Shark Diving with Two Seasoned Experts
Rene Bobadilla and Paradise Below Diving have teamed up with South African native and shark expert Ivan Rutzen to provide an up close and thrilling experience diving with sharks. Ivan has been involved with the shark diving industry for over 15 years and has been an integral part of developing a sustainable conservation-minded plan based on strict protocols. This Paradise Below shark diving experience has the intentions of viewing these animals as naturally as possible and at the same time educate divers and allow participation in and contribution to ongoing shark research.
We offer the Paradise Below shark diving experience in Jupiter, West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Riviera Beach, and Palm Beach Gardens.
Wide Variety of Shark Species
Due to the proximity of the Gulf Stream to the Palm Beach area and the consistently straight geography of the Florida coast, a wide variety of shark species are seen off the coast of Palm Beach throughout the year. Lemon, Tiger, Bull, Nurse, Hammerhead, Dusky, Caribbean Reef and Silky sharks are not uncommon sightings.
Shark Populations are Declining
It is painful to think some regional shark populations have declined by 90-99%.
Because of the fast paced boom-bust cycle of shark fisheries, an emerging understanding of their biological vulnerability and especially the negative cascading effects throughout entire ecosystems, concerns were raised to a new height in the early 2000’s.
It is well known that healthy shark populations are integral to maintaining the health of marine ecosystems. For this reason, scientists are busy collecting data to be used by fisheries managers to create regulations to ensure the sustainability of the shark populations. Global, regional, national, and local science-based rules and regulations are slowly being enacted to protect sharks but there is always more work to be done.
Paradise Below Diving gives you a unique opportunity to help with this ongoing research by asking you to contribute what you experienced on your shark dives.
Educational and Research-Contributing Shark Dives
Operated as two tank baited dives, divers will be able to observe the animal but will not intentionally interact with the sharks. After the dives, we will ask for your input, discuss shark behavior observations, the shark species encountered on the dive and discuss any identification markers seen on the animals. Your input will assist ASC’s research and you will earn a greater understanding and appreciation for the sharks and the threats they face here off the coast of South Florida. Paradise Below will contribute a portion of each dive booking to ASC’s important research and education development.
If interested in acquiring an Advanced Open Water and Nitrox certification for shark diving, please contact us for course details.
A Quick History about Sharks:
Did you know sharks have been around for 450 million years? They have survived 5 global extinction events and they continue to evolve. For tens of thousands of years, humans have considered sharks as gods, competitors and predators. Even so, in the past 30 years with advances in technology and shifts on market trends, humans now see sharks as a product to be harvested.
Sharks you may see on a Florida Shark Dive:
Pale yellow-brown, second dorsal about as large as first, common in Atlantic Ocean along the coasts of the U.S. to Brazil & in areas on West African coast, & Pacific Ocean from Baja California to Ecuador
- Size at maturity: 7.3ft males, 7.8ft females, Max size: 11ft
- 10-12 month gestation period, litters have several fathers, females return to natal sites to
- give birth
- Juveniles show high site fidelity, adults are commonly found in aggregations
- Feed mainly on teleosts, crustaceans & octopods, & as they grow the diet is dominated by teleost and cartilaginous fishes
Lemon Shark Conservation
IUCN: Near Threatened, population trend unknown, caught commercially on longlines and the meat is dried, salted, or smoked, the fins fetch a very high price, also caught in recreational fishing, prohibited in Florida waters.
Solid, broad-headed, grey above shark, worldwide distribution in tropical and warm temperate areas, seasonally in cool, temperate waters, moves into estuarine and fresh waters, observed to tolerate hypersaline conditions up to 53 parts per thousand (ppt) (sea water is approximately 35 ppt)
- Males mature at 157-226 cm (5.1-7.4 ft) and females at 180-230 cm (5.9-7.5 ft)
- Total length reaches 340 cm (11 ft)
- Diverse diet including turtles, birds, dolphins, terrestrial mammals, crustaceans, echinoderms, teleost fishes and elasmobranchs
- Litter sizes range from 1-13 , gestation period is 10-11 months, with birth normally occurring in late spring and summer
Bull Shark Conservation
IUCN: Near Threatened, population trend unknown, caught as bycatch or as part of a multi-species fishery, potentially impacted by pollution and habitat modification
Slim, dark grey or grey brown above, long narrow pectoral fins, oceanic & coastal-pelagic shark is circumglobal in tropical waters, found at depths of 600ft or more
- Size at maturity: 6 – 7ft males, 7 – 7.5ft females
- Max lengths: 11 ft
- A live bearer, usually having around 6-12 pups every 1-2 years, gestation period is 12 months
- Feed on sea catfish, mullets, mackerel, yellowfin tuna, albacore, porcupine fish and other fish species, cephalopods
Silky Sharks Conservation
IUCN: Near Threatened, population decreasing, target species or by catch in certain pelagic fisheries, particularly purse seines, one of the top 3 most important species in the shark fin trade
