Great White Shark Under Siege
Dear Shark Divers,

Over the past few years Absolute Adventures-Shark Diver has advocated very strongly and successfully for self regulated eco use at the Gulf of the Farallons National Marine Sanctuary. Specifically eco-tourism regarding protected Great White Sharks. The thought at the time was that only local shark boat operators would know best how to interact with this protected species on a seasonal basis.

We sadly report to you today that this sensitive population of Great Whites is now "under siege" by multiple pleasure boats, and eco-tour operators during the months of September through November. Local pleasure boats have learned that deploying surfboards at the SEFI (South East Farallon Islands) elicit spectacular strike/attack responses from huge resident Great Whites.

They are also aware that chumming with fish parts and oil are not currently illegal. Most of this unregulated seasonal activity is directed at the small and sensitive populations of Great Whites located between Mirounga Bay and Fisherman's Cove at the SEFI. Currently there are no eco laws nor regulations directing the practice of attracting Great Whites in any manner. Imagine if you will not one, but nine to 14 boats all trying this activity each day for the critical three months a year when these magnificent Great Whites come to feed on Elephant Seals (Mirounga Angustirostris) as they have done for the past 10,000 years.

This feeding activity is vital to the Great Whites continued success at these islands. The concern is pressure being exerted on them at this critical time is in fact more than this population can bear.

We were also surprised to note in 2002 the Discovery Channel's Shark Week"Air Jaws Two" show, wherein 20 million viewers in California and the USA were shown how to make and deploy shark decoys for the express purpose of seeing protected Great White Sharks "fly" off the coast of California. This video and a host of shark watching flyers posted by pleasure boat owners in 2001-2002 are partially responsible in our opinion for the sudden and dramatic increase in non-regulated, non-permitted, pleasure boats and eco-tour operators at the sensitive Farallons shark site.

What we have at this point located within a protected National Marine Sanctuary is a powder keg waiting to go off, and the clear loser in this case is in fact the Great White Shark. Action Our company is now calling for a two-year moratorium on all commercial and non-commercial shark watching, shark bating/attraction, and cage diving operations effective this year in the form of a 2003-2004 Emergency Closure. We are not advocating a ban on boating, sport fishing and scuba diving, just any activity related to the specific attraction and harassment of Great Whites by multiple unregulated shark boat operators and pleasure boats. We are also requesting that an Environmental Impact Study is conducted with the cost of this study being burdened by all local operators seeking to be permitted after the study is complete in two years. Results from published and unpublished long-term studies on White Sharks from PRBO Conservation Science and its partner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which are well-respected and objective research organizations, will be made available during the moratorium and will be used for evaluation of management options developed under the EIS. Elsewhere in the world and in the USA it is common for interested parties involved in wildlife use/access issues to pay for the costs of
impact studies. Absolute Adventures-Shark Diver stands to lose $225,000 this year with a self-regulated pull-out of our operations at the Farallon islands in 2003-2004. It is a pull-out that we hope other shark boat operators will stand up and support rather than treating this protected species as a financial resource only. We seek no competitive advantage, nor any special consideration for our actions. What we are requesting is in the best interests of a protected species located within a National Marine Sanctuary, in US waters, and that is all. In the big picture eco-tourism operators are morally obligated to balance a fine line between good use and "exploitation".

We have a slim chance now to hold everything in place, two years is not a long time for eco-tour companies to wait until rules, regulations and permits come forward. Meanwhile our dive site in Isla Guadalupe, Mexico, which remains one of the world's best Great White Shark dive sites, is under no such environmental pressure, and as such we are booking expeditions for 2003-2004 right now and look forward to introducing you to "Los Propietarios" or "The Landlords" this year. We will also keep our divers updated to the ongoing status of this site. Please help us save protected Great White Sharks at the Farallons for future generations by sending us an email of support; we will forward these emails to NOAA, the GFNMS, and all other interested parties. One email can make a lot of difference to a protected species! Thank you for your support. Cheers, The Staff Absolute Adventures-Shark Diver

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