Changing Perspectives, Saving Sharks: Shark Guardian

Webp.net-resizeimage (2).jpgNot as tough as they look, sharks are just out for survival like the rest of us. Credit:  Steve Woods Underwater Photography

Shark Guardian is an organization with worldwide ties which specializes in, you guessed it, helping sharks. They do this through awareness campaigns, marketing, viral video, education, and direct communication with several players in the diving world and beyond. A few months ago a video surfaced showing a megamouth shark which had been brought into captivity. Shark Guardian promptly responded with a video clarifying why having this enormous, rarely seen deep-sea creature in captivity is actually a bad thing. I decided to dig deeper into the program to see what makes them tick, and founding member Brendon Sing was kind enough to get back to me with some information about what it is to be a Shark Guardian.

What is Shark Guardian?

Shark Guardian is a UK Charity for shark and marine conservation projects worldwide. We are a group of professional divers and shark researchers promoting shark conservation as divers, for divers.​

You participate in quite a few events throughout the year, and you’re currently at the Sardine Run in South Africa, tell us a bit about that.

The Sardine Run in South Africa is the greatest marine migration event in the world. Every year in June or July, a massive migration of sardines travel from west to east along the wild coast of South Africa. This migration is followed by all kinds of marine life and predators such as whales, dolphins, sharks, sailfish, and even birds. We get to dive in the middle of it all! We have just returned from our 2017 trip, two weeks later and we are still trying to sort out our film and photos. There is simply so much to process.​

What’s the most important thing divers can do to help sharks?

Keep diving and traveling to locations around the world to see your favorite sharks. Take as many images and photos as possible to share with friends and family to show how amazing, beautiful and non-threatening sharks are. Additionally, please log all your dives for conservation and research to eOceans.

Bendon 2.JPGSmile for the camera, it doesn’t bite. Credit:  Steve Woods Underwater Photography

What could I do when speaking with other marine sport enthusiasts to raise awareness for sharks?

I love talking about my shark diving experiences with friends and family. Showing them some of my videos and images really changes their perspective. Sometimes they think I am crazy but when they hear the passion I have for these animals and hear more about the reality of sharks, it is very rewarding. ​

You make some pretty big waves in the community and the media as a whole, for those looking to spread awareness, how would you recommend they do it?

As divers, as I mentioned above, use your personal experiences and show your footage. Shark Guardian also has an ambassador program where we get individuals with all kinds of backgrounds to get involved with us and help raise awareness though media and our programs.​

What’s your personal favorite dive site?

I enjoy dives out there in the blue the most. In the wide oceans with no bottom at all. Because out there you get to see things that most divers don’t. Not all marine life hang out on the reef. Sometimes, to see the bigger and more special things, you need to go out there to see them. ​Thats what is great about the Sardine Run. On a quiet day you get to snorkel with super pods of hundreds of dolphins, several whales, and lots of sharks just out in the ocean.

But if I had to choose an actual dive site, I would say Aliwal Shoal, South Africa. ​

Webp.net-resizeimage (3).jpgWith friends like this, who needs a bath? Credit:  Steve Woods Underwater Photography

How should a novice, possibly intimidated, handle an encounter with a shark?

Keep an open mind and forget anything you’ve seen or heard about sharks on TV or through the media. When I saw my first shark I realized that everything that people told me about sharks, what they were supposed to be and how they were supposed to act, was completely wrong. Seeing sharks in the ocean is one of the greatest experiences you can ever have, and it will stay with you for a lifetime. Appreciate the experience and respect sharks.​

As you recently said, the death of a megamouth in captivity was highly upsetting. What would you like to share with divers in a situation like this? It seems instinctual to leave the shark alone, but beyond that how could we stop this from happening?

As divers we represent a very small percentage of the worldwide population, yet we are the greatest advocates for marine conservation and should lead by example. We need to be role models and respect all marine life large and small. The divers in that video should have done everything they could to release the megamouth shark back into the ocean as soon as possible. Unfortunately they had alternative plans. Greater education and awareness is needed to avoid situations like this in the future, which is why we made that video for social media to share as much as possible.

Thanks for your time, and we look forward to seeing more from you.

Todd Allen Williams, Senior Editor