Grey, bronzy in color with dusky fin tips, wide-ranging coastal and pelagic warm water species, from surf zone to offshore, from the surface to 1,300 ft
- Size at maturity: 9ft males, 8-10ft females
- Max length: 11.8 – 13ft
- Usually 3 -14 pups per litter, with a gestation period of about 16 , months, females mate every other year
- Feed on teleosts, elasmobranchs and cephalopods
Dusky Shark Conservation
IUCN: Vulnerable, population decreasing, species has among the most sought after fins for shark fin soup because of their large size and high fin needle content so those incidentally in tuna and swordfish fisheries are now regularly landed rather than released
Stout, grey-brown or bronzy colored, found world-wide in tropical & warm temperate waters
- Length at maturity: 4 – 6 ft for males, 5 – 6 ft females
- Maximum length: 8 – 10 ft
- Feeds on small bottom fishes, as well as mollusks and crustaceans
- Pregnant for 9-12 months, gives birth to live young only every two or three years, litter size varies and depends on the size of the mother
Sandbar Shark Conservation
IUCN: Vulnerable population trend decreasing, stocks were reduced 85-90% in just 10 years because of over- exploitation, listed as a prohibited species on the US Fishery Management plan
Great Hammerhead Shark
Light grey, grey/brown above, notch in center of hammer, first dorsal very high, widely distributed, tropical shark, occurs near-surface to over 260ft deep nomadic and migratory
- Size at maturity: 7 – 8ft males, 8 – 9ft females
- Common size: 13ft, Max size: 18-20ft
- Litter size ranges from 6 to 42 pups after 11 months’ gestation, females breed once every two years
- Diet includes fish (mainly demersal species), other elasmobranchs, crustacea and cephalopods
Great Hammerhead Shark Conservation
IUCN Endangered: population decreasing, Appendix II of CITES, restriction of trade, suffers very high bycatch mortality and greater than 90% vessel mortality, high value for the fin trade has resulted in declines of >50%
Grey with vertical black bars and spots, common worldwide in tropical & warm- temperate coastal waters
- Size at maturity: 7-9ft males, 8 – 11ft females, Max size: 18ft, Max age: 45-50 years
- Litter sizes of 30-82 have been reported, gestation period of13-16 months
- Prey includes bony fish, sharks, rays, turtles, sea birds, seals, dolphins, sea snakes, cephalopods, crabs, lobsters, gastropods and jellyfish, carrion and readily take baited hooks
- The maximum reported distance between release and recapture for a Tiger Shark was approximately 2,100 miles
Tiger Shark Conservation
IUCN: Near Threatened, population trend unknown, caught in numerous fisheries worldwide, both as target species and bycatch, their fins, skin and liver oil are all considered to be of high quality and can fetch good prices.
Scallop Hammerhead Shark
Light grey, bronzy above, central notch & 2 smaller lateral notches, coastal & pelagic, semioceanic, circumglobal in coastal warm temperate & tropical seas, migratory & schooling
- Size at maturity: 4.5-5.4ft males, 7ft females
- Max length:12 – 14ft
- Gestation period is 9-12 months, birthing in spring & summer, average12-38 pups, nursery areas along coastal area between South Carolina & central Florida
- Adult feed on invertebrates, sharks, rays, mesopelagic fish and squids
Scallop Hammerhead Shark Conservation
IUCN: Endangered, population trend unknown, divers and dive guides in the Galapagos have noted a severe decrease in shark numbers and schools of hammerhead sharks, population segregation and the species’ aggregating habit make large schools highly vulnerable to fisheries
Caribbean Reef Shark
Dark grey, grey-brown, found in the Western Atlantic from North Carolina (USA), throughout the Caribbean, south to Brazil
- Males mature @ 177-219cm (5.8 – 7.1ft) and females @ 200cm (6.5ft), maximum size about 295 cm TL (9.7 ft)
- Litter size is 3 to 6 pups and gestation period is ~1 year, biennial reproductive cycle
- Can lie motionless, one animal traveled 30 km over deep (400 m) waters
- Diet appears to include a wide range of reef fishes and some elasmobranchs
Caribbean Reef Shark Conservation
IUCN: Near Threatened, Population Trend Decreasing, taken as bycatch in artisanal and commercial fisheries throughout its range, together with demand for trade in its meat and fins
Yellow to grey-brown above with barbels alongside mouth, wide distribution in the tropical Atlantic and Eastern Pacific oceans found on rocky reefs and sand flats
- Males reach maturity @ 210cm (6.8ft) and females @ 230 – 240cm (7.5 – 7.8ft), maximum length 308cm (10 ft)
- Gestation period from five to six months, and reproduction occurs every other year, average about 34 pups per litter
- Highly social
- Feed on small teleosts, cephalopods, gastropods, bivalves, sea urchins and crustaceans
Nurse Shark Conservation
IUCN: Data Deficient, population trend unknown, extremely vulnerable to coastal fisheries, captured in gillnets and longlines, easy target of spear fishing due to sedentary and docile behavior, prized in competitions for its large body size
Call Paradise Below Diving today to book the ultimate educational shark diving experience.
Much of the content of this page was contributed by the American Shark Conservancy
American Shark Conservancy
A nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of sharks and rays and increasing our understanding and awareness of the oceans through research and education. We believe effective conservation requires research AND outreach. Strong science supports sustainable proposals and the public’s voice is required to secure these as policies.
To learn more, visit-www.AmericanSharkConservancy.org