Shark Interaction - Shark Behavior Dives

Our shark interaction - shark behavior dives are done on either the Xmas Tree Wall with the second dive on the Pinnacle or either the Man Cave or Fork in the Wall and the second dive on Thick finger reef. Each of these 2 tank dive sites consists of a wall dive and then a shallower dive. Most of the sharks you are likely to see are Reef sharks or Black Tips in varying numbers up to 6 feet in length. There will be a 20 minute lecture and videos on shark behavior and shark interaction prior to leaving the dock to ensure the divers are familiar with how to act in the presence of sharks and have seen on video what they will be experiencing while diving with the sharks. We require a minimum of five (5) divers, with a max of eight (8) divers, to conduct the dive. The cost of the dive is $190/diver + 7.5% VAT for the 2 tank dive.

Shark dive procedure

1. General Situation 
The sharks are generally curious and approach the divers in anticipation of a possible feeding via the chumsicle. The Xmas Tree Pinnacle site is used by Ocean Fox Cotton Bay, and infrequently by a couple of live aboard dive boats out of Nassau, as a shark feeding site. We only do chumsicle shark feedings with experienced divers (see Shark Feeding Dive for more details).

2. The dive 
For the wall portion of the dive we go down the wall to a maximum depth of 100', with the top of the wall being around 55-60'. The visibility is generally in excess of 100', so if a diver does not want to drop to 100' they can stay above the group at a depth which they are comfortable. The sharks will come out over the wall and either come from above the divers and down or come up from below.

For the second dive we are in and around either the pinnacle or Thick Finger reef with a sand bottom off the reefs with a depth of about 50'. The sharks will come around the divers generally swimming within 5-10 feet of the divers.

3. Do's and don'ts 
As is written in the PADI dive manual, do not touch or tease marine creatures as you may harm them or they may harm you. You should never exhibit any aggressive behavior toward a shark. Using good buoyancy control you swim with your arms across your chest and move slowly, especially when the shark(s) are nearby; never waive your arms or swim at a rapid pace or exhibit panic type behavior. If you want the sharks to come closer to you, kneel on the bottom with your arms folded and they will come closer as you are now in the position they recognize as a feeding position; or if floating off bottom remain as still as possible and they will come closer. Do not attempt to touch or pet the sharks, this can trigger aggressive behavior.

If you feel uncomfortable at anytime, get with your buddy and move from a horizontal position to a vertical position; this demonstrates to the shark how large you are and they will likely turn away. Always look directly at the shark, use your hands to rotate to keep them in view. Rise slowly off the bottom to a height off bottom of 10-15' and the sharks will likely stay below you searching the sandy bottom for food.

Before doing a shark dive you will be briefed about how to handle yourself on the dive, by our Instructor.

Caribbean reef shark eating lionfish

The Lionfish

Lionfish are not native to the waters of the western Atlantic which is where the Islands of the Bahamas are located and they are destroying the sensitive marine ecosystems at an alarming rate. These guys are insatiable eaters and they impact both the commercial, as well as the species of fish critical to the ecology of the reefs. Lionfish because of their venomous nature do not have any natural enemies and they are simply eating and reproducing their way through the Atlantic and Caribbean … devastating the indigenous species as they go, well until we taught the Caribbean Reef sharks to eat them, ask us about how we did that, great story.

The most probable explanation for the arrival of lionfishes in the Atlantic Ocean is via the aquarium trade (Whitfield et al. 2002; Semmens et al. 2004). 

Lionfishes are established along the Atlantic coast of the USA (from the Florida Keys to Cape Hatteras), the Caribbean coasts of Central and South America, the Gulf of Mexico, and throughout the Greater Antilles, Leeward and Windward Islands.  See Schofield 2010 for details.

Research by Albins and Hixon (2008) on small patch reefs in the Bahamas provided the first evidence of negative effects of lionfish on native Atlantic coral-reef fishes.  The recruitment of coral-reef fishes was studied during the 2007 recruitment period (July-August) on small patch reefs in the Bahamas with and without lionfish.  Over the five week period, net recruitment (i.e., accumulation of new juvenile fishes via settlement of larvae) was reduced by 79% on reefs with a single lionfish compared to reefs with no lionfish.  Stomach content analyses and observations of feeding behavior showed that reductions in native fish density were almost certainly due to predation by lionfish.  Prey items found in lionfish stomachs included the fairy basslet, bridled cardinal fish, white grunt, bicolor damselfish, several wrasses, striped parrotfish, and dusky blenny.  Initial examination of crustacean prey suggests that lionfish may also eat the juvenile spiny lobster.  The reduction in recruitment of coral-reef fishes suggests that lionfish may also compete with native piscivores by monopolizing this important food resource.  In addition, lionfish have the potential to decrease the abundance of ecologically important species such as parrotfish and other herbivorous fishes that keep seaweeds and macro algae from overgrowing corals.

When we do feed the sharks, we “feed them Lion fish, save the reefs and save the sharks.” While we strongly discourage people from attempting to do what we have done unless you are trained and skilled in shark interaction - shark behavior, we have taught the sharks to recognize lion fish as food. Remember, lion fish are invasive so sharks do not see them as food. However through a series of events while filming for the "Shark & Lion" video by Florian Fischer at Behind-the-Mask.com, the sharks created a visual recognition for lion fish as food; since then they have proceeded to almost eliminate lion fish on South Eleuthera. We typically see 0-2 lion fish per dive and before the lion fish were everywhere. Sharks saving the reefs, what a wonderful experience.