With mako and blue sharks you can also dive
Clara has been working with shark ecotourism operators in Baja California Sur for 5 years. She develops programs for shark conservation through ecotourism, citizen science and research. Clara has worked with Mexican government institutions for the inclusion of mako sharks in the Appendix II of CITES. She has a degree in Marine Biology and a Master’s degree in Oceanography and Management of Marine Resources and a postgraduate course with UNAM (Autonomous University of Mexico) on Underwater Research Techniques and Scientific Diving. Motivated by her passion for sharks and her vision of ecotourism as a study platform for their conservation, she moved to Baja California Sur, Mexico.
The Shark Odissey
In 2016, Clara founded The Shark Odyssey with the aim of involving the general public in shark conservation through scientific knowledge on shark biology, citizen science methods and encounters with sharks in their natural habitat. In these 5 years working as a marine biologist and safety diver with the shark tour operator Cabo Shark Dive. Clara has learned first-hand how to turn this operation into a tool, not only to demystify these animals, but also to establish methodologies for scientific data collection during the activity. With the same goal, she also collaborates with Mako Pako, in the Basque Country, and Sotamar Shark Tour in the Costa Brava, Spain, among others.
Mexico Azul Foundation
Since 2017, Clara is the director of Mexico Azul Foundation, and among other projects, the Mako Shark Photoidentification Software is one of the most innovative since it counts on artificial intelligence and the support of AI For Earth from Microsoft for its development.
“Chuming” the unknown face of swimming with sharkss
Shark diving tourism is a trending topic. We have all heard the quote “Sharks are worth more alive than dead”. But while in some locations of the world sharks can be spotted naturally, there are certain species that can only be observed by using methods known as “attraction methods”. These species, such as short fin mako sharks (Isurus oxyrinchus) and blue sharks (Prionace glauca), are characterized by being elusive, highly migratory, and inhabit open waters.
Not all shark
attraction methods involve feeding them.
Can these attraction techniques modify the behavior and life cycle of sharks?
The answer will vary depending on:
- The area where the activity takes place (reefs and shallow waters, or open waters)
- The species to be observed (resident and territorial or migratory species)
- The attraction techniques used.
Chumming is the practice of attracting sharks by throwing “chum” into the water. This soup is poured from the boat continuously to create the olfactory path that the shark will follow from open water to our spot.
This is the most used technique to work with very mobile species and in open water and deep areas.
Visual presentation of a piece of fish or a fake pray, tied to a rope. Here the shark may or may not bite the bait, but it is not feeding as such. It is useful to keep the shark interested nearby the boat.
Offering pieces of fish that the shark ingests, can be passive or active (the latter when the diver offers the fish with his or her hand). This is the mode of attraction a bit more intense and it is usually practiced in static, bottom dives in shallow water and usually with scuba diving tanks.
- Allows increased shark sightings for tour operators to offer the activity. Let’s not fool ourselves, without some attraction, many pictures of mako sharks would not be possible.
- “We protect only what we love, we love only what we understand”, through the interaction a change in the public perception towards these animals is generated improving shark’s reputation.
- Scientists have the opportunity to observe sharks in their natural habitat and to obtain fisheryindependent data.
- A local economic revenue is generated that benefits the local community, as participants invest in hotels, restaurants and other indirect costs in the area of the activity.
This tourism industry can result in an impact on management plans for the protection of sharks, such as the establishment of Marine Sanctuaries.
- Many individuals of the same species can congregate at the same point, creating changes in their habitat use.
- During cage diving, animals can be injured by bumping or biting into metal.
- In the case of reef sharks, they may spend more time near the surface or change their daily vertical movements.
There is a certain risk of negative interaction with humans, which may increase the possibility of an incident due a higher encounter probability.