Swimming with Silkies: Nature-Based Tourism in Cabo San Lucas

Last Friday (November 17, 2017) I had the pleasure of snorkeling with Silky Sharks (Carcharhinus falciformis) in the Sea of Cortez just outside of Cabo San Lucas, Baja. I went out with a nature-based tourism company, Cabo Shark Dive. In the early afternoon, we departed from the Cabo marina and headed out passed the arch, known locally as El Arco.

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Flannery, A. (Photographer). (2017 November 17). The Arch [Digital Image].

While visiting the arch we made a quick pass by the resident California Sea Lion colony. They did not even bother to look up from their nap as we passed by.

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Flannery, A. (Photographer). (2017 November 17). Seal Lion Colony [Digital Image].

After a 30 minute boat ride heading northeast along the coast, we reached 2,000 feet (609.6 m) deep blue waters. The crew chummed the water for about an hour before the first shark decided to come check it out. Chumming is a controversial practice among shark experts. Some argue that the feeding of sharks may alter natural feeding behaviors, teaching sharks to associate food with humans. Kind of like ringing Pavlov’s Bell for sharks (Chambers, 2016). Other studies have shown that feeding does not alter natural feeding behaviors and migration patterns (Hammerschlag, Gallagher, Wester, Luo, & Ault, 2012). The owner of CSD, Jacopo Brunetti, he states that they rarely ever see the same shark twice. Until further research deems the practice unethical, chumming is a legally regulated practice.

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Flannery, A. (Photographer). (2017 November 17). Silky Shark Approaches Bait [Digital Image].

Silky sharks are named for their skin. Unlike many shark species which have rough skin, the silky shark has incredibly smooth, silk-like skin. Because of this, the silky shark is sometimes targeted by the shark-leather trade (Parker, 2008).

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Flannery, A. (Photographer). (2017 November 17). Female Silky Shark [Digital Image].

Thirty minutes into our dive, a second silky joined the party.

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Flannery, A. (Photographer). (2017 November 17). Silky Sharks [Digital Image].

And she was very curious of the weird humans in her environment compared to her shy companion.

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Flannery, A. (Photographer). (2017 November 17). Curious Silky [Digital Image].

The CSD crew were kind enough to snap a couple of photos of me with a silky as she glided passed me.

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Cabo Shark Dive (Photographer). (2017 November 17). Amanda with Silky Sharks [Digital Image]. Retrieved via personal communication.

The afternoon was very enjoyable. I had a great time out of the boat and in the water. However, I must state that I do not consider CSD to be ecotourism as defined by the IUCN as they do not promote conservation or education to their guests, nor do they benefit local peoples. For these reasons I consider them to be ethical nature-based tourism. That aside, the crew was very professional and created a wonderful experience, but I personally would have liked to see more focus on conservation education.

Flannery, A. (2017 November 22). Silky Sharks in Cabo San Lucas, Baja November 17 2017 [Video Clip].

The new Ocean For Sharks Shop is open! There’s handmade ocean inspired plush animals, canvas paintings, and of course my children’s book, Winifred the Wondrous Whale Shark, available in print and PDF. Be sure to stop by. Remember proceeds benefit shark research and conservation with a donation to Project AWARE!

Remember you can make a difference for marine ecosystems by calling your Congress man or woman and tell them that you care about the quality of our waters! Sharks, rays, and other marine organisms cannot speak or be represented in Congress. They need your voice. Get involved and stand up for sharks. Until next time finatics.

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Featured Image Source

Flannery, A. (Photographer). (2017 November 17). Silky Sharks in Cabo San Lucas [Digital Image].

Literature Cited

Chambers, D. (2016). Baiting sharks may be really good- or really bad- for the fish. Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/

Hammerschlag, N., Gallagher, A. J., Wester, J., Luo, J., & Ault, J.S. (2012). Don’t bite the hand that feeds: Assessing ecological impacts of provisioning ecotourism on an apex marine predator. Functional Ecology, 26(3), 567-576.

Parker, S. (2008). The encyclopedia of sharks (2nd ed.). Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books Ltd.

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The Whale Sharks of La Paz

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Featured Species: Grey Reef Shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos)

 

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