HONOLULU (CBSDFW.COM/CBS Local) – A group of divers had what they describe as a “magical encounter” with a 20 foot, 2.5 ton great white shark in the waters off of Oahu, Hawaii.
Not only did they live to talk about it, they documented their unforgettable experience with the gorgeous, gentle giant.
Shark conservation advocate, Ocean Ramsey, diver/photographer Cam Grant, diver Kayleigh Nicole Burns, diver/photographer Forrest Thomas and diver/photographer Juan Oliphant shared images and video online of the incredible, rare event in hopes of raising awareness about decreasing shark populations due to intentional killing of sharks.
“Shark finning is banned in Hawaii but shark fishing is not really banned anywhere in the world and most species are headed toward extinction within my lifetime,” Ramsey told CBS 11 News.
The footage gathered on January 15 was nothing short of stunning.
Ramsey and her team were on an expedition to survey tiger sharks that had gathered to feed off a dead sperm whale when the massive great white shark appeared. Ramsey said the shark was likely pregnant or had a full belly of whale. She believes the shark was “Deep Blue”, the largest white shark ever filmed, according to Ramsey.
“I always wondered how I would feel the moment I met a white shark and it was nothing like I had thought. This lady was so cautious, yet curious, slow moving, and gentle. She was rubbing herself against our boat while rough toothed dolphins played on the tip of her snout,” Ramsey described in an Instagram post. “I couldn’t believe my eyes!”
The group spent the entire day with Deep Blue, watching her massive silhouette vanish back into the dark waters as the sun went down. It was emotional, as the group doesn’t know if they will ever see their new friend again due to the dissipating number of sharks.
Tens of millions of sharks are killed each year to supply the wasteful demand for shark fin soup. Shark populations can’t sustain current slaughter rates, according to the The Humane Society of the United States.
Texas was one of the first Gulf Coast states to enact a ban on finning six years ago. The Texas House of Representatives passed H.B.852 to prohibit the sale, trade, purchase and transportation of shark fins in the state. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-District 38, passed the House with a 87-42 vote in 2013. But it wasn’t until two years later, that Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill into law.
Federal and state laws that prohibit shark finning are insufficient to address the U.S. market for shark fins, which is why state laws prohibiting sales are so crucial.
The majority of shark fin imports into the U.S. come from Hong Kong, from countries with lax and ineffective shark finning bans.
Shark finning involves cutting off the fins of sharks then throwing the shark back into the ocean, often while still alive, only to drown, starve or die a slow death due to predation from other animals. Some species of shark are on the brink of extinction due to the shark fin industry. Sharks are apex predators whose survival affects all other marine species and our oceans’ ecosystems. Unlike other fish species, sharks produce few pups, and thus, many species are endangered and/or threatened due to the fin trade.
Ramsey is quite vocal about the disturbing practice of hacking shark fins and shark fishing. She’s a driving force behind proposed legislation to put an end to it.
“I’ve been trying to get the bill re-introduced in Hawaii to ban the purposeful killing of sharks and rays and this just feels like the biggest sign to keep pushing forward for more protection for them,” said Ramsey in an Instagram post. “Shark populations around the planet are severely declined. They need protection from targeted shark fishing, shark soup and sport fishing,” she continued.
In 2011, President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act, which closed critical loopholes in the federal law to improve enforcement. The law requires boats to land sharks with their fins still attached.