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Shark Diving can contribute to Shark Science!

 New Girl the tiger shark.

New Girl the tiger shark.

There has always been a love hate relationship between shark divers and shark researchers. Researchers have been very vocal about there dislike (some, but not all) for shark diving. Of course, Shark Divers have been very vocal about their dislike (again some, but not all) for shark research and their methods.

I admit I have been very vocal in the past about my dislike for shark research. Although, like I have mentioned in the past, I get it and I understand the need for some of it.  And some shark researchers have also been VERY vocal in their thoughts on me and shark diving; how I am invasive and shouldn't touch sharks or feed them, molest them…It goes on and on.

Not that I don't respect shark researchers (the legit ones) for their importance and contribution to shark protection. And yes, I have been involved with shark tagging programs in the past.  But I am just too huggy, kissy with sharks for me to ever be comfortable with it. 

I know shark research is important. But there is so much more to be learned, beyond just hooking sharks, taking blood and measuring them. A lot could be gained by visiting shark diving sites and just observing, especially popular ones like Tiger Beach. These places are great laboratories for sharks; how social they are, their hierarchies, mating behaviors, healing abilities, the relationships between species, etc. - So many stories, so much science. But, as I have been told, this is not a natural setting so it would not be real science. 

However to prove my point on how important these dive sites are, I was finally able to contribute to shark research. On December 2nd of 2014 I filmed one of our resident tiger sharks, New Girl with fresh mating scars. She showed up with two chunks taken out of her tail fin. I remember seeing her, thinking that was not good. She arrived that day super skittish, which is normal behavior when a shark shows up with fresh scars. It takes them a little while to settle down. She never did come in close though. In fact that was the only dive we saw her during that trip. 

Less than a year later (October 12, 2015), she showed up completely healed. Which was wild because I had no idea they could do that. (and before it is questioned, yes it is the same shark, I know this is her, because she has a very unique color pattern on her left side that easily identifies her.) 

What this shows is that sharks (or some species of sharks) can regrow sections of their fins back. It is known that they heal quickly, but that fins can regrow is pretty new. It makes sense since shark sex is so violent. I had documented this in my journal (I do this with my tiger sharks here). and got lucky enough to record it on video.  So I shared it with the research community, asking if this was commonly known. Some forms of it were known, but for the most part It was not. 

Although, this is research that has not been published and probably never will. Don't really care about that. All I know is that footage I captured was passed along the researcher channels and discussed. Which excites me, because it proves that shark diving sites can contribute to science, beyond just hooking them. Maybe some researchers will still disagree with me on that…some, but hopefully not all.