting or resident in its waters. Depending on the time of year many of these species can be seen on dive sites off of its Atlantic coast near Jupiter, earning it a reputation as one of the USA’s top shark diving spots.
Jupiter gained global notoriety for its annual lemon shark aggregation after featuring on BBC’s “Blue Planet 2”. Every year from December to late March lemon sharks follow the nutrient-rich Gulf Stream sweeping up Florida’s Atlantic coast. It is thought that they congregate near the coast here to mate and subsequently return to the mangroves of the Bahamas to give birth. Researchers actively documenting the aggregation have discovered that in addition to the lemon sharks, blacktips migrate in their thousands just offshore during winter. Given this abundance of life, it’s not surprising that divers and shark lovers gather here to witness these amazing creatures up close.
Sadly sharks are fished both commercially and recreationally from the Florida coast to the waters of the Bahamas. Getting people to view sharks as more valuable alive than dead is a major part of the conservation focus in Jupiter. Several local eco-tourism companies offer shark tours catering to divers, snorkelers and those wishing to view sharks from the comfort of a boat. With three international airports within driving distance and less than a 45 minute boat ride to most sites, if you want to get in the water and swim with sharks, this seems one of the easiest and most accessible ways to do it.
Recently Mike and I were fortunate enough to be transiting through Miami and thought it would be a great opportunity to delay our onward travel a few days to experience this amazing event. After a bit of research on the various dive and tour operators, we booked a snorkel trip with www.floridasharkdiving.com. Choosing to snorkel meant we could have good in-water interaction without any cages and also be able to fly out the next day without any offgassing concerns. This option also means families with non-divers have the opportunity to share the same experience.
We headed over to the marina on a sunny yet pleasantly cool morning to meet with our captain and other shark enthusiasts. With a stunning view of the Jupiter lighthouse across the waterway we were met by our friendly and efficient boat captain as the crew prepared our boat with supplies and introduced us to each other. Having signed in and completed the necessary paperwork, we split into 2 groups of 6 to keep the group sizes small. The boats were comfortable and fast and we enjoyed the cruise out of the Jupiter inlet and into the slight swell.
In under 30 minutes we were about 4 miles offshore at a site known for regular lemon and bull shark sightings. In fact, the company has nicknamed it “Lemon Drop” for its predictability. Our three crew consisted of the Captain, our in water guide and shark specialist and a second in water safety freediver, all very knowledgable and enthusiastic! On the way we were briefed on the boat safety features, what to expect on the upcoming experience and good in-water etiquette to keep both the sharks and ourselves happy.
We had expected to be waiting a while for the sharks to come in and investigate the boat, but less than 5 minutes after we arrived the first bull sharks were spotted below the surface, quickly followed by the call of “Lemon shark!” We donned our fins and masks and slipped into the water along a buoy line to join our toothy friends and get a better look. Our guide expertly drew the sharks towards us with a baited milk crate while also supervising the group, and we were soon totally absorbed watching a 3m long lemon shark and 15 or more bull sharks circling below and coming in for close passes.
My GoPro seemed to attract some of the sharks in, which gave me some fantastic close encounters, and an hour passed before we knew it. Mike took so many photos he ran out of battery and we were both so engrossed we hadn’t realised how fast the time had gone. We thrilled at being so close to so many large sharks, while they seemed perfectly at home cruising around us, eyeing these odd ungainly creatures bobbing on the waves in their blue domain.
Everyone was full of excited chatter on the return trip and we were escorted in by a squadron of pelicans seeking fishy scraps. For us it was a short trip and we were glad to have gotten to see 2 iconic species on our blue water drift. Later that week we heard that they were joined by some hammerheads too.
If you have more time in the area it would be well worth a diving trip to visit more local hotspots. Out on the deeper dive sites, large bull sharks can show up accompanied by groups of cobia. A full day’s diving could well produce lemon, tiger, bull, nurse and great hammerhead sharks. The opportunity to potentially see all these on a single day in the same location about a 45min ride from shore is pretty incredible. The Intracoastal Waterway also features manatees that can often be sighted enjoying the warm water, nurse sharks as well as osprey hunting from above and the charismatic pelicans. It is certainly an area worth taking the time to visit.
In the winter, the waters off Jupiter average around 24°C. This means most divers will feel comfortable in a 5mm wetsuit. Dive operators recommend full wetsuits, gloves and hoods as well as the water will be a bit cooler at 30m. Gear can be rented if you are traveling light and the trip can be planned to include other great dives if you have time to spare. A multitude of wrecks and reefs await in the Keys, just a short drive south down the US 1. Wildlife enthusiasts can visit the everglades, drive to the west coast to do a manatee snorkel in Crystal River, or for more shark action of a different kind, join a megalodon tooth hunt near Venice. The only big decision you have to make in Florida is which do you fancy doing first?
BLUE EARTH – Future Frogmen Podcast Series – Deep-Sea Stories From a Shadow Diver: a conversation with Richie Kohler
A series of conservation educational podcasts from Future Frogmen, introduced by Jeff Goodman.
Deep Sea Stories From a Shadow Diver: a conversation with Richie Kohler.
This episode of the Blue Earth Podcast is a conversation with Richie Kohler. He’s an explorer, technical wreck diver, shipwreck historian, filmmaker, and author.
