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How Research On Sharks Can Help Grow The Population

  • on board shark water

As I’m searching through my Facebook feeds I notice a posting for a tour of a yacht docked in Puntarenas for the next day. Sounds interesting enough so I add it to my agenda.

How Research On Sharks Helps Grow The Population

When you hear about shark attacks compared to many other animals in the world it really is quite small. Especially since a lot of our shark population is disappearing. In this article you can find out how Shark Water is researching to help increase the population and make the public aware before our oceans become unbalanced without these predators.

November 9, 2017, I packed my camera gear in my bag to head for the pier. After connecting with a few officials from the pier I found out an original passport was required to participate in this event. Determined to be on that boat, I walked back to my apartment to retrieve my passport.

Arriving back on the pier with my passport in hand I quickly registered and passed through the security search. Luck would have it Rafael a crew member was on the pier who escorted me to the boat. During our short walk, I had a chance to ask him a little about the boat and what destinations they had visited so far. He told me they had been to the Galapagos, Mexico and to Cocos Island.

shark water boat in puntarenas[the yacht] To get onto the yacht I had to cross a small ramp, climb inside a small motor boat on the back of the yacht then a crew member helped me down the ladder.

Alex Antoniou had already begun his presentation about the non-profit organization “Fins Attached”. Alex is the founder and Executive Director. Following Alex’s great presentation was another member Randall Arauz (CREMA).

Both Alex and Randall has so much information & knowledge to tell us about the sharks. Randall told us how they tag the sharks. The dart tag head is attached near the 1st dorsal fin with a small line & Plexiglas capsule containing return instructions. Information from this tag can be used for data such as when it passes by certain location points placed under water. So far, they have managed to tag 30 of them this year. Their mission is to conduct research, promote conservation, provide education, and help protect our marine life. Some of the staff onboard are marine biologists, divers, and volunteers.

control center onboard shark water

[control center] I had no idea just how important sharks are to the oceans until today. We as people have always feared sharks. I can remember closing my eyes a lot when the movie Jaws was on the tv.   As a kid, I can remember my mom saying when we vacationed in Florida to make sure we were out of the water by 4pm. Why because of shark attacks.

Sharks are the ocean largest predator and without them we are in big trouble. They keep everything in balance. The shark population has declined by about 90-98% in some species. I learned White Tip Sharks are almost to the point of extinction. The team at Shark Water carries out about 25 expeditions per year.

inside the boat

[The yacht] Originally build in Japan Shark Water was used ironically by fisheries, but now is in good hands as a research boat used to help preserve ocean life for the future. The yacht contains 6 bedrooms for the crew with each room having accommodations for 2-3 people in each room. There is also a small kitchen area and a comfortable lounge area. Taking photos was a little challenging as the walls & ceiling was a glossy white. Giving off a lot of reflections. Truly the cleanest boat I’ve ever seen.

bedroom onboard shark water

[one of the rooms onboard]

the kitchen on shark water

[kitchen onboard] I was lucky to have a private tour after the presentation by Rafael showing me the bedrooms, kitchen, and pilot house. I’m not sure if that’s the proper term but it’s the communication room with a steering wheel and so many electronic devices that would probably take me a day to learn what they all do. Pictured below I had the opportunity to drive the boat. Ha not really!

laurie on shark water boat

[Research] I’ve always know research was expensive but the equipment involved is also costly. Just to send a submarine down to place a tracking device could cost about $5,000. Then there is the tagging darts, computers to run some of the devices which is pretty cool but also costly. Just by controlling with the computer you can bring the tracking device to the surface, then there is all the crew itself.

cocos island map

photo [Credit]

Cocos Island

Cocos Island sits of the coast of Costa Rica shoreline. This island can only be reached by boats. The island was named an UNESCO site in 1967. You can take a boat tour across to the island but its very expensive. Cocos Island is a great location for scuba diving in Costa Rica. Here you should see lots of marine life. That’s of course if we keep it protected. Around the island is a protected no fishing zone however it’s not big enough according to our Shark Water crew. The sharks swim from this island as well as the leatherback turtles over to the Galapagos following an under water magnetic path. The problem arises between the outer zone from Cocos Island to the Galapagos where fishing is still taking place. With underwater tracking stations researches can follow the paths these animals are taking. With the tags on the animals they can tell when they have passed the marker recording the data. With new technology drones are now being used to record video and photos of boats in the no fishing zone. Hopefully this data can be used in court.

photo [credit] tagging gear

Stop Finning

This brings us to the No al aleto term which means “Not the fin”.Costa Rica was the first country to adapt the “fins attached policy” only allowing the landing of sharks with fins attached to their bodies to be caught. The trouble is fishing still doesn’t have enough people to control and enforce this policy.

Filmmaker Rob Stewart

On board, the Shark Water was a photograph of Rob Stewart pointed out to me by Rafael. I had no idea who Rob Stewart was until now. Who is Rob Stewart you may ask? Rob was born in Toronto Canada about an hour from where I live now. Rob spent a lot of his years learning about sharks. He was a biologist and filmmaker of “Shark Water” the movie. Rob had made appearances on tv shows talking about how devastating shark finning is to the population of sharks. Sharks are slow growing animals and they don’t produce a lot of offspring so add to the illegal finning and killing you can certainly see why some species are almost non-existent.

You may have heard of shark fin soup. This process has fisherman basically kill the shark just for the fins then the bodies are throw back into the water to die of slow death. Shark meat is sold in supermarkets & restaurants as well as found in some products you may not be aware of even cosmetics. You may notice the name on a menu “bolillo, bolillon or cazon” this is shark. Costa Ricans used shark meat as part of their diets besides the usually staples of rice and beans. Costa Ricans have since established the #YoNoComoTiburon which means I don’t eat shark. Good for them!

Unfortunately, our Toronto born filmaker Rob Stewart died in a diving accident on January 31, 2017 before finishing the new Shark Water Extinction which is set to release in 2018.

If you would like to volunteer with the turtles you can apply here or donate to save the sharks.

Help supports Rob’s vision on saving the sharks.

My time onboard the Shark Water with the crew was an experience I will never forget.

If you would like to join the crew on an expedition or tour I’d be happy to help make that come true. Contact us.

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About the Author:

Laurie Johnson is travel writer, agent, and founder of Pura Vida Vacations. She finds her inspirations from travelling of the beaten path, meeting the locals, and sharing her travel stories, reviews, and tips with her readers.

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