Sharks play a phenomenally important role in maintaining a balanced ocean eco-system, but the ocean’s shark populations are steadily declining. There’s no good reason for this beyond ignorance and fear. Our goal at Hawaii Shark Encounters is to shift the global perception of sharks back to the truth, and we believe we can do it, one personal encounter at a time.
Our staff has worked hard to design an eco-friendly tour that allows people to meet with sharks while causing little to no damage to the sharks’ natural environment. We achieve or exceed all guidelines set down by major Eco-tourism societies.
Take the opportunity to read our testimonials written by guests who were absolutely thrilled by their experience with us.
Section 1: Shark Conservation- A Global Challenge
Every year, between 23-70 million sharks are hunted and killed for their fins. (See “Finning”) Because sharks are slow to mature and reproduce, shark populations cannot replenish themselves fast enough to keep up with the speed at which they’re being slaughtered. As a result, shark populations are dwindling, and many different shark species are critically endangered.
If this was any other animal, there would be massive global outrage and a concentrated effort to make it stop. But how do we inspire people to respect and protect an animal that is consistently cast as a gruesome, blood-soaked villain in Hollywood movies?
One of the main challenges facing shark conservationists is reframing the global attitude towards sharks and educating the public about the critical role sharks play in maintaining a healthy ocean.
So why should we protect sharks?
More research is required to know exactly how individual shark species affect the environment, but overall, sharks work to maintain a clean and healthy ocean by keeping populations of other fish in control.
Over millions of years, sharks have evolved to eat very efficiently, going after the weak or the dying fish in the populations they hunt. A controlled population is a healthy population, but without sharks, the ocean would become a cesspool of dying or dead animals. Without sharks, the delicate eco-system would collapse.
How do shark tours benefit the shark conservation effort?
We have a lot of work cut out for us competing with movies and scary headlines that paint sharks as monsters. Our encounters provide a chance for the truth to overcome the hype and sensationalism that is so popular in mainstream media. Many of our guests are frightened of sharks and others are expecting a thrill-based adventure, but by the end, most come away with a completely different image of how sharks behave and interact.
Having a positive personal experience is the best way for a person to unlearn bad habits, and a well-supervised tour among experts can provide an experience that wipes away all of the horror movies we might watch in our lifetime. Changing the public’s attitude towards sharks goes a long way towards advancing shark conservation efforts, and shark experts and conservationists from around the world recognize the educational value of our tour.
Section 2: Eco-Tourism for Sharks
There are three main criteria for maintaining a good Eco-tourism business that we work to maintain at Hawaii Shark Encounters. First, we have created sustainable practices that don’t adversely affect the environment. Second, our tours include an educational component to make our guests aware of the importance of shark conservation. Lastly, we work to be an asset to our local community by creating jobs, drawing tourists and providing financial support.
Our tour causes very little environmental impact on the natural environments we explore, much less than a fishing or diving operation. Our tour always returns to the same location and shut off our engines. We also avoid reefs and anchors so we do not disturb the local marine life. We never capture or relocate sharks and we don’t troll to find them, which would waste fuel and cause unnecessary pollution. Our guests remain inside a cage for the duration of their encounter for their own safety and to cause minimum disturbance to the animals.
The sharks appear because it is their natural home, and they are free to come and go as they please. Our guests get to experience what sharks are really like when they’re free in the wild, an obvious advantage over watching a shark in an aquarium. See “Captivity Vs. Wild”
Raising Awareness of Environmental Issues and Concerns
While enjoying their encounters, our guests also have the opportunity to learn and ask questions about marine life. Our team is highly trained and educated, and they can provide in-depth information about shark life, behavior, and their important role in the ocean’s eco-system. We also teach our guests about the various threats to shark populations (finning, bycatching, etc.) and what they can do to become an advocate for shark protection.
To encourage active involvement, we stop to pick up floating debris and encourage our guests to note and report animals that have hooks in their mouths or have become entangled in garbage or discarded fishing nets. (This happens almost every tour!)
Our guests come from all over the world to experience our sharks, and in doing so, they are provided an example of what it looks and feels like when a community cares for its resources. North Shore has taken up many green initiatives, and the local community is stepping up to do their part to reduce their impact on their environment.
We don’t have to preach. By simply giving people an opportunity to experience the deep blue and the innumerable fascinating creatures that inhabit it, more and more people are committed to loving and caring for their environment. Many are inspired to become shark conservationists, particularly young people who go on to pursue studies in marine biology and environmental science.
Local Community Outreach and Support
As a small business that provides a unique tourism opportunity, Hawaii Shark Encounters creates jobs and draws tourists to Haleiwa, our local community.
Over the years, we have donated our time to many different school programs and after-school organizations, taking students on countless free educational tours to spark the students’ passion for wildlife conservation and pride in their home. We also donate to many local fundraisers by providing gift certificates for free shark tours.
Section 3: Captivity vs. Wild
For many people, aquariums and zoos are the only opportunities they’ll ever have to come into contact with the tremendous amount of wildlife this world contains, and as such, they provide an important educational tool.
Many of these institutions, such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Waikiki Aquarium have done extensive research on how to keep animals healthy while in captivity and have developed good practices for ensuring the welfare of their animals.
Still, sharks in particular are a very difficult animal to keep alive in captivity. This is because they are enormously sensitive to vibrations and electric currents common to the tubes, filters and lights inside a tank. Even the most innocent tap on the glass by a child is enough to disorient a shark and make it sick. Smaller species of shark can survive in captivity, but bigger species such as the great white or tiger sharks can only survive for one or two days in a tank.
While aquariums provide a valuable experience, true inspiration only comes from interacting with animals in their natural environment. Ask any conservationist why they do what they do, and they will most likely tell you a story about a real-life encounter with animals in the wild. This is because absolutely nothing can compare to watching an animal existing free in their natural environment.
If you are traveling and come across the chance to experience an animal in the wild, you should take advantage of it. These opportunities are becoming more and more rare, but the inspiration they provide will last for a lifetime.