gmhTODAY 12 gmhToday Jan Feb 2017 - Page 86

“The rule of law for cage diving? One touch and you’re out, on deck for the rest of the trip. Not only is it dan- gerous for the diver and a liability for the crew, but by touching sharks and other marine animals we wipe off the beneficial parasites that coat their skin and provide their natural immunity in the wild. I’ve been diving since 1989 and I admit the urge to reach out and touch that majestic, utterly magnificent creature as it swam by was hard to resist. Next, the crew on deck pierced whole frozen tuna with thick rope and threw them into the water, jerking the bait up and down to tantalize and excite the sharks. It worked. “During my first cage dive, a great white came from out of nowhere. Like a 747, a bolt of white lightning, it shot past us on a quest for the tuna as our crew yanked it into the air. Frustrated, the shark whipped around and came at us, gnashing its huge jaws lined with thousands of multi-layered, serrated teeth on the bars of our cage.” “I was awed, scared and mesmer- ized at the same time. These powerful creatures have been hunting the world’s oceans for millions of years. Predation begins in the womb. The first pups to hatch eat the unborn eggs. Once they fly the coop, mom or dad may decide Carcharodon carcharias THE GREAT WHITE SHARK navigates the coastal waters of all the Earth’s major oceans. Mature females stretch to an average of 15-17 feet, with males measuring about 10-13 feet long. These apex predators can weigh in at a hefty 4000-5000 pounds. But listen up people! Their life expectancy is about 70 years. I dare say, plenty of time to figure out how to match wits with humans in dive suits who, in a shark’s world, look like a yummy seal dinner! While great whites are solitary hunters, their only natural predator, the orca, likes to hunt in pods. Their greatest enemy? Fishermen who continue to capture them, cut off their fins to sell for pricey shark fin soup, and throw them back, finless, leaving them with no recourse but to drown in their own home. As the world’s leading aquariums have discovered, great whites taken in during the decades- long interval between birth and sexual maturity never reproduce, making population recovery and growth difficult. They not only maintain the health of the marine food chain by eating the sick and weak, but they are self-appointed and very effective garbage collectors…they keep our oceans clean. 86 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017