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DIVEIN.com presents

Shark Diving 101 ~ for divers & by divers

Shark Diving Guides

Here is DIVEIN.com’s Shark Diving Guides where we tell you all about the safety of shark diving and what you need to know.

We have separated the articles into smaller bits, concentrating on one main theme.

Here you’ll find a quick summary of each guide, and plenty of in-depth information of the each topic.

Here’s the shark diving we’ll cover in this guide. Click the links to jump to the topics.

Shark FeedingShark feeding Good or BadTiger SharkGreat Hammerhead SharkBlacktip Reef SharksThresher SharkLemon SharkSharks are just sharks 

 

Shark Feeding: Biting The Hand That Feeds You

 

Sharks and divers have shared the water since the inception of the sport.
And to increase the diving adventure, hand feeding sharks have become a part of eco-tourism around the world.

– Greg Amptman

Some of the feeding is done through chumming and baiting on the surface while the divers wait in a cage.

Others bring the divers to a designated spot in a circle at the bottom and bait the sharks to the center so each diver has a chance to see sharks around them.

Eventually sharks begin to assimilate feeding to humans.

It begs the question, are we increasing the likelihood of attacks by associating human with food?

Behavioral Changes and Human Safety

In South Africa, where great white shark populations has continued to gain media attention for dynamic breaching and attack tactics, shark cage diving with white sharks is also popular.

These notable interactions have drawn concern from scientists and conservation advocates about how feeding and baiting sharks can adversely affect their behavior and their purpose in the ecosystem.

Changing the animals behavior can have a significant impact if that change in behavior comes into direct conflict with the safety of people at the shore.

We aren’t just changing the way the sharks behave but we are also setting them up to seek out people in unsolicited encounters.

Shark Feeding: Good or Bad?

They say that “shark feeding” is a good thing. Good for sharks and that it also spreads awareness about the safety of sharks and their habitat.

Leaving the bottom when a tiger shark is around can be a bad idea.

– Greg Amptman

So should we support shark feeding? This topic has been controversial for several years. Some say it changes the biological behavior of sharks and it’s harmful to the marine ecosystem.

Others say sharks tend to attack humans during this activity or relate the sight of divers to food.

Let’s compare the pros and cons of shark feeding along with some supporting information for each side.

Is It Really Bad?

Shark feeding, being good or bad, depends on a person’s point of view. But there are some justified concerns about why this activity is inappropriate for both humans and sharks.

Pavlovian Response

Repeatedly being fed by humans, sharks begin associating food with humans and dive boats.

When sharks start to do this it becomes a concern that shark feeding will change and possibly even cause sharks to lose their innate eating habits. Sharks will become so familiar with this feeding they will expect to be fed when they see scuba divers.

This behavior is scientifically termed as a “Pavlovian response”. This behavior is also seen in other wild animals. What would eventually happen if sharks in one area are flooded with this artificial feeding activity and then feeding is suddenly stopped, they may become vicious and aggressive towards divers.

Shark Series – Diving With Tiger Sharks

 

One of the most characteristic sharks in the oceans, the tiger shark is one of the largest species of sharks, and quite possibly one of the most infamous.

It is considered one of the most dangerous species of sharks, with number of attacks only surpassed by the great white shark.

– Greg Amptman

They have an impressive arsenal of senses, including the ability to sense electrical fields generated by live creatures in their vicinity, and the ability to detect even minute movements in the water, using special receptors along their sides.

They are non-discerning eaters, and will attack a wide range of prey, or even resort to eating garbage or dead animals. This has earned them the nickname “the wastebasket of the sea”.

Characteristics

The tiger shark is a very large shark, up to five meters long and weighing more than 600 kilos, but typical specimens are around 3-4 meters.

It has a blunt snout, and a very streamlined body, with a distinct fore-body and tapering off to a relatively thin tail. This gives the shark a very muscular appearance. In juvenile specimens vertical lines can be seen along its body, giving the distinct tiger-like appearance that has given the species its name.

It usually swims quite slowly compared to other species, only bursting into top speed when attacking prey.

Shark Series: The Great Hammerhead Shark

 

Hammerhead sharks (lat. Sphynidae) are in fact not a single shark species, but rather a collective term for a sub-species, or genus, of shark.

They count nine different sharks, though there is still some debate of the exact number of unique genera.

– Matt9122

Common for all of them is the unique head shape from which they get their English name; a wide, large head structure resembling hammer’s head.

Unlike most sharks, most hammerheads are schooling sharks during the day, becoming solitary only at night. The most common hammerheads for divers to encounter are the Great Hammerhead and the Scalloped Hammerhead.

This article will focus on the the Great Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna mokarran).

Characteristics

The main distinguishing features of all hammerheads are of course their heads, which are flattened and extended sideways, generating a unique head shape.

The eyes of the shark are on the tips of the sides of the head, and the mouths, which are typically comparatively small mouth on the underside of the head.

The Great Hammerhead can be recognized from the other hammerhead sharks by the shape of its head, which has a straight front line rather than the curved shape of other hammerheads, and by its large dorsal fin.

Unlike the other species of hammerheads, this shark is a solitary hunter. It is a large shark, reaching lengths of up to 6 meters.

As with most hammerheads, its body is comparatively slender for a shark of its size.

Shark Series: Diving With Blacktip Reef Sharks

 

The black tipped reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) is a favorite among many divers.

It is of reasonable size, lives in warm, shallow, tropical waters, usually stays within the same quite small area, and isn’t overly shy.

– Dray van Beeck

It is also easy to recognize, and quite photogenic.

Generally considered a “safe” shark, and one of the most abundant in the IndoPacific, this is the shark that many divers see as their first ever shark sighting.

Characteristics

The blacktip reef shark is easily recognized by the black tips on its fins, in particular on the dorsal and caudal fins, as well a white strip along its side on some individuals.

It has streamlined body, moderately rounded snout, and ovalshaped eyes. Fins are comparatively large for the shark’s size.

Adults typically grow to about 1 to 1.5 meters, though some reports indicate that they may grow to as much as two meters. They can weigh as much as 14 kg.

The absence of a swimblatter means that this shark exhibits the famous trait of sharks; it cannot stop swimming, or it will simply sink. It is one of the relatively few species of sharks that do well in captivity and because of this, often seen on display in aquariums around the world.

Shark Series: The Thresher Shark

 

The thresher shark is not the most famous of sharks, partly because it is a rare shark to spot, and hence has not been filmed often.

Easily recognized by its very long tail fin, the shark is a shy and elusive creature, that primarily lives in deep waters. It is a pelagic hunter, and is therefore most often seen on offshore reefs.

Actually, the thresher shark isn’t a single shark species, but rather three shark species under the same family, or genus, known as the pelagic thresher, the bigeye thresher, and the common thresher.

This article will focus on the latter, though most of the facts are similar for all three.

The pelagic thresher and the common thresher are often mistaken, as the only significant differences between the two being a white patch on the pelagic threshers’ on the base of its dorsal fins, and the fact that the pelagic is quite a bit smaller than the common thresher.

However, even professionals often mistake the two.

Characteristics

The shark is easily recognized by the very large tail fin, which can be as long as the shark’s body in some cases, and account about a third of the shark’s weight.

It is from this physical trait that the shark derives it’s name, both the common English one and the Greek one.

It’s Greek name stems from the word for “fox”, and the English name “thresher” refers to the shark’s unique hunting technique, where the sharks drive schools of fish together and then strike, or “thresh”, at them with their tail to stun them.

Shark Series – The Lemon Shark

 

Here’s all you need to know about the Lemon Shark.

It’s closely related to the great white sharks.

A lemon shark resting on the bottom – Credit: Greg Amptman

Lemon sharks are sturdy, powerful and can grow up to 3 meters (10 feet).

But relax and do not panic when you see one during your dive.

Lemon sharks do not attack humans.

Identifying Marks / Features

You can easily distinguish lemon sharks since they have a yellow body coloring, a flattened head with a short and broad snout. Lemon sharks have two dorsal fins which almost have the same size. In other sharks, the first dorsal fin is usually larger than the second dorsal fin.

Where to Dive with Lemon SharksWhere to find lemon shark

Lemon sharks thrive in the sub-tropical region. They can be found in the southeastern and western Atlantic Ocean and in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

Lemon sharks are usually found in groups occupying shallow reefs and mangrove areas. They were also recorded to be found in the deep ocean. Just as the bull sharks, lemon sharks swim upstream in freshwater rivers, but they tend to stay near the river mouths.

Sharks Just Being Sharks

 

Let’s talk sharks!

Reading the reports of two women attacked by a Great White recently in their kayaks got me thinking about the balance between humans in the water and sharks feeding.

Dray van Beeck

According the USA Today report:

What experts believe was a great white shark took a bite out of one of two kayaks that two women were riding as they took pictures of seals, WCVB-TV reports.

This account provides very important facts. Two kayakers were mistaken for seals, while they were in the floating among what basically comes down to shark food.

While the report played up the terrifying nature of the attack. It is clear that the shark came in and saw the kayak shape, took a test bite and left the area. There was no other sighting of the shark and no one, once in the water was attacked or nearly attacked by the shark. The frustrating part was the assets put into place to locate the shark, including a helicopter.