Topside view of the action
Shark Dives, or organized shark feedings, are an exhilarating way for people to interact with and experience one of the world's most amazing creatures. All around the world, dive operations spend years developing dives where they can present their guests with an up-close and personal encounter with live, active sharks. Here in the Bahamas, "the Shark Diving Capitol of the World," it is estimated that each live shark generates tens-of- thousands of dollars in annual tourist revenue. All throughout the islands of the Bahamas, you can find shark dives offered, each one slightly different than the next, but all of them thrilling.
At the BBFS, we've organized a Shark Dive of our own, used both for research purposes, and as an introduction to the world of sharks for our visitors. At a shallow water site, just a few short miles south of the Sharklab, lies a beautiful coral reef line where over the years we have been conducting our shark feeding. A small sandy clearing in the reef, referred to as 'the Arena', marks the site in only about 15 feet of water.
Sharks passing near the
Once our boats are positioned near the Arena, anchors are dove to the bottom to avoid damaging the coral patches dominating the area. Snorkel gear is all that is needed, as a float-line is then strung out from the boat that organizes our divers into a 'wall' of people hovering just below the surface. Over the years, the sharks at this site have become accustomed to the sound of our boats and the presence of our divers, and they will begin to gather even before any food or attractant is presented.
After the anchors and lines are adjusted and secured, the divers enter the water and congregate onto the float-line. Small pieces of fish are then thrown from the boat at the surface of the water, and the feeding begins. Sharks dash, spin, and splash at the surface of the water in an attempt to get their share of the free food. The entire mass of sharks can be directed closer or further from the boat simply by throwing the bait near or far. Divers on the float-line are given a close-up look at these amazing animals, and able to view and photograph them as the sharks scramble for the bait.
By far the most abundant species of sharks that participate in the BBFS Shark Dive are Caribbean Reef sharks (C. perezi) and Blacknose sharks (C. acronotus). Although several other species of elasmobranchs may pay a visit as well, including Nurse sharks, Blacktip sharks, Lemon sharks, Great Hammerheads, Southern Stingrays, and Spotted Eagle Rays. Large turtles even show up sometimes to see what all the commotion is about. And along with the feeding sharks, Yellow-tail Snapper, Triggerfish, Horse-eye Jacks, Bermuda chubs, Nassau grouper and loads of other fish show up to compete for the fish snack. After the bait is gone, the sharks and other fish soon disperse and move back out over the reef.
While it is always a hugely exciting spectacle, the BBFS utilizes this Shark Dive for research purposes as well. Having a large, reliable population of sharks offers opportunities for experiments that would take months, or even years, to carry out in completely "wild" conditions. Shark Defense Inc. has been conducting the vast majority of their chemical shark repellent testing at the Arena over the last few years, and countless film crews have found their way down to the BBFS Shark Dive for shark footage as well.
Caribbean Reef Shark
The BBFS also frequents other areas around Bimini for interactions with different species of sharks, including Blacktip sharks, Bull sharks, and Lemon sharks. While less reliable than the Shark Dive at the Arena, the BBFS is working on conditioning these sharks to respond to a similar situation. Keeping our Shark Dives spread out at random dates and times, and by only using small amounts of bait, we can be assured that none of the sharks participating at the dives becomes reliant on us for food, or dramatically alter their behavior as a result of our interactions with them. While interacting with any wild animal presents a certain amount of risk, no one has ever been seriously hurt or injured during one of the BBFS Shark Dives.