Shark Lovers R Us!

There are so many things I love about SHARKS!!! The way they move, the way they look and, simply, the respect that they command. I’ve always been fascinated by sharks, but not until recently have I really come to appreciate them for their role in their environment. Without them, the entire reef ecosystem would crumble. We all know the story: “big fish eats little fish”. The truth is that without sharks, the reef fish population would get out of control and the resources would quickly be depleted. In addition, sharks tend to eat the wounded, sick and slower moving members of the population, therefore controlling potential diseases, and allowing the strong to survive, which is good for the reef. So, not only are they super cool… they also super important!

As a dive guide, I get the chance to see sharks often around Maui and to point out to people where their regular hang-out spots may be. I love seeing people’s faces when I ask: “Who wants to see a shark?”. I usually get mixed reactions. Most people are excited to see a shark and really want to have the experience, but there are also people that are afraid or nervous about it. “SHARKS……..DID YOU SAY SHARKS????”. Some people have seen sharks before and are comfortable being in the water with them. They either dived with sharks before or do not have any preconceived notion about them. On the other hand, some people are VERY nervous and definitely not cool with seeing sharks. I would suspect that these folks have either seen a movie that portrayed sharks in a bad light or heard stories that did the same. Most of the time, this is second hand information. These people usually have not had a personal experience with sharks. That’s where I come in! I get the privilege of showing these folks how super cool and mellow sharks can be.

This does not mean that people are guaranteed shark sightings during every dive! Although there are places in Maui where sharks are seen regularly, especially white tips which are common on some Hawaiian reefs, in places such as Makena Landing, for example. If people are nervous or scared of the potential of seeing sharks, I prepare them during my dive briefing. “If you do not want to see a shark the drill is easy: when I give you the dive signal for shark (four fingers on the forehead), you should immediately close your eyes. When the shark is gone, I will tap you on the shoulder”. That’s the only way I know of guaranteeing that people will not see a shark if one is around.

In reality, when people do see a shark during a dive, this majestic animal inspires awe and exudes beauty with every move and I love to see people’s look turn from one of fear to one of excitement. With populations in decline and shark fining at an all time high it is more important than ever to protect these amazing animals. Some reports claim that there is over a 90% decline in some parts of the world since the 1950’s. This needless killing of sharks has to be stopped and you can do your part by educating your friends and family and being a responsible diver or fisherman. Now get out there and check out some of the coolest animals in the ocean!

Aloha, Jon