Saturday, March 16, 2013


In the late hours of March 12 news of the historic CITES Appendix II approval for five species of sharks spread like wildfire. This listing will require strictly controlled permits to export fins from not only the 3 species of hammerheads( great, smooth and scalloped), but also porbeagle and oceanic white tip sharks. With the recent publication of scientific findings estimating the numbers of sharks killed each to year to be approximately 100 million (range of 63 to 273 million) this is a groundbreaking moment seeing science and conservation triumph over politics and greed.

This is a historic accomplishment for our oceans and offers hope that voices will be heard and the hard fought efforts have and do make a difference.

This victory is worthy of celebration, but also a reminder there is still a great deal of work to be done. You don’t have to be an expert, a biologist, a diver or on the frontlines of conservation everyday to make a difference. Every person can make a difference!

YOU Can Help Sharks

For more information:

Shark Savers


Shark Defenders

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Bold and the Beautiful: Great Hammerhead Sharks

With my knees planted firmly in the white sand bottom, I watched as 6 great hammerhead sharks cruised around. It is a remarkable experience to encounter a solitary animal, but absolutely indescribable to witness 6 of these magnificent creatures in such close proximity. By far, one of the most amazing moments I have ever had. I am still having difficulty wrapping my head around it.

As they swim past they are bold, moving towards the bait, but show no aggression or agitation with divers. We are strangers in their world; on borrowed air and time in hopes of spending as much time as possible watching glide effortlessly through the water. I am sure our awe is not reciprocated as I imagine they are wondering what these bubble blowing, loud and awkward creatures are.

Meanwhile, across the globe in Bangkok, Thailand, people are gathered for the 16th Conference of the Parties to debate further protection of animals by CITES. Great hammerheads were a part of that debate, listed because of the similarity of their fins to the proposed scalloped hammerhead. Today the initial protection of the animals to be listed on Appendix II passed and the aftershock has been felt across the globe. This is a groundbreaking step in shark conservation and hopefully the momentum will continue for more species and for more restriction. This vote can still be overturned on Thursday’s plenary vote, but is a giant leap in the right direction.

There were some very powerful campaigns launched in favor of protecting these incredible animals and they prove that our voices will be heard and we can all make a difference. The Shark Defenders sent Shark Stanley around the world with the help of 10,000 supporters from 135 countries. PEW, Shark Savers and Project Aware were also instrumental in spreading the word and encouraging people to speak up on behalf of sharks.

A listing on Appendix II will mean strictly controlled permits will be required to export fins from not only the 3 species of hammerheads, but also of porbeagle sharks and oceanic white tips. Manta rays also saw approval, making it a “jawsome,” day for elasmobranchs.

Fingers, toes and fins crossed for Thursday’s vote.

Let’s make officially make 2013 The Year of the Great Hammerhead!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

2013: The Year of the Great Hammerhead Shark

As I write this, CITES CoP16 is underway. CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, is an international agreement between governments around the world. The goal is to ensure that the multi-billion dollar international trade of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES offers protections for over 30,000 species across the globe. Countries voluntarily join, but once a member they are legally bound to uphold the convention. This year the 16th meeting of the Conference of Parties (countries) is happening in Bangkok, Thailand and a proposal to include scalloped hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini) in the Appendix II listing has been submitted by numerous countries including, Costa Rica, Ecuador and 27 member States of the European Union. Great and smooth hammerhead sharks are being included in this listing because their fins look very similar when traded. Oceanic white tip sharks, porbeagle sharks and manta ray proposals have also been submitted.

2013 has certainly become the year of the great hammerhead shark, especially on the tiny island of South Bimini in the Bahamas. For nearly a decade the Bimini Biological Field Station (Sharklab)
and its staff have been developing sites to dive with and tag these amazing creatures. From January through March, the great hammerheads frequent these crystal clear waters and can be n close proximity to the coastline. Until this year, this aggregation had managed, for the most part, to stay off the radar. This created an ideal research and diving venue, uninfluenced by outside factors. This has all changed this year and the, "cat is out of the bag," so to speak with everyone and their uncle motoring to the shores of Bimini to have their moment in the world’s newest shark diving Mecca.

The shark diving community is small and the Internet has made the world even smaller, so in a short period of time news has spread to the far reaches of the globe in the form of images, social media posts, videos and blogs. Sadly, it has also not taken much time for bickering among boats, claims of discovery and touching/grabbing of the sharks to happen. No one owns these sharks, but the sharks, the scientists who study them and the island they are swimming around, should all be respected. I have shared two letters in a previous post about hammerhead shark diving protocols and encourage people to read them. The world deserves to see these animals and the more positive press and education that is spread, the better their chances of survival.

My first hammerhead encounter happened in 2007 off the coast of Key West, Florida. Since then I have only had a handful of encounters both diving and tagging these animals, but they have remained my favorite animal on the planet without question. The conservation media company my husband and I run has a hammerhead in the logo, we each have hammerhead tattoos that we got before we ever met and our wedding rings have 2 hammerheads engraved on them; we love these sharks.

The crystal clear water of Bimini and the shallow depth, make this an ideal place for photo and video; probably the biggest draw for the masses now flocking to Bimini. The sharks cruise in from the haze and circle around the bait. These charismatic predators are bold, but not aggressive or fearful. They have comical faces, with their mouth on the underside and large cartoon like eyes. They appear to be laughing at a joke or smiling for the camera. Power and grace, with a Cheshire cat smile. No, they do not have the characteristic sleek body or head sharks are known for, but even people who do not know much about sharks can identify a hammerhead.

Sadly, the rare and elusive nature of these creatures, which has catalyzed a global interest in photographing and filming them, is also the reason why research to better understand them is absolutely critical.

I feel truly blessed to have spent so much time with these magnificent animals and I hope that each and every person that slips beneath the surface around Bimini realizes how fortunate they are as well. It is not about getting the shot or filming in 4K; it is about sharing with the world why these animals need protection. Each image, each video clip, each blog, each story shared with friends, is so much more than just those things; it is an opportunity to spread awareness, educate the world and help make sure future generations can know the indescribable beauty of having a great hammerhead swim past.