Tag Archives: sharks

Responsible (and awesome!) shark tourism

Kate Cameron has volunteered with us twice already, as has her Dad, Craig and her friend Kristie.  Kate’s enthusiasm is contagious and her happy laugh and kind demeanour are missed by us all.  She is a true example of an ambassador for the marine environment!  Her blog follows:

“Every year an insane number of sharks are killed by people. Although some sharks are caught by fishermen within the law and used appropriately, the majority of shark deaths are from shark finning, fisherman’s bycatch, slaughtered out of fear or sport or otherwise by people regardless of laws. Shark finning is common in Asian countries (specifically China) due to the social status of the dish, shark fin soup. During the process of shark finning, sharks are caught, their fins are removed and the rest of the body is discarded. Bycatch occurs when Fishermen are fishing for sustainable fish and sharks and other unwanted marine life are caught in nets or traps. Although fishermen probably do not want these animals, they are usually dead before the nets are even hauled up.

Beeeeeeeooootiful Blue <3

Subsequently, after the movie Jaws and many other films following it, fear set into humans that sharks are terrifying and brutal people-eaters. This is not the case but unfortunately people were spurred to go out and kill sharks, drastically damaging the ecosystem. Additionally, ecotourism has become wildly popular. Although it is great to get up close and personal with sharks (speaking from experience) it is important to consider who you are doing your ecotours with. There are laws in place for both your safety and the shark’s safety. These laws will include if companies are allowed to feed or bait the sharks, chumming restrictions, cage restrictions, shark handling and among many other important diving factors. Researching your ecotourism company before going out with them to make sure they are known for following rules and regulations will ensure that your trip is as enjoyable as possible while keeping the sharks as safe and without disrupting the environment. Ecotourism companies who do not follow the laws risk endangering the shark, by physically hurting the animal or changing feeding patterns etc. Remember, the goal of shark dives is to see the grace in these animals rather than harm them.

Blue Shark Video Clip

I have just returned from South Africa where I spent my second summer volunteering with Marine Dynamics and Dyer Island Cruises through the International Marine Volunteers (IMV). This program has given me the opportunity to dive and research White Sharks as well as the Blues, Makos and a Bronze Whaler in addition to penguins, Cape fur seals and a variety of whale and dolphin species. The company has several on staff marine biologists that provide presentations on the marine life in the area as well as accompany ecotourism trips to answer questions. I have learned so much about the marine ecosystem in the program; I was even able to help dissect a 4.1 meter Great White Shark! What more could I ask for?

Kate in her element

Well, after helping out with ecotourism trips, IMV supports various social activities among the volunteers including visiting local restaurants and other establishments in order to cultivate lasting relationships. If you are looking for more than just one or two days of diving with sharks and are wanting to learn more about the Great White Shark, perhaps you should consider volunteering with IMV too!

IMV, where lifelong friends are made…Amy, Kate and Kristie

If you only want to go see the sharks but are unsure or need help finding a reliable ecotourism company, check out sustainablesharksiving.com, a website that is designed to help! Sustainablesharkdiving.com is devoted to finding shark ecotourism companies based on educational, in-water safety, animal treatment, environmental sustainability, and conservation ethic objectives. This site takes into consideration professional and tourist reviews (so after your dive, go on and review the company!). The website is easy to navigate, search different ecotourism companies by type of shark, by company, or by country you want to dive in. For example you could search “Great White Sharks,” “Marine Dynamics” or “South Africa.” Additionally, if you do not know what the shark diving and ecotourism laws are in the country you are planning to dive in the website explains rules and regulations in countries that have shark ecotourism.

Sharks do a major part in keeping the ecosystem healthy in every ocean (and some rivers). Let’s do our best to protect these magnificent creatures.”

Kate Cameron

IMV Alumnus

Dissection day!

Shark dissection time!  As the day progressed so did the excitement of the volunteers, constant questions of “Can’t wait, when we going to start?” become the order of the day. As we start the setup of all the dissection and measuring equipment, I could see all eyes firmly focused on the defrosted male vaalhaai, or soupfin shark, that was wrapped in black plastic bags.

Before we could start with the actual cutting open of the shark, we needed to do external measurements. This is a lengthy process but as I explained to the volunteers that this is a very important part of the scientific process.  The volunteers quickly jumped at the opportunity and listened carefully to the instructions given. I gave one as the volunteers, Jaime, the opportunity to lead with the measuring, since he had a degree in marine biology and this could really help him to gain some hands-on experience. I explained the basics of measurements and guidelines, and then very quickly they started to taking accurate measurements of the shark with my supervision.

