From coast to coast, Sharks have a reputation for being apex predators of the ocean. This week, Shark Addicts in Jupiter, Florida gave the SA Team an experience they’ll never forget! We arrived at Jupiter Pointe Marina just before One O’clock on a Friday Afternoon in June where we met Matt, Cameron, Mickey, and Cassie of Shark Addicts! They gave us a quick safety briefing and a rundown on what to expect on the water. The briefing began with by explaining the difference between the inshore and offshore habitats. Cameron and Matt elaborated by telling us that many shark attacks happen close to shore because of the abundance of bait, activity, and a lack of visibility. It is far less common for a shark to attack in water with clear visibility and less activity, but can still occur if you are careless, disrespect the animal, or if you are in between a shark and it’s food.
It was only a fifteen minute boat ride from the inlet to the diving grounds. We had a gorgeous sunny day, warm water, very flat seas, and a scenic ride past the Jupiter light house. No matter which way you look at it, it was still a 3 mile journey to what was sheer uncertainty for the SA Team. Despite the safety briefings, years of experience on the water has seen first hand what kind of destructive power these animals hold.
The way to attract sharks is pretty straight forward. Jupiter, Florida is the closest inlet to the Gulf Stream anywhere in the world. The Gulf Stream is a warm water Atlantic current that begins in the Caribbean and ends in North West Europe. The current carries migratory fish, sharks, and other sea life right by our coast very close to shore! The lead shark handler, Cameron halves a Bonita and ties it up in a weighted crate. The crate is lowered about halfway down the water column. It only takes a few minutes for the sharks on reef below to smell the bloody fish oil; before we knew it, the crate was floated to the surface, and we were surrounded by thirty sharks! Once the boat drifts close in, they bring everyone out of the water, and reset further out each time for the purpose of covering more area.
We’re not talking about Lemon or Nurse sharks either. These were full grown Silky Sharks, Dusky Sharks, but there were mostly Bull Sharks. Not only did we see a variety of sharks, but the amount that we had attracted was absolutely astounding. Despite our hesitation to get in the water with them, we know sharks are an essential component of our ecosystem. Each drift held more sharks than the last, so it was truly awe inspiring to see so many in our waters. It didn’t take long for us to become comfortable with the sharks either! One might say that they reminded us of dogs; They would swim up to smell you, circle around, and go about their business smelling the chum slick. It quickly became evident that these sharks had no intentions of harming us because they could easily tell what we are.
Some of the fish we saw included the Rainbow runner; a small cousin of the jack that produces sushi quality meat. We Red Tail Speedos’, which are a small cousin of the Sardine and the Mackerel. As always, the sharks brought the Remoras with them; Remoras are fish that stick to the sharks, they eat scraps of food sharks leave behind, and clean parasites off the sharks. We saw Blue Runners; also a member of the Jack family. What was most interesting to see was a 33″ Cobia following one of the Bull Sharks. Cobia are one of the most delicious fish in the Ocean, and are notorious for following the Bull Sharks for scraps. They can also be found mixed in with the Sting Rays, and sometimes on Turtles!
At the end of the third and final drift, Cameron brought everyone out of the water for the real show! Cameron tied a whole Bonita to a rope and began teasing the sharks up to it; hoping one would take a bite. A shark grabbed hold of the Bonita and shook it violently around beside the boat, leaving only a part of the tail. A true display of the shark’s power and hunting instincts. It was evident to us why sharks have swam the Earth for tens of millions of years; they are true apex predators and a very powerful embodiment of evolution at work.
While these misunderstood creatures of the deep were plentiful in American waters, some parts of the world are experiencing a real population crisis in their waters. Some areas of the globe such as Asia, The Mediterranean, and South/Central America have few to no regulations on sharks and many other species. They are taken for clothing, makeup, food, etc, in alarming numbers with no signs of stopping. Groups around the world do what they can to make a difference, but it’s such an uphill battle that many experts fear that it will take decades for these animals to rebuild their population. Shark Addicts is taking a stand by founding a nonprofit to benefit sharks called Increase The Shark Count! Anyone can help, by donating money, participating in beach cleanups, or even just spreading the message with your friends. It could truly make a world of difference for these sharks!