Underwater fun January 2014

If you don’t already know it Steve and I are passionate and regular scuba divers.

The types of animals we come across under the water in our backyard, range from prawns in the Swan River, wild dolphins at Point Peron and sharks at Rottnest Island.

There is a lot of talk about sharks at the moment with the introduction of shark baiting and culling off the WA coast. As well as attending recent Shark Protection Rally’s at Cottesloe Beach, Steve and I have been scuba diving at Rotto.

My first Grey Nurse shark encounter

In fact, I came across my first Grey Nurse shark while scuba diving at ‘Low Caves’ in January.

I was following my diver buddy hubby in to a wide open cave when a 1.5metre Grey Nurse swam past us and continued on in to the cave.

It took my breath away and slowed my senses according to the video footage.

Yes, my initial reaction was one of fear and thus the hand holding toe GroPro stopped moving. But in the moment I also knew if that shark, in its home, had wanted to take a chunk out of me I would not have seen it coming. A healthy fear and respect for sharks is important and an understanding is even more important.

Scuba diving with a grey nurse shark

Grey Nurse sharks are generally not aggressive sharks and known affectionately within the diving community as the ‘Labrador of the ocean.’ The shark did not attack, it was curious. Perhaps it had heard the motors of our underwater scooters and wanted a closer look. Nonetheless it came within metres of us and kept swimming. Curious ourselves we following at a reasonable distance as it turned in the cave and swam away. When it was out of sight Steve turned to me and with the biggest grin on his face that went all the way to his eyes and he gave me two thumbs up like he was saying “That was cool!” It was cool, it was amazing, it was precious and it was sacred. The thought of that shark swimming to within one kilometre of WA shores and falling prey to a baited hook is very, very sad.

Stay calm and love sharks

Sitting amongst the 6,000 plus crowd at Cottesloe Beach listening to speakers share about the latest undersized shark to die from drowning after being caught on a baited hook, I cried. Listening to facts about the decreasing number of sharks and the $6,000 a day cost of the baiting program, I cried. Watching three WA Fisheries boats cruise past the rally on the way to check baited hooks instead of carrying out much-needed research and shark tagging programs, I cried. I realise people fear sharks and want to feel safe going in to the ocean however baiting and killing them cannot be the answer. Education, awareness and research are just some ways to address the issue of shark attacks.
Stay calm and love sharks

Tips to stay safe in the water

Below are some simple tips to keep you safe;

  • Swim between the flags at beaches patrolled by surf life savers
  • Swim with others
  • Avoid swimming during twilight hours or at night
  • Stay close to shore
  • Do not swim with an open wound or if menstruating
  • Avoid swimming in cloudy water or where animal, human or fish waste enter the water as these attract sharks

For more information visit www.fish.wa.gov.au | www.sharksmart.com.au