External morphometrics

External morphometrics

Finally when we were done with the 3-page external measurements, it was time to cut open the 17.5kg shark. To add to the atmosphere the perfect sunny spring day turned into ominous cloudy windy weather, it’s almost if Mother Nature knew how to set the scene. As I started making the first cut, I noticed some of the volunteer’s faces pulled in all different directions as the dead shark smell  filled their nostrils, especially when squeezing out the stomach contents to weigh. As the chorus of “ewwh’s” and “ahh’s” rained down, the fascination and interest remained as no-one moved an inch.

We opened up the shark, removing the liver, stomach, intestine and reproductive organs, all for internal measurements. The longer the dissection went on the more questions of genuine interest followed, ” How does the shark stay afloat?” was one of the volunteer questions. So sharks do not have a swim bladder like other fish for buoyancy but instead they have a liver filled with oil called squaline. I happily showed them by cutting a piece of liver and throwing it into a bucket of water, and as predicted it floated! It’s these types of practical demonstrations that have the biggest impact and can only be shown to people at an educational dissection.

After the organs from the body cavity were removed, I went on to show them the brain, eyes and heart, at this stage they were amazed how tiny the heart was in comparison to the body, and where it was located, in the upper throat section, “Talking about heart in your throat stuff” was one of the comments that had the group laughing. After all was cut open and measured, we then took some genetic samples and fin clips to finish off the dissection.

The group were all smiling and showed genuine interest throughout the dissection, for some this was first time they had ever been a part of a dissection, let alone a shark dissection! The group left with a newfound respect for these amazing ocean predators, and a comment by one of the volunteers to end of the day saying: ”This was one awesome experience, that I’ll probably never forget”!

Ettiene Roets (IMV Coordinator)

Primo Visit

International Marine Volunteers – Centro Studi Di Squali
by Karim Mostafa

Being a volunteer with International Marine Volunteers, is not only a great opportunity to be out in the field with marine life, but also an excellent way to be part of marine biological research. The volunteer programme has two sides of it, the one is the tourism aspect where we take different clients from all over the world for a thrilling shark cage diving experience, making it a memorable day and educating them on the misinterpretation of these majestic creatures. The other aspect is the work with the marine biologists with their studies and research in protecting these sharks assisting with their data collection, and even a lucky few with tagging a Great White Shark!
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Additionally, volunteers this week had an exciting opportunity to work directly with the Centro Studi Di Squali (Research Shark Centre) from Italy leaded by Dr. Primo Micarelli, and his team of 20 students. Our International Marine Volunteers, were able to join them on their research trips, with marine Dynamics, and assisted them with their data collection on Great White Sharks. Studying the behaviour and the numbers of Great White Sharks that pass within the area, they saw 45 different great white sharks, 20 fewer than what they saw at the same time last year.
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It was an enriching experience to interact and learn directly from Dr. Primo, appreciating the time to identify each unique marks and scars on these sharks, compared with their previous visits and observing how the wounds had healed and how the sharks were larger in size. This research expedition also gave the opportunity for our marine biologists to add some new sharks onto the Fin Database that allows us to identify the different sharks that we see in the bay.

From International Marine Volunteers, a big thank you to Dr. Primo and his team from Centro Studi Di Squali, for their allowing us to be part of their study and research. We look forward to their return in September!

What a great week to be an International Marine Volunteer with Marine Dynamics!
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Breaching Trip

Getting up this morning was no problem for the volunteers. They boarded Slashfin at 07:15 with smiles on their faces. Who wouldn’t smile if you were going on a breaching trip, I mean what is better than “flying” sharks. Leaving the harbour the volunteers got to see a proper South African sunrise, and I think it’s safe to say that the African sky is beyond compare.

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Approaching Geyser Rock we threw our decoy line into the water and slowly started towing the decoy behind Slashfin. We patiently waited for our first shark, when all of a sudden a Great White flew up into the sky. This was the perfect way of showing the volunteers how strong and fast these sharks are. We headed back towards the harbour with volunteers still in awe. Just a perfect start to shark filled day.

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Winter is here

The busy season for IMV is here and we are starting it off with 18 volunteers. What more could you ask for? Winter brings bigger sharks, better visibility, some no sea days and great volunteers. Even with the no sea days we are still keeping these guys busy.

14-DSC_1632 03-DSC_1222 Our community projects are on a roll and improving each day, lectures are being held, just to give them that little extra knowledge and some days when they just want to take it easy, wine tasting and some games at the lodge is always great.

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The volunteers have been very lucky lately, going on their very own Exclusive trips, with Marine Dynamics Shark cage diving. Still a couple cold months ahead, but we are looking forward to spending it with these amazing people.

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