White Tip Reef Sharks – Shark Diving Cabo
by Laura Tyrrell PADI Instructor and guide at Cabo Trek
When we think of sharks I’m sure most of us born cerca to the Jaws generation will conjure up images of man-eating robotically-enhanced sea monsters waiting just off shore for a tasty human feast. This, readers, is very much NOT the case. Sharks with the worst reputation (think great whites, tiger sharks and bull sharks) have had a nibble or two on a surfer here or a swimmer there most probably through mistaken identity hoping more for an injured animal than that yucky human leg. Have you seen how much a surfer looks like a turtle from underneath their board? In any case, sharks come in all shapes and sizes so we must resist lumping them all into this ‘jaws’ category: most are afraid of the loud clumsy movement of humans and stay well out of our way.
We are lucky enough to have reef and nurse sharks at many dive and snorkel sites in the waters of Los Cabos and they allow us to get close enough to observe them in their natural habitat. I have dived and snorkeled at Pelican Rock hundreds of times and they haven’t tried to nibble my leg once.
The most common local shark sighting is of whitetip reef sharks at Pelican Rock: What are they? What do they do? The small, slim whitetip doesn’t normally exceed 1.6m and congregates in small rock caves below 30ft. Unlike other sharks they do not need to swim in order to pass oxygen through their gills and for this reason they are able to lie still. It is possible, therefore, to approach them from below nice and slowly and get quite close. Move too quickly or descend above them and they will swim away trying to find some space. They rest alone or in groups. During the day they conserve energy for the nighttime hunt where they eat anything from various bony reef fish, crustaceans and octopus.
The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) has classified the white tip as Near Threatened. Like all shark species the reproductive age is late (around 2 years old) the gestation period is long (between 10 and 13 months) and they don’t birth many pups. Global overfishing means fish stocks are at all time low reducing food supplies for this apex predator. And it’s not just the whitetip that’s in trouble. Sharks are going extinct: 90% of sharks have been wiped out in 40 years thanks to overfishing, destructive fishing practices, the shark finning industry and human impact. Without sharks the reef ecosystem will fail and in turn the coral reef, which produces the world’s oxygen, will die. Never has it been so important to protect the sharks we have left: to take this opportunity to observe them in their own environment and to educate future generations. So, for all you sports fishermen out there, please think twice before bringing a shark back to the marina. If you want to see a shark, go diving instead?
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