Our Approach & Attitude towards the Feeding of SharksBy Pro Dive International’s CEO & Founder Markus Fleischmann
“Here at Pro Dive International, we are generally against shark feeding. On one hand, due to the fact that this practice interferes with the natural food chain, and on the other hand, because it leads to the shark’s critical association of human = food. For this reason, we refrain from offering ANY kind of feeding dives with bull sharks at Shark Point nor in the immediate vicinity to those feeding places, as one of the very few dive operators in this region.
Our Philosophy: We do not benefit from any sensationalism and money-making at the expense of the animals, in the long-term.
Meanwhile, Pro Dive International – Mexico has established diving with bull sharks itself, namely with a higher goal – to actively save and protect the sharks. What prompted us to do so is a longer story, which I will be happy to explain:
Background information: Bull sharks, like other species of sharks, are subject to overfishing in Mexico, and are sold in supermarkets and restaurants for consumption. If this wasn’t enough, a few years ago, the local fishery authority SAGARPA issued a “license” to a fisherman to “control” the local shark population. The said fisherman, however, was neither interested in a balanced ecosystem nor in the survival of sharks. He rather saw this license as an “invitation to kill”. He killed as many sharks as he possibly could – among them the divers’ much respected bull sharks, as well as tiger sharks, hammer heads and black tip sharks, and boasted as a tireless shark hunter in social media. Though he caused an outrage in Playa del Carmen and among friends of sharks globally, he held the required license. The summit of this shark massacre was reached when he slaughtered 7 pregnant bull shark females in one winter. People were afraid of a disastrous local collapse of generations, as a result.
Rethinking: When this happened, it transgressed all limits: This madness had to come to an end! It was essential to make the authorities understand and appreciate that a living shark was way more valuable than a dead one. Moreover, the local tourism industry benefits more from animals that are alive, and many former fishermen meanwhile prefer to work as boat captains to stabilize their income. The animals need ambassadors and savers, which we establish with bull shark dives according to our principles and without feeding.
– We focus on the familiarization of our guests with the creature bull shark in its very natural habitat.
– We deliver background information, shed light on it, convert the fear of sharks into respectful fascination.
– We support shark conservation, and win new supporters locally, as well as internationally.
Intermediate results: We started to collaborate with a few dive shops of this “Shark Zone”, including the local non-profit organization www.savingoursharks.org. In joint efforts, we unified official rules and created a binding manual for everyone for safe diving procedures with bull sharks.
Status Quo/ Intermediate success: In the meantime, the official handbook for “Diving with Bull Sharks” exists. This means a first enormous step in the direction of shark conservation. Due to those efforts, the local authorities have recognized that it is absolutely worth saving the bull sharks. CONANP (national park authority), SEMARNAT (environmental authority), MUNICIPIO (town hall), as well as the harbor master and internationally renowned marine biologists have been meeting to further discuss protective measures.
Bull Shark Diving with Pro Dive International in Mexico: In collaboration with Saving Our Sharks, our dive guides take transmitters with them to collect important data from the animals that are marked with GPS transmitters and send them to the biologist for further research. In addition, with each bull shark dive, our divers support the projects of Saving Our Sharks, as Pro Dive International donates US$ 5 of each purchased shark dive to this organization.
Bull Shark SHARKSCHOOL™: The collaboration with Dr. Erich Ritter and WIRODIVE in regards to the Organization of a SharkSchool™ – seminar in Playa del Carmen is an additional important step towards the conservation of “our” sharks.