“If you’re on prime of the water, and also you simply see the fin, I believe it is extra scary as a result of it is the unknown. However if you end up underwater and also you see the shark it’s a lot much less scary. Once I noticed him for the primary time, he was greater than anticipated and a lot extra vibrant.”
That is what a 26-year-old lady, a vacationer from England, instructed researchers after happening in an aluminium cage into the uneven waters off the coast of Bluff, a southern seaport city in New Zealand, to look at the good white shark, the most important predatory fish on this planet.
Working in what they name one of many 5 nice white shark “hotspots” on this planet, two researchers, India-based Raj Aich and his British affiliate, Soosie Lucas, are learning how cage diving impacts human interplay with the good white shark.
Over the previous yr, the 2 have interviewed 150 cage divers – the youngest was 12 years previous, and the oldest was 70 – from some 20 nations. “Our analysis reveals divers taking part within the examine return with a constructive angle in direction of the sharks after a cage dive,” Dr Aich says.
“This helps them demystify the good white shark.”
The good white shark has suffered from a crippling picture downside ever for the reason that launch greater than 40 years in the past of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, a horror blockbuster a few shark that repeatedly assaults beachgoers in a resort city within the US.
“It’s as if God created the Satan and gave him jaws,” a voice drones within the trailer in regards to the movie’s topic, essentially the most maligned of the 500-odd species of sharks. It’s, the narrator says coldly, a “senseless consuming machine” which “lives to kill”.
Since then generations have grown up with the picture of a “man-eater” which glides from the ocean flooring to the floor, trying to find human prey to catch and tear aside with its serrated tooth. Many years after Jaws, scary photographs and stereotypes in regards to the shark are once more being perpetuated in rating-thirsty TV reveals. Two years in the past, a video of a diver escaping an encounter with an ideal white that smashed by the bars of a diving cage off the coast of Mexico went viral and provoked scary headlines.
A lot in order that the Worldwide Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Purple listing has put the good white on its ‘susceptible’ listing due to this “usually exaggerated menace to human security and virtually legendary ‘Large Fish’ standing”. The species, in keeping with IUCN, is focused as a supply of sports-fishing, looking (for jaws, tooth and even whole specimens preserved), sporadic human consumption or merely because the piscine whipping-boy of people pandering to shark assault paranoia”.
In actual life, the good white shark – the fish can weigh as much as two tonnes, develop to lengths of 20ft (6m), attain speeds of 40mph in water and reside fairly lengthy – prefers seals, sea lions, tuna, salmon and small toothed whales as prey. “They’re inquisitive, sharp and sentient beings,” Dr Aich says. “Generally I’m going down within the water after baits have been thrown, and the shark does not come to the boat. Or she is going to come for just a few seconds and go away. The shark’s will to come across people is pivotal.”
The good white shark, in keeping with shark specialist Craig Ferreira, can be “able to explosive violence, however is completely not a blood thirsty and aggressive animal, and its behaviour is centred on not changing into concerned in battle and fight, with fight being the final resort.”
Shark assaults have gone down through the years: there have been 84 circumstances of unprovoked assaults on people in 2016, in keeping with the Worldwide Shark Assault File. Between 2011-2016, there have been 82 such assaults yearly. Greater than half of the unprovoked assaults befell within the Continental north American waters.
Solely 13 fatalities have been attributed to nice white sharks in Western Australia since 1870, in keeping with Leah Gibbs, a senior lecturer in geography at Australia’s College of Wollongong.
Day-after-day, between December and June, two boats ferry a whole lot of vacationers who pay NZ$500 ($363;£262) every to climb into cages yoked to boats for a view of the undisputed ‘king of the ocean’ in 12-degree sea water. Attracted by tuna bait, the sharks swim to the turquoise blue waters the place the Tasman Sea and the Southern Ocean meet.
When the researchers spoke to cage divers close to Bluff, lots of them reported a “nice white epiphany”.
‘Calm and peaceable’
They discovered the shark “calm, peaceable and exquisite” to take a look at. Others discovered it “inquisitive and curious”. “It comes and appears on the cage simply to see what’s going on,” mentioned one vacationer.
Watching the good white, in keeping with a 60-year-old Canadian man, was a “shifting expertise, and there was no concern in any respect”.
“Individuals say all scary issues about sharks, and as a baby you’re moulded into sure beliefs. However I felt completely at peace with these animals,” he mentioned. “It is a fully completely different expertise for me than that I’ve seen on TV,” a honeymooning American couple instructed the researchers, “It appears they’re much extra docile”.
The jury is out on whether or not cage diving is an effective means to enhance interplay between people and sharks. Ladling tuna bait within the water to draw the fish creates an “unnatural state of affairs, resulting in unnatural behaviour by the sharks,”, George H Burgess, shark skilled on the Florida Museum of Pure Historical past, instructed me.
In New Zealand’s Stewart Island, the nation’s third-largest island and one other standard shark diving vacation spot, native fishermen have complained about sharks following and attacking boats.
In Jaws, Matt Hooper, a personality who performs an oceanographer and shark skilled, tells the the chief of police investigating the seaside deaths, “There’s nothing within the sea this fish would concern. Different fish run from greater issues. That is their intuition. However this fish does not run from something. He does not concern.”
Not fairly, as shark divers around the globe are starting to find.
Footage by Getty Photographs and Raj Aich