Are you ready to swim with the sharks? Nova Scotia is getting its first-ever shark cage diving experience hosted by the new company Atlantic Shark Expeditions.
Based out of Liverpool, N.S., the business will charge participants $395 per person ($355 for students) to cage dive with great white sharks from August 1 to the end of October. Boats depart daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The company aims to combine shark research and conservation with thrill-seeking adventure and family fun.
The minimum age to cage dive with sharks is 10 years old and all patrons will be provided with proper gear and a wetsuit before diving. Staff will try to lure sharks to the boat with bait, although they do not guarantee shark sightings.
Founder of Atlantic Shark Expeditions Neil Hammerschlag and boat captain Art Gaetan have developed strict policies to ensure the safety of participants. They have been working hard to ensure their boats meet Transport Canada standards and the diving cages are properly constructed. They modelled their business off of Apex Shark Expeditions in South Africa, where they both conducted research for many years.
“We care about the safety of not only the people but the sharks too,” says Hammerschlag. In as safe an environment as possible, the expeditions will “provide the opportunity for the public to learn about and help support the conservation of sharks through ecotourism and citizen science.” Ecotourism is essential to shark research because it helps fund the science, and the majority of profits will go toward advancing the research and educating the public.
Hammerschlag stresses that cage diving is a crucial first step toward better understanding shark behaviour for both scientists and everyday people alike. Guests will have the opportunity to observe shark tagging and tracking, shark biopsies and anatomy, and other shark research in real-time. “We give people the opportunity to become a marine biologist for the day,” says Hammerschlag.
Some community members in South Shore are raising concerns about the presence of sharks near surfers and beachgoers. Other worries have centred on the ethics and sustainability of cage diving and the idea that sharks will associate humans with food. Cage diving will also not solve the problems of overfishing, depopulation, and habitat destruction that are adversely impacting shark populations. In addition, carelessness and recklessness while out on the water with sharks could have severe consequences.
Hammerschlag says staff will be three kilometres from shore and far away from any beaches or surfing spots. Captain Gaetan will also survey new sites every day so that cage diving happens in a different location with each outing. The sharks will not actually be fed, and bait will only be used to lure them near the boat. Hammerschlag notes that because sharks have poor eyesight, they will not be able to see humans in the cages, so any association is unlikely. “You also have to realize that what we are doing pales in comparison to hundreds of seals off the coast of Nova Scotia that attract sharks far more than humans do,” says Hammerschlag.
Despite concerns, the community reaction has been overwhelmingly positive and many people are excited by the prospect of shark cage diving. If you want to swim with great white sharks, check out Atlantic Shark Expeditions. Too scary? You can find more ocean adventures in Nova Scotia here.