A word of warning...

Sharks are magnificent creatures.  They are among my most favorite of animals.  I know them and I trust them.  I trust them to bite me or be aggressive when I interact with them.  I feel I must go on the record about these animals due to the rise in shark dives and active human interaction with sharks.

Sharks are mildly predictable.  They are a predatory species like lions and tigers.  Sharks are at the pinnacle of their food chain.  Human interaction with sharks sets a dangerous pattern for us all.  Our relative safety around sharks is based on their distrust of and fear of humans.  They have generally avoided attacks at a lot of beaches despite their numbers because they are disinterested in humans.  A shark does not want to tangle with another animal that it does not know.  The encounter could render it unable to hunt food.  Also, sharks do not identify humans as a food source.  They are just an awkward creature that is foreign to sharks.  Therefore, many dangerous species instinctively avoid divers and swimmers.

However, diving and interacting with sharks ESPECIALLY during their feeding behavior, builds a strong association between the presence of humans and the presence of food.  The last thing we want a shark to have is the association of swimmers and divers with food supply.  Many species will eat anything they have to in order to survive.  If they become accustomed to humans at the same time that they associate humans with feeding patterns, we could see a rise in attacks on divers or swimmers in areas where these practices occur.

There is also the other obvious risk with interaction.  Most people would not walk into a lion's den with hungry cats pacing around panting.  Still, they are willing to do just that with the sea's top cat, the shark.  I am not downing shark dives.  I have, in fact, pet a large bull shark in the wild, but, I was fortunate and as an example to the public, I do not plan to ever do that again.  I believe we need to treat these kings of the ocean with a healthy respect.  I believe we should give them a wide berth and avoid direct interaction when diving or snorkeling.  I do not blame a shark I am handling for trying to bite me in the boat.  But, when I am diving, I do not try to provoke one.  If I am bitten underwater, it is because I did something to intrude on their territory.

Please, limit your interaction with sharks in the wild to "passive interaction".  That means when you see a shark, take time out and observe it.  Do not interact with it.  Just watch it and enjoy the experience UNLESS it is

  1. feeding
  2. a dangerous species (a species capable of taking a man such as tigers, lemons, hammerheads, whites, bulls, etc.)
  3. mating or having babies
  4. showing signs of irritability at your presence (flexing its pectoral fins, arching its back, circling or swimming quickly)

In this way you can enjoy the majesty of these apex predators without interfering with their daily routines.  PADI, an organization that certifies people to SCUBA dive, has been teaching its instructors and students to limit themselves to passive interaction for decades.  I fully agree with that policy and have certified divers according to its principles.  I am not afraid of sharks, but, I cannot afford to relax around them or bother them in their home just to get a head rush.

Remember, our presence in the ocean with SCUBA or snorkeling gear is an interloper and our use of the ocean a responsibility.  Protect us and our oceans for future generations.

Ken Moran

Information about Ken

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More about the Shark Wrangler Interview with the Wrangler
Shark species He has handled A Warning on Sharks
The Shark Wrangler's Gear Avoiding shark attack
The Shark Wrangler's Schedule Handling Tips from the Shark Wrangler
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