Richie was featured in Robert Kurson’s incredible book “Shadow Divers ”. It’s a thrilling true story about Richie and John Chatterton’s quest to identify the wreck of an unknown WWII German U-boat (submarine), 65 miles off the coast of New Jersey. They dedicated six years of their lives attempting to identify the wreck.
Richie has travelled the world and explored many deep wrecks, including the Andrea Doria, Titanic, and Britannic. He’s the author of “Mystery of The Last Olympian” about the Britannic.
Richard E Hyman Bio
Richard is the Chairman and President of Future Frogmen.
Born from mentoring and love of the ocean, Richard is developing an impactful non-profit organization. His memoir, FROGMEN, details expeditions aboard Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s famed ship Calypso.
Future Frogmen, Inc. is a nonprofit organization and public charity that works to improve ocean health by deepening the connection between people and nature. They foster ocean ambassadors and future leaders to protect the ocean by accomplishing five objectives.
You can find more episodes and information at www.futurefrogmen.org and on most social platforms @futurefrogmen.
New Fisheries Act misses the mark on sustainability, but what now?
The UK’s landmark post-Brexit fisheries legislation has now become law. The Fisheries Act, the first legislation of its kind in nearly 40 years, will shape how the UK’s seas are fished for years to come.
The Marine Conservation Society, which campaigned for amendments to the legislation throughout its development, is disappointed by the removal of key sustainability amendments and by the removal of a commitment to rolling out Remote Electronic Monitoring.
The charity has committed to pushing the UK Government to go further than the framework which the Fisheries Act sets out, with greater ambition for the state of UK seas.
Sandy Luk, Chief Executive of the Marine Conservation Society said: “UK Government and devolved administrations must act urgently to deliver climate and nature smart fisheries under the new Fisheries Act. This is a key condition if our seas are to recover to good health. The UK Government removed key amendments from the legislation while making promises on sustainability and the introduction of remote electronic monitoring. We will continue to hold the government to account over these promises.”
“I’m pleased to see the recognition of the important role fisheries play in our fight against the climate emergency. However, even with a climate change objective in the Act, actions speak louder than words. We must get to work delivering sustainable fisheries management, which will have a huge benefit to our seas, wildlife and the communities which depend upon them.”
The Fisheries Act has become law against a backdrop of the ocean’s declining health. UK waters are currently failing to meet 11 out of 15 indicators of good ocean health and over a third of fish in UK waters are being caught at levels which cannot continue into the future. Whilst the legislation failed to address some of the more pressing issues facing UK seas, including overfishing, there is still an opportunity to affect change in the years which follow.
Sam Stone, Head of Fisheries at the Marine Conservation Society said: “The Fisheries Act marks the start of a new era of fisheries management in the UK, but the next two years will be critical in defining what this looks like. The new Act has some good objectives, but we now need to come together to make sure it really delivers the on-water change that is desperately needed for ocean recovery.
“There is genuine opportunity to create fisheries that deliver for coastal communities and for the environment, but it means moving away from ‘business-as-usual’. The UK and devolved governments now have the powers to move forward with progressive new management in their waters. That means proper incentives for low impact fishing, proper monitoring of catches and proper commitments to sustainable fishing.
“In the short term, the four nations must work together to make impactful changes, starting by addressing the UK’s most at risk fish stocks. Recovery plans are needed for our depleted stocks, including new catch limits, selectivity and avoidance measures, protection of vital habitats and fully documented catches. Rolling out Remote Electronic Monitoring with cameras on larger vessels throughout the UK should be top of the agenda if future policy is to be as well informed as possible.”
For more information about the Fisheries Bill and the Marine Conservation Society’s work, visit the charity’s website.
WIN a Tovatec T3500S Rechargeable Dive Light!!!
For this week’s competition, we’ve teamed up with our good friends at CPS Partnership to give away a Tovatec T3500S Rechargeable Dive Light...
WIN a Fourth Element Arctic Hoodie!!!
For this week’s competition, we’ve teamed up with our good friends at fourth element to give away one of their NEW Arctic...
WIN a Northern Diver NDB5 Holdall Bag!!!
For this week’s competition, we’ve teamed up with our good friends at Northern Diver to give away one of their NDB5 Holdall...
WIN one of the NEW Momentum M20 Dive Watches!!!
For this week’s competition, we’ve teamed up with our good friends at Nautilus Diving to give away one of Momentum’s...
Sharks Bay Umbi Diving Village is a Bedouin-owned resort with stunning views and a lovely private beach. It is ideal for divers as everything is onsite including the resort's jetty, dive centre and house reef. The warm hospitality makes for a diving holiday like no other. There is an excellent seafood restaurent and beach bar onsite, and with the enormous diversity of the Sharm El Sheikh dive sites and the surrounding areas of the South Sinai, there really is something for every level of diver to enjoy.More Less
- Competitions3 weeks ago
WIN a Northern Diver NDB5 Holdall Bag!!!
- News1 month ago
SeaLife launches new underwater housing for iPhone
- Competitions4 weeks ago
WIN one of the NEW Momentum M20 Dive Watches!!!
- Gear News1 month ago
Breaking News: Garmin Descent Mk2 & Mk2i Launch & Review (Watch Video)
- Competitions2 months ago
Another chance to WIN a Sharkskin 90L Performance Bag!!!
- Marine Life & Conservation1 month ago
Review: My Octopus Teacher
- Competitions3 months ago
WIN a Sea Dragon Mini 900 Dive Light from SeaLife!!!
- News2 months ago
Escape to Zanzibar this Autumn