Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Island of the Great White Shark: a documentary or an epitaph?

Each year, from September to early December, a population of great white sharks inhabits the waters of Isla Guadalupe, 150 miles of the west coast of Baja, Mexico. It has become a popular destination for eco-tourism (shark diving) operations and film crews, in addition to Mexican shark researchers, because of the island's clear water conditions and reliable shark sightings.

In my documentary, Island of the Great White Shark, I document the dedicated efforts of Mauricio Hoyos, a young dedicated researcher from Baja's leading marine institute, as he compiles behavioral data on these magnificent apex predators.
Over the years his efforts have been supported logistically and financially by the eco-tourism operators. The film also presents an accurate, close-up portrait of white sharks, in deference to the typical "malevolent man-eater" image, and delves into the important issues of commercial shark fishing and finning that threatens all sharks worldwide.

Unfortunately, it appears that these activities at Isla Guadalupe may be drawing to a close and with that the possibility that these animals will be exposed to poachers and renegade commercial fishermen. Isla Guadalupe is a protected "biosphere", administered by a Mexican government agency. Through a series of dubious political machinations, it seems this agency is on a course to ban the island to all shark eco-tourism.

Now, on the surface, that might seem a good thing to those who have reservations about the ecological impact of shark diving activities. However, there is a growing body of scientific evidence that shows there is little if any detrimental effect on the behavior of these large migratory predators. More importantly, the eco-tourisim operators have actively acted as watch guards for these sharks during their migratory stay at the island - something that the Mexican government does not have the resources to continue in the future.

My concern is that an unknown future awaits the majestic great white sharks of Isla Guadalupe and my documentary could ultimately serve as an epitaph to what once was and what could have been for years to come.

Island of the Great White Shark is available on DVD at Amazon.com and can be seen at these upcoming screening events:
  • 9/19-21/08 - Gray's Reef Ocean Film Festival, Savannah, GA
  • 10/22/08 - Santa Barbara Ocean Film Festival, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 1/06/09 - Birch Aquarium at Scripp's Institute of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA

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