Tom and I have wanted a whale shark encounter for so long, but it's honestly just a matter of luck in Hawaiian waters. While on a drop with an oceanic whitetip shark with a local friend of mine who was tagging the sharks for research, all of a sudden a large female whale shark appeared! This was my first wild whale shark, and it was an absolutely breathtaking moment when she appeared out of the depths and swam slowly towards us. For almost 2 hours, we got to enjoy her presence, swimming to keep up with her as she circled an underwater fish farm structure. She even surfaced to within inches of us a few times. I can only surmise she was slightly curious of us, too! She is the first whale shark tagged in Hawaii, and it'll be fascinating to find out what we can learn from her. Aside from humpback whales, she is the largest animal we've ever swam with. But she was so peaceful and swam with such precision and ease. It made us realize even more the need to protect these fascinating animals, sharks in general, and our beautiful blue planet. I'll have a more in-depth write-up soon. For now, enjoy these beautiful photos.
We compiled a quick video that showcases some of our encounters from this last year. Our hope is, it'll help inspire others to create change and help us protect our oceans. It's 8 minutes long so it's lengthy, but just picture David Attenborough charismatically narrating the whole thing, and it's worth the watch :)
Happy #WorldWildlifeDay! This year’s theme is #LifeBelowWater, which is very fitting for us and our research. We are trying to do everything we can to make a difference because what we do now will ultimately determine the future of marine life and the health of our oceans.
World Wildlife Day was created as an opportunity to celebrate the many varieties of plant and animal life and to raise awareness for conservation. It urges us to make a stand against wildlife crimes (like shark finning) causing the endangerment of many species that ultimately results in a loss of biodiversity. This loss creates holes in food webs, and can also cause entire ecosystems to collapse. The best thing we can do is spread the word, teach our youth, and make changes at an individual level with the goal of living a more sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyle.
This is a picture from one of the most memorable encounters we've ever had with sharks. There were over 200 scalloped hammerhead sharks, and they were very peaceful, allowing us to swim with them for almost an hour. In the background, we could hear a humpback whale singing. Sharks are top predators, and are vital to a healthy ecosystem. Losing them would spell disaster for our world’s oceans. Unfortunately, scenes like this are becoming a thing of the past as sharks are being killed at record-breaking numbers all over the world.
One of the most prominent illegal industries is shark finning for shark fin soup. Shark fin soup is a specialty dish usually served at weddings and events in China, but it can be found worldwide. The shark fins themselves only provide texture to the soup, as they are tasteless. But fins drive a hefty profit, so sharks are brutally killed for their fins all over the world. For more info, we strongly suggest watching the work done by Rob Stewart and his documentaries Sharkwater and Sharkwater Extinction. They are tough to watch, but they have great info into this lucrative business of shark exploitation.