The Shark Odyssey

Young black tip reef shark

I took this photo in the Musee Oceanographique de Monaco of a young black tip reef shark. While I cannot wholeheartedly condone keeping any animals within the confines of a tank or cage, this museum is at the hub of marine science and conservation, having been directed by Jaques Costeau for many years.

It’s been an exciting few days in Central America in terms of marine conservation, as the practice of shark finning has had a major crackdown.With thanks to Virgin Tycoon Richard Branson (you can read his blogpost here:http://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/blog/historic-day-in-costa-rica), the president of Costa Rica Laura Chinchilla (wonderful surname I must say) has declared new laws protecting sharks from this brutal practice. Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador are now following suit.

A few years ago marine biologists/photographer/videographer Rob Stewart realeased his enlightening film Sharkwater, with the intention of changing people’s perceptions of sharks. Within the documentary film Rob investigated the shark fin trade in Costa Rica, driven by the demand for shark fins in certain asian cuisines. The whole concept of shark finning is in itself not only brutal, but completely wasteful; sharks would have their fins sliced off and then tossed back into the ocean for an inevitable and slow death. Sharkwater showed what a lucid operation the whole thing was, and he took many risks filming the practice not only from angry and dangerous pirate fisherman but the authorities. But why did he do it? See below (photos courtesy of Sharkwater/Rob Stewart).

He is actually cuddling a shark. In fact many divers have realised that holding a shark upside down will hypnotise it, though whoever came up with the idea to SPIN A SHARK AROUND must have been pretty brave. Or crazy. Or both.

Just beautiful.

 Hardly the dangerous fish that movies like ‘Jaws’ make out. I cannot recommend this movie enough, particularly for those who fear or dislike  sharks. Sharks are fascinating and often misunderstood animals, and though is is hugely unfortunate that attacks occur, they do not actively seek out people to ‘eat’. In fact out of all the shark species only about four have been known to attack humans, and even those out of confusion and defense. You’re more likely to get killed falling out of bed.

Really. (http://www.buzzfeed.com/awesomer/20-things-that-kill-more-people-than-sharks-every)

After witnessing footage of the shark finning practice in Costa Rica, it’s such a relief to learn that something is finally being done by authorities. It’s amazing people that change the world. Thanks to conservationists, policy makers and a whole handful of people, including world’s most successful and well-known entrepreneur for support, sharks face a fighting chance against the world’s most deadly predator.

Us.

I can’t believe I went that cheesy, but you get the point. So a few days before I head out to Costa Rica, I’m really glad to be going at such an exciting time. I’m not going to deny that seeing a shark in the open ocean whilst trying to swim/snorkel/dive and particularly surf could potentially be terrifying experience, but let’s give them a bit of a chance whilst we’re in their territory. It’s my next goal to dive with sharks, although saying that now is very easy compared to the actual experience where I will probably question what it is in my brain that initially wants to me to do mad things like jump out of planes, into canyons attached by a  cord and swim with one of the world’s most feared creatures. We can only wait and see!

Go sharks